Thursday, August 4, 2016

MILF: Editorial -- Popularity can make the difference

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Aug 4): Editorial -- Popularity can make the difference

Despite the negative view of about half of the population of Filipinos for charter change, the eventuality of success in shifting the system of government from unitary presidential to federal parliamentary or presidential is very bright.

The extreme popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte will make the difference to swing the preference of people. Coupled with this would be the impact of massive and sustained advocacy and educational campaign in favour of federalism that is expected to be launched by this administration. It is not very hard to sell the benefits of federalism over unitarism. Most of the progressive and well-developed states have federal system of governments. Perhaps, one reason for this is that heads of states who are competent, tested, and sincere can remain or get back to office more easily than those who are elected at large. Worse still are those which limit the terms of office of their heads of states like Philippines. Six years is too short for a good president.

The latest Pulse Asia survey issued on August 1 showed that 44 percent of Filipinos are not in favor of amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Only 37 percent of the respondents support the amendment of the Constitution.

But a seven percent margin or difference is not too big. It can be easily offset especially by someone like President Duterte, who so far put heart and soul into every of his programs like “War of Drugs”. The presidency is still the most powerful branch of government in this country. Good president uses it for the best of the nation --- and not for himself or herself.

But this push for federalism should happen within the first three years in office of President Duterte. It is a normal trend that popularity of the president wanes as he or she stays in office longer. Some described him or her at this stage as a political lame-duck. Moreover, popularity does not mean the lack of political enemies, who usually wait for blunder to happen and then they will pound on him mercilessly. Until January 24, 2015 no one had openly attacked former President Benigno Aquino III. But when the Mamasapano incident happened, it opened the floodgates of criticisms against him as if that he had done any good to this country. It also caused the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The Bangsamoro people will naturally go all-out for this move, after the government and the MILF leadership agreed to push the passage of the BBL first, ahead of the move to amend the 1987 Constitution either by constitutional convention of constitutional assembly. The other reason is that in this country only the Moros and to a certain extent the Mountain Province had experienced living outside the suffocating control of the politico-military hegemony of what is Manila now. Throughout the Spanish period, the Moros were more or less living in independent sultanates, while those in the Cordilleras were less affected by the choking Spanish rule because of their rugged mountain terrain. During the American regime, the Moro Province and Mountain Province were created for these regions, respectively, and were administered directly by Americans. Currently, both regions have autonomous governmental set-ups although they are more administrative than autonomous.

But for this popularity to stand the test of time, good and sound policies must be adopted first, on whose basis words and activities must be proceed. These signs we are seeing in the current presidency.

MILF: Farmers from six municipalities around Camp Abubakar complete Specialized Training Course on Upland Rice-Based Farming

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Aug 5): Farmers from six municipalities around Camp Abubakar complete Specialized Training Course on Upland Rice-Based Farming

Team of farmers from six municipalities around Camp Abubakar, a recognized former main military camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) completed a five-day intensive training-workshop on Specialized Training Course on Upland Rice-Based Farming System and are now ready to transfer their knowledge and skills acquired to their colleagues.

The target community for this program are farmers from the municipalities of Matanog, Buldon, Barira in Maguindanao, and Balabagan, Kapatagan, and Marogong, in Lanao Del Sur.

Omal Abdulkadil of PhilRice-Midsayap said that the project is a result of a JICA study along with their socio-economic team who went to Camp Abubakar, Matanog, Maguindanao and Camp Busra in Lana Del Sur. “Based on the result of the study, one of the interventions needed by our brothers in Camp Abubakar and Camp Busra are on agricultural development”, Abdulkadil said.

In this engagement, he said, PhilRice was commissioned by JICA to provide technical expertise on the program and transfer those technical knowhow to the community.

Abdulkadil explained further that the project duration shall be two years but it may be extended inorder to have a better impact on the lives of villagers.

Key official of DAF-ARMM, Dr Daud Lagasi said the project will develop and improve the capacity of farmers in the Bangsamoro areas. He also told the farmers that “We in the DAF hoped that this project will become a model for our farmers to improve their living conditions and clients.

Commenting on the country’s resources, he said: “The Philippines is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of land, marine and waters resources and yet we still remain as one of the poorest country”?

“Why until now we are still talking about rice self-sufficiency?” asked Lagasi.
Lagasi recalled an article by former DAF Under Secretary that said “For the Philippine agriculture to improve, we have to follow the Vietnamese discipline in dealing with agriculture.” We must back them up and follow-up; gave proper support and do monitoring.

He said that there must be a need to improve the character and values of farmers, and the leaders. “We won’t be developed because of our negative values especially the leaders, we need to change this”, he stressed.

He also gave emphasis on ‘agricultural modernization’ to further boost economic income of local farmers.

Mamiko Nakada, Project Coordinator of JICA commended the performance of the trainee-farmers during their rigid training, and said “JICA is very much excited that you are ready to teach and instruct other farmers at farmers’ field school next month in six municipalities of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.”

The Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CCDP-) according to Nakada have three (3) components, namely Strengthening Governance, Economic Enhancement and Community Development by which the activity is falls under third component which aims to support enhancement of livelihood activities of the people in the community

Nakada elaborated that community residents in the six municipalities depend much their livelihood on agriculture as their source of income; however she said the agriculture regions’ production is below average compared to the rest of the Philippines.

“But this is normal a condition that if it is affected by conflict for so many years, it will become unproductive communities,” she pointed out.

Engineer Mohajiren Ali, the CCDP-B Project Director said that the project is very special project for the MILF.

“With JICA, we implemented combination of both hard (eq. Quick Impact Project) and soft (eq. Capacity Building) interventions. And this project is a continuation of CCDP-B with the direct engagement of JICA-Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the participation of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI)’, Engr. Ali also said.

“This is the first engagement of the MILF as far as farming industry is concerned,” Engr. Ali said further.

“The community influenced by the MILF is open for development but before this community is reluctant to it. I’m hoping for the smooth implementation of our program,” he added.

The participants were able to learn Upland Rice Production/Palaycheck, Rice-based Farming System, Vegetable production, Livestock Production, Facilitation and Communication Skills, also Values Transformation Training (VTT) and Leadership and Management.

