Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MILF: Editorial -- On violent radicalism

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 16): Editorial -- On violent radicalism

The rising radicalisation of peoples especially the younger generation continues to be the concern of everybody. The MILF is not an exception. 

But radicalization, per se, is not bad, because it is way to shortcut the pathway if the normal course is so circuitous, rough or bumpy. The word radical” is popularly used to designate individuals, parties, and movements that wish to alter drastically any existing practice, institution, or social system.

Radicalism is also used to evoke associations with extremism, instability and an absolutist approach to politics. Many governments have a propensity for dismissing people and ideas with such labels.

Terms like "socialist", "communist", and “leftists” are frequently hurled at those who dare to promote substantial programs that address poverty, or suggest that government provide what many other "developed nations" deem fundamental services. Anyone who openly identifies with such positions is assumed to have nothing legitimate to contribute to public debate, irrespective of the plausibility, merit, and true ideology informing their arguments.

The truth, however, is that radicalism can become a problem if the proponents use violent to achieve their aims. This is the reason why the MILF through its peace implementing panel, with support from the European Union and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), hosted a two-day conference in Davao City on January 12-13 on the “Role of Bangsamoro Youth in the Pursuit of Peace in Mindanao”. It was well-attended, mostly youths from 18-35. The resource persons ranged from scholars of Islam to senior leaders of the MILF, MNLF Nur Misuari, and MNLF Moslemin Sema. Atty. Bong Parcasio and Hatimil Hassan represented the two MNLF factions, respectively, while Mohagher Iqbal spoke for the MILF.

Parcasio had made a well-prepared presentation, and Hassan, on the other hand, had to cut short his stay for an important trip overseas. Iqbal’s presentation dealt on the MILF responses to violent radicalism in Mindanao. He started his presentation by citing some of the verses of the Qurán related to violent radicalism, which Islam prohibited, to wit:

Allah says: “… Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…” Qur’an Chapter 5, Verse 32

“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.” Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 190

“But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful,” Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 192.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), as narrated in Hadith Sahih Bukhari, said: “On the morning of Al-Aqabah, while he was on his mount, the Messenger of Allah said to me: "Pick up (some pebbles) for me." So I picked up some pebbles for him that were the size of date stones or fingertips, and when I placed them in his hand he said: "Like these. And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters."

Iqbal then summarized the MILF responses to violent radicalism, as follows:

1)      MILF issued an official declaration that we are against any form of violent extremism whether religious, political, economic, cultural, etc. Islam and the MILF are against any of its forms;

2)      MILF has formed a task force to study and address the spread of violent extremism especially religious, in the light of the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group also made extensive research on the history of this group and the personalities around it especially Abubakar Al-Bagdhadi, who was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq but released from jail in 2009;

3)      MILF sparingly uses dialogue to reach out to known radical individuals or their relatives and explain to them the stand of the MILF on Islam, problem in Mindanao, and global injustice. Our main focus are young people in and outside of schools, colleges, and universities. We also use the social media in many aspects. In a modest degree, we have scored some successes;

4)      MILF establishes linkages with other groups, organizations  especially religious, both Islamic and non-Islamic to spread the message of peace, because all real religions teach peace amongst peoples;

5)      MILF signed with government some agreements specifically the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to interdict and isolate kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in or near MILF communities. Kidnapping is almost zero for years in areas where the MILF is strong especially in Central Mindanao; and

6)      MILF’s catch-all approach is to strengthen the MILF in all aspects, because a strong organization can deal with anyone or anything in a position of advantage. If there are no open areas and the strength of, say MILF, is greatly felt, then newcomers cannot linger on.


MILF: 109th Base Command holds Advocacy on Understanding the Bangsamoro Peace Process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 16): 109th Base Command holds Advocacy on Understanding the Bangsamoro Peace Process

COLUMBIO, SULTAN KUDARAT ---- The 109th Base Command of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), Eastern Mindanao Front of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under Base Commander Haji Abas Bukol held Kanduli with Peace Advocacy on Understanding of the Bangsamoro Peace Process with the theme “Winning Just and Dignified Peace through CAB Implementation” at Damakling Rehabilitation and Dawah Center, Camp Bunawan, Barangay Bialong, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on January 15, 2017.

On his opening message, Commander Bukol said that peace must always be sustained wherever the BIAF members go. They shall be a model peace agent in the community where they live in.

“MILF policy against illegal drugs begun since 1994 before President Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs started. BIAF is strictly implementing the campaign against illegal drugs in the communities of the Bangsamoro.

 Illegal drugs are the source of evils that destroy the minds of the youth who are the hope of our homeland. Besides, these drugs can also be the cause of conflict in the community. Islam prohibits all sources of evils in whatever form. Therefore, we must stop the prevalence of these drugs brought by strangers in our communities”, Bukol added.

Melanio Ulama, BTC Commissioner who hails from the Teduray tribe, a Temuay (Datu) himself) and MILF Peace Implementing Panel member told the audience, “We are here for peace that we have been seeking for. Whatever your religion is, whoever you are, you are included in the peace process in Mindanao.”

“Bangsamoro Basic Law recognizes the rights of indigenous people and the Christian settlers”, he stressed.

“Moros and Indigenous people who lived peacefully were the native inhabitants of Mindanao since time immemorial. Now, we are living with our Christian brothers who are settlers from Luzon and Visayas. All of us are seeking lasting peace in Mindanao. So, we must love each other to win just and dignified peace through CAB Implementation”, Ulama added.

