Saturday, February 25, 2017

Piracy in Asia – situation update

Posted to Hellenic Shipping News (Feb 23): Piracy in Asia – situation update

The piracy situation in the sea area between Sabah, Malaysia and the Southern Philippines continues to be a concern and all vessels are advised to report to the relevant authorities prior entering or passing the Sibutu Passage and Sulu-Celebes Sea.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) recently issued its monthly report for 2017 addressing the piracy situation in Asia. According to ReCAAP, there has been a notable decline in the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents in Asia generally, but the situation in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and the waters of eastern Sabah continue to be of concern.

  • In 2016 there were 16 reported incidents in the Sulu-Celebes Sea area related to abduction of crew, out of which 10 were successful. All successful attempts involved smaller vessels such as tugs, barges and fishing vessels/trawlers. It is worth noting that out of the six unsuccessful attempts, five involved bulk carriers and one a product tanker. The perpetrators are now showing an increased interest towards larger vessels as was reported in Gard Alert: Piracy in Asia – crew abductions of 9 December 2016.
  •  A brief analysis of the recorded incidents from 2016 seems to suggest that attacks in this area are more likely during daylight hours as compared to the hours of darkness. However, this does not suggest that the night time is any safer. Furthermore, the number of perpetrators involved in a single attempt can range between 3 to 17 men. In most cases the perpetrators were armed with firearms and would not hesitate before opening fire. As of January 2017, 16 crew members are still held in captivity.

  • In January 2017, there were two reported incidents involving vessels transiting the Sulu-Celebes Sea area. The first incident, which was an attempt on a container vessel, was foiled by the ship’s crew who outmanoeuvred the perpetrators. During the attempt to board the vessel, the perpetrators opened fire on the vessel. The second incident, which involved a smaller fishing trawler, was successful and resulted in the abduction of three Indonesian crew members and in the fishing trawler being abandoned. The trawler which was adrift, was later tracked by the Philippine Coast Guard

  • On 19 February 2017, another successful attempt on a bulk carrier was report to ReCAAP ISC. In the incident the vessel was boarded by an unidentified number of pirates who abducted 6 crew members and shot dead one. The pirates destroyed all the communication and navigation equipment before escaping. The full report can be found here.

On average, there has been at least one successful attempt in the Sulu-Celebes Sea area every month since January 2016. February, May and August 2016 being the only exceptions where no piracy related incidents were reported in this region. It is worth nothing that November 2016 saw the highest number of attempts on larger vessels.


In addition to the recommendations provided in Gard’s previous alert, all vessels should report to the Philippine Authorities and ESSCOM prior entering or passing the Sibutu Passage and Sulu-Celebes Sea.

 Source: GARD (

Activist nabbed by CIDG, ISAFP in Caloocan, charged with murder

From the often pro-CPP online publication Manila Today (Feb 14): Activist nabbed by CIDG, ISAFP in Caloocan, charged with murder

On February 12, at past 4:00 PM, Ferdinand Castillo, 57 years old, campaign officer of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Metro Manila boarded a tricycle from a consultation with workers in Brgy. Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan City. He rode on the back when he then noticed a grey Toyota Innova with plate numbers AAG 9850 was tailing the tricycle he was in. When he alighted the tricycle, the vehicle stopped in front of Puregold in Sta. Quitera and three to four big men immediately nabbed, handcuffed, and forced him inside their vehicle. Inside the vehicle, he was blindfolded as he heard his bag being searched. It was only the next day that he found out his smartphone, watch and other personal belongings were missing.

“Pamilyar sa akin yung sasakyan kasi nakita ko nang sinusundan ako nito sa ibang pagkakataon (The vehicle was familiar because I’ve seen it tailing me on a different ocassion),” said Castillo.

Human rights group Karapatan reported that Castillo was arrested by combined forces from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Intelligence Services Group-Philippine Army (ISG-PA) and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

Castillo narrated that when he was brought to an interrogation room, men alternately asked him questions, one asked nicely while the other brutely. The men insisted that he was the head of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) Regional Party Committee in Metro Manila and asked the names of the members of the Regional Party Committee and asked also for his contact in the CPP’s higher organization.

Ferdinand Castillo, 57, campaign officer of BAYAN Metro Manila who was arrested on February 12 and surfaced the next day, narrates to a paralegal the circumstances of his arrest. (Manila Today photo)

Ferdinand Castillo, 57, campaign officer of BAYAN Metro Manila who was arrested on February 12 and surfaced the next day, narrates to a paralegal the circumstances of his arrest. (Manila Today

“Giniit ko na ako ay nasa Bayan NCR at yan ang aking mga gawain, sa kampanyang masa at matagal na akong aktibista at may sakit ako (I maintained that I am with BAYAN NCR and my is in the mass campaign, that I have been an activist for a long time and that I have been sickly),” Castillo narrated.
Castillo said that a warrant of arrest for double murder and multiple attempted murder in Calauag, Quezon was showed to him after he was interrogated.

The arrest warrant issued by Judge Maria Chona E. Pulgar-Navarro on September 8, 2016 in Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 in Calauag, Quezon docketed under Criminal Case No. 14-6573-C to 14-6574-C implicates him to an encounter between the 85th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army and New People’s Army in Lopez, Quezon on March 24, 2014.

A Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) text report forwarded to members of the media on February 12 afternoon shared that arresting personnel confiscated a caliber .45 pistol with 5 ammunition and aside from the charges in the warrant, a case of Violation of RA 10591 or The Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act will be filed against Castillo. No bail is recommended for the case.

However, Castillo denied this and believed that evidence was planted against him to further justify his detention.

In a Facebook post, Castillo’s wife, Nona Castillo, a breastfeeding advocate and lactation expert, expressed her concern for her husband who is suffering from several illnesses.

Ferdinand Castillo was brought to PNP General Hospital for a medical check-up due to poor health condition as asserted by his paralegals. He did not have enough sleep since the arrest of the CIDG. (Contributed photo)

Ferdinand Castillo was brought to PNP General Hospital for a medical check-up as asserted by his paralegals. He did not have enough sleep since the arrest of the CIDG. (Contributed photo)

“I am worried about his health condition. He has been on a plant-based diet since 1995. He had gout, rheumatic heart disease, colon bleeding and suffered from a mild stroke twice. He has no maintenance drugs and his food is his medicine. I hope the military will release him soon for humanitarian reasons.” said Nona Castillo in her post.

Due to very poor health, Ferdinand Castillo has a very limited diet. He was still wearing handcuffs while eating after several hours of interrogation. (Contributed photo)

Due to very poor health, Ferdinand Castillo has a very limited diet. He was still wearing handcuffs while eating after several hours of interrogation. (Contributed photo)
Castillo’s health improved with his diet and was also said to suffer from rectal bleeding when eating food incompatible with his current health problems.

BAYAN Metro Manila condemned the incident in an indignation rally on the afternoon of February 13 in front of Camp Crame where Castillo is currently detained.

BAYAN Metro Manila trooped to Camp Crame - Gate 2 to protest the arrest of activist Ferdinand Castillo.

