Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sandiganbayan upholds guilty verdict vs retired army general

From Rappler (Oct 14): Sandiganbayan upholds guilty verdict vs retired army general
Jose Ramiscal Jr, former president of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System, faces 123 years in jail   
GUILTY. The Sandiganbayan rejects the motion for reconsideration of retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler
GUILTY. The Sandiganbayan rejects the motion for reconsideration of retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

The Sandiganbayan affirmed the guilty verdict given to retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr in relation to corruption.

The anti-graft court's 7th Division junked Ramiscal's motion for reconsideration which sought to reverse the
April 2018 decision which sentenced him to a total of 123 years in jail for 12 counts of graft and falsification of documents.

Ramiscal, the former president of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS), was found guilty of defrauding the government of P3,506,490 in taxes due.

The charges state that Ramiscal and his lawyer Nilo Flaviano falsified a deed of sale showing a lower amount in order to pay lower capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax.

The case stemmed from a December 1997 complaint filed by former South Cotabato representative Luwalhati Antonino before the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao.

Several reports were submitted to her office detailing the anomalous real estate transactions in her district.

Ramiscal, in his appeal, said the prosecution did not submit enough evidence against him, adding that he did not sign the questioned deeds of sale.

But the Sandiganbayan dismissed Ramiscal's arguments, saying that the absence of his signature does not prove his non-involvement.

"Evidence of his participation is not limited to his signature on the subject Unilateral Deeds of Sale. If such were the case, indispensable participants in a criminal scheme need only refrain from signing documents to evade prosecution," the anti-graft court said.

This is not the first conviction against Ramiscal. He was previously convicted of misuse of retirement funds, also in relation to his work at the AFP-RSBS.

Pangasinense war veterans to receive US congressional medal

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Pangasinense war veterans to receive US congressional medal

WWII HEROES. Pangasinan's second district Representative Leopoldo N. Bataoil shows the marker honoring his late uncle, 3Lt. Leopoldo G. Bataoil at the blessing of the Memorial Park facing the Lingayen Gulf. Bataoil received in behalf of his family the US Congressional Gold Medal. (Photo by Liwayway Yparraguirre)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Some 36 Pangasinense World War II (WWII) veterans will be receiving US Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award from the United States (US) Congress.

This, according to Pangasinan second district representative Leopoldo N. Bataoil in an interview on Saturday, as he himself honored his uncle and namesake, 3Lt. Leopoldo G. Bataoil (O-1913 Philippine Army Inf), with a marker built on the memorial park constructed in front of the family's Purok Marcela Resort here overlooking the Lingayen Gulf.

The marker honoring his uncle will be formally unveiled on November 15 this year, during the veteran's 101st anniversary celebration.

Bataoil said his uncle (eldest brother of his father) was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1943. He died during the World War II in Bataan, but his body was never recovered.

"This memorial marker will be unveiled by dignitaries from the US government and the Philippine government. On that day, there will be World War II veterans who will be attending the unveiling. They will receive US Congressional Gold Medals from the US Government and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office who will be here on that occasion," he added.

Bataoil said, he flew to Washington DC, USA on Oct. 25 last year and received, in behalf of the Bataoil family, the US Congressional Gold Medal awarded to his uncle.

"I'm honored to receive it. His body was never recovered when he died during the WW II in Bataan, but he will remain in our hearts forever. I was born Oct. 22, 1953, 10 years after his supposed graduation at PMA in 1943, my father named me after him," he said.

Bataoil said when the first batch of US Congressional Gold Medals were shipped to the Philippines, he was invited to the event and "delivered an emotional speech in behalf of the veterans".

He said the first batch of gold medals have been delivered here in the Philippines and were received by several veterans and their representatives at the US Embassy last September 13.

The next batch will be given at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) during the parade and review ceremonies, while the third batch of medals will be awarded in Pangasinan next month.

He said the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was passed in 2016, signed into law also that year by then US President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Bataoil, who is on his third and last term at the House of Representatives and is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said members of Congress finally approved the bill increasing the old age monthly pension of veterans from PHP5,000 to PHP20,000.

He expressed elation with this development, saying he had been pushing the bill at the 15th and 16th Congress.

"If signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, the additional pension will be of great help to the remaining WWII numbering to just about 7,000," Bataoil said.

Gov’t looking for ‘happy compromise’ with MNLF – Duterte

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 14): Gov’t looking for ‘happy compromise’ with MNLF – Duterte

The government is working out a “happy compromise for all” amid its peace initiatives with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari, President Duterte said Sunday.

President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari during a courtesy call in Malacañang on November 28. ALBERT ALCAIN/ Presidential Photo

The President admitted that he could not give everything to Misuari but assured him that he could deliver a majority of the peace efforts in the south.

“Misuari has been biding his time. He said it will depend on Duterte’s timetable. I told Nur na hintay ka lang [to please wait] but we will come up with a happy compromise for all,” Duterte said during the launch of the “Prosper Thy Neighbor” book written by former President Fidel V. Ramos at the Manila Hotel.

“I may not be able to give you everything but in a scale of one to 10, if I can deliver about six, that would be good,” he added, without giving details.

The President issued the remarks after the government passed the law seeking to create the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The envisioned region, that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is part of the peace deal forged by the Aquino government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the breakaway group of Misuari’s MNLF. A plebiscite will still be held to implement the law.

MIsuari earlier served as ARMM governor after the MNLF signed a peace deal with the Ramos government.

Duterte previously said he could give MIsuari “autonomy” pending moves to shift to the federal form of government. A draft federal Charter has been proposed by a commission created by the President. Congress has also started discussions on proposed amendments to the Constitution to make way for federal government.

