Monday, June 11, 2018

2 soldiers abducted in Mati

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 12): 2 soldiers abducted in Mati

A soldier and a militiaman were abducted by the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

Lt. Col. Miguel Ramon, the commander of the 28th Infantry Battalion, identified the victims as Corporal Johannes Parreno, a member of Alpha Company of the 28th IB, and Cafgu member Dindo Malibay of the 72nd Infantry Battalion.

Ramon said both were travelling back from Mati City to their temporary patrol base in Barangay Taguibo after sending allowance for their respective family when they passed by at a roadblock established by rebels who were posing as military men at Crossing Pising, Purok Dalia, Barangay Buso.

The NPAs left the area after 30 minutes bringing the soldier and CAFGU.

Ramon said the incident scared the residents who immediately informed the unit of the situation.

Troopers of the 28th IB then launched a rescue operation.

“The concerned families of the soldier and CAFGU were also informed,” Ramon said.

Ramon said the NPA’s abduction of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in non-combat status is a clear manifestation of their desperation and violates the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

He urged the members of the rebel group to immediately release the two personnel.

Keeping the soldiers, Ramon warned, is sure to affect the peace negotiations, and it would picture the rebels as peace spoilers.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, is hoping that the abduction of the two personnel will not affect the peace talks.

Balagtey said it’s the first reported abduction of government troopers since the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao last year.

In a report given by Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, the spokesperson of the Police Regional Office XI, revealed that the soldiers were traversing the provincial road from Mati City going to Barangay Taguibo onboard a habal-habal motorcycle.

After they were flagged down, the government soldiers were abducted by around 20 NPA members, allegedly led by Ka Jeg, the commander of Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 6 of Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

Military exercises held in Sipalay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 11): Military exercises held in Sipalay

Foreign and domestic tourists need not worry about the peace and order at tourist destinations in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, and in neighboring areas, but Commodore Loumer Bernabe, commander of the Naval Forces Central,said yesterday that they are not taking chances.

"We always consider that there is a threat, that is why we are doing our best to reach out to the coastal towns, especially those fronting Mindanao," Bernabe said.

Mayor Oscar Montilla yesterday said that the peace and order in Sipalay City, which is known for its diving sites and white sand beaches, remains stable, noting an increasing number of foreign and domestic tourists, especially during weekends.

While we discount any threat as of now, Bernabe, who supervises all Philippine Navy units and assets in the Visayas, said that they are establishing linkages with local government units and communities to monitor the entry of individuals, who do not speak in their native dialect, especially those coming from Mindanao.

He cited the vigilance of a community in Bohol, where the populace immediately reported the presence of an armed group that turned out to be Abu Sayyaf bandits, who were trying to expand their kidnapping operations in the island.

Stressing the need to secure the tourist destinations of Sipalay City and its neighboring areas, Bernabe said, "We want to show to our foreign tourists that they can go there, and they are safe".

The Central Command (CENTCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the Naval Forces Central of the Philippine Navy, yesterday held an amphibious raid exercise where it simulated a military operation launched from the sea by an amphibious force, that was participated in by the Naval Reserve Center of Western and Eastern Visayas.

Brig. Gen. Arthur Biyu, commander of the Naval Reserve Command, said that the conduct of such military exercise aims to capacitate and develop the reserve force, in order to reach the level of seamless integration into the regular forces.

Biyu added that the military exercise is in support of the CENCOM campaign plan "Abante Visayas" that will focus its operations on Negros and Samar islands, in line also with the AFP simultaneous intensified internal security operations in the Visayas region.

From disaster response and related activities, Biyu said they are now in the process of transforming Naval reservists to be active in naval defense and maritime security operations.

The amphibious raid exercise capability demonstration at the coastal area of Sipalay City, was executed by the landing force from 8th Marine Brigade (Reserve) of Naval Reserve Center - Western Visayas (NRCWV) aboard the Landing Craft BRP AGTA) of the Philippine Navy, composed of 130 personnel.

They performed simultaneously disembarkation procedures and squad maneuvers, such as rescuing civilian hostages during hostage crisis scenarios, while a SEAL Team conducted the beach head clearing, before the landing of Marine reservists.

The PNP Special Weapons and Tactics, fire fighting and medical teams also joined the military exercise.

Montilla stressed the importance of such military exercises in Sipalay City, as part of their security preparations, for any eventuality.

Before the military exercises, the Naval Forces Central also initiated a medical mission in Sipalay City, benefitting more than 700 residents from it, a coastal clean-up, and mangrove planting activities.

Aside from the security aspect, Montilla added that they are also ensuring that owners of beach resorts are strictly complying with the rules and regulations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, especially regarding their sewerage system.

Salugpungan datus belie military claim of fugitive chieftain’s ‘surrender’

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jun 11): Salugpungan datus belie military claim of fugitive chieftain’s ‘surrender’

Various indigenous people’s groups denounced what it called a “military instigated” assembly where ailing fugitive Manobo chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga appeared in Sitio Nasilaban, Palma Gil, Talaingod town, Davao del Norte on June 9.

Datu Kaylo Bontulan, a Lumad leader of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon said contrary to military’s claims, Datu Guibang addressed the assembly of some 150 Lumads, mostly children, by speaking to them of his “desire for the Lumad schools to continue serving the people.”

“He never mentioned of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of the Manobo tribe,” Bontulan said in a statement, which was also signed by 17 other datus who are members of the Salugpungan council.

The Eastern Mindanao Command said in a press statement that in the tribal peace covenant where military and local municipal officials were present, Datu Guibang “made peace” with the military and the government.

The military said that Datu Guibang Apoga turned over his rifle to BGen. Ernesto Torres Jr., Commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Edwin M. Paredes, Battalion Commander of 56th Infantry Battalion.

“We welcome the return of Datu Gibang. His tribe has long been waiting for his return. With this peace covenant and with his leadership, we hope to achieve a lasting peace in the area of the Langilan-Manobo Tribe, and together we can work for further development”, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command said.

But Salugpungan datus said the report was false.

Bontulan said “(T)he government failed to show Datu Guibang as its latest puppet trophy and sway to its rotten fold the Salugpungan people.”

He said for the past few months, the military authorities have been “desperate” in their attempts to silence our ranks citing the “overwhelming” military deployment, the campaign to close Lumad schools and for “harassing” Datu Guibang to surrender.

Salugpungan said they have “survived and prevailed over the abject neglect and discrimination by struggling and fortifying our ranks.”

“We have prevailed over the various grave injustices and prejudice by carrying on our fight not just within our ancestral territories, but in the streets, church sanctuaries and state universities where we found great support. We have made sure that our children are cured of illiteracy and ignorance by getting the education necessary in the sustenance of our tribe and the coming generations.”
“Our struggle will continue and will never end in Datu Guibang. There will be more Datu Guibang who chose to fight as the Lumad people have seen the landgrabbing and plunder of our lands, forced displacement due to the continuous counter-insurgency campaigns of the military authorities in our areas,” Bontulan said.

Moreover, the Lumad women’s group Sabokahan condemned the military siege of Talaingod.

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, Sabokahan founder and one of the datus (chieftain) of Talaingod said that the military tried but failed to force Datu Guibang Apoga to surrender.

The Lumad woman leader also called on the Salugpongan people to unite amidst the state sponsored attacks that are meant to divide and cripple our resistance.

“Many more leaders from among our people will rise to continue Salupongan’s legacy of resistance,” Bigkay said.

“We have to defend everything we have fought over the years most especially Salugpongan, our organization, which unites our people; our culture of resistance and expression of self-determined governance expressed in our Lumad schools which empowers and emancipates our children,” Bigkay added.

Talks with NDF set in July

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jun 11): Talks with NDF set in July

President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that the formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may resume ​in ​​July.

“I’m talking to [Communist Party of the Philippines Founding Chairman Joma] Sison. We will start the talks maybe mid July,” Duterte said in a speech before newly elected barangay captains in Lapu-Lapu City on Thursday night.

But in an online interview, Joma Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said the peace talks may happen this June and not July.

Sison said the formal talks would resume if both negotiating panels “agree to a stand down agreement.”

“The stand down agreement creates a favorable atmosphere for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agrement to be signed in Oslo hopefully on June 28,” he said.

“It is premature for the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] or anyone to suggest that the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations be in the Philipines. Foreign neutral venue as mutually agreed upon in JASIG [Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees] is the best. Philippine venue at this time would make the peace negotiations vulnerable to control by the GRP or to sabotage by ultra-reactionary elements,” he also said.

“Beware of peace spoilers, sabouters”

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, on Thursday expressed doubts that communists would respect any ceasefire ahead of the resumption of peace negotiations with the government.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate lambasted these statements that “spoil and sabotage the peace negotiations” between the government and the NDFP, especially now that some headways are being achieved in forging major agreements between the two parties.

“Stop monkeywrenching the GRP-NDFP peace talks,” Zarate said, referring to the statements issued by Lorenzana and Parayno.

