Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Duterte tells Obama to 'go to hell', threatens to end PH alliance with US

From InterAksyon (Oct 5): Duterte tells Obama to 'go to hell', threatens to end PH alliance with US

Firebrand Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told US President Barack Obama to "go to hell" Tuesday, as he threatened to end his nation's decades-old alliance with the United States in favor of China and Russia.

The fresh tirade came as the Philippines and the United States launched annual war games that Duterte had already warned may be the last of his presidency, in response to US criticism of his deadly war on crime.

In his latest salvo, Duterte said he had lost respect for the United States and railed at its concerns about his bloody war on drugs, calling his critics "fools" who could not stop him carrying out a campaign that has killed more than 3,400 people in just over three months.

"I have lost my respect for America," Duterte said as he complained at length in two speeches about calls by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to respect human rights.

He said the United States should have supported the Philippines in tackling its chronic drugs problems but instead criticized him for the high death toll, as did the European Union.

"Instead of helping us, the first to hit was the (US) State Department. So you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell," he said.

"EU, better choose purgatory. Hell is full already. Why should I be afraid of you?"

Duterte also branded Americans "hypocrites" and warned there may come a time when he would completely break the two nations' alliance, which includes a mutual defense pact.

His comments were the latest in a near-daily avalanche of hostility toward the United States, during which Duterte has started to contrast the former colonial power with its geopolitical rivals Russia and China.

"Eventually I might in my term, break up with America. I would rather go to Russia or to China.
Even if we do not agree with their ideology, they have respect for the people. Respect is important," he said.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has said the top priority of his six-year term is eradicating illegal drugs in society, and he is "happy to slaughter" three million addicts to achieve his goal.

More than 3,400 people have died in the crime war so far, according to official figures, with rights groups warning of vigilante death squads carrying out mass murder and a general breakdown in the rule of law.

Although he uses fierce rhetoric, Duterte insists he is not breaking any laws, that police are killing only in self defense and many of the other deaths are as a result of gang wars.

'The right way'

Nevertheless, a UN rights envoy has warned Duterte may be breaking international law with incitements to kill.

Obama also last month urged Duterte at a regional summit in Laos to respect the rule of law and carry out his drug war "the right way".

Before flying to Laos for the ASEAN Summit, Duterte told reporters that he would curse Obama if he lectures him on human rights in connection with the drug-related killings.

Military ties between the Philippines and the United States had grown stronger in recent years partly in response to China's expanding presence in the strategically vital South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and has in recent years built artificial islands in the disputed areas that are capable of hosting military bases.

To counter China, the Philippines' previous president, Benigno Aquino III, sought to draw the United States closer.

This included the signing on 2014 of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a new US-Philippines defense pact that allowed thousands more US soldiers to rotate through the Philippines and for American military hardware to be stationed on Filipino bases for maritime security and humanitarian and disaster response operations.

Aquino also launched international legal action that in July saw a UN-backed tribunal declare China's vast claims in the sea illegal.

However, Duterte has reversed course, warning he wants to scrap the new pact and that he will not allow any more joint patrols with the United States in the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, Duterte told Filipinos they could not count on the United States, the Philippines' former colonial ruler.

"Don't believe in those Americans; they will not fight to die for us," he said.

In a tangential, at times profane speech in Manila, Duterte said the United States did not want to sell missiles and other weapons, but he did not care because Russia and China had told him they could provide them easily.

"Although it may sound shit to you, it is my sacred duty to keep the integrity of this republic and the people healthy," Duterte said in his second of two televised speeches on Tuesday.

"If you don't want to sell arms, I'll go to Russia. I sent the generals to Russia and Russia said 'do not worry we have everything you need, we'll give it to you'.

"And as for China, they said 'just come over and sign and everything will be delivered'."
On Sunday, he said he had got support from Russia and China when he complained to them about the United States.

About 2,000 American and Filipino troops are taking part in the eight-day war games, which will be held partly in waters near the disputed areas of the South China Sea.

In speeches to launch the exercises in Manila, military chiefs from both sides acted as if relations were normal.

"I am confident that we will continue to build our partnership and capabilities together," the 3rd US Marine Expeditionary Force deputy commander, Brigadier General John Jansen, said at the opening ceremony.

However a statement released by the US Embassy in Manila, hinted at the tensions.

"We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same," embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said in the statement.

According to some US officials, Washington has been doing its best to ignore Duterte's rhetoric and not provide him with a pretext for more outbursts.

While an open break with Manila would create problems in a region where China's influence has grown, there were no serious discussions about taking punitive steps such as cutting aid to the Philippines, two US officials said on Monday.

Several of Duterte's allies on Monday suggested he act more like a statesman because his comments had created a stir. On Tuesday, he said his outbursts were because he was provoked by criticism of his crackdown on drugs.

"When you are already at the receiving end of an uncontrollable rush, the only way out is to insult," he said.

"That is my retaliation."


ANALYSIS | Not so easy for Duterte's inclination to reduce reliance on U.S. arms

From InterAksyon (Oct 5): ANALYSIS | Not so easy for Duterte's inclination to reduce reliance on U.S. arms

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would face major obstacles to following through on his threat to reduce purchases of U.S. weapons in favor of Russian and Chinese arms, including re-training a military deeply accustomed to working with the United States, experts said on Tuesday.

Duterte said in speeches in Manila on Tuesday that the United States did not want to sell missiles and other weapons to the Philippines, but that Russia and China had told him they could provide them easily.

His comments were the latest in a near-daily barrage of hostility toward the United States that has raised questions about the long-standing alliance that is important to the U.S. strategy of rebalancing its forces toward Asia and countering an assertive China.

Angered by U.S. expressions of concern over his war on drugs, Duterte has called President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch," threatened to call off joint military exercises with Washington and started to contrast the former colonial power with its geopolitical rivals Russia and China.

U.S. officials have downplayed Duterte's remarks, focusing instead on the decades-long alliance which they have sought to bolster in recent years in response to China's moves to enforce its claims over the South China Sea. The White House said on Tuesday the United States had not received any formal communications from Duterte's government about changing the relationship.

The United States is the single largest provider of arms to the Philippines, according to figures maintained by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks military expenditures globally.

The two countries have become more intertwined militarily in the last two years, holding more exercises and training, and making more U.S. ship and aircraft visits under President Barack Obama's shift of U.S. military forces and diplomatic efforts toward Asia in the face of China's rise.


The Philippines is the largest recipient of U.S. funds in the Asia-Pacific region under the Foreign Military Financing program, which is provided by the United States to help countries purchase American-made weapons and equipment. It received $50 million under FMF in the 2015 fiscal year.