The JICA, PhilRice, BTC, BDA and BLMI have trained 12 Municipal Agriculture Officers (MAO), Agriculture Technicians, and Agriculture Development Officers (ADO) on July 25-26, 2016 held at Em Manor, Cotabato City. The said training was closely supervised by two representatives from JICA-Manila Office.

Alleged rebel leader arrested while serving time in Bilibid

From InterAksyon (Aug 4): Alleged rebel leader arrested while serving time in Bilibid

Leopoldo Caloza (Karapatan photo)

Police served a warrant of arrest for murder on a communist rebel leader already serving time at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City after being convicted, also for murder, by a Pasig trial court late last year.

Chief Superintendent Roel Obusan, director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the warrant was served on Leopoldo Caloza, 57, on Tuesday by CIDG agents and Armed Forces personnel.

Obusan said Caloza remains on the Philippine National Police’s “Most Wanted” list with a bounty of P2.9 million for his arrest.

According to human rights group Karapatan, Caloza, described as a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the communist revolutionary movement in peace talks with government, was captured in 2006.

He was originally slapped with 22 criminal charges but was cleared of all but one, for which he and another political prisoner, Emeterio Antalan, were found guilty on September 15 last year.

No details were available on the nature of the crime covered by Tuesday’s warrant.

But it was not the first served on Caloza while already in detention. A month before this, Karapatan said, Caloza was served two more warrants of arrest, one for a murder he allegedly committed in 1994, and for attempted murder in 2005.

Karapatan maintains the charges against Caloza are “trumped up.”

Caloza is among the jailed NDFP consultants the rebels have urged the Duterte government to release ahead of the scheduled resumption of formal peace negotiations on August 20.

SC grants political prisoners provisional liberty for peace talks

From GMA News (Aug 5): SC grants political prisoners provisional liberty for peace talks

The Supreme Court has granted provisional liberty to political prisoners allied with the Communist Party of the Philippines to allow them to attend the peace talks with the government in Oslo, Norway.

The SC en banc decided on Tuesday to allow the temporary release of Randall B. Echanis and Vicente P. Ladlad only "for the purpose of their attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway commencing in August 2016 up to six months thereafter, or as soon as the peace negotiations are concluded or terminated, whichever is earlier."

The court said once the peace talks end, their respective bonds will be deemed canceled.

The High Court set their cash bond at P100,000 for their provisional liberty.

The two are also required by the SC to return to the Philippines as soon as the peace talks end.

They are also required to report to the Philippine Embassy in Norway whenever required.

The resolution based on the SC en banc decision made on Tuesday was released to the media on Friday.

Tiamzons, et al. denied release

Meanwhile, the SC denied the plea of the Solicitor General seeking the temporary and conditional release of key members of the National Democratic Panel:
  1. Tirso Alcantara
  2. Alex Birondo
  3. Winona Birondo
  4. Maria Concepcion Bocala
  5. Reynante Gamara
  6. Alan Jazmines
  7. Ma. Loida Magpatoc
  8. Adelberto Silva
  9. Benito Tiamzon
  10. Wilma Tiamzon
  The SC said the appropriate motions and pleadings regarding the 10 personalities "should be filed for the consideration of the trial courts."

"To grant temporary and conditional liberty to these personalitiese may have the inadvertent but irremediable effect of pre-empting the trial courts’ own determinations in the exercise of their original jurisdiction to try the cases before them," the SC said.

Satur Ocampo and Rafael Baylosis

The High Court also granted the provisional liberty of Satur Ocampo.

Ocampo was reminded to comply with the conditions of his cash bond.

Meanwhile, the cash bond of P100,000 of Rafael Baylosis was forfeited by the SC.

The Court added Baylosis' cash bond "can be reinstated only upon a justifiable cause as may be determined by the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 32, after his arrest or surrender."

The SC said the GPH peace panel "may file the appropriate motions and pleadings before the Regional Trial Courts for their consideration."

China Defense chief calls to prepare for ‘people’s war at sea’

From Update.Ph (Aug 3): China Defense chief calls to prepare for ‘people’s war at sea’

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan is calling for a significant preparation for a “people’s war at sea” to safeguard China’s sovereignty amid offshore security threats, Chinese state media Xinhua reported.

During an inspection of national defence work in coastal regions of east China’s Zhejiang Province, Chang Wanquan expressed the need for recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea, Xinhua added in the report.

“Chang said the military, police and people should prepare for mobilization to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also asked to promote national defence education among the public,” said in the report.

Meanwhile, Japan said in a defense whitepaper that China “continues to act in an assertive manner”, with its actions “include dangerous acts that could cause unintended consequences.”

China refuted Japan’s defense whitepaper. “The Japanese Defense Ministry published a defense white paper on August 2. The China-related portion of the document is full of lousy clichés, makes irresponsible remarks on China’s normal and legal national defense and military development, and hypes up the East and South China Sea issues,” Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian.

US, Indonesia conduct bilateral maritime exercise

From Update.Ph (Aug 3): US, Indonesia conduct bilateral maritime exercise

United States and Indonesian navies have started bilateral exercise, the 22nd Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). The said exchange started August 2 and will run until August 8. The joint activity will take place on the ground in Surabaya and in the waters and airspace of the Java and Bali Seas, the US Navy said.

“The United States and Indonesia share a common vision for maintaining a peaceful and prosperous environment at sea,” said Rear Admiral Brian Hurley, commander, Task Force 73.

“Our shared interest in maritime security is what CARAT is all about – and it’s allowed our navies to develop a sustained and growing partnership that benefits both countries,” Rear Admiral Brian Hurley added.

U.S. units participating in the exercise include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), a Los Angeles Class submarine, the rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) with an embarked Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU), the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (EPF-1), the expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point (T-ESD-1), a P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, and civil engineers and technicians from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5.

CARAT Philippines 2016 was held last June 6 to 10.

President Duterte declares China out of military procurement

From Update.Ph (Aug 4): President Duterte declares China out of military procurement

President Rodrigo Duterte said he does not like delays and corruption in any government procurement. He added that the lowest bid does not necessarily means it is the best. He also said China, without naming, will not be included in any military procurement.

