Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Joint Reserve Task Force activated in Davao City

From Update Philippines (Sep 20): Joint Reserve Task Force activated in Davao City


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) on September 16 has activated Joint Reserve Task Force (JRTF) “Metro Davao”.

The activation ceremony was led by EASTMINCOM commanding general Lieutenant General Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City.

JRTF “Metro Davao” is the consolidation of the Reservists of Navy, Air Force, Army and the Technical and Administrative Service into one operational command to effectively assist government agencies during crisis and emergencies like in the conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response.

EASTMINCOM said Colonel Manning S. Tawantawan, the Group Commander of the 11th Regional Community Defense Group 11 (RCDG11), was designated and assumed as Commander of the JRTF during the activation ceremony.


Nur Misuari posts bail for corruption charges – Dureza

From Rappler (Sep 20): Nur Misuari posts bail for corruption charges – Dureza

Sandiganbayan 3rd Division says Misuari's bail documents from Davao City is still subject to the approval of the anti-graft court

BAIL. MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari posts bail on September 19, 2017 before the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 16. Photo courtesy of Secretary Jesus Dureza

BAIL. MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari posts bail on September 19, 2017 before the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 16. Photo courtesy of Secretary Jesus Dureza
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has posted bail for graft and malversation charges in a court outside Sandiganbayan, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza said on Tuesday, September 19.
Sandiganbayan defendants are allowed to post bail before any Regional Trial Court (RTC) as long as it is not within the National Capital Region (NCR).

“I am informed now that he has filed his bail bond and that it has been approved and had been granted temporary liberty by the courts,” Dureza said in a text message.

Dureza said Misuari posted bail before the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 16 under Executive Judge Emmanuel Carpio. Branch 16's Judge Carpio is the brother of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and uncle-in-law of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Before Sandiganbayan closed on Tuesday, however, the 3rd Division said they were yet to be notified.

Third Division Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma said the bail documents, which should be transmitted to them by the receiving court, is still subject to approval by the Sandiganbayan.

Misuari met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, September 16 despite a standing warrant.

“President met with Nur upon our arrangement when we were informed that his bail was already being attended to. Evidently, we learned later that when the meeting took place last Saturday his application for bail was still being processed,” Dureza said.

Misuari was ordered arrested for two counts of graft and two counts of malversation through falsification of documents over multimillion-peso ghost projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when he was governor. His bail was set at P460,000.

Before Tuesday, Misuari's spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla told Rappler there was 'no need' for the MNLF founding chairman to post bail. Malacañang has earlier said it will leave it up to Misuari to defend himself from his corruption charges.

Misuari also faces charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity for the Zamboanga siege in 2013. But Duterte has ordered his temporary freedom on those charges – which will lapse on November 16 – so that he could participate in the ongoing Bangsamoro peace process.

COMMENT: Grave Reservation

Commentary by Patricio Diaz posted to MindaNews (Sep 20): COMMENT: Grave Reservation

A year ago, to the month, we wrote “Bangsamoro: Fulfillment or Denial Anew?”, published in series as “COMMENT” in MindaNews. The first of the series was published on September 25, 2016; however, due to changing developments calling for revisions to update the commentary the last of the series was published on December 5, 2016.

The commentary was on the prospect of establishing the Bangsamoro under the Duterte administration after it had been denied by the 16th Congress that failed to pass the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) bill. President Rodrigo R. Duterte promised to fulfill what had been denied under Aquino, premised on a roadmap to resurrect and tend the BBL through the 17th Congress. By the end of 2016, there surfaced worrisome roadblocks to Duterte’s peace roadmap.

In that series and in subsequent articles, we discussed these roadblocks many of them the consequences of miscues, inconsistences of words and actions, procrastination, et cetera which could be attributed to the President himself. Last May 5, speaking to an assembly of police officers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), he said he was pessimistic about the Bangsamoro — that nothing would come out of peace process We sensed the President was asking WHY – with only himself to ask and only himself to answer.

On the following July 17, when the New BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) submitted the new BBL Draft or Draft BBL 2017, the President renewed his assurance to the Moro Front leaders that he would “husband” the BBL – there must be a “Bangsamoro country”. Present at the turn-over were the Senate President and House Speaker. They joined the President in assuring the passage of the bill.

But words have remained words, empty of action. What have gone awry?

According to an earlier official statement, Draft BBL 2017 was to be submitted to the Congress immediately after the July 24 State of the Nation Address of the President; yet, it was not mentioned in the SONA. It was officially transmitted by PLLO (Presidential Legislative Liaison Office) to the Senate and the House on August 14. However, as of September 9 (MindaNews, September 10) it had not been calendared for first reading in both the Senate and the House; no one would sponsor it.

What happened to the draft during the 28 days in the Office of the President? Was the copy transmitted officially to the Congress the same draft the New BTC had given to the President?

For a month now after the Draft had been officially transmitted to the Congress, no one would sponsor it. It has become a hot potato. Why?

That in action is the assurance of support from the President, Senate President and House Speaker.
The President did not certify the Draft as an urgent bill. According to the PLLO, the President will issue his certification after Draft BBL 2017 has been consolidated with the other BBL bills. As of this writing, three BBL bills have been filed and calendared for first reading — HB 0092 or Bangsamoro Basic Law, by Rep. Sandra Sema (June 30, 2016); HB 6121 or Basic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (August 3, 2017); and HB 6263 or Bangsamoro Basic Law, by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (August 24, 2017)
An urgent certification of Draft BBL 2017 would have been a signal to the Congress that it is the only bill the President would like the Congress to consider as the basic law for the “Bangsamoro country”. Of the PLLO statement: What is he “husbanding” – the BBL he has ordered drafted by Executive Order No. 08, s. 2016 or a diluted BBL?

Draft BBL 2017 was not among the 28 priority bills of the Duterte administration that the LEDAC (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) released last August 29 (MindaNews, September 6). It will be included in the next LEDAC meeting in mid-September, said Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella; Speaker Pimentel had told MindaNews it would be added to the LEDAC list “per motion by PLLO”.

The President has assured not only once the Moros that BBL is a priority bill. LEDAC says otherwise. Why is this so? The President has not certified Draft BBL 2017 as URGENT to emphasize his assurance. Why?

Obviously, the non-inclusion of Draft BBL 2017 in the LEDAC priority list raised serious apprehension among the Moros. Luwaran, the MILF Central Committee official website, in its September 2 editorial, “Marawi crisis spill over”, noted this state of the Draft, expressed the MILF and MNLF frustrations over the failure of the government to comply with its commitments in the CAB and the 1996 FPA, and warned of “the spill over of the Marawi crisis [as] the natural consequence”.

Last September 4, President Duterte met the MILF leaders led by Chairman Murad Ebrahim and the 20-member BTC to address these concerns and set another meeting on September 14 together with Senate and House leaders led by Senate President Pimentel and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. In that meeting, President Duterte vowed again “to push for the passage of the BBL”.

In the September 14 meeting, as expected, Duterte assured the Moro and Congress leaders that he would ‘continue to husband the approval of BBL until its implementation”. But, as seen in the GMA News and ABS-CBN News reports two hours after, there was nothing conclusive and reassuring. Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza, who spoke to reporters, assured – as he usually does – that all was well and will be, contrary to his narrations.

