Tuesday, March 14, 2017

DWDD: Abu’s Sub-leader wanted for kidnapping killed in Tawi-Tawi

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 14): Abu’s Sub-leader wanted for kidnapping killed in Tawi-Tawi


Headquarters, Western Mindanao, Command, Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City-  A notorious sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf and Kidnap for Ransom Group was killed after resisting arrest of the joint elements of the military and police in Tawi-Tawi today.

Buchoy Hassan, a.k.a Black or Bocoi, was neutralized following a successful law enforcement operation launched by the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi and the police at his residence in Barangay Panglima Alari, Sitangkai.

Further recovered by troops were one (1) M16 rifle, five (5) speedboats and several outboard motors found in the residence of the Abu Sayyaf sub-leader.

Hassan, 48, is one of the wanted personalities in Malaysia for his involvement in the abduction of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei, a.k.a Evelyn Chan, at the Pom Pom Island Resort in Sabah in November 2013. Hassan’s possible involvement in the kidnapping activities cannot be discounted and are being looked into.

He was reportedly dwelling in Barangay Panglima Alari, Sitangkai, where he used his share from ransom payment for his illegal drugs “shabu” operations in the municipalities of Sibutu, Sipangkot and Bongao, all in Tawi-Tawi.

Hassan recruited cohorts and acquired several speedboats to sustain his illegal activities and became the key facilitator in the illegal drugs trade in Tawi-Tawi.

“We are continuously conducting law enforcement support operations to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in expediting the arrest of notorious members of the Kidnap for Ransom Group and in pre-empting kidnapping attempts in the province,” said Major General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., Commander, Western Mindanao Command.

“We would also like to urge local leaders and communities to continue reporting whereabouts of these lawless elements especially Abu Sayyaf members to competent authorities. They should not allow these bandits to stay or roam around their respective areas so that their community can live in peace.


DWDD: EMC Heightens Transformation, Bags Gold Anahaw Leaf

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 15): EMC Heightens Transformation, Bags Gold Anahaw Leaf

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City – Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) achieves another milestone as it was recently conferred Proficient, the third level in AFPTR Institutionalization Pathway, during the AFPTR Governance Forum-Lecture Series 01-17 and AFPTRIP Awarding on March 13, 2017.
Present during the awarding ceremony was EMC Commander LTGEN REY LEONARDO B GUERRERO AFP who personally witnessed the pinning and received the Gold Governance Trailblazer Certification award of the Command for garnering 93.35% average rating.
Prior to the awarding, EMC has undergone validation and inspection.
It could be recalled that EMC was visited by the OSSSM Audit last February 23, 2017, during their on-site audit for Proficiency Stage at the Command. The Audit team checked the functionality of the governance and strategy mechanism of EMC.
Further, it had undergone scrutiny during the revalidation on March 2, 2017, at Headquarters Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Congratulations Team EastMinCom.
Source: Public Information Office, Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP

MILF: IMT-Mindanao Batch 11 makes Exit Call to MILF Leadership

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Mar 14): IMT-Mindanao Batch 11 makes Exit Call to MILF Leadership

Major General Datuk Wira Zamrose Mohd Zain, Head of International Monitoring Team- Mindanao Mission 11 (IMT-Mission 11) and his Contingent made an exit call to the MILF leadership, Sunday, March 12, 2017 at the latter’s Administrative Camp in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

His contingent is compose of: Brig Gen Dato Hj Sanusi bin Hj Samion RMAF, Deputy Head of Mission, Capt. Jamaludin bin Hj Sairi, RMN, Chief of Staff, Col Mohd Zaki bin Abu, Col. Mohd bin Hussein RMAF, Cdr Abdul Hadi Tan bin Abdullah RMN, Lt Col Zainal Abidin Mohd bin Mohd Taib RMAF, Supt Mohammad Shaharul bin Mohd Osman, Maj Ahmad Ermi Fikri bin Harris Fadillah , Lt Cdr Mohd Syamer bin Osdon RMN, DSP Kamarudin bin Sulaiman, Capt (Dr.) Mohd Afiq bin Abdullah, WO2 Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah, Mr. Badli Hisham bin Adam, Mr. Mohd Jafri bin Mohd Sharif and Mr. Mohammad Sobri bin Yahya.

While the tour of duty of the IMT-11 is ending, IMT Batch 12 has already arrived in the person of three advance contingent members, namely Maj Gen Datuk Masrani bin Paiman, Head of Mission IMT 12, Col Ayub Khan bin Mohammad Khan, Chief of Staff IMT 12, Lt Cmdr Noorulzaki bin Abdul Rahman, SO2 Admin & Logistic IMT12. Other contingent members will be arriving soon.

The short program began with the reading of the Holy Qur’an by Qari Ebrahim Gaaban, Master of Ceremonies, as usual, by Muhammad Ameen.

Chief of Staff Sammy Al Mansoor in his welcome remarks recalled that during the early part of the peace negotiations, the times when there was no IMT yet, “ceasefire was nothing”.

“Without the IMT, the environment was not conducive in talking about peace. When the International Monitoring Team was organized and in place, the talks went on, which led the peace process to where it is now, peace agreements were signed”, Chief of Staff Al Mansoor added.

Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, in behalf of the Bangsamoro and MILF Central Committee expressed his “heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the very challenging tasks performed by the IMT 11 Contingent, headed by Maj Gen Datuk Wira Zamrose bin Mohd Zain for their year long stint in the area of Bangsamoro homeland. What the batches of IMT have done in more than ten years will never be forgotten by Bangsamoro as part of the historic Bangsamoro peace process.”

“It was an honor and a great privilege to be here. I have met the Mujahideen who have spent most part of their lives in the struggle”, Maj. Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose bin Mohd Zain said. “It was very challenging, where the feeling of action is. Wherever we are, we will always be ready to support and pray for the success of your aspirations for a peaceful Bangsamoro”, the outgoing Head of Mission 11 added.


CPP/CPP-SM: Let the CNL be a beacon of socialist hope for all Filipinos!

CPP-Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines  (CPP) Website (Mar 14): Let the CNL be a beacon of socialist hope for all Filipinos!

Solidarity message to the 1st Regional Congress of the Christians for National Liberation,
Southern Mindanao Region

Let the CNL be a beacon of socialist hope for all Filipinos!

Regional Committee
CPP-Southern Mindanao
14 March 2017

The Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines extends its congratulations to all clergy and lay workers who participated in the 1st Regional Congress of the Christians for National Liberation in Southern Mindanao. We are inspired by the fervent revolutionary principle of the religious sector in wholly embracing the line of the national democratic revolution in order to prevail over the social evils of US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

On this momentous event, we remember and pay highest honours to the revolutionary martyrs from all religious denominations who have valiantly given their lives and served the revolution for the emancipation of the poor. We salute the selfless and emulative examples of Fr. Bert Salas, Wilfredo Galeto, Val Mante, Jr., Sr, Lita David, m.a., Bishop Ben Barloso, Pastor Tim Salem, Pastor Joy Manuales, Fr. Romeo Mapansa, Sr. Antonietta Go,RGS and Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, PIME.

This occasion could not come in a more opportune time. Firstly, at present, US imperialism, with Donald Trump at its helm, is fanning the flame of religious bigotry, national chauvinism, racism and a culture of hate to further segregate the world and prioritize imperialist economic and political interests. Despite his America-first hyperbole, Trump knows fully well that perpetuating US imperialism’s neoliberal policies around the world, with the attendant wars of aggression and Big Brother foreign policy, is the only means to survive in the quagmire of economic decline. We view this as fresh substantiation of US imperialism’s deterioration and we must work to further isolate and vehemently oppose its oppressive and exploitative machinations against all peoples of the world.

Secondly, the reactionary state presently being urgently consolidated by Rodrigo Duterte is nowhere near making good in his promise of “change is coming” rhetoric. Duterte’s administration is still being run by the gluttonous interests of big feudal lords, big comprador bourgeoisie in cahoots with foreign monopoly capitalism. The reactionary political arena is still reeking at the seam with inter-elite factions that claim to exact justice but are in fact merely an exercise in consolidation of the dominant ruling class in power.

