Saturday, November 19, 2016

Isabela, Basilan deputy police chief, policeman shot by riding-in-tandem

From Rappler (Nov 20): Isabela, Basilan deputy police chief, policeman shot by riding-in-tandem

Supt. Esteban Agcaoili, Isabela City's deputy police chief, and a certain PO2 Pamposa, were shot by unknown suspects riding a motorcycle

The deputy police chief of Isabela City in Basilan, along with another policeman, were shot Sunday morning, November 20, by unknonwn assailants riding a motorcycle.

Supt. Esteban Agcaoili and a certain PO2 Pamposa, were shot by unknown suspects riding a motorcycle while the victims were playing basketball at the city's gym Sunday morning, initial reports said.

Agcaoili is in critical condition in the hospital.

Agcaoili was assigned to Basilan after he was tagged as a "ninja" cops, or those who allegedly re-sell drugs, particularly shabu, seized in police raids.

The motive of the shooting is still unknown.

More details soon.

2 cops critically hurt in Basilan ambush

From GMA News (Nov 20): 2 cops critically hurt in Basilan ambush

Two policemen, including a deputy city police chief, were hurt in a gun attack in Basilan early Sunday.

Police identified the victims as Superintendent Esteban Agcaoili, deputy chief of the Isabela City Police Station, and Police Officer 2 Jayson Pamposa.

Initial investigations disclosed that the two policemen were playing basketball in a gym in Isabela City when they were attacked by two motorcycle-riding gunmen.

The two policemen were initially rushed to a local hospital and then transferred to a medical facility in Zamboanga City.

Reports as of this posting said the two policemen were in critical conditions.

Abu Sayyaf militants take two more Indonesian hostages

From the Straits Times (Nov 20): Abu Sayyaf militants take two more Indonesian hostages

Philippine security officials said on Sunday (Nov 20) that suspected militants from the brutal Abu Sayyaf Islamist group have abducted the captain and a crewman of a Malaysia-registered fishing trawler.

Both were Indonesians.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said Mr Saparuddin Kone, the skipper, and Mr Sawal Maryam, were taken at around 7.30pm, on Saturday (Nov 19).

Five men on a speedboat chased and boarded Mr Kone’s boat as it sailed off Kunak district, in Malaysia’s Sabah state.

Major Tan said a task force in Tawi-Tawi province, about 1,200km south of the capital Manila.
This is the fourth kidnapping along the porous borders between the Philippines’ Sulu archipelago, stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, and Sabah, reported over the past two weeks.
On Nov 6, a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits abducted a German adventurer, Mr Jurgen Kantner, 70, after killing his wife, Ms Sabine Merz, from a yacht sailing off Tanjong Luok Pisuk.

Just hours earlier, two Indonesian fishing boat captains, aged 52 and 46, but whose names were not released, were snatched in separate incidents waters off Sandakan.

On Nov 11, gunmen intercepted a Vietnamese bulk carrier passing through a strait of Basilan province, near Tawi-Tawi, abducting six sailors and shooting another.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small but brutal group of extremists that has pledged allegiance to the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has defied more than a decade of US-backed military offensives against it and gone a lucrative kidnapping spree in recent years.

Though the group officially has a separatist, Islamist agenda, it has become better known for banditry and tactics that have proved highly effective, and earned large sums of money.

Since March, Abu Sayyaf gunmen have been intercepting slow-moving tug boats towing coal barges in waters near the borders of Malaysia and the Philippines, taking captive more than a dozen Indonesian and Malaysian sailors.

Several hostages had been freed, but experts say in those cases it is almost certain ransoms were paid.

A Norwegian, Mr Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, was released in September  after the Abu Sayyaf received US$638,000 (S$909,692) in ransom for his release.

Mr Sekkingstad was abducted from a high-end tourist resort in September 2015 alongside a Filipino, Ms Marites Flor, who has already been freed, and two Canadians.

In April and June, the Canadians - John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 67 - were beheaded after ransoms were not paid.

One of the Abu Sayyaf’s biggest recent windfalls is believed to have come in 2014 when it claimed to have been paid more than US$5 million (S$6.7 million) for the release of German physician Stefan Okonek, 71, and his companion, Ms Henrike Dielen, 55, abducted from aboard their yacht.

The Abu Sayyaf still has 16 captives, including Mr Kantner, a Dutch, five Malaysians, two Indonesians and seven Filipinos.

Efforts to hunt down the group’s heavily armed, well-stocked and mobile units with a network of checkpoints and battalions of soldiers have proven to be ineffective – and even fatal for both troops and hostages - in the past.

On April 9, Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed 18 Filipino soldiers searching for hostages in a day-long battle.

The only operation that led to some measure of success was in 2002, when US-backed Philippine special forces units ambushed a group of bandits holding American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, and a Filipino nurse, Ms Ediborah Yap.

Mrs Burnham was rescued, but her husband and Ms Yap were killed in the ensuing crossfire.

The Abu Sayyaf was formed by disgruntled Moro Islamic fighters in 1991, with Al-Qaeda funding.
Its chieftain Isnilon Hapilon has been recognised by ISIS as a council leader.

PHL military alerts teams in Tawi-Tawi after latest abduction off Sabah

From GMA News (Nov 20): PHL military alerts teams in Tawi-Tawi after latest abduction off Sabah

The military on Sunday alerted its task force in Tawi-Tawi following the reported kidnapping of two Indonesian fishermen in waters off Semporna, Sabah.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command, said Malaysian authorities informed them of the abduction that occurred at around 7;30 p.m. at Merabong Waters near Kunak District.

The kidnapped Indonesian fishermen were identified as Saparuddin Kone and Sawal Maryam.

Tan said that according to Malaysian authorities, the Indonesian fishermen were taken by five gunmen wearing face masks.

"Information was immediately forwarded to JTF (Joint Task Force) Tawi Tawi for counter action. All units were also alerted for their appropriate actions," Tan said.

It was not clear if the Abu Sayyaf Group had a hand in the latest abduction.

2 Indonesians abducted off Abu Sayyaf stronghold

From ABS-CBN (Nov 20): 2 Indonesians abducted off Abu Sayyaf stronghold

Two Indonesian fishermen have been kidnapped in waters where militants from the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) have previously taken hostages, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed Sunday.

Armed with high-powered firearms, five masked men on board a speedboat abducted the victims off the Kunak District in Sabah, Malaysia, the AFP's Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said.

The speedboat fled towards high seas, the Wesmincom said, adding that the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi has been alerted about the incident.

The victims were identified as Indonesian nationals Sawal Maryam and Saparuddin Kone.

Authorities did not say if they believed the Abu Sayyaf was involved in the incident.

In May, ASG fighters released 14 Indonesian sailors who had been kidnapped in two high-seas raids that prompted Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to launch joint patrols.

In July, Malaysian police said five Malaysian tugboat crew were abducted by the bandits off the coast of Sabah.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred Islamist militants, formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, that has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.

Although its leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, analysts said they are mainly focused on lucrative kidnappings.

Leftists rethink alliance with Duterte over Marcos burial

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 20): Leftists rethink alliance with Duterte over Marcos burial

INTIMATE WHISPERS In Malacañang, President Duterte listens closely to Satur Ocampo, a consultant of the NDFP panel that will hold peace talks with the Philippine government in Oslo, Norway.   MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Duterte listens closely to Satur Ocampo. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

Leftwing supporters of President Duterte and the Communist Party of the Philippines said on Saturday his decision to bury dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and his close ties with the Marcoses could lead to a break-up of their shaky alliance.

Members of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (Carmma), which petitioned the Supreme Court to bar Marcos from the Libingan, expressed outrage at Mr. Duterte’s “political accommodation” of the Marcoses.