That dependence on U.S. weapons and systems means the Philippine military would have to re-tool its command-and-control structure if it wanted to switch to Chinese or Russian systems, said Richard Javad Heydarian, a professor at De La Salle University in Manila and a former advisor to the Philippines House of Representatives.

"There will be some problems with configuration," Heydarian said. "It takes years for the Philippines' army to re-orient itself with new technology."

The Philippines spent $3.9 billion on its military in 2015, according to SIPRI data. That spending has risen nearly every year since 2010, when it stood at $2.4 billion, the data show.


Though Russia in particular could offer high-quality weapons systems, the Philippines would have to take into account their interoperability with existing American stock, said Lyle Goldstein, an expert on Chinese maritime issues at the U.S. Naval War College.

"You can't just buy a radar from this country and a missile from that country," Goldstein said. "The weaponry has to work together."

He noted that many Philippine officers were educated in the United States, linking the countries' military cultures closely.

The military relationship between the United States and the Philippines goes well beyond arms sales, extending to training exercises and support for maintenance.

Russia and China do not have the same reputation of providing comprehensive training and support, said Amy Searight, until earlier this year the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia.

"The United States is well known for being quite good at that full spectrum of support to build capabilities," said Searight, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "It's not just the weapons or the armaments or vehicles or equipment. It's using those to build real capabilities."

Most likely, Duterte's aim is to signal to China that he is willing to tinker with existing U.S.-Philippines military cooperation, even if on the margins, Heydarian said.

That might mean relocating the annual U.S.-Philippines "Balikatan" military exercises away from the South China Sea, or refusing to further expand American military access to Philippine bases, he said.

Duterte could also be trying to strengthen his position in order to get better prices on military equipment from the United States, experts said. Russian and Chinese weapons are typically cheaper than American systems.


Kalinga’s CLIP to monitor FR livelihood assistance projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 4): Kalinga’s CLIP to monitor FR livelihood assistance projects

Members of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program Committee (CLIPC) will monitor progress of livelihood assistance awarded to former rebels (FR).

They also agreed to establish internal policies to speed up processing and release of immediate assistance and other benefits including the creation of a data base to avoid duplication of applicants availing of benefits.

Six former rebels were assisted from January to June this year. Two were awarded their cash assistance during the Committee’s  September 27 meeting.

One  FR  was given P97,000.00 check assistance representing immediate assistance of P15,000.00, P50,000.00 for pig raising livelihood, and P32,000.00 as remuneration of his surrendered M16 Armalite. Payment of another Garand rifle he surrendered was not yet released.

The other FR received P65, 000.00 in check representing P15, 000.00 immediate assistance and P50, 000.00 livelihood assistance to raise pigs. He did not surrender any firearm.

Acting Governor James Edduba said the provincial LGU puts peace and order as its priority in its development thrusts in support to Pres. Duterte’s campaign to resolve internal conflicts, illegal drugs, graft and corruption.

He assured the province’s financial support to sustain the CLIP and the forging of memorandum of agreement between stakeholders of CLIP to pool their resources for the upliftment of former rebels’ lives them not to return back to the mountains.


1FAB conducts howitzer, disaster response operations squad challenge .

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 4): 1FAB conducts howitzer, disaster response operations squad challenge .

The 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment (AAR) conducted the Howitzer and Disaster Response Operation (DRO) Squad Challenge on September 25-October 2 with this year’s theme: “Artilero: Kabalikat sa larangan ng bayanihan tungo sa kapayapaan, kaunlaran at tunay na pagbabago.”

LtCol. Archie A. Ares, executive officer of 1FAB said the week-long event aimed to highlight the 1FAB’s 30th founding anniversary on October 14 and aligned with the AAR’s thrust in strengthening squad’s combat capabilities and readiness, teamwork, physical stamina, and mental capabilities,  as well as in disaster rescue and relief operations.

Ares said the event tested the collective efforts and stability of the participating squads as they endure different tests that encompassed both their combat and disaster risk reduction (DRR) operations capabilities.

The event was participated by five (5) squads from AAR’s field units, namely: Alpha battery in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bravo battery 1FAB in Pinan, Zamboanga del Norte, Bravo battery 3FAB in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, Charlie company in Marawi City, and Headquarter’s battery in Camp Major Cesar Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. 

The squads, Ares said, competed in the following events: land navigation, map reading, firearms assembly and disassembly, combat swimming, life saving, platoon run, knot tying, signal communications, and squad attack, among others.

Ares said the competition further aimed to strengthen the capabilities of the squads as the basic fighting unit of the AAR and to make them ready and competent in the performance of their duty serving the people and securing the land.

The winners will receive trophies and certificates during the anniversary celebration on Oct. 14 with Col. Eddie Asis, the army regiment commander as guest of honor and speaker.


Ceasefire, amnesty up in Oslo 2nd round of talks

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 5): Ceasefire, amnesty up in Oslo 2nd round of talks

Negotiating panels of the Philippine government (GRP) and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) are expected to exchange drafts on the proposed bilateral ceasefire and craft an amnesty proclamation as peace talks are set to resume in Oslo, Norway, Thursday, October 6.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said that they hope to come up with a ceasefire agreement that will include joint monitoring and possibly with a third-party overseer.

“The previous ceasefires were unilateral. We need to craft mechanisms to monitor violations and resolve conflicts and issues arising from them,” Dureza explained.

While the unilateral ceasefires declared by both the GRP and the NDF were indefinite in nature, the presidential peace adviser said the government is eyeing a more permanent cessation of hostilities.

“These can only be done if we are able to agree on the more substantial issues of social and economic reforms. These are the more contentious issues and we expect humps and bumps during the peace negotiations,” Dureza added.

Both panels have already crafted drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), which is described as the ‘meat’ of the peace talks.

The end of hostilities and disposition of forces—the other substantive agenda of the peace talks—hinge on the success of CASER, along with political and constitutional reforms.

Dureza, however, is confident that the inspiration provided by President Rodrigo Duterte will enable both parties to pull the peace process through.

“He may not be capable of elegant language, as you have noticed, but he has pure spirit and heart in wanting to have peace in the land," Dureza said on Friday, September 30, at the closing ceremony of the 2016 National Peace Consciousness Month.

GRP peace panel head and Labor Secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello III meanwhile said that a draft amnesty proclamation is already ready for submission during the second round of peace talks.

“The list has been narrowed down to just over 400 from a high of more than 500. As per agreement during the formal resumption of the peace talks in August, the proclamation will only cover NDF members currently detained,” Bello elaborated.

He said the president, with the concurrence of Congress, could declare a general amnesty once the peace talks are brought to a successful conclusion.