The last time the President met Misuari was in Davao City last August. The two affirmed the mutual desire for peace in Mindanao.

CPP says Duterte HK trip ‘vomit-inducing,’ AFP’s Red October ‘fairy tale’ a flop

From GMA News (Oct 13): CPP says Duterte HK trip ‘vomit-inducing,’ AFP’s Red October ‘fairy tale’ a flop

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's recent "shopping spree" in Hong Kong, saying it showed "cruel indifference" to Filipinos' affected by the rising prices of commodities.

In a statement posted on the Facebook page of its founding chairman Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, the group claimed Duterte further "inflamed" the public's desire for his ouster when he traveled to Hong Kong with his common-law-wife Honeylet Avanceña — who the communist leader referred to as a "mistress" — and their daughter to shop for clothes.

"Amid destitution of millions upon millions of Filipinos, Duterte's Hongkong shopping-spree was a vomit-inducing and rage-provoking show of extravagance. He has self-demolished his pro-poor façade," the CPP said.

"Duterte showed cruel indifference to the millions upon millions of Filipinos who are suffering from skyrocketing prices of rice and fuel, low wages, widespread joblessness and general deterioration of social conditions," it added, saying the public should demand the administration how much the President spent for the entire trip.

The communist party said compared to Duterte's Hong Kong shopping, the Armed Forces of the Philippines' "Red October fairy tale" — about the communists' alleged plan to unseat Duterte this month — was a "flop."

The CPP said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made himself look "stupid: by claiming that the AFP has successfully foiled "Red October," a plot which the communist group insisted was invented by the military.

The CPP also criticized the military for going on a "Red-baiting frenzy," by tagging students to the supposed ouster plot, something their schools have already denied.

"Even now, reports abound of activists in urban areas across the country being subjected to surveillance and threats, and charged with trumped-up criminal cases," the group said in a separate statement on Saturday.

"In the rural areas, thousands of AFP troops continue to occupy communities and commit grave abuses against the people. Cases of extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, illegal arrests and other abuses are on the rise," it added.

The CPP said the AFP may have ended its "Red October fairy tale" but the struggle of the Filipino people to oust the Duterte regime continues.

Joma takes new swipe at Duterte

From the Manila Standard (Oct 15): Joma takes new swipe at Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte is “culpable” for  aggravating all the country’s problems, the Communist Party of the Philippines said Saturday, warning Duterte his administration will be ripe for another ouster “sooner than later.”

CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said the culpabilities for the soaring prices of basic goods and services would result in the deterioration of the Philippine economy.

“Duterte is culpable for the aggravation of all the foregoing problems of his regime and has no solution to offer,” he said. 

Therefore, the regime will stink further from month to month and will ripen for rejection in the May 2019 elections or for ouster sooner than later.”

Sison contradicted Duterte’s view that the rising prices of crude oil in the global market were the cause of the increase in prices of primary commodities.

“He holds the narrow and deceptive view that rising oil prices is the only cause of the rising prices of basic goods and services in the Philippines,”  Sison said.

He said Duterte “absolves” himself from his culpabilities as he blamed the rise in inflation to the increasing oil prices.

He said the President washed his hands of the effects of the Packages 1 and 2 of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion law which, as he argued, “cut back the taxes on corporations and the wealthy and imposed the tax burden on the consuming public in the form of excise and value-added taxes.”

He also said Duterte distanced himself from the issues of corruption in the huge discretionary funds and pork barrel corruption of members of Congress.

He linked several issues as Duterte’s doing like the overspending for the military, police and intelligence agencies, but underspending for social services; lack of land reform and national industrialization and discouragement and decline of food production and local manufacturing; and the drastic fall of the income from raw material exports and semi-manufactures.

The rising import costs of oil and manufactures; rising interest rates on accumulated and new foreign loans; overborrowing for infrastructure projects through Build, Build, Build and bigger debt service on the rising public debt; wider budgetary and trade deficits; and the declining peso due to inflation and worsening balance of payments problem are also under Sison’s list.

“It is fine that Duterte admits lately that tough economic times are ahead for the Filipino people who are now already reeling from the inflationary conditions,” Sison said.

Duterte, however, contradicted his previous declaration in Bali that the Philippine economy is running in an upward trajectory, he said.

Sison also lashed out at Duterte’s personal trip to Hong Kong, stressing his sudden excursion to the known shopping capital was Duterte’s “callous show of affluence.”

In a separate statement, he said Duterte showed “cruel indifference to the millions upon millions of Filipinos who are suffering from  the skyrocketing prices of rice and fuel, low wages, widespread joblessness and general deterioration of social conditions.”

“With not enough money to spend for their food, transportation, electricity and other basic expenses, the workers, peasants and other toiling sectors demand Duterte to reveal how much he spent for traveling and traveling and shopping?” he added.

Sison also criticized that the armed forces’ Red October plot “fairytale” was a “flop in terms of destabilizing his regime.”

The President had earlier clarified to the public he only visited Hong Kong to buy clothes, dismissing rumors that he had undergone a medical checkup as there were talks about his health condition.

4 lady rebels, including PUP student, arrested

From Tempo (Oct 15): 4 lady rebels, including PUP student, arrested

Four female members of the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CNTs), one of which is said to be a student of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), were arrested in Nueva Ecija on Saturday.

The arrested female rebels were identified as Yolanda Diamsay alias Mariz, Eulalia Pangkaliwangan Ladesma, Rachel Acana Galario alias Rose and Elaine Edzel Amocling alias George, said to be a student from PUP.