“They launch attacks on the peace process in all fronts but fail to put forward a paradigm that would effectively address the root causes of the armed conflict. Their default solution to the problem is still the US-prescribed combination of psychological warfare and military counterinsurgency operations that they have been doing for decades and have been proven to be a failure and a waste of lives and resources” said the progressive solon.

The militant lawmaker has likewise called on all peace advocates to be watchful of spoilers and saboteurs as we continue to push both the GRP and NDFP to forge a comprehensive agreements on socio-economic and political reforms.

“It would be best for the DND (Department of National Defense) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to concentrate on the defense of the Philippines from China and the US who are now increasing their military activities in our territories instead of trying to sabotage the peace talks that can pave the way for a just and lasting peace and uplift the lives of majority of Filipinos,” he added.

Last April, the President asked Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza to work on the resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist group.

The peace negotiation was terminated last year by Duterte, followed by a declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations.

The past peace negotiations have resulted to the establishment of the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and the near final Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER).

15 killed, thousands flee as military launches air strike, ground assault vs BIFF

From MindaNews (Jun 11): 15 killed, thousands flee as military launches air strike, ground assault vs BIFF

An estimated 10,000 residents fled their villages here and at least 12,000 from three towns in Maguindanao following air strikes and ground assault early Sunday morning at the Ligawasan marsh near General SK Pendatun town in what the military said was a bomb-making facility of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

In a statement late Sunday night, the Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) said 15 members of BIFF were killed, eight others were wounded, two surrendered and one bomb expert and his wife were arrested.

The JTFC said it launched a “surgical strike” on the alleged facility producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to “clearly identify and confirm targets that complemented a focused ground operations against the BIFF which it described as “DAESH-inspired terrorist group.”

Thousands of residents flee their homes after the military launched an air strIke and ground assault at the Ligawasan marsh’s Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun at dawn Sunday, just as residents were having their suhoor, the early morning meal before fasting during Ramadan. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

“With the successful operations, government security forces were able to negate death, destruction, and panic the produced IED could have caused the peaceful communities,” it said.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, newly-installed commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said the target of their operations was the bomb-making facility of the BIFF.

He said surveillance photos were taken before and after the aerial bombings.

He said they also coordinated with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to avoid misencounters in case troops pass by the MILF areas.

The JTFC said the soldiers confiscated a Cal .50 Sniper Rifle and Cal 5.56mm M4 Carbine from the suspects.

22,000 ‘bakwits’

Tahira Kalantungan, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officr, said an estimated 10,0000 persons fled five villages in Pikit — Buliok, Talitay, Bago Inged, Barongis and Rajah Muda.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM HEART) immediately sent teams to conduct an assessment to determine the number of residents who fled Maguindanao’s Pagalungan, Datu Montawal and General SK Pendatun towns near the Ligawasan marsh.

As of Sunday noon, a total of 12,095 persons had fled their villages in Maguindanao’s Pagalungan (five barangays, 1,793 families), Datu Montawwal (one barangay, 251 families) and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun (one barangay, 251 families) for a total of 2,419 families or 12,095 persons

Displaced residents who were awake for the suhoor, the early morning meal before going on fasting during the Ramadan, said they were jolted by the sound of airplanes and the explosions from the bombs dropped at around 4 a.m.

Normina Guiamaludin, 27, a resident of Bago Inged and a mother of four, said she and her children cried because she was apparently shocked she could not carry her baby.

Saguiara Andong of Barangay Buliok, 49, mother of nine, said that immediately after eating, they saw three helicopters over the “pawas” (marsh) dropping the bombs.

Displaced residents said they fear for the farm animals they left behind and the rice and corn crops ready for harvest.

Murad: MILF asked former MILF members in Maute Group to leave Marawi

From MindaNews (Jun 11): Murad: MILF asked former MILF members in Maute Group to leave Marawi

In the early days of the Marawi Siege in May last year, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) appealed to former members of the MILF who were in the leadership of the Maute Group to withdraw their forces and leave Marawi “para hindi na lalaki yung problema sa Marawi” (so the probem in Marawi won’t worsen), MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

Murad told MindaNews during a sit-down interview at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on June 7 that they sent emissaries to convey the message to the former MILF members — the brothers Omar and Abdullah (their father Cayamora was the first MILF member from the family) but “sabi nila (they said) ‘we are just defending ourselves.’ Yun ang sinasabi nila” (that’s what they were saying).

Rescuers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front team in the Government-MILF Peace Corridor aid an elderly male out of the conflict zone on June 4, 2017 in Marawi City during a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire. Photo courtesy of BANGSAMORO NEWS

According to the military’s account, at around 2 p.m. on May 23, 2017, law enforcers attempted to serve a warrant of arrest on Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, alleged Emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, in an apartment he was renting in the country’s lone Islamic City, but were repelled. Soonafter, the Maute Group and its allies, clad in black with some carrying black ISIS flags, took over strategic areas in the city. Eight hours later, President Rodrigo Duterte, then in Moscow on a state visit, placed all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities under martial law.

Duterte declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17 and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the termination of all combat operations on October 23.

During the five-month siege, the MILF partnered with the Philippine government in the GPH-MILF Peace Corridor, assisting displaced persons who fled to neighboring towns in Lanao del Sur along the Cotabato-Marawi highway. It also assisted in securing a four-hour “humanitarian pause” that allowed passage for at least 134 trapped civilians on June 4, 2017 and negotiating the release of five hostages, including a two year old girl, on June 25 — Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The Maute Group set a condition for the release of hostaged Catholic priest Teresito Soganub but government did not agree.

Despite these efforts, the MILF faced criticisms for its alleged failure to help Marawi residents at their most vulnerable, on the first days of the siege.

“Ang tingin ng iba, kailangan we will be directly involved on the ground during the battle. Parang gusto nila na ma-involve yung MILF directly. Unang-una kung titingnan ninyo kahit si Nur (MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari) noon nag-volunteer na he will send his forces pero nakita namin kay Presidente na hindi niya … I think the armed forces will not also agree to that… We do not believe na magiging solution yung mag-deploy kami ng pwersa doon kasi it would create a more complex situation, baka magkaroon ng three-way battle,” Murad said.

He said they tried to reach out to former MILF members in the Maute Group to convince them to leave Marawi but the Maute said “hindi naman sila nag-attack, nag-operate ang government troops … lumaban sila” (they did not attack, the government troops operated and they fought back).

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Marawi in a sit-down interview late Thursay afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Murad also admitted that MILF commanders based in Marawi lost a “substantial” number of firearms as they left them behind when they joined their families in evacuating to neighboring towns and cities.

Residents who fled the city left behind most of their valuables — cash, jewelry, firearms among others — thinking the conflict would end in a few days.

Murad said some of their commanders, especially during the ceasefire, were already staying in Marawi and “meron silang mga armas na itinatago nila doon, hindi nila dinidisplay (They had arms but hidden in their houses) … They just kept them in their houses.”

“Ang nangyari dito sa mga armas kasi … nagbakwit din sila, ang mga commander. so maaring nakuha, yung iba nakuha ng Maute, yung iba nakuha ng sundalo” (What happened was .. the commanders also evacuated, so the firearms were taken, some may have been taken by the Maute, others may have been taken by soldiers).

A displaced Marawi resident wanted to know how the future MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) would deal with the Marawi rehabilitation.

The BTA, which will be set up once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified, will be appointed by President Duterte to run the affairs of governance in the region until the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro region.

“There is already the plan, national plan to rebuild Marawi so ang mangyari lang siguro nito is the BTA will support the national plan kasi nandiyan na yung plano Maybe we can try to propose some improvement or changes,” he said.

Q&A with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “Our people will also judge us”

From MindaNews (Jun 11): Q&A with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “Our people will also judge us”
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) recalls having been surprised to see leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives when they arrived in Malacanang for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, May 28, 2018.

They had met with the President at the Matina Enclaves clubhouse in Davao City on May 4, he said, to raise their concerns about the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), citing “so many provisions being diluted or amended or taken out” and they were afraid the measure will not be passed before Congress adjourns by end of May.

Murad said their concerns in early May were “not much on the Senate at that time” because it seemed on track. Before it went on recess on the third week of March, it had approved the Committee on Local Government’s report on Senate Bill 1646, the BTC-drafted BBL; Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri had filed the substitute bill, SB 1717; and it was already on interpellation phase. When sessions resumed on May 15, it was set to finish interpellation so it could proceed to the period of amendments.

The House at that time, had yet to approve the report of the joint committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. In a move that surprised many, instead of meeting on April 16 to 19 to vote on 362 proposed amendments, they approved on April 16 the omnibus motion of Maguindanao Representative and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema to “retain as is” HB 6475, the BTC-drafted bill sponsored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and some 90 other representatives. This, after the three committees had consolidated the four bills on the Bangsamoro into a working draft and conducted public hearings in Mindanao.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front checks a computer file on the matrix comparing the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the House of Representatives and the Senate during a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Murad said the President assured them he would meet the leadership of the House and the Senate.