“Lahat ng equipments ninyo, pinaalam ko na sa COA (Commission on Audit), hindi ako susunod diyan (prioritizing the lowest bidder). Magaaway tayo diyan, kasi yung lowest bid is the source of corruption. Pahabulan ng presyo: ‘Pababaan mo ang presyo mo, yung iba nagpapabili (selling) ng 100, ipabili (sell) ito ng 20, kaya ang ibigay mo sa akin yung Made in…’ alam mo na, wag muna [natin pangalanan] ngayon kasi may alitan tayo,” the President said before the soldiers in Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center on Tuesday. “Tapos sabihin ng sundalo, ‘Sir nasira kaagad’.”

He emphasized that there will be no compromise in the lives of the soldiers. “Binigay ninyo ang buhay ninyo sa bayan niyo, the least that we can do, the Filipino people, the country through me will give you what you want: state-of-the-art (medical facilities, equipment), pati yang mga equipment sa gera,” President Duterte said.

“Hindi ako basta basta bibili diyan sa mga open market, gusto ko government-to-government, okaya pakialaman ko kung bibili tayo. Pero kailangan hindi yung Made in ‘ano’ (China), tapos palaaway pa,” he said.

PA 82nd IB commanding officer asks for delivery of basic services

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 4): PA 82nd IB commanding officer asks for delivery of basic services
Lt. Colonel Enriqueto Deocadez, Jr., commanding officer of the 82nd Infantry Battalion, said that he would like to request from the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who will be visiting their 3rd Infantry Division in Jamindan, Capiz Friday the delivery of basic services, particularly the road network from Valderrama, Antique to Lambunao, Iloilo.

Deocadez said that the delivery of basic services, particularly the road network, was important to bring in development.

“The people in these insurgent areas would not be susceptible if there is the delivery of basic services,” the army official said.

He said that Antique Gov. Rhodora Cadiao, together with the Philippine Army, has been conducting medical mission for the residents of the far-flung areas, but then it could be greatly felt by the people when the national government under the administration of Pres. Duterte considered their plight.

Ranking defense, military officials open to ROTC revival

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): Ranking defense, military officials open to ROTC revival

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is open to proposal to revive the country's Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program.

This is now necessary as the AFP's reservist pool is now very low ever since Republic Act 9163, known as the National Service Training Program (NSTP), went into effect in December 2001.

The NSTP became a law after University of Sto. Tomas engineering Mark Welson Chua was killed in March 2001 for exposing anomalies in UST's ROTC program, creating a massive furor and backlash on the college-based reserve project.

It has three parts — the NSTP-ROTC, Literacy Training Service, and the Civil Welfare Training Service.

Aside from beefing up the military's strength, Lorenzana said reserves also play a key role in disaster response as they can be the first responders.

Meanwhile, Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano strongly welcomes this development.

"We welcome that development, because it is the duty of every citizen to defend our country in times of war or emergency so it is really important that all citizens of the country are well trained or at least trained by the military so that when the time comes that we need to mobilize the citizenry we are ready," he added.

However, there is a need for law to be enacted to make this mandatory for all male college students, Ano pointed out.

Aside from beefing up the country's reserves of trained-military manpower, the PA chief said ROTC will also help in character development and foster patriotism among its trainees.

Philippine Navy open for fast craft purchase

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): Philippine Navy open for fast craft purchase

Procurement of more fast craft would bolster the Philippine Navy's response in addressing the country's internal security problems such as piracy, terrorism and kidnapping.

"Acquisition of (more) fast craft will be of great help to our organization since it will provide additional defense and interdiction capability to thwart piracy, terrorism, kidnapping and other dubious activities of lawless elements in the country," Navy public affairs office head Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo said.

Last June, several Indonesian sailors were kidnapped by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group in the Sulu Sea, the third in a string of abductions in the waters between the Indonesia and the Philippines this year.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to fast-track the procurement of more fast craft for the Navy and attack helicopters for the Air Force to help in the government's internal security operations.

A fast craft is a small, fast, agile and offensive warship armed with anti-ship missiles, gun and/or torpedoes.

It is usually operated in close proximity to land as they lack both the seakeeping and all-round defensive capabilities to survive in blue water.(

Militiaman killed in alleged NPA attack

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 4): Militiaman killed in alleged NPA attack

ONE GOVERNMENT militiaman was killed in a series of attacks allegedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Kidapawan, North Cotabato on Monday evening.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, identified the victim as Oscar Emba, 53, resident of Barangay Muan, Kidapawan.
Batchar said Emba was detailed at Balabag detachment at crossing Birada, Kidapawan.
Emba sustained six gunshot wounds while the perpetrators carted away his XRM 125 motorcycle at around 7 p.m.
The second incident happened at around 9:50 p.m. when a group of NPAs led by alias Bobby fired at Sallab Cafgu detachment located in Barangay Sallab, Magpet, North Cotabato. There was nobody hurt in the attack.
The 39th Infantry Battalion immediately alerted all units under its area of operation following the series of attacks.
In a statement, Maj.Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of 10th Infantry Division, ordered all soldiers to pursue the attackers.
“We shall use and deploy all our available forces, continue offensives and support law enforcement operations against the (NPAs),” he said.
Meanwhile, three NPA members surrendered to the 71st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Nueva Visayas, Mawab on Monday afternoon.
They were only identified as alias Glen, former medic of Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 5, and alias John and alias Simon, both members of Guerilla Front (GF) 2 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).
Reportedly, they were encouraged by a rebel returnee to return to the folds of law.
Per records of the local government in Compostela Valley, a total of 64 former NPAs received financial assistance since 2015. Meanwhile, the provincial government released a total of P4.16M for the surrenderees. A total of 141 former NPAs have already surrendered to 10th ID units for this year alone.
“We are all Filipinos, we should end violence and let us all give peace a chance,” he added.

Joma told: Shut up, let others talk

From the Philippine Star (Aug 4): Joma told: Shut up, let others talk

President Duterte’s chosen peace panel in June began its informal meeting with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front headed by Jose Ma. Sison in Oslo, Norway. Jesus Dureza, Facebook

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison should come home to talk peace, but this may be easier said than done, President Duterte said yesterday.