GMA News quoted Dureza’s quotation of what Duterte had “just said” (in Italics) that in his brand of Pilipino is incoherent, rambling, tentative.

“Meron akong plano at tawagin ko uli kayo. Mag-usap tayo. It’s really how to nurture na talagang papasa iyan kasi ‘pag pakawalan mo iyan, certify mo lang iyan, pagdating doon may mga question pa iyong ibang mga members of Congress dahil may Constitutional issues pa iyan,”

“Diba dati akala natin merong mag-author lang, bahala na. Pabayaan mo na ang Kongreso diyan. Naku, ‘pag pakawalan mo iyan at hindi mo gawan ng game plan from the executive, baka hindi mo ma-ano…”.

In an ABS-CBS News report. Dureza spoke of “a discussion on both sides” but regretted he could not reveal “[a]ll the other details”. He elaborated what the President had said in his own brand of Pilipino.

The President has “a game plan that is still being worked out by the Office of the President, in coordination with leadership of Congress, on how to see to it that the BBL will see its implementation.” It will ensure that Draft BBL 2017 will not suffer the same fate of Draft BBL 2014.
Is the “game plan” now “being worked out” by the OP? Duterte’s quoted statement in the GMA News report does not show it. Besides, Dureza said “Duterte and the MILF will again meet to discuss more details about the President’s plan”. How can the OP “work out” on the plan when “more details” are still to be discussed by the President and the MILF in another meeting? By “again”, Dureza implied there had been a “first” meeting? Was there? When?

The above was also reported by the INQUIRER.net and The Manila Bulletin.

Draft BBL 2017 had no sponsor as of September 9 (MindaNews September 10). That could be the reason why it was not in the priority list of LEDAC At this writing, there is no sponsor yet (MindaNews, September 16, 2017: Draft Bangsamoro` Basic Law still in limbo).
In the Congress, the bill has to be followed up. The Implementing Panels are mandated to do this task with Section 2a of their TOR stating the division of labor between the GPH and MILF panels – the first “shall work for the passage of the proposed BBL in Congress” while the second “shall monitor the progress of the legislative process”. This should start with the transmittal of the Draft to the Congress.

What the Panels can do is like climbing the Himalayas. The task has become harder with the filing of three other BBL bills. While these three may be the exact or rehashed copies of Draft BBL 2014, they are bound to dilute Draft BBL 2017 – the revision of the Old Draft by refining the provisions objected to in the 16th Congress and furthering the convergence of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro-Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, 1996 Final Peace Agreement, RA Nos. 6734 and 9054, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, and more. This must be one reason for President Duterte to intervene with his new “game plan”

However, the “game plan” is still nebulous. Despite Dureza’s elaboration, it is still in the idea stage revealed to the MILF — “Meron akong plano at tawagin ko uli kayo. Mag-usap tayo.” It follows Duterte’s penchant for the incoherent, rambling and tentative.

The implication to Bangsamoro is worrisome. Duterte vowed to establish Bangsamoro, NOT according to the mechanisms and modalities agreed in the CAB-FAB but to what he wants. To do it his own way, he had the BPDR (Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap) formulated. Evidently, the BPDR had not worked as he had wanted. But he himself modified it to accommodate his friend, MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari. He did translate it as the mandate of the New BTC in EO No. 08. s. 2016.

Draft BBL 2017 is not exactly what he wants. This is inferred from his statement at the turn-over rite, “There will be no objections (to) the provisions of all that is consistent with the Constitution and the aspiration of the Moro people.” (MindaNews, July 18, 2017, Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star). This explains why the Draft was detained at the OP for a month before transmitting it to the Congress. His support of the Draft is in reality conditional.

 MindaNews Editor Carolyn O. Arguillas, to have a meaningful report of the September 14 meeting asked key officials of the Congress, particularly Senate President Pimentel III and House Speaker Alvarez, and the BTC chair the following questions:

(1)Will the draft BBL finally have authors / sponsors so it can be filed as a bill in both houses of Congress?

(2) Will the President certify it as urgent?

(3) Has the Duterte administration’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap which targeted the passage of the BBL by end of 2017, been abandoned in favor of a new roadmap?

(4) If yes, what is this new roadmap? Will the draft BBL be subsumed into the federalism track?

In her September 16 article, she wrote: “A number gave carefully crafted vague answers or did not answer these very simple questions” – concluding in bold headline, “Draft Bangsamoro Law still in limbo”.

OUR GRAVE RESERVATION: Draft BBL 2017 is being tossed in treacherous waters. Will the “game plan” work this time to bring it safely ashore? What if it does not?

Will what had been denied under Aquino III be fulfilled under Duterte? We can hang on to vows and promises and speculate on new roadmaps and game plans until the day of reckoning by the end of the 17th Congress. The MILF and MNLF will cooperate as much as and as long as they can – perhaps compromise more. But will the Moro extremists and militants?

[“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate. You may e-mail your comments to patponcediaz@yahoo.com]


CAFGU slain in NorthCot ambush

From MindaNews (Sep 19): CAFGU slain in NorthCot ambush

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a 39-year-old member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in the hinterland municipality of Arakan in North Cotabato Monday.

Authorities identified the victim as Jeffrey Bitonio, CAFGU member assigned at Barangay Anapolon in Arakan.

Reports from Arakan Police said the victim was on his way to the town’s Poblacion when waylaid by at least five armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) around 7:20 a.m.

Bitonio sustained several gunshot wounds in different parts of his body, which led to his instant death, reports added.

There was no statement yet from the NPA as of press time if indeed it was their group that executed Bitonio.

Bitonio was the second CAFGU member the NPA killed in Arakan town since July this year.

On July 19, the communist guerillas executed a certain Ben Padian, CAFGU member assigned at Paquibato District, after he was flagged down along the national highway in Arakan town.

Padian was also driving his motorcycle when told to disembark from the vehicle while the NPAs were conducting checkpoint along Barangay Gambodes. A few minutes later, residents heard gunshots and found Padian’s body oozing with blood dumped in one corner of the highway.


Marawi war victims unite, threaten to launch ‘holy war’

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 20): Marawi war victims unite, threaten to launch ‘holy war’


Screenshot of a video showing armed members of the shadowy group called “Meranaw Victims Movement” who threaten to launch a holy war in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

A shadowy group calling itself the “Meranaw Victims Movement” has threatened to launch its own jihad or holy war if a set of demands, among them government compensation for the destruction of Marawi and the victims of war between security forces and local IS militants in the besieged city in southern Philippines.

Speaking in Arabic, the group – comprising about 3 dozen masked gunmen – released a 14-minute video and statement on social media and stated the following demands: First, we would like to ask our kinsfolk from among the so-called ISIS/Maute Group to leave Marawi City at once and free their hostages, Muslims and Christians alike; Second, we would like to ask the Philippine Government, especially President Rodrigo Duterte, the following – to allow the civilians to return to their homes in areas in Marawi City that were already cleared by the military; stop the aerial bombings of Marawi City if only to salvage houses or buildings that may not have been destroyed yet; stop the abuses of some military and police personnel at checkpoints and accord respect to civilians, especially the women.

And ease the access to and from Marawi City, especially the roads through the village of Maliwanag so that people in the 1st District of Lanao del Sur would have better and convenient road access; secure the remains of civilians so they may not be mixed with the garbage in the process of military clearing operations and so that they may be given proper burial even if only skeletons are left of them; to provide immediate appropriate material and financial support to all wounded civilian victims similar to the support being provided by the government to wounded military and police personnel; compensate for the damaged houses and buildings, wasted goods and merchandise of civilians and provide for their livelihood as well.

And to rebuild or rehabilitate the mosques and madrasahs and other destroyed structures that represented the Meranao culture and heritage; importantly, the government should not make any hint that it would occupy the land of the Meranaws on the basis of military reservation, instead it should help legitimate owners to have their respective land titles; and for the military and police personnel to avoid occupying mosques and madrasahs.

It also demanded from local politicians to account for all the relevant government funds such as the Calamity Fund and all other assistance and donations, and ensure transparent and equitable implementation or spending of the same. And has urged the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front to support its demands by ensuring that these reach all those concerned.

The Meranaw Victims Movement strongly denied that locals – whom the government and authorities blamed for allowing militants to build up forces and occupy the city – condone the violence and said it is willing to face off with IS fighters in an effort to drive out the gunmen. It also blamed local leaders as responsible for failing to prevent the IS attacks.

“First, we did not conform with the using of Marawi City as sanctuary neither did we approve of what some of our kinsfolk who claimed to be ISIS/Maute Group did which ignited the war in Marawi City that has brought about grave sufferings to the Meranaw people. Second, we deem unacceptable the actions of the Government that caused the displacement of tens of thousands and deaths of several civilians due to the aerial bombings and use of heavy armaments in Marawi City which are among those prohibited under International Humanitarian Law.”

“Third, we hold our local leaders, past and present alike, responsible for failing to prevent the ISIS/Maute Group from carrying out their plan since they were fully aware of the group’s presence in the city prior to the siege, and for literally forsaking the civilians like orphans in the midst of great danger during the onset of the siege on May 23, 2017. Fourth, we are dismayed with the MILF since, until now, nothing was heard of them, let alone have they made a categorical position on the current Marawi crisis,” it said.

If all the demands are not met, the group said it will take actions not only against IS militants, but the Duterte government as well. “To our ISIS/Maute Group kinsfolk, if you would not heed our call, we would be compelled to face you because by then you no longer care for the welfare of the people and you did not only fail to realize but have violated the essence of Jihad in Islam. To the Government, this will be the last time that we will ask in relation to previous demands of various sectors of the Meranaw society, and that if the foregoing demands will fall to deaf ears, likewise, we will be compelled to fight for our rights that have been trampled upon and that Jihad becomes our legitimate recourse.”

“To our leaders, should we find out that you defraud or corrupt the assistance and support intended for the evacuees, we will unrelentingly pursue until we take them for the people in whatever means possible. To the MILF, take note that the demand for the approval of the BBL becomes irrelevant if the key area where it should be implemented would no longer be in the hands of the Meranaw, and that by then the support of the people of Lanao becomes weak in time that you need it,” it said at the same time appealing to fellow war victims to support them and stand united and fight for the rights of the “Bangsa Meranaw,” whose dignity was trampled upon because of this crisis.

“Dear fellow Meranaws, we are your sons and brethren, who are among the evacuees from Marawi City. Some of us have relatives among the civilians who perished and what is more hurting is that their remains have yet to be retrieved. It’s almost four months now that we have been seeking shelters in evacuation centers or among our relatives’ homes in different towns. Consequently, some passed away while many others fell sick, prompting us to unite…this movement is dedicated to help in fighting for the rights of the Bangsa Meranaw,” it said.

The group said for the longest time, the Meranaw or natives of Marawi, had not experienced this kind of most demeaning crisis, especially the utter destruction of the city which is a rendezvous for the four principalities and royalties of Lanao. “Indeed, let us accept this crisis as a tribulation for our sins and omissions. Let’s go back to Allah and seek atonement for our sins, and let us stop all our wrong or evil ways, small and big alike. It’s almost four months now that we have been waiting for any groups or individuals who would take the cudgels for our land and our people but it seems none is coming. Henceforth, even we are weak in terms of arms and less in number, we leave our fate in the power of Allah for He knows what’s in our hearts and that we are just following His commands.”

“We find it unacceptable to have a future history of Marawi City being lost by the Meranaw people of this generation, hence our conviction to stand for it and fight for the rights of the people now. Do not lose hope. For us, we will not stop until we are able to go back home to Marawi and be able to avail of our rights in full. The fate of this effort depends on you, especially those who truly care for our land and the people. Please help us with your prayers so that Allah will help us because no one has control over anything except Him and that all powers come from Him.”

It was not immediately known who the leaders of the group are, or whether some of them are Muslim members of the military and police. Neither authorities nor the government give any statement on the group’s demands.


Half-way house for former rebels soon to rise in Kalinga

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 19): Half-way house for former rebels soon to rise in Kalinga

A half-way house will soon rise in the province to serve as temporary shelter for former rebels enrolled under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Max Mayer Adong, provincial Department of Interior and Local Government director, recently handed to Acting Gov. James Edduba a check worth P5 million for the construction of the facility at the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office compound here.

Gemma Bawanta of DILG said former rebels enrolled under CLIP may stay at the half-way house while processing their papers and undergoing counseling. Those who fear going back to their place of origin on repercussion of their surrender can stay at the half-way house, she added.

At present, there are 39 former rebels enrolled under CLIP awaiting their full integration to mainstream society, Bawanta informed.

Meanwhile, CLIP council members awarded livelihood assistance to 15 Militia ng Bayan (MB) surrenderees during the Kapehan program last week. This now brings to a total of 69 MB members facilitated under CLIP.

Lt. Col. Guliver Señires, Commanding Officer of the 50th Infantry Battalion, said 50 of MBs who earlier surrendered joined the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).


Former rebels in Palawan get financial aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): Former rebels in Palawan get financial aid

The local government's Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) awarded PHP65,000 each to 13 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as part of its goal to contribute towards achieving permanent and peaceful closure of armed conflicts with dissident groups.

In a statement issued September 18, the military's Western Command (WESCOM) said the former rebels received the financial assistance at the Provincial Capitol on September 15.

The former New People's Army members, who returned to the fold of the law in the second quarter of the year, are also eligible to receive financial aid under the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of the Palawan local government amounting to PHP25,000 each.

"The number of rebels surrendering is a good indicator that our peace programs are doing well in the province," said Major General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr, commander of WESCOM.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Palawan hopes more rebels will surrender given the conduct of more outreach programs to aid poor residents living in distant barangays.

"We hope for more surrenderees to come down and rest assured that we will help them in their integration to the society, so they can start their lives anew with their loved ones," Kintanar added.

In a related news, Captain Wanel Ansa, environment unit and community relations officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Monday that they had completed on September 13 their “Indigenous Peoples (IP) Tribal Outreach Program” for the Pala’wan settlers of Sitio Kelwi, Barangay Saraza, Brooke’s Point.

The outreach program for 300 Pala’wan IPs was carried out in cooperation with the local government unit (LGU) of Brooke’s Point headed by Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and other municipal officials in a bid to step up the delivery of some basic services to poverty-striken residents of the hinterlands.

“The warm welcome of the Pala’wan IPs of Kelwi, Saraza only proves that they now shun the deceitful and fraudulent NPA,” he said.

The Pala’wan IPs received free medical check-ups, free livebirth registrations, Philhealth memberships, free vaccination, distribution of vegetable seeds, free medicine for domestic animals, anti-rabies vaccination, and school supplies, among others.


Naval Forces West in Palawan has new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): Naval Forces West in Palawan has new commander

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Naval Forces West (NFW) in Palawan has a new commander.

Commodore Rommel Jason Galang assumed the leadership after Commodore Rommel Jude Ong relinquished his post in a change of command ceremony Monday morning at the Naval Station Apolinario Jalandoon in this city.

“I am both honored and humbled as I consider the immense responsibilities inherent in the position of Commander, Naval Forces West. I would like to personally thank the Flag Officer in Command, Admiral Mercado, and the AFP leadership for giving me the opportunity to lead and secure a course of peaceful development and progress. Though the challenges evolve, I will look into the future with clear eyes, confronting the challenges to peace and prosperity,” Galang said.

The event was presided by Philippine Navy (PN) Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado who handed over the command symbol to Galang, ushering him in as the 35th commander of the NFW.

Major Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr., Western Command (WESCOM) commander, also bestowed to him the Joint Task Force-West (JTF-W) symbol, designating him as newly installed commander.

Ong expressed his gratitude for the support of the NFW, resulting to exemplary and notable accomplishments of the unit during his stint. He is now the incumbent Naval Inspector General.

The rotation and replacement of leaders is considered customary for every military unit.


Moro groups vow to help in campaign vs drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): Moro groups vow to help in campaign vs drugs

Two Moro rebel organizations that signed peace deal with the government on Tuesday expressed full support to the police campaign against illegal drugs in North Cotabato.

Mayor Gigi Catamco of Matalam, North Cotabato invited local leaders of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) in her office for a dialogue regarding the matter.

Present during the dialogue was acting North Cotabato police director Senior Supt. Jonathan Tangonan and representatives from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine Army.

The Moro rebel leaders signed a covenant with government law enforcers expressing their full support to the campaign aimed at “cleansing” Moro communities of illegal drug personalities.

Reports have it that some Maguindanaons are engaged in illegal drug activities in North Cotabato, including relatives of rebel leaders.

Speaking over DXND Radyo Bida in Kidapawan City, Tangonan said the commanders admitted that involvement of illegal drugs by some of its followers led to family feud or clan wars.

Matalam is in the “radar” of PDEA-12 due to huge volume of prohibited drugs circulating in town and nearby communities.

The MNLF and MILF leadership in North Cotabato will help the police and other law enforcers in intelligence gathering.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with the government in 1996 while the MILF forged a peace agreement with Manila in 2014.

Under the government and MILF ceasefire agreement, the rebel organization will assist government forces in enforcing search warrants against law offenders hiding in their respective communities.

The group is also bound to clear its ranks of terrorists and other lawless elements.


4 Sayyaf men surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): 4 Sayyaf men surrender

Four members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered through the concerted effort of the government troops and concerned stakeholders in the province of Sulu, military official said Tuesday.

The four, who were followers of the late bandit sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya, surrendered at around 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Barangay Likud, Pata, Sulu.

Pata, which comprises of 14 barangays, is a fifth class island municipality of Sulu with a population of 22,163 based on 2015 census on population.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, identified the surrenderees as Aldin Hadil Akmad, 25, Willing Ibba Jaabal, 45, Ijal Samsain Sadjal, 25, and, Emar Ladjar Udjah, 17.

Sobejana said they turned over four high-powered firearms consisting of three caliber .30 M1 Garand rifles and an M-16 Armalite rifle when they surrendered to Lt. Col. Jesse Montoya, Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion commander.

“Through the joint efforts of the 3rd Sulu Civilian Active Auxiliary Company and the Special Intelligence Team, Akmad and his companions decided to return to the folds of the law,” Sobejana said.

The surrender of Akmad and his three companions brought the number of ASG members who surrendered to the government to 111 since January this year within the area of jurisdiction of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

Of the total, 65 yielded to the troops in Basilan, 23 in Sulu, 21 in Tawi-Tawi, and two in Zamboanga City.

The Westmincom said they surrendered brought about by the continues military offensive against them.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, said the surrender of the ASG members due to successful coordination with all concerned stakeholders.

“Our Joint Task Forces are committed in intensifying the offensives to neutralize the remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits, who are on the run now. This operational accomplishment is attributed to our soldiers on the ground who made this possible,” Galvez added.


Dependents of slain soldiers in Marawi get grants

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): Dependents of slain soldiers in Marawi get grants

Dependents of three soldiers killed in the ongoing clearing operations against Maute group terrorists in Marawi City were awarded scholarships at the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Sept. 15.

According to AFP Public Affairs Office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, Chief-of-Staff, General Eduardo Año himself awarded the scholarship certificates to the dependents of TSg Aldrin Dinglasan PN(M), Pfc Jobert Hollero PA, and SSg Larry Lopez PA, all died while fighting the Maute-ISIS terrorist group in Marawi City.

As of this posting, around 149 soldiers and police officers have been killed in action since fighting in Marawi City started last May 23.

All three children of Dinglasan as well as the two dependents of Lopez will receive monthly tuition and stipend grants to help them finish their studies until college.

Arevalo said the scholarship falls under Republic Act 6963 which is being implemented by the AFP Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO).

The act grants special financial assistance and benefits to families or beneficiaries of uniformed men and women who were either killed or permanently incapacitated while in the performance of duty.

Aside from one of Dinglasan’s children who is now a 4th-year college student, all dependents are either in grade school or in kindergarten.

He added that Holero's newborn baby will also be assured of monthly educational assistance once he comes of age.

The AFPEBSO is one of the military’s morale and welfare arm. It has been providing educational assistance to qualified dependents of military personnel since its activation in 2000.

It caters particularly to the disadvantaged orphans whose parents have died or were incapacitated in combat.

Lt. Col. Antonio B. Dulnuan, Jr., currently heads the office. At present, the AFP through EBSO is supporting 3,961 grantees nationwide. These are the beneficiaries of 285 programs consisting of law mandated programs and those by virtue of partnerships with educational, government, socio-civic, and financial institutions.

“It is one of the AFP’s missions through the AFPEBSO to support the dependents and beneficiaries of our soldiers. Through our program of ‘Leaving No Soldier’s Orphan Behind, we commit ourselves to ensure a brighter future for the families left behind by our soldiers who sacrificed their lives to attain just and lasting peace for our country,” Año said.

“On behalf of the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines, I thank all our partner institutions and stakeholders for their contributions to the academic success of our scholars. The achievements of our beneficiaries bring about pride and fulfilment not only for the AFP but to its partners as they contribute to the welfare improvement of our soldiers’ families,” he added.


Hapilon still trapped in Marawi: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): Hapilon still trapped in Marawi: AFP

Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon is reportedly still trapped inside Marawi City, AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said in a briefing late Monday.

"He is still inside the Main Battle Area, based on (our latest) intelligence (and) he is considering other options (escaping, fleeing, etc) but as much as possible, we don't want Hapilon to leave the Main Battle Area alive," he said.

Fighting in Marawi City started last May 23 after government troops tried to arrest the bandit group chief and his cohorts.

It was disclosed that based on custodial debriefing of those who surrendered and captured Maute group terrorists, only Omar Maute, one of the founders of the lawless band, is still alive.

Maute group co-founder Abdullah and and prominent Maute siblings like Madi and Oto were killed in ongoing military operations, Año said.

He added that there are two surviving Maute siblings who are not considered important and significant in the operations against the terror group.

The AFP chief said that this information is still validated as of this posting, adding that an estimated 10 foreign terrorists from Indonesia and Malaysia, are believed to be helping the remaining Maute group terrorists in the ongoing clashes.


2nd SAMMRVE delegates vow to boost fight vs radicalization, extremism

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 19): 2nd SAMMRVE delegates vow to boost fight vs radicalization, extremism

Attendees of the second Special Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting on the rise of radicalization and violent extremism (SAMMRVE) have committed to implement an intense fight against these threats in the region.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy, who is also the Philippine representative to the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime being held in the country, said the officials will hold regular regional meetings to discuss the issues and how to stop them.

"At the end of the meeting, we committed to further intensify our efforts and strategies to counter these threats through the conduct of regular regional dialogues and consultations, exchange of intelligence information and resources, establishing joint operations, and engaging regional partners in capacity building programs," he said in a press briefing on Tuesday at Conrad Manila in Pasay City.

"But more than these, we should be able to promote or encourage tolerance of ideological differences in schools and the social media, among others, with greater focus on the youth and women," the DILG chief added.

He noted that the meeting was very productive for having a consensus on how they will go about and deal with the challenges that the region may be facing involving radicalization and violent extremism.

"As we all know, radicalization and violent extremism are huge challenges that pose threat to regional and global peace and order and security," Cuy said.

"The meeting provided an opportunity for ASEAN member countries to share their views and experiences in their respective countries in dealing with radicalization and violent extremism as well as the rehabilitation aspect of these issues," he added.

The dialogue is part of the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crimes (11th AMMTC) which aims to strengthen regional strategies and cooperation to fight transnational crimes.

The first SMMRVE was held in Malaysia in 2015.

Participants of the four-day event, which started on Monday, are ministers, senior official and delegates from ASEAN.

The Philippines is hosting the meeting as chairman of the ASEAN's 50th anniversary this year held in Pasay City from September 18 to 21.

Meanwhile, the ministers are set to convene on Wednesday for the highlight of the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime.

"Up for consideration and adoption tomorrow by the Ministers are the following AMMTC documents: Bohol TIP Work Plan and the ASEAN Declaration to Combat Cybercrime, among others," Cuy said.

"What is evident is that the ASEAN is further strengthening its cooperation and strategies to combat regional concerns. We acknowledge that there is strength in numbers, there is strength in collaboration. We will continue working together as one ASEAN to promote regional peace, security and stability," he added.

Aside from the Philippines, the ASEAN is composed of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.


Sayyaf chief must die in Marawi—military

From The Standard (Sep 19): Sayyaf chief must die in Marawi—military

ISNILON Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf leader reportedly designated the “emir” of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, must die, Armed Forces chief Eduardo Año said Monday.

"We don’t want Isnilon to leave Marawi alive,” Año said at a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo.

Año said Hapilon was still alive in Marawi but separated from the remaining Maute group terrorists, contradicting claims that the Abu Sayyaf leader had fled the battle zone through an underground tunnel, and that he had escaped to Basilan.

The Armed Forces chief said three terrorists who surrendered said that of the Maute brothers, only Omar was still alive.

“There are two main groups. One is led by Hapilon, who came from Basilan, and there’s the group led by Omar,” Año said.

The Catholic priest, Chito Suganod, told the military that he and dozens of hostages were captives of the Maute group, who were deployed in the Bato Mosque before a military assault on Saturday.

Suganod said up to 50 hostages were still in the hands of the Mautes.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ruled out the possibility of negotiating with the remaining terrorists in Marawi, who were considering releasing the remaining hostages in exchange for their safe passage out of the city.

“Impossible. I will not even agree to look at them,” the President said in a chance interivew during the wake of a policeman slain in Caloocan City.

“This will not end until the last terrorist is taken out—that is my order to the Armed Forces and even the police,” he added.

The President said he was particularly worried about the fate of the female hostages.

“There are reports that they were being repeatedly raped every night. That’s a gross violation of the rights of a human being and an affront on the dignity of Filipina women,” he said.

A military spokesman on Monday urged hostages in Marawin to just wave a white flag if they are being forced to fight on the side of the terrorists.

“Should they wave a white flag, the shooting will stop to give way for the verification of those who’ve waived their flags,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a Palace news briefing.

“However, if they show signs of hostility, our soldiers have the right to defend themselves or neutralize the targets,” he added.

Padilla said the military would take care of hostages that try to escape.

“We know the rules of engagement. We know the rules of war. And if there’s a white flag flying out there for an individual, we will respect his right and he will be treated well,” he added.

Padilla said there were still about 40 to 60 hostages.

Government troops have already captured the command center of Maute group, the Islamic State supporters who have besieged Marawi City for nearly four months.


CPP: Sept 21 protest to shine spotlight on fascist crimes, Duterte regime

From News 5/InterAksyon (Sep 18): CPP: Sept 21 protest to shine spotlight on fascist crimes, Duterte regime

Lakbayan 2017 protest march.
Lakbayan 2017 protest march.

The Communist Party of the Philippines said all of the victims of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “political persecution, armed oppression and bloody campaign of mass murder” are bound to unite in their common quest for justice “and to resist and frustrate his plans to prop himself up as a fascist dictator.”

In a Monday (September 18) posting on its website, Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC), the CPP Information Bureau pointed out the possibility that “they can come together in mass demonstrations on September 21 to mark the 45th year of the declaration of martial law, recall the fascist crimes of the US-Marcos dictatorship and hold Duterte accountable for the crimes perpetrated in the three wars of his fascist regime.”

In the course of the next few weeks and months, said CPP, “more and more local assemblies, indoor rallies and street demonstrations can be mounted to reach out and mobilize the biggest number of people in their communities and towns.

“Barangay centers, auditoriums, ampitheaters and coliseums can serve as venues to try Duterte for his crimes, hear the grievances of his victims and galvanize them to action … against Duterte’s bureaucrat capitalist rule, puppetry to US imperialism especially military intervention in Marawi and elsewhere, imposition of new taxes, surrender of territory to China in exchange for onerous and burdernsome loans, demolition of homes, land grabbing for plantations and infrastructure projects and other anti-people policies and programs.”

No amount of propaganda, Duterte bravado, political and legal maneuvers will stop the groundswell of protest actions demanding an end to his regime of death and destruction, said CPP.


Bulatlat: Lakbayan 2017 | National minorities file cases of human rights, IHL violations by gov’t forces

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Sep 19): Lakbayan 2017 | National minorities file cases of human rights, IHL violations by gov’t forces

Parents of slain youth Obello Bay-ao join human rights workers and other victims in filing complaints of violations of CARHRIHL with the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee in Quezon City. (Contributed photo)
The national minorities alliance Sandugo slammed the Duterte administration for abuses on the rights of Moros and indigenous peoples, which are also violations of the human rights pact between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) – the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or Carhrihl.
Earlier today, Sept. 18, human rights workers and victims trooped to the office of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and filed complaints of violations of Carhrihl committed by government forces in the Cordillera region, Negros island in the Visayas, and in Mindanao.

Sandugo filed the complaints amid concerns of President Duterte’s drift to militarist rule. Last week, Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives drastically cut the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to only P1,000 ($20). But the shrinking space to redress grievances makes it even more urgent to point out abuses and assert the people’s rights.

“We are filing the cases of violations of Carhrihl against the GRP to continue to compel them to their obligations,” said a statement by Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Sandugo convener.

Carhrihl was signed by the GRP and NDFP in 1998. In 2004, the Joint Monitoring Committee was formed to monitor violations of Carhrihl by the two sides. The JMC, composed of the respective offices of the GRP and NDFP, is based in Cubao, Quezon City.

Sandugo reiterated the call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, which, it said, is urgently needed to address the worsening crisis and attacks, specially against national minorities. In January this year, the two panels signed the Supplemental Guidelines of the JMC, which was never convened since it was formed. This was hailed as a major accomplishment in the peace process. However, the peace talks had been suspended since May, following the government panel’s “non-participation” in the fifth round of talks.

Among the complaints filed by the CPA is that of Marcos Aggalao, the 74-year-old ailing Kalinga leader who died last week, after a year in detention based on trumped-up criminal charges.

The complaints include 14 cases of extrajudicial killings, including that of Lumad youth Obello Bay-ao of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, who was shot and killed by paramilitary men on Sept. 5. His parents, Benjo and Genia Bay-ao, were among those who filed complaints.

There were also cases of illegal arrest and detention, harassment, threat and intimidation, violation of domicile, physical and mental torture. Also included are violations committed in the Consunji mining areas in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The CPA filed 13 cases of illegal arrest and detention committed this year, including that of five residents of Malibcong, Abra and Kalinga, and Sarah Abellon-Alikes, a Kankana-ey human rights defender from Mountain Province.

CPA and Tindeg Ranao, the Marawi evacuees’ group, both filed cases of forced evacuation and destruction of properties due to indiscriminate airstrikes in Malibcong in Abra, and in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

CPA said the AFP dropped phosphorous bombs in Malibcong, accompanied by ground operations of the 24th infantry battalion, and the 50th IB in Kalinga, which resulted to cases of “divestment and destruction of properties, and physical assault of civilians and village officials.”

Meanwhile, Tindeg Ranao spokesperson Aida Ibrahim said they will also file complaints against the Duterte administration to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will begin its Universal Periodic Review this month.


Bulatlat: Lakbayan 2017 | NDFP expresses unity with national minorities

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Sep 19): Lakbayan 2017 | NDFP expresses unity with national minorities

NDFP peace consultant Emeterio Antalan speaks at the NDFP forum in sitio Sandugo in UP Diliman on Sept.18. (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) gave its support to the national minorities who are in the capital, as it stressed that the struggle for the right to self-determination is part of the overall movement for national liberation.

In a unity forum with delegates of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya yesterday, Sept. 18, NDFP peace consultant Emeterio Antalan praised the sacrifices and hardship of those who travelled to Metro Manila to gain support for their struggle.

“Through your sacrifices and efforts to push the movement for self-determination, and the repression that you experience in your communities and even here, you have shown that self-determination is not granted freely, but must be demanded and fought for,” Antalan said. The forum was held at sitio Sandugo, the Lakbayan camp at the University of the Philippines Stud Farm in Diliman, Quezon City.

Moros and indigenous peoples may yet face the worst attacks under Duterte, as the peace talks between government and the NDFP remains suspended, and the Presidential Palace is abuzz with talks of a looming nationwide declaration of martial law. Amid this atmosphere, the NDFP and groups under Sandugo continue to push for reforms, such as those in the NDFP draft Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reforms or CASER.

The Duterte administration had practically suspended the peace talks in May, just when it was about to tackle core issues, like agrarian reform, which is under the substantive agenda on social and economic reforms. The CASER is the second in the four substantive agenda of the peace negotiations.

Unlike most NDFP consultants who were released on bail, Antalan was released on a conditional pardon issued by President Duterte in July. Although freed, he is required to regularly report to local police in his residence, and must secure a permit to travel if he goes out of town.

The forum held by the NDFP in the Lakbayan camp in UP Diliman (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

The GRP-NDFP peace process is yet to be cancelled, in spite the suspension of the round of talks. Neither of the two parties have issued a formal letter of cancellation.

The national minorities section in the NDFP draft of CASER

Moros and indigenous peoples make up the national minorities, who have a distinct culture, territories and way of life, which they have defended throughout history. They were also commonly “minoritized” through systematic state policies of oppression and discrimination.

Rosario Bella Guzman of Ibon Foundation, who is also a resource person of the NDFP’s reciprocal working group on social and economic reforms (RWC-SER), discussed in the forum the NDFP revised draft of CASER which now contains a separate section on the national minorities. The section is given the same importance as agrarian reform and national industrialization.

The first part of the NDFP draft recognizes national oppression as a specific burden on national minorities.

The NDFP draft CASER has five points of reforms for the national minorities, said Guzman. These are the following:

1. Respect of the right to self-determination
2. Unconditional recognition of ancestral lands and territories
3. Recognition of the national minorities’ participation in economic development
4. End to all institutional forms of discrimination
5. Ensure the social services for national minorities

To recognize the national minorities’ right to their ancestral territories, the NDFP draft pushes to scrap the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, or Ipra, and other laws which allow the encroachment of private, business corporations into their lands. Instead, a democratic law that truly recognizes national minorities’ territories shall be enacted.

The draft also calls to abolish the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, or NCIP, which was formed under Ipra. Indigenous groups have clamored to shut down NCIP for its role in manipulating communities to give their consent to destructive mining and dam projects. Local NCIP officials have also been reported for “baptizing” fake tribal chieftains and making up fake tribes, which then give the required consent to such projects. The agency also help legitimize indigenous paramilitary groups which attack communities that resist the entry of projects.

Guzman said that the NDFP has gathered a list of fake datus and indigenous paramilitary groups that bastardize the national minorities’ culture.

All certificates of ancestral domain title and ancestral land titles (Cadt/Calt) will be reviewed, and the anomalous ones will be cancelled.

The draft CASER also calls for an end to the historic denial of social services to national minorities. This include giving recognition for indigenous schools, such as those of the Lumad in Mindanao, which have come under attack from government troops and paramilitary groups. Government funding must also be given to traditional medicine practiced by minorities.

Guzman cited sitio Sandugo and how it serves as a democratic space for the minorities to express themselves, develop their customs and highlight their struggles, instead of the commercialization and misrepresentation of their culture to attract tourists.

“There should be spaces such as this,” she said.

(Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

Three of the NDFP’s 18 allied organizations belong to the national minorities: the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), and the Lumad Revolutionary Organization (LRO).

Continuing human rights violations of national minorities

In the forum, several Lumad shared cases of landgrabbing of ancestral lands and human rights violations in their communities.

Tayong Sanong, a Dulangan Manobo from Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, said his father, Pastor Kama Sanong of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church, has been in detention at the Provincial Jail in Isulan. Kama was arrested on July 11 this year by police and Philippine Marines, allegedly for illegal possession of firearms. But Sanong said the evidence – a .38 caliber revolver and a rifle grenade – were planted.

“My father refused to attend meetings. He knew these were about giving our land away,” Sanong said in the forum. He said the meetings were to facilitate the project of the Consunjis, which has logging and mining in the province.

Another Lumad, Torino Tanding, a Blaan from Tupi, South Cotabato, said he and his community is being driven out of their land by the expansion of the plantation of Dole Corporation. On May 28, he and several others survived a strafing, which he viewed as harassment, because they have refused to give consent to the use of their land.

Tanding said a certain Zenaida Balamon is claiming 150 hectares of lands owned by four Blaan clans. In a dialogue they held with Tupi Mayor Roland Tamayo, the latter only told them, “Are you aware that we are under martial law?”

Marissa Dumajug, head of the NDFP-appointed secretariat for the Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), encouraged victims to file their cases with the JMC.

She said that although the peace talks are suspended, the cases will be investigated by the NDFP.


Guzman said the national minorities is one of the “contentious issues” in the peace talks.

The government uses the official term “indigenous cultural communities,” not national minorities. But Guzman said the former puts emphasis only on their culture, but not the historic national oppression they continue to face.

Guzman called the NDFP draft of CASER “a beautiful document,” which has now been disregarded, with the uncertainty in the resumption of the peace talks. She said national minorities and the people in general must assert such reforms, as well as the return of the peace negotiations.


Army unit probes disbursement mess

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 19): Army unit probes disbursement mess

The commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID) on Monday ordered a review of the financial records of the unit following allegation of anomalies in 2014 in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, where it is based.

Maj. Gen. Angelito de Leon said he also asked Camp Aguinaldo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters, to undertake a parallel investigation to prove or disprove the claims of whistle-blower, Cpl. Melvin Alfonso, who had gone into hiding.

According to De Leon, Alfonso was a member of the division’s service battalion until last year when he sought transfer to Camp Aguinaldo.

De Leon learned of the supposed corruption through a story in the Inquirer. He said he had not read the whistle-blower’s report to President Rodrigo Duterte.

It was not clear who was the division commander when Alfonso supposedly discovered the irregularities involving funds called return to sender (RTS).

RTS refers to portions of operational funds allocated to the 7th ID which are allegedly withdrawn and diverted to senior officers.

Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri served as 7th ID commander from July 23, 2013, to Feb. 7, 2014; Brig. Gen. Vic Castro from Feb. 7 to April 2, 2014; and Maj. Gen. Glorioso Miranda from April 2, 2014, to Oct. 15, 2015.

Iriberri and Castro have retired while Miranda is the current Army chief.

Former Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., had said his predecessor, Emmanuel Bautista, had put in place anticorruption measures in the organization and its operational systems.

De Leon, who assumed command on Oct. 15, 2015, said the present system at the division had “very strict” fiscal and control measures.

Asked to confirm the existence of RTS funds through which soldiers allegedly get between P5,000 and P10,000, De Leon said, “None.”
“There should be a basis for releasing money,” he said, adding that salaries of soldiers were released through ATM (automated teller machines).

The division handles maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) released by the national headquarters.

“Irregularities are not tolerated by our institution,” De Leon said.


West Philippine Sea advocates meet with Philippine defense chief

From Marianas Variety (Sep  19): West Philippine Sea advocates meet with Philippine defense chief

Officers of the global group National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea or NYMWPS met with Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana on Sept. 5, 2017 to present their concerns and clarify the stand of the department on issues affecting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.

The group, headed by its global chairperson and founder, Saipan-based Dr. Celia Lamkin, who joined the meeting online also took the opportunity to present to the DND secretary its advocacies and update him on the projects and plans to advance youth awareness and promote the welfare of the primary stakeholders of the contested marine area.

NYMWPS is a transnational youth group that advocates the upholding and preservation of the country’s territorial sovereignty in the contested territory which was the subject of a favorable 2016 tribunal ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague for the Philippines.

Secretary Lorenzana was advised by the group that since it’s launching on Sept. 28, 2015, the organization which operates on volunteerism has conducted several fora to raise awareness on the issues involving the West Philippine Sea; and has widened its membership by launching several chapters across the globe, as well as sending representatives to several youth summits in different parts of the world.

The DND chief was happy to hear that the group has given support to the troops assigned in the Ayungin Shoal and the residents of Pag-asa Islands through donations and livelihood projects.

Lorenzana in recent months led the flag-raising ceremony in Pag-asa Island, which raised concern from China who continues to claim territorial ownership of the area despite the U.N. tribunal decision.

Concurring to the group’s advocacy, Lorenzana shared that the development efforts of the Subi Reef by the Philippines started in 2012 and when the Chinese started to reclaim the islands in the Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Fiery Cross, the islands in the area are almost developed.

Representatives of the National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea pose with Philippine Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana after a meeting at his office at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Metro Manila. The group was joined online by the movement’s founder and global chair, Dr. Celia Lamkin, of the CNMI. Contributed photo
On concerns raised by the group on the blatant disregard of China on the U.N. Tribunal ruling, Lorenzana has maintained that the Philippines need to manage the conflict peacefully and collaboratively, pointing out that the tension in Panatag Shoal has in fact somehow lessened because of this strategy. “As of now, the country cannot afford to go to war,” Lorenzana was quoted as saying, pointing out the present capabilities of the armed forces which is no match to the superpower capabilities of China.

Lorenzana reiterated the need to advance the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program, which he hopes the Philippine Congress would act on fast specifically, by granting a bigger budget that would support the program.

The DND chief also shared with the group the development program for Pag-asa Island, saying that the department has already allocated a budget for it. Foremost among the development efforts is the improvement of the runway and plans to put up a marine research station, fishermen wharf, and the possibility of promoting the island as a diving spot.

On the eco-tourism aspect, the group asked Lorenzana if there are parties from the private sector who are willing to help in the country’s development efforts for Pag-asa Island. They shared the proposal of Las Vegas-based NYMWPS deputy global chair Nick Macasaet, an engineer, to convert the island into a “barter trade zone” (http://nymwps.org/nymwps-proposal-for-kalayaan-and-scarborough-shoal-development/), which the DND chief appreciated. He shared that while there are no private sectors present in the current development efforts of Pag-asa Island, some have expressed interest to purchase and develop parts of it.

The group members are happy to hear about the plans shared by the secretary because these supports their advocacies, specifically in advancing the development of the islands and the areas within the West Philippine Sea. Similarly, Secretary Lorenzana expressed his appreciation for the group’s enthusiasm and dedication. In his personal note to Dr. Lamkin, he stated, “It was an honor and privilege to interact with the NYMWPS delegation...I welcome the effort, enthusiasm and dedication of these youths to advance our interest in the West Philippine Sea.”

A few weeks back, the NYMWPS representatives also met with Philippine Congressman Gary Alejano who promised them to support their cause by way of legislation.

NYMWPS is also getting support from Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former National Security Adviser/ Congressman Roilo Golez, as well as former Congressman and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Bases Conversion Development Authority chair Congressman Felicito Payumo who is also NYMWPS Western Luzon and Bataan chapter chair.

Payumo assured the group that, “my position hews closely to that of Justice Carpio and former Congressman Golez. The Constitution mandates that the government protect our national territories including our Exclusive Economic Zones in the West Philippines Seas.” He added that “we will never go wrong if we follow the Constitution.”


Opinion: Philippines: National Democratic Front Condemns Worsening Military Violations

Opinion piece by Reynard Magtoto posted to TelesurTV (Sep 17): Opinion: Philippines: National Democratic Front Condemns Worsening Military Violations

Protesters call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDF during a protest along a main road in Manila, Philippines.

Protesters call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDF during a protest along a main road in Manila, Philippines. | Photo: Reuters

“The long-term change the people are hoping for depends on the success of the people's democratic revolution,” Banua said.
In the Bicol region in the Philippines, the people are still mourning a series of killings, as new extrajudicial killings — suspected to be perpetrated by state forces — have been recently recorded in these communities.
The series of brutal killings led the National Democratic Front in the region to asked President Rodrigo Duterte what change he pledged for the people, with his tagline “Change is Coming.”
What change can be boasted by a regime which systematically removes all machinery that will ensure its accountability to the people so that his offensives will be completely undisputed against the people?” NDF-Bicol spokesperson Roja Banua raised while condemning recent civilian killings in Sorsogon province and the allocated about US$20 Commission on Human Rights budget passed by the house of representatives.
It's been more than a year since Duterte’s pro-people campaign image, which has now subsided and the fascist, dictatorial moves have surfaced. Every day, new cases of killings have been reported. Many lives have been taken in the face of the triple war of the present regime while the ruling class and imperialist powers continue to plunder the country's resources.

According to Banua, no other change was felt by the people but a new and more intimidating threat to their lives. “The whole country is a big cemetery … while the criminal AFP-PNP-CAFGU collects bloody medals and honor,” she said.

Civilian killings were recorded in two separate incidents in Sorsogon province this week. Within half a year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit have already killed 18 civilians according to NDF-Bicol.

The New People's Army's Celso Minguez Command expressed its condemnation of the worsening case of extrajudicial killings by the military in its province and denied allegations that the civilians recently killed were members of its command.
On Sept. 13, four men on motorcycles gunned down habal-habal driver Alvin Oplida at 10 am in Bacolod, Juban while waiting for passengers at the parking area bound for Barangay Calmayon and Catanusan. Oplida, resident of Maalo, Juban, has long been harassed by soldiers and accused of being an NPA supporter.

On Sept. 12., Village Councilor Salvador Atienza of Trece Martirez, Casiguran was shot dead by unknown gunmen at about 4 p.m. while driving his motorized tricycle. Atienza had attended 4Ps beneficiaries meeting with his two young daughters.

According to an NDF-Bicol report, elements of the 31st Infantry Brigade of the Philippines Army had earlier threatened Atienza and other local officials in Casiguran before the killing incident. “At the meeting, the military mentioned that they had two village councilors as target following the death of Captain Oscar Jetomo of Marinas, Gubat,” Banua stated.

“Only the military has a clear motive to kill Village Councilor Atienza because they suspected him as a member of the revolutionary mass organization and supporter of NPA,” Ka Samuel Guerrero of NPA-CMC testified.

Guerrero added that during the meeting of some town officials in Casiguran Aug. 20, the 31st IBPA troops indirectly boasted that they killed Captain Jetomo.

Prior to the killing, Atienza filed a blotter report in the village and PNP-Casiguran in the first week of August when the mirror of his tricycle was stoned and broken by two unknown men who searched for him. At that time, Trece Martirez was among the list of communities for 31st IBPA troop combat operations.

The allocated US$20 for Commission on Human Rights is not just a matter of insulting the institution but also an insult to the lives and rights of the people.

“The 119 lawmakers who are traitors were thrilled to vote in favor of such a proposal. They have once again proved how easy it is to manipulate the country's legislative process in favor of their own interests,” Banua said.

“It illustrates the conspiracy and exploitation of the government’s ruling classes who have no respect for the people's lives. It only affirms that in the eyes of trying-to-be-vigilant lawmakers and officials, there is not a single cent worth of life. It only exposes the ultimate rotten state willing to betray the people in exchange for the promise of power,” Banua expressed.

The worst part, according to Banua, is that the U.S.-Duterte regime combines in its anti-people war the effort to disable government institutions with a mandate to uphold and defend human rights.

Duterte sabotages negotiations and initiatives to pursue genuine peace in the country. He serves and protects AFP and PNP to compliment his all-out-war in various bloody forms. CA rejection of Gina Lopez, Judy Taguiwalo and Ka Paeng Mariano are subliminal that the Duterte regime is not after the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms but only for a ceasefire.

Allotting about US$20 for CHR in 2018 will only slow down the constitutional mandate of the monitoring committee to investigate human rights violations and monitor the government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights.

It restricts the operations of the Joint Monitoring Committee to monitor the implementation of and achieve the purposes of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law since the GRP's machinery has a limited budget to fact check reports of human rights violations around the country.

Duterte is pushing the people to arm themselves and fight back, according to NDF-Bicol.

“The reactionary state is wrong if it thinks the people will kneel through its fascism. In times when the rights of the people are blatantly violated, there’s nothing else for the people to do but to rely on their own strength,” Banua said.

According to Banua, Duterte and all his minions must be held accountable to the people's betrayal and their continued patronage of the imperialist design of suppression and violence.

“The long-term change the people are hoping for depends on the success of the people's democratic revolution,” Banua said.

[First published at BaretangBikolnon.com, an alternative media outlet in the Bicol region, Philippines.]

Military: NPA recruitment dips

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Sep 19): Military: NPA recruitment dips

THE continuous pursuit of the country’s Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against rebel groups and personalities operating in the Cordillera region have set a downtrend in the recruitment of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This was how Police Regional Office-Cordillera regional director Chief Superintendent Elmo Francis Sarona describes the ongoing efforts of the government to rid the region of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA.....


1,475 of 15,502 examinees pass PMA entrance exams

From GMA News Online (Sep 18): 1,475 of 15,502 examinees pass PMA entrance exams

The Philippine Military Academy on Monday announced that 1,475 passed the PMA entrance examinations this year.

Only nine percent of the 15,502 examinees qualified following the tests conducted on August 20, 2017 in 40 testing centers

Nine hundred ninety six males and 479 females made it to the next phase of the selection process for PMA Cadetship which is the Complete Physical Examination that will be conducted at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Health Service Command in Quezon City.

According to a statement, the passers will go through medical, psychological and physical examination to determine their fitness to undergo the four–year military training in the Academy.

The PMA said that after the series of examinations, the PMA Cadet Procurement Board will deliberate and select the most qualified candidates to compose PMA Class of 2022 who are expected to report to Philippine Military Academy on April 1, 2018 for the Oath–taking Ceremony and Reception Rites.

"Being a PMA cadet gives an individual a noble privilege in serving the country. Upon admission to the Cadet Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines, one is able to avail of a free college education with a well–rounded curriculum, as well as, receive monthly pay and allowances," a post on the academy website read.

"After graduating from the Academy, he/she is guaranteed a progressive career as an officer in the Army, Navy or Air Force," it added.

Read the complete list of passers here.