Bello, however, said both negotiating panels will also have to hurdle issues on political and constitutional reforms in addition to the social and economic reform agenda for the peace talks to succeed.

The Philippine government is confident that it will be able to strike a deal with the communist rebels by August next year.

Peace talks between Philippine government and the NDF have been going on and off over the last 30 years with over 40 rounds of formal and informal talks.

Every time, however, the negotiations are scuttled due to hard line demands from both sides.

In July, President Duterte ordered the release of 22 detained NDF consultants, 16 of them later joined the first round of Oslo talks in August, to fulfill a campaign promise and to jumpstart the peace negotiations.

He also declared a unilateral ceasefire during his State of the Nation Address only to lift it later after the communist rebels ambushed a combined Army-CAFGU patrol.

The president nevertheless re-imposed the unilateral ceasefire on the eve of the August Oslo talks, which the NDF reciprocated with an indefinite and unilateral ceasefire of their own. (OPAPP)


Army boss says peace talk, cease fire deal pave way for recruitment of reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Army boss says peace talk, cease fire deal pave way for recruitment of reds

A Philippine Army(PA) official here said the government’s peace process and ceasefire agreement with the New People’s Army(NPA) pave the way for recruitment activities by the rebels.

Lt. Colonel Rolando Mangigil, commander of the army’s 54th Infantry Batallion based in barangay Bagumbayan in Dupax del Sur town said rebels who only frequented the villages near the tri-boundary of the province also pushed their recruitment efforts in Nueva Vizcaya’s central towns.

“It is good that as of this moment, no new members were recruited yet. We are encouraging our local officials to be more vigilant and report these activities to us,” he said during the recent Provincial Peace and Order Council(PPOC) meeting at the Nueva Vizcaya Pasalubong Center(NVPC) in this town.

Before the government’s peace offer to the NPA, Mangigil said their remnants were only concentrated within the tri-boundary provinces of Nueva Vizcaya such as Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Ifugao.


Army seeks cooperation of Muslim clerics in fight vs. extremists

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Army seeks cooperation of Muslim clerics in fight vs. extremists

Military authorities and Muslim Religious Leaders (MRL) have formed an alliance of cooperation to get rid Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur of suspected jihadist and extremists.

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, invited MRLs in the division's area of jurisdiction to seek their support in the fight against extremism and armed men sympathetic to international terrorist groups.

Galvez sought the cooperation of clerics from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and from the local "Darul Ifta" (Islamic House of Opinion), an organization of MRLs in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Sur.

Galvez, a known peace advocate and former chair of the government ceasefire committee, said it is important for major stakeholders to take active roles in promoting Islamic principles on fraternalism, universal love, respect for non-Muslims and freedom in religion.

He said MRLs have big roles to play in preventing extremist recruitment activities of young Moro in less developed areas in three adjoining provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In a statement, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu has expressed his all out support to the initiative of Gen. Galvez.

Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur have been identified as recruitment areas for Moro extremists that expressed support to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but military authorities said it is yet to confirm the existence of genuine ISIS in the region.

The outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remained to be the biggest threat to security in Maguindanao while armed groups which pledge allegiance to ISIS operate in Lanao del Sur.


Army, PNP launch manhunt against abductors of trader, friend

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Army, PNP launch manhunt against abductors of trader, friend

Police and military authorities have launched manhunt against armed men who abducted Tuesday afternoon a trader and his companion along Gov. Gutierrez Avenue, Cotabato City, police said.

Senior Inspector Rowel Zafra, Cotabato City police spokesperson, identified the victim as TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, 30, owner and manager of Stickerwerkz and his friend, Wendel Apostol Factoral, 32, both residents of Krislamville, Barangay Rosary Heights 6, Cotabato City.

Macabalang is owner and proprietor of Stickerwerks, a tarpauline and sticker business. He is also engaged in motor vehicle buy and sell business.

Teng Macabalang, the trader’s father, told police his son was to meet a prospective buyer of a motorbike along Gov. Gutierrez Avenue at about 3 p.m. when gunmen forced them into a Toyota Innova despite their resistance.

The Innova fled to unknown direction followed by a van without license plates.

Zafra said the police only learned of the abduction at about 6 p.m. when the father reported the incident to Police Station 2.

“We are looking at many angles and possible motives of the abduction,” Zafra told reporters, adding that investigation is still going on.

The alleged abduction came despite an intensified campaign by the city police and Army Special Forces against loose firearms, illegal drugs and criminality.

In September last year, unidentified men also seized Ishmael "Micky" Imam Glang, 27, sticker and tarpaulin designer of Stickerwerkz. He was found dead 20 days later.


PMC says commitment to PHL security made them PHIBLEX supporters

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): PMC says commitment to PHL security made them PHIBLEX supporters

Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) commandant Major Gen. Andre Costales said the commitment to provide better security to the country has made them active partners to the ongoing Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) which formally started Tuesday.

"(Commitment is) the value which started the engagements and exercises for PHIBLEX, and the value which keeps us going. Our commitment to the rendering service to provide security has brought us this part and it has been continuously updated, upgraded to stand with the advancements of technology, demands of natural and man-made threats, and hybridized warfare strategies," he added.

PHIBLEX started Tuesday and will end on October 12. It will take place in selected areas in Luzon and Palawan.

Around 1,400 US military personnel and 500 Filipino soldiers will be taking part in the 33rd iteration of the exercises this year.

"Along with the changes, PHIBLEX has not been exempted from the tests of cultural differences, resource and mobility challenges, and external criticisms. yet, our forerunners kept their word, and that’s commitment. I am sure, all of us know what is expected from your marines and from our successors, our commitment – persistent, unbroken," the PMC head added.

Through maintaining the country's commitment to the conduct of PHIBLEX, Costales said PMC has been able to contribute to the attainment of national objectives pertinent to our international defense and security engagement program.

"Through PHIBLEX, we are able to focus on opportunities that enable my marines to develop capability and enhance personnel capacity to address various challenges that are regularly identified, cultivate support from our domestic allies for national initiatives and priorities and promote cooperation in addressing regional and international issues," he added.

"I suppose our strategic allies also stand by the same principle. With goodwill, I have boundless faith that the commitment of my marines is also the commitment of domestic and regional stakeholders in terms of military integration and inter-operability," Costales concluded.


US Marines officer sees very bright future for Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): US Marines officer sees very bright future for Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy

The future of the Philippine Marine Corps along with the Philippine Navy is very bright as proven by its acquisition of its amphibious ships and landing craft.

This was observed by US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander Brig. Gen. John Jansen during the opening of the 33rd iteration of the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) Tuesday.