Duterte also advised Sison to “just shut up and let others talk.”

The President told The STAR that technicalities could prevent the homecoming of Sison because of the political asylum he sought in the Netherlands.

“There is a question about coming here. He cannot go out (of the Netherlands). He is in asylum. If he gets out and returns to the Netherlands, it may be a technical issue… He may be denied entry. One of the conditions is he cannot return to the country… You won’t be able to leave. You’re not supposed to go anywhere.”

Duterte said he is open to seeing Sison returning to the country to join the peace negotiations. But he is skeptical of the claim that the communist leader is facing threats.

“If he comes and he wants to talk, fine with me. If he’s here, he must order his forces to stand down, at least during the negotiation stage,” the President said.  

“If he can arrange (his return) with Oslo, if he is working on it, I have no objection,” he added.

Talks between the government and the communist rebels are scheduled to resume on Aug. 20 in Oslo, Norway. The Norwegian government serves as the third party facilitator of the talks.

During his State of the Nation Address last July 25, Duterte declared a ceasefire with the rebels as a goodwill measure for the peace talks.

But the President called off the truce after five days because of the communists’ failure to reciprocate the ceasefire within the deadline he set.

Duterte demanded the declaration of a truce after rebels attacked government militias in Davao del Norte two days after he announced a ceasefire. The ambush left one militia man dead and four others wounded.

Sison has criticized Duterte for calling off the ceasefire and even described his character as “volatile.”

Duterte was unfazed by the comment.

“I’m not trying to pull my own chair but I’m here because I got 16 million (votes). The Left cannot even bring victory to their candidates. In Davao, one, two or three of them win because I carried them in my ticket. What are they boasting about? They cannot even occupy a barangay for one single day,” he said.

Duterte also said the popularity of the communist rebels is “lean to nothing… But they are talking as if they have clout somewhere.”

Tiamzons to be released

Despite having called off the truce, the Duterte administration will temporarily release New People’s Army leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma in time for the peace talks as a confidence building measure.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed yesterday that the Tiamzon couple would be among the personalities who would be given “safe passage.”

“As far as I know, they are included. I think they will be given safe passage,” he said.

The Tiamzon couple was arrested by soldiers and policemen in Barangay Zaragoza in Aloguinsan, Cebu on March 22, 2014. They are detained at the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame.

At the time of their arrest, Wilma was secretary general of the CPP/NPA, while Benito was chairman.

The military said the couple was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for their crimes against humanity that include murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder.

The Tiamzons, who follow a tradition in the CPP of husband and wife leadership teams, were said to have taken over the helm of the movement from Sison.

PRO 11 chief says NPA violated rights of captured police officer

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Aug 4): PRO 11 chief says NPA violated rights of captured police officer

[Video clip: Davao Oriental town police chief says NPA captors treat him well]

The National Police here accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of violating the right of its captive, Police Chief Inspector Arnold Ongachen, when he allegedly delivered his message under duress.

Senior Inspector Manuel Gaerlan, chief of PRO XI said that he pitied the situation of Chief Inspector Ongachen during his delivery of his message in a 3:46-minute video released by the NPAs on Monday, August 1.

Gaerlan said that based on the video, the NPA violated the right of the Chief of Police from Governor Generoso town in Davao Oriental.

“Parang binabasa niya [It looks like he was just reading] under duress, so this is a violation of a person’s right to force him to do something he is not willing to do,” Gaerlan said.

“The NPA said they got illegal drugs from his possession, and now they are saying that he has been treated well?,”he said.

Gaerlan said that the video of chief inspector Ongachen is “just a propaganda of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA).

“We condemn the strongest terms the use of a police officer for their propaganda activities,” he said.

Gaerlan also said that as of this time, there no reports on individuals who were captured by NPA due to illegal drugs, which based from the statement of chief inspector Ongachen, that the rebels were trying to rehabilitate them from drug addiction.

“Look at what they are doing to my police officer, he is being forced to say something that he doesn’t want to say. The CPP-NPA they should lift up the level of their struggle and their ideology,” he said.

As of now, Gaerlan said that they are consolidating the whereabouts of Ongachen, but they are having a hard time because of the inconsistency of the exact place.

Ongachen was captured by the NPA guerrillas last May 29 following their raid at the Governor Generoso Police Station.

Ongachen appealed to government military to pull out its forward troops to give way to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the Communist-led insurgency.

In the video, he asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop their military operation and continue the peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA.
Gaerlan said that until now, there is still an on-going rescue operation for Ongachen.

Communists praise DENR’s Gina Lopez

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 4): Communists praise DENR’s Gina Lopez

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Wednesday praised Environment Secretary Gina Lopez for her firm stand against open-pit mining in the southern region of Mindanao.

Efren Aksasato, a spokesman for the NDFP in Mindanao, said Lopez even stood against the giant Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province. 

“DENR Sec. Gina Lopez is commendable for her remarkably firm stand against open pit mining in the country, as well as her decisive asseveration of the Duterte administration’s disapproval of the controversial and environmentally destructive $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato,” Aksasato said. 

He said Lopez’s announcement to cease the mining operation in Tampakan is congruent with the people’s stand in objecting the “disastrous” open-pit mining project.  “Certainly, it is a victory of the democratic mass movement and the unwavering revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside who will never give up the fight in defending the people’s interests and welfare and the protection of the environment,” Aksasato said. 

He said there were also many reports of alleged human rights violations raised by indigenous people in South Cotabato, especially within their ancestral domain; and accused government soldiers and para-military forces as behind all these. 
Aksasato said the open-pit mining in South Cotabato approved by the past Aquino administration also violated the provincial environment code which prohibits such mining practice because of the hazards it posed to the environment and safety of the people. 

“Sec. Lopez’s announcement to cease the mining operation in Tampakan is congruent with the people’s stand in objecting the disastrous and plunderous mining project.  Certainly, it is a victory of the democratic mass movement and the unwavering revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside who will never give up the fight in defending the people’s interests and welfare and the protection of the environment Aksasato said. 