There has been no change yet for the majority of the Filipinos. Workers are still being paid slave wages, pushed to the corner by eternal contractualization and made to work under subhuman conditions as imperialist lackeys in his administration lobby for the perpetuation of neoliberal economic policies. Peasants and farm workers are still being robbed of rightful ownership of their lands by the families of Lorenzo, Floirendo, Cojuanco, Aquino and other feudal lords. Lumads and other indigenous people are still being displaced from their ancestral lands by foreign large mining companies and export monocrop plantations.

Worst, the Duterte administration is actively promoting militarist approach to the roots of the civil war by mobilizing all of its armed forces to trample upon the rights of the poor and powerless. The Filipino people are currently being preyed on by the twin evils of Duterte’s anti-drug war and all-out war. In Southern Mindanao alone, thousands of families are being displaced while their communities and livelihoods are left to ruins by vicious artillery and aerial bombardments. Millions in the countryside are being victimized by relentless military operations that invariably leave cases of people’s rights violations. Civilians and legal activists are fast becoming collateral damage in the fascist campaign of the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries to hit hard the revolutionary movement, especially the New People’s Army. Thousands all over the country have been extra-judicially killed under the auspice of the Oplan Tokhang.

While the Party, through the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, has been consistent in the spirit of negotiating in good faith, the Duterte administration has unswervingly flip-flopped in its obligations and pronouncements in the peace process. It engaged in various psywar and guillotine tactics; overhyping the development of the talks and the need for bilateral ceasefire and preconditioning the virtual surrender of revolutionary political power.

Finally, this congress of revolutionaries from the church people comes in the wake of the Party’s marching call to forge ahead from the middle to the advance sub-stage of strategic defensive and advance the people’s war to greater heights. It is in this context that the CNL must work ardently because we believe that the quest for genuine peace, one that is just and lasting, can only be achieved by waging national democratic revolution.

As revolutionaries, the religious must always bear in their collective consciousness the legacy of the CNL, that which is embodied in its rich history of actively being in the national democratic struggle to liberate the Filipino people from US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The CNL is one the frontliners that challenged and brought down the fascist Marcos dictatorship. Priests, pastors, nuns and laypersons faced the fascist Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army during the hamletting of the entire town of Laak in Compostela Valley in 1983. They rallied in the streets with the Movement for National Liberties to reject the US bases in 1991. Barely a decade later, they marched against the return of US military control in the country with the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Balikatan exercises. In the decade that followed, the CNL and its religious revolutionaries became staunch defenders of people’s rights—from the dispossessed Lumads of Talaingod, the robbed tillers of Arakan and Madaum and other agri-businesses, the peasants burdened by drought and fired upon by the reactionary state in North Cotabato, the poor who suffered during Typhoon Pablo, and many others. The participants of this year’s congress and those they will organize must claim in practice this historical role of the CNL.

In order to accomplish this, religious revolutionaries must always stand resolutely by and for the oppressed. They must be grounded and must do away with the Pharisaic notion of living separate from their flock. Just like in the time of Jesus and his apostles who were revolutionaries in the midst of the olden times’ version of imperialism—the tyranny of Rome—CNL members must reach out to their flock, struggle and fight the oppressors and ultimately offer their lives in the name of liberation and redemption. They must expose the ruling class’ proclivity to use religious faith to absolve their exploitation. The religious must understand that the present semi-colonial and semi-feudal system will never afford the poor and dispossessed the means with which to realize a humane existence devoid of exploitation and oppression. This being the reality, they must boldly involve themselves in the promotion and defense of people’s rights—in their parishes and churches, in the countryside, the factories, schools and in the streets.

Aside from reaching out to its flock, the CNL must at all times arouse and organize priests, pastors, nuns and other clergy and lay workers into the fold of the national democratic struggle. It must utilize its resources and means to continually increase the ranks of the religious who embrace the national democratic line and mobilize them to advance the welfare of the masses.

Religious revolutionaries must likewise diligently study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and strive to apply its principles to their teachings and practice. They must quash the misconception being peddled by clerico-fascists and idealists that MLM and the Christian faith can never find common ground. Serving the people has always been the most important common ground that define both MLM and the Christian faith and made possible decades of close cooperation between revolutionaries and the religious. Meanwhile, exploitation, while a clear anti-thesis to Christian faith, has always been the common ground of the Pharisees and the ruling class.

The CNL must also continue its important role of raising the awareness and understanding of its flock and the rest of the world that the people’s war is the “preferential option of the poor.” The religious must vigorously elucidate that the poor wage a protracted war because the rich oligarchy have and are continuing to wage war against them, their children and their future.

The CNL must strive to shed light on the realities of the civil war and how the peace process, when correctly struggled, is a useful means to provide economic and social relief to the people. Religious revolutionaries must update the people on the development in the negotiations, and especially educate them regarding the agenda at hand—the socio-economic reforms (SER). In the main, there is an apparent lack of appreciation of the significance of the SER because the reactionary government’s only concern is to coerce the NDFP into a bilateral ceasefire. The CNL must strike down the liberal bourgeois and pacifist delusion that peace is merely the absence of war and can be attained without seriously addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

The CNL must mobilize support for the armed struggle and cherish the true army of Filipinos, the New People’s Army. It must help recruit Red fighters from its flock and prepare them for a higher form of struggle and serving the people. Ultimately, it must recruit from its ranks of priests, pastors, nuns and laypersons and follow the footsteps of other religious who have taken up arms and joined the ranks of Red fighters and commanders.

For 45 years, the CNL continuously proves itself the embodiment not only of faith but more so of true Christian action. By wholly immersing itself in the revolution, it stands alongside all the other mass organizations and alliances in overcoming and defeating decades of fascist attack and repression. This is so because the CNL unwaveringly recognizes the leading role of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the socialist perspective of the national democratic revolution.

Let the historical mission of the revolutionaries in the church be a beacon burning ever bright as we march forward to our socialist future!
Long live the Christians for National Liberation!
Long live the Filipino people’s struggle for just and lasting peace!


CPP/NPA: NPA ready to counter abusive anti-peace AFP offensives

New People's Army propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Mar 14): NPA ready to counter abusive anti-peace AFP offensives

Ka Oris, Spokesperson
New People’s Army

14 March 2017

The New People’s Army (NPA) welcomes and supports the March 12 Joint Statement issued by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels declaring a continuation of peace

The National Operations Command (NOC) awaits instructions from the central leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on the matter of the reinstatement of the unilateral ceasefire declarations.

Until then, the NPA is ready to confront and counter the offensives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in order to defend the people, especially the
peasant masses and minority groups, from the abuses being perpeetrated by the AFP.

Since GRP President Duterte’s order last March 9 to “flatten the hills”, the AFP has become even more frenzied in its crazed war against the people.

Last Saturday, March 11, the AFP conducted aerial strikes against Barangay Cabuyuan in Mabini, Compostela Valley. It employed at least three MG-520
helicopter gunships to drop no less than 10 bombs, even as ground troops fired their machineguns. At least 75 families (200 individuals) were forced to

For two days now, the AFP has conducted aerial bombing runs in Barangays Gawang, Tee and Andavit in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, using FA-50 jetfighters and MG-520
helicopter gunships. At least 3,000 families in Maguindanao have been forced to evacuate their homes to escape the bombings and militarization of their

Since February, the AFP has been conducting aerial bombings against peasant communities including those in Laak, Compostela Valley; in Bansalan, Davao del
Sur; in Asuncion, Davao del Norte; in Fatima, Davao City; in Alabel, Sarangani and elsewhere. Thousands have been forced to evacuate as a result. The AFP has
also threatened to conduct aerial bombing in Assipulo, Ifugao and Maddela, Quirino forcing hundreds of families to evacuate.

Over the past few weeks, no less than fifteen peasants have been killed by AFP troops and other state agents in Antipolo, Rizal; San Andres, Quezon; Maayon,Capiz; in Compostela and Maragusan in Compostela Vally; Arakan, North Cotabato; in Davao City and other places.