“If the influence of the Marcoses is too big on the President that it affects his propeople commitment, then we will have to consider our tactical alliance,” said former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.

“If the President is clearly trying to revive the concept of ‘bagong lipunan,’ it might spell a separation,” Ocampo added, referring to the new social order Marcos tried to establish under martial rule.

He said a souring of their relationship could affect the resolution of issues such as the peace talks and ending labor contractualization.

Neri Colmenares, another former Bayan Muna representative, acknowledged cracks in their ties to the Duterte administration.

He said the President was “very wrong” with regard to the Marcos burial. “This is a very principled position that we cannot let go of,” he said.

In one of its strongest statements against the President’s actions, the Communist Party of the Philippines said on Saturday that Mr. Duterte “exhibited gross disrespect and insensitivity” to the sufferings of Filipinos under martial law and could face mounting protests.

“In ordering the AFP to give Marcos hero’s honors, Duterte is proving himself a rotten trapo (traditional politician) who has no qualms working with the worst of the bureaucrat capitalists and gives premium to paying political debt and political loyalties even to the detriment of the people’s aspirations for historical and social justice,” the statement said.

The burial has also completed “the political resurrection of the Marcoses,” the CPP said.

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, who fought Marcos as a human rights lawyer, urged prominent Leftists in the Duterte Cabinet to resign.

At least two Cabinet members have said they strongly opposed the Libingan burial, but neither has threatened to resign over it.

Judy Taguiwalo, a political detainee during Marcos’ martial rule, said she had expressed her opposition to the dictator’s burial at the Libingan when Mr. Duterte appointed her as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“I said no to it [Libingan burial for Marcos],” she told Baguio and northern Luzon journalists on Friday. “I think the President knows that … But I didn’t want to keep rubbing it in because he is the President.”

National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Liza Maza, a former Gabriela representative, said she was a “martial law baby.”

“I have lived the dark years of Martial Law and was politicized by the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. I will never accept any revision of history. Marcos is no hero,” she told the Inquirer in a text message.

20 suspects arrested in Lanao del Norte over drugs, weapons charges

From GMA News (Nov 19): 20 suspects arrested in Lanao del Norte over drugs, weapons charges

SALAVADOR , Lanao del Norte - A series of raids on Friday by a Lanao del Norte inter-agency task group lead to the arrest of some 20 suspects over illegal-drugs and weapons charges.

Provincial Police Director Senior Superintendent Faro Antonio Olaguera told GMA News that the first raid took place at 5:10 p.m. at the Umpa compound in Pobalcion Kapatagan. Some 15 suspects were arrested during the operation, while sachets of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, two .45 caliber pistols, ammunition, and P140,000 in alleged drug money were recovered.

The local chief of the Criminal  Investigation and Detection Group, Senior Inspector Gerson Soliven,  said that one of the .45 caliber pistols was marked as Philippine National Police property. "We will investigate and verify who owns the said fire arm," Soliven added.

The second raid took place Saturday morning in Purok 2, Barandia Salvador town. Some three suspects were arrested and several high powered  firearms and explosives were recovered. A fourth suspect elluded authorities, however.

The Philippine Army's 15th Infantry Battalion participated in the inter-agency operations.

Olaguera meanwhile said that the market value of a sachet of shabu had risen from P100 to P1,000 due to the anti-drug campaign in the province. The drugs allegedly came from "Ozamiz City, Marawi City and Lanao del Sur respectively."

Firefight erupts in North Cotabato due to 'rido'

From ABS-CBN (Nov 20): Firefight erupts in North Cotabato due to 'rido'

A ten-hour, sporadic firefight erupted in Barangay Lumupog in Midsayap, North Cotabato starting 7 a.m. on Saturday morning.

An exchange of gunfire ensued between followers of the MILF 105th Base Command sub-commander Abas Kudanding, and the group of Renz Tukuran, the chairman of Barangay Lumupog.

This, according to MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces spokesperson Von Al haq, who also said that he has yet to receive reports if there were casualties on either side.

Al Haq says "rido," or family feud, is the root cause of the conflict.

The group of Kudanding and the group of Tukuran had already signed a ceasefire agreement three days ago, according to Abdullah Omar, the commander of MNLF Yaqeen National Task Force who is a relative of Tukuran.

He further claims that the group of Kudanding initiated the firefight.

As of now, authorities have yet to determine the number of families affected or displaced by the conflict.

Meanwhile, Al Haq says they are now finding ways to settle the conflict in a peaceful manner.

ISIS losing ground, but extending reach

From the Straits Times (Nov 20): ISIS losing ground, but extending reach

While Singapore held its biggest counter-terrorism exercise ever barely a month ago in response to the growing threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), what is the situation with the group's centre of struggle in the Middle East? And how will the changing situation affect South- east Asia?

A round-table held by The Sunday Times last Monday heard that big inroads are being made in the battle to reclaim ISIS-held territory, but on the down side, this could translate into more trouble in Asia.


ISIS' last stronghold in Iraq, the city of Mosul, is feeling the full force of a Western-backed military campaign to retake it.

The offensive has seen Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and various militia groups supported by an international coalition attack Mosul from three fronts over the past month, severely weakening the terror group's hold on territory in its so-called "caliphate".

The fact that ISIS is now losing territory means that, like Al-Qaeda before it, the group is likely to morph and spread itself out, while the estimated 700 Indonesians, 100 Malaysians and 100 Filipinos who went to the region to join the fight are likely to return to South-east Asia.

The recapture of Mosul - Iraq's second-largest city - will deal a psychological blow to the terror group, said security experts, as it was in its Great Mosque two years ago that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared himself the first caliph - commander of all Muslims - in generations.

"There is a sense that Mosul will not last very long in ISIS' hands," Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, Head of Policy Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told the round-table. "After that, the coalition will also try and retake Raqqa in Syria, ISIS' de facto capital."

But while coalition forces have had successes retaking territories held by ISIS - the key feature setting it apart from other terror groups - the group's virulent ideology is proving more difficult to eradicate.

The seductive idea that it is building a pure, utopian state that model Muslims are obliged to be a part of is a powerful one that explains how ISIS has attracted not just thousands of foreign fighters but also families, including a number from countries in the region such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, said Prof Kumar.

But with the heavy fighting and continued territorial losses, many of these foreigners are heading home, including back to South- east Asia.

This sets the stage for a repeat of the cycle of terror of the early 2000s, after the Soviet-Afghan war ended. With reinvigorated homegrown militant groups and self-radicalisation, there is now a "three-tier threat" that raises the spectre of more attacks in South-east Asia next year, said Prof Kumar.

Back in the 1990s, the South-east Asian elements of the Mujahideen - Islamist insurgents who drove out the Soviets - had returned to this region with war-fighting skills, started Jemaah Islamiah, and carried out a string of attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

"What we think we'll be seeing is a phenomenon where many of ISIS' South-east Asian fighters will come back, and they will augment the terrorism threat in the region," said Prof Kumar.

For all its losses in the Middle East, the danger of ISIS has metastasised and spread to many parts of the world, including South- east Asia.

The group's early military victories last year and the year before reinvigorated militant groups worldwide and sparked a number of terror attacks, and many of these groups have since pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A briefing map from the United States National Counterterrorism Centre, picked up by the US media in August, showed that ISIS is now "fully operational" in 18 countries, including Nigeria, Algeria and Libya, compared with seven in 2014.

It also counted six "aspiring branches", such as in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Most worrying of these is the foothold achieved in South-east Asia over the past year in the southern Philippine province of Mindanao, which is already a hotbed of unrest.

Security experts have highlighted the rising threat of pro-ISIS groups there, noting that many Indonesian returnees have gone to Mindanao to fight with groups such as the Abu Sayyaf.

Outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in September that he wants US special forces troops helping to fight terrorism in Mindanao to leave, throwing the long-term response to pro-ISIS groups there into question.

ISIS has also endorsed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as "emir" of its South-east Asia campaign, signalling its growing focus on the region.

The group's effectiveness in bringing previously unrelated militant groups together under its banner was flagged in a report last month by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a think-tank headed by Jakarta-based security analyst Sidney Jones.

"Support for ISIS in Mindanao has meant more than a repackaging of old kidnapping-for-ransom groups. It has facilitated cooperation across clan and ethnic lines, widened the extremist recruitment pool to include computer-savvy university students and opened new international communication and possibly funding channels," it noted.

"It means that more deadly violence in the Philippines involving alliances of pro-ISIS groups is a matter of when, not if."

Analysts told Insight that three factors - ISIS' building of a springboard into South-east Asia, its savvy use of social media to self-radicalise and groom lone-wolf attackers and its shift in tactics from spectacular and well-coordinated attacks to individual acts of terror that are harder to prevent - will make this region far more dangerous in the coming years.

"They are promoting the idea that you don't need to make a bomb, that with a knife or a truck you can also cause mass casualties," said Prof Kumar, alluding to a knife attack in Minnesota in September that wounded nine people, and the July incident involving a truck in Nice, France, which killed 86 people.

By holding up successful attacks as models to follow in its calls to supporters to spread terror wherever they are, ISIS wants to inspire copycats, said Mr Remy Mahzam, an associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, who was a panellist at the round-table.

"We've seen how the November 2015 Paris attacks inspired the January Jakarta attacks, and we can pre-empt more of such replication of attacks next year," he said.

This mindset shift means that terror attacks in the future are likely to occur not just at traditional hard targets such as government buildings, but even at places such as shopping malls and ferry terminals, said fellow panellist David Chan, who heads the Behavioural Sciences Institute at the Singapore Management University.

This was the case in June's Puchong incident when ISIS-linked militants lobbed a grenade into a nightclub outside Kuala Lumpur.

"It has evolved to the point where you should expect a terror attack to happen anywhere and everywhere," he said.

"And it can be carried out not just by structured groups, but organic groups and even individuals."

CPP: Gear for intensified anti-imperialist and working class struggles under Trump

Posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Nov 19): Gear for intensified anti-imperialist and working class struggles under Trump

Communist Party of the Philippines
The American workers and people are bound to intensify their class and democratic struggles with the rise to power of the ultra-rightist Donald Trump amid prolonged capitalist depression and continued worsening of the social and economic conditions of the people. Their struggles are inextricably bound to the intensifying anti-imperialist struggles of people and working class around the world demanding an end to US hegemonism and the neoliberal policy regime.

In winning the November 9 US presidential elections, Trump drew votes by riding on the seething anger and frustration of the American people over the failure of the past regimes to resolve the long-standing problem of poverty and widespread unemployment and over US involvement in wars of aggression and intervention.

To win broad support, Trump contrasted himself to the Obama government by styling himself as an anti-neoconservative and opposed to the US war in Syria and elsewhere and by promising to “bring back jobs” through economic protectionism and ending “free trade”. Yet at the same time, he promoted such ultra-right measures as the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, shutting all doors to refugees, gun rights and building a wall in its border with Mexico.

Within hours of Trump’s election, tens of thousands of people marched to the streets across several states to express their disgust over Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, anti-gay and anti-minority standpoint, his misogyny and racism.

Such protests are a likely portent of intensified social unrest and mass resistance in the United States in the years to come as its economy remains in the doldrums with no clear sign of recovery. Over the next four years, the Trump presidency will surely be confronted with rising demands for promised jobs, higher wages and greater social security.

The incoming Trump presidency will prove to be fundamentally no different from the Obama regime and past US governments in representing the interests of the monopoly capitalists. It too will be confronted with the increasingly insurmountable crisis of overproduction which has gripped the US and global capitalist system.

The American working class, including millions of undocumented immigrants and minorities, black workers, young workers and scores of millions of unemployed people, have long been suffering from worsening social conditions. For nearly a decade, the US economy has faltered from one depression year to another with no clear recovery in sight.

US society has become more deeply divided between the big monopoly capitalists who are awash in wealth and the working class mired in poverty and social hardships in the course of four decades under the neoliberal policy regime.

The incoming Trump regime will be confronted with the widespread clamor for it to step back from the neoliberal policies which have become widely discredited for having failed to re-energize the US economy and for having brought about severe misery and oppression.

Trump promises “to make America great again” and giving priority to “bringing jobs back home”. He has declared opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He vows to protect the US economy and has declared plans on imposing higher tariffs on China goods in the hope of buoying US-made commodities, something which the Obama government has been doing over the past several years.

The basic problem confronting the incoming Trump regime, however, is the persistence of the capitalist crisis of overproduction. There is a global glut in virtually all classes of commodities from electronics to construction materials, steel, petroleum products, cars and so on. There is a global manufacturing slowdown, even in China which has become the main production hub of the world capitalist system over the past decade or so.

Over the past three decades, the US economy has been hollowed out by the export of manufacturing jobs to China and other countries with cheap labor for semi-manufacturing. American workers are confronted with the problem of widespread joblessness.

Trump’s push to generate employment domestically amid the unresolved overproduction crisis is highly unlikely to succeed. To achieve this aim, he will have to convince or compel the financial oligarchy to invest capital in the US labor market and domestic production. He is set on lowering regulations and cutting taxes on Wall Street banks.

To convince banks to invest capital in the US domestic economy, Trump will have to subject American workers to wage reduction and further labor flexibilization in order to maximize generation of surplus value and thus make domestic capital investment profitable. Lowering wage levels, however, will tend to constrict the US market and counteract on the protectionist thrust to sell US-made commodities.

Pulling down general wage levels, furthermore, will surely be opposed by the American workers who are already suffering from severe indebtedness, unemployment, increasing inaccessibility of education and health-care services, homelessness and other social miseries.

Trump ran on a platform repudiating the long-standing neoconservative framework in foreign policy which puts primacy on US global hegemony and military presence and dominance around the world.

In the face of its domestic economic crisis and the burden of foreign military overstretch, Trump insists at the start of the elections campaign that US soldiers “cannot be the policemen of the world.” Trump’s foreign policy declarations is an apparent acknowledgement of how untenable US-dominated unipolar world has become amid the emergence of a multipolar world.

While declaring his plan to build a 350-ship US Navy (from the current 272), Trump has also expressed plans to withdraw from the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and put an end to the military alliances where the US spends billions and billions of dollars to supposedly “help its allies.” He has hinted on plans to reduce US forces and close military bases in Japan. This is no different from the promise made by Obama in 2008 but which never came close to realization because of the vigorous opposition by the US security and defense establishment.

He has openly expressed willingness to end animosity with Russia and China and push for more economic cooperation. He has declared “let Russia defeat ISIS” in expressing his plans of ending the US war against Syria.

If Trump is to seriously reorient US foreign policy, he is bound to be opposed by the neoconservatives who have long been advocating Pax Americana. They hold dominant sway over much of the US state machinery, especially at the helm of security and defense agencies.

Trump’s s promised changes remain to be seen. The CPP await with keen interest how the Trump government will steer the US in its desperate drive to put an end to the protracted depression of the US economy and assert its dominance in the increasingly multipolar world.

The CPP is in solidarity with the American working class and people in their drive to oppose the anti-immigrant measures which the incoming Trump government has vowed to carry out. The American people must furthermore resist all anti-democratic repressive measures including increased mass surveillance and militarization of the police forces. These are set to be further intensified with the aim of suppressing the people’s resistance.