He said the Aquino government approved on February 2013 the Environment Compliance Certificate of Xstrata-SMI, the operator of Tampakan gold mine project despite massive protests from environmentalists and natives in the province. 
But aside from South Cotabato, open-pit mining is also reported in Zamboanga Peninsula where Canadian miner TVI Resource Development, Inc. previously operated inside the Subanen’s ancestral domain in Mount Canatuan in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town. The company is now operating a gold mine in the mountains of Balabag in Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur province. 

He said the rebel group New People’s Army would continue to protect the indigenous people and their ancestral against destructive and large-scale mining activities in the South.  

“The New People’s Army and the revolutionary forces in the region are the most reliable allies of the weak and disenfranchised victims of the mining company encroachment and state atrocities.  Over the past years, the NPA have carried out several punitive actions against the company, its private armed guards and the AFP and PNP troops protecting its operation,” Aksasato said. 

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war for decades now in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state in the Philippines.

Panay Army camp awaits President

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 4): Panay Army camp awaits President

Officials of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) headquarters in Jamindan town, Capiz province are looking forward to the visit Friday of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte will be the first sitting president to visit the headquarters.

“We are excited. This is the first time a president will come here. This will surely boost the morale of our soldiers,” said Major General Harold Cabreros, 3ID commanding general.

No other president has visited the 33,000-hectare Camp Peralta.

The 3ID covers Panay, Negros, Guimaras, and Siquijor Islands.

Cabreros said the division has reduced the strength of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA) in key areas.

The provinces of Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, and Siquijor have been declared insurgency-free.

The provinces of Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, and Negros Oriental are considered peaceful and ready for further development.

The 3ID is monitoring CPP-NPA movements after the President lifted the unilateral ceasefire he declared during his State of the Nation Address last month.

Lieutenant Colonel Enriquito Deocades Jr., commander of the 82nd Infantry Battalion, said they are not keeping their guard down.

Duterte’s visit will also be his first official visit to Panay Island, the bailiwick of the Liberal Party (LP) and Mar Roxas, his closest rival during last May’s presidential elections.

SC asked to release 10 NDF members ahead of Oslo talks

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 5): SC asked to release 10 NDF members ahead of Oslo talks

Government lawyers have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to release “temporarily and conditionally” from detention 10 members of the National Democratic Front (NDF) so they could participate in the peace talks set in Oslo, Norway this month.
In an urgent motion filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), being sought to be released temporarily were Tirso Alcantara, Alex Birondo, Winona Birondo, Maria Conception Bocala, Reynante Gamara, Alan Jazmines, Ma. Loida Magpatoc, Adelberto Silva, Benito Tiamzon, and Wilma Tiamzon.
NDF member Rafael Baylosis was included in the list submitted by the OSG to the SC. But in the case of Baylosis, the OSG said that since he jumped bail, he should surrender first and be allowed to post bail.
Baylosis and the Tiamzons have pending criminal cases before the Manila regional trial court (RT) in connection with mass graves in Inopacan, Leyte. The eight other NDF members have pending criminal cases in various courts.
The OSG said the 11 NDF members would act as consultants in the peace talks.
Sources said the SC deliberated on the motion filed by the OSG during its full court session last August 2. The SC’s action on the motion was not immediately available.
The OSG’s motion for the temporary release of the NDF members was filed in connection with four pending cases at the SC. These cases are those filed by Saturnino Ocampo versus Judge Ephrem Abando, Randall Echanis versus Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina, Rafael Baylosis versus Judge Bunyi-Medina, and Vicente P. Ladlad versus Judge Bunyi-Medina.
Last June 14 and 15, the government’s panel met with the NDF panel in Oslo and one of the points agreed upon was to resume the peace talks this month under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian government as third party facilitator.
The OSG’s motion also informed the SC of the government’s resumption of the formal peace talks with the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), the agenda of the negotiations, and the key members of the NDP panel “whose attendance in the peace negotiations is crucial to the success of the peace talk agreement.
With its motion, the OSG asked the SC “to issue an order to the individual regional trial courts to order the conditional and temporary release” of the 10 detained NDF members and the grant of bail to another member.
The OSG proposed to the SC five conditions for the temporary release of the NDF members, these are:
1.   “The release of the individuals (identified in the motion) shall be only for the purpose of their attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway commencing in August, 2016, and that the period of their temporary release shall not exceed six months, which may be shortened by the earlier conclusion or termination of the formal peace negotiations. The duration of their release, however, must be limited to their actual participation as consultants of the NDF negotiating team. Once their participation ceases or the peace negotiations fail, their respective bonds should be deemed automatically cancelled;
2.   “Their release is subject to the posting of a cash bond of P100,000 with the Office of the Clerk of Court;
3.   “They must provide their complete contact information, both in the Philippines and Norway;
4.   “They shall undertake to return to the Philippines after the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway. For the duration of the peace negotiations, they will report to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Norway whenever required; and
5.   “With respect to Rafael Baylosis who has jumped bail and remains at large, he should first surrender to the authorities and submit to the jurisdiction of the regional trial court. Otherwise, he would be deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the SC.

Jakarta proposes 3-nation land ops against Abu Sayyaf

From The Straits Times (Aug 4): Jakarta proposes 3-nation land ops against Abu Sayyaf

Indonesia has proposed joint security operations on land with Malaysia and the Philippines to pursue militants who have taken Indonesian and Malaysian sailors hostage.

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mr Wiranto, yesterday said such joint land operations will complement the joint sea patrols the three countries have agreed to in their effort to tackle piracy and prevent other hostage-taking incidents.

Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf militants are behind a rash of kidnappings of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors in the seas between the southern Philippines, Malaysia's north-east Sabah state and Indonesia's Kalimantan and northern Sulawesi island.

"(The militants) launched their attacks at sea before bringing their hostages to land. What will happen if we don't have cooperation on the ground?" said Mr Wiranto, a former general, on Tuesday.

Mr Wiranto - who was appointed to his post last week - said he had raised the idea to Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, who conveyed it to his Malaysian and Philippine counterparts at their trilateral defence ministers' meeting on maritime security in Bali, which ended on Tuesday.
Mr Wiranto admitted it would not be easy to carry out joint security operations on land as this would intrude on the Philippines' jurisdiction. But he said an agreement should be concluded first to ensure the "harmonious and well-coordinated implementation" of joint operations.