Peasant Ian Borres suffered 34 gunshot wounds in an operation conducted by the 61st IB in their village in Maayon, Capiz last February 24. On March 2, armed
state agents killed anti-mining peasant activists Leonela and Ramon Pesadilla in their home in Compostela.

Last March 9, AFP soldiers rounded up 200 residents from Barangay Caylaway, Nasugbu, Batangas and forcibly brought them to Sitio Balagbag, Elementary School
where they were subjected to interrogations by AFP troops.

These abuses by AFP soldiers are the reasons why the people continue to join and support the New People’s Army. As such, it is the obligation of the NPA to
counter the AFP’s frenzied war against the people.

The NPA calls on the AFP commander-in-chief Duterte to restrain the AFP and command it to stop its acts of state terrorism against the people in order to prepare the ground for a meaningful ceasefire in line with the continuation of peace talks.


There’s back channeling with communists – Duterte

From Update.Ph (Mar 15): There’s back channeling with communists – Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said that the government is again engaged in dialogues with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) but stressed that parameters for a ceasefire would be clearly set.

In his speech before the 1st general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), the President said that back channel talks have been revived despite sporadic clashes between government forces and communists rebels.
“We are talking to the communists, I’m still biding my time. There’s a back channeling. I’m not supposed to talk about it because it’s back channeling. But I have certain conditions or demands that we have to agree upon,” Duterte said.

However, he said that parameters for a ceasefire should be clearly set in a document that would bind both parties.

“I want a ceasefire that is reduced in writing and the parameters clearly shown where we are going and what should be done in case of failure,” the President said.

“We have to play fair for everything, but it is still a little vague until now. I cannot expound on it further. But we have some must-do in order to achieve peace,” Duterte said.

The President made the statement a day after the government panel led by Secretary Jesus Dureza and NDF leaders agreed to resume negotiations by the first week of April.

Negotiations were stalled after both sides lifted their respective unilateral ceasefires in early February, with the NPA making the first move.

Last week, Duterte ordered government forces to use all its assets in an all-out war against the rebels following the ambush-killing of four policemen by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

On Monday, Dureza announced that the government is expected to meet with the communist panel in April after successful back channel talks held last March 10 and 11.


China: We are not challenging Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise

From Update.Ph (Mar 15): China: We are not challenging Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise

“China fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in the “Benham Rise” and there is no such thing of China challenging those rights,” China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a daily press briefing March 14.

However, the Chinese spokesperson noted that though the international law gives a coastal state sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, it should honor other states’ freedom of navigation and overflight.
“The basic principle of international law says that the EEZ and the continental shelf do not equate with territories, and a littoral state’s exercise of rights over the continental shelf should not hamper such rights as freedom of navigation enjoyed by other countries under international law,” she said.

Hua also noted that President Rodrigo Duterte said “China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts and appropriately handled the issue.”


NPA welcomes renewed talks but will continue countering gov't ops until ceasefire restored

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): NPA welcomes renewed talks but will continue countering gov't ops until ceasefire restored

NPA spokesman Jorge 'Ka Oris' Madlos (CPP photo)

(UPDATE - 9:18 a.m.) Communist rebels welcomed the agreement between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the government to continue peace negotiations and restore their respective unilateral ceasefires that were scrapped early last month.

But until the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines issues instructions on a new unilateral ceasefire, the New People’s Army said it was “ready to confront and counter the offensives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order to defend the people, especially the peasant masses and minority groups, from the abuses perpetrated by the AFP.”

In a related development, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison expressed his 'deep appreciation' to President Rodrigo Duterte 'for deciding to continue the peace negotiations' he had ordered terminated early last month.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Sison, who is also chief consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, also confirmed that he has “been hospitalized for some time” but was “on the way to full recovery” and “helping in the preparations” for the fourth round of formal talks scheduled for the first week of April.

He had first taken ill and been hospitalized during the third round of talks in Rome in late January.

The agreement to resume the talks as well as to forge a bilateral ceasefire was reached in informal talks on March 10 and 11 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where exiled rebel leaders, including Sison, are based.

Sison said it was "in the people's interest ... to pursue the forging of a peace agreement" that would "uphold the sovereignty and independence of the Filipino people, strengthen democracy for the exploited and oppressed people, create the conditions for economic development through land reform, national industrialization and expansion of social services and benefits, promotion of patriotic and scientific culture and peace and development in a multipolar world."

NPA spokesman Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos noted, in a separate statement, that the military had taken literally Duterte’s March 9 order for state security forces to mount air strikes against the rebels and “flatten the hills” regardless of “collateral damage” and “become more frenzied in its crazed war against the people.”

The controversial order, given in the wake of an NPA ambush that killed four policemen in Davao del Sur, earned criticism from human rights groups that warned Duterte could be held accountable for war crimes if civilians are harmed in carrying out his instructions.

Madlos cited alleged air strikes by at least three attack helicopters in Barangay Cabuyuan, Mabini, Compostela Valley on March 11 that drove some 200 residents to flee their homes and the even larger evacuation of at least 3,000 families in Maguindanao province following bombing runs in Barangays Gawang, Tee and Andavit in Datu Salibo town.

Even before Duterte’s order, Madlos said, “since February, the AFP has been conducting aerial bombings against peasant communities including those in Laak, Compostela Valley; in Bansalan, Davao del Sur; in Asuncion, Davao del Norte; in Fatima, Davao City; in Alabel, Sarangani and elsewhere.”

“Thousands have been forced to evacuate as a result. The AFP has also threatened to conduct aerial bombing in Assipulo, Ifugao and Maddela, Quirino forcing hundreds of families to evacuate,” he added.

He also cited the alleged rounding up of 200 residents of Barangay Caylaway in Nasugbu, Batangas who were reportedly taken to a school in the village and interrogated.

Aside from these, he accused state agents of murdering at least 15 peasants around the country

In the face of these, Madlos said, “it is the obligation of the NPA to counter the AFP's frenzied war against the people.”

At the same time, he called on Duterte to “restrain the AFP and command it to stop its acts of state terrorism against the people in order to prepare the ground for a meaningful ceasefire in line with the continuation of peace talks.”


Moro group slams AFP as airstrike vs. BIFF displaces civilians

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Mar 14): Moro group slams AFP as airstrike vs. BIFF displaces civilians

A Moro group on Tuesday condemned the government armed forces on the air strikes in Maguindanao against forces of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters last weekend, causing 300 hundred families to be displaced.

An initial investigation conducted by Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib, a Moro human rights group, revealed that the military has dropped bombs in Barangay Andabit, Datu Saudi Ampatuan as early as 1 am on Monday, March 13.

According to the group, residents saw at least 600 soldiers in their communities with military tanks while two Simba and one hummer arrived at around 9:30 a.m.

The Moro group hit out the Army’s 6th Infantry Division stationed in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao for its “intensive use of military power against the communities in the second district of Maguindanao” as a retaliation to the attacks of BIFF.

Citing a report, Suara Bangsamoro said the Army conducted a “preemptive and reconnaissance patrols” using two​ Huey helicopters, 105​-​m​illimeter howitzers, FA​-​50 and MG520​ fghter planes​ against the BIFF forces believed to be lurking in the the municipalities of Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salbo and Mamasapano.

Similar air strike incident also occurred in Compostela Valley province where “Lumad and Christian peasant families have already fled towns in Compostela Valley due to the massive airstrikes purportedly against the New People’s Army.”

Meanwhile, Suara Bangsamoro also criticized the shooting of children and the killing of Hadji Billamin Hassan and a certain Muhlis.

“With them is the wife of a mistakenly identified Abu Sayyaf member who complained on the death of his husband while in the hands of the military, dispelling initial reports that he died in an encounter,” Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of the Suara Bangsamoro, said in a statement.

According to Aba, on March 8, a raiding team composed of a composite of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, police and soldiers fired at residents of Barangay Tum-os, Tabuan Lasa, Basilan to arrest Abu Sayyaf members with standing warrant.