LGUs officials who delivered their messages that declared commitment of support were Datu Amir Musali, Mayor of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, Datu Abubakar Paglas, Mayor of Paglas, Maguindanao, Datu Abdulkarim Lankuno, Mayor of Paglat, Maguindanao and Jojo Ortiso, Sangguan Bayan member of Tulunan and a representative of Mayor Reuel Limbungan of Tulunan, North Cotabato.  

Other speakers included Shiekh Khalifa Nanado, of MILF Supreme Court, Shiek Abdulfatah Delna, Shiek Badrodin Duka, Sheik Abdulrahim Mulilis, CCCH Member, Mogawan K. Manunggal and Professor Esmael A. Abdula, Executive Director of Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute Inc. and BLMI Steering Committee Member.

Abdula explained the stages of the Bangsamoro Struggle for Right to Self Determination, and the gains of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

Abdula narrated the Bangsamoro armed struggle from 1968-1997 and cited the bloody war during Martial Law, the Estrada – All-out war of April 2000 &  Gloria Arroyo– All-out war  of February 11, 2004 and the 2008 offensive launched by Comdr. Bravo and the late Aleem Ameril Umbra at the aftermath of Supreme Court’s junking of the MOA-AD.

Abdula also mentioned the signed agreements, particularly the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamaoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed on March 27, 2014 that recognized the legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people in Southern Philippines and provided for the creation of a Bangsamoro new political entity.

BIAF commanders, PNP Columbio, AFP 38 IB, religious sectors, academe, indigenous people and women sector also attended the program.


MILF: Malaysian Deputy Defense Minister visits MILF Leadership

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 18): Malaysian Deputy Defense Minister visits MILF Leadership

Ghazali Jaafar, MILF 1st Vice Chairman on Political Affairs welcoming Malaysian Defense Minister Dato Mohd Johari Bin Baharum upon his arrival at the MILF Plenary Hall, Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Dato Mohd. Johari Bin Baharum, Deputy Defense Minister of Malaysia made a courtesy call to the leadership of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Thursday afternoon, January 12, 2017. Aside from his delegation, the International Monitoring Team, headed by Maj. Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose Bin Mohammad Zain and company, the GPH and MILF members of Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, AHJAG and OPAPP representatives were also in attendance. 

Most of the MILF Central Committee members were present headed by 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar along with 2nd Vice Chair Ali Solaiman to welcome the Malaysian officials.

Jaafar in his message expressed thanks and gratitude to the Government of Malaysia for facilitating the GPH-MILF Peace Talks resulting to the signing of the FAB and CAB, and for the deployment of Malaysian Royal Forces to the International Monitoring Team.

IMT played a very important role in monitoring the observance of the ceasefire mechanism by the GPH and MILF and overseeing the situation in the conflict-affected areas in Bangsamoro homeland. The presence of the IMT helps in keeping high the morale, hope and optimism of the Mujahideen and the Bangsamoro for the success of the peace talks, Jaafar added.

Jaafar also mentioned the challenges that the peace process had faced during the previous administration, the obstacles that cause the non-passage of BBL, but still believed that those obstacles can be addressed thru initiating dialogues with stakeholders.

DM Baharum in his speech said, “I stand before you today to assert my leadership and utmost respect of the Malaysian Government to the struggle of the Moro people for the autonomy power in forming up the Bangsamoro Government in determining a better future for all in Mindanao.

After so many years of conflict and so many lives lost, it is momentous act of courage for the MILF and the Government of the Philippines to sit together”.

“We must be steadfast and resolute”, he added.

He underscored that through negotiated settlement can lasting peace be achieved and a good governance e can secure the ambition we all share: a strong prosperous Bangsamaoro.

In his final message, 1st Vice Chairman Jaafar appealed to the peace-loving citizenry of the country to rally behind them in moving every stone for the passage into law of a CAB-Compliant BBL.


MILF: ZC Moro Community Leaders, peace advocates converge, discuss social and political issues confronting Bangsamaoro people

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 18): ZC Moro Community Leaders, peace advocates converge, discuss social and political issues confronting Bangsamaoro people

Zamboanga City Moro Community leaders and peace advocates converged on January 16 at Barangay Lunzulan, Tumaga, Zamboanga City and tackled social and political issues confronting the Bangsamoro People. The discussion centered mostly on the Bangsamoro Peace process and signed agreements. 

The group also discussed about small entrepreneurship program that has been initiated and established by its group’s key officers by substantiating its concepts and practice of self-reliance among its members in micro economic enterprises.

Tirso S. Tahir, an Officer of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), Hadja Rashieyda Majid, Regional Director for Mindanao Women Advocacy and the head of Social welfare Committee (SWC) Zamboanga Chapter, Moro Community and religious leaders participated in the meeting.

Issues on Mindanao Peace Agreements and updates on the peace process were succinctly emphasized by Tahir.

The centerpiece of group discussion was on the prospect of shifting of political system from unitary to Federal System of Government and its inevitable implication to Bangsamoro Peace agreement such as the Comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) that will be drafted by the newly reconstituted BTC.

In the course of our advocacy in the Moro communities, we must make it clear to the people what is more beneficial and suitable to Bangsamoro aspiration that will ultimately solve the Moro Political problem and correcting the historical injustices committed to the Moros. Is it through Federalism or Bangsamoro Enabling law based on CAB and other Peace agreements signed by GPH and Moro Fronts?, one peace advocate asked.

It is a matter of solving the problem and not simply twisting or managing the problem. The Moro-decades armed-conflict can be finished off by current administration if sincerity and political will prevails over other supplanting agenda, Tahir said.

The Moro Peace Advocates and Community Leaders in Zamboanga city is continuously intensifying its peace advocacy in Moro dominated areas as their inherent and inviolable rights both in social and political development as well as empowering them to become responsive in peace-building endeavor.


CPP/NPA: US Interbensyon, itigil

NPA propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jan 17): US Interbensyon, itigil (Stop US intervention)

Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla
Melito Glor Command
NPA-Southern Tagalog

17 January 2017
Press Release
Ngayong araw muli nating gugunitain ang malagim na insidente ng malaking pagkawasak ng Tubbataha Reef sa Palawan. Binabati namin ang mga militanteng humarap sa US Embassy upang tutulan ang panghihimasok ng US, ibasura ang mga batas na nagpoprotekta rito at singilin sila sa pagkakasadsad ng USS Guardian sa Tubataha Reef.

Winasak nila ang isang world heritage park kung saan ipinagbabawal na maglayag ang mga barko para panatilihin at ipreserba ang kalikasan. Ito rin ang tirahan ng mga isda at iba pang lamang dagat na pangunahing pinagkukunan ng kabuhayan ng mga mangingisda sa bansa.

Ang presensya ng barkong pandigma ng US ay paglabag at pagyurak sa ating soberanya. Bunga ito ng mga di pantay na kasunduang pinirmahan ng mga nauna nang rehimen gaya ng Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) at ngayon, ang Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Sa ilalim ng mga kasunduang ito, wala ni isang sundalong sakay ng USS Guardian ang nanagot sa malaking pagkwasak ng Tubataha Reef. Hindi rin sapat ang kumpensasyon na binigay ng US sa Pilipinas upang manumbalik muli ang Tubataha Reef.

Nakakabahalang masninanais pa ng reaksyunaryong gobyerno na proteksyunan ang kapakanan ng mga dayuhang yumuyurak sa kalikasan at pambansang soberanya ng bansa. Higit sa lahat, hinahayaan nilang isabatas at maging ligal ito.

Kailangang tuluy-tuloy na manawagan ang buong sambayanang Pilipino na ibasura na ang mga hindi-pantay na kasunduan sa pagitan ng Imperyalismong US at Pilipinas. Hinahamon namin ang gubyernong Duterte sa postura nitong anti-US na isagawa ang pagbabasura sa mga batas na ito.#


Photo: Arrival Honors

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 18): Photo: Arrival Honors


ARRIVAL HONORS. Newly-promoted Maj. Gen. Jon Aying (right), 3rd Infantry Division commander, with Brig. Gen. Jose CaparasJr AFP, Assistant Division Commander was accorded military honors upon his arrival yesterday at Camp Gen Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.


No peace deal expected soon as NDF extends timeline of talks

From Rappler (Jan 17): No peace deal expected soon as NDF extends timeline of talks

The 'ground' also wants to withdraw its 5-month-old unilateral and indefinite ceasefire, according to the National Democratic Front

OFF TO 3RD ROUND. File photo of government and NDF negotiators signing a joint statement after the 2nd round of talks in October 2016. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

OFF TO 3RD ROUND. File photo of government and NDF negotiators signing a joint statement after the 2nd round of talks in October 2016. Photo courtesy of OPAPP
The communist National Democratic Front (NDF) wants to impose a new timeline for its peace talks with the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, throwing a monkey wrench into government plans to complete the negotiations by August 2017.
Ahead of the start of the 3rd round of formal talks later this week, January 19-25, the NDF issued a statement extending the timeline for a final peace deal by at least 2 more years or by 2019 at the earliest, as it began to question the sincerity of the Duterte administration.
"The panel wants to remain optimistic because it is acutely aware of the Filipino people's high expectations and demand for genuine change. But the panel is also very much aware that the people are tired of promises from politicians and the Manila government that are routinely broken," the NDF said in a statement on Tuesday, January 17, signed by NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili.

The government and NDF negotiators will begin to discuss in Rome details of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER, the so-called heart and soul of the peace process that aims to address widespread poverty in the Philippines, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms or CAPR.

The NDF statement is demanding the successful implementation of CASER and CAPR for 2 years before they go back to the negotiating table to discuss the final agreement to complete the talks, the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).
As early as the 1st round of talks in August 2016, the NDF had expressed doubts that the talks could be completed in a year. The new timeline, in fact, is longer than an earlier pronouncement by Agcaoili that the talks could still be completed within 2 years. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Fragile talks with the Philippine Left)

This development puts an anticipated meeting between Duterte and exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison in doubt. Duterte had expressed hopes for substantial progress in the talks before his personal meeting with his former professor. (READ: Duterte awaits meeting with Joma Sison)

'Ground' wants to withdraw ceasefire
The NDF said its combatants also want to withdraw the 5-month-old ceasefire because of delays in the release of prisoners and alleged military violations of the ceasefire. (READ: Gov't in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire with Reds)
"The strong sentiment of the NDF forces on the ground and the masses in many parts of the country is for the withdrawal of the NDFP unilateral ceasefire because of broken promises on the release of political prisoners and violations of the ceasefire by the GRP," the NDF statement said.

Agcaoili had warned about this in a Rappler Talk interview after the new year. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Fragile talks with the Philippine Left)
The chances for the bilateral ceasefire agreement – the joint deal that is expected to address the 2 complaints raised by the NDF – to be signed in Rome are also "growing dim," according to the NDF statement.

Duterte said there will be no more releases until both camps sign a bilateral ceasefire deal that will guarantee a prolonged ceasefire by imposing common rules for the military and the New People's Army.

A joint ceasefire deal is also where the two camps can address alleged ceasefire violations committed on the ground.
The releases and the joint ceasefire deal were meant to make the environment conducive for the difficult talks on CASER, CAPR, and CAEHDF.
Agcaoili had said talks should continue even as fighting resumes on the ground.
"The Parties can continue with the work of forging agreements on SER (socio-economic reforms) and PCR (political and constitutional reforms) to address the roots of the armed conflict and thereby ensure just and lasting peace," the statement said.


PH communists warn peace unlikely soon

From InterAksyon (Jan 17): PH communists warn peace unlikely soon

NDF peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili. File photo by Raymund Villanueva, Kodao Productions

Philippine communist rebels waging one of Asia's longest insurgencies said Tuesday a peace pact was likely not achievable before 2019, in a blow to the government's hopes of securing a deal this year.

Ahead of fresh peace talks starting in Italy on Thursday, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines also warned that forces on the ground were urging an end to a ceasefire as they became frustrated with the government's "broken promises".

"The NDFP goes into the third round of formal talks in Rome determined as always to persevere with the peace talks but increasingly troubled by the other party's sincerity," the communists' chief negotiator, Fidel Agcaoili, said in a statement.

Govt optimistic despite tough agenda: Dureza

Despite Agcaoili's grim view, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the Philippine government "views with optimism, although with managed expectations," the forthcoming resumption of peace negotiations in Rome from Jan. 19-25.

In a statement, Dureza conceded that the agenda in the 3rd round of talks are "difficult" but still deemed them "surmountable.

The third round hopes to tackle the still unfinished discussions on the proposed bilateral ceasefire vis-a-vis the issues on the releases of prisoners.

The crucial agenda items on socio-economic reforms; constitutional and political reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces are also on the table for discussions, said Dureza.

The preparatory work and engagements by both sides, respectively headed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III  nd Fidel Agcaoili, even before the 3rd round of talks, "auger well for possible significant progress with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum," according to Dureza.

President Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he called on the nation to support the peace efforts.

National democratic revolution since 1968

The communists have been waging their "national democratic revolution" since 1968 to overthrow a capitalist system that has created one of Asia's biggest rich-poor divides.

At least 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the military.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, has made ending the rebellion one of his top priorities.

He launched the peace process soon after he took office in June last year and installed three communists in his cabinet.

Both sides agreed to a temporary ceasefire during the first round of talks in Norway last August.

The government said then it was aiming for a final peace deal within 12 months.

But Agcaoili said the communists would need at least two more years after negotiators agreed on a series of economic and political reforms before even beginning "serious discussions" on a final peace pact.

Those economic and political reforms have yet to be agreed, and are meant to be discussed in Rome.

Meanwhile, familiar grievances that derailed peace efforts under previous Philippine presidents appear to have returned to haunt the current negotiations.
'A poker game'

The communists have long demanded that hundreds of jailed communists be released before they will consider making major concessions in peace talks.

Duterte released 18 top leaders to kickstart the peace process but the communists are demanding another 434 rebels be freed immediately. 

Duterte said last month he did not want to release the rebels straight away, describing the negotiations as a "poker game".

"My aces are in prison," he said, referring to the jailed communists.

"If I released them all my cards would lost. There would be nothing else to talk about."

The government's chief negotiator, Silvestre Bello, gave a more upbeat assessment of the peace process when contacted by AFP on Tuesday for reaction to Agcaoili's statement.

He said the government was still sticking to its timeframe to secure a peace deal of between nine and 12 months from the start of the talks in August last year.

Bello said he had told the communists it was to their advantage not to delay, or they would risk not being able to finalize a peace pact before Duterte's six-year term ends in 2022.

Agcaoili said the prospect of a permanent ceasefire was "growing dim" because of the prisoner issue. He also accused security forces of violating the current temporary ceasefire

But Bello said he would still push at the Rome talks, which will last until January 25, for agreement on a permanent ceasefire.

"The prisoners issue has no bearing on the signing of a bilateral cease-fire," Bello said.

The government estimates the rebels' armed wing the New People's Army has about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s.

But they remain particularly active in rural areas of the archipelago, where they are well known for extorting money from local businesses. Their regular deadly attacks on police and military forces also occasionally reach into urban areas.


Task Group head still no ‘official report’ on suspect Sema’s detention in Malaysia

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 18): Task Group head still no ‘official report’ on suspect Sema’s detention in Malaysia

THE SPECIAL Investigation Task Group Night Market still has no “official report” that one of the Roxas Avenue blast suspects has been detained in Malaysia.

“We still have no official report that he is detained there,” said Sr. Supt. Valeriano de Leon, the deputy police regional director for operations who heads the task group.

Kasi kung meron, we can bring him to the court kasi may warrant po yun (If he’s indeed there, we can bring him to the court because there’s a warrant for his arrest).

President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech during a business gathering at Marco Polo hotel on Saturday, confirmed that Datu Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema, son of a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader, was arrested and has been detained in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sema, a barangay captain of Rosary Heights VIII in Cotabato City, is the son of Muslimin Sema, a founding member of MNLF and former mayor of Cotabato City, and Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, congresswoman of the first district of Maguindanao.

In the charge sheet released by the Office of the City Prosecution Office, Sema was identified as Datu Mohammad Abduljabbara Sema alias Datu Masla and DM.

In the investigation conducted by the city prosecution office, it was Sema who “suggested to use the bomb in Davao City instead because the incumbent President of the Philippines is from the said city and to compel the government to reduce the military forces in Basilan who at that time was fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group.”

The group initially planned to use the bomb in in Midsayap City in Cotabato. The blast killed 15 persons and injured 69 others.

But AFP Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano said Sema was not the mastermind in the blast.
“But we have information he participated during the planning,” Ano said.

He said that the United States intelligence has helped them in tracking down the suspects in the bombing.

“The US provided us with the technology information sharing. They taught us how to get information through scientific and technical equipment. They have capability so they share it to us,” he said.



DA looking for 6,000 has. for former rebels’ banana plantation

From MindaNews (Jan 18): DA looking for 6,000 has. for former rebels’ banana plantation

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that they are currently scouting for about 6,000 hectares in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and neighboring areas to engage former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in banana farming with the support from the Japanese government.

The secretary told reporters over the weekend at the sidelines of the launch of the Philippine chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 that this arrangement was received well by the MILF when he met its vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar.

He said they are specifically looking at areas in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur. He added that they aim to improve the farmers’ living condition particularly in these conflict-affected areas by empowering them.

The secretary said that his department intends to develop the former combatants into entrepreneurs who would negotiate with Japanese buyers.

“I talked to Ghadzali Jaafar in the area. Right now, they are locating for us 6,000 hectares but the concept that we would like to happen there is that we help them organize into a corporation, or maybe partner them with management group who knows banana farming. We let them be the owners of their plantations,” Piñol said.

He said that the Japanese buyers want to source from Mindanao 20 million boxes a year.

The shipping will start as soon as the farmers are able to produce bananas, he said.

Piñol earlier announced that he signed a deal with a big Japanese company, Farmind Corp., for P5 billion worth of 20 million boxes of Cavendish bananas a year from the Philippines.

He said this will generate jobs for 14,000 farm workers and benefit the former rebels.

“The Farmind Corp. project is really aimed at providing livelihood opportunities for rebel returnees and beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program,” he said.

Piñol added that among the deals signed with Japanese businessmen in Japan during last year’s state visit were investments in manufacturing and agriculture that will generate considerable number of jobs.

“Japan is well-placed to remain as the Philippines’ top trading partner,” he said.


President Duterte visits wake of fallen Army officer, assures soldiers his communication line will always be open if they need help

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 17): President Duterte visits wake of fallen Army officer, assures soldiers his communication line will always be open if they need help

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte personally condoled with the family of an Army officer killed in battle against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) at the Libingan ng mga Bayani Mortuary in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Monday, January 16.

The President arrived at the wake of Captain Clinton L. Capio at 7:13 p.m. and was received by National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

He expressed his sympathy and condolences to the wife of the slain officer.

He also extended financial assistance to the family.

Captain Capio was killed in action in Cabcaban, Sumisip, Basilan on Thursday, January 12, during a combat operation against more or less 60 fully armed Abu Sayyaf Group members under Furuji Indama, alias Abu Dajana

The Army’s operation against the Abu Sayyaf is in line with the directive of the President to eliminate the bandit group known for kidnappings and beheadings

On his way out of the chapel, the President was greeted by many Army soldiers, most of them belonging to the Special Forces of the Philippine Army.

He briefly talked to the soldiers, assuring them of his full support as they perform their duties to the nation.

He asked them to continuously help in the government’s fight against illegal drugs and corruption and maintain peace and order in the country to sustain economic growth.

The President also assured the soldiers that his communication line will always be open in case they need help. (PND)


4ID deploys new soldiers to field

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 17): 4ID deploys new soldiers to field

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City – Army’s 4th Infantry Division deployed more than 200 new soldiers fresh from their rigorous training to its line units during a simple ceremony held at the Division Grandstand on January 14, 2017.

In line with the current campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dubbed as Development Support and Security Plan "Kapayapaan," the deployment is intended to beef up the strength and capability of the battalions that are conducting Community Support Programs in Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions.

During the program, a ceremonial entrustment of firearms was graced by the different local chief executives representing the two regions as a symbol of the conferment of trust to the soldiers.

The LCEs endowed in them the responsibility to carry firearms as they perform their mandate to protect the people and secure the communities against any threat.

Mayor Philip Arreza Pichay of the municipality of Cantilan in Surigao del Sur said during his speech that he was grateful to be invited as the guest of honor and speaker that he could deliver his message to the soldiers.

“It’s been quite a long time when I experienced being in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and wearing that same uniform. I can still remember the feeling of discipline and the kind of respect that I get from other people. I am happy that soldiers now have improved well and are more disciplined. With high hopes and filled with prayers, may all of you remain safe as you perform your duty. I know that when I go back to the province of Surigao I could sleep soundly because I know that we have the soldiers who will ensure our freedom and safety," said mayor Arreza.

Present during the program were Mayor Michael Jose Patiño of Placer, Surigao del Norte; Mayor Cesar Diaz Jr, Taganaan, Surigao del Norte; Board Member Gilbert Elorde, Agusan del Sur; Vice Mayor Jenry Montante, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte; Ferdinand Vincent Dy Jr., Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) head, Misamis Oriental; Nena Undag, Lumadnong Indigenous Peoples (IP) focal person; and Milan Sambile from National Commission on IP NCIP Region 10.

For his part, MGen Benjamin R Madrigal Jr., 4ID commander, in his message, said that the training the new recruits have undergone is to prepare them for this day.

Madrigal also said that with the firearms entrusted to them by the stakeholders whom they have received, symbolizes acceptance of the responsibility and commitment to perform their duty to protect the people and communities at all times.

“You have agreed to that covenant and it now entails accountability on your part. I hope that you perform well and carry out the professionalism of a Filipino soldier.
Always remember to maintain our discipline at all times. We must not violate the Human Rights and we must not abuse the authority given to us,” said the 4ID commander.

He said the firearms that are entrusted to the soldiers are from the entire Filipino people whom the Philippine Army has pledged to serve.

“Do your job and do what is right, Madrigal directed the soldiers.

To all the stakeholders, Madrigal said “in front of you are the new soldiers that are ready to serve and fulfill their duty with the best of their abilities. They represent the new generation of soldiers who will serve as partners for positive change and are active partners for the achievement of lasting peace and prosperity for the country. (4ID/PA)


New Westmincom chief given 6 months to defeat ASG, Maute terror group, and illegal drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): New Westmincom chief given 6 months to defeat ASG, Maute terror group, and illegal drugs

All unit commanders of the military forces here in Western Mindanao area had been ordered to personally lead their men to victory against the enemies of the state.

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, newly-installed Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, issued the order on Tuesday as he was given six months to defeat the Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute terror group and illegal drugs.

“Do not let your lieutenants fight for their lives. You have to fight with them, with our men, lead them to victory,” Galvez stressed.

Galvez said he was always with his men leading from the front line “in more than 40 encounters” during his stint as former commander of the Army’s 1st Scout Ranger Battalion.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano installed Galvez on Tuesday as the new Westmincom commander replacing Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz.

“I want you to roll your sleeves and start working as Westmincom commander,” Ano told Galvez as they immediately flew to Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces after the change of command ceremony.

Galvez told all the unit commanders to do their homework in planning and preparation and execute it with accuracy and precision.

“Gentlemen train hard and fight hard. We cannot win the Abu Sayyaf by sticking to the box-type defense strategy and maintain sector defense framework. We should be creative. Get out of our comfort zone and device a plan in which we can fight accurately and overwhelm the enemy completely,” he said.

He said he have applied such kind of principle during the 2002 all-out war with the Abu Sayyaf Group then led by Khadaffy Janjalani, Isnilon Hapilon and Radulan Sahiron.

“The results were very bloody, but we never lost a battle and never lost even a single rifle to the enemy,” he said.

He also told all the unit commanders to involve the active participation of local government units, police, tribal leaders, and religious sector “in our fight against the ASG, Maute terror and against illegal drugs.”

“They are the core group that can create a strategic alliance in isolating our enemies,” he added.

Ano has assured Galvez of his full support in addressing the problems in the area of jurisdiction of Westmincom.

Dela Cruz, who was replaced by Galvez, is set to assume as the new Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


Peace Adviser optimistic on outcome of 3rd round of GRP-NDF peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): Peace Adviser optimistic on outcome of 3rd round of GRP-NDF peace talks

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza believes there will be positive outcome during the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) which takes place in Rome, Italy on January 19 to 25.

In a statement released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Tuesday, Dureza said the third round of the peace negotiation hopes to tackle the unfinished discussions on the proposed bilateral ceasefire and the release of political prisoners.

Dureza said the crucial agenda items on socio-economic reforms, constitutional, political reforms and end of hostilities and disposition are also on the table of discussion.

“These issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing common aspirations for peace,” he said.

He said the preparatory work and engagements by both parties headed by Labor Secretary and Chair of the GRP panel Silvestre Bello and NDF chair Fidel Agcaoili hope for possible significant progress of the talks with the facilitation of Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum.

“President (Rodrigo) Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he calls on the nation to provide support to the efforts to ultimately bring peace,” Dureza said.

He said the outcomes of the third round of the talks can bring the country close to achieving some possible milestones for sustainable peace.


'Terror group' member, 2 others nabbed in South Cotabato raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): 'Terror group' member, 2 others nabbed in South Cotabato raid

Joint operatives arrested a former barangay chair who was tagged as an alleged member of a local armed group sympathetic with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in an anti-drug operation early Tuesday in an outskirt village in Polomolok town in South Cotabato.

Supt. Maximo Sebastian Jr., chief of the Police Regional Office 12’s regional anti-illegal drug special operations task group (RAIDSOTG), identified the suspect as Zaidon Nilong, former chair of Barangay Lapu in Polomolok.

He said two other suspects, identified as Mario Suib and Danny Yang, were arrested during the operation.

The police official said Nilong is supposedly a cohort of Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid alias Tokboy, the slain founder and leader of the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines group.

Maguid was killed on January 5 in a raid by police operatives at a beach resort in Barangay Kitagas in Kiamba, Sarangani Province.

“We’re currently determining his possible involvement in the group’s previous activities,” he said in an interview over radio station Brigada News FM.

Armed with 11 search warrants, operatives led by RAIDSOTG elements raided several houses on Tuesday in Barangay Lapu in Polomolok.

The search warrants, which were issued by Executive Judge Oscar Noel Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 11-Justice on Wheels in Polomolok, were for possession of dangerous drugs and illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

Sebastian said they recovered a hand grenade from Nilong’s possession and a caliber .45 handgun with live bullets from Yang.

Seized from Suib were a sachet of suspected metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, he said.


Gov't. forces arrest man for gun, explosives possession in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): Gov't. forces arrest man for gun, explosives possession in North Cotabato

Authorities here arrested Tuesday night a man for possession of unlicensed firearms and explosives in an anti-crime operation by joint operatives of police and military forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Edgar delos Reyes, commander of the 34th Infantry Battalion, elements of Task Force Midsayap, a composite Army and police unit, raided a house in Barangay Poblacion 3 and arrested Talib Arciga at about 10 a.m.

Delos Reyes said the lawmen were armed with search warrants issued by a local court against Arciga for gun possession and possibly illegal drugs.

Police and Army personnel seized from him a carbine rifle with ammunition and a live hand grenade. No illegal drugs were found.

But Arciga's son, 21-year-old Norman, managed to evade arrest by jumping off the window and fled undercover of darkness.

The younger Arciga was facing murder charges.

The suspect is now undergoing interrogation at Midsayap police office.

Task Force Midsayap was formed following the Christmas Day bombing in front of a Catholic Church here that left 17 persons injured, including a police officer.

Supt. Bernard Tayong, Midsayap town police chief, said the grenade attack was not directed at the Church and mass goers but against the police as retaliatory attack by personalities who suffered the brunt of police intensified anti-drug operation.


70 ex-MILF rebels complete Alternative Learning System program in Camp Abubakar

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): 70 ex-MILF rebels complete Alternative Learning System program in Camp Abubakar

CAMP ABUBAKAR, Maguindanao -- After living the life of a rebel for 22 years, Khalil Nunting is now pursuing a fresh path in life - that is to earn an education for personal advancement and provide honest, hard-earned income for his family of five.

Nunting, now 44 years old, is one of 70 graduate–members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from the Alternative Learning System of the government extended to former rebels.

Nunting, who finished the ALS Basic Education Training Module, said he wants to pursue higher degree of education for his family.

“I would like to become a mobile phone repairman to earn an income for my wife, three daughters and one boy,” he told newsmen on Tuesday during a side interview for the realization of the Camps program in Barangay Tugaig here.

The Camps program supports the normalization process and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro by expanding socioeconomic assistance to communities in the six acknowledged MILF camps, namely Camp Abubakar as-Siddique, Camp Badre, and Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab in Maguindanao; Camp Rajamuda in North Cotabato; Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte; and Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur.

Another graduate, Ramla Macao, 52, wife of a former MILF rebel, said she feels proud of her accomplishment and also wants to pursue further studies.

Macao also graduated from the ALS program Tuesday together with her two daughters.

“I am really very happy I have not tasted education in the past,” a teary-eyed Macao said.

Matthew Stephens, Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) task team leader, said he would look into the prospect of coming up with advanced vocational courses for the ALS graduates here by March this year.

The MTF, a multi-donor grant facility, financed the three-part program for the former rebels through a budget of PHP3.5 million.

Apart from the ALS program, the MTF assistance package also included the distribution of 120 cattle heads to MILF widows and 10 water tap stands in various parts of this former rebel camp.

The MTF, established in 2005, has been working to consolidate international development assistance for the socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao.

The Community and Family Services International (CSFI), a humanitarian organization committed to peace and social development, is the implementing arm of MTS programs in Mindanao.

Government of the Philippines Peace Panel Chair for the Bangsamoro Irene Santiago, who was special guest in the activity here, had expressed confidence that the MTS-CSFI programs in the area would further produce positive response to the local communities.

“Do not lose hope because in hope we could attain peace,” she said.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace implementing panel, joined Santiago in the activities here.


PHL to deal with Chinese weapons on man-made islands 'diplomatically' -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): PHL to deal with Chinese weapons on man-made islands 'diplomatically' -- Palace

Malacanang emphasized on Tuesday the need to formally deal with the existence of anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons installed by China on its man-made islands in the South China Sea.

"Aggressive and provocative diplomacy will bring us nowhere so we dealt with the issue formally," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press statement.

Abella said the Philippines through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued a note verbale to China to protest the weapon systems buildup in the disputed territory.

"The Philippines will continue to assert its sovereignty over disputed territory in the South China Sea while remaining consistent with the efforts of President Duterte to revitalize longstanding ties with China," Abella said.

"As always, we shall staunchly support all efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region," he added.

According to media reports, China installed the weapons systems on all seven of China's newly-constructed artificial islands to guard the area against missile attacks.

The South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea is being partly claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The Philippines filed arbitration case before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013 after China seized Panatag Shoal.

On July last year, the United Nations-backed PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, saying China’s nine-dash line which practically covers almost all of the South China Sea has no basis in international law.

China refused to honor the arbitral tribunal judgment, saying bilateral talks are necessary to settle the dispute.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected only in May 2016, has also said bilateral negotiations are crucial to resolve the territorial dispute.


Dureza optimistic Rome talks end with 'positive outcomes'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): Dureza optimistic Rome talks end with 'positive outcomes'

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza on Tuesday said the Philippine government “views with optimism, although with managed expectations, positive outcomes in the forthcoming resumption of peace negotiations” with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CCP/NPA) in Rome on January 19 to 25, 2017.

In a statement, Dureza said the third round of talks hopes to tackle the still unfinished discussions on the proposed bilateral ceasefire vis-a-vis the issues on the release of prisoners.

“The crucial agenda items on socio-economic reforms; constitutional and political reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces are on the table for discussions," Dureza said.

Dureza added that although these issues are difficult, they are surmountable as long as both panels share common aspirations for peace.

The preparatory work and engagements by both sides, respectively headed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Fidel Agcaoili, even before the third round of talks, auger well for possible significant progress with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum.

President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he calls on the nation to provide support to the efforts to ultimately bring peace in the land.

“The outcomes of the third round of talks can bring us closer to achieving some possible milestones for sustainable peace,” Dureza concluded.


DND chief: China's placement of weapons in disputed Spratlys 'very troubling'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): DND chief: China's placement of weapons in disputed Spratlys 'very troubling'

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said People's Republic of China's action to place weapons in the disputed Spratlys are "very troubling" and that the Philippines will be remiss in its duty to protect its national interest if it does not question them.

This after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a note verbale regarding the installation of weapons on some of man-made islands in the disputed territory.

Earlier, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said that it has monitored the construction of hexagonal buildings in Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef, areas where China constructed artificial islands, and these facilities seemed fitting with anti-aircraft guns and other weapons capable of shooting down aircraft or even cruise missiles.

On the same artificial islands, China also constructed airfield capable of handling and supporting large military aircraft.

"Notwithstanding the warming of relations between our countries, the Philippine Government would be remiss in its duty to protect its national interest if it does not protest, question and seek clarification from China on the presence of weapons in the Spratlys specially so that some of those reclaimed islands are within the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone) according to UNCLOS, which China is a signatory and affirmed by the PCA ruling of July 12, 2016," he noted.

"They (putting of weapons in Spratlys) do not square with the Chinese government's rhetoric that its purpose is peaceful and friendly," he added.

WMC leadership change part of ongoing initiative to beat ASG conclusively

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): WMC leadership change part of ongoing initiative to beat ASG conclusively

Changes in the leadership in the Western Mindanao Command (WMC) are among the ongoing changes being implemented to expedite the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo as Major Gen. Carlito Galvez assumed control of the WMC from Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz Tuesday.

Leadership change along with tactics, procedures, approaches and deployment of units are among the things being expedited by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año to meet his self-imposed six months deadline to eradicate the bandit group and other lawless elements operating in Basilan and Sulu.

"To achieve this difficult task, necessary adjustments in tactics and strategy, and in the approaches to neutralize the ASG -- including changes in the leadership and composition of the team that will execute his plans -- will have to be made. And this is part of the dynamism of the military profession," the AFP public affairs office chief said.

Arevelo also said the appointment of Dela Cruz as Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines could not be considered a demotion as the office is also designated to be headed by a lieutenant general or three star rank.

"Reliefs and designations are part of the dynamics of the military institution and (Tuesday's turned over) is its manifestation," he added.

""Major Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. assumes command of the Western Mindanao replacing Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz who has served the unit for a year and two months," Arevalo stressed.

Galvez is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and hails from Bulacan.


195 PNP personnel confirmed positive of drug use -- PNP Crime Lab Service

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): 195 PNP personnel confirmed positive of drug use -- PNP Crime Lab Service

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory Service (CLS) on Tuesday said a total of 195 PNP personnel have been confirmed positive of the use of illegal drugs since January last year up to Jan. 17 this year.

PNP CLS director Chief Supt. Aurelio Trampe, Jr., in a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Tuesday, said of the 195 personnel that have been confirmed positive of illigal drugs use specifically "methamphetamine hydrochloride" or "shabu", 188 of them are uniformed personnel and 7 are non-uniformed personnel (NUP).

Trampe said a total of 167,852 PNP personnel had undergone "mandatory drug testing" for the one-year period.

Majority of the 188 policemen who are positive of shabu use came from Region 4A (Cavite/Laguna/Batangas/Rizal/Quezon), followed by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

In the record of the PNP CLS, the rank of Chief Inspector is the highest rank among those who were confirmed positive of illegal drugs use, while Police Officer 1 (PO1) is the lowest rank.

Majority of the 188 policemen positive of shabu use have already been dismissed from the service while the rest are currently undergoing "pre-charge evaluation" of the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS).


Military provides aid to flood-hit areas in northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): Military provides aid to flood-hit areas in northern Mindanao

As heavy rains and flooding struck Cagayan De Oro and other parts of northern Mindanao, the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) has ordered all its units to assist communities and other government agencies in post-disaster operations.

"(EMC) units were directed to closely coordinate with local disaster risk reduction management council and assist local government units in attending to their disaster management needs," EMC Spokesperson Major Ezra Balagtey said Wednesday.

Floods were also monitored in Iligan City, Misamis Oriental, and Lanao Del Norte after heavy rains battered the region Monday afternoon.

Troops would also assist the police in maintaining order while the affected communities are in the process of recovery, Balagtey said.

During the onslaught of the flood, troops and equipment were quickly mobilized in rescue and evacuation operations.