After releasing several dozen Indonesian and Malaysian crew members of vessels hijacked in the Celebes and Sulu seas for millions of dollars, the Abu Sayyaf late last month kidnapped eight more sailors.

PH, Indonesia defense chiefs hold closed-door meeting in Bali

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 4): PH, Indonesia defense chiefs hold closed-door meeting in Bali

From L-R: Malaysian Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana pose for a group photo on the third Trilateral Defence Minister's Meeting in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on August 2, 2016.  AFP PHOTO

From L-R: Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana pose for a group photo on the third Trilateral Defence Minister’s Meeting in Nusa Dua on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on August 2, 2016. AFP PHOTO

Indonesia Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on Wednesday (August 3) held an informal one-hour closed-door meeting with his Philippine counterpart Delfin Lorenzana in Bali to discuss the progress on efforts to free 10 Indonesian sailors held by the Abu Sayyaf group.

READ: Abu kidnappers seize 7 Indonesians | 3 Indonesians kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits

Ryamizard said the Philippines was stepping up its campaign against Abu Sayyaf to achieve the release of the ten Indonesians, who are held hostage in the Sulu Islands region.

The militant group, deemed terrorists by Manila, reportedly brought the hostages to Sulu after the Philippine Army managed to clear Basilan Island of Abu Sayyaf members.

Aside from the military campaign, there was a negotiation process, which had received backing from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, Ryamizard said, adding that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would soon visit Indonesia to discuss the crisis.

“The Sulu governor is currently working with Misuari. The negotiations are progressing well. Unlike previous governors who had supported Abu Sayyaf, the current governor of Sulu is pro-government,” Ryamizard said.

Misuari was formerly an ally of the Abu Sayyaf group. He first wanted the Philippine government to grant autonomy to Sulu, while the latter wanted Sulu to become an independent state. Misuari and his followers have agreed a truce with the Philippine government, while the Abu Sayyaf group keeps fighting.

On Tuesday, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to engage in coordinated patrols to secure their respective borders.

The agreement allows military personnel of the three countries to enter each other’s waters to pursue kidnappers or terrorists. Such an invasion is limited and only allowed in emergency situations with the prior knowledge of the invaded party.

Govt denies rumors of deteriorating hostages’ health

From the Jakarta Post (Aug 4): Govt denies rumors of deteriorating hostages’ health

The government has dismissed a rumor that the health of four out of 10 Indonesian sailors taken hostages by Abu Sayyaf militants has deteriorated.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said the sailors were all in good condition.

"We’ve met with the families of all of the hostages. It is just a rumor disseminated by Abu Sayyaf that they are unwell," he said.

The minister further said the public should not believe rumors, which he said had been spread by the kidnappers, while operations to release the hostages would continue.

Echoing Wiranto’s statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the government crisis center had been closely monitoring the conditions of the 10 sailors, who are being held on two islands in southern Philippines. They are all safe, he went on.

Arrmanatha further said Indonesia had also stepped up its multitrack strategy, in which the government utilized all possible assets and channels it had to secure the release of the hostages while at the same time, it continued to intensify communications and coordination with its stakeholders in the Philippines and the country’s officials.

"Although we continue to strive for their immediate release, we also have to ensure that the Indonesian sailors' lives are not threatened," Arrmanatha said, adding that the hostages' safety were above all else.

In early July, three Indonesian sailors were abducted in Malaysia's Sabah waters while they were fishing in the area. It was the latest incident in a kidnapping spree, occurring less than a month after seven Indonesian crew members were taken hostage by two different militant groups and held on different islands in the southern Philippines.

New Sulu Sea Trilateral Patrols Officially Launched

From The Diplomat (Aug 4): New Sulu Sea Trilateral Patrols Officially Launched

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines reach initial agreement on limited, coordinated patrols.

On Tuesday, local media outlets reported that Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines had reached agreement on limited, coordinated trilateral patrols in the Sulu Sea following a meeting in Bali, paving the way for a slow start to the much-anticipated initiative.

As I have written previously, the Sulu Sea – or, more specifically, the one million square kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas between the southern Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia – has long been a hub for transnational organized crime and terrorist threats (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”). The three Southeast Asian states had agreed earlier this year to undertake trilateral patrols in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas following a recent spate of kidnappings involving Malaysian and Indonesian nationals by the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is based in the southern Philippines.

From August 1-2, the defense ministers from the three countries met in Bali for the latest in a series of meetings that began in Vientiane on the sidelines of the 10th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting in May. The ministers discussed how to operationalize the “Framework on Trilateral Cooperative Agreement between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines” on the Sulu Sea Patrol Initiative (SSPI), which had been agreed upon during an earlier meeting on July 14 (See: “New Sulu Sea Trilateral Patrols Pact Nears Completion“). They agreed on the initial shape of the patrols as well as several more specific points on areas such as standard operating procedures, communications, and intelligence-sharing.

Indonesian defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told The Jakarta Post that, at least for now, the three countries have agreed to implement coordinated patrols, rather than joint patrols. As I have mentioned before, the distinction between coordinated and joint patrols is significant – the term “joint patrols” implies that they would be carried out in unison and across national borders, while the more modest notion of “coordinated patrols” means that each state would conduct its own patrols within its own borders in concert with others.

The three countries also agreed that military personnel would be allowed to cross borders to pursue kidnappers or terrorists – or during instances of “hot pursuit.” However, the terms governing these “hot pursuits” are quite strict – they are only allowed in emergency situations and must be done with prior knowledge of the infringed party. In addition, for now, they only extend to the maritime domain and do not cover land-based operations, even though the countries did agree to explore that in the future.

There was also reportedly agreement on the establishment of three command posts to facilitate coordination and intelligence-sharing: Bongao in the Philippines, Tawau in Malaysia, and Tarakan in Indonesia. The Post noted that designated sea routes and air surveillance were also discussed, even though no details were publicly disclosed. The fact that those discussions are being held, however, is promising. As I indicated in a previous piece, air surveillance is part of a string of activities that constitute the supporting infrastructure for such patrols, as was the case during the Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP).

The Post also noted other provisions that were agreed upon, including the fact that each ship crossing the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas would have to have at least three sea marshals (on the Indonesian side, provided by the Indonesian military or TNI with the coordinated patrol itself implemented by the Indonesian Navy’s Sea Battle Task Force, Guspurla). The three countries also agreed on joint naval exercises and the implementation of an automatic identification system.

Rody sets Misuari’s turn to be seen, heard

From The Standard (Aug 5): Rody sets Misuari’s turn to be seen, heard

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will be meeting with Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari on Aug. 12, during his second visit to Basilan since he took over the presidency, an official said Thursday.

“The President will be speaking with Nur next Friday,” said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo who will be accompanying Duterte.

The President has repeatedly said he is eyeing to talk with Misuari, who is at large following the failed 2013 Zamboanga siege, to focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process that will include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Misuari, who founded the MNLF, is said to be hiding in Sulu, where he is mingling with the people loyal to him and protecting him from the authorities. 

Duterte has repeatedly stressed he is willing to give Misuari a safe-conduct pass to start the talks between the government and the Moro rebels.  

“When you talk to the rebel, you have to give them a safe-conduct pass, or at least a sense of security to face you and talk to you about what’s bugging the country,” Duterte told reporters on Monday.

“If I won’t talk, how do I fix this thing?”

Even while hiding, Misuari has been helping the government to recover seven Indonesian sailors who were abducted by the terror group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu last month, according to Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza.

He said Misuari’s lawyers could have his case reviewed.

“The effort is to bring him out of Indanan,” Dureza said.

“The warrant is out and he is considered a fugitive. Any effort to get him out must go through the legal process. It is for his lawyers to initiate a reinvestigation of his case.”

Misuari aside, Duterte will also be giving a safe-conduct pass to exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison to start the peace talks at the end of the year.

US admiral: This overlooked region may be the next front line against ISIS

From Business Insight (Aug ): US admiral: This overlooked region may be the next front line against ISIS

It's becoming clear that ISIS is losing the battle on the home front. In fact, it's not only losing out on a huge source of revenue from oil smuggling, but major campaigns by coalition forces are underway to root out its remaining bastions in Iraq and Syria.

Although this may be cause for celebration, US officials are more concerned with what comes afterward.

"At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora," said FBI Director James B. Comey at a cybersecurity conference. "Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield."

This supposed migration of militants lends itself to some credence in light of a recent report by Harry Sarfo, a detained Islamic State recruit.

An ISIS official claimed "that they have loads of people living in European countries and waiting for commands to attack the European people," Sarfo said from a maximum-security prison in northern Germany. "And that was before the Brussels attacks, before the Paris attacks."

According to US officials, however, it's not only the West that should brace for ISIS's relocation. Defense News reports that, in a recent speech, US Pacific Command's commander, Adm. Harry Harris, expressed concern for an often overlooked region of the world.

"Regrettably, I believe that ISIL is also trying to rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific," Harris said.

This statement comes on the heels of recent terrorist attacks in Asian countries with large Muslim populations, such as Bangladesh. One of these attacks, a 10-hour siege in an upscale restaurant, ended tragically when 20 out of the 35 hostages, many of them foreigners, were killed in the beginning of July.

US military Philippines 

A US Marine stands guard as a truck passes on April 29, 2002, in the Philippines. David Greedy/Getty Images 
"As their revenue and territory shrinks in Syria and Iraq, you could see a wave of fighters going back to the Philippines and Indonesia," claims Thomas Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That can be greatly destabilizing to governments."

Even more worrisome is the fact that existing Islamic militant groups in the region, such as the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf, have pledged their loyalty to ISIS, even going so far as to state on Twitter that if a potential recruit was unable to travel to Syria, then they should "join the mujahedeen in the Philippines."

In order to combat this growing threat, analysts offer a crucial element for its solution: a multinational effort led by the US.

"The US has a huge role in preventing this because it is the lead element in the global struggle against terrorism," Sanderson told Defense News.

US Marine and Philippine soldier training 

A US Marine instructs a Philippine soldier on how to use a sniper rifle in the Philippines. Gabriel Mistral/Getty Images 
Although the US has had a military presence in Southeast Asia, such as the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), it was officially deactivated last year after 13 years of service. This element of up to 600 US Navy SEALs, US Marine Corps and US Army operators had the traditional special-forces role of training Philippine commandos to combat terrorist elements in the region, such as Abu Sayyaf.

But even without the presence of an autonomous task force such as JSOTF-P, Harris still believes that there's hope for the region.

"To halt the Islamic State's cancerous spread in Asia, we can't work alone. We must work together," he outlined in his speech. "Thankfully, Japan and many other like-minded nations have joined the counter-ISIL coalition. Together, we can — and will — eradicate this disease."

GPH, MILF to meet in KL on August 13-14; Santiago heads GPH panel

From MindaNews (Aug 3): GPH, MILF to meet in KL on August 13-14; Santiago heads GPH panel

The 10-member government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Team will meet in Kuala Lumpur on August 13 and 14 to begin work on the implementation of the Bangsamoro peace roadmap, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.

Dureza told MindaNews that he will head the government delegation in the first formal meeting between the government and MILF under the Duterte administration.

He and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim agreed during the former’s visit to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on July 21 that there will be no more negotiating panels because the peace process is now on its implementation phase. Instead, there will be a 10-member Joint Implementing Team, five from the government and five from the MILF.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza meets with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Thursday to discuss the implementation phase of the peace process at the MILF's headquarters in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza meets with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on July 21, 2016 in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao to discuss the implementation phase of the peace process. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
The five-member government panel in the Joint Implementing Team will be chaired by Irene “Inday” Santiago of the Mindanao Commission on Women, Inc. and a consultant at the Offic of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
Santiago was a member of Dureza’s panel when he was the government’s chief negotiator from 2001 to 2003. Dureza’s counterpart then was Murad, who was then MILF Vice Chair for Military Affairs and chief of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

Dureza told MindaNews on July 21 that OPAPP Undersecretary Diosita “Jojo” Andot  would head the government side. But Dureza told MindaNews Wednesday evening that Andot has her hands full with other tasks in OPAPP so she will, instead, be a member of Santiago’s panel, along with former OPAPP Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Brig. Gen. Dickson Hermoso who had earlier worked as head of the secretariat of the GPH peace panel’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and chief of the Peace Process Office of  the Philippines Army; and Rolando Asuncion, who had earlier worked at OPAPP when Dureza first headed the office fom 2005 to 2007.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair since 2003 told MindaNews they are still finalizing the composition of the panel in the joint implementing body.

Malaysia has been facilitating the peace process between the government and MILF since 2001.

MindaNews asked if the international teams in the GPH-MILF peace process will also be in Kuala Lumpur. “We are inviting all players,” Dureza replied.

The teams include the International Monitoring Team, International Contact Group composed of foreign governments and international NGOs, Third Party Monitoring Team, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and the Independent Decommissioning Body.

The GPH and MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, after 17 years of peace negotiations.

Under the Aquino administration’s peace roadmap, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which was supposed to have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was supposed to have been passed and ratified to allow for a transition period until the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro would have been elected on May 9, 2016.

Congress under the Aquino adminsitration, however, adjourned without passing the BBL.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s 16th President and first Mindanawon to lead the nation, has repeatedly said during the election campaign and even as President, that the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro should be corrected.

Duterte on July 18 approved the peace roadmap presented by Dureza. Under this roadmap, work on the new proposed Bangsamoro law “will be done simultaneous with the moves to shift to a federal set-up, the latter expected to come later under the planned timeline.”

The 15-member, MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which will be reconstituted to allow for a more inclusive representation from among the seven nominees of the government, will be tasked to “draft anew a more inclusive proposed enabling law that will be filed with Congress” in lieu of the BBL that the previous Congress failed to pass. The BBL will also propose amendments to the Constitution.

The Joint Implementing Team will discuss the peace roadmap in accordance with the 2014 CAB and in convergence with the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberaiton Front, and with other sectors, for what would be a broader, more inclusive Bangsamoro Peace roadmap.

‘I can give BBL to MILF, Sulu to Misuari'

From the Philippine Star (Aug 4): ‘I can give BBL to MILF, Sulu to Misuari'

File photo shows MILF’s Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim (left) and Muslimin Sema of the MNLF (right) signing a declaration, recognizing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law as a convergence of the separate peace accords of their respective groups with Malacañang. Unson, file

In his quest for lasting peace and development in Mindanao, President Duterte said he is willing to have the wish of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) granted through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Furthermore, Duterte is willing to give up Sulu for the other major Muslim group – the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari.

The Chief Executive revealed his stand to editors and reporters of The STAR at Malacañang yesterday.

“Ibigay ko na lang ang BBL sa Bangsamoro,” he said, if it’s the only way to prevent another outbreak of violence in Mindanao.

Amid talks of federalism, Duterte said he has not abandoned the issue of the BBL and the pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao.

He said the government cannot afford to go into war again with the MILF just because of the failure of previous Congress to pass the BBL, which was covered by the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro under the previous Aquino administration. 

Duterte stressed his administration would vigorously pursue peace with the MILF.
MILF chairman Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, who is also head of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, earlier warned that his forces are ready to go to war if the BBL is junked.

“Pag di mo binigay kay Murad yan, magkakagulo. Remember, Murad said he will go to war if they are not able to get BBL,” he added. “It is not good to humiliate the Moros, because they lose face. So minamasahe namin.  We can’t go to war,” Duterte said.

“At ibibigay ko, si Misuari.  I’m willing to part with Sulu and the rest of island, they can have it,” he said.

The Chief Executive however ruled out talking peace with the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

Late Tuesday, Duterte also warned the extremist ideology of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will penetrate the Philippines if peace negotiations with Muslim rebels fail.

Speaking to soldiers at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center, Duterte said he is determined to forge a settlement with Muslim and communist rebels as waging war is costly.

“In days to come, the rampaging ideology of ISIS will reach us, whether we like it or not. If we fail to reach an agreement, ISIS will enter here. I’m praying to God that we talk,” Duterte said.

Officials said that while ISIS has not entered the Philippines yet, it has inspired acts of terror particularly by the Abu Sayyaf.

The Chief Executive said fighting rebellions has been draining the government of much needed funds.

“It eats a lot into the economy of the country so I need to reach an agreement with communists. I have to deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front,” he said.

“No need to go to war at this hour. We’ll save our energy for a better fight,” he added.

Last Monday, Duterte said he would spend 10 days in Mindanao to discuss a peace roadmap and to talk to leaders of the MILF and the MNLF. The peace roadmap, however, would not cover the Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged loyalty to ISIS.

The President also vowed to continue the peace talks with communist rebels despite their failure to reciprocate the ceasefire he declared last July 25.

Sustained peace and order brings more tourists, investors

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 3): Sustained peace and order brings more tourists, investors

Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr. praised the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army for the maintenance of peace and order in Negros Occidental.

During the 30th founding anniversary of the 303rd IB, Gov. Marañon linked the increase of tourist arrivals and the influx of investors coming in the province to the peace and order situation here, a press release from the provincial information office said.

Marañon said both are attributed to the maintenance of peace and order here.

The provincial government also pledged its continuous support to Philippine Army, urging the soldiers to continue the maintenance of peace and order to ensure lasting peace, and in turn, result to progress.

Col. Francisco Delfin, Commander of the 303rd IB, said that the Philippine Army will continue to fulfill their mission as vanguards of peace and order in the Negros Island.

As part of the program at Camp Gerona, Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia town, army officers received awards, specifically Military Commendation Medals and Certificates.

The awardees were 1Lt. Romeo Gumiran, Jr., Sgt. Carmelito Nermal, Cpl. Redgel Alanta-ol, 2Lt. Ma Revekka Knothess Roperos, MSgt. Celestino Achuela, Ltc. Wesly Salvador, SSgt. Jovanie Luberas, and Cpl. Jaymar Lingco.

A Labrador Tracking Dog, named Kodak, was also awarded with the same medal as a member of the K9 Battalion.

Further, a wreath-laying ceremony was held and flowers were offered at the soldiers’ monument, while the officer’s quarters were inaugurated.