Aba said the indiscriminate firing led to the death of a one-year old baby, Nurmayda Abbi as the bullet hit on her right head. Also, an 11-year-old boy, Ashab Abuhayr, was also hit in the stomach by strayed bullet.

Aba said they hold the AFP responsible for and appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to “take back the all-out war policy that has affected civilians due to AFP and PNP’s abuse of authority, but not truly resolved terrorism nor lessen the menace of the ASG in Basilan and Sulu.”

“We hope that AFP’s abuse of authority and the resulting massive rights violations will be tackled in the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks and in the ongoing meetings of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,” Aba said.


Daesh-linked militants in Philippines release teacher

Anadolu Agency (Mar 14): Daesh-linked militants in Philippines release teacher

Abu Sayyaf continues to hold hostage at least 31 people, including more than 20 foreigners

A Daesh-linked militant group has released a teacher abducted in the Philippines’ majority Muslim south, according to the military Tuesday.

High school teacher Ibrahim Potong had been headed home on his motorcycle in the island province of Sulu -- an Abu Sayyaf stronghold -- when he was kidnapped Friday.

Col. Cirilito Sobrejana, Task Force Sulu commander, confirmed Tuesday that Potong was freed Monday in an undisclosed place in Sulu and reunited with his family in the village of Latih.
Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed embarrassment over an increase in the number of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf, saying the figure exceeded 30.

Of the captives, more than 20 are foreigners -- among them nationals of Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Netherlands.

Over the past year, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded a German and two Canadians after multi-million ransoms failed to be paid.

Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

Joint patrols in Sulu Sea to start in April: Malaysia navy chief

From Channel News Asia (Mar 14): Joint patrols in Sulu Sea to start in April: Malaysia navy chief

[Video report]

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines will commence joint patrols in the Sulu Sea in April, potentially putting an end to decades of lawlessness in the resource-rich waters.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia in an exclusive interview on Tuesday (Mar 14), Malaysia's navy chief, Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman, said the cooperation is unprecedented and reflects the level of trust and confidence among the three nations.

"We first discussed it a year ago and now, we are looking at launching our first joint operation from Sandakan sometime next month," said Admiral Ahmad. "The three navies of Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines will be working together.

"This is unique in the sense that not very often can you achieve this level of consensus, showing that all sides are serious in mitigating the challenges at sea especially due to kidnap for ransom and other cross-border crime."

The initiative in the Sulu Sea will involve not just maritime patrols, but also air patrols of the waters and coastline, said Admiral Ahmad. It is modelled after the current multilateral patrols in the Strait of Malacca that have successfully lowered the number of piracy cases reported to "almost zero", the navy chief stated.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has also given Malaysia and Indonesia the green light for the "hot pursuit" of militant boats in Philippine waters.

"Everybody is comfortable with what needs to be done, as well as what we can and cannot do," said Admiral Ahmad. "More importantly, (there is) clear and sincere acceptance."

He said that if authorities in Malaysia identify militant vessels, they can chase them even into Philippine waters.

"This requires a high level of trust, obviously," he said. "We do it together and we are in constant communication. As and when they are able to take on (the case) and pursue action, we hand over to them."

Australia has shown interest in the measures being taken to combat piracy in the troubled waters as well, said Malaysia's Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, after his meeting with Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday.


Bounded by Sabah and the southern Philippines, the Sulu Sea has long been branded the "wild, wild east" by security experts. Groups like the Abu Sayyaf - which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group - have been terrorising coastal communities.

Abu Sayyaf is notorious for its kidnap-for-ransom activities and is reportedly holding more than 30 foreigners and locals hostage. In February, it beheaded a German man after a ransom deadline lapsed.

While lawmakers in Sabah welcome the long-overdue joint initiative, some said patrolling the Sulu Sea will be a challenge, given the Malaysian navy's current assets and capabilities.

Mr Marcus Mojigoh, Member of Parliament for Putatan in Sabah, said it is "high time" the Malaysian government beefed up its assets.

"We can't rely on what we have now," he said. "We should add more sophisticated instruments ... We should go for more drones."

After the spate of kidnappings last year off the Sabah coast, authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to protect those using the territorial waters. Now that trilateral patrols are about to begin, such measures could soon be a thing of a past.


11 Daesh supporters die in Mindanao air attacks

From the Gulf Today (Mar 15): 11 Daesh supporters die in Mindanao air attacks

At least 11 members of a Moro secessionist group that has pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East were killed in air attacks launched by the military on their hideouts in Maguindanao province in restive Mindanao.

Captain Ervin Encinas, the spokesman of an Army division, reported that several other members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that seceded from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIFF) were also wounded in the attacks on their hideouts in two villages in the town of Datu Sabili in Maguindanao on Monday afternoon.

Encinas disclosed that among the targets of the attacks were three foreign terrorists, one of whom was identified as Mohammad Ali alias Muawiyah, a senior leader of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah extremists and a bomb expert.

But Encinas did not report whether Ali, who carries a $500,000 bounty on his head offered by the US government, whether he was killed or wounded in the attacks launched by rocket-firing Air Force helicopters.

He also admitted that about 300 families, or about 15,000 individuals, evacuated from the two villages to get out of harm’s way as ground troops moved in.

The BIFF is one of three terror groups that expressed support for the Daesh, which enabled the Middle East extremists to establish at least 50 cells in Lanao del Norte and Central Mindanao, according to the military.

But the military assured they were on top of the situation, pointing that the cells were small and did not constitute a security threat because majority of the people were for peace instead of violence.

The two others, the military said, are the Maute Group and the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists who gained notoriety through a spate of kidnap-for-ransom cases that were often marred by the beheading of their Filipino and foreign hostages.

In a related development, police reported the Abu Sayyaf, meaning “bearer of the sword,” had released a teacher of a public high school they abducted in Sulu on Friday afternoon.

Villagers found Ibrahim Potong wandering in a forested area in the town of Maimbung, Sulu but police could not say whether a ransom has been paid.

Potong was aboard a motorcycle on his way home to Maimbung from work at the national high school in the capital town of Jolo, Sulu when he was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.


Soldiers face raps for deaths of 2 men in Capiz clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Soldiers face raps for deaths of 2 men in Capiz clash

The widows of two men killed in a clash between suspected communist rebels and government troops in Capiz province last month have filed criminal and administrative charges against Army soldiers in the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a three-page complaint submitted to the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices on March 6, Analyn Borres and Marjorie Dequiño insisted that their husbands were civilians and not members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
They sought justice as they accused the troops under the Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) of murder.

Named respondents were soldiers belonging to the 61IB, including Lt. Col. Leonardo Peña, commanding officer; Maj. Allan Mangaser, executive officer; and soldiers led by Sgt. Jeffrey Belarmino.

Reports from the military’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) identified Lorendo Borres, 48, and his nephew Ian Borres, 24, as NPA rebels who were killed in an encounter on Feb. 24 in Barangay Jebaca in Maayon town, Capiz.

Lt. Col. Ericson Rosana, 3ID spokesperson, denied the widows’ allegations.

He said Ian and Lorendo Borres were part of a group of seven to 10 armed rebels that they engaged in a firefight. Three shotguns and two grenades were recovered from them, military reports said.

Rosana said the slain men were part of a rebel militia under the command of NPA leader Romulo Gangoso, alias Ka Regan.

But Dequiño said: “Everyone in our village knows that my (common-law) husband and his uncle were not NPA members. We want justice.”

Dequiño, in a telephone interview, said her husband and the older Borres were carrying bolos, not guns.

“[Lorendo] sought my husband’s help because he said two men in plainclothes allegedly tried to take his cellular phone and threatened to shoot him. They thought the two men were cattle rustlers,” Dequiño said.

She later heard a burst of gunfire but said she was afraid to look for Ian even after he failed to come home that night. The following day, she heard radio reports saying soldiers had killed two suspected NPA rebels in an encounter in their town.

Three other male relatives who were with Lorendo and Ian during that incident were unhurt.