BAYAN Metro Manila and sectoral groups trooped to Camp Crame – Gate 2 to protest the arrest of activist Ferdinand Castillo. (Manila Today)
“Ang tanong po natin ay matapos magdeklara ng all out war ang pamahalaang Duterte sa mga komunistang rebelde, ang pagkakaaresto po ba ni Ferdinand Castillo kahapon ay nangangahulugan na itong all out war ay iaapply sa mga karaniwang aktibista at kritiko ng pamahalaan? (We ask the Duterte government, after declaring an all out war against communist rebels, does the arrest of Ferdinand Castillo yesterday also mean that this all out war also applies to ordinary activists and government critics?)” asked BAYAN Metro Manila Chairperson Raymond Palatino in his speech during the condemnation rally.

Activist clamour for the release of detained Ferdinand Castillo. (Manila Today photo)

Activists clamour for the release of detained Ferdinand Castillo. (Manila Today)

He mused how can Castillo be a member of the New People’s Army if he was with them here in Metro Manila planning how to stop the demolitions of urban poor in Metro Manila, campaign against privatization of public markets in Manila, and against Ferdinand Marcos’ burial.

“Si Ferdinand Castillo ay beteranong aktibista mula pa panahon ni Marcos, hanggang ngayon ay kasama natin sa pakikibaka para sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa, maralita at ng sambayanang Pilipino (Ferdinand Castillo is a veteran activist since the Marcos dictatorship, until now we are together in the struggle for the rights of workers, urban poor and the Filipino people),” said Palatino.

Members of BAYAN Metro Manila trooped to Camp Crame on February 13 afternoon to demnd the release of Ferdinand Castillo who was arrested and detained on trumped up charged. (Tudla Productions)

Members of BAYAN Metro Manila demand the release of Ferdinand Castillo who was arrested and detained on trumped up charges. (Tudla Productions)

Youth groups also expressed their rage over the arrest. Before the indignation rally in Camp Crame, they trooped to Caloocan’s RTC where Castillo was brought on February 13.
“Hindi matatapos ang pagprotesta hangga’t hindi napapalaya si Ferdinand Castillo (We will not stop protesting as long as Ferdinand Castillo is detained),” Kristian Advincula, Anakbayan Metro Manila’s Spokesperson.

Under detention, the ailing Castillo was only able to eat around 8pm on February 13 since 9pm yesterday, the day of his arrest. In a photo of Castillo posted on Facebook, he was made to eat in small plastic bags while the handcuff remained attached and dangling from his one hand.

Palatino called on the Duterte administration to free Castillo and all the political prisoners and respect the rights of the Filipino people.

Bulatlat: An Unofficial Guide to Understanding the Socio-Economic Proposals of Filipino Communists

Posted to the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Feb 25): An Unofficial Guide to Understanding the Socio-Economic Proposals of Filipino Communists (By Mong Palatino)


 The most important peace document submitted by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines contains seven parts and is 82 pages long.

Here’s a summary of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER:

The preamble links the country’s economic backwardness to its colonial history. But it also highlights the potential to solve underdevelopment by tapping the country’s vast resources;

Part 1 underscores the necessity of developing the economy while focusing on the upliftment of citizens and marginalized sectors in society;

Part 2 proposes the creation of a political authority that will implement CASER even if a new government is elected into power;

Part 3 identifies the essentials of building a strong domestic economy: agrarian reform, national industrialization, and environment protection and rehabilitation.

Part 4 enumerates the people’s rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples. It also discussed the program to promote nationalist culture and literature.

Part 5 explains the meaning of economic sovereignty, independent foreign trade policy, and the urgency of reversing the three-decade doctrine of denationalization.

Final provisions tackles the technical aspects on the implementation of CASER.

Curiously, the New People’s Army is only mentioned four times in the document. What will be its new role once the peace process is finalized? The NPA will be mobilized to implement the land distribution program aside from tapping their labor skill in building an industrial future.

The draft is actually not a listing of concessions demanded by the NDF, but a new blueprint for national and/or nationalist economic development. It is a comprehensive primer about the situation of the grassroots, an alternative history of the local economy, and a program of action to overhaul the political economy.

As a social reform measure, it seeks to provide the following pro-poor services for FREE: land distribution, irrigation, support services to farmers, legal assistance and titling services to single mothers and widows in rural areas, comprehensive child care, education in all levels, continuing training for teachers and health personnel, and health care up to tertiary level.

The regressive Value Added Tax will be abolished. In terms of budget priorities, six percent of the national spending will be allocated to education, five percent to health, and 15 percent to social protection.

But how will the state finance these programs? With regard to fiscal matters, how will it pursue the ambitious goal of building a self-reliant economy?

The funds will be derived from the assets confiscated from despotic big landlords, oppressive foreign plantation owners and cartels, savings from the repudiation of anomalous foreign loans, reduced budget for the military, scrapping of all forms of pork barrel, raising of taxes on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and luxury goods, review of tax incentives given to big business, and strict regulation of financial activities of transnational corporations.

The term ‘inclusive growth’ is not cited in the document but the means of achieving it are specified through the explicit advocacy of making the economy responsive to the concrete needs of farmers, workers, indigenous peoples and other sectors in the peripheries.

As an economic treatise, it offers a refreshing perspective on economic growth: that it should be based on real production, that it should develop the rural resources and produce an industrial base, that it should enhance sustainability, that the state and not big business which should manage and direct economic planning, that it should strive for an independent foreign trade policy, and that the rights of the people are prioritized.

Let us examine in detail the essentials of developing the local economy: land reform, national industrialization, and environment protection and rehabilitation.

‘La La Land Reform’
Confiscated lands will be distributed for free to small farmers. Aside from haciendas and foreign plantations, abandoned lands owned by churches and schools will be under the land reform program. Even golf courses are targeted for distribution.

The policy of compensation is encouraged so that landlords will be motivated to invest in industrial production. A better compensation package is reserved for professionals, migrant workers, and retirees.

Landowners will be allowed to retain five hectares to be used exclusively for food production and boost rural productivity. Owner-operated fisheries not exceeding three hectares are not subject for distribution. Rich peasants can have surplus lands but they must raise wages of farm workers. Corporate farms will not be dismantled but they can be turned over to a cooperative or rural association.

Land conversion is prohibited to ensure that the country’s food self-sufficiency is not undermined.

Philippine-style Industrial Revolution
Once the rural potential is unleashed, the raw materials will be utilized to revive old industrial centers and build new manufacturing hubs. Instead of merely exporting minerals and other precious finite resources, which is the practice today, these can be used to stimulate local production.

Admittedly, this basic economic principle is no longer popular. The current dogma consigns the Philippines as an exporter of cheap raw materials and labor. Through trade liberalization imposed by rich countries, the country imports food, consumer goods, high value machines; apparently almost everything including trash from Canada.

The preferred employment option is provided by the outsourcing sector. But can this generate enough jobs, raise production, and build a strong economy in the long run? Most mainstream thinkers and policymakers believe the expansion of the service sector is good for the economy. Indeed, outsourcing is booming but real production is declining, especially in the agricultural sector.