"And as we move into the future, the Philippine Marine Corps along with the Philippine Navy are building new capabilities to make this training even more relevant. With the recent acquisition of the amphibious ship the BRP Tarlac, the future acquisition of its sister ship the BRP Davao Del Sur, and the acquisition of new Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAVs), the Philippines Navy-Marine Corps team will be even more capable to respond to any event from the sea," he added.

PHIBLEX opened Tuesday and will end on October 12. Around 1,400 American military personnel and 500 Filipino troops will participate in the eight-day maneuvers which will take place in Luzon and Palawan.

"An example from our experience, AAVs were integral to reaching flooded areas in response to Hurricane Katrina. This critical capability is one that the Philippine Marine Corps can use to serve its own citizens during natural disasters," Jansen pointed out.

"Each event flexes a different muscle in the machines that make up our unique military forces. The closer we come to mastering amphibious capabilities together, the better prepared we will be to combat any threat that may present itself," he further said.


Amphibious landing capability also a life saver during disasters

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Amphibious landing capability also a life saver during disasters

Aside from its military applications, amphibious landings can also save lives during disasters.

"This landing is not just about projecting power from sea to shore, it is about growing a capability; a capability that has saved lives during times of crisis. This unique amphibious acumen has enabled our combined forces to bring in water, medical supplies and relief whether by helicopter or landing craft," US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander Brig. Gen. John Jansen said.

He made this statement during the opening day of the 33rd iteration Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) Tuesday.

"The relationship building and capability enhancement serves as the absolute bedrock during a natural disaster thus allowing for our combined efforts to preserve life to be complementary and timely response in hours versus days equates to saved lives," Jansen added.

This concept was proven when typhoon 'Haiyan' (Yolanda) made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar on November 8, 2013.

"Within four hours, Ospreys from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, arrived to support the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The MV-22s evacuated more than 1,200 people while delivering over 20 tons of supplies none of which would have been possible without the Philippine Government and military’s fast actions, and the practice we all receive during exercises.

Our forces have come together again and again, in 2013 for the Bohol Earthquake and typhoon Bopha, typhoon Washi in 2011, typhoon Frank in 2008, and typhoon Reming in 2006," Jansen stressed.

PHIBLEX started on Tuesday and will end on October 12. It will take place in various areas in Luzon and Palawan.

Around 1,400 American military personnel and 500 Filipino troops will take part in the eight-day event.


Duterte, Misuari to talk peace

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 4): Duterte, Misuari to talk peace

‘Nur the only known leader who has the influence and the structure’
President Duterte is set to meet with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in Davao soon to advance the peace process in Mindanao.
The President said Misuari, described as the only known leader who has the influence and the structure, would be given safe passage when he comes out of hiding for their meeting.
“Nur Misuari is scheduled to get out of his camp. Bigyan ko lang siya ng conduct pass. He will go to Davao, we will talk,” the President said during his remarks at the MassKara festival in Bacolod City.
Duterte first announced his intention to meet with Misuari, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), in the first weeks in office but such meeting has not pushed through. Misuari has long been wanted by authorities for his alleged involvement in the deadly Zamboanga siege in 2013.
Last month, the President said he was willing to meet Misuari in any place, including Malaysia, the rebel leader’s preferred venue, to promote peace and prevent bloodshed in Mindanao.
Duterte said he told Misuari via phone that the police have been directed not to enforce a pending arrest warrant against him.
In refusing to arrest the MNLF leader, Duterte explained he wanted to avoid a situation wherein Misuari might die while under government custody. “He’s the only known leader who has the influence and the structure. Nobody else,” he said.
In 1996, the Ramos government forged a peace agreement with the MNLF led by Misuari, resulting in the establishment of the ARMM.
Decades later, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the breakaway group of the MNLF, inked a peace deal with the Aquino administration that would dismantle the ARMM and create a new political entity called Bangsamoro region.
Back in July, President Duterte gave the green light to a comprehensive “roadmap to peace” covering various rebel groups that include proposing an alternative measure to replace the botched Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Under the new roadmap, the Duterte government plans to introduce a “more inclusive” peace bill in lieu of the BBL previously endorsed by President Aquino.
Aquino’s proposed BBL failed to get the nod of Congress due to questions of unconstitutional provisions and fallout following the January, 2015 Mamasapano debacle.


US Embassy: No plan to bring back American bases in PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 4): US Embassy: No plan to bring back American bases in PH

The US has no plans of reopening military bases in the Philippines and nowhere in the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) provides for such, according to the US Embassy in its Tuesday (Oct. 4) statement.

“All activities to assist with the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are planned and conducted with the concurrence and invitation of the Philippine government,” said US Embassy press attach├ę Molly Koscina.

In his fresh tirade against the United States, President Duterte over the weekend threatened to stop the implementation of the EDCA, which he pointed out as merely an executive agreement since it was not signed in 2014 by then President Benigno Aquino III.

The warning came as he rehashed his disgust over the US in response to its admonitions over his brutal war on drugs during the 37th Maskara Festival in Bacolod City on Sunday.

In his speech, he disclosed that his administration has started reviewing the EDCA, which was signed two years ago by then defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a US aide but was not implemented until the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality last January.

“Better think twice now because I would be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether,” Mr. Duterte had said.

In the same speech, the President also apologized to the Jewish community for his comments drawing parallels between his war on drugs and Adolf Hitler’s genocide of Jews before and during the World War II.

His earlier remarks drew condemnation from the United Nations, German and Israeli governments, the Pentagon and international rights groups.

In a statement, Koscina said the Embassy has not been officially contacted by Philippine authorities about the President’s recent statements on the EDCA.

“EDCA is a mutually beneficial agreement, which will, among other things, enhance our ability to provide rapid assistance in the Philippines in cases of natural disasters by allowing us to pre-position relief and other supplies,” said Koscina.

She also said the US government would continue to focus on its “broad relationship” with the Philippines, anchored on shared values and beliefs, including in human rights and dignity.

The US embassy said it was “deeply troubled” by Mr. Duterte’s Hitler remarks and that it was also aware of his apology to the Jews.

“We continue to focus on our broad relationship; one of the most enduring and important relationships in the Asia Pacific Region,” said Koscina.

Philippines' President says he'll 'break up' with US, tells Obama 'go to hell'

From CNN (Oct 4): Philippines' President says he'll 'break up' with US, tells Obama 'go to hell'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's vitriol against the United States took another caustic turn Tuesday, when he threatened to "break up" with the US and said President Barack Obama can "go to hell."

