Sunday, February 11, 2024

GPH, Moro Islamic Liberation Front panels: Claims of corruption in rebel decommissioning not true

 From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 11, 2024): GPH, Moro Islamic Liberation Front panels: Claims of corruption in rebel decommissioning not true (By: Zeus Legaspi)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RAFFY LERMA

MANILA, Philippines — The allegations that there is corruption involved in the decommissioning process of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels are “baseless,” the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace Implementing Panels both said.

In a joint statement released on Saturday, the two panels assured the public and members of Congress of the integrity of the peace process.

READ: ‘We’re not corrupt’: Galvez feuds with Tulfo at Senate hearing

“Contrary to baseless allegations on corruption, especially in the decommissioning, the GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace Implementing Panels assured the public that proper mechanisms and procedures are in place to guarantee accountability, and trust and confidence in the process,” the joint statement, signed by GPH Panel Chair Cesar Yano and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, read.

The two panel leaders particularly defended the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), which recently came under fire in a previous Senate hearing when senators questioned the IDB’s assessment of rebels who shall be decommissioned.

According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, the IDB oversees the decommissioning process and is composed of representatives from Turkey, Norway, Kingdom of Brunei, as well as local experts nominated by the GPH and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels.

“Informed by lessons of the past, best practices, and internationally accepted norms on processing combatants and weapons, the Independent Decommissioning Body undertakes stringent verification and validation, among other established safeguards, before Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants and weapons undergo decommissioning,” the two parties said.

Full transparency

The joint statement likewise said that the implementation of programs meant to reintegrate former rebels into society “are adequately accounted for by proper documentation and in compliance with rigorous monitoring processes to ensure transparency.”

These Socioeconomic Development Programs are part of the Normalization Track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the two parties explained.

“The Parties assure the esteemed members of the Philippine Congress and the general public that the implementation of various programs under normalization are conducted with utmost truthfulness,” the peace panels added in the same joint statement.

In a previous statement, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. also denied that there is corruption involved in the decommissioning process of Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants.

READ: Reject Duterte’s call for independent Mindanao, Galvez tells public

The two parties’ and Galvez’s statements stemmed from accusations made by Senator Raffy Tulfo during a Senate hearing on February 6.

The senator pointed out the alleged inconsistency in Galvez’s own report which said that there were 26,132 decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants but only 4,625 surrendered weapons to the government.

Tulfo said that there is a “big discrepancy” in these numbers and the entire decommissioning process must be looked into as corruption may be involved since these surrenderees received P100,000 cash each. islamic liberation front-panels-claims-of-corruption-in-rebel-decommissioning-not-true

Cotabato farmers get rice, corn seeds, banana plantlets

From the Philippine Star (Feb 11, 2024): Cotabato farmers get rice, corn seeds, banana plantlets (John Unson)

Livestock technicians from the provincial government have been roving around remote barangays in Cotabato province to administer protective vaccines to farm animals that villagers raise as an alternative source of income. / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Up to 618 Muslim and Christian farmers, among them former members of local armed groups, each got over the weekend hybrid corn seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs from the Cotabato provincial government.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said on Sunday that the outreach activity of the office of Cotabato Gov. Emmylou TaliƱo Mendoza that benefited residents of Libungan complemented the efforts of their mayor, Engineer Angel Rose Cua, and the 6th ID to increase their earnings as part of a domestic peace and security initiative.

Besides providing farmers in Libungan with P1.4 million worth of rice and corn seeds on Saturday, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist under Mendoza also distributed to each beneficiary 1,000 tissue-cultured Lacatan variety banana plantlets that they can propagate in their farms.

Livestock technicians from Mendoza’s office had earlier vaccinated against diseases the farm animals of farmers in remote areas in Libungan and nearby towns.

Mendoza said their efforts to empower the agriculture sector in the province is parallel with their inter-agency, multi-sector thrusts on ensuring the sustainability of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, or MSMEs, in all 17 towns in Cotabato and the more than 40 barangays in its capital, Kidapawan City.

"All of these are parts of a broader peace and socio-economic campaign for sustainable development to spread around," Mendoza pointed out.

The 6th ID, the league of mayors in Cotabato and the RDC 12 are cooperating on peacebuilding programs meant to hasten the reintegration to mainstream society of former members the New People’s Army, the Dawlah Islamiya and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who had pledged allegiance to the government.

“Diplomacy is what we use to have them renounce their membership with these groups. After they surrender, the 6th ID, the RDC 12 and the LGUs in areas under our jurisdiction extend to them the support they need to become productive farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs,” Rillera said.

PCG patrols 9 days, spots CCG and militia vessels near Scarborough

From the Palawan News (Feb 11, 2024): PCG patrols 9 days, spots CCG and militia vessels near Scarborough (By Gerald Ticke)

A China Coast Guard vessel crosses the path of Philippine Coast Guard Vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua in an attempt to block it while conducting maritime patrol operation within Scarborough Shoal. - Photo grabbed from video posted by PCG spokesperson Commo. (Jay Tarriela in his X (Twitter) account)

The Philippine Coast Guard reported that the BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV 9701) completed a nine-day maritime patrol in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc, during which it spotted eight China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels that repeatedly shadowed its movements.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela stated that vessels from the CCG, identified by bow numbers 3105, 3302, 3063, and 3064, closely trailed the PCG vessel over 40 times, with the closest approach being at a distance of 176 meters.

He said there were also four other Chinese maritime militia vessels present in the area of Bajo de Masinloc (also Scarborough Shoal).

“The CCG vessels [also] performed dangerous and blocking maneuvers at sea against BRP Teresa Magbanua four times, with the CCG vessels crossing the bow of the PCG vessel twice, recklessly disregarding the “Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea” (COLREGS) once again,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the PCG vessel professionally engaged both the CCG and CMM vessels through radio, reiterating the clear and principled position of the Philippines in accordance with international law,” Tarriela added.

On February 1, the PCG deployed the BRP Teresa Magbanua to the shoal, an area within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

Its duties included performing maritime security patrols, providing food and supplies to Filipino fishermen, and protecting them from intimidation by CCG and militia vessels.

According to the 2016 Arbitral Award and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Tarriela said that the deployment is part of the PCG’s regular maritime security and patrol operation in the area. The goal is to strengthen the country’s territorial rights over Scarborough Shoal and its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding waters as measured from the Philippine archipelagic baselines.

He said throughout the nine-day patrol, personnel of BRP Teresa Magbanua closely monitored and supported 100 fishermen aboard 14 fishing boats conducting regular fishing activities in the area, which is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fisherfolk, “consistent with national laws and the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).”

He added that the crew of the vessel also distributed food packs and groceries to assist the fishermen, to which the fishermen expressed gratitude as well as their presence, which “enhances their confidence to continue fishing in Bajo de Masinloc.”

Last week, China claimed to have driven away the PCG vessel while conducting maritime operations in the area. The CCG also drove away fishermen from Scarborough Shoal, even ordering them to