CASER rejects this economic model and proposes instead to adopt what rich countries did in the past: protect local producers, build local industries, create stable jobs, and nationalize strategic and vital assets.

What CASER is envisioning is not really a socialist utopia dominated by collectivization and mechanization schemes but a very basic capitalist principle of large-scale production of consumer necessities, intermediate industries, and capital goods.

Below are further clarifications about the CASER reforms related to the business sector:

Is CASER anti-business? Cartels will be dismantled but legitimate businesses have nothing to fear. The state shall continue to support big and small local producers, MSMEs and startups.

Is CASER anti-foreigner? Foreign investments will not be curtailed. Surprisingly, CASER adopts the constitutional provision of limiting foreign equity to 40 percent. However, the retail trade industry will be 100 percent Filipino-owned to prevent foreigners from controlling the distribution of goods in the country.

Similar to what many countries are doing, vital and strategic industries will be nationalized. Foreign-owned investments in these industries will be expropriated except those with good record of treatment of workers and contribution to the domestic economy. These vital industries include but not limited to power generation, water, sanitation, mass transport, telecoms, and mining.

Foreign experts will be hired for five years and foreign technology will be used to develop the country’s scientific capabilities and innovate local industries.

Will CASER end private sector investment in the economy? State economic planning is the general principle but the private sector will continue to perform a big part in developing the economy. According to CASER, investments will be done mainly by the public sector, joint public-private ventures, cooperatives, and individual entrepreneurs.

But private industrial enterprises should have workers’ councils, banks will be reoriented to serve the needs of farmers and the poor, the ‘no union, no strike’ policy in export processing zones will be revoked, and salaries of workers should be indexed to the rising cost of living.

Comprehensive Reform
The third essential component of building a strong economy involves the protection and rehabilitation of the country’s natural resources. CASER wants to end open pit mining, large-scale reclamation, export monocrop production, and logging for export. No mining activities will be allowed in small islands, coastal ecosystems, primary forests, watersheds, and prime agricultural lands.

Growth is meaningless if the welfare of the people is ignored. CASER devotes several sections enumerating the rights of the poor and powerless in society. It lists several draconian laws and repressive agencies that have to be removed in order to uphold democracy and civil liberties.

And finally, CASER promotes the teaching of nationalism among the youth. This last point is not only symbolic but politically significant because one requirement in developing a strong national economy is the emergence of a nationalist sentiment among the population. It isn’t enough that a nationalist economic program exists, the people have to embrace it. The youth must have confidence in the capacity of Filipinos to build a new economy, produce our own needs, enrich the countryside, and create innovative industries.

Is CASER feasible?

Except for the legalization of same-sex marriage, majority of the proposed reforms in the CASER have been implemented already in many rich countries. Land reform and industrialization are political-economic strategies that transformed even small societies into global powers in the 20th century. CASER will not turn the Philippines into a socialist society. CASER is an opportunity to veer away from the tried and tested failure of blindly following the dictates of rich countries which do not want the Philippines to develop its productive base and become a potential competitor in the global market.

Those familiar with Philippine laws and the programs of various public agencies will find it easy to support the progressive framework of CASER. Despite its revolutionary intent, CASER was packaged as a program that both the government and NDF forces can implement in their respective territories. Deliberate or not, CASER echoed many programs, laws, and principles that are already being discussed in the bureaucracy. CASER adopted the progressive advocacies of civil society groups and people’s organizations.

Only the rabid defenders of landlordism and foreign cartels will outrightly reject the proposed reforms in the CASER. Those who fear that the NDF is sinisterly trying to impose its communist outlook should better read the CASER document and be prepared to be disappointed that there’s no reference to the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

But CASER does have bias for the poor and oppressed. For some, this is sufficient proof that it is a ‘communist manifesto’ disguised as a peace document.

The challenge for the Philippine government is to come up with a better CASER proposal or debunk the social reform measures proposed by the NDF. In the meantime, let’s continue talking about CASER and present it as a viable approach to address the roots of underdevelopment and injustice in the country.

CPP/NPA: AFP Launches All-Out War Against The People of Asipulo, Ifugao

New People's Army (NPA) propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Feb 25): AFP Launches All-Out War Against The People of Asipulo, Ifugao

Communist Party of the Philippines   
Ka Wigan Moncontad
Spokesperson, NDRC-NPA

25 February 2017

In accordance with the policy of all-out war declared by the AFP under the Duterte regime, the 54th IB of the Philippine Army is spreading terror and violence in the interior barangays of Asipulo, Ifugao.

Beginning February 6, several platoons of the 54th IB, PNP-RPSB and CAA have been pouring into Barangay Namal and its surroundings. They patrolled and camped out in populated centers and production areas. Their presence forced teachers in Namal and Nangkatengey Elementary Schools to cancel classes and to send their pupils home. With the connivance of the provincial local government unit, they instigated forced mass evacuations by threatening massive aerial bombings. They even spread false rumors that it was the NPA that ordered the mass evacuations.

The New People’s Army will exhaust all means to defend the people. The encroachment of the AFP troops in areas covered by the NPA’s comprehensive political and military work is disrupting the lives and economic activities of the masses. On February 12, an encounter erupted between a unit of the 54 th IB and the Nona Del Rosario Command-NPA. This resulted in the wounding of several AFP troops, while all the NPA elements remained intact.

Frustrated by their defeat, the soldiers focused their rage on the community folk. They fired grenades at the Pacdal Day Care Center and private houses. They mercilessly burned the civilians’ clothings and cooking pots.

They destroyed a thickly forested area to make way for their helicopter to land.

The current military offensives came soon after Duterte withdrew from peace negotiations with the NDFP.

 The true violent character of the AFP has been exposed after it realized it cannot control the people and their revolutionary government and army through psychological war tactics and deceptive means.
The occupation of Barangay Namal by the 54 th IB serves to signal the beginning of the newly-declared Oplan Kapayapaan—a military operational plan that will surely bring more violence and worsened poverty in the lives of already marginalized indigenous communities.

 The 54 th IB threatens to remain in Barangay Namal until all NPA forces surrender. That will never happen.

 The people and the people’s army grow even more steadfast in defending their democratic interests even in the face of fascism.




CPP/NPA: 2 Sibilyan, Pinatay Sang 61st IBPA

New People's Army propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Feb 23): 2 Sibilyan, Pinatay Sang 61st IBPA (2 Civilians, Killed by the 61st IB)

Communist Party of the Philippines25 February 2017

Julian Paisano, Tagpamaba, Political Department Coronacion Chiva Waling-Waling Command NPA-Panay Region

Wala sang kamatuoran ang ginreport ni Col Leonardo Pena sang 61st IB/PA sa masmidya nga duha ang napatay nila sa isa ka engkwentro sa Macnoy, Brgy. Jebaca, Maayon, Capiz sadtong Pebrero 24, 2017, mga alas 4:00 sang hapon.

Sandig sa ginreport sang Nonito Aguirre Command-NPA Eastern Panay, sa Rehiyunal nga Kumand sa Operasyon (ROC), wala sang natabu nga engkwentro sa tunga sang 61st IB PA kag anuman nga yunit sang NPA sa amo nga lugar. Accounted ang tanan nga yunit kag tinawo sang NPA sa amo nga area.