Duterte's latest remarks came just as the US and Philippines started joint military exercises -- perhaps for the last time.
US calls Philippines President's Hitler comments 'troubling'
The war drills began Tuesday in Manila and will last until October 12. Last week, Duterte said this round of joint drills with the US would be the last.
"I serve notice to you now that this will be the last joint military exercise with US," Duterte said.

'I will break up with America'

Durterte's verbal tirade against the US heated up after widespread criticism of his anti-drug campaign.
Thousands of suspected drug dealers and users have died during Duterte's aggressive crackdown on the illegal drug trade.
Some were killed during shootouts with local police when suspects allegedly resisted arrest. Others died in nightly vigilante-style killings, where bodies are left on the streets with cardboard signs describing their alleged drug-related crimes.
US officials have slammed Duterte, especially after he compared himself to Hitler. Duterte later apologized for the remarks.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he's willing to cut ties with the US in favor of Russia and China.
"Respect is important," he said in one of three speeches Tuesday. "If this is what happens now, I will be reconfiguring my foreign policy. Eventually I might, in my time, I will break up with America. I'd rather go to Russia and to China."
Duterte also had harsh words for the US President and the European Union: "Mr. Obama, you can go to hell. ... The EU better choose purgatory."

Obama administration responds

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Duterte's recent comments, such as telling Obama to "go to hell," contradicted the "warm relationship" between the two countries.
He cited US recovery efforts after natural disasters as an example of the close ties between the two nations. Earnest also said the US has not received any request from the Philippines to change their bilateral relationship.
But the White House spokesman insisted the US will "not hesitate" to raise concerns about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, which he said were "entirely inconsistent" with universal values of human rights.
"We won't be silent in raising our significant concerns about these reports," Earnest said.

'If you will not leave my city, I will kill you'

Duterte won the presidency by a landslide this year on a platform of ending drug proliferation, despite having been accused of running the Davao Death Squad when he was mayor of Davao.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he won't stop his anti-drug crackdown "until the last pusher is taken out of the street."
"It will be unrelenting," the President said.
Duterte also defended his threats to kill criminals, saying he used similar language when he was mayor of Davao.
"If you will not leave my city, I will kill you," he reminisced.
"There is no law at all which says I cannot threaten criminals as mayor or even as president."
Under Duterte's presidency, police have made thousands of arrests and have implemented a controversial "knock and plead" policy of visiting suspected drug users in their homes and inviting them to register as users with community officials.
Duterte has also told police they can kill drug dealers if they fight back.

Souring relations with the US?

In his first few months in office, Duterte has made shocking remarks about the US, a longtime ally of the Philippines.
After US president Barack Obama said he would raise extrajudicial killings in a meeting with Duterte, the Philippines President responded angrily on September 5, first in English then in Tagalog. As a result, Obama canceled the meeting.
As he addressed troops at the country's Armed Forces Central Command Headquarters on August 5, Duterte recounted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the country, saying in Tagalog that he was feuding with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
Speaking at  press conference to unveil his new cabinet in  May 31, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte said that journalists killed on the job in the Philippines were often corrupt.
He's called both Obama and the US ambassador to the Philippines a "son of a bitch."
American investors have already expressed concern over drug-related killings under the Duterte administration.
"The increased number of killings during the heightened anti-drug campaign is harming the country's image, as portrayed by international media, and some investors are now asking whether this campaign reduces the rule of law," the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. said last month.
But US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week that the decades-old alliance with the Philippines was "ironclad."
He said US-Philippines cooperation "has served the interests of our nations for many years now" and added that he had good discussions about "ongoing alliance operations" with his counterpart from the Philippines.

Military, clerics pledge support to fight extremism

From the Philippine Star (Oct 4): Military, clerics pledge support to fight extremism

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. met with moderate clerics in Camp Siongcoon Monday and discussed with them the need for cooperation in addressing Islamic militancy in central Mindanao. Philstar.com/John Unson

The military and moderate clerics on Monday agreed to cooperate against Islamic militancy in central Mindanao, being spread by local jihadists boasting of loyalty to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) and clerics from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, from the local Darul Iftah, also known as House of Opinions, and from the academe reached the consensus during a meeting Monday, after a two-hour religious symposium at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

The symposium was organized by Galvez and his Moro civil-military relations staff, Lt. Col. Markton Abo, in line with Monday’s Amon Jaded, or day one of Muharram, the first month in the lunar-based Islamic Hijrah calendar.

The moderate Imams who spoke during the symposium lectured on Islamic principles on fraternalism, universal love, respect for non-Muslims and freedom in religion.

One guest told The STAR it is wrong for Muslims to force non-Muslims to embrace Islam, or persecute them over sectarian differences.

“There is an Islamic preaching which says `la iqra fidin’ which means there is no compulsion in religion. That’s very clear and true Muslims ought to obey that,” he said.

Galvez said he is optimistic Islamic militancy, based on contemporary doctrines brought in recently from the Middle East by Filipinos who had either worked or studied in Islamic schools there, can never influence adventurists to join groups fashioned like ISIS as long as the mainstream moderate clerics, the police, the military, the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front and the local government units are cohesively united against it.

In an emailed statement, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, presiding chairman of the provincial peace and order council, said he supports 6th ID’s diplomatic efforts to address religious extremism in central Mindanao.

The 6th ID has jurisdiction over Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the adjoining North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, both under Administrative Region 12.

Mangudadatu said he is keen on expanding the now 6,000-slot college scholarship program of his office, the Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment, to boost Malacanang’s bid to quell the Islamic militancy now plaguing certain areas in Southern Mindanao.

“If we can have more educated constituents, educated and productive people in Maguindanao, we shall not have this thing in our midst,” Mangudadatu said in his email to The STAR.

Galvez, who assumed as 6th ID commander only last September 12, has been trying to enlist the support of all sectors in central Mindanao in nipping religious extremism in the region from its bud.

Galvez even want to convince the MILF's central committee to woe members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) back in its fold provided they renounce their allegiance to Middle Eastern jihadist blocs and adhere to peaceful means of resolving the now four-decade Moro issue.

The MILF, which is engaged in peace talks with government since Jan. 7, 1997, had thrice disowned the BIFF and is even helping the 6th ID monitor its activities and restrain its forces in their enclaves.

In what seemed hyperbole in reverse, the BIFF announced last week that it delisted from its roster five senior members for having links with ISIS, as if it forgot that it has, in months past, also announced repeatedly its loyalty to the transnational terror group.

The BIFF is known for its being news savvy. Surprisingly, however, it announced its move only last week, claiming that the five men, the radical jihadists Salahudin Hassan, Abdulmalik Esmael, Bashir Ungab, Nasser Adil and Ansari Yunos, had been booted out as early as August, owing to their being fanatical extremists and their desire to create a more radical group in the fashion of ISIS.