NPA claims dead, wounded soldiers hit by friendly fire

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Mar 13): NPA claims dead, wounded soldiers hit by friendly fire

The New People’s Army (NPA) has issued a statement challenging the claim of the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion regarding the death of a soldier and the wounding of another, saying the two soldiers, who the Army said figured in a firefight with rebels Wednesday evening, March 8, were hit by friendly fire.
 In a statement dated March 10, 2017, Ka Ariel Montero, spokesperson of the Regional Operational Command, NPA, NorthEastern Mindanao Region, said it would have been impossible for the NPA to have killed the soldier.
“The Army statement that the encounter ensued between his troops and the NPA-Front 16 in Budlingin, Alegria, Surigao del Norte, last March 8, 2017 around 8:30 in the evening, is a big lie. Not one among the NPA forces were in the area during that time. The gunfire came from his own troops. It is obvious that the 30th IB troops implementing COPD fired upon each other during their patrol on that night which resulted in the killing of Pfc. Jhon Francis Rivera and the wounding of Pfc. Windyl Daayata,” said Montero.
The statement called the incident a blunder upon the 30th IB commander and that they tried to effect a cover up on the incident.
 “Because Lieutenant Colonel Amaro is responsible for the blunder, he then made up lies to hide his shame. This has been his and the AFP’s fabrication to smear the NPA and the entire revolutionary movement. In fact, they have been spreading written lies in the barrios of Malimono, Surigao del Norte to tarnish the revolutionaries,” said part of the statement.
Ka Oto, spokesperson of Guerilla Front 16 of the NPA who is operating in the area between Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte, collaborated the claim.
“We did not have any personnel on that area during the time of the encounter. This claim of the army is to hide what really happened. The death of the soldier after a legitimate encounter would be a big boost to our ranks; of course we will acknowledge this if only it is true. In the past, we would immediately issue a statement if we have killed a soldier after an encounter but unfortunately this was not true. The soldiers are staying and made the Multi-Purpose Barangay Hall in barangay Budlingin their camp, maybe they panicked by the gossip that NPA will attack and made a night patrol, in the cover of darkness, they began firing a mere 20 meters away from where they were encamped,” said Ka Oto.
But Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, refuted the NPA claim. “We only have one, operating troop that was sent to address the reported extortion activities of the said terror group. This statement from the NPA is plain and simple propaganda that is intended to hide their presence in the area. They would only want to discredit the clamor of the people of their continued atrocities inside their community,” said Martinez.
The concerned community has yet to respond to our request through the Local Government Unit of Alegria to help shed light to what really happened the night of March 8, 2017.


2 NPA attacks mar peace bid

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): 2 NPA attacks mar peace bid

A day after government and communist rebel negotiators announced the resumption of peace talks, New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas burned a bus in Mindanao and wounded five policemen in an ambush in northern Luzon.

Suspected NPA members torched on Monday a Davao City-bound Yellow Bus in Makilala, North Cotabato province, police said.

Another NPA group wounded five policemen in an ambush on the convoy of Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum, Abra police director, while they were on their way to visit a police station that was attacked on Sunday night in the province’s Malibcong town.

Tagum was not hurt. He was accompanied by a platoon of police officers when they were ambushed at Sitio Aguibo in Barangay Poblacion.

The attacks did not violate any ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as no cessation of hostilities had yet been declared.
Back-channel talks

In a joint statement issued on Saturday in Utrecht, The Netherlands, government and NDFP representatives, who held back-channel negotiations, agreed that indefinite unilateral ceasefire declarations would be issued before the fourth round of talks in the first week of April.

The two sides are scheduled to meet in Oslo, Norway, on April 2-7 to resume the next round of talks, which were scuttled last month.
Makilala bus burning

The rebels lifted their unilateral ceasefire on Feb. 10 after accusing the government of failing to release all political prisoners and the military of deploying troops in rebel-held areas.

The Duterte administration responded by scrapping its own unilateral ceasefire and suspending the peace talks.

Supt. Roneo Galgo, spokesperson of the police in Central Mindanao, said suspected NPA members flagged down the bus at Barangay San Vicente in Makilala town at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.

Victor Serondo, the bus driver, said six rebels boarded the bus, introduced themselves as NPA members and directed him to drive toward Sitio Bagong Silang in Barangay San Vicente.

“One of the suspects drew a pistol and told me to divert the vehicle to the secluded area toward San Vicente village,” Serondo said.

“The suspects ordered us to vacate the bus and look for a safe place before they set it on fire,” the driver said. He and the passengers were unharmed.

Galgo said the attackers belonged to the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 72 operating in Makilala and in Bansalan, Davao del Sur province.

The attack came five days after NPA rebels killed four policemen in an ambush in Bansalan.
Abra ambush

In Abra, PO2 Jessie Trinidad, PO1 Marlon dela Paz, PO1 Gerome Baldos, PO1 Kennon Sanggoy and PO1 Von Harold Layao were wounded when their vehicle hit an explosive device, followed by a burst of gunfire, according to Insp. Marcy Grace Marron, Abra police information officer.

The five policemen were brought to Abra Provincial Hospital in Bangued, the capital town.

Marron said probers did not know if the attackers were the same rebels who raided a house that was serving as the temporary police station in Malibcong.

Five Malibcong policemen engaged 30 armed men in a 10-minute gun battle at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The firefight stopped when town elders intervened, allowing the five policemen to retreat to the house of Mayor Romando Bacuyag.

The Malibcong police station is under construction so the police there have been using Bacuyag’s property as headquarters.

But the rebels managed to ransack the temporary police station, and fled with police-issued weapons, Marron said.

They took off with seven rifles, three pistols and three cell phones.


PH asks Malaysia for proof 5 ISIS-linked suspects are Filipinos

From Rappler (Mar 14): PH asks Malaysia for proof 5 ISIS-linked suspects are Filipinos

The Philippines is also investigating the supposed links of the 5 suspects to militants in Mindanao   

The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur asked the Royal Malaysian Police to provide its basis for saying that 5 suspects it recently arrested for alleged links to the Islamic State (ISIS) are Filipinos.

"Based on initial information received from the Royal Malaysian Police, none of the 5 had Philippine passports or other identity documents in their possession," said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose on Tuesday, March 14.

But despite questions on their nationalities, Jose said the Philippines is investigating the supposed links of the 5 suspects to militants in Mindanao.

The Malaysian police on Monday, March 13, announced they arrested 5 Filipinos and 2 Malaysians for aiding ISIS fighters to go to Mindanao from Sabah. The international terrorist group reportedly seeks to establish a caliphate in the Philippines as it loses territory in the Middle East. (READ: 5 Filipinos arrested in Sabah over alleged ISIS links)

The suspects reportedly belong to a new terrorist cell based in Sabah, which was the subject of a Rappler report in January.

Very close to islands in the southwestern tip of the Philippines, Sabah hosts a significant number of Filipinos who sometimes use their own boats and do not pass through proper immigration channels.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed in a forum last week that Malaysia also wanted to deport up to 4,000 Filipinos to Zamboanga City. The Philippines refused to give them travel authority, however, because Malaysia failed to show proof that all 4,000 are Filipinos.

"We interjected because according to them, the judge just ruled, 'Ikaw Pilipino ka (You are Filipino)' without proof that they are really Filipinos... We complained. If they do not have proof they are Filipinos, why should we accept them? So that is stopped for a while," Lorenzana said.


New Malaysian peace monitors start tour of duty in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): New Malaysian peace monitors start tour of duty in Mindanao

Malaysia deployed on Tuesday a new team of peace keepers to Mindanao as part of its continuing commitment to achieve peace in the island.

Malaysian Army Gen. Wira Zamrose relinquished his post to Gen. Paiman Masrani, who is also from the Malaysian Army.

Malaysia leads the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the third party monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Speaking during the turnover ceremonies at the IMT office here, Zamrose said that local clan wars, popularly known as "rido," and the spread of jihadists could destroy the relative peace that Mindanao enjoyed in the last few years.

As he bade farewell, Zamrose urged stakeholders to prevent the spread of extremism in Mindanao, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The IMT, composed of military and police personnel from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been instrumental in the compliance of both sides with the ceasefire accord.
Zamrose and his team completed today their 12-month tour of duty in Mindanao.