A report coming from the Army’s 7th Infantry Division disclosed that the four were collared at about 3:40 in the afternoon at Sitio 32, Barangay Agbannawag, Rizal, Nueva Ecija.

The information on the presence of the female rebels was provided by a concerned citizen residing in the area.

According to the information, the rebels were conducting recruitment, propaganda activities and extortion in the community.

Joint elements from the 7th ID units and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Nueva Ecija with the Municipal Police Station, Rizal, Nueva Ecija acted on the information and proceeded to the barangay.

Upon arrival at the area, the government troops found two ‘amazonas’ recruiting residents. One of them was caught carrying a rifle. Two other female rebels went out of a nipa hut nearby and were caught with firearms, various ammunitions, explosives and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The government troops recovered from the female rebels a cal. 9mm sub machine gun, a magazine of sub machine gun, 20 rounds live ammunition of sub machine gun, four hand grenades, two IEDs, two long magazines of M16 rifle, three short magazines of M16 rifle, 15 live ammunitions of cal .45 pistol, 14 rounds live ammunitions of cal. 7.62 mm, 105 rounds live ammunitions for cal. 5.56 m16 rifle, 56 rounds live ammunitions for mini machine gun, one lenovo laptop, a Lenovo tablet, 10 cellular phones, a laptop charger, 15 battery packs, four USBs, three memory cards, three sim cards, an Epson printer, voluminous subversive documents and the rebels’ personal belongings.

As this developed, the 7th ID said that Emocling has been identified as a student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), one of the schools in the list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that are allegedly targetted as possible source of NPA recruits.

Meantime, the Northern Luzon Command (NoLCom) and Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) scored anew against communist terrorists in recent encounters and surrenders.

In a statement, the AFP’s Public Affairs Office said in EastMinCom alone, a total of 8,665 surrenderees from January 1 to October 10, 2018 has been recorded and are currently undergoing process for their eligibility to avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits from the government.

On October 9, both troops in Impasug-ong, and Pangatucan, Bukidnon encountered different communist terrorist groups (CTG). Troops of 8th Infantry Battalion (IB) encountered more or less five CTG members in Impasug-ong.

Meanwhile, two Special Forces team in Pangatucan encountered 10 CTG members resulting to one enemy killed and two troopers wounded-in-action.

On October 8, troops of the 36th IB were able to seize one sack of books and news magazines containing Communist propaganda and reading materials that they distribute to schools in Carmen, Surigao del Sur.

Also recently, 10 members of Milisyang Bayan voluntarily surrendered to the 75IB in Rosario, Agusan del Sur bringing along seven firearms.

In 2018 so far, the EastMinCom has seized 821 firearms from surrenderees and encounters, and a total of 324 improvised explosive devices.

There are also 131 CTG encampments that were seized and cleared from war material and explosives.

Terror suspects won’t have to appear in court — SC

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 14): Terror suspects won’t have to appear in court — SC

Members of terrorist groups facing criminal charges need not appear in court personally for their testimonies or cross examinations during the trial of their cases with the implementation of the Supreme Court’s (SC) “tele-hearing” mechanism that would be pilot tested in Davao City.

Hon. Jose Midas P. Marquez, Court Administrator of Supreme Court of the Philippines (Kevin Tristan Espiritu / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

This means that members of groups of Maute, Abu Sayaff and New People’s Army (NPA) who were charged in court will testify and be cross examined right inside their detention cells.

“Tele-hearing” is the SC’s term for “video conferencing” that has long been practiced and adopted during court trial of cases in the technologically advanced countries like the United States.

It is “the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals.” Through these conferences, “individuals meet one another in a real-time virtual manner ‘as if they were in the same room’ without the hassle and expense of traveling.”

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, who recommended the “tele-hearing” that was approved by the SC during the time of retired Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, said the mechanism will also apply to prisoners who are diagnosed with grave and serious medical conditions.

To support “tele-hearing,” a 100-foot monopole tower with necessary equipment will be built within the Davao Hall of Justice and will be connected to the three jail facilities in the city.

Marquez said three courtrooms will be equipped for pilot testing. There will be procedural safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of the accused during the “tele-hearing.”

“In order to ensure that the accused’s constitutional rights are adequately protected, the counsel of the accused shall be present with the accused in the same designated room in the jail facility throughout the duration of the tele-hearing,” he explained.

Records showed that there are about 4,000 detainees in three Davao City jails that are managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Hundreds of Maute, Abu Sayaff and NPA members are detained in these jail facilities.

“Tele-hearing” was requested by Davao City Jail Warden Supt. Grace Taculin who cited security risks in the transport of high-profile prisoners from their detention cells to the courts.

The request was favorably acted upon by Marquez’s office which recommended its approval by the SC as a full court.

Parents told to be vigilant amid NPA ‘recruitment’ in universities

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 14): Parents told to be vigilant amid NPA ‘recruitment’ in universities

Parents of students in universities and colleges must keep an eye on the activities of their children amid the intensified but covert recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division warned on Sunday.

In a statement, the 7th ID said it is not surprising that the youth are the target recruits of communist terrorist groups as they are idealistic, vulnerable to radicalism and easy to train.

Hence, the 7th ID is urging the parents of students to be more vigilant and be constantly informed of the activities and whereabouts of their children even when in campus.

Recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) presented a list of 18 schools in Metro Manila where the NPA isallegedly recruiting students.

The schools were earlier identified as University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, UP Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Sta. Mesa, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), Dela Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), Adamson University, Far Eastern University (FEU), University of the East (UE) Recto and Caloocan, Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC), Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST), San Beda, Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), University of Makati, Caloocan City College (University of Caloocan), University of Manila, and Philippine Normal University (PNU).

“The NPA recruitment process normally starts with selecting prospective student members who are smart, idealistic and passionate about a cause. They would then teach them about communism and indoctrinate them about activism. An invitation to join rallies would come next,” the 7th ID said.

“After they have proven their passion and courage in a number of demonstrations and rallies, they will then be immersed in a community where they get their first exposure with the armed group of the NPA,” it added.

In September 2017, John Paul Calica, a student of the Asian Institute for Computer Studies, and Guiller Martin Cadano, a B.S. Psychology cum laude graduate of UP Clark were killed in an encounter with government troops in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija.

Their families had no idea of their involvement with the left-leaning group.

Gerald Salonga, another B.S. Psychology student from UP Clark, was also killed in an encounter between the NPAsand government troops in Ma. Aurora, Aurora in September 2, 2018.

Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., 7th ID Commander, said that the ill-fated students had a bright future ahead of them and could have become productive members of society, until they got involved with the CPP-NPA.

Rebel’s wife surrenders

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 13): Rebel’s wife surrenders

The wife of an arrested leader of the New People’s Army in southern Negros, has surrendered to the 15th Infantry Battalion, and endorsed a .45 caliber pistol, Capt. Ruel Llanes, 303rd Infantry Brigade spokesman, said yesterday.

Llanes identified her as Rubelyn Gelacio Herrera, a member of the Medical Team of the Sangay Platon Propaganda, South West Front of the Komiteng Rehional Negros.

Rubelyn is the wife of Joebert Herrera, a platoon leader of the NPA in southern Negros, who was apprehended last week in Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, Llanes said.

Joeber faces multiple frustrated murder and murder charges, with no bail recommended by Kabankalan Regional Trial Court Judge Fernando Elumba.

Col. Alberto Desoyo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, welcomed the decision of Rubelyn to abandon the armed struggle.
Under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), Desoyo said that Rubelyn will receive immediate financial assistance from the government, on top of livelihood assistance, among others.

On the other hand, Llanes said that 94 former rebels already availed of the Negros First-Army Wellness Program funded by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, in tandem with the 303rd Infantry Brigade, which forms part of the “ Arms to Farm Program” of E-CLIP.

Murad meets int’l donor community; presents state of the future BARMM

From MindaNews (Oct 13): Murad meets int’l donor community; presents state of the future BARMM

It was a “very historic conference,” the representative of the Canadian Embassy said as the chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) briefed international development partners, among them six Ambassadors, on the future Bangsamoro government, and presented a10-point priority program to meet the “huge challenges” in their transition from rebellion to governance and from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The “Conversation between Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Development Partners,” held at the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel here, last Thursday came three months ahead of the January 21, 2019 plebiscite to ratify RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. RA 11054 is the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement that government and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim meets with international development partners at the Park Inn hotel in Davao City on 11 October 2018. Photo courtesy of MILF Chair’s office

Murad said the plebiscite, which he described as the “one final hurdle” towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro government, will “make or unmake our decades of negotiations as well as peacemaking.”

In his 27-minute speech, Murad, the MILF’s nominee to be Chief Minister under the MILF-led, 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) that would be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to govern the Bangsamoro during the transition from 2019 to 2022, presented to the audience of development partners from 11 countries, as well as from the United Nations, European Union and the World Bank what Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza described as the “State of the BARMM Address.”

“I just heard what is equivalent to a State of the Nation address delivered by the President of the nation, now we call it the State of the BARMM Address because it dissects clearly the expectations, the challenges and the areas where we have to work very closely,” said Dureza, who sat at the Presidential table beside Murad and UN Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren, who convened the meeting.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim recall their days as peace panel chairs negotiating across the table from 2001 to 2003 as they look forward to their partnership under the Duterte administration. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Dureza and Murad sat across the negotiating table as chairs of the government and MILF peace panels from 2001 to 2003, when the peace talks resumed under the Arroyo administration, after the “all out war” waged by the Estrada administration in 2000. Murad was then Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The BIAF’s current Chief of Staff, Sammy Al Mansoor, and other members of the MILF Central Committee and agencies were also present during the “Conversation.”

“As we prepare for the transition into the Bangsamoro Government, it is best to keep in mind that the Bangsamoro still lags behind the rest of the country in many human development indices,” Murad said, citing the poverty incidence that remains highest in the region “which is more than triple than that of the national average” and the “poor bottom of literacy rate” at 86.1% compared to other regions like neighboring Region 12, also referred to as Soccsksargen, “where 90% is their lowest (and the) national average is at 96.5%.”

He cited more statistical data from the ARMM, the core territory of the proposed Bangsamoro, which will be abolished upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro: only 32 percent of its population have access to safe water, its inflation rate of 8.1% for August this year surpasses the national figure of 6.4% “making our population spend 60 percent of their earnings much on food and cut-off on other urgent needs such as health and education.”

“Our people still struggle to access clean water and electricity,” Murad said, noting that even as Lake Lanao is the source of hydroelectric power for around 68% of Mindanao’s electricity requirements, “our electricity supply is unreliable and expensive compared to major Mindanao cities and selected Asian countries.”

“Our life expectancy rate is at 59 for male and 61 for female. The second leading cause of death for male adult is gunshot wounds leaving behind them orphans and widows,” he said.

“Appalling and it is extremely painful to look at these numbers,” Murad said, adding it is “almost paradoxical that we wallow in poverty amidst an abundance in natural resources.”

From rebellion to governance, ARMM to BARMM

Murad admitted they are faced with “huge challenges” as they transition from armed to democratic struggle, particularly on how to “ensure a responsive and timely program for around 30,000 to 40,000 of our combatants who will undergo the decommissioning process.”

“The first recipient of the true dividends of peace must be these individuals and their communities,” he said, adding there are still “thousands of reserve and irregular members of the BIAF who will likewise have to be converted to productive civilian population.”

In the transition from ARMM to BARMM, he said they “will need to learn a lot of new skills to be able to effectively manage this transition.”

Murad explained that phasing out the ARMM bureaucracy and installing the new Bangsamoro civil service “must be perfectly synchronized to avoid disruption in service delivery,” that “effectively performing civil servants are made available, new arrivals are fully capacitated and those who are separated get appropriate severance (pay).”

Murad also expressed concern over a major challenge: financing the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

“We cannot successfully kick start a government that will make a marked difference in the lives of our people if there is no infusion of new money into the region,” he said.

Because the Bangsamoro has yet to be ratified, it cannot be included in the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act. Instead, it will inherit the P32-billion budget approved for the ARMM in 2019.

Murad hopes the BTA, which would run a ministerial form of government, would be able to receive next year the Special Development Fund (SDF) and block grant provided for under RA 11054.

The SDF is 50 billion pesos at 5 billion per year for 10 years from the ratification of the law.

The block grant is equivalent to 5 % of the net national internal revenue tax collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and net collection of the Bureau of Customs.

“We cannot just inherit the regular programmed resources of the current ARMM for this leaves us without flexibility to respond to emerging and new priorities. Here, we will need the assistance of our good friend Sec Jess to make this point clear to our partners in government. A further step into this will be the complementation of our effort from our development partners to achieve a perfect complementation in our efforts and avoid duplicity,” he said.


Murad also articulated the need to provide an “inspiring leadership with a well-entrenched vision for the Bangsamoro.”

“This vision should reflect and articulate the aspirations of our people and should be broad enough to cover everyone and yet so close to each of us so that we can identify with it. This vision should galvanize everyone to rally behind a cause far larger than ourselves and inspire the youth to contribute their share in nation building,” he said, stressing they will be leaders of the Bangsamoro and not just of the MILF or its political party, United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP).

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front delivers a 27-minute speech before the international donor community at the Park Inn hotel in Davao City on 11 October 2018. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said it sounded like a State of the BARMM Address. Photo courtesy of the MILF Chair’s Office

He laid down the ten priorities in their transitions from a revolutionary organization to one tasked with governance and the transition from the ARMM to the BARRM:
  • enact priority measures mandated by the Bangsamoro law such as Electoral Code, Civil Service Code, Administrative Code and other legislations that need to be enacted during the BTA;
  • review and integrate the Bangsamoro Development Plan, the Regional Development Plan of ARMM, the Camp Transformation Plan and other Bangsamoro plans to make them responsive to the current needs;
  • study and design the appropriate bureaucracy for the Bangsamoro Government to ensure the right balance between the size of the bureaucracy and the services that need to delivered as well as the appropriate skills required of people in the bureaucracy;
  • set up programs that will respond to the pressing social and economic challenges in the Bangsamoro such as poverty, education, health, access to clean water and electricity, job opportunity, agricultural productivity, and access to capital market. “These must be complemented with responsive strategic infrastructure in the region such as ports, road network, flood control, and logistics and communication facilities,” he said.
  • special programs for transitioning combatants and their families apart from regular programs of the government like 4Ps, Philhealth, among others “to ensure that these programs are tailored fit to their needs so that they will become productive members of the society;”
  • rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi. “Marawi must be quickly rehabilitated and reconstructed as every delay is an opportunity for violent extremism to use it for propaganda and recruitment. Besides, immediate rehabilitation of Marawi is both the right and just thing to do,” Murad explained.
  • develop policy environment on transparency, accountability, and prudent fiscal policy as well as improvement on revenue generation.
  • energy development and power generation improvement to support the development of industries that will generate jobs and other opportunities.
  • enhance security by “maximizing the utilization of available legitimate forces on the ground and leveraging on the network of the MILF in the Bangsamoro communities by deploying such joint forces such as the JPSTs (Joint Peace and Security Teams); and
  • ensure a productive partnership between the Bangsamoro Government and Development partners as well as the national government to ensure complementation of programs to maximize results.
Murad asked Almgren, the UN Resident Coordinator to “continue to host and make this a regular forum for our continuing engagement” and proposed that a “permanent Secretariat jointly organized from the donors and the MILF structures” be set up to allow “the gradual integration of some of our people so that a transfer of technology may allow us to continue this forum when the BTA is established.”
“Very historic”
In his welcome remarks, Almgren explained that the participation to the first Conversation with Murad “is not an exclusive group” but they are merely starting with a “smallish group” that will accompany the process.
Most of those who participated have had previous engagements with the Bangsamoro peace process. Aside from the UN, EU, World Bank, embassies represented were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and Spain through AECID, the Spanish Agency for International Development Corporation,
The Ambassadors who attended were Australia’s Amanda Gorely, Norway’s Bjorn Jahnsen, Switzerland’s Andrea Reichlin, Turkey’s Esra Cankonur and United Kingdom’s Daniel Pruce and the European Union’s Franz Jessen.
Dureza said the presence of so many partners is “already an indication that maybe we can see a fruition of our dreams together, no longer as enemies across the table but already on the same side of the table.”
Dureza also announced that government would welcome independent monitors for the January 21, 2019 plebiscite on the Bangsamoro.
Juan Pita, Coordinator-General of the AECID, discussed the importance of harmonizing support among development partners. “The fact that we are here together, so many international partners, in expressing our solidarity and cooperation” to help transform the plans into reality is “great news” and “great opportunity to move forward.”
Stephen Weaver, head of cooperation of the Canadian Embassy, described the meeting as a “very historic conference” and expressed appreciation to the “very, very frank, open conversations we have today.” He noted that Murad’s statement which was “very clear on challenges and priorities” was a “fantastic start for a conversation.”
He said the meeting would help them “harmonize” their support and announced they would continue supporting education and health concerns.
Failure is no option
Murad responded that they need to ensure that all the priorities would be attended to because “we know that among the priorities there are already donors presently working but as I’ve said, we need to be commensurate in all these priorities we have so that’s the reason why we give you all the priorities and maybe it is the individual decision of every donor where among these priorities that they can focus more in order to balance the efforts and become complementary because all the priorities we enumerated are equally important in moving forward especially during this transition period.”
He acknowledged that the “big challenge for us is to show to our people there is a difference between what happened in the past and what will happen now in the present situation.”
NEVER-ENDING. Sisters Saria Namayo (left) and Cartiquia Cartin (right) of Barangay Elian, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, have lived a life of never-endlng evacuations. The sisters hope peace would come so they can return home. MindaNews photo taken during an evacuation in March 2015 by Carolyn O. Arguillas
For Murad, failure is not an option.
“If we fail in this, I think it will be very difficult to have another opportunity as this. On our side we will be exhaust every effort in order that we will succeed,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, at the meeting of the Insider Mediators, a platform for Bangsamoro men and women from various sectors who try to work within their respective organizations to achieve a wider consensus on major Moro issues such as the Bangsamoro law, federalism and Marawi rehabilitation, Murad said there must be “something new” and “something better” that the Bangsamoro government will offer to the Moro people “otherwise we cannot claim to have succeeded.”
If the Bangsamoro government is not successful, he said, this will strengthen groups leaning towards violent extremism.
“The real solution now is we have to succeed Insha Allah because if we don’t, then these groups will be strengthened,” he said.

AFP sends troops to protest-hit banana plantation in Comval

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): AFP sends troops to protest-hit banana plantation in Comval

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. (Photo courtesy of Eastmincom)

Soldiers will now be deployed to “maintain” peace and order in the Japanese-owned Compostela Valley banana plantation hit by labor unrest since Oct. 1, the military said Saturday.
Major Ezra Balagtey, the Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the military would be sending soldiers to the Sumifru plantation in Barangay San Miguel in Compostela town to “support DOLE and PNP to prevent chaos," referring to the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine National Police.

"Let us support the PNP and DOLE to implement Court Decisions. We should not allow chaos to reign in this labor dispute, and let us ensure the safety of everyone," Balagtey quoted Eastmincom commander, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., as having ordered the 10th Infantry Division based in the said province.

Balagtey said the deployment was “in relation to the request of DOLE XI for peacekeeping assistance.”

He said that tensions erupted on Thursday when the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) “prevented Banana Coop Laborers from working by establishing picket lines in different packing plants” of Sumifru in the village.

The KMU said at least seven workers were injured while two others were arrested – and later freed – when a commotion took place as policemen tried to disperse the protesting banana workers under the Nagkahiusang mga Mag-uuma sa Suyapa Farms (Namasufa). Namasufa is affiliated with KMU.

John Paul Dizon, Namasufa president, told reporters that the incident was a clear proof of harassment against the protesting workers.

Balagtey said the scuffle started when KMU leaders tried to prevent another group of banana workers from carrying out their job at the plantation.

He said instead of heeding the call for them to stop working, the second plantation workers' group urged the protesters to remove their placards and dismantle the picket line so they could pass and proceed to their work assignments. “The scuffle started from this,” Balagtey said.

“These people are not workers as what they are saying,” Dizon said. He said they were worried that the group claiming to be workers were armed and would seriously harm them.

He also questioned the presence of dispersal teams in the seven protest camps inside Sumifru despite the court's dismissal of the company's petition for issuance of preliminary injunction on October 6.

Sumifru had asked but failed to convince the court to eject the protesting workers, whom it said, were “blocking the ingress and egress of the banana plantation,” according to Dizon.

“We are not doing anything illegal here. We are following what’s in the law and the law clearly stated that it is our right to stage a strike,” Dizon added.

Sumifru had claimed it was losing PHP38 million daily from the protest. The banana company produces over 19,000 boxes of Cavendish banana from its Compostela plantation – measuring over 2,000 hectares.

DOLE stepped in a day prior to the court's decision and assumed jurisdiction over the dispute.

DOLE said the stoppage of work had adversely affected public good and interest.

The workers said they were protesting the company's unfair labor practices.

On Oct. 1, Namasufa launched the protest and demanded that Sumifru talk to them to forge a collective bargaining agreement and regularize workers.

They also wanted the company to follow the regional wage for agricultural workers, saying they had been receiving less than the PHP365 per day, contrary to what the government had set.

Namasufa said instead of negotiating, Sumifru had resorted to harassment, such as Thursday's incident.

Sumifru has not released any statement so far.

“The firm, which was certified with Social Accountability (SA) 8000 in 2008, denied to regularize its workers and increase wages, to the point of resorting to violence. (It) is (the) epitome of hypocrisy and profit-hunger, this is an added illustration of a foreign monopoly corporation strongly opposing the rights of Filipino workers,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said.

Casilao also condemned Thursday's violent dispersal and hit the military for intervening in the dispute.
But Balagtey said Madrigal only wanted the situation to be peaceful.

"We are calling on all parties involved to respect each other's rights, and let us resolve issues peacefully,” he quoted Madrigal as saying.

“We will give our full support to DOLE and other concerned agencies to ensure that Legal orders are implemented and enforced in order to prevent chaos," he added.

Army’s 2ID recognizes 246 passers of candidate soldier course

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): Army’s 2ID recognizes 246 passers of candidate soldier course

'OPEN COLLAR' RITE. Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno (center), commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) and military training officers join the class photo of the 246 candidate soldiers during their Recognition Day and Open Collar ceremony for the Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) Classes 562 and 563-2018 at Camp Gen. Mateo Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal on Oct. 11, 2018. (Photo courtesy of 2ID-DPAO)

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – The Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) has recognized 246 candidate soldiers during their Recognition Day and Open Collar ceremony for the Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) Classes 562 and 563 - 2018 at the Viewing Deck of the 2nd Division Training School (2DTS) here.

The 246 candidate soldiers, 241 of whom are males and five females, satisfactorily completed the 2nd Module of Basic Military Training.

Under the military tradition, the “open collar,” or reception rites, is one of the significant traditions and rituals of the Philippine Army as sign of recognition of the candidate soldiers’ sacrifices, determination and transformation from being a civilian into a soldier.

Keynote speaker, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, 2ID commander, expressed his felicitations to the trainees, their parents, relatives, friends and the training staffs who served as instruments in molding the trainees into becoming gallant soldiers.

He said the ceremony symbolized the end of some restrictions and difficulties that only a candidate soldier could experience in a military training school.

“Magsisilbi itong isang panibagong hamon o pagsubok na siyang susukat ng antas ng inyong disiplina at pag-uugali hanggang sa makarating kayo sa araw ng inyong pagtatapos (this would serve as a new challenge or test to measure your level of discipline and behavior until your reach your graduation day),” Parayno said.

2 nabbed as troops seize grenade, firearms at Lanao Norte checkpoint

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): 2 nabbed as troops seize grenade, firearms at Lanao Norte checkpoint

Military personnel arrested two suspects at a checkpoint in the Lanao del Norte town of Baloi after receiving a tip that a convoy of five vehicles en route to Marawi City may be carrying illegal weapons.

Lt. Bernardo Taqueban of the Army's 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, who led the checkpoint inspection in Barangay Nangka, Baloi, said they confiscated a hand grenade and two .45-caliber pistols from the two occupants of one of the vehicles.

The three other vehicles were allowed to pass after their occupants yielded no illegal firearm. However, the persons inside the fifth vehicle, Taqueban said, opened fire but missed, leading to a brief firefight with government troops.

After the firefight, Taqueban said the vehicle -- a Toyota Avanza -- fled towards the direction of Iligan City.

He identified the arrested individuals as Emma Osama Saidomar, and her driver, identified only as "Amaladin." The suspects claimed they are from Bacolod-Kalawi, Lanao del Sur.

Saidomar and her driver were turned over to Senior Insp. Alibsar Daraba, officer-in-charge of the Baloi Police, for the filing of appropriate charges.

Major Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, commended the concerned citizen for providing the timely information that led to the arrest of the suspects, saying “peace and security is everybody’s responsibility.”

He also commended the troops for the arrests.

Islamic scholars vow help for BOL approval

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): Islamic scholars vow help for BOL approval

President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a photo with legislators and negotiators in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as top officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, during the presentation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to the MILF at Malacañan Palace on Aug. 6, 2018. (Presidential photo)

A group of Islamic scholars said it would be launching an information drive and would campaign for the approval of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) among voters in areas proposed for inclusion in the new regional entity.

This, as the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines (NUCP) urged for unity and preparation so that the “hearts and minds of the electorate” would be won towards the ratification of the BOL.

In a statement issued Sunday (October 7) but was only released to reporters here on Saturday (October 13), the NUCP described the BOL as “a milestone towards the realization of self-determination for the Bangsamoro.”

The 13-man group made up of ulama – or Islamic scholars and Muslim religious leaders – said the BOL is a means of achieving peace and development for the people of Mindanao.

It said that the information drive was aimed at helping voters have a better understanding of the law, which Congress had passed earlier this year.

The NUCP, whose members included Central Mindanao mufti Jaafar Ali and deputy mufti Abdulwakil Tanjilil of Western Mindanao and Palawan, also said it will stage a campaign for the BOL's “eventual acceptance by our people.”

The BOL aims to establish a new Bangsamoro entity that would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It proposes the inclusion of the provinces under the ARMM and several other areas in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.

Eastmincom NPA surrenderers get cash aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Eastmincom NPA surrenderers get cash aid

More New People’s Army (NPA) member, who have abandoned the communist armed struggle, can now start a better life after they were awarded government’s assistance under the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) reported that 270 former rebels were awarded E-CLIP assistance after they were recommended by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to Task Force Balik Loob.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastmincom based in Camp Panacan, this city, on Sunday said the awardees will be given free skills training through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment livelihood program, health insurance, housing, legal assistance and other social intervention from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process.

Balagtey said other benefits will be given after completion of the assessments on needs assistance by the Task Force Balik Loob, headed by Department of National Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu.

The DILG, in partnership with Compostela Valley provincial government, has also released some PHP4.16 million for livelihood assistance to 64 former rebels. Each of them received PHP65,000.

The Provincial Information Office of Compostela Valley (ComVal) reported that DILG also released PHP2.1 million for the firearms and remuneration for the former rebels.

ComVal and the Department of Trade and Industry also distributed seedlings, training and starter kits which will be provided next month.