The CPP also urges the American workers to wage widespread class struggles and lead the people in their democratic mass struggles. The rise of the ultra-right Trump government underscores the need for the revolutionary proletariat to take firm hold of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in order to put forward a sharp analysis of concrete conditions and put together a revolutionary program of action in order unite the working class and people in the revolutionary socialist cause.

The CPP is fully-aware that the incoming Trump government represents the interests of the US monopoly capitalists. It is bound by the laws of development of imperialism which determine the US drive to exert and establish itself as a dominant economic and political power in the widest possible sphere around the world.

Despite Trump’s declared intentions of ending conflicts with Russia and China, inter-imperialist contradictions are bound to arise and intensify whether in the unipolar or multipolar system.
The Filipino people must take advantage of Trump’s declarations of reducing foreign military spending by amplifying the demand for an end to US military presence in the Philippines.

In light of Trump’s declared intention of withdrawing from the NATO and other military alliances, the Filipino people must reiterate their demand for the abrogation of the Cold War-era Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 as well as its derivatives including the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The Filipino people must demand the Duterte regime to be steadfast in its earlier declarations for an independent foreign policy. They must censure Duterte for backtracking on the earlier pronouncements putting an end to all US military exercises with the AFP.

Duterte must be reminded that the demand to abrogate all unequal military treaties with the US and end US military intervention and presence is based on the principle of national sovereignty and does not change even though he finds himself liking Trump for being a fellow cusser.

The CPP calls on the Filipino people to firmly advance their national democratic struggles and revolutionary armed resistance in order to take full advantage of the developing facets in inter-imperialist contradictions as the world capitalist system dips from one crisis point to another.

CPP: CPP urges Duterte to reverse hero’s tribute to Marcos or risk mounting protests

Posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Nov 19): CPP urges Duterte to reverse hero’s tribute to Marcos or risk mounting protests

Communist Party of the Philippines Information Bureau

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in denouncing the Duterte government for having honored the erstwhile dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a hero with full military honors in a funeral carried out surreptitiously yesterday at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“In ordering his military honor guards to bear the tyrant’s casket in a hero’s funeral, Duterte exhibited gross disrespect and insensitivity to the Filipino people’s sufferings under the brutal martial law rule and to the martyrs and heroes of their epic resistance,” said the CPP.

“It was an act of great reversal of the historical judgement of the Filipino people against the US-Marcos dictatorship and a completion of the political resurrection of the Marcoses.”

“The CPP supports the national democratic organizations and various sections of society, especially the students and youth, in launching street protest actions to demonstrate their indignation and protests.”

“The CPP advises Duterte to reverse this historical wrong. If he refuses to heed the people’s outcry over the hero’s burial for Marcos, Duterte risks facing mounting protests and isolation.”

“Instead of paying tribute to Marcos, Duterte should support the people’s demand to hold Ferdinand Marcos, as well as Imelda and their children, accountable for the crimes of plunder and violations of the people’s civil and political rights,” said the CPP.

“By giving Marcos a hero’s burial, Duterte has succeeded in stoking the anger and rage of the victims of the US-Marcos dictatorship as well as of the younger generation of Filipinos who are highly conscious of the lessons of martial law and indignant of the innumerable crimes of the fascist tyrant,” pointed out the CPP.

“In ordering the AFP to give Marcos hero’s honors, Duterte is proving himself a rotten trapo (traditional politician) who has no qualms working with the worst of the bureaucrat capitalists and gives premium to paying political debt and political loyalties even to the detriment of the people’s aspirations for historical and social justice,” added the CPP.

Earlier, the CPP denounced the Supreme Court for its decision allowing Duterte to proceed with the hero’s burial for Marcos.

“The Filipino people advises Duterte to renounce Marcos-style rule,” said the CPP. “He must stop effusively praising Marcos’ mythic brilliance which makes him sound like a loyalist, and end making suggestions about reviving such hallmarks of Marcos’s martial law as the constabulary and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.”

“The people have not forgotten and they will not allow the resurrection of a strongman rule,” said the CPP.

Youth group opposes revival of mandatory ROTC

From the pro-CPP/NDF online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Nov 16): Youth group opposes revival of mandatory ROTC


Progressive youth group Anakbayan held a picket in front of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo today, Nov. 15. They are opposing the proposals to revive the mandatory Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

Reviving the ROTC has been proposed again, this time under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The Department of National Defense reportedly said they drafted a bill that will require all Grades 11 and 12 students to join the ROTC.

Anakbayan is a vocal critic of the proposal. It maintains that it will “only train the Filipino youth in the fascistic and human rights abusive ways of the AFP.”


The group cited incidents of abuse under the implementation of ROTC. The most recent are the reports of abuses against the cadets at the Benguet State University (BSU) and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig (PLP).

In a report, BSU ROTC cadets claimed that they are physically abused and forced to masturbate in front of their ROTC officers. Female cadets, on the other hand, were forced to sleep in the quarters of their male officers. The PLP ROTC cadets also experienced physical abuse and the attempted rape of female cadets.

A video that went viral in June this year also showed ROTC cadets of the University of Mindanao-Tagum being hit on their chest and stomach.

Vencer Crisostomo, the chairperson of Anakbayan, said that ROTC will not instill nationalism and discipline among the youth. Instead, it will only “indoctrinate and acculturate the youth to blind obedience to authorities, mindless violence, and sexual abuse.”

The mandatory ROTC was abolished in 2001 after the murder of the University of Sto. Tomas ROTC cadet Mark Welson Chua was met with strong protests by students.

NPA condemns intensified militarization, warns AFP troops in Masbate

From the often pro-CPP Bicol Today (Nov 4): NPA condemns intensified militarization, warns AFP troops in Masbate

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) 47th founding anniversary. Photo by Edwin G. Espejo

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) 47th founding anniversary. Photo by Edwin G. Espejo
Jose Rapsing Command (JRC), NPA-Masbate warns the military troops of the 9th ID PA assigned to Masbate 9th IB in Bicol region in its continuous military terrorism to the people and its response, ‘the NPA only has ceasefire, We, None!’ despite the declaration of GRP unilateral ceasefire, according to JRC spokesperson Luz Del Mar in a press statement condemning the current intensified militarization in the province.
In the midst of peace talks, Del Mar said that JRC forces remained in active defense and faithfully preserved its determination to defend the Masbateños against fascism of AFP, PNP and other armed groups in the province.

Militarization still exists

Since the latter part of 2014 until today, military attacks were intensified on former villages and towns in Ticao Island covered by CPDT-OPB last year and the first half of 2016. From October 12, 2016 to the present, AFP troops of Charlie Coy, 9IB PA led by 1Lt. Flores are wreaking havoc again in Ticao Island specifically in the town of Monreal in the villages of Rizal, Real, Cantorna, Togoron, Maglambong, Mac Arthur and Sto Niño.

AFP deployed the combined troops of the 31st IB PA – Alpha Coy, 9th IB PA and troops from the CMO Bn of 9th ID PA based in Pili, Camarines Sur in the villages within the town of Dimasalang and Cawayan. Military operations in these areas began on October 6, 2015 and continues until today.

In the town of Dimasalang, military operations are focused in the villages of Mambog, Buenaflor and Cabanoyoan. In Cawayan, military operations are existing in the barangay Libertad, Cabungahan, Calapayan, Villa Hermosa, Tuburan and Madbad.

“These operations are covered by Community Peace and Development Team (CPDT) under Oplan Bayanihan (OPB). Through this, the Bayanihan Team Activities (BTA) of military are centered on espionage, violence and intimidation of villagers,” Del Mar said.