Zamrose urged the leaders of the MILF not to allow the extremists to influence young Moro people.

In resolving clan wars, Zamrose said the active participation of political, MILF and religious leaders is paramount to save lives.


PHL looking to survey Benham Rise -- DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): PHL looking to survey Benham Rise -- DND chief

To demonstrate Philippine control and ownership of Benham Rise, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they are looking at a possibility of conducting a survey to determine its exact size and its possible resources.

The maritime feature is located off the Aurora and Isabela coastlines.

"We will make a survey to determine the area's exact size and then later on we will decide what to do with the area," he said in Filipino.

President Rodrigo Duterte,in his press briefing on Monday stressed that the country has rights on the Benham Rise and the possible resources that can be found there.

The DND chief said they will also continue sending out patrols in the area and they will also determine what can be installed or deployed to showcase Philippine claims in Benham Rise.

We will study what we can put there, to exploit also the resources as we know that Benham Rise is the spawning ground of yellow fin tuna and very rich (in maritime resources). It is almost as big as Northern and Central Luzon. So we will continue to study what will be the best way to develop that area for our needs," Lorenzana stressed.

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be a fuel-rich area and awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012.

Earlier, the People's Republic of China claimed that its vessels were only exercising its right of innocent passage when the DND announced that several Chinese survey ships were spotted in the locality last year.

Lorenzana disputed this Chinese claim and said ships exercising right to innocent passage steam on a definite course and speed and not constantly changing their courses and speeds.

Previously, Chinese survey ships were also seen off Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank surveying the sea bed for possible mineral deposits, he added.

The Chinese has gained total control of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag) after a stand-off with the Philippine Navy in April 2012.


BRP Andres Bonifacio now off for LIMA 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): BRP Andres Bonifacio now off for LIMA 2017

The BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), the country's third and latest Hamilton-class cutter in service, formally departed for the Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace (LIMA) 2017 in Malaysia Tuesday.

Departure ceremonies took place at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila.

PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna, in a statement, said the BRP Andres Bonifacio is under the Naval Task Group (NTG) 80.5.

LIMA 2017 will start on March 21 and ends on the 26th.

After the exhibition, NTG 80.5 will undertake goodwill visits to Lumut and Klang, also in Malaysia.

Send-off ceremonies were presided by PN vice commander, Rear Admiral Rafael G. Mariano.

PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado will also attend LIMA 2017's Chief of Navy Roundtable Talks (CNRT).

BRP Andres Bonifacio will also participate in the LIMA Sea Exercise, a half-day multinational naval exercise among participating countries.

LIMA is one of the most influential exhibitions in Asia since this is a dedicated maritime and aerospace exhibition for defense, civil and commercial aviation, shipbuilding and ship repair.

As such, the occasion provides a great opportunity for the PN to widen its perspective as a modernizing Navy in the various avenues of upgrade especially that this event includes the exhibit of modern naval platforms.

The PN’s last participation was in the 2011 edition of the LIMA Exhibition.

The BRP Andres Bonifacio, the third Hamilton-class cutter in PN service, was formally welcomed into the fleet last Dec. 9.

The ship is armed with a 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, like her sister ships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar.

The BRP Andres Bonifacio is the former USCGC Boutwell which was retired from US Coast Guard service last March 16 and handed to the PN last July 21 (American time).

Hamilton-class cutters have a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, has a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet.

Its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots and a crew of 88 officers and enlisted personnel.

The ship has cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days.


Duterte OKs national security guidelines for bureaucracy

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): Duterte OKs national security guidelines for bureaucracy

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the enhanced National Security Policy ‎2017-2022 (NSP) that serves as guide for the government bureaucracy in the efforts to safeguard national security interests.

“This version of the NSP now directs the national security sector to be aligned with and in tandem with the recently approved Philippine Development Plan,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing on Tuesday, March 14, in Malacañang.

Abella said the NSP was approved by the President during the National Security Council meeting last Monday, March 13.

Among the matters discussed during the National Security Council meeting include the peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF, the West Philippine Sea issue, and the anti-illegal drugs campaign, among others.

On the peace process, Abella said the President acknowledged the joint statement of the government peace panel and the National Democratic Front (NDF) on the intent to resume formal peace talks.

“To ensure that genuine peace talks are realized, the President asked both panels to agree on clear parameters for ceasefire and the talks,” Abella explained.

In addressing illegal drugs, meanwhile, Abella said President Duterte has directed the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to be more actively involved in the PDEA-led anti-drug operations, together with the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

In the same briefing, Abella cited Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, which says that the Philippines has become an ideal business environment for women to prosper.

“The Philippines ranks eighth among top 20 markets in the world, gaining an overall index of 68.4 on the Mastercard Index of Women entrepreneurs in 2017,” Abella said.

Citing the continued policy of breaking the glass ceiling, Abella said the Duterte administration continues to support endeavors of Filipino women.

Abella also announced that barely nine months in office, the Duterte administration has seen an increase in exports.

“The Palace is pleased to announce that the Philippine merchandise exports reached 5.13 billion in January, surging 22.5 percent, the highest growth posted in three years,” Abella said.

He said garments and clothing accessories exporters saw a 270 percent increase, followed by coconut oil products, which grew 230 percent; and chemicals, which saw a 105 percent growth. Japan is still the top Philippine export destination.

Palace echoes importance of climate change pact

Meanwhile, in the same briefing, Climate Change Commission (CCC) Vice Chairperson Frances Veronica Victorio said the country’s accession to the Paris Agreement would enable the country to get access to financial and technical support, as well as in capacity building.

“Ang Paris Agreement po ay may goal po sila na you’ll be able, we’ll have about USD 100 billion per year. So starting 2020. So pag kasama po tayo sa Paris Agreement ay makaka mas access tayo dito sa mga financial support na available for us, lalo na as a developing country,” Victorio said.

“Ang plano po natin is that we want to make sure na naka-incorporate po dito ang mga goals ni Presidente also, of really poverty eradication, mga sustainable development. So pwede po ‘to under the Paris Agreement,” she added.

Victorio noted the impact of warmer temperatures to food production.

“Tayo po ay like 5th most vulnerable country when it comes to climate change, all over the world. So kung ngayon pa lang, ngayon nasa 1.2 degrees Celsius po tayo. Dati pa nagka-Yolanda na tayo, nagka-Ondoy and these are all at 1 degree Celsius,” Victorio explained.

“Right now, last year, 1.2 degrees Celsius na po tayo. So this is something we’re continuously advocating at kailangan po natin i-lead ang ating mga iba’t ibang bansa kasi hindi po natin ito kakayanin na mag-isa,” she added.


Govt still pursuing peace despite new NPA attacks -- Bello

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): Govt still pursuing peace despite new NPA attacks -- Bello

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Peace Panel Chief Negotiator Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said efforts to achieve lasting peace continue despite the recent attacks of the New People's Army (NPA) in North Cotabato and Abra.

"We believe the fresh wave of NPA assaults will not put in peril our desire to pursue peace," he said in a statement.

Bello added, "We remain firm and confident that we can still proceed according to the agreement we just signed in Utrecht to swiftly restore our respective ceasefires while we work on the terms of an interim bilateral ceasefire agreement."

Bello said both parties are still pursuing the peace talks and have agreed to investigate the recent incidents.

"We are really saddened by these unfortunate incidents. We have communicated with our counterparts and they vowed to look into it. In the meantime, we urge combatants to exercise restraint," he said.

On Sunday, five policemen were injured after NPA attacked a police station in Barangay Poblacion, Malibcong town by detonating an improvised bomb.

A day after the North Cotabato incident, armed men burned a passenger bus in Sitio Silang Barangay, Brgy. San Vicente, town of Makilala.

The bus was then carrying 17 passengers and was bound for Davao City from Marbel, South Cotabato.


Rights group slams arrest of elderly ex-activist, calls for release of sick NDFP consultant

From InterAksyon (Mar 14): Rights group slams arrest of elderly ex-activist, calls for release of sick NDFP consultant

Lilia Bucatcat and Emeterio Antalan (Karapatan photos)

A 70-year old former peasant organizer was arrested and later described as a rebel leader facing arson charges, the human rights organization Karapatan said as it also demanded the release of a jailed consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who suffered a heart attack.