That meeting took place on May 28.

But before the President met with the House leadership, the Senate leadership, and later the leadership of both houses, he first met with the MILF.

Murad said they reiterated to the President the issues they had raised earlier. “Very concerned kami sa ipapasa ng House at Senate parang masyadong, maraming amendments, maraming deletsons, maraming revisions.”

The President again assured them he would push for the passage of the BBL and that he would tell the leaders of Congress.

Did the President assure them that the BBL passed would consider the concerns that they raised, MindaNews asked.

“Wala. Actually, sinabi lang niya he will urge Congress na ipasa na yung bill,” he said adding they asked him if he would designate a point person for them to talk to and explain the “so many issues” they want addressed about the proposed amendments in both houses.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza was designated to talk with them. And he did meet with the MILF on Friday, June 1, at his Seagull beach resort in Davao City, after the House and Senate passed their respective versions (the House at around 5 p.m. May 30 and the Senate at around 1a.m. on May 31).

MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas sat down with the MILF chair at the conference room of the MILF Central Committee office in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao late afternoon of June 7 to ask his views on recent developments in the Bangsamoro peace process.

Q. So you talked to Secretary Dureza after the passage of the BBL? Bakit hindi before? Akala ko concern ninyo maipasa ang BBL na compliant with the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro)?
A. Di rin namin alam na ipapasa agad. We were surprised also that the day after, pumasa na … but anyway sinabi rin sa amin na … after nito meron pang Bicameral Conference Committee (bicam). So nag-usap kami ni (Sec. Dureza) Friday afternoon, June 1 sa Seagull Davao sa Matina.

Q. What did he say?
A. Inenumerate namin sa kanya tapos diniscuss namin. Di siya nag-comment. Sabi niya “ipaparating ko ito” pero sabi nya maganda yung nakasulat … Sabi niya isulat ninyo mga concerns ninyo then sinabi niya sa akin “pirmahan mo lang tapos I will take up with the President” kasi sabi niya “meron pang chance diyan sa bicam.”

Q. Are you convincing yourself that? Because (Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby) Sahali (chair of House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity) said in a conference in Manila his morning that walang idagdag at ibawas sa bicam kasi magre-reconcile lang sila ng provisions na di magkatugma sa House and Senate. So are you saying that you still expect that some provisions that you lost will be restored in the bicam?
A. Well.. there are provisions na hindi magkatugma sa Senate at sa House. So ang tingin namin pwede pang doon maibalik sa dati if both houses will agree. Titingnan natin …. We recognize the reality na … the struggle is still ongoing sa aming side. We will still try our best na ma-regain whatever is lost dito sa BBL. Sa ngayon … we cannot thoroughly judge muna … because we will exhaust all avenues. We will now, aside from bringing our concern to the President, we will also bring up our concern to the leadership of the Senate and House.

Q. Still, the bicam will only tackle the provisions that the two houses passed. If the provisions are not there — the ones that were taken out that would have given you the autonomy that you desire …
A. Well maybe that is a normal process. We do not know if there is some other way the President can do something. Anyway … we will exhaust every effort…

Q. But what if despite the exhaustion of all efforts, the final version of the Bangsamoro law will be very much less than ARMM and definitely not compliant with the CAB?
A. Alam mo kung sa present situation ngayon, sa nakita namin, maraming naibigay na sa ARMM na nawala pa sa BBL. Pero on the other hand also, meron ding wala sa ARMM na nandayn sa BBL. Pangalawa, maraming provisions na napalitan na it resulted to violation of the agreement, na-violate yung agreement. Maraming meron ding mga provisions introduced na wala sa agreement, wala sa ARMM but ang tingin namin it it substantially watered down yung concept, the very concept of self-determination.

Q. What in your analysis of the versions passed, are unacceptable to you precisely because of what you said, that it watered down the very concept of self determination. What are these provisions na talagang as of now hindi katanggap-tanggap?
A. Hmmm. .. marami talaga .. hindi natin ma… because if you look at the versions makita mo na napakaraming napalitan, napakaraming, so very difficult, so ang mangyari ngayon is ang process namin now … two days ago we had a meeting with the Central Committee, so kasi ang decision namin will be a collegial decision, so ang napagkasunduan namin is … exert all efforts then afterwards we will decide.

Q. You said it’s going to be a collegial decision but your people are already praising the versions …
A. Well there are some praising, some also are …

Q. … not bad, more than ARMM, etc.. and I heard one say change has finally come to the Bangsamoro because of this BBL
A. Well that is their personal view … but the view of the Central Committee will always be a collective decision. That will come after we have reached a collegial decision.

Q. At what point will you decide?
A. After the bicam.

Q. Are you not going to make moves before that?
A. We will lobbywith the leadership of the House (and Senate) then also individual lawmakers … Dito sa matrix (comparison of provisions from the BTC-drafted BBL, House version and Senate version) … we will try to lobby with the leadership of the House and individual congressmen and congresswomen. Ganon din sa Senate… And then sa President, we will continue … we hope after Secretary Dureza brings it up (with the President).

Q. What kind of BBL will you not accept?
A.We will always analyze what would be the impact, what would be the consequence … because it’s an overall analysis. Tingnan namin … kung hindi namin tatanggapin, anong mangyayari? Kung tatanggapin namin, ano rin ang mangyayari? Now alam natin that the BBL is intended to solve not only one problem but multifacted problems. Maraming problema kailangang i-address. Now how much will this BBL that will be passed will become instrumental in solving these problems? So basically ang decision namin will lie on how much the BBL can address the problem that we are confronting.

Q. But if the final version is not acceptable … tinanggal nga ng Senate yung self-determination sa Preamble di ba?
A. Oo yun na nga.. So there’s no essence of self-determination.

Q. And the essence of the struggle of the Bangsamoro.
A. Although it is in the Preamble, hindi naman yan implementable dahil Preamble lang yan, but that is the whole thing.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, acknowledges in a sit-down interview late Thursay afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. that that Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week is “very diluted” but hopes something can still be done at the level of the Bicameral Conference Committee that will meet on July 9 to 13. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Q. In your speech at the signing of the CAB in 2014, you said importante ito na araw kasi finally what you lost — identity, territory, resources — were restored. But apparently you’re losing all these three that you gained in the peace agreement, through legislation. You are losing what you actually said were restored by the peace agreement.
A. Yeah. Yeah. Well hindi naman sa completely lost but kung titingnan mo, it is … maybe very diluted na talaga. Very diluted.

Q. It is lower than ARMM. Maraming nagsasabi niyan. Very much lower than ARMM.
A. Oo maraming nagsasabi ng ganon pero gaya ng nasabi ko you can still compare kasi meron din sa (Autonomous Region in the Bangsamoro) na nandyan sa BBL na wala sa ARMM halimbawa … ministerial form of government is still there

Q. But you lost your powers.
A. There are powers lost.

Q. You actually lost so much powers.
A. Kaya nga kung ma restore natin ito, we will try to

Q. Will you do a Nur Misuari? Misuari in the sense that they objected to RA 6734 and they also objected to RA 9054
A. But they accepted the ARMM

Q. They rejected 9054 because it would render the ARMM less autonomous than the autonomous region (under 6734). So ganon din mangyayari sa inyo, the Bangsamoro?
A. Well that will be decided later … We cannot decide on it now unless we exert all the efforts na kailangan

Q. Boycott the plebiscite or reject are also options of a revolutionary group, right?
A. Yes, Yes. Well, all of these, we have vast experience. Nangyari din na we boycotted the plebiscite, nangyari din yung sinabi mo na ginawa nila Nur – they objected to the law pero ultimately tinanggap din niya yung ARMM … All these will give us lessons.

Q. Nur accepted to run for governor of the ARMM because the President at that time promised them that within two years yung enhanced ARMM ay lalabas.
A. Kaya nga … pero hindi rin nangyari.

Q. Quite a number of the reactions now… talagang watered down siya.
A. Meron mga grupo ngayon na.. ano nga yung.. All Moro Consensus

Q. Meron ding Bangsamoro National Congress, etc …
A. Kaya nga these are signs that nandyan pa rin yang problema … But gaya ng nasabi ko, for now we will try to exhaust everything in our disposal then when everything is exhausted … we decide.

Q. So you will decide only after.
A. After the final version comes out, we will decide

Q. Are you going to accept even if the Bangsamoro people will not accept?
A. No, because.. No. We will do the process. Always the process of the MILF is we will consult our people. So maybe before we accept, we will conduct consultation.

Q. So before you will decide on whether to accept or reject this final version, you will consult the Moro people?
A. We will consult not exactly the entire Moro people but we will consult. We will have our own mechanics of the consultation.

Q. In short, the final decision will be something that is a consensus.
A. Yeah, because even if we accept, if people also don’t accept, don’t support us then we cannot do much if people will not support us.

Q. You said before that you will only accept a BBL that is CAB-compliant, that is acceptable to the Bangsamoro people
A. Kaya nga ang nangyari ngayon, kung hindi mapapapalitan ito,hindi ma-improve, then partially compliant, partially non-compliant. So now we have to decide from which, what will be the bigger advantage .. for the Bangsamoro people, for our struggle.

Q. Are you seeing the end of the MILF here? Because
A. No. The MILF will continue … will continue

Q, you might end up like … if the MILF will accept a final version of the Bangsamoro law that is not compliant with the CAB, bakit pa kayo nag peace negotiations? Eh di sana tinanggap na lang ninyo yung inoffer sa inyo noon pa to lead the ARMM?
A. Hindi naman completely na not compliant with the CAB. There are provisions which violated the CAB, pero not the entirety of the CAB also. So yun ang basis ng analysis. How big is taken out from the CAB?

Q. But you lost your powers. In the Senate wala ka nang delineation, sa House .. ang daming nilipat including yung sa Sharia ginawang concurrent, yung supposedly exclusive ninyo. So what kind of a Bangsamoro entity will that be?
A. Kaya nga we will still struggle, we will continue to struggle. Titingnan natin kung anong mangyayari. Because … maraming concern na legitimate … na kailangang siguro na if they really want to solve the problem, they have to consider

Q. So kung hindi man lang naman maa-adress ng batas na yun, para ka lang ding gumawa ng ARMM?
A. Kaya yun na nga, we will try to see. Mahirap mag-conclude ngayon kasi ongoing pa rin ang effort natin and we do not want to

Q. Are you not bothered about Sahali saying wala nang dagdag-bawas doon sa bicam kasi kung ano lang yung nakalagay? In short you cannot expect that the bicam will restore what you lost in the two versions?
A. Well I think she is speaking on normal process but alam mo naman na there are some process … that can be done so we are still hoping na merong mga process that can restore

Q. Okay may pinapatanong si (name withheld).Sabi niya meron ba daw kayong kasunduan with the President that he would use his powers and authority to make sure that the BBL that is FAB and CAB compliant would be passed despite the apparent watering down of BBL especially by the Senate and do you find the Senate BBL unacceptable? Have you expressed your opinion to Senator Zubiri?
A. Unang-una wala namang formal na kasunduan sa Presidente but he always assured us na he will try his best na yung BBL na mai-pass is compliant to the agreement.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week in a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Q. Where were you on May 29 and 30? Because (BTC chair Ghazali) Jaafar and (MILF peace implementing panel chair Mohagher) Iqbal were in the Senate. Where were you?
A. I was in Manila

Q. Did you monitor it livestream? Did you watch the Senate and House proceedings?
A. We are always having a meeting with Ghazali (Jaafar). Ako hindi lahat (napanood) pero some … Ang nangyari sa house, nandoon ang BTC so they tried to argue (for) all these provisions na ayaw namin but then they were outvoted. Sa Senate ganon din ang nangyari. So our BTC representation there … they opposed yung proposed amendments. Sa Senate nagbotohan sila so kagaya noong alisin yung

Q. Self determination
A. Oo then nagbotohon sila

Q. Yung six towns
A. Oo. So natalo. Wala rin. so ang ginawa na lang ng BTC representation, sabi nila … wala ding mangyari but we will manifest na we disagree with these all. I-register namin yung disagreement

Q. So nag manifest na lang sila?
A. Nag manifest ng disagreement. So all those voted (on), meron kaming manifestation of disagreement. Kasi mas mahirap yung pagbotohan nila because it becomes final already. So when we manifest … na-register namin na hindi kami sangayon.

Q. Do you not find it difficult for instance, kasi andyan na? As you said, you did not expect na papasa in two days
A. Actually ang tingin nga namin, in fact during that meeting, ang initial speech ni President (on May 28) … parang it implies na ayaw muna niyang ipasa ang BBL. Merong implication na ganon but at the last part of the speech, doon na niya sinabi na … you have to pass this bill so yung … pipirmahan yung urgent certification

Q. But even the certification did not mention the CAB
A. Hindi nga

Q. How can you have a Bangsamoro that will no longer resemble your dream Bangsamoro?
A. Dito sa Preamble sa Senate (reading the matrix filed in his computer), inalis nila yung

Q. Self determination
A. Our right to self determination. Ang nilagay our right to chart our political future through a democratic process. And then eto in consonance with the Constitution inalis yun but pinalitan “within the framework of the Constitution and national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines and in consonance with the accepted principles of the human rights”

Q. Yung opt in, you lost opt in.
A. Sa House once na lang ata.

Q. Pareho Senate and House
A. I will try to review first.

Q. So you will have a territory that cannot be expanded and powers that have been removed. Marami pong powers may ginawa akong matrix, marami pong powers na nasa ARMM na at nasa 6734 nasa 9054 na nawala sa two versions
A. Isa .. yung natural resources and ancestral domain. From exclusive naging concurrent. Then yung education, also from exclusive to concurrent. Then yung health. Actually dito sa education, ang nag-argue dito si Bai Sandra (Sema) mismo. She was arguing that based on her experience (she once served as ARMM Education Secretary)pagka yung education is given solely exclusive power of the autonomous government, ang mangyayari is we will not enjoy the benefits in the national government, merong mga benefits na hindi natin ma-enjoy because … education is only exclusive to the (autonomous government). So yun ang argument niya ang naging

Q. You also lost your power of eminent domain. Nasa ARMM yun. Ano pang natira sa inyo?
A. Kaya nga titingnan natin afterwards but definitely … we will continue to struggle. Not the end of the struggle. Alam mo kasi if this problem will not really be addressed, from generation to generation nandiyan … pa rin yan. Hindi na kami pero andyan pa rin yan.

Q. I know everyone was so optimistic when President Duterte took over. Mindanawon with Moro blood tapos in two years napasa ang BBL but … no cause for celebration yet?
A. Yeah wala pa. There’s no (cause for celebration yet)

Q. Noong napasa siya, syempre nalaman mo agad yung sa House kasi hapon pa yun. Wednesday afternoon yun. Mga 5 oclock yun eh.
A. Before that nagkausap nga kami kasi nakauwi na yung mga BTC commissioners so nagkausap kami na na-irelay sa amin na napakaraming provision na

Q. Nawala
A. They tried their best to oppose pero walang nangyari. Pati na yung plebisito. The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) also, very discouraged din sila sa mga provision na gusto nilang mapasok na walang nakapasok so sabi namin it’s not in our hands. But we will still try to do whatever is possible so yun ang unang plano namin. We will contact the President para kausapin namin.

Q. Are you going to meet with him again?
A. It depends kung ano yung maisasagot niya sa isu-submit namin kay (Sec. Dureza). Kung kailangan niya mag usap kami, then we will talk again before the bicam.

Q. Okay, can we move forward. Let’s say na napasa ang final version and the President has signed it into law, nag plebiscite according to Sen. Zubiri November or December. What happens now if somebody will questions its constitutionality in the Supreme Court? That means made-delay na naman
A. That’s another scenario that can .. possibly happen.

Q. I asked you this back in December 2016 or April 2017. Are you not afraid that the BBL approved, whatever that version maybe, however that may look, will be overtaken by events, overtaken by the federalism track?
A. Actually we already sensed na kahit si Presidente parang napansin namin na parang he was already influenced by some group na instead of passing the BBL… we go to federal first. They are even arguing that mas madali ipasa ang BBL pagka federal na tayo. Pero hindi ganon ang pananaw namin and that’s the reason why we keep on reaching out to the President, reminding him na ang tingin pa rin namin is kailangan maunang mapasa yung BBL, gaya ng naipangako niya. Anyway, as far as federalism is concerned, supportive naman kami and we hope na if there is a federal set up, it can strengthen the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Q. Sinabi mo dati na .. kung pwede ipasa muna ang Bangsamoro law and then whatever is passed will be the state constitution of the Bangsamoro. But clearly watered down version na nga itong ipinasa ng dalawang houses so hindi ba mas convenient na lang … para siyang bumalik sa scenario last year na maiiwanan ang BBL ng federal express train so masa-subsume yung BBL doon.
A. Well that can happen also. Kaya nga gusto natin na (mauna BBL) kasi ang mangyari kung mauna yung federalism, wala pa yung BBL, then we will be negotiating again with the federal set-up para sa Bangsamoro. Now if the Bangsamoro government is already there. we are assuming na pag may federal, it will already be absorbed to the federal system so mas madali yung ganon rather than we will have another negotiation because we will be repeating the

Q. But the President has also made public in his statements, that parang hindi rin pwede yung isang region lang for the Bangsamoro dahil parati niyang binabanggit si Nur na “we will also provide you your own.” He has said that several times, not just once.
A. Sinabi rin niya sa amin noon and ang sagot namin sa kanya, this is not about tribalistic tendencies kasi gusto namin yung meron kaming parang common identity. That’s why we promoted this Bangsamoro. Now the moment that we go back, kasi yung dalawang region nasubukan na ito noon pa sa panahon ni Marcos… wala naman counter, effectively counter na bakit hindi maganda yung iisa lang? Meron mga politicians sa island provinces, they were arguing na it could be that ma-dominate ng mainland Moro ang government. Pero ang sabi namin, if you look at the ARMM, mas marami pa ang leader ng ARMM na nanggaling sa island provinces kaysa mainland Mindanao. So it’s not a reason. So we maintain that decision na iisa lang ang

Q. Forty-two years na yung Tripoli Agreement of 1976. In the last four decades, we’ve had four peace agreements signed and the question has always been implementation. Given the situation now — violent extremism, etc. — you were hopeful then that if a CAB-compliant BBL will be passed then you can address the problem of violent extremism. But given .. a very watered down Bangsamoro law, how can this address the problem of violent extremism? Isn’t this going to drive more people into violent extremism kasi apat na dekada yung peace agreements wala namang nangyari? That’s the argument.
A. That is always our fear. Noon pa man sinasabi namin kaya nga we are pushing very hard na maipasa yung BBL na compliant sa agreement. Because we see na if the agreement itself will be implemented faithfully, yun ang magiging solusyon sa problema, magiging weapon natin against extremism… One time during our meeting with the (Congress), ang appeal lang namin is we have to implement the peace agreement kasi sabi ko marami na ang peace agreements … from 1976, 1996, (2012), 2014 nandiyan yung mga agreement but nothing was implemented faithfully and completely, 1976 agreement hindi na implement, 1996 ganon din, so 2014 agreement hindi rin. Although, if you look also at the agreements, there are some advancement but there are some loopholes also. Halimbawa sa 1976 meron nang nakuha pero naalis pa sa 1996, meron namang naidagdag sa 1996 so ganon din ngayon ang nangyari 2014 CAB, merong nadagdag, maraming nadagdag sa 1976 at 1996, pero meron din nawala sa provisions. So it’s a cycle na nangyayari.

Q. But will this not make the Bangsamoro people say a negotiated political settlement is not also a solution pala because after all the years of negotiations and signing peace agreements wala din naman kayong nakuha na close to what you envision to be an autonomous region?
A. That is the very (argument) ng mga opposed sa peace process. Yun talaga ang ginagamit nila na campaign and even these extremist groups kaya nga sinasabi nila “you have no hope sa peace process because peace process has been four decades already pero wala namang nangyari”

Q. Hindi ba kayo lalapit doon sa the mechanisms doon sa peace process in case na ang mapasa na final version is really not acceptable … aren’t you going to sit back with government …
A. Ang hindi pa natin ma predict ngayon what will really happen kasi halimbawa ano ang magiging decision ng MILF when the law is already there, mapirmahan? If we do not accept, then what will be the position of the MILF? … Are we going to participate in the plebiscite? … This all depends on how we will weigh the situation… Now if we participate, then we have to continue the structure of the peace process and then yung UBJP (United Bangsamoro Justice Party) namin anong gagawin …

Q. May mga criticisms din na the reason why the MILF will accept whatever version will be produced in the bicam kasi may mga vested interest daw yung mga taga BTC kasi wala naman sa provision, wala naman sa CAB at saka sa EO na sila pala ang uupo in the interim. It’s supposed to be the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). Bago ito na provision na pinasok and it raises a lot of questions
A. Ang nangyari doon … during their discussion (BTC), nakita nila na there will be a gap between the term of the ARMM elected officials (until June 30, 2019) sa ratification ng BBL … so ibig sabihin if the plebiscite will be conducted in November or December 2018, meron doon gap…

Q. BTA will be there for how many years?
A. Ang provision ng BTA it has to be not less than one year kasi it gives us preparation for the regular government … but it can be more than one year. So ang seeming na decision ngayon … ng Presidente the BTA will be up to 2022, three years kasi sabi niya … the regular government for the Bangsamoro will be elected sabay sa national election. So the BTA will be from 2019 hanggang 2022.

Q. Three years transitory. So you will have a Bangsamoro that’s appointed by the President and who will be beholden to the President.
A. But beholden to the Parliament. The President will appoint the Parliament and then there will be interim Chief Minister.

Q. Will you be the Chief Minister?
A. That will be decided by the Central Committee … It depends also on what is the

Q. I think you said before that you’d rather be head of MILF?
A. Actually the option for me is I will take the BTA as chairman and then also when the regular government will come, I might join the parliamentary election … so as President of the party, I will also be the Chief Minister of the regular government. But then I can also be — kasi ang decision din ng Central Committee is we will continue — the MILF will exist side by side with the government. So … that will depend now on the Central Committee (what) our collective decision will be

Q. What will the MILF be at that point?
A. It will be a non-government organization engaged more on socio-economic … so it will be parang side by side with the government in implementing socio-economic programs. The Central Committee will decide which … if we decide that we need to strengthen the organization, then I might just stay in the organization or if we need to strengthen the governance, then I need to be in the governance.

Q. So iba na pala ang tawag sa iyo, Minister na?
A. Hindi pa, wala pa (laughs). It depends … lalong-lalo na ngayon kung titingnan natin, what will be the BBL is also a factor. How strong is the BBL?

Q. Pero yung Nur Misuari option na boycott, that’s not actually Nur, that’s MNLF option before, because even the MI, you also rejected the RA 6734 di ba nag boycott din kayo noon?
A. Yeah. No participation.

Q. So no participation is also an option?
A. Yes it can also be an option.

Q. Para din yang boycott, reject.
A. Yes, almost. No participation.

Q. But that decision will come when you’ve seen the
A. The final outcome and then after consulting our people also

Q. So if the people will say no but leadership says yes, sinong masunod?
A. (laughs)

Q. Are you going to accept something that, yung criticism ninyo noon kay Nur that he accepted something that’s not what they really wanted, babalik din iyan sa inyo.
A. But ah… yun na nga. Itong sa amin because it will undergo … rigid na consultation. It is not a decision of one person.

Q. Ah, see this is the problem. The bicam is on July 9-13 and the SONA (State of the Nation Address) is July 23. You only have 10 days
A To decide.

Q. That’s a very short period. How can you convene all these mga dapat i-convene
A. We have pre-arranged already

Q. Parang yes or no na lang?
A. We have already pre-arranged mechanism immediately after we get the final version of the bicam, then we will decide, we will consult and decide.

Q. Basahin ko na lang yung may nagpadala ng tanong kasi bihira ka lang makausap eh, yung iba actually paulit-ulit.
A. The question always is “how much is the dilution?”

Q. Anong parating tinatanong sa inyo ngayon after the passing of the versions?
A. “Ano ba ito, tatanggapin na ba natin ito?” Always ganon. Kasi ang question nga … is this BBL now passed by the House and Senate lower than ARMM? Or is there any benefit na nakuha which is beyond the benefit of the ARMM?

Q. Paano niyo sinasagot?
A. Sinasabi namin na we will wait for the final version kasi we are struggling to improve this version.

Q. Paniwala talaga kayo na meron pang pag-asa yan sa bicam?
A. We will … continue .As a revolutionary, we will be always persistent kasi alam mo kung titingnan natin if the President will really work, malaking bagay (goes off the record)

Q. Initial assessment ninyo, ano ang may matinding changes? Ang Senate?
A. Sa Senate ngayon ang mas problematic because it practically changed the framework. Although sa House marami nang … pero sa specially on principle of self determination, dito sa Senate ang talagang nawala, sa House hindi pa masyado at least nandoon pa rin yung..

Q. Pero silang dalawa pareho silang hindi compliant to the CAB?
A. Oo, hindi compliant pero yun na nga … the principle of self-determination at least nasa House, diluted but not completely …

Q. But you know the composition of the 28 legislators in the bicam. Karamihan doon may mga issues sa BBL and they will definitely make sure… Lobregat, Drilon, etc… may objection talaga doon
A. Kasi hindi yan sila papayag na wala sila doon.

Q. There are grumblings on the ground na you really got something that is not acceptable at this stage. How are you addressing these grumblings?
A. I will be issuing a statement .. for our people… we will try to let them understand na itong process ngayon hindi pa conclusive … We will have to struggle … and then we will decide after we have exhausted all the efforts. … Yung mga youth group I am going to meet them personally

Q. When? Saan? Dito?
A. Maybe within next week. Yung mga grupo nila. Kasi yun ang mainit yung..

Q. You were young once. You know how it is to be part of the
A. Yes, we were young before when we started the struggle … but we became mature in the struggle. .. we gained so much in our experience, we gained knowledge on how to handle situations

Q. But part of this knowledge on how to handle situations is really also compromise. Up to how much can you compromise, will you compromise?
A. Well, always … when you agreed to negotiate, you already agreed that you will compromise but how much do you compromise … You cannot compromise principle … you can only compromise maybe strategy and maybe ways on how to achieve…

Q. You still have your non-negotiables as an organization?
A. Yes of course You cannot remove that.

Q. Ano yung non-negotiables… what are your non-negotiables now, now that you have matured?
A. What is important is the struggle will survive. The struggle of the people will survive.

Q. Mas challenging pa ba ito kaysa sa pinagdaanan doon sa CAB? Is this the most challenging in the history of the MILF?
A. Ang challenges ngayon very different yung nangyari sa CAB, yung hindi pumasa yung BBL (under Aquino administration) because outrightly wala nang magawa … The challenge today is what will be the option of the MILF.

Q. After the final version is out?
A. After the final version. Kung ano yung final version, what will be the option?

Q. And history will judge you and history may be very cruel to you long after you’re gone. Are you prepared for that?
A. Our people will also judge us.

BBL’s post-ratification scenario: BTC to serve as caretaker of Bangsamoro region

From MindaNews (Jun 11): BBL’s post-ratification scenario: BTC to serve as caretaker of Bangsamoro region

While the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) versions of the Senate and House of Representatives have been described as “very diluted” or “mangled” due to the deletion or amendment of essential provisions, a new provision added by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL was retained by the two houses: BTC commissioners will serve as caretakers of the new political entity immediately after the BBL is ratified, purportedly to ensure “continuity of government.”

The new provision is not mandated by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the 2014 peace agreement signed by the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and supposedly the basis for the BBL. It is not also mandated by Executive Order 8 which created the BTC, the MILF-led 21-member body tasked to draft the BBL and composed of 11 members nominated by the MILF and 10 members nominated by the government.

READ: Members of Bangsamoro Transition Commission finally named

The BTC is now composed of only 20 members as Commissioner Samira Ali Gutoc, a government nominee, resigned within the first week of the Marwi Siege.

Leaders of the House of Representatives meet with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission on May 28 to discuss proposed amendments to the BTC-drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Transition Commission

The BTC-drafted BBL provides that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), an 80-member body that will be appointed by the President, would, in accordance with the CAB, serve as the “interim government or the governing body in the Bangsamoro during the transition period.”

The transition or interim period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro “shall commence upon ratification of this Basic Law.”

The MILF, as the principal party in the CAB, will take the helm of the BTA “in its leadership and membership.”

The BTC-drafted BBL inserted under Article XVI (Bangsamoro Transition Authority), Section 5 on “Continuity of Government” which states that in order “to foreclose any political interregnum in the governance of the region,” the BTC, “an independent body created by E.O. 08, shall continue to exist to wind up and caretake the administration of the region until the BTA is constituted.”

Why this insertion of a provision on what would appear to be an interim body to an interim body?

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim explained to MindaNews in an interview in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao on June 7, that “during their discussion (BTC), nakita nila na there will be a gap between the term of the ARMM elected officials (supposedly until June 30, 2019) sa ratification ng BBL.

Murad said that if the plebiscite is held in November or December, as Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said is the target for the plebiscite to ratify the BBL, there is a gap between ratification and the time the BTA shall have been appointed and constituted.

The ARMM is deemed abolished upon ratification of the BBL.

MindaNews sources say the appointment of the 80-member BTA may take some time, noting that it took President Duterte nearly three months to appoint the 21-member BTC.

Murad said that based on their conversations with the President, the BTA will likely run from June 30, 2019 until June 30, 2022, when the first officials of the Bangsamoro shall have been elected.

Asked why the BTC added this provision on BTC as caretaker, BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar, concurrent 1st Vice Chair of the MILF, told MindaNews in a text message Monday: “I think it is necessary.”

“Isn’t this self-serving” MindaNews asked, noting that the Commission that drafted the law will be the same entity that will serve as caretakers of a region that will now be in multiple transition — transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the supposed caretaker BTC, transition from caretaker BTC to BTA, and from the BTA, transition until officials to the regular government are elected.

“It was decided by the BTC. I did not recommend. It was approved by both Chambers (of Congress),” Jaafar said.

EO 8 creating the BTC was issued by President Duterte on November 7, 2016. It amended EO 120 and EO 187 issued by then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

EO 120, signed on December 17, 2012 said the BTC “shall cease to operate upon the enactment by Congress of the BBL.” But EO 187, issued on August 20, 2015 amended that section by stating it will cease to operate “upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in a plebiscite called for such purpose.”

Duterte’s EO 8 did not amend Section 5 so the BTC is to cease operations upon the ratification of the BBL.

EO 187 amended Section 3e by adding another function of the BTC: “to prepare and draft a Code of Parliamentary Procedures for the future Bangsamoro Parliament and a Bangsamoro Administrative Code for the consideration of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

Duterte’s EO 8, however, amended Section 3 of EO 120 as amended, which excluded this drafting provision. Section 3e now cites another function of the BTC.

According to the BTC-drafted BBL, the BTA shall be composed of 80 members, all of whom shall be appointed by the President. It also provides that non-Moro indigenous communities, youth, women, settler communities, traditional leaders, and other sectors shall have representatives in the BTA.

The House of Representatives’ BBL version — HB 6745 — amended the section by adding the phrase, “without prejudice to the participation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other sectors in its leadership and membership.” The Senate retained the BTC provision.

The House and Senate versions retained the provision that nominations to the BTA may be submitted to the Office of the President.

Also retained were the sections that state that legislative and executive powers in the Bangsamoro during transition shall be vested in the BTA.

“During the transition period, executive authority shall be exercised by the interim Chief Minister, who shall be appointed by the President as such, while legislative authority shall be exercised by the BTA,” the proposed law states.

It also provides that all powers and functions of the Bangsamoro Government as provided in the law is vested in the BTA during the transition period and “for purposes of mechanisms for intergovernmental relations with the Central Government and local governments units in the Bangsamoro, the BTA shall be deemed as the Bangsamoro Government for the duration of the transition period.”

Asked if he will be the Chief Minister, Murad replied: “That will be decided by the Central Committee” and will depend on the final version of the BBL that the Bicameral Conference Committee will produce.

“Actually the option for me is I will take the BTA as chairman and then also when the regular government will come, I might join the parliamentary election … so as President of the party, I will also be the Chief Minister of the regular government. But then I can also be — kasi ang decision din ng Central Committee is we will continue — the MILF will exist side by side with the government. So … that will depend now on the Central Committee (what) our collective decision will be,” he said.

When the BTA is set up, the MILF will transform into a “non-government organization engaged more on socio-economic … so it will be parang side by side with the government in implementing socio-economic programs.”

Murad said that if the MILF Central Committee will decide “that we need to strengthen the organization, then I might just stay in the organization or if we need to strengthen the governance, then I need to be in the governance.”

He said the decision would depend on “what will be the BBL…. how strong is the BBL.”

AFP activates Joint Task Force 'Bicolandia'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): AFP activates Joint Task Force 'Bicolandia'

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) formally activated its Joint Task Force "Bicolandia" Monday in line with the ongoing efforts to secure the entire Bicol Region.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said the move aims to integrate air, sea, and land units in the area to fully secure the entire Bicol Region, including the offshore island provinces of Masbate and Catanduanes.

"The formal activation of the Joint Task Force 'Bicolandia' is a clear indication of our persistence to usher in the best improvements for the AFP and is a concrete step that we have taken to further fortify the quest of the AFP, particularly the Southern Luzon Command, to bring and sustain peace and security in the Bicol Region," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said during Monday's activation ceremonies.

Joint Task Force "Bicolandia" will be headed by 9th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jesus Manangquil, Jr. It will take under its helm the division and supported by the Tactical Operations Group 5 and the Naval Forces Southern Luzon.

The unit will be under the direct command and supervision of Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, Detoyato added.

"'Bicolandia' will perform the vital task of protecting from security threats the region's budding economic landscape, vast agricultural sector, and popular tourist hubs, as well as in orchestrating joint operations in response to emergency situations," he stressed.

Airstrike destroys BIFF IED factory in Liguasan Marsh

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Airstrike destroys BIFF IED factory in Liguasan Marsh

BIFF BOMB FACTORY. Aerial view of the military’s surgical airstrike target in Liguasan Marsh on Sunday (June 10), which is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters bomb-making factory in the border of Pagalungan and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun towns in Maguindanao prior to its destruction. (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao--A military airstrike on Sunday successfully destroyed the bomb-making factory of the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Liguasan Marsh, an Army official said Monday.
Capt. Arvin John Encinas, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said the operation also resulted to the arrest of BIFF bomb-maker Ustadz Anwar Ali, 22, and his wife Asnaya, 20.

“At least 15 BIFF were killed in action, eight were wounded, a number of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) recovered in addition to the arrest of the bomb maker and his wife,” Encinas said.

On Sunday, military helicopter gunships, backed by artillery fire and ground troops, launched a 2 a.m. “surgical” operation on BIFF positions in the borders of Pagalungan and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun towns in Maguindanao.

The operation eradicated the targeted BIFF IED factory located in southern part of the vast Liguasan marshland area of Maguindanao, the military said.

“With the successful operation, government security forces were able to negate death, destruction, and panic the IEDs could have caused to peaceful communities,” Encinas said.

The assault troops composed of soldiers belonging to the 33rd Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, 61st Division Reconnaissance Company led by 1Lt. Ruel Fortuna, and the Philippine National Police's Fourth Special Action Battalion led by Supt. Darwin Padla.

Encinas said government forces made sure that BIFF members were confined in a specific area to prevent a possible spillover to nearby towns.

BIFF members traded fires with the 33rd IB troopers but were outmaneuvered after an hour of firefight, prompting Ali and his wife to surrender, Cabunoc said.

Confiscated from the couple were a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle and an M4 Carbine rifle.

"The suspects threw their weapons and improvised bombs in the water when we blocked all their escape routes. Ustadz Anwar is known as Abu Omar, a bomb expert in the group," Cabunoc said.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army’s 6ID commander, said the strike has somehow eased the fear of local residents even as he assured them that safety procedures were undertaken and deliberately planned by giving due concern to the safety of the civilian populace.

“Appropriate coordination was made with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the targeted areas were confined to locations far from local communities,” Sobejana said.

“I am very determined to defeat these threat groups and prevent them from doing terroristic activities to bring about peace in Central Mindanao,” he added.

The Army soldiers hoisted the national flag after defeating the terrorists in their remote marshy hideout in the Liguasan marshland, a 220,000-hectare wetland situated in the boundaries of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces in Central Mindanao.

Classes suspended in 4 Maguindanao towns as military, BIFF clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Classes suspended in 4 Maguindanao towns as military, BIFF clash

Education officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) suspended classes on Monday in four towns of Maguindanao affected by ongoing military operations against IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

In a press conference here Monday, Department of Education-ARMM Secretary Rasol Mitmug identified the affected towns as those of Datu Montawal, Pagalungan, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun and Rajah Buayan, all in Maguindanao.

“We are primarily concerned on the safety of the children and teachers in the affected areas,” Mitmug said.

At least 1,438 pupils and 671 teachers from the four towns joined some 10,000 others in evacuating to safer grounds following a Sunday attack by military forces against BIFF elements protecting a bomb-making factory in the Liguasan Marsh bordering the towns of Pagalungan and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun towns.

Military airstrikes have successfully destroyed the militant’s bomb-making factory but fierce battle continued as of 4 p.m. Monday, a military update said.

So far, 15 BIFF members have been confirmed killed in the ongoing military operation while a top BIFF bomb-maker and his wife were arrested.

Over 500 enthusiasts bike for peace in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Over 500 enthusiasts bike for peace in Davao

Over 500 bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts joined the Ride for Peace caravan on Sunday aimed at showcasing the Paquibato district as a safe area.

The bikers and motorists travelled from Panabo City to Malagos using the Paquibato road. The area is known as a hotbed of insurgency in this city.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Monday said the event is an eye-opener for investors and tourists that the road connectivity in Paquibato District is open to everybody. It was also an opportunity for the Paquibato residents to progress after years of lagging behind in terms of socio-economic development, she added.

“This is a way to show to everybody that Paquibato is now ready for tourists and investors now that we have good road connectivity,” the mayor said.

The mayor thanked the Army's 1003rd Infantry Brigade for highlighting the challenges in Paquibato District, yet an area of so many opportunities.

Col. Ernesto Torres, commander of the 1003rd IB, also thanked all the participants who showed trust and confidence to the military and the city government that they can have a safe ride to Paquibato area.

“Because of what we have done we are able to send a message to the public that Paquibato District area is already ready for peace and development,” Torres said.

He said the Ride for Peace was a historic event as it is the first time that hundreds of people including military officials biked through Paquibato area, showing confidence that the area is safe for the public.

The event followed the launching of the Peace 911 in Paquibato District that laid down socio-economic program and projects to address poverty in the area.

The Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies (ARENA) XI recently held a Serbisyo Caravan in the area.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) XI Director Maria Lourdes Lim announced that over P3 billion worth of infrastructure projects are allocated in Paquibato District.

PH RIMPAC contingent fully stocked with Filipino food

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): PH RIMPAC contingent fully stocked with Filipino food

The two Philippine Navy (PN) ships, which are now headed for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises off Hawaii have more than sufficient stocks of Filipino food to tide them over in the almost two-month long maneuvers.

This was bared by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the Philippine News Agency Sunday.

"They have enough food provisions approved by (our) dieticians/nutrionists. They need (a) balance diet and enough nutrients to nourish them because it is a long voyage," he added.

And while not knowing the exact composition of the food stocks carried aboard by the two ships, Lincuna said that it is purely nutritious Filipino food.

"They are carrying nutritious and (hearty) Filipino food," he added.

The PN contingent, now called Naval Task Force RIMPAC, is composed of the 7,000 gross-ton strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), and 3,000 gross-ton frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) and a AgustaWestland AW-109 utility helicopter along with 700 sailors and marines.

It is commanded by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino while mission head will be Commodore Toribio Adaci. It left Cebu along with Malaysian frigate KD Lekiu last June 6.

And while enroute, to the Hawaii exercise area, the PN spokesperson said that there will be drills and exercises with other navies whom they will be meeting along the way.

"While enroute, there will be a series of drills and exercises with other navies. Travel time will depend on sea conditions and their group maneuvers at sea," Lincuna added.

The Filipino ships and the Malaysian craft will link up with other navies (Indonesian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Navy) along the way for the ASEAN++ Group Sail to RIMPAC 2018.

Around 30 navies are expected in this year's RIMPAC which is scheduled for June 27 to August 2.

Nothing unusual with landing, refuelling of Chinese plane: DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Nothing unusual with landing, refuelling of Chinese plane: DND chief

There is nothing unusual with the landing and refuelling of a People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Ilyushin-76 turbofan strategic airlifter in Davao City last June 8.

This was bared by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana shortly after flag-raising ceremonies in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

"(Ayon sa) ating pamahalaan ay meron itong (As per the government, it has coordination with Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines), you know yung (the) CAAP is the agency in charge with our airspace so meron silang (they have) coordination na mag-landing sa Davao para mag-refuel then papunta siya sa (that it will make a landing in Davao to refuel and then it will go to) Cairns, Australia, pagbalik niya magre-refuel din ulit (when it returns, it will refuel again). Ganun ang kasunduan (That's the agreement), so nothing is unusual there, kahit na ibang mga bansa ginagawa din yan, yung mga Amerikano nagla-landing din dito din dito para mag-refuel (even other countries do that, the Americans also make a landing here to refuel)," he added.

The DND chief added that Philippine Air Force planes also do this kind of procedures when going abroad.

"In fact pagka-pumunta tayo sa ibang bansa at gagamitin natin sa loob (ang) eroplano (natin) at kapusin tayo (When we go to ther countries and our airplane runs out of fuel) we can land in another country, refuel, but we will have to have prior coordination, yun ang ginawa nila (that was what they did)," Lorenzana stressed.

The Ilyushin-76 is a multi-purpose four-engine turbofan strategic airlifter designed by the Soviet Union's Ilyushin design bureau.

It was first planned as a commercial freighter in 1967, as a replacement for the Antonov An-12. It was designed to deliver heavy machinery to remote, poorly served areas.

No PRRD order to halt WPS patrols: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): No PRRD order to halt WPS patrols: Lorenzana


President Rodrigo Duterte did not issue any order telling the military to stop its patrols in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.

He made this remark when asked on claims made by Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was ordered to stop patrolling the above-mentioned territory.

"Wala, there was no (such) order whatsoever, kahit nung (even in) 2016," Lorenzana stressed.

The DND chief added that President Rodrigo Duterte never made a hint on the matter.

"Hindi, at saka hindi niya ginawa ‘yan (No, he did not do it), he did not even hint or he did not do it, he did not even hint that they stop patrolling, kaya regular tayo dyan eh, regular, yung eroplano kung masama ang panahon hindi kami (nagpa-patrol), pero pagka maganda (ang panahon) ikot nang ikot yung ating eroplano dyan (We conduct regular patrols there. Our planes do not patrol when the weather is bad. But if the weather is fine, our planes are regularly conducting patrols there)," he stressed.

Also, Lorenzana said that it is the AFP's mandate to protect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Rebel IP leader signs peace pact with government forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Rebel IP leader signs peace pact with government forces

The feared tribal leader of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Inkanugon and the Langilan-Manobo tribe in Talaingod, Davao del Norte extended his hands in peace after years of fighting the government.

Datu Gibang Apoga, the chieftain of the Langilan-Manobo Tribe, together with the members of his group, signed a peace covenant with the security forces and the government officials in a tribal ceremony called “Pakag” or “Tampura” in the remote village of Nasilaban, Palma Gil, Talaingod on Saturday.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said on Sunday that Apoga and the Langilan-Manobo Tribe were received by local government officials and other members of the "lumad" (native) communities of Talaingod.

A copy of the Peace Covenant obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) showed it was thumb marked by Apoga and signed by various lumad leaders, the military, and local officials.

The covenant expressed commitment to support the foundation laid down for former rebels and the Indigenous Peoples Engagement and Evaluation, as well as support for improved conditions of the IPs and the former rebels.

Apoga rose to become a feared tribal leader after leading an armed opposition against the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) project, a commercial logging operation in mid-1990’s in the ancestral domain. The IFMA would have covered an additional 17,000 hectares within the ancestral domain.

Apoga had also closed ranks with other tribal leaders to fight the Alcantara and Sons commercial reforestation project within their ancestral domain.

He had earlier been accused of leading the Pulang Bagani Command, a group of armed tribal warriors that the Army has linked to the New People’s Army (NPA). For the tribe, however, Bagani is a noble title granted to the protectors of tribal lands.

Balagtey said the struggle of Apoga and his group has sown division among the tribes and made Talaingod a hotbed of the insurgency in Davao del Norte.

Aside from signing the covenant, Balagtey said Apoga also turned-over his firearm to BGen. Ernesto Torres Jr, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, and Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Paredes, the Battalion Commander of 56IB, in the presence of about 500 leaders and members of the tribal community.

Apoga’s return to Nasilaban was seen as the positive outcome of the military’s continued peace initiatives with different tribal groups in the area of the Eastmincom.

Torres expressed commitment to sustain and implement the peace covenant.

"Together with the LGUs (local government units) and LGAs (local government agencies), we will continue doing confidence-building measures to solidify this peace gain,” Torres said.

Asked if Apoga has standing criminal cases, Torres In a follow-up interview on Monday said a quick check with the courts, police and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, showed that Apoga either has no standing cases, or that these have already been dismissed.

Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., lauded the signing of the covenant and directed the 1003rd brigade to pursue the peace initiatives with a reminder to respect the culture of the lumads.

"We shall continue to pursue peace with the different tribal groups in our area by protecting their right to their ancestral domain, facilitating the delivery of socio-economic projects in their respective ancestral domains anchored on the respect to their culture, the indigenous knowledge, systems, practices, and their indigenous political structure" Madrigal said in a statement.

AFP mourns passing of ex-security adviser Roilo Golez

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): AFP mourns passing of ex-security adviser Roilo Golez

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed its condolences to the family of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Roilo Golez who succumbed to heart attack Monday.

"The AFP sincerely condoles with the family and friends of former Congressman and National Security Adviser Roilo Golez for his untimely demise," military spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a message to reporters.

Golez, a graduate of the prestigious US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, retired from the Philippine Navy with the rank of captain, and joined the government in various capacities before becoming ParaƱaque (2nd District) Representative from 1992 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2013.

He was appointed to the NSA post by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where he served from 2001 to 2004.

"He was a sailor, a patriot, and a public servant whose contributions to the Filipino nation and its people extended throughout his lifetime," Arevalo added.

Golez will be remembered for his keen insights founded on his knowledge of military history and strategy, national security, and geopolitics, the AFP spokesperson said.

PH now looking for possible suppliers of diesel-electric submarines

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): PH now looking for possible suppliers of diesel-electric submarines

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the country is now looking for possible suppliers of diesel-electric submarines to beef up the Philippine Navy's capabilities.

"Tumitingin tayo sa (We are looking at) (South) Korea at Russia and other countries," he added.

According to Lorenzana, while the diesel-electric submarines are part of the Third Horizon of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP), which is slated for 2023 to 2028, there is a need to look into possible suppliers as building these undersea vessels takes a long time.

"Kasi yung paggawa ng submarine takes five to eight years eh, (The construction of submarines takes five to eight years) sometimes it takes 10 years," he added.

The DND chief also said that the Philippines needs to acquire diesel-submarines as its Southeast Asian neighbors like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam now possessed squadrons of these vastly capable underwater craft.

"Kailangan din naman natin (ang diesel-electric submarines) yan para meron naman tayong (deterrent and) security, kasi yung mga kapitbahay natin may mga submarines na eh, Malaysia, Indonesia, pati Singapore na napakaliit na bansa, at saka Vietnam, tayo na lang wala dito (We need diesel-electric submarins so we have a deterrent and security. It's because our neighbors already have submarines. Malaysia, Indonesia, even a small country like Singapore. Vietnam also has submarines. It is only us who do not have it)," he added.

The RAFPMP is divided into three horizons, the first of which was slated 2013 to 2017, the second from 2018 to 2022 and third, 2023 to 2028.

The Second Horizon calls for the acquisition of equipment more attuned to external defense missions, including jet fighters and other air assets and missile systems.

Acquired during the First Horizon were the three Gregorio Del Pilar cutters, three combat utility helicopters for the Navy, two naval attack helicopters, six MPACs (multi-purpose assault craft), eight combat utility helicopters for the Air Force and refurbishment of two Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo planes, two strategic sealift vessels, 12 FA-50 fighter jets among others.

PNP sees bigger role in internal security ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): PNP sees bigger role in internal security ops

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is looking at a larger role in internal security operations in the future, PNP Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said Monday.

"Unti-unti na 'yan na bumabalik sa atin with regards to Luzon and Visayas area. Sa Mindanao iba kasi yung problem doon (It is gradually being returned to the PNP with regards to Luzon and Visayas. In Mindanao, its a different problem)," Albayalde replied to reporters' question on at what point will the PNP be handling counter-insurgency operations.

The PNP chief explained that the move to shift training for new recruits to commando training is partly to prepare the PNP in taking over internal security operations from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the PNP chief added that barangay officials will have to undergo the usual screening process for gun owners in case the proposed plan to arm them as an augmentation force pushes through.

"Yung ating mga (As for our) barangay officials, just like ordinary citizens of the Philippines, kung talagang qualified sila (if they are really qualified) to possess firearms, then pwede naman sila (it is possible). Meron naman silang (They have a) privilege to possess firearms kung talagang makita natin na qualified sila to (if we see that they are qualified to) possess firearms," Albayalde said.

Albayalde said arming barangay officials will be up to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and not the PNP which, according to him, is presently short of firearms for its personnel.

"Kung talagang magkaroon ng directive ng ating (If there will be a directive from the) DILG to arm them, then nasa kanila na 'yun (it's up to them) but for us we cannot provide the firearms dahil kami nga kulang pa sa (because we are short of) firearms. It will not come from the PNP,"

Albayalde said like civilians who secured permits to carry firearms outside of residence, barangay officials who secure similar permits when armed are not authorized for "open carry" and must conceal their weapons when outside their homes.

Airstrikes vs. BIFF coordinated with MILF: OPAPP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Airstrikes vs. BIFF coordinated with MILF: OPAPP

The airstrike carried out against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a local armed group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was conducted “with full coordination” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said Monday.

On Sunday, the 6th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army conducted military operations against a group of Daesh-inspired bomb-makers holed out in the southern portion of Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao.

The military operation was a combination of surgical airstrikes on confirmed targets and focused ground operations against the group.

“This operation was conducted with full coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH). The targeted areas were also confined to locations that are far from communities,” the OPAPP said in a statement.

“The operation was successful, resulting in the eradication of identified IED (improvised explosive device) factories. Follow-up operations are also being conducted to ensure that terrorists are confined in the area,” the statement added.

The OPAPP statement was issued after concerns were raised on social media that the military offensive could adversely affect the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF.

To further allay any concerns, the OPAPP said that a coordination meeting among representatives of the Philippine government, MILF CCCH, MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), 6th ID, 602nd Infantry Brigade, and 7th Infantry Battalion was conducted immediately just hours after the airstrikes.

The meeting was presided by Maj. Gen. Dato’ Mohd Nazir Bin Haji Mami, head of mission of the 13th Mindanao International Monitoring Team (IMT-M13).

According to the OPAPP, it was agreed during the meeting that further coordination meetings will be held to discuss possible cooperation between government and MILF forces against the terrorists.

Another meeting was held Monday where it was agreed that a coordinating team will be established as the operating arm of the CCCH and AHJAG on the ground.

This team will be composed of representatives of the AFP, MILF, and local government of Pikit.

Meanwhile, the OPAPP assured that residents who fled their communities at the height of the military operation could now return safely to their homes.

Scores of residents reportedly fled their homes for fear of a possible spillover of hostilities in their respective communities.

“It was also agreed that the MILF ceasefire mechanism will inform evacuees from Pikit, North Cotabato that they should keep calm and return to their respective communities because they are not the target of the operation,” the OPAPP statement said.

“Also, 602nd IB commander Col. Alfredo Rosario was also able to meet with representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 12 and asked them to inform the evacuees that they can return home since the possibility of further airstrikes is now remote,” it added.