Sa pagpangusisa, lunsay sibilyan ang mga biktima kag tumandok sang amo nga barangay. Tubtub subong nagapadayon pa ang imbestigasyon sang yunit tuhoy sa amo nga insidente.

Nagapanawagan kami sa tanan nga human rights advocates nga magbulig sa pagpangusisa kag pagpatuhaw sang kamatuoran para mahatagan hustisya ang mga biktima.

CPP/NPA: Andam an NPA nga arestuhon hi Meyor Jojo Grey komo utok han serye han panmatay ngan paglurab han iligal nga druga ha San Jorge

New People's Army propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Feb 23): Andam an NPA nga arestuhon hi Meyor Jojo Grey komo utok han serye han panmatay ngan paglurab han iligal nga druga ha San Jorge (NPA prepares to arrest Mayor Jojo Grey as the brain behind a series of killings and distribution of illegal drugs in San Jorge)

Communist Party of the Philippines  
Arnulfo Ortiz Command
New People’s Army
Western Samar

Pahayag ha Mantalaan
23 February 2017

Andam an NPA nga arestuhon hi Meyor Jojo Grey komo utok han serye han panmatay ngan paglurab han iligal nga druga ha San Jorge Ginkukundenar yana han Arnulfo Ortiz Command-New People’s Army-Western Samar an pinakabag-o nga kaso han panmatay ha San Jorge, Western Samar kun diin ginpusil-patay hi Minda Bisnar hadin Pebrero 19. Sigon ha AOC-NPA-Western Samar, an mga ebidensya nga iginpadangat ha rebolusyunaryo nga husgado han katawhan nagtutudlok kan Jojo Grey, presente nga meyor han bungto komo utok han susrunod nga krimen dinhi.

“Hi Jojo Grey usa nga despotiko nga warlord nga nagmementinar hin private army tikang pa han 2004 nga amo an gin-gagamit hini ha mga kontra-katawhan nga aktibidad. Armado ini nga iya mga goons hin higtaas nga kalibre hin pusil ngan ginkakahadlukan han mga parag-uma ngan molupyo ha bungto. Labot pa hini, hi Grey an pinakadako nga druglord ha San Jorge ngan naakto nga supplier han druga ha mga kasapit nga bungto ngan isla,” sigon pa ha pahayag han AOC-NPA-Western Samar.

“Inabot na ha pungkay an pagin lanong nga kriminal ngan kontra-katawhan ni Grey. Pira na ini kabeses nga ginpahimatngunan han rebolusyunaryo nga kagiusan ngan gin-aghat nga umatubang ha husgado han katawhan agud batunon an mga iginsalawad nga kaso kontra ha iya kundi waray hiya pamati lugod nagdamo pa an ihap han iya mga ginpatay. Baga-baga hin iginpapalaypakay gud ni Grey an iya poder ngan an kapas han iya private army tungod kay waray man ginhihimo an reaksyunaryo nga kapulisan ngan militar nga nagpapakabuta-bungol ha mga aktibidad hini.

Kun diri nagseserbe komo utok han mga kriminal nga aktibidad, hi Grey mismo an naakto nga triggerman ha mga panmatay labina gud kun mga kakontra ha pulitika an target. Yana la nga bulan han Pebrero napakyas an iya pag-atentar nga patayon hi Lester Bisnar, makusog niya nga kritiko ngan kabangga ha naglabay nga eleksyon komo meyor han bungto. Tungod kay waray magmalinampuson an pag-ambus kan Lester, ginbirikan ni Grey an iroy hini nga tikang pa gudla ha singbahan han pagpupsilon.

Naghimo liwat an mga Grey hin drama nga pag-ambus kuntaloy ha iya asawa nga hi Nancy Bernales Grey ngan ginpagawas nga mga NPA kuno an naghimo. Waray ini kamatuoran ngan subay ha pag-imbestiga han NPA, ginlugaringan han mga Grey an “pag-ambus” agud pagawson nga may hulga ha ira seguridad.

Labot han pinakalab-as nga pan-ambus ngan panmatay ha mga Bisnar, hilaba an listahan han mga ginpatay ngan gin-atentaran ipapatay ni Grey nga amo an masunod:

1. Pagpatay han magtalaamay nga Inofre ngan Inorio dela Cruz samtang nasamaran naman hi Mario dela Cruz ha Brgy. Puhagan, San Jorge, Samar hadton tuig 2003.
2. Pagpatay kan Janjan dela Cruz ngan Omar Original nga chief tanod ha Brgy. Puhagan, San Jorge, hadton 2003.
3. Brutal nga pagpatay han burod nga hi Imac dela Cruz nga asawa ni Balodoy dela Cruz hadton 2007 ha Brgy. Puhagan, San Jorge, Samar.
4. Utok han pagpatay han kapitan ha Brgy. Mabuhay, San Jorge, hadton Pebrero 2016.
5. Utok ha pakyas nga pagpatay ha kapitan han Brgy. Rawis, San Jorge hadton Marso 2016.
6. Pag-ambus kan Lester Bisnar, iya kakontra komo meyor ha adlaw mismo han eleksyon hadton 2016. Hiya mismo an nakada ha panhitabo kabakyang an iya anak, bugto ngan an iya bayaw ha pag-ambus.
7. Pagin druglord ngan pagpalurab han iligal nga druga ha San Jorge ngan kasapit nga mga bungto nga nagigin hinungdan han paghitaas han ihap han mga kaso han kriminalidad.
8. Pagmentinar han private army nga gin-gagamit ha panarhug, panringgal ngan panmatay ha hin-o man nga molupyo nga nakontra ha iya pagpadalagan han bungto ngan mga iligal ngan kriminal nga aktibidad.

Tungod hini nga mga kaso ngan magkusog nga ebidensya nga iginplastar han katawhan han San Jorge kontra ha iya, gintatawag naton an atensyon ni Meyor Jojo Grey nga agap nga makigbuligay ngan batunon an iya mga kaso. Ginmanduan na han husgado han katawhan an Arnulfo Ortiz Command-New People’s Army ha Western Samar nga arestuhon hi Grey ngan paatubangon ha husgado han katawhan.”

Nanawagan naman ha publiko an AOC-NPA-Western Samar nga magpursige nga ipakigbisog an ira mga demokratiko nga katungod atubangan han nagtitikagrabe nga panalapas han tawhananon nga katungod.

“An padayon nga paghadi han mga warlord ngan druglord sugad kan Grey nagpapamatuod nga ilrum han rehimen Duterte, nagpapadayon an natikapintas nga pasismo ngan klima han impunidad o pagpatakas ngan kawaray baratunon. Damo na nga mga “pusher” ngan “nagamit hin druga” an ginpatay pinaagi han Oplan Tokhang ngan Gerra Kontra-Druga ni Presiente Rodrigo Duterte, kundi waray bisan usa nga druglord ha Samar an nakasuhan ngan nasirutan. Ha katapus-tapusan, makakab-ot la an tinuod nga hustisya ngan kamurayawan pinaagi han pagpursige han katawhan ha dalan han armado nga rebolusyon.”