In a statement released Tueday, Karapatan said Lilia Bucatcat was on her way to walk her dog at the Marikina River Park the morning of March 9 when four men in a black car, two of them in uniforms of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, picked her up even if they could show no warrant for her arrest as she demanded. Neither did they allow her to inform her family of her arrest or even return her dog and take her things from her house.

A CIDG press release on Tuesday confirmed her arrest and identified her as the “Secretary of South Samar 2, Sub-Regional Command Sesame, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the New People’s Army.”

It was only at the CIDG-National Capital Region office in Camp Crame was Bucatcat shown a warrant of arrest on what she described as “trumped up charges” of arson. Bucatcat, who Karapatan said has a benign throat cyst and is suffering body pains and other age-related ailments, was checked up at the PNP General Hospital before she was booked.

Bucatcat’s relatives, paralegals and members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers tracked her to the CIDG-NCR office only the next day. There she told them that she saw one of the men who picked up frequenting her community days before her arrest. Her relatives also recalled the sudden increase of vendors in their area days before Bucatcat was seized.

Meanwhile, Karapatan said Antalan, 58 was first taken to the New Bilibid Prisons hospital on March 5 after he complained of chest pains. The next day he was transferred to the Ospital ng Muntinlupa where he was found to have suffered a mild heart attack.

Yet he had to stay two days at the emergency room before finally being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where he stayed four days before being transferred to a ward.

Antalan is scheduled to be transferred to the Philippine Heart Center on Tuesday.


Chinese ships allowed to survey Benham - Duterte

From InterAksyon (Mar 14): Chinese ships allowed to survey Benham - Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte said he had agreed to allow Chinese surveillance ships into Filipino waters, catching Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who described their presence as "very concerning," totally by surprise.

Duterte also told reporters Monday he did not want to have a "fight" with China over Benham Rise -- waters recognized by the United Nation as indisputably Philippine territory -- partly because he wanted Chinese economic help.

"They have no incursion because we have an agreement," Duterte told reporters when asked about the reported presence of Chinese surveillance ships at Benham Rise.

"Some people are just blowing it up. We previously agreed. It was a research ship. We were advised of it way ahead."

Lorenzana, who said last week that Chinese surveillance ships had been seen in Benham, which is believed to sit atop lucrative oil and gas deposits, had no response to Duterte's comment.

Asked for a reaction, Lorenzana asked: "Huh? Sinabi niya 'yun (He said that)?"

When told that Duterte did, the Defense chief replied: "Wala ako masabi d'yan (I have nothing to say to that)."

Duterte's remarks also contradicted Lorenzana's statement, in a report by Reuters, that the president's instruction was to increase naval patrols in the area and put up structures "that says this is ours". He did not specify what structures would be erected."We are concerned, they have no business going there," Lorenzana told reporters late on Sunday.

"The very concerning thing is they have several service ships plying this area, staying in one area sometimes for a month as if doing nothing. But we believe they are actually surveying the seabed," Lorenzana said.

"I have ordered the Navy that if they see this service ship this year, to start to accost them and drive them away."

Lorenzana said China may be "looking for a place to put submarines."

But Duterte emphasized Monday the Philippines was set to enjoy billions of dollars in Chinese investments and grants, following his decision not to argue with China over another territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

"Let us not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for my country," Duterte said in reference to China.

Benham Rise is an underwater landmass 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the east coast of the main island of Luzon.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines' undisputed territorial claim to Benham Rise.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said last week that although the UN had ruled in the Philippines' favor, this did not mean Benham Rise was part of its territory.

China and the Philippines have had a long-running dispute over competing claims in the South China Sea. Parts of that strategically vital waterway are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, had forcefully challenged China in diplomatic and legal circles over the South China Sea dispute, leading to a sharp deterioration in bilateral relations.

Duterte has reversed that policy, preferring instead to placate China in return for hoped-for billions of dollars’ worth of investments and grants.


Court postpones Roxas blast hearing

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 14): Court postpones Roxas blast hearing

THE REGIONAL Trial Court (RTC) Branch 33 postponed yesterday’s supposed hearing on the appealof Mohammad Abdul Jabbar Sema, the son of a ranking Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) leader, for the determination of probable cause in connection to the Roxas Night Market explosion.

But presiding Judge Lope Callo did not give specific date on the next hearing for the omnibus motion for judicial determination of probable cause filed by Sema, aka Datu Masla Sema and DM.

The 26-year-old Sema is the son of former Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, who is the chairman of an MNLF faction, and Maguindanao 1st District Representative Bai Sandra Sema.

Sema’s legal panel has filed a motion for judicial determination and request to dismiss the case against the respondent for alleged lack of probable cause.

Insisting on Sema’s innocence, the counsel claimed it will spare him from “expensive” court proceedings as he and his counsel are not based in Davao.

In the judicial determination of probable cause, the judge will ascertain whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused. The judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is necessity for placing the accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. If the judge finds no probable cause, the judge cannot be forced to issue the arrest warrant. Thus, the case will be dismissed.

Sema is one of the 14 respondents charged by the government prosecutors for multiple murders and multiple attempted murders in connection with the Sept. 2 Roxas Night Market blast that killed 15 persons and injured 69 others.

The court has already issued a warrant of arrest against the 14 others, but withheld the issuance against Sema as his counsel filed the request.

Sema, tagged to have urged his follow accused to bomb Davao City, was arrested by the authorities at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Nov. 24, 2016, or 83 days after the bombing.

Sema’s whereabouts is currently undisclosed.

In filing the case in court, government prosecutors relied on the extra-judicial testimonies of Jackson Mangulamas Usi, aka Abu Mansur and Jam, and Ausa Abdullah Mamasapano, aka Abu Hamsa.

The two claimed it was Sema who suggested to them to plant the bomb in Davao City because it is the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, and to compel the government to cut the military forces in Basilan which at that time was fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group. The bomb was supposed to be used in Cotabato.

Sema’s counsel wanted the court to issue a subpoena for Mangulamas and Mamasapano so they could be cross-examined during the hearing of the plea. The motion was, however, opposed by the prosecution panel, claiming that they should instead be presenting during the proper court trial.

Usi and Mamasapano are detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.


Offensives continue

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 13): Offensives continue

Army says ceasefire order not received yet

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will still continue conducting military offensive operations against communist rebels as they have yet to receive the order from the higher headquarters on the supposed restoration of ceasefire.

Sec. Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, yesterday posted on his social media account the joint statement between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) on the resumption of the peacetalks.

“We will continue the military operations until there is an official order from our commander-in-chief,” declared AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año.

Gen. Rafael Valencia, the commander of 10th Infantry Division, yesterday told TIMES that they have already read Sec. Dureza’s statement.

However, they have yet to receive any order from their higher officials for the suspension of the military operations.

“So our military offensive operations continue until we receive instruction from higher headquarters to stop it,” said Valencia whose operation mainly covers Davao region.

Valencia said the 10th ID is combating 11 guerilla fronts and three section committees.

He said they are focused on some areas that still have presence of NPAs.

The division covers Davao Region, parts of Region 12 (Sarangani, South Cotabato, Second District of North Cotabato and Columbio, Sultan Kudarat), Trento, Agusan del Sur and Lingig Surigao del Sur, encompasses four Regions, 12 provinces, seven cities, 72 municipalities and 1, 681 barangays.

“During the ceasefire, the NPA consolidated their forces,” Valencia said. “They really took advantage of the ceasefire as they forced the residents to support them.”

He said they noticed the presence of the NPAs in the different areas under their command.

Aside from Davao Oriental, the soldiers are focusing in the areas of Laak in Compostela Valley, New Corella in Davao del Norte, the boundaries of Bansalan, Davao del Sur and Makilala, Cotabato

Valencia assured that the military will follow the rules of engagement in the conduct of air support during military operations to ensure that there will be no collateral damage on the civilians.

On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte gave his go-signal to the AFP and the Philippine National Police to use all the assets to combat communist groups following the March 8 ambush staged by the NPA that killed four police officers.


Thundering sound on Monday dawn from FA-50 jets: TOG XI

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 14): Thundering sound on Monday dawn from FA-50 jets: TOG XI

THE TWO brand new FA-50 “Fighting Eagle” from South Korea conducted again test flight in the city last night, a military official said.

Meanwhile, the two fighter jets are scheduled this week for a static display in the Tactical Operaitions Group (TOG) XI.
Lt. Col. Jose Richie Pabilonia, commander of Tactical Operations Group (TOG) XI, said the test flight in the city was still part of the training flight.

“We have three pilots trained in Korea,” he said, adding that the training already included “familiarization of the area.”

The jets will also fly in other areas of Mindanao, and also in Cebu City and Nueva Ecija.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte also asked the AFP and PNP to use all available air assets against the New People’s Army and the terrorists.

“They can be used in combat against the NPA if necessary,” he said. “They are not going to stay long in the city anyway.”

Pabilonia said they have also submitted a proposal to higher headquarters to conduct a static display of the FA 50 jets at the Tactical Operations Group (TOG) XI.

“We proposed that it will be held either March 15 or 16,” he added.

The FA-50 PH has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and half times the speed of sound and maybe equipped with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles, aside from light automatic cannons.

It will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience in operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

The FA-50PH design is largely derived from the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and the two aircraft have many similarities use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

Duterte on BBL: “I pray it would sail on still waters” in Congress

From MindaNews (Mar 13): Duterte on BBL: “I pray it would sail on still waters” in Congress

President Rodrigo Duterte will study the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) when the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submits it and will “pray that it would sail on still waters” once it reaches Congress.

Duterte, however, told the crowd at the inauguration of the People’s Television (PTV) Cordillera Hub in Baguio City on Saturday afternoon that he expects a “more or less vigorous opposition” at the Senate. “That’s expected. This is a democracy,” he said.

Duterte urged everyone, including those who oppose government, to use the Peoples Television to air their grievances and concerns. “Lahat na yung ayaw ng gobyerno, rather than really fight, the MI (MILF or Moro Islamic Liberation Front), you’re about to complete the Bangsamoro Transition draft, I will study it before we submit it to Congress and pray that it would sail on still waters.”

The 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) with President Rodrigo Duterte (center) at the launch on 24 February 2017 at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel. TOTO Lozano / Presidential Photo

The BTC, however, is not “about to complete” the draft Bangsamoro law. In fact, it has yet to begin drafting, because its 21 members were named only in February, three months after the Executive Order reconstituting the BTC was signed by the President.

At the launch of the BTC in Davao City on February 24, the President addressed the commissioners to “navigate the hindrances and obstructions” and find a way to peace.

The BTC held its first plenary session in Cotabato City on March 6 and 7 to craft their Internal Rules and come up with their work plan and budget. The body will continue discussing these on April 3 to 6 also in Cotabato City, in what BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar says would be a “marathon session.”

Jaafar told MindaNews in a telephone interview on Sunday that they created an ad hoc committee of five to revisit the internal rules of the previous BTC but adopted the old rules as their interim internal rules.

He said they hope to finalize their internal rules by April 3, set up the committees and decide on the working draft they would use in crafting the BBL.

“Work double time”
The BTC chair, concurrent 1st Vice Chair of the MILF, said he prefers the “agreed version” or the version agreed upon by the BTC and the Office of the President and submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 but acknowledged this will still be discussed on the floor.

Jaafar said they will “try our best” to finish the draft by May 18, as suggested by some commissioners, to allow enough time for Duterte to study the draft.

Under the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap of the Duterte administration, the target for submission of the draft BBL to Congress is before the President delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III recently told MindaNews that the BTC “should now start working” and work “double time” to submit their draft to Congress by July, adding that passing a “bill into law is easier than (shifting from) old Constitution to new Constitution.”

Pimentel said the Senate will “accommodate and cooperate” with the Executive Branch’s two-track approach to peace through the Bangsamoro law and Federalism even as he admits the two-track process “introduces some complications” and that “the simplest would be straight to federalism.” The shift to federalism requires amending the 1987 Constitution.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signs the Executive Order reconstituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in Malacañan on November 7, 2016. Also in the photo are Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Implementing Panel chair Irene Santiago. KING RODRIGUEZ/Presidential Photo

Under the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government (GPH) and MILF, the parties tasked the BTC to draft the BBL to pave the way for the creation of the new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Jaafar said they expect President Duterte to certify the bill as urgent. The FAB provides that the draft BBL submitted by the Transition Commission “shall be certified as an urgent bill by the President.”

Under the Aquino administration, Congress adjourned in February 2016 without passing the BBL. Aquino did not certify the bill as urgent.

Expanded, more inclusive
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza pushed for an expanded BTC membership from 15 to 21, to make it “more inclusive” and allow for participation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) so that the draft BBL that would be submitted to Congress will “converge” or “harmonize” the provisions of the MILF’s FAB/CAB and the remaining unimplemented provisions of the MNLF’s Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

The MILF nominated 11 members to the BTC while the GPH nominated 10, three of them representing the MNLF faction headed by Muslimin Sema (now chaired by Yusoph Jikiri).

President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari in Malacañang on November 3, 2016. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza (center) fetched Misuari from Sulu to meet the President. RICHARD MADELO/ Presidential Photo

But the MNLF faction under founding chair Nur Misuari of Sulu, declined inclusion in the BTC, Misuari maintaining the MNLF has its own peace agreement to implement and alleging that the MILF and the other MNLF factions are “traitors.”

Dureza offered a separate peace implementi

ng panel for the MNLF-Misuari faction. The MNLF side is chaired by lawyer Randolph Parcasio, former Executive Secretary to then ARMM Governor Misuari, while the government panel chair is Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan, who was a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the MNLF in 1992-1996 and a member of the Tripartite Review that monitored the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

The panels have yet to hold their first formal meet although they have met twice, informally.

The undivided MNLF was set up in 1968 following the March 18 Jabidah Massacre and was chaired by Misuari, a professor at the University of the Philippines. It signed with the Philippine government the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 but the MNLF claimed it was not implemented in letter and spirit, and that President Ferdinand Marcos, using his martial law powers, created two autonomous regions instead of one

From Marcos to Duterte
The failure of the peace agreement led to a split in the MNLF, with vice chair Salamat Hashim of Maguindanao breaking away to form what was initially referred to as the “New MNLF” but later renamed Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Another faction, the MNLF Reformist Group was set up by Dimas Pundato of Lanao del Sur.

In the post-Marcos era, the Aquino administration restarted talks with the MNLF, the President herself, Corazon Aquino, meeting with Misuari in Sulu in September 1986. But no peace agreement was reached. Instead, the Aquino administration pushed for provisions in the 1987 Constitution for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. The MNLF and MILF campaigned against the ratification of the Constitution in 1987 and in the 1989 plebiscite, campaigned against RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM.

Duterte in his Baguio speech on Saturday, mentioned Misuari and the MNLF after talking about the MILF.

He said Misuari “has many gripes with this government and the Republic. I understand that,” Duterte said. Misuari and Duterte met behind closed doors on February23, a day before the BTC launch. No
details of the meeting were released.

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

Duterete said Misuari can also use the People’s Television “to explain to the people so that … we have a balanced reporting and a fair share of what’s going on on the other fronts.”

“We’re fighting with the communists MI, MN,” Duterte said. The government, however, is on the implementation phase of the signed peace agreements with the MILF and MNLF and while Duterte was speaking Saturday afternoon in Baguio, his peace adviser and peace panel chair were busy in Utrecht, The Netherlands for backchannel talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) that ended with both parties agreeing to resume the peace talks, restore the unilateral ceasefire and work for a bilateral ceasefire.

Duterte, the 16th Philippine President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, is the 7th President since Marcos to attempt to solve the half-a-century conflict with the Bangsamoro revolutionary fronts. He is the first President to have repeatedly vowed to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro.