Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Farmers, fishers demand military pullout of communities

From InterAksyon (Jan 18): Farmers, fishers demand military pullout of communities

The picket at Camp Aguinaldo calling for the military to pull out troops from rural communities. (Pamalakaya photo)

On the eve of the third round of peace talks between government and communist rebels, activist farmers and fisherfolk picketed Camp Aguinaldo to press demands for the immediate pullout of military forces from communities in the countryside.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas also blasted the Duterte government’s new internal security plan, named Kapayapaan, saying it was no different from the previous administration’s Oplan Bayanihan.

KMP secretary general Antonio Flores accused the military of continuing to commit human rights abuses despite the government’s unilateral ceasefire and in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, one of the five agreements between the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and even before Kapayapaan, which means “peace,” was unveiled.

The third round of formal negotiations between the rebels and the current administration are slated to take place from January 19 to 25 in Rome.

In a protest at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues to commit grave violations of the KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said the military had been violating CARHRIHL even before OPK was unveiled and the abuses continue without let-up.

Pamalakaya secretary general Salvador France, on the other hand, said “the military’s failure and frustration to capture their enemies is always diverted to the farmers and innocent civilians through harassment, filing of trumped up charges and worse … extrajudicial killings with impunity.”

Flores called for CARHRIHL violations to be taken up in the Rome negotiations. “The AFP never implemented the government's unilateral ceasefire declaration. In fact, it continued to violate and disrespect the peace talks by seriously harming civilians,” he said.

The KMP listed what it said are the more glaring violations of the CARHRIHL and the government ceasefire:
  • Caraga - more than 100 barangays are highly-militarized as soldiers enter communities through the Peace and Development Outreach Program.
  • Masbate - troops from the 9th Infantry Battalion and 2nd IB of the Philippine Army are leading Bayanihan Team Activities to penetrate remote barangays despite the declared ceasefire.
  • Ifugao, Mt. Province and Benguet - the 54th IB conducts so-called civic actions as part of their combat and intelligence operations. 
  • Eastern Visayas - the 20thIB, 78thIB and 87thIB use medical and dental missions as front to conduct military operations in upland areas and farmers fear for their lives because of intense militarization.
  • Panay - the 61stIB and 82nd IB of the 3rd Infantry Division continue armed operations, with farmers as primary victims.
  • Agusan provinces - the 26th IB, 23rd IB, 58th IB, 8th IB and 1st Special Forces Battalion under the 4th ID and the 13th Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Philippine National Police are using the Oplan Tokhang anti-drug campaign to “terrorize” civilians. 
The farmers also listed down the following human rights violations despite the resumed negotiations and ceasefire:
  • 19 extrajudicial killings
  • 414 illegal arrests
  • forced evacuation of 13,734 people
  • 18,675 instances of threats, harassment and intimidation
  • 14,097 cases of the military and paramilitary units using schools, medical facilities, churches and public places for military purpose in rural and indigenous people’s communities
“The military has set up camp and barracks in civilian communities in rural areas. They keep on harassing and threatening farmers whom they accuse as members or supporters of the New People’s Army. There were no firefights but military operations continued in the form of surveillance, harassment, encampment in civilian communities, socio-economic projects and other dirty psy-war tactics,” Flores said.

“How can there be genuine peace if guns are pointed at our heads?” he asked.

Philippine authorities capture 3 IS supporters in S. Cotabato

From the Global Times/Xinhua (Jan 18): Philippine authorities capture 3 IS supporters in S. Cotabato

Philippine government troops have captured three suspected Islamic State (IS) sympathizers in South Cotabato, a province in southern Mindanao, local authorities said Wednesday.

Supt. Maximo Sebastian Jr., chief of Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operations Task Group, identified the suspects as Zaidon Nilong, Danny Yang and Mario Sueb who were arrested on Tuesday during a raid at their hideout in the village of Lapu.

He said Nilong, a former village chieftain who is facing kidnapping charges, is said to be the next leader of Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, an IS-linked terror group, after their leader was killed in police and military operations in Sarangani.

On January 5, the group's leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed after he resisted arrest and engaged in firefight with local policemen. Three of his companions were arrested.

Days before that operation, authorities killed Maguid's bomb experts, a Pakistani national and his wife, in the town of Maasim.

Sebastian said one grenade, a handgun, ammunition and one sachet of illegal drugs, were recovered from the trio.

"Other companions of the suspects manage to escape during the raid," Sebastian said.

The Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, which is also connected to Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups, were behind the grenade attack last year festival in nearby Maasim town that killed a police officer and wounded dozens.
The military earlier claimed Maguid was supporter of the IS behind the recruitment of minors in the region.

In November 2015, eight men, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed as Maguid's group was figured in encounter with the military in Sultan Kudarat, another province in southern Mindanao.

Former Navy chief gets 24 years for graft after death

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 18): Former Navy chief gets 24 years for graft after death

VICE Admiral (ret.) Mariano J. Dumancas Jr., former flag officer of the Philippine Navy, was convicted of multiple graft charges by the Sandiganbayan First Division together with four other former senior navy officers in connection with fraudulent procurement of medical supplies 25 years ago.

In a 60-page decision, the graft court found Dumancas and Commander Rosendo C. Roque, PN naval procurement officer, guilty of four counts of graft and were each sentenced to 24 years imprisonment.

Dumancas died last year, according to Capt. Lued Lincuna, chief of the Navy Public Affairs Office.

Commander Ramon C. Renales, PN price monitoring officer, was convicted of three counts and received an 18-year jail term.

Commodore Francisco I. Tolin, former deputy commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, and Commander Manuel Ruason, also known as Manuel Tuason, former PN assistant chief of staff for logistics, both face six years behind bars for one count of graft.

Dumancas and Roque were acquitted on six other graft charges for insufficiency of evidence.

Two other Navy officers who were accused in two counts of graft, Captains Walter A. Briones and Alfredo V. Penola, remain at large, along with private defendants Ramon Vito and Connie Tagle who represented medical suppliers. The cases against private defendant Ben Edulag were dismissed when he died during pendency in court.

Commodore Lamberto R. Torres, who was named in eight counts of graft, had the charges against him dismissed by the Supreme Court on October 5, 2016 after he filed a petition for certiorari on the ground of violations of due process and his right to speedy disposition of the cases.

The cases filed in 2011 stemmed from a special audit of selected transactions of the Philippine Navy in 1991 and 1992 which found violations of procurement rules by resorting to emergency procurement and setting aside the requirement for public bidding in five separate transactions totaling P2.31 million.

The team of government auditors led by then State Auditor Mary Adelino found that the supposed emergency was unfounded because the purchased medicines were kept only for stocks.

Likewise, the team noted the violation of the emergency procurement rule requiring canvass of at least three suppliers.

“Based on the totality of evidence, the Court finds and so holds that the accused gave unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Jerso Marketing, PMS Commercial, Gebtruder Marketing, Dofra Pharmaceuticals, and Roddensers Pharmaceuticals,” the Sandiganbayan declared.

The court said the accused failed to justify direct contracting as a mode of procurement because they were unable to prove the existence of an emergency “which may involve the loss of or danger to life and/or property.”

Deny Abu Sayyaf sanctuary, AFP asks Tawi-Tawi residents

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 19): Deny Abu Sayyaf sanctuary, AFP asks Tawi-Tawi residents

ARMED Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año yesterday appealed to residents of Tawi-Tawi to deny the Abu Sayyaf sanctuary and logistics amid the military’s campaign to defeat the group in six months.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Año issued the appeal when the latter and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visited the island municipality of Sibutu in Tawi-Tawi.

Año and Lorenzana went to the town to visit soldiers and to enlist the support of local officials and residents in the government’s campaign against terrorism, kidnapping, piracy, and even illegal drugs.

He said Año told the residents that the criminal group “can only thrive in places where they can find refuge or support, hence the people of Sibutu can help a lot by denying the ASGs sanctuary and logistics.”

Arevalo said Año also asked the residents to be partners of the military for the security and development of Tawi-Tawi where the Abu Sayyaf is known to have presence.

“The people should be actively involved in monitoring the arrival of strangers or the happening of criminal activities in the island. The residents should organize themselves to be active partners of government in providing security, livelihood, and development opportunities,” he said.

Arevalo said Sibutu town Mayor Alshefa Pajiji lamented “the incidence of kidnappings around the island that adversely affects his municipality” and committed support for the military in ending the criminal activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

Military officials have said the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping-for-ransom activities continue to thrive because of support from the civilian populace.

Incidents of kidnapping were perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf off Tawi-Tawi in the past several months. The kidnap victims were later brought to Sulu, one of the bailiwick provinces of the criminal group.

Año assumed the top AFP post last month. During a command conference on January 6, he set a new deadline of six months for the military to defeat the Abu Sayyaf, the Maute Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Accompanying Año and Lorenzana in the visit were Arevalo, Army chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, Navy chief Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina.

Coast Guard wants to acquire Defender-class boats

From Update.Ph (Jan 19): Coast Guard wants to acquire Defender-class boats

The Philippine Coast Guard is looking to acquire Defender-class boats in its bid to strengthen its Maritime Law Enforcement capabilities. This was revealed by Philippine Coast Guard officer-in-charge Commodore Joel S. Garcia during a briefing with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim who visited PCG Headquarters today.

Defender-class boat, also known as Response Boat–Small (RB-S), is a 25-feet boat introduced by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in 2002. Defender-class boats serve the USCG, US Border Patrol, US Navy, and several other navies including Israel.

According to US Coast Guard, the RB-S became the platform to increase the long term homeland security capability at shore stations in the wake of September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Commodore Garcia also suggested for further training and mentoring from the US Coast Guard as well as to increase the number of PCG Cadets to study at US Coast Guard Academy, the coast guard said.

US Navy photo

For his part, Ambassador Sung Kim said that the US government will attend to the concerns and request of PCG. He also expressed appreciation for PCG’s effort in combating terrorism and in enhancing its capabilities as a law enforcer.

Jihadist leader, 2 others captured in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 18): Jihadist leader, 2 others captured in Southern Philippines

SOUTH COTABATO – Philippine authorities arrested an alleged leader of the jihadist group Ansarul Khilafah or AKP in an operation in South Cotabato province, south of the country.

Police said Abdullah Nilong alias Ali was captured January 17 along with 2 of his followers – one of them is his brother Zaidon and the other Rebskie Dumat is a village leader – Lapu in Polomolok town.

Abdullah is believed to be the new leader of Ansarul Khilafah following the killing last month of its chieftain Muhammad Jaafar Maguid by security forces in Kiamba town in Sarangani province.

Superintendent Romeo Galgo, Jr., a regional police spokesman, confirmed the capture of the trio and said the men were being interrogated by the authorities.

The Ansarul Khilafah (in the Philippines) was organized initially by the notorious bomber and Abdul Basit Usman – who was allied with the Jemaah Islamiah – in Maguindanao in 2014. Maguid took over the group after Usman was killed in 2015 in the hinterlands of Maguindanao province.

Just recently, security forces also killed a foreign jihadist identified as Abu Naila al-Amriki and his wife Khadijah in Sarangani’s Maasim town and both were believed to be members of the Islamic State.

AKP, along with other local jihadist groups, pledged support to the Islamic State and vowed to fight in an effort to establish a strict caliphate in the southern Philippines.

PH views with optimism the 3rd round of peace talks in Rome

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 19): PH views with optimism the 3rd round of peace talks in Rome

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza  said the Philippine government views with optimism and hopes for positive outcomes, the resumption of peace negotiations in Rome on January 19 - 25, 2017 with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/ National Democratic Front.

In a statement on the 3rd round of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front in Rome, Italy, Secretary Dureza said, "The 3rd round of talks 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 on the table for discussions," Secretary Dureza said.

Dureza added that these issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing 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 3rd round of talks auger well for possible significant progress with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum.

President 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 3rd round of talks can bring us closer to achieving some possible milestones for sustainable peace. (OPAPP)

LandBank, JICA ink 4.9-B Yen HARVEST project for conflict areas in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 19): LandBank, JICA ink 4.9-B Yen HARVEST project for conflict areas in Mindanao

The Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and the government of Japan have signed a loan agreement worth almost 5 billion yen to fund a five-year project that aims to jumpstart agribusiness investments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas in the South.

Signing this loan worth Y4.93 billion (about P1.76 billion) for the Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) Project were LandBank president and CEO Alex Buenaventura and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) chief representative to the Philippines Susumu Ito.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe witnessed at Malacanang last Thursday the signing of the loan agreement as well as the guarantee letter for the deal inked by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on behalf of the Philippine government.

“The HARVEST project is seen to help create an enabling investment environment in the ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Southern Philippines to help rev up the economy and raise incomes in these communities,” Dominguez said.

The loan deal was among the agreements signed between Manila and Tokyo during Prime Minister Abe’s two-day state visit to the Philippines.

The Philippines is Prime Minister Abe’s first stop in a four-nation trip that includes Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

He is the first head of government to officially visit the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

The Y4.93 billion loan from JICA matures in 25 years, inclusive of a seven-year grace period  with an  interest rate of 1.4 percent, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

On top of the proposed loan, JICA intends to provide a technical grant of $6 million  (equivalent to P290 million) to support the capacity building of eligible HARVEST beneficiaries and LandBank’s project management.

The Exchange of Notes for HARVEST was earlier signed by Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto  Yasay, Jr. last Oct. 26 during President Duterte's official visit to Tokyo.

HARVEST, which will be implemented by the  LanBank from 2017 to 2022, aims to open a lending window for agribusiness ventures  and  other related investments in ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

According to the DOF, loans funded under the HARVEST project  will be made available to  large agribusiness enterprises, farmers’ organizations or cooperatives, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as  “corporatives” or corporation-managed farms  supported by the LandBank  in ARMM and other conflict-affected areas.

Projects that source or obtain products or goods from the ARMM and other covered areas as part of a value chain are also qualified to borrow from this HARVEST facility.

During President Duterte’s official visit to Japan last year, the two governments  formalized several agreements that would help improve the Philippines’ maritime safety capability, including a deal for a 16.5 billion yen concessional loan covered by Tokyo’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the acquisition of  two large-scale  patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The agreement for the 16.5-billion yen loan signed by Dominguez and JICA president Shinichi Kitaoka is part of Tokyo’s continuing assistance to the PCG’s Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP).

According to the DOF, the JICA loan, equivalent to P6.8 billion, would be extended at an interest rate of between 0.01 and 0.10 percent with a maturity period of 40  years, inclusive of a 10-year grace period.

The acquisition of two 94-meter large-scale patrol ships under Phase Two of the MSCIP is on top of the ongoing ODA from Japan for the first phase of the project, which involves the procurement of 10 40-meter PCG patrol vessels.

The targeted completion of the delivery of all the 10 vessels is on August 2018.

Besides the loan agreement, Japan had also announced the provision of additional vessels for the PCG through a 600 million yen grant (about P280 million) for the procurement of high-speed boats and other equipment to boost the Philippines’ anti-terrorism and security activities.

This includes the acquisition of one 20-meter high-speed vessel and 14 units  of 11-meter high speed boats.

4th ID rescues 2,557 families affected by severe flooding, rains in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): 4th ID rescues 2,557 families affected by severe flooding, rains in Northern Mindanao

Units of the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division have rescued 2,577 families or 9,415 individuals during the severe weather disturbance which brought heavy rains and flooding to Northern Mindanao on Monday.

In a statement Wednesday, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez said all units were deployed to support the disaster and risk reduction and management councils of various local government units.

He said these troops actively undertook humanitarian assistance and disaster (HADR) response operations in affected areas in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan De Oro.

“I commend all the key players for the swift and effective conduct of HADR in the area. The impact of the low pressure area has been mitigated due to the concerted efforts of everyone especially with the leadership of our political leaders," 4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said.

"However, we still remind the public to be extra cautious especially in areas that were badly hit by the flash floods. We also ask for the public’s cooperation especially to all announcements coming from the competent authorities for us to ensure everyone’s safety,” he added.

All major roads in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City that were affected by flash floods are now passable to all types of vehicles as of this posting.

TRADOC chief gets second star

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): TRADOC chief gets second star

Training and Doctine Command (TRADOC) head Brig, Gen. Herminigildo Francisco C. Aquino formally donned his second star during brief ceremonies at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Monday.

With the promotion, Aquino is now one of the major generals of the 85,000-strong Philippine Army, TRADOC spokesperson Capt. Alberto Caber said Wednesday.

He added the TRADOC chief's promotion to two-star rank was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte last Dec. 29.

Upon donning of his second star, Aquino was given arrival honors by TRADOC officers and enlisted personnel in their headquarters at Camp O' Donnell, Capas, Tarlac.

The former is the 44th Commander of TRADOC. Prior to his assumption as TRADOC chief , he was Philippine Military Academy assistant superintendent.

TRADOC is a training institution and one of the Philippine Army’s major units.

Civilian stakeholder support needed in beating terror, other security threats -- Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): Civilian stakeholder support needed in beating terror, other security threats -- Lorenzana

With civilian support needed in turning the war against terrorism, kidnapping, piracy, and illegal drugs for the better, ranking defense and military officials visited Sibutu, Tawitawi -- the country's southwestern most island-- to seek the help of the former and visit troops stationed there Wednesday.

The group was headed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año and heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

During his visit to Sibutu, Lorenzana met with municipal and barangay officials led by the Sibutu Mayor Alshefa Pajiji, the chair and membership of the town's barangay captains association, and military commanders in Tawi-Tawi.

There, he expressed the need for the cooperation of local leaders in the national well-being.
Lorenzana also emphasized that it is not enough that the military provides the security. Good governance and the cooperation of the people are essential ingredients for progress to set in.

During the meeting, Pajiji lamented the continued kidnapping incidents around the island which adversely affected his municipality.

The former said he wanted this stopped and committed to his "esteemed visitors" his support and that of his constituents to help in the campaign to end the criminal activities of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) among other concerns.

Año assured Pajiji of the AFP's focused and unrelenting campaign against the ASG.

He, however noted, that the ASGs can only thrive in places where they can find refuge or support.

Hence the people of Sibutu can help a lot by denying the ASGs sanctuary and logistics, the AFP chief said.

"The people should be actively involved in monitoring the arrival of strangers or the happening of criminal activities in the island. The resident should organize themselves to be active partners of government in providing security, livelihood, and development opportunities," Año added.

As this develops, Calbi Nami, president of Sibutu's barangay captains association, sought the assistance of government for solar lights to illuminate their streets and communities to uplift the lives of some 30,000 residents of the town.

This request was met positively by Año who mentioned that AFP partner-stakeholders have, in the past, successfully embarked on similar solar lights project.

He said his commanders can call on the said groups anew to discuss the possibility of engaging on another project for Sibutu thru the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi under the command of Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon, Jr.

Earlier in the day, Lorenzana's delegation from the defense establishment met with the local and religious leaders of Simunul Island that hosts the oldest mosque that became the precursor of Islam religion in the Philippines.

Military units helping in clean-up drive in flood-battered Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 19): Military units helping in clean-up drive in flood-battered Northern Mindanao

Military units are helping the ongoing cleaning operations in Northern Mindanao which was hardly hit by rains and flooding last Monday.

This was stressed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla who said troops from the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) are now helping local government units in clearing mud and other debris from roads, bridges, and government buildings, brought in by the severe flooding.

This especially applies to Cagayan De Oro City which was the area most hard hit by Monday's heavy rains and subsequent flooding.

"Troops, especially the EMC, are now helping in the ongoing clean-up drive being conducted by the Cagayan De Oro city government,and other areas affected by the floods," Padilla said in Filipino.

EMC units, especially the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division, were instrumental in rescuing 2,577 families or 9,415 individuals during the severe weather disturbance which brought heavy rains and flooding to the city and other parts of Misamis Oriental.

Around 1,000 troops were involved in the said operations.