MNLF-International Office: Photos: Nur Misuari private meeting with President Duterte

From the Moro National Liberation Front International Office (Feb 24): Photos: Nur Misuari private meeting with President Duterte

Image may contain: 10 people, text

The Duterte Gov't Duterte Today is keen on solving the problems of Mindanao, that is why the One MNLF leadership of Nur "Maas" Misuari is 100% support of his presidency towards a lasting peace in Bangsamoro Homeland. Photo taken yesterday at the private meeting with the President Rody Duterte

Army battalion commander vows to pursue illegal drug lords in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Army battalion commander vows to pursue illegal drug lords in Maguindanao

A newly designated battalion commander in Mindanao vowed to pursue anti-illegal drug campaign in support to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following the discovery and recovery of almost PHP500 million worth of prohibited drugs from suspected big time drug lord in a remote village here Saturday.

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion, led government forces and members of PDEA in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PDEA-ARMM) in launching an offensive against some 15 persons involved in illegal drugs in its hide out in the middle of banana plantation in Barangay Lipao here.

"We will take active roles now, we will cleanse our AOR of drug personalities," Cabunoc told reporters.

The anti-drug operation against Abdulatip Pendaliday, alias "Commander Gras Cutter," also led to the injury of two of his followers and two soldiers, including an Army lieutenant.

Cabunoc withheld the identities of the injured soldiers and the suspects “because follow-up operations are still going on against Pendaliday.”

Pendaliday, a known bigtime drug lord, has surrendered to the police during the implementation of “Oplan TokHang” last year with a promise he will do away with illegal drug trade.

As the soldiers were closing in on two shanties in the middle of vast banana plantation, Pendaliday's followers opened fire on government forces, triggering brief fire fight ensued that lasted about 15 minutes.

Then the drug pushers, including Pendaliday escaped to different directions. However, two of his followers were injured and arrested by government forces.

Cabunoc and PDEA operatives more than PHP500,000 methamphetamine hydrochloride, drugs paraphernalia, cash and an Armalite rifle.

Cabunoc said Pendaliday was trading illegal drugs in the middle of the plantation to avoid detection by pursuing PDEA operatives. His clients come in the guise of clearing the plantation of unwanted grass to secure the stuff.

After the firefight, Cabunoc then directed his men to bring the two wounded drug pushers to the 33rd IB headquarters and were given first aid treatment.

Cabunoc, former AFP public affairs office chief, assumed a week ago as chief of the 33rd IB. He vowed to cleanse his area of jurisdiction of illegal drug personalities in compliance to directive from AFP national headquarters.

NPA burns dump truck

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 25): NPA burns dump truck

A DUMPTRUCK of a mining company was torched by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Pantukan, Compostela Valley on Wednesday.
Lt. Eric Hernandez, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of the army’s 46th Infantry Battalion, said Rogelio Gerona, driver of Hexat Mining Company, was driving the company’s 10-wheeler cargo truck from the mining camp in Sitio Diat Dos, Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan to their mining plant in Barangay Pandapan, Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
Armed men, on board three motorcycles, flagged down the truck at Purok 7 (Lantawan), Sitio Upper Maubog, Barangay Tibagon in Pantukan.
They immediately burned the truck, with plate number WAO-662.

The perpetrators then fled.

After knowing the incident, Lt. Col Michael Licyayo, the 46th IB commanding officer, immediately sent troopers to secure the area as the Pantukan Police Station conducted an investigation.

Licyayo denounced the rebel’s violent activity.

“This burning incident is a pure act of terrorism and shows that these lawless armed elements are terrorists and have no respect for human rights,” he said.

PEACETALK: May peace reign in the Bangsamoro… in Mindanao… in the country

From the MindaViews section of MindaNews (Feb 25): PEACETALK:  May peace reign in the Bangsamoro… in Mindanao… in the country

(Speech delivered by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic LIberatin Front, at the launch of the new BTC MILF Chairman on the occasion of the launch of the new BTC, Waterfront Hotel, Davao City on February 24, 2017)

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the first Mindanaoan President of the Republic,Secretary Jesus “Jess” Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Members of the Cabinet and other officials of Government, Local Governments, Excellences of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the MILF Central Committee and fellow mujahedeen, Brothers from the MNLF, Traditional Leaders, Sectoral Leaders, CSO’s, Media, Distinguished Guests; Brothers, sisters, friends, ladies and gentlemen, Let me extend to you our fraternal greetings of peace,

Assalamo Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, Very Good Afternoon:

Once again, We are gathered on this historic day for the launch, or more accurately, the re-launch of an expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The creation of the BTC as the joint mechanism to write a proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will translate the provisions of the peace agreement into law was agreed by the parties more than two years ago when we signed the historic Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB is a comprehensive attempt to resolve the Bangsamoro Question, or as the President puts it more succinctly, an attempt to redress the historical injustice committed against the Moro People. As such it builds on the gains of previous peace agreements and preserves them while consciously addressing the gaps of the previous agreements. This is the reason why we readily accepted the offer of the President to convergence the peace agreements. It is our unyielding belief that we can work with our brothers and sisters from the MNLF.

As we re-launch the BTC today, we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL. We must look back at those experiences, not with bitterness, but with an examining eye so that we may dissect the problems and address them. We must come out better prepared this time to respond to the challenges of legislation. The Filipino people must equally stand prepared to accept us as partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country.

Perhaps, this second chance is the best second chance anyone could possibly have. We stand today at a historic moment in our journey as a country where for the first time in over a hundred year of existence of this republic, we have today the first President from Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte. We also have the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bebot Alvarez who is also from Mindanao. The Senate President, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel II is also from Mindanao.

But far more substantial than this, we feel more confident in achieving a lasting solution today to the Moro Question than at any other time in our struggle, because we have a President who understands the history and the root cause of the Moro Question. We note with great appreciation his speeches and commitment during the campaign of addressing the historical injustices committed against the Moro People. We watch with awe his bold pronouncements at rallies where majority are Filipinos with deep-seated prejudices against the Moros, that he will respect and implement the peace agreements. These pronouncements, I am sure, have endeared him to our people and so it is no surprise that the Moro people came in droves to vote for him.

And so, it is my firm belief that the launch today of the BTC is an important initial step in the many steps that we will have to take to address the historical injustice committed against our people. Along the way, I expect the BTC to encounter challenges. We must approach this challenges conscious not only of the sacredness of the peace agreement we forged but also of the opportunity as well to demonstrate that the three branches of our government can all work together to contribute in the epoch-making task of bring peace finally to our country. This unique opportunity is provided by the Constitution for the Executive to negotiate peace; for the Legislative to enact peace legislation; and for the Supreme Court to rule on constitutional issues for peace.

I am sure our challenges do not begin, nor end with the above, but for as long as we remain committed to implementing the peace agreement we signed, I am confident that we can surmount these challenges.

In closing, let me reiterate our message then of unity:

To our fellow brothers from the MNLF, let us close ranks and find strength in the convergence of our peace agreements.

To our fellow Mindanaons, let us assert self-rule while committing to shared rule.

To the three branches of government, let us demonstrate not just independence but interdependence as well so that we may all contribute to peace in our land.

To the Supreme Court, let us interpret the law, so that the ends of justice and peace is achieved.

To the Filipino people, let us embrace not only democracy but justice and equity as well.

May peace reign in the Bangsamoro. May peace reign in Mindanao. May peace reign in the country. May peace be unto you all. Thank you.


Duterte to BTC: “navigate the hindrances and obstructions; find a way to peace”

MindaNews (Feb 25): Duterte to BTC: “navigate the hindrances and obstructions; find a way to peace”

“Navigate the hindrances and obstructions. Hanapin ninyo ang daan hanggang patungo sa kapayapaan” (Find a way to peace), President Rodrigo Duterte urged members of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the launch late Friday afternoon at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel.

It will be difficult, he warned the 21-member Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  “Mahirap ‘yan. It’s going to be a long journey but if there is a product that is acceptable to all, makikita ninyo ako” (I will be around), the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation said.

“Ang gusto ko talaga mangyari ay kapayapaan (What I really want is peace) but it must be as one country, one nation and one flag,” said Duterte, who has repeatedly vowed to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sits with (L to R), Maguindanao Rep. and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Gadzali Jaafar during the launching of the expanded BTC at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City on February 24, 2017. SIMEON CELI JR./Presidential Photo

He described himself as “a man in a hurry,” citing the threat of “extreme terrorism” of the Islamic State type. “We must avoid extremism or even entertaining or accommodating them because it will destroy all of us,” said the first President with a Moro bloodline.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza explained that BTC will “craft a new draft of what would be another enabling law that will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) but more than that it will attempt also to converge all the different laws that we have in order that at the end of the day, we have only one Bangsamoro in a very enlightened Filipino nation.”

Dureza said this is the first time that the President is a Mindanawon, the Senate President and House Speaker and the Chief Justice “who hails from Sulu and whose husband is from Davao City” are Mindanawons. Sereno was born in Manila but her father is from Siasi, Sulu. Dureza is also a Mindanawon.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), referred to the event as “re-launch” as this is the second BTC in four years that will draft a new BBL.

The BBL is the legal expression of the political agreement (CAB), signed by the government (GPH) and the MILF on March 27, 2014 and its passage will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that will replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

President Rodrigo Duterte poses with the 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the launch Friday, February 24, 2017 of the expanded body that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Four Februarys ago — on February 25, 2013 — then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III named the 15 members of the MILF-led BTC that would draft the BBL. The BTC started work in April 2013, submitted its draft to the Office of the President (OP) in April 2014, received a copy of the OP-reviewed and revised draft in late June, formally rejected the draft in early July and after a series of meetings of the peace panels and the OP, came up with an “agreed version” that was submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014. The House and Senate committees that handled the draft came up with their own versions of the law that were criticized by the BTC as “watered down” versions that would make the future Bangsamoro even less autonomous than the ARMM. Congress adjourned in February 2016 without passing the law.

Rekindling hope
“As we re-launch the BTC today, we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL,” Murad said, as he urged stakeholders to “look back at those experiences, not with bitterness, but with an examining eye so that we may dissect the problems and address them.”

“As we re-launch the Bangsamoro Transition Commission today, we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL,” Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim said at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City on February 24, 2017. RENE LUMAWAG/Presidential Photo

“We must come out better prepared this time to respond to the challenges of legislation. The Filipino people must equally stand prepared to accept us as partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country,” she said.

“Perhaps, this second chance is the best second chance anyone could possibly have,” Murad said, echoing what Dureza said about the Mindanawon-led Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court.

He said they are “more confident” now in achieving a lasting solution to the Bangsamoro Question than at any other time in their struggle “because we have a President who understands the history and the root cause of the Moro Question.”

“Taga rito ako and alam ko yung agony na dinaanan natin (I am from here and I understand the agony that we went through), the suffering that we had to undergo, the Christians, the Filipinos and the Lumads. We must have peace at all costs,” Duterte said.

Addressing the 21 members of the BTC at the launch at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel here that gathered around a thousand guests from the MILF, government, and other sectors, Duterte said: “You know the history, you know the equation here, you know the composition of the population, you know the religions here, you know the idiosyncrasies of the tribes.”

Federalism and BBL
At a certain point, however, Duterte’s statements confused the crowd as he was apparently referring to the Constitution of a Federal Philippines instead of the BBL.

In the latter part of his speech, he said violent extremism will destroy the country “pero kung marunong kayo and  you must hurry, because if there is I said, on the third year meron kayong produkto at naipasa ng Congress, we will implement it.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte urges the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to exhaust all efforts in attaining just and lasting peace in Mindanao in his speech during the launch of the BTC at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City on February 24, 2017. SIMEON CELI JR./Presidential Photo

“And there will some changes there, and an election for and I advise you, maski na papaano do not forget at this time because of the so many islands and so many political  parties and persons, sabihin ko na lang sa inyo, most of the people from Luzon guys, they don’t understand and  they do not want it.”

“So you must in a newly formed set up, just choose in the mean time, you can do away with the Presidency, maybe a pure parliament but at this time, I would suggest go for the parliament of just like France. Have a good President, hindi na ako ‘yan. Because if you finish it in three to four years, there will be an election and it will provide an Office of the President, I will be automatically disqualified,” Duterte said.

He has repeatedly said federalism is the centerpiece of his administration. But he also promised during his visit to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on February 27 last year that he would push for the shift to a federal system but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”

Davao CIty Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the lone Mindanawon Presidentilal candidate, chants “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great) as he arrives at the venue of the Cotabato City rally on February 27, 2016. Duterte was warmly welcomed by the Moro people for whom he vowed his administration would “correct the historical injustice” committed against them. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

At the Cotabato City plaza hours later, he vowed “we will try to go federalism. Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).

July deadline
The Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap of the Duterte administration actually targets the submission of the draft BBL by July 2017, before Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 27.

The next ARMM elections is on May 13, 2019. If the BBL is not passed by then, the ARMM elections in 2019 will proceed as scheduled.

BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar on February 18 told MindaNews in Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao that he is confident they can submit the draft BBL before the President’s SONA on July 27.

At least nine commercial buses for the MILF delegation that assembled at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, traveled early morning for Davao City.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III was a no-show and did not send a representative. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. was a no-show, too, but Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema was present. Sema said she counted around 18 representatives who attended, most of them from Mindanao.

200 ka mga soldado nagdugang sa pwersa sang 3ID

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 25): 200 ka mga soldado nagdugang sa pwersa sang 3ID (200 soldiers increase the strength of the 3ID)

Kapin sa 200 ka mga soldado ang nagdugang sa pwersa sang 3rd Infantry Division snag Philippine Army.
Ini matapos nga nalampuwasan sang amo nga mga candidate soldiers ang ila anom ka bulan nga maid-id nga paghanas sa Division Training School sa 3ID headquarters.

Ginpahayag Lt. Col. Ericson Rosana, tagpamaba sang 3ID –Philippine Army nga mismo si 3ID Commander Major General Jon Aying ang nagpanguna sa pag abi-abi sa graduation ceremony sang mga bag-o nga sulod nga soldado nga ginpatigayon sa Camp Macario Peralta sa banwa sang Jamindan.

Kabahin man sa programa ang pagtugyan man sang armas sa amo nga mga soldado.

Suno pa kay Rosana nga ginpalab-ot ni General Aying sa mga ini kon ano ang matuod nga kahulugan sang serbisyo sa pagkasoldado.

Ginpanugyanan man sang Heneral ang mga ini sa pag salig sa Ginoo kag pagtipig sang ila moralidad kag pagpasangkad sang ila mayo nga relasyon sa ila mga kaupod sa serbisyo kag sa komunidad para mangin mahapos ang paghatag nila sang ila serbisyo sa mga pumoluyo.

Ginpahanumdom man ni General Aying ang mga ini sa pag-gamit sang ila aramas agud dag-on ang away sa pagduso kag pagtib-ong sang kalinong, katawhay kag kauswagan sa komunidad.

Militants press for resumption of scuttled peace talks on 31st EDSA People Power anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Militants press for resumption of scuttled peace talks on 31st EDSA People Power anniversary

Hundreds of militant activists, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Bicol, staged separate rallies in the cities of Legazpi, Naga and Sorsogon and Daet town on Saturday to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolt, according to Bayan-Bicol Spokesperson Vince Kasilihan.

In this city, a march was held from Pe┼łaranda Park, Albay District to the Pinaglabanan Monument in this city’s Central Business District.

The protesters urged the resumption of the peace talks between the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and the government and for a stop to extra-judicial killing and human rights abuses.

They asked the government to instead wage a war against poverty and hunger and introduce social and economic reforms that could improve the living conditions of the marginalized sectors of society.

The militant groups were also composed of representatives from partylist Bayan Muna, Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas, Karapatan-Bicol, CONDOR (Concerned Drivers and Operators in Bicol Region), Gabriela, Kabataan partylist group and Selda-Bicol.

They urged the Duterte administration to address the pressing social and economic issues instead of declaring war against illegal drugs where thousands of alleged drug users and traders have been reported killed.

The marchers also expressed outrage at the surfacing of vigilantism in the government’s brutal fight against illegal drug suspects.

Kasilihan said that even if there were positive results attained in the initial round of the peace talks the prospects for a lasting peace were dimmed with the cancellation of the talks early in February.

He said the failed peace talks would lead to a “surge of human rights abuses in the form of illegal arrests, extra-judicial killings and militarization in the countryside.”

CONDOR staged a protest against the phasing-out of public utility passenger jeepneys, aged 15 years old and above, while announcing that the group will join a nationwide jeepney strike on Monday.

They said that as the phase out plan would greatly affect their livelihood they want a revocation of the executive order on the old jeepneys’ phaseout.

Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of Police Regional Office in Bicol, said the commemoration of the EDSA People Power in Bicol was “generally peaceful” with no untoward incidents reported in the six provincial police offices and Naga City Police Office.

AFP to add another battalion to guard Davao’s perimeters

From the oftentimes pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Oct 24): AFP to add another battalion to guard Davao’s perimeters 

Col. Bernard Neri, commander of Task Force Davao during the City Peace and Order Council meeting held in Davao City last Thursday, Feb. 23 says terrorism threat in the city remains high at level 3. (Paulo C. Rizal/
The Armed Forces would detail another battalion here to guard its perimeters, the Davao City Public Safety and Security Command Center here has announced.
Retired Army general and current DCPSSCC chief, Benito de Leon admitted that the recent skirmishes between soldiers and the communist rebels at the city’s outskirts have raised important concern to the city’s security forces.

“We have certain skirmishes that have happened as a result of the suspension of the peace talks and this is challenging the government. It is just sad to note that this is happening in the city,” De Leon referring to the armed encounter with the New People’s Army in two districts here, Calinan and Paquibato, on February 16.
The encounter claimed the lives of two government troops and three guerrilla fighters. Meanwhile, 15 government soldiers were also injured in a landmine allegedly set-off by the NPAs in Barangay Lamanan in Calinan district.

“The city has a very big area far from the metropolitan area but it is still the city. So we have skirmishes and that is part of our security concerns perpetrated by, shall we say members of the NPA,” De Leon said.

De Leon clarified that they ​are dealing also ​with other armed groups, but “not as urgent as the NPA”.

Meanwhile, Col. Bernard Neri said there was no problem as far as the security of the downtown area is concerned, but clarified that the terrorism threat level remains “high” at level 3.

Neri said the security in the city is “very manageable” given the number of security personnel deployed.

“It will not only be Task Force Davao that will be involved in the security of the celebration of the 80th Araw ng Dabaw. It will be an Armed Forces [effort] headed by the Joint Task Force Haribon,” Neri said.

Apart from the army component, some 3,000 police personnel will also be deployed in key points of the city to secure the festivities.

Mindanao groups call for peace talk resumption, release of POWS

From InterAksyon (Feb 25): Mindanao groups call for peace talk resumption, release of POWS

Family members of slain activists in Mindanao appealed to President Duterte on Saturday to resume peace talks with the communists and stop the Philippine Army's all-out anti-insurgency campaign that has targeted activists like their slain family members.

The appeal was made by Irene Anglao, daughter of slain lumad leader Renato Anglao of Quezon, Bukidnon, during a press conference Friday by church leaders in Mindanao calling for the resumption of peace talks.

Irene and other families were invited to give their testimonies on the effects of the all-out war to their families and communities.

Photograph from Kilab Multimedia
Irene demanded justice for her father's death: "His death is linked to the struggle for our land."

Irene elaborated on their local community's struggle with an estate owner who wanted to lease out their land for agribusiness.

"Many of our lumad leaders here in Bukidnon are killed. We need peace talks because this is for everyone, we can see in our experiences how many lives are lost," she said.

Although Anglao was killed prior to the army's declaration of the all-out war, five lumads and farmer-leaders in Mindanao were killed in February in the course of the all-out war.

Another testimony came from Carmelita Ramos, mother of slain Bayan Muna member Glen Ramos in Barangay Maa, Davao City last February 6. State forces claimed her son Ramos was a supply officer for the New People's Army, which she denied.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, convener of Sowing the Seeds of Peace, supported the families' call for justice, and said these testimonies are "compelling reasons for the (peace) talks to continue."

Calang, who was an observer in the peace talks in Rome last January, said the talks between the government and the National Democratic Front had been achieving substantive points about socioeconomic reforms when President Duterte called off the talks over cease fire issues.

Calang said his group, and others, would hold peace rallies all over Mindanao "calling for the continuation of the GRP-NDFP peace talks and denouncing the policy of all-out war."

In another development, Sowing the Seeds of Peace and the group Exodus for Justice and Peace, will act as facilitators for the release six soldiers and police officers held as prisoners of war by the New People's Army in various areas in Mindanao.

The peace groups made this announcement in UCCP Haran Davao City, at a press conference attended by families of the POWs.

In their statement, the groups also said, "we shall continue to do our part to call and work for the release of political prisoners as mandated by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)."

National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokesperson Ka Joaquin had said they will release the POWs, "as a gesture of support towards the resumption of formal talks between GRP and the NDFP."

The captured soldiers are PO2 Jerome Anthony Natividad, Private Edwin Salan, Sgt. Solaiman Calucop, Pfc. Samuel Garay, Cafgu Active Auxiliary Rene Doller and Carl Marc Nucos

Some of the wives of the captured POWs welcomed the announcement, saying they look forward to be reunited with their husbands.

Water Wars: Military Muscle Moves In

From Lawfare (Feb 24): Water Wars: Military Muscle Moves In

Chinese, US Militaries Take Positions as ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meet

Caption: ASEAN Foreign Ministers (Photo: Myanmar Ministry of Information)
This week, as ASEAN foreign ministers met in the Philippines, satellite photographs revealed that newly installed surface-to-air missile sites on artificial islands have approached completion, and an American carrier strike group arrived in the South China Sea.

After a trio of Chinese warships concluded a week-long series of drills in the South China Sea, the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group arrived amid expectations that it plans to conduct the first U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the region since late 2016, and the first since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang bristled at the FONOP prospect, stating, “we oppose relevant countries threatening and undermining the sovereignty and security of coastal states under the pretext of such freedom.” The next day, however, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang expressed a more moderate position: "China hopes the U.S. earnestly respects the sovereignty and security concerns of countries in the region, and earnestly respects the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

Despite China’s nod to “peace and stability,” and its bold claims of progress in its relationship with ASEAN, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative published photographs revealing that surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef are nearing completion. Experts say the buildings identified in the photographs are designed to house SAM systems like those already present in the Paracels, a group of islands claimed by China and Vietnam.

The installation of the SAM sites was a central topic of conversation at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat this week in the Philippines. Speaking as the co-Chair of the forum, Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that the group "noticed, very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established” and has “been unanimous in their expression of concern as to what they see as a militarisation of the region.” Yasay also expressed hope that “a more concrete and clearer picture" of the United States' approach to the region under President Donald Trump would develop in the coming months. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang dismissed Yasay's remarks, saying, "such comments were only his opinion and does not represent the view of ASEAN as a whole."

This development, along with the conclusion of Chinese naval drills in the South China Sea and the arrival of the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group to the region, has brought a renewed focus to the project of developing a legally binding code of conduct for managing disputes in the South China Sea.
Commenting on ASEAN’s role in reducing regional tensions, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that "[w]e can't control the agenda of the superpowers. But we do need to make sure, to the best extent possible, that we maintain an oasis of peace and stability in this part of the world." The parties reaffirmed their commitment to completing a multilateral agreement, of which demilitarization would be a key component, by June. The bilateral dispute between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal persists, but was largely left in the background at the retreat. “The arbitral tribunal ruling in July 12, 2016 is something that we will have to pursue with China through bilateral engagements and we have not abandoned that,” Yasay said. But, “[s]ince the decision of our dispute in the South China Sea is not the sum total of our relationship with China, we set it aside.” Representatives of China and ASEAN will gather in Bali, Indonesia, next week to discuss the implementation of the 2012 Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea.

In Other News…

United States

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this month appeared to moderate hawkish comments he made on the South China Sea at his confirmation hearing, where he suggested that the U.S. should deny China access to the islands it claims in the South China Sea. But this week, similar statements made by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new pick for National Security Advisor, came to light. In a speech in 2016, he called China’s build-up in the South China Sea “militarily analogous to what Russia’s done in Ukraine.”


Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) personnel participated in this year’s multinational Cobra Gold exercises held in Thailand, the first time Japan's forces have drilled outside of Japan. Around 130 JSDF troops simulated an operation to escort and airlift Japanese and US citizens back to Japan in response to political instability arising after a natural disaster. The JSDF's presence in Thailand reflects significant changes to Japan's national security laws which went into effect last March. They permit Japanese forces to, under limited circumstances, carry arms overseas and contribute to collective self-defense activities in support of allies.

Japan also reportedly intends to accelerate its naval ship development starting in the 2018 fiscal year, building two 3,000-ton class frigates a year instead of one 5,000-ton frigate as previously planned. A total of eight new vessels are expected, and are likely to be used to patrol contested waters in the East China Sea.


On Thursday, China's commerce minister decided at the last minute to postpone an official trip to the Philippines to sign about 40 joint projects worth billions of dollars. China's commerce ministry had no immediate comment on whether the decision was connected to Philippine Foreign Minister Yasay’s comments regarding Chinese military activity in the South China Sea.

Gunmen affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf militant group attacked a Vietnamese merchant vessel in Philippine waters in the Sulu Sea on Sunday, killing one sailor and abducting seven members of its multinational crew. The seventeen remaining crew members were later rescued by Philippine coast guard and military personnel. Abu Sayyaf continues to pose a significant threat to commercial traffic in waters between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, prompting the Philippine government earlier this month to request additional maritime policing and domain awareness support from the United States and China. Counter-piracy was also a central topic of recent discussions between the Philippines and Japan. Tokyo has agreed to start leasing TC-90 maritime surveillance aircraft to the Philippines in late March.


The Indonesian Ministry of Defense has entered into a contract with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developer UMS Skeldar to purchase and train military personnel to operate the V-200 multi-role, high-endurance UAV. The platform can perform both Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and search-and-rescue functions throughout the Indonesian archipelago. This contract is part of a much larger national program to indigenously develop as well as import a variety of UAV platforms for military use.


Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Houston said on Tuesday that Australia should refrain from engaging in FONOPs in the South China Sea, referencing the US announcement that the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group would begin regular patrols in the region. He also warned against a blockade of China’s artificial islands, instead recommending a diplomatic approach to halt further militarization.

Analysis, Commentary, and Additional Information

Lawfare’s own Chris Mirasola does a deep dive on a Reuters report regarding proposed changes to China’s Maritime Safety Law and compliance with UNCLOS—is China consolidating a domestic  legal basis for its build-up in the South China Sea?

While Alexander L. Vuving recently plotted a strategy for “How America Can Take Control in the South China Sea” in Foreign Policy based in part on James Kraska’s Lawfare piece, Mark J. Valencia of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China calls Vuving’s proposal “A Recipe for Disaster in the South China Sea.” But Vuving and Kraska aren’t alone in pushing a tougher approach to China: Brahma Chellaney encourages Trump to back up his tough rhetoric on China.

In a remarkable speech to Australia’s National Press Club, Prof. Rory Medcalf of Australian National University’s National Security College struck a cautious tone regarding “The Future of the US Alliance,” highlighting division among Australia’s political leaders over the direction of the alliance, wondering what going it alone in the Pacific region might look like, and ultimately concluding that “Going solo is not an option.”

[Water Wars is our weekly roundup of the latest news, analysis, and opinions related to ongoing tensions in the South and East China Seas. Please email Chris Mirasola with breaking news, relevant documents, or corrections]