For nearly two weeks of stay and operations of the military in the villages, it created fear and unrest among residents. According to Del Mar, it resembles an existing martial law in this village since it removed the power of local officials and cut the people’s, mostly peasants, civil rights and the will to live with dignity.

On October 22, 2016, a civilian was illegally arrested, searched the house and planted a copy of revolutionary reading materials and seven M16 bullets to make it appear that the civilian is a NPA member. The victim was also forced to guide in combat operations and continuously investigated.
On the morning of October 24, the military conducted house to house and illegal searching in Sitio CTN, Bgy. Cabungahan and illegally arrested a young peasant.

These practices violate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) previously signed by the GRP and the NDFP in 1998 and reaffirmed in the current ongoing peace talks between the two sides under the Duterte government.

Respect peace talks, recognize NDFP

According to Del Mar, AFP and PNP should respect the truth behind the peace talks and ceasefire.  Peace will not be attained if the causes of conflicts resulting from poverty, injustice and underdevelopment and no independence of the country will not be faced.

Del Mar added that GRP should rightfully recognize that NDFP has its own governance and governed citizens in territories covered by the various levels of the Provisional Revolutionary Government maintained by New People’s Army.

“Their continued presence and military operations under the guise of “Peace” and “Development” is clearly provocations and attacks on the territory of the People’s Government,” Del Mar said. “The scheme aims to destroy the growing ranks of the revolutionary people based on the design of Counter Insurgency Guide (2009) sanctioned by the US in different states around the world.”

“The revolutionary forces of Masbate truthfully respect the continuing peace talks under the Duterte government and adheres strictly to the Interim Unilateral Ceasefire based on the memo of the Central Committee of the CPP to allow opportunities for peaceful means of resolving the roots of the conflict of war and achieve a just and lasting peace, genuine development and free Filipino society,” Del Mar stated.

JRC-NPA-Masbate calls the Masbateños and the revolutionary forces to expose and combat fraudulent CPDT-Oplan Bayanihan. “Should exposed the blatant human rights violations it caused. Register a protest against the violent schemes and in gross violation of their own declaration of unilateral ceasefire. Assert the rights and civil liberties in the presence of national independence and sovereignty against US Army designed Oplan Bayanihan,” Del Mar stated.

Masbateños hold camp-out vs. Oplan Bayanihan

From the often pro-CPP Bicol Today (Nov 19): Masbateños hold camp-out vs. Oplan Bayanihan

Protest Action vs. OPB in Dimasalang. Photo

Protest Action vs. OPB in Dimasalang. Photo
Masbateños in Cawayan and Dimasalang hold camp-out until November 20 in its respective municipalities to demand AFP troops to go back to their barracks. Among the provinces in Bicol, Masbate is the highly-militarized area.
The camp-out started on November 15 with the dialogues in its respective local officials. However, “mayors of its respective municipalities also serve as puppets of the state because of their inaction to get rid of these AFP troops. They are just pacifying the victims with conditional cash and reliefs,” Vince Casilihan of Bayan-Bicol.

Vice-Mayor Bibot Condor of Cawayan said he will wait for the decision of their Mayor. They cannot decide to remove the deployed AFP troops since these armies told them that they will stay in their municipality based on the national directive.

The Local Government Unit (LGU)-Cawayan is just pacifying the victims with conditional cash and reliefs according to Masbate People’s Organization (MAPO).

Bayan-Bicol demands the officials especially in Dimasalang and Cayawan to take urgent action to save the victims in the hands of tyranny of deployed AFP troops.

“They must listen to its residents not to these AFP troops. Allowing these AFP troops maneuver in their remote barangays and stay in their public landmarks is blatantly disrespecting the constitution and disservice to its citizens,” Casilihan said. “With these, it only shows that these local officials support the AFPs’ blatant human rights violations and serve as accomplice in sabotaging the peace talks in the country.”

Vice-Mayor Condor of Cawayan promises the protesters to take action on militarized areas. Photo

Vice-Mayor Condor of Cawayan promises the protesters to take action on militarized areas. Photo
Bloody records of Masbate

Aquino regime completed its term as president on June 30, 2016 with a bloody record of violating human rights and the rights of citizens. In US-Aquino regime’s resumption of Oplan Bantay Laya II and implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, Masbate has 53 documented incidents, 164 different kinds of human rights violations, 591 victims have been documented, 12 victims of extrajudicial killings and other gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law based on its July 2010 to June 18, 2016 data.

Few days after the elections on May 9, 2016, President Duterte declared that its administration was open to restore peace talks between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and promised to release all political prisoners.

Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire in its first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that made Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) possible “but were just hypocritical being implemented by the AFP and PNP” according to Casilihan.

Incidents of human rights violations continue that results to political killings and other human rights violations. The ongoing military operations of the AFP in Masbate happens despite the declaration of GRP unilateral ceasefire.

Casilihan added that Oplan Bayanihan had brought more oppression to the civilian population and aimed at obliterating the struggle for genuine reforms to achieve more social services and against corruption. This AFP style of community organizing is just a deception since it does not address the root causes of the problem why people are poor and oppressed.

Ticao Island, since the latter part of 2014 until today is even more intensified military attacks on former villages and towns covered by CPDT-OPB last year and the first half of 2016. From October 12, 2016 to the present, troops of Charlie Coy, 9IB PA led by 1Lt. Flores are wreaking havoc again in Ticao Island specifically in the town of Monreal in the villages of Rizal, Real, Cantorna, Togoron, Maglambong, Mac Arthur and Sto Niño.

According to a resident, the military based in Barangay Sto Niño gathered young people to teach karate and asked concurrent acquaintances about NPAs. Permitting these children to stay in school after school hours in the village where the soldiers are also basing.

The state deployed the combined troops of the 31st IB PA Alpha Coy, 9th IB PA troops from the 9th Infantry Bn CMO PA based in Pili, Camarines Sur in the town of Dimasalang and Cawayan. Began military operations in these areas on October 6, 2015 and continues until today.

In the town of Dimasalang, military operations are focused in villages of Mambog, Buenaflor, Cabanoyoan, Boracan, and Cabrera while the focus military operations in the municipality of Cawayan were in barangays Libertad, Cabungahan, Calapayan, Villa Hermosa, Tuburan and Madbad.

AFP troops deployed in Cawayan Plaza. Photo

AFP troops deployed in Cawayan Plaza. Photo
Threatening 4Ps beneficiaries, students

At present, around 100 AFP troops of 31st IBPA are deployed in barangays Boracan, Mambog, Buenaflor, Cabrera and Cabanayuan. These armies came dated October 8, 2016 and are staying in barangay halls, day care centers, waiting sheds and plaza.

According to 4Ps beneficiary Jonah Halayahay, the residents are scared since these armies are interrogating the residents and looking for NPA members.

The deployed AFP troops even threatened the 4Ps beneficiaries. “Kapag pumunta daw kami ng rally tatanggalin kami sa 4Ps,” said Halayahay. She added that these armies are conducting feeding program in their school.

However, many students are now not attending their classes because many are scared of the AFP troops according to Barangay Councilor Geraldine Codera.

The teachers in barangay Cabrera are begging the barangay officials to encourage their parents to send their students in school.

camp-out in Dimasalang. Photo

Camp-out in Dimasalang. Photo
As of November 15, only few students are attending classes:

Grade 5 and 6 (combined in one room) – 4 students
Grade 4 – 4 students
Grade 3 – 2 students
Grade 2 – 2 students
Grade 1 – 2 students
Kinder – no more students attending their classes

Already more than 2 weeks since students in militarized barangays are no longer attending classes. Teachers told the barangay officials that if the students will not return in schooling before January, they will not graduate.

From October 11 to November 7, the AFP troops are deployed in barangays. These AFP troops are now staying in Gymnasium near Cawayan Municipality at present. Vice-Mayor Condor decided to transfer the protesters in Sports Complex away from the gymnasium to avoid commotion.

However the protesters insisted to camp-out in front of municipal hall to demand their calls.

“Oplan Bayanihan ever since is just a front of AFP troops to maneuver themselves in harassing the people, causing fear and human rights violations in the region. Let us not be deceived with this counter-insurgency program of the state. Imprints of martial law will continue if we, Bicolanos, will not take stand to demand for justice against military operations,” Casilihan said.

Petition signing hold in Cawayan camp-out. Photo

Petition signing hold in Cawayan camp-out. Photo

Cadets of PMA salute Philex way of mining

From the Manila Standard (Nov 20): Cadets of PMA salute Philex way of mining

Convinced that Philex Mining Corp. has played its part well in community development, economic progress and environmental protection, some 200 cadets and personnel from the Philippine Military Academy endorsed the company’s commitment to responsible mining during a recent visit to the mine camp.

“I now have a different outlook of mining, as I learned a lot after talking to some residents here and seeing a sustainable community built by Philex Mining,” Aurelio Torres, 21, a representative from the visitors’ Army group dubbed “Echo,” said.

Whereas before he had relied on anti-mining activists for his views on the industry, Torres said he had witnessed the benefits being derived from responsible mining.

He was one of 158 cadets who came to the mine camp of Philex Mining’s Padcal operations, spending the whole day doing a familiarization tour. They also talked to residents of the host towns of Tuba and Itogon, gave away books to students, and lectured about safety measures during disasters. 

Six PMA officers, six faculty members, and 16 security personnel and drivers joined the cadets.
Paul Bronson Ciano, manager of the Padcal mine’s security department and a PMA alumnus himself, said the faculty of the school’s Humanities Department had chosen to visit the Philex operation. 

There, the graduating PMA cadets could witness and learn how the gold-and-copper producer built its community and stayed true to its corporate social responsibility, he added.

“We are grateful that you have appreciated the sustainability of this community, as well as shared your thoughts and learning about responsible mining,” Ciano told the cadets. “We are now one in believing that there really is life in mining.”

Before touring the mine camp and carrying out the rest of their one-day activity, the visitors, headed by Lt. Col. Agnes Linette Flores, paid a courtesy call on Manuel Agcaoili, Philex Mining SVP and Padcal resident manager.

Agcaoili explained to them how Padcal provides free housing, utilities, and health-care services to its employees, as well as the benefits granted to its other stakeholders.

“We also have livelihood programs for the employees and the host communities,” he added.
Nijar Basiri, 23, a cadet belonging to the Air Force group Foxtrot who hails from Jolo, said responsible mining exists, contrary to what many PMA cadets had thought based on the preaching of anti-mining activists.

Basiri and Torres joined the rest of the delegation in turning over a number of books and other reading materials to the Saint Louis High School–Philex branch in Itogon’s Barangay Ampucao. They also shared with the students and community leaders their knowledge and training on emergency-response management.

“We appreciate the help that you have extended to the community—the social and economic aspects that have improved the lives of the people in your host and neighboring villages,” said Frederick Macalintal, 23, from the Navy group Bravo.

“We must help each other. We encourage the rest of the mining industry to emulate what Philex Mining has been doing as a responsible miner,” Basiri said.

Expert warns vs sub patrols

From The Standard (Nov 20): Expert warns vs sub patrols

A JAPANESE maritime expert warned the Philippines of four nuclear capable Chinese submarines that have been deployed in the South China Sea for nuclear deterrent patrols within the year.

Japan Institute of International Affairs senior official Tetsuo Kotani said China has secretly deployed four nuclear submarines in the disputed waters.

“Japan is concerned about Chinese submarine program in the South China Sea, particularly the strategic ballistic missile submarine program facing Hainan,” Kotani said in his presentation during the Maritime Challenges in the Asia Pacific forum at Discovery Primea Hotel, Makati City.
Japan Institute of International Affairs senior official Tetsuo Kotani (Photo from FCCJchannel)

Citing a Pentagon report revealing that those submarines are expected to start the nuclear deterrent patrols within this year, Kotani said such action may undermine the credibility of US deterrent nuclear umbrella.

“So this is not only a concern for Japan, this is also a concern for the US allies including the Philippines,” Kotani said. “If China successfully deploys sea-based nuclear deterrent in the South China Sea, it might undermine the credibility of US deterrent nuclear umbrella.”

“For example between Japan and China we have the Senkaku issue, and you have South China Sea issue, if China makes reactions, we expect your support. If china can hit directly the United States from under water, US should start to think twice before making decision for intervention,” he said.

“We can’t ignore the militarization in South China Sea,” he said, lamenting that there is no international rule for any submarine activities in the sea. “I don’t think we can have an international rule for submarine activities because submarines operate in secret.”

1,000 residents benefit in PA’s Hatud Serbisyo

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 19): 1,000 residents benefit in PA’s Hatud Serbisyo

AROUND 1,000 residents of Barangay Puntian in Sumilao Bukidnon benefited in Hatud Serbisyo, a program initiated by the Philippine Army and the local government unit on Thursday.
Lt. Erwin Bugarin, the civil-military operation (CMO) officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, said the troopers and the personnel of the local government joined hand in the operation that gives medical and dental assistance.
The residents of the area were able to avail of free consultation and operation for minor surgery (cyst extraction, circumcision), medical consultation, blood-letting, Pap smear, ultrasound examination and porridge-feeding.
A free haircut, animal vaccination, senior citizen profiling and land registration were also among the services rendered on the activity for the other nearby barangays.
There was also a live band concert to entertain the residents of the barangay.
In his statement, Col. Antonio Bautista Jr., the battalion commander, said it has been the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to engage in activities like providing services to the people as part of the soldier’s Internal Peace and Security Plan or IPSP “Bayanihan.”
“We are also building rapport with stakeholders for us to achieve just and lasting peace and to give way for progress and development,” Bautista said.
Sumilao is headed by town mayor Jose Antonio Villlo.

PH Coast Guard regular patrol in Scarborough resumed August

From Rappler (Nov 19): PH Coast Guard regular patrol in Scarborough resumed August

The Philippine Coast Guard completes its 4th sortie to Scarborough Shoal since President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China

THE MOUTH OF SCARBOROUGH. Screenshot of a video taken by the Philippine Coast Guard of its first patrol on August 5, 2016 shows a Chinese Coast Guard ship guarding the mouth of the shoal

THE MOUTH OF SCARBOROUGH. Screenshot of a video taken by the Philippine Coast Guard of its first patrol on August 5, 2016 shows a Chinese Coast Guard ship guarding the mouth of the shoal

The Philippine Coast Guard completed another sortie to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) Thursday night, November 17, with no untoward incident with the Chinese Coast Guard that has practically occupied the fishing ground off Zambales province.

"It was quiet," said PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo. "We deployed coast Guard ship BRP Pampanga and patrol boat MCS 3001," he said.

A PCG islander plane also conducted an overflight.

It was the 4th PCG sortie since President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China a month ago, although "regular patrols" were resumed discreetly as early as August 5, 2016, after 3 years of absence.

It was Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who announced the regular patrols early this month after news spread that the Chinese are no longer blocking Filipino fishermen who want to access the shoal.

Regular patrols since August

OVERFLIGHT. A Coast Guard islander plane accompanies deployment of Coast Guard ships to Scarborough Shoal

OVERFLIGHT. A Coast Guard islander plane accompanies deployment of Coast Guard ships to Scarborough Shoal

Following orders from the National Security Council (NSC), the PCG "tested the waters" on August 5 and deployed two ships – the BRP Pampanga and BRP Nueva Vizcaya – to the shoal. Philippine authorities have been quiet about it, however.

"Three years after the filing of a case at the international tribunal, we resumed patrol last August 5 based on the consensus of the National Security Council (NSC) that we should send back our ships in Bajo de Masinloc to test the waters," Balilo told Rappler. Scarborough Shoal is called Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines.

PCG ships and planes are sent to achieve two goals:
  • Make Philippine presence felt in the area
  • Assess the condition of fishermen and give them the assurance that the government is there
The patrols were conducted despite Duterte's pronouncements that he no longer wanted patrols in the West Philippine Sea. Balilo said they consulted with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza, who gave the signal because the President had not issued written orders against the patrols.

The "regular patrols" were only temporarily suspended during typhoons and duringDuterte's state visit to China as a "precautionary measure not to jeopardize" Duterte's negotiations with China.

China's dangerous maneuver

DANGEROUS MANEUVER. A Chinese Coast Guard ship blocks Philippine ship BRP Nueva Vizcaya and small Filipino fishermen's boats

DANGEROUS MANEUVER. A Chinese Coast Guard ship blocks Philippine ship BRP Nueva Vizcaya and small Filipino fishermen's boats

The first PCG sortie on August 5 had a tense encounter with the Chinese Coast Guard, however.

Balilo said the Chinese were "suprised" and conducted "dangerous maneuvers." A PCG video shows a Chinese Coast Guard ship sailing very close to BRP Nueva Vizcaya and fishermen's boats, blocking their way to the shoal.

But Balilo said the Chinese "eventually just went away" after the commanding officer of the PCG ship messaged over the radio that the Philippines is conducting "routine patrol on the Philippine's exclusive economic zone."

After the tense first sortie, Balilo said there were no more untoward incidents.

"We will continue to patrol and we will get guidance form the government and the National Security Council. We'll just follow orders," Balilo said.

The Chinese Coast Guard practically occupied Scarborough Shoal since 2012, after a tense standoff with the Philippine Navy which tried to arrest Chinese fishermen in the shoal located within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In 2013, the Philippines filed a case before an international arbitral tribunal against China and halted ship patrols in Scarborough.

The ruling that was released in July dismissed the military superpower's sweeping claims over the West Philippine Sea, but fell short of recognizing Philippine sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal on the ground that it doesn't have the jurisdiction to decide on the issue. However, it declared that the shoal is a common fishing ground for Filipinos, Chinese, and other neighboring fishermen.

Esscom tight-lipped on kidnapping claims off Lahad Datu

From the New Straits Times Online (Nov 19): Esscom tight-lipped on kidnapping claims off Lahad Datu 

The authorities have remained tightlipped over claims that a kidnapping may have taken place in Tambisan waters off Lahad Datu.

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) have so far declined to comment on the details of the supposed incident.

While Esscom has remained mum, it is understood that Sabah police commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun has yet to receive information on the case.

Rashid is however scheduled to give a press conference during his working visit to Lahad Datu tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.

Sabah, in particular its east coast, have been reeling from a series of kidnap incidents. The last kidnapping took place in Kinabatangan waters on Nov 5, where gunmen abducted an Indonesian fisherman from a fishing boat.

As the group fled towards international waters, they abducted another Indonesian fisherman from another boat.

On July 18, five Malaysians were abducted in Lahad Datu waters. They are currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group in the southern Philippines.

The issue of kidnappings at sea has become an area of concern for not only Malaysia, but also Indonesia and the Philippines. Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Nov 10, had pldeged that his administration will give permission for Malaysian and Indonesian authorities to pursue kidnappers who enter Philippine waters.

The standard operating procedure on the agreement is expected to be ironed out by the foreign ministers of the three countries when they meet in Vientiane, Laos on Nov 22.

Troops pursue Sayyaf in Sulu

From the Manila Times (Nov 19): Troops pursue Sayyaf in Sulu

Security forces were pursuing a large group of Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines following a deadly clash that left at least seven people dead in Sulu province.

Officials said four army soldiers and three Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in fierce clashes on Friday in Patikul town. They said that nine other soldiers were injured in the fighting that erupted in the village of Buhanginan.

Troops engaged some 150 rebels under Radulan Sahiron, according to army Major Filemon Tan, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command. He said there could be many casualties on the Abu Sayyaf but soldiers recovered only three bodies.

Tan said the army fired several rounds of 105mm Howitzer on suspected Abu Sayyaf positions in the town.

The fighting lasted over 45 minutes, but it was not immediately known whether the elusive Abu Sayyaf leader was wounded or killed in the fighting. The bodies of the rebels were recovered by soldiers.

“Despite the casualties incurred, the military continues to conduct combat operations against the ASG [Abu Sayyaf] to destroy the bandits, rescue the kidnap victims and deter terror attacks perpetrated by the bandit group in the province of Sulu and possibly in other provinces as well,” Tan said.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding more than a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors kidnapped in Sabah, Malaysia, including an elderly German boater.

Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific

From the online Foreign Policy Magazine (Nov 7): Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific

How the Republican nominee will rewrite America’s relationship with Asia

Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific

In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced with great fanfare in Foreign Policy that the United States would begin a military “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. This beating of the American chest was done against the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the sense among many longtime American allies that the United States had lost sight of Asia’s strategic importance during 10 years of Middle Eastern wars.

President Barack Obama’s administration was right to signal reassurance to our Asian allies and partners. However, this pivot (and later “rebalance”) failed to capture the reality that the United States, particularly in the military sphere, had remained deeply committed to the region. This pivot has also turned out to be an imprudent case of talking loudly but carrying a small stick, one that has led to more, not less, aggression and instability in the region.

Initially, Clinton’s pivot and the Obama administration’s stated interest in countering China’s rising clout were met with general bipartisan agreement in Congress. Inside the Beltway, the analyst community also appeared to share a similar consensus that the global financial crisis had emboldened China. As one of Washington’s leading experts on Chinese foreign and security policy, Bonnie Glaser, told one of the authors in an on-camera interview: “The Chinese saw the United States as weakened by the financial crisis; and it created opportunities for China to test the United States and to try and promote its interests in its periphery in the hopes that the United States would not respond forcefully.”

With China’s multi-decade military modernization program bearing fruit — fueled ironically in no small part by the fruits of its large trade surplus with the United States — Beijing was in a prime position to flex its muscles. Washington’s pivot seemed to be an appropriate and timely response.
It did not take long, however, for the pivot to falter. Initially, it would mostly feature token gestures of American diplomatic and military support, for example, sending littoral combat ships to Singapore and 2,500 Marines to Darwin, Australia. However, over time, the administration would drastically cut the U.S. military — particularly by shrinking a U.S. Navy expected to be the tip of the pivot spear. Upon doing the pivot math, U.S. Naval War College professor Toshi Yoshihara soberly concluded in an interview that a “shrinking fleet” would “nullify our attempts to pivot to Asia.” His colleague and co-author James Holmes would more bluntly say in a separate interview that the pivot was “bush league.” 

Curiously, the one aspect of the rebalance that seemed to most energize the administration was an economic rather than military gambit. This was pushing for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade mega-deal involving 12 Pacific Rim countries accounting for “nearly 40 percent of global GDP.” Clinton herself called it the “gold standard” of trade deals. Against the backdrop of the pivot, the TPP deal was sold to the American public not as a way to increase urgently needed economic growth. (Voters have become increasingly immune to that failed siren song as millions of American jobs have been shipped overseas.) Rather, Obama and Clinton billed the TPP as a national security measure to help contain a rising China. As Ash Carter, Obama’s current defense secretary, asserted, passing TPP is as “important to me as another aircraft carrier.”

Of course, none of this — neither the shrinking “small stick” U.S. Navy nor a new “talk loudly” pivot — was lost on a rapidly militarizing China. While the United States continues to endure both a shrunken force and a readiness crisis brought about by sequestration, Beijing has created some 3,000 acres of artificial islands in the South China Sea with very limited American response. Beijing has also unilaterally declared an “air defense identification zone” in the East China Sea, expanded its illegitimate territorial claims everywhere from India to Indonesia, and further worsened its already loathsome human rights record.

It’s not just that Secretary Clinton’s weak pivot follow-through has invited Chinese aggression in the East and South China Seas. She also faithfully executed the Obama administration’s failed policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea — a foreign-policy doctrine that has produced nothing but heightened instability and increased danger.

Indeed, since Obama took office, the North has conducted four nuclear tests and sunk a South Korean navy vessel. It has also pursued a vigorous ballistic missile program that has put Pyongyang on the path to both miniaturizing a warhead and developing a missile capable of reaching America’s West Coast. Today, despite repeated American warnings and U.S. entreaties to China to bring its wild child under control, the Kim regime remains firmly in power, the North Korean people remain oppressed and poverty-stricken, and the danger to America and its allies is more acute. So much for patience.
American allies and partners in the region have been disheartened by a foreign policy that has veered from feckless to mendacious.
American allies and partners in the region have been disheartened by a foreign policy that has veered from feckless to mendacious. The Philippines’s recent high-profile rejection of American leadership, and open courtship with China, is a further setback in Asia for the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. This setback may be traced directly back to Hillary Clinton. Few in Washington remember that the Obama administration pointedly refused to intervene in 2012 when China blatantly violated a diplomatic agreement brokered by Secretary Clinton’s right-hand man in the region, Kurt Campbell; Beijing shredded that agreement by brazenly seizing Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines after agreeing to stand down. Washington’s utter failure to uphold its obligations to a longtime, pivotal ally during one of its most humiliating crises has no doubt contributed to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s low opinion of American security guarantees — and his recent move toward a China alliance.

Obama’s infamous “red line” pronouncement in Syria likewise was perceived throughout the Asia-Pacific region as an open invitation for aggression against U.S. allies and partners. Obama’s meekness cast doubt on Washington’s willingness to enforce long-standing security commitments in the face of Chinese or North Korean aggression. This disastrous mistake has been further compounded by a string of failures in our bilateral relations with key countries since 2009. Indeed, the litany of allies and partners mistreated under this administration is distressingly long, and the cumulative effect has been a clear diminution in U.S. regional clout relative to China.

For example, Thailand, a key U.S. treaty ally with a chaotic and unstable domestic political situation, was unceremoniously booted from Washington’s embrace following a military coup. It is now aligning itself more closely with Beijing, even in security matters.

The Obama administration’s treatment of Taiwan has been equally egregious. This beacon of democracy in Asia is perhaps the most militarily vulnerable U.S. partner anywhere in the world. As far back as 2010, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warned that the balance of power in the skies above the Taiwan Strait was shifting toward Beijing. Yet Taiwan has been repeatedly denied the type of comprehensive arms deal it needs to deter China’s covetous gaze, despite the fact that such assistance is guaranteed by the legally binding Taiwan Relations Act.
Fortunately, the United States has tremendous opportunities to reclaim its geostrategic position in Asia.
Fortunately, the United States has tremendous opportunities to reclaim its geostrategic position in Asia. This is due mainly to China’s own miscalculations and the overplaying of its hand.

Almost in spite of the Obama administration’s repellant policies, U.S. partners like Japan, South Korea, India, and even Myanmar and Vietnam continue to seek closer ties with Washington across the spectrum. They view Beijing as a bully and potential aggressor that must be balanced against. The next administration will be well-placed to seize these strategic opportunities — if it has the will and vision to do so.

To turn this situation around, the White House will require a leader who understands the challenges we face while boldly seizing openings to further our interests. If past is prologue, Hillary Clinton’s position overseeing the failed pivot has revealed that she is wholly unsuited to rebuild an Asia policy that she has already helped severely wound.

Donald Trump has been clear and concise on his approach to U.S. foreign policy. It begins with a clear-eyed appraisal of U.S. national interests and a willingness to work with any country that shares our goals of stability, prosperity, and security.

Trump’s approach is two-pronged. First, Trump will never again sacrifice the U.S. economy on the altar of foreign policy by entering into bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, allowing China into the World Trade Organization, and passing the proposed TPP. These deals only weaken our manufacturing base and ability to defend ourselves and our allies.

Second, Trump will steadfastly pursue a strategy of peace through strength, an axiom of Ronald Reagan that was abandoned under the Obama administration. He knows, however, that this will be a difficult task. As former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne has warned:

Under the Obama administration, the Navy has shrunk to its smallest size since World War I. The Army is the smallest it has been since before World War II. The Air Force is the smallest in its history, and its aircraft are the oldest. Readiness levels across the services are the worst in a generation, with pilots facing significantly reduced cockpit time and deferring critical maintenance, Navy ships and crews deploying as long as 10 months, and Army units are deferring critical training before deployments. The horror story of naval aviators taking spare aircraft parts from museums to keep their planes flying is simply unacceptable for those who wear our nation’s uniform.
Trump has pledged to work with Congress to repeal defense sequestration, a cause with bipartisan support in both chambers.
Trump has pledged to work with Congress to repeal defense sequestration, a cause with bipartisan support in both chambers. He has laid out the most detailed plan for rebuilding our military of any recent presidential nominee. This is in stark contrast to Clinton’s near total silence on the issue.

Lee Kuan Yew, the legendary founder of Singapore, was candid about what the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific meant for security. Noting that the stability provided by the U.S. defense presence benefited the entire region, including China, Lee once said the U.S. military presence is “very necessary” and essential for liberal values like freedom of the seas to prevail.

Trump will rebuild the U.S. Navy, now at 274 ships. His goal is 350 ships, a fleet in line with the up to 346 ships endorsed by the bipartisan National Defense Panel.

The U.S. Navy is perhaps the greatest source of regional stability in Asia. It currently protects $5 trillion of annual trade across the South China Sea and acts as an albeit faltering check on China’s growing ambitions. With the Chinese already outnumbering the U.S. Navy in Pacific-based submarines and projected to have 415 warships and nearly 100 submarines by 2030, the mere initiation of the Trump naval program will reassure our allies that the United States remains committed in the long term to its traditional role as guarantor of the liberal order in Asia.

Much has been made of Trump’s suggestion that U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea contribute their fair share to the cost of sustaining a U.S. presence in their countries. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, with a GDP of more than $4 trillion. South Korea is the world’s 11th-largest economy, with a GDP of more than $1.3 trillion. The U.S. taxpayer not only rebuilt both countries after devastating wars, but American money and blood has allowed these allies the space to grow into mature democracies and advanced economies over the last half-century. It’s only fair — and long past time — for each country to step up to the full cost-sharing plate.

There is no question of Trump’s commitment to America’s Asian alliances as bedrocks of stability in the region. Trump will simply, pragmatically, and respectfully discuss with Tokyo and Seoul additional ways for those governments to support a presence all involved agree is vital — the same discussions will occur in Europe to bolster the critical NATO alliance.

Trump has demonstrated during his candidacy for the presidency a clear understanding of the building blocks for a successful foreign policy in Asia and globally. A cornerstone is undiminished American strength in support of U.S. national interests, where words have meaning and allies and competitors alike can be confident that the U.S. president stands by what he says. In a Donald Trump administration, these qualities will contribute to a far more stable Asia-Pacific — one that fully and peacefully serves the interests of America and its allies and partners.