Last September 28, ComVal also awarded E-CLIP assistance to 84 former rebels.

Balagtey said E-CLIP is implemented under the Task Force Balik Loob, which is an offshoot of the Administrative Order No. 10 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 10, 2018, converging the Comprehensive Localized Integration Program of DILG and programs of interventions of different government agencies to former rebels in preparation to their integration to the mainstream society.

E-CLIP aims to achieve a permanent and peaceful closure of all conflicts with non-state groups by facilitating the surrender of rebels, enhancing LGU capabilities and compensating all turned-in firearms.

Army in good hands with Alberto as new chief: spox

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): Army in good hands with Alberto as new chief: spox

The Philippine Army (PA) is in good hands with the appointment of Major Gen. Macairog Sabeniano Alberto as its 60th commanding general, its spokesperson said Friday.

"Major Gen. Alberto is a well-rounded officer and highly respected leader and commander having distinguished himself in the field of combat, intelligence, and civil military operations," Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said in a message to reporters.

Under Alberto's command, Villanueva said the 98,000-strong PA will further soar in accomplishing its mandate and attaining its vision of becoming world-class.

He said the incoming PA chief is known for being a "silent worker" yet a "passionate performer."

"He always puts his heart in every mission that needs to be accomplished. He is kind-hearted, cool and always gives premium on the welfare of his men," the Army spokesperson added.

Alberto, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1986, is set to replace Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, a member of PMA Class of 1985, who will be retiring on Monday after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Bautista was earlier named by President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Villanueva said the incoming Army chief is a graduate of various courses, both in the country and abroad.

"Significant is the Scout Ranger Course, Strategic Intel Course, Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program and Master of Arts (Strategic Studies) from (the) National Defense University, USA. He also holds a master’s (degree) in Public Management major in Development and Security from (the) Development Academy of the Philippines," he added.

Alberto also served as commanding officer of the 2nd and 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, Task Force Davao head prior to his designation as 1001st Infantry Brigade head, a unit of the 10th Infantry Division in Mindanao before his appointment as chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP.

"He is also a recipient of various awards and decors, to name a few, the Military Commendation Medal, Military Merit Medal, Bronze Cross Medal, UN Service Medal/Ribbon, Silver Wing Medal, Gold Cross Medal and Distinguished Service Medal," Villanueva added.

Number of rebels declining: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Number of rebels declining: AFP chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. lauded the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) and local government units for the ongoing surrenders of New People's Army (NPA) members and supporters in their respective areas.

“I commend our troops in the Eastern Mindanao Command and local government units for being able to handle an overwhelming number of surrenderers, they still continue to come down and go back to the folds of the law,” Galvez said in a statement over the weekend.

From Jan. 1 to Oct. 10 this year, the number of surrenderers at the EMC alone is placed at 8,665.

These individuals are now undergoing the process for their eligibility to avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits from the government, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

EMC units have so far seized 821 firearms 324 improvised explosive devices from surrenderers and encounters. Some 131 rebel camps were also overrun and cleared of war materiel and explosives.

Meanwhile, the Northern Luzon Command has also recorded 180 NPA surrenders in the same period. Also arrested were 19 rebels, while 109 firearms and 44 explosives were seized and 29 rebel camps overrun .

“The Northern Luzon Command also showed significant accomplishments against communist terrorists amidst the humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts in the recent calamities that hit Northern Luzon,” Galvez added.

He said these developments show that the military is deliberate in its operations against insurgents and terrorists in all parts of the country.

“We also urge members of these terrorist groups to go back to the folds of the law instead of dying in senseless battles. The government is very eager to help returnees in all the ways that it can to sustain their families and help them go back to the normal way of living, away from armed struggle,” Galvez added.

BRP Tarlac starts historic SoKor port visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): BRP Tarlac starts historic SoKor port visit

Photo courtesy: Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office

Strategic sealift vessel BRP Tarlac has started its South Korea port visit after arriving at Jeju Island on Friday night.

"From a just-concluded goodwill visit in Vladivostok, Russia, and three days at sea, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Tarlac carrying Philippine Navy contingent arrived here at 8:30 in the evening (local time) of October 12, 2018 for another historic port visit in (South) Korea," Naval Task Force (NTF) 87 head, Capt. Florante Gagua, said in a statement Saturday.

BRP Tarlac's left Vladivostok on Oct. 9 to start its voyage to Jeju.

On board the ship is a 300-man naval contingent composed of the Naval Special Operations Group, Philippine Marine Corps, Technical and Administrative Services, Naval Reserve Command, and a Helicopter Detachment Afloat from the Naval Air Group.

Upon its arrival, the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy counterparts warmly received the PN contingent at Cruise Pier, Jeju Island.

Capt. Cho Inchoeol, Chief of Staff of the ROK Naval Education and Training Group 8, welcomed the PN contingent.

Immediately after the ceremony, key leaders of both navies proceeded to a briefing on board BRP Tarlac with Korean counterparts and exchanged pleasantries and messages of goodwill.

Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, with defense attache Capt. Armil Angeles and other PN delegates were also present in the arrival ceremony.

Empedrad is in South Korea to attend the 2018 Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) hosted by the ROK Navy.

The PN chief expressed his gratitude for all the accomplishments of the contingent during the historic port visit in Vladivostok, Russia. He is confident that the overseas engagement such as this is a step towards achieving a world class navy, and to be at par with foreign counterparts.

The port visit, in conjunction with the ROK-hosted activity conveys the Command’s commitment in promoting multilateral cooperation. It aims to maintain and strengthen navy to navy relations, validate friendship and cooperative engagement with other countries' navies.