Key sources from the municipal peace and order councils in the second district of Maguindanao said the five jihadists even branded themselves as “moassesseen,” which means founders in Arabic, to imply that they are the pioneer organizers of a self-styled domestic ISIS group that would fight for an Asian Islamic caliphate under a Middle Eastern principal.

Ironic too, the BIFF and the emerging militant group both use the black ISIS flag as revolutionary banner.

The BIFF was established in the late 2010 by Imam Ameril Ombra Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia as a government scholar during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.

Kato started as chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but bolted due to irreconcilable differences with his superiors and eventually organized the BIFF, whose revolutionary objective is to create a puritan Islamic state in Mindanao.

He died in 2014, about two years after half of his body was paralyzed as a result of a hypertensive stroke while hiding in his hinterland lair surrounded by Maguindanao’s  Datu Saudi, Guindulungan, South Upi and Datu Unsay towns.

Among the guests in Monday’s Amon Jaded symposium at 6th ID’s Harmony Hall in Camp Siongco were Thoks Upam of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, Islamic theologians from the ARMM’s regional Darul Ifta and Muslim officers from different Army units in central Mindanao.

The MILF’s ceasefire committee works with a counterpart government panel in resolving security issues besetting areas covered by the group’s 1997 interim ceasefire accord with Malaca├▒ang.

In a message during the symposium, Galvez, who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1986, explicitly mentioned the need for multi-sectoral cooperation in pushing forward the Mindanao peace process which aims to put a negotiated closure to the Mindanao Moro rebellion.


Philippines may be terrorism's new frontier, Duterte tells Army

From the Philippine Star (Oct 4): Philippines may be terrorism's new frontier, Duterte tells Army

The military must prepare to combat terrorism because militants may make the Philippines part of a new frontier of extremism, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City, Duterte said "terrorism is here to stay."
The president said that "there seems to be no force, influence — forceful influence" that can stop extremism from spreading.
"[F]rom what I just basa-basa and talks with the intelligence community of the other countries, especially in the Middle East, mukhang naghanap ito sila ng bagong frontier. And I think na ang susunod nito would be Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines," he said.
He said that while he has been able to convince the "mainstream" rebel groups Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to talk peace, the government cannot talk to extremists like the Abu Sayyaf. The armed forces has been conducting intensified operations against the bandit group in Sulu province.
According to reports, five radical preachers from the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have broken away to form a new group that aims to establish an Asian Islamic caliphate allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The breakaway group has also reportedly formed alliances with the Maute armed group and the Abu Sayyaf.
On Sept.2, a bomb exploded in a night market in Davao City, killing 14 and leaving close to 70 injured. Duterte, who was in the city at the time, declared a State of National Emergency in the country after the bombing. 
"[S]tart now dealing with terrorism. I’m giving so many books to you but one is sa drugs. You must… ‘yon ‘yung sa profiling. Naka-cap, naka-shades, naka-short pants. ‘Yan ang pag-aralan ninyo because ang terrorism is not being fought with armies eh... five, six, seven, car bombs, ‘yung ganon," the president said.
He added he was giving the soldiers Glock handguns because of the nature of the terrorist threat.
"In my time, in my time, you’d have everything you need to fight effectively. Wala kayong problema sa akin.  May priority kayo sa government spending basta trabaho lang kayo because I know how hard it is to keep the peace of the country and to protect its integrity," he said.

Muslim preachers form radical ISIS-style group

From the Manila Times (Oct 4): Muslim preachers form radical ISIS-style group

Five radical Muslim religious preachers have bolted the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and formed their own revolutionary group perceived to be more radical, being inspired by the ideology of the notorious Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Calling themselves as the genuine “Muashasin,” an Arabic term meaning “founders,” they declared the new revolutionary group as the counterpart of ISIS in southern Mindanao.

Local officials in three towns in Maguindanao confirmed the preachers’ separation, including that of their followers, from the BIFF, during a gathering recently.

The Muashasin have pledged allegiance to the ISIS and adopted the latter’s infamous black flag as the group’s revolutionary banner.

Last week, the BIFF leadership distributed a press statement confirming that the clerics–Hassan, Abdulmalik Esmael, Bashir Ungab, Nasser Adil and Ansari Yuno– have left to form a breakaway faction focused on establishing an Asian Islamic caliphate allied with the ISIS.

Local residents said Salahudin and Esmael, both of Maguindanaon lineage, were trained by the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan, in the manufacture and handling of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mamasapano town southwest of Maguindanao.

They are both from Shariff Saidona town in Maguindanao, according to local officials.

“They are no longer with the BIFF and the BIFF has nothing to do with their activities now,” BIFF’s spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, said.

Relatives said the five jihadists broke away from the BIFF after forging alliances with the Maute terror group in the first district of Lanao del Sur and the more notorious terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

The group is headed by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute.

The brothers studied Islamic theology while employed as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in the United Arab Emirates before they established their so-called “black flag movement” in Lanao del Sur.

The BIFF earlier split into two factions, one led by Karialan and the other by Bongos, both Imams, but differed in their views on Islamic militancy and on how to relate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ward off IED attacks in Central Mindanao.

The government and the MILF are bound by a 1997 ceasefire agreement to mutually cooperate in maintaining law and order in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

The BIFF was founded in late 2010 by Ustadz Ameril Ombra Kato, who started as commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

Kato bolted the MILF in late 2010 because of irreconcilable differences with its central committee, headed by Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, determined to pursue a negotiated peace deal with the Philippine government.

Kato died of a lingering illness in 2014 at Datu Saudi town in Maguindanao, after half of his body was paralyzed as a result of a stroke two years before.

Like the ASG, the BIFF also proclaimed loyalty to the ISIS and incites people in areas where it operates to hate non-Muslims and treat them with animosity for being kuff’r, or unbelievers of the Islamic teachings.


Zamboanga bomb plot: More Abu Sayyaf suspects may still be at large

From CNN Philippines (Oct 5): Zamboanga bomb plot: More Abu Sayyaf suspects may still be at large

After arresting three suspected Abu Sayyaf members for supposedly planning to bomb a festival in Zamboanga City, local police are on the lookout for more suspects.

Sr. Supt. Luisito Magnaye, Zamboanga City Police Director, on Tuesday said some Abu Sayyaf members wanting to wreak havoc at the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival may still be at large.

Magnaye said the Abu Sayyaf are planning to hurl a hand grenade at RT Lim Boulevard, one of the popular sites in this year's festivities, happening October 1-12.

Read: Police arrest Abu Sayyaf suspects in Zamboanga bomb plot

Magnaye advised the public to be vigilant and report any unusual incident to authorities.

The suspects might also create an improvised explosive device, Magnaye said, since a detonating cord was confiscated from the three suspects arrested on Monday. 

Police also recovered grenades, a 45-caliber pistol, and a blasting cap.

Zamboanga Police Office Spokesperson Chief Inspector Helen Galvez identified the first group of suspects as Abde dela Cruz (aka Sherwin), Jabar Ignohasim, and Abdulla Yusup – all residents of Jolo, Sulu.

They are believed to be members of the Sulu-based subgroup of the Abu Sayyaf under the leadership of Alhabsi Misaya, according to police intelligence officers. 

The suspects were also planning to kidnap a prominent businessman in Zamboanga City, police said.
Magnaye refused to confirm if one of the suspects in Monday's arrest is involved in the beheading of captives in Sulu province.  Magnaye said they are still validating reports.

Zamboanga police officers were about to serve a warrant of arrest against Dela Cruz at a pension house in Zamboanga City when he and two other suspects tried to escape.

The police nabbed the suspects at 2:45 p.m. on Monday.

According to police, the three suspects arrived via a passenger vessel from Jolo Monday morning and checked in at a local pension house.

Related: Who are the Abu Sayyaf?


Indonesian Firm Gave Abu Sayyaf Money for Release of Hostages: Family Rep

From Benar News (Oct 4): Indonesian Firm Gave Abu Sayyaf Money for Release of Hostages: Family Rep


A Philippine soldier, left, escorts freed Indonesian sailors Edi Suryono, Muhammad Mabrur Dahri and Ferry Arifin in the town of Jolo, Oct. 2, 2016.

A man who represents relatives of three Indonesian sailors who were freed from Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) custody over the weekend claims their company sent money to the southern Philippine militant group before their release.

“There is no free lunch. [The company] did not pay ransom but gave ‘thank you’ money to cover the meals and all costs when they were held hostage,” Amrullah, who represents families of crew members of the tugboat Charles 001 who were kidnapped at sea in June, told BenarNews in an interview.

“How much it was, only the company knows. Even if I knew, I would not tell because there are still two of our colleagues who are detained by Abu Sayyaf,” said Amrullah, chairman of the Indonesian Seafarers Union in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province.

A spokesman for the company, P.T. Rusianto Brothers, declined to respond to the allegation.
“Regarding ransom, I don’t want to comment,” Taufikrahman told BenarNews on Tuesday.
A government official said Indonesia did not pay for the sailors’ release.

The three sailors who were released on Saturday have been identified as Ferry Arifin, 26, Muhammad Mahbrur Dahri, 27, and Edi Suryono, 27. Fellow shipmates Muhammad Nasir and Robin Pieter and six Malaysians are still in ASG custody.

Following the abduction of seven crew members off the tugboat Charles 001 on June 20, reports surfaced that ASG had demanded a ransom of 200 million Philippine pesos (U.S. $4.1 million) for their release.

Two of the crew members, Muhamad Sofyan and Ismail were rescued after they reportedly escaped from their captors.

Government: No ransom paid

The Indonesian government has consistently maintained that it has never paid any ransom money to secure the release of citizens being held captive by the militant group based in the southern Philippines.

“Maybe, it is costly, but the government will never compromise to terrorists by paying ransom,” Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the foreign ministry’s director of protection and legal assistance for Indonesians overseas, told journalists.

Despite the government’s claim, Philippine-based news website Rappler.com reported last month that ASG had collected at least 354.1 Philippine pesos (U.S. $7.3 million) in 2016 from ransoms paid for hostages. Of that amount, at least 324.1 million pesos ($6.7 million) was raised through ransoms paid for Southeast Asian sailors.

Ransoms have been paid for 17 Indonesians who have been released by Abu Sayyaf this year, Rappler reported.

Joint sea, air patrols discussed

The release of the three hostages occurred as the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it was working with Indonesian and Malaysian defense officials to explore joint air patrols for safeguarding the seaways that separate the three neighbors.

These discussions took place during a meeting in Hawaii over the weekend between defense officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States, Philippine media reported.

In a statement DND noted that the three nations were finalizing plans for similar maritime patrols in what they consider areas of common concern in the Sulu and Celebes seas.

“The phenomenon of returning fighters from the conflict in the Middle East could eventually create security challenges for the three countries, something which the ministers recognized, and hence, their decision to further get their act together,” DND said in a press release.


Amrullah said he was able to maintain contact with the hostages while they were being held because he was in communication with Abu Qhasadah, also known as Pak Jul, the leader of the ASG faction holding them.

Amrullah said he had talked with the hostages several times to say hello, and ask about their health.

“I did not interfere in the release efforts by the government. I just merely asked about how they were, and gave them encouragement to survive,” he said.


Gov't panel adviser says peace agreement with NDF will be accepted by Filipinos

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Gov't panel adviser says peace agreement with NDF will be accepted by Filipinos

City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan said that the government's ongoing peace negotiation with the National Democratic Front (NDF) has the support of the Filipinos and the future peace agreement will be embraced by the nation.

Pamintuan, who is also a government peace panel adviser, made this reaction following the rejection in a plebiscite of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP).

"The Colombian and Philippine peace negotiations have parallelisms but also differences. In the ongoing negotiation with the NDF, we are focused on the resolutions of the basic issues, the root causes of the almost five-decade war in our countrysides. We are resolved to settle everything on the negotiating table. And while we are talking, we are also informing, educating our people through various forms of information-dissemination particularly the media, the social media and thru the conduct of grassroots fora," Pamintuan said.

Likewise, he said the country has peace advocates and progressive leaders in various levels of government and civil society groups which are all-out in support of the ongoing peace efforts.

"The support mechanisms for a just and lasting peace are already in place," Pamintuan added.
Seeking to end more than 50 years of war, the Colombian government and FARC-EP inked a peace agreement on August 24, 2016.

The deal, however, was rejected during the October 2, 2016 referendum with 50.24% voting against and 49.76% in favor.

"The components for the success of our peace negotiation and its eventual acceptance by the Filipino people are already in place. We have already legalized the Communist Party and other ideologies. We have progressives participating in our electoral processes. We are ready for peace," Pamintuan said.

After a six-year hiatus, the peace negotiation with the NDF was revived during the successful first round of talks in Oslo, Norway on August 22 to 28, 2016.

The second round is scheduled on October 6 to 10, this year.

The Royal Norwegian Government is sponsoring the ongoing peace negotiation.

"Our people wants peace. They are exuberant and ecstatic on its prospects. We owe it to them and the future generation to bring the armed conflict to a just and lasting conclusion," Pamintuan added.


President Duterte rejects Misuari’s request to bring security escorts in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): President Duterte rejects Misuari’s request to bring security escorts in Davao City

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari agreed to talk to him in Davao City but with his own security escorts.

”Regarding Nur, I talked to him coming over here. He is willing to go to Davao to bring troops with him for security. I explained that’s not possible anymore. He is facing charges,” President Duterte said in his speech in an event with local government units (LGUs) leaders at Mayuree Grand Ballroom Dusit Thani in Makati City.

In his efforts to establish avenue to reach peace with the MNLF rebels, President Duterte called up and told Misuari that he is willing to fetch the fugitive MNLF leader from Jolo and bring him to Davao City where they can talk about peace.

”If you want, I myself would go to Jolo and I will bring you to Davao and talk there so that everything will be okay,” President said, relating his phone conversation with Misuari.

President Duterte said he would talk with Misuari again on Tuesday night.

The President reiterated his firm stand not to talk with Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group that Misuari wanted to be included in the peace talks.

”I don’t want to talk to Abu Sayyaf. They are too brutal but outright criminals,” he said.

In a separate speech he delivered at the Philippine Army headquarters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, President Duterte announced that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Murad Ebrahim and vice chair Ghadzali Jaafar have agreed to talk peace again with the government.

”They agreed to talk and we will resume the talk next…I will be out of the Manila for a quite some time,” President Duterte said.

President Duterte said he also talked with Moro scholars in Mindanao “and they said that Mindanao really belongs to them.”

”It was taken away by the Americans and that they will not negotiate with me. They will talk but they will not negotiate for as long as they find some Americans in Mindanao,” he said.

The President clarified that he was not asking the Americans to leave the entire Philippines.


AFP capable of defending PHL territory

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): AFP capable of defending PHL territory

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assured is capable of defending the country's territory even without foreign help.

This was stressed by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla in an interview Monday.

"The AFP has its own capabilities and based on the threats that we face, it is sufficient and we are now preparing for other possible threats," he said in Filipino.

However, despite its willingness to defend the country, Padilla is hopeful that the AFP will not be mobilized to fight foreign aggressors or intruders as the Philippines has friendly relations with all nations, especially its neighbors.

"The current status of our country is we are friends with all our neighbors, we abide by the constitutional policy of always prioritizing peace and that's exactly what we are doing, so within the scope of our capabilities we are able to protect our interest at the moment and that far I can go," he added.


Troops involved in ASG campaign undergoing stress debriefing

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Troops involved in ASG campaign undergoing stress debriefing

Troops,conducting focused military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists in Sulu, are continuously undergoing combat stress debriefing to cope with psychological rigors of their job.

Joint Task Force Sulu spokesperson Col. Rodrigo Gregorio in a statement Tuesday, said as of this posting, three companies from different battalions have so far undergone the combat stress debriefing being conducted by a steady flow of medical teams coming from the AFP Medical Center.

Gregorio said stress debriefing is now on its third week, with teams composed of health professionals with psychological specializations, helping in the campaign.

A priest from the AFP Chaplain Service is also helping, he also said.

Two teams from the AFP medical center have so far completed the three-week process and are set to be replaced by another team from Manila.

The combat stress debriefing is a mechanism to ensure the psychological health, morale and welfare of troops involved in highly dangerous combat operations.

Such type of stress was first observed on American troops during the Vietnam War by medical personnel and was found to be a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

The debriefing aims to address possible cases of PTSD among troops, a sickness that is beyond superficial wounds common among soldiers, policemen and other law enforcers who have been to combat zones or some life threatening situations.

"Combat stress debriefing is part of the program of the AFP to take care of the health and welfare of troops involved in combat. The AFP provides a continuing healthcare program to our soldiers from the moment officers and troops get commissioned or enlisted until they retire from the service," Joint Task Force Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega said.

Combat fatigue and battle stress debriefing are provided to our soldiers in view of their perilous mission. This is to address any possible problem or stress that may affect the performance; and medical and psychological health of soldiers assigned in combat zones.


PHIBLEX provides American, Filipino marines with insights to meet terror, internal security threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): PHIBLEX provides American, Filipino marines with insights to meet terror, internal security threats

Aside from beefing up the country's territorial defense capabilities, the annual amphibious landing exercises between American and Filipino marine units also provides more insight on meeting terrorism threats and internal security operations.

This was stressed by Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) commandant Major Gen. Andre M. Costales during opening salvo of the 33rd iteration of the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) which took place at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Tuesday.

PHIBLEX will take place in various locations in Luzon and Palawan and will last until Oct. 12.
"(The field exercises) covers the capacity and capability building not only for territorial defense but also on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, combating terrorism and internal security operations," Costales said.

And every year, PHIBLEX's aim is to enhance knowledge, skills, and strategy for inter-operability," he stressed.

Taking off from US and Philippines shared victories in the previous year’s exercises and learning a lot on the identified challenges and anticipated gaps and with commitment from the two respective marine forces, Costales said the goal to sustain to good relationship and cooperation has been kept, thereby upgrading each other’s capabilities and competencies.

An estimated 1,400 American military personnel and 500 Filipino soldiers will take part in PHIBLEX 33.

Inter-operability between PHL, US amphibious vessels among primary goals of PHIBLEX

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Inter-operability between PHL, US amphibious vessels among primary goals of PHIBLEX

The integration of the recently-delivered strategic sealift vessel, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), and landing craft heavies from Australia with similar craft from the United States is one of the primary goals of the ongoing Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX).

"Our mission is to integrate the use of strategic sealift vessel, BRP Tarlac, and other non-traditional platforms such as the landing craft (heavies acquired from) Australia and small riverine crafts from the US," Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) head Major Gen. Andre Costales said.

The 33rd iteration of PHIBLEX started Tuesday and will end on October 12. Around 1,400 American military personnel and 500 soldiers will be taking part in the exercise.

PHIBLEX will take places in various areas in Luzon and Palawan.

"But, our vision does not end here. Our goal further extends its breadth by preparing the grounds for the PMC capability build up with or without external interventions; thereby including the rehearsal for the activation of the marine combat component of the AFP’s Joint Rapid Reaction Force and the utilization of landing and offload sites other than those traditionally used in previous PHIBLEX engagements," he added.

Costales said that this visions are not for the PMC alone as it involves the country's international and regional partner armed forces as well.

"With the apparent scale in the number of participants and the subsequent expectations from international communities of spectators, our PHIBLEX leaders are gearing up in order to achieve our goals. key planners before our season have known and have been executing measures to level up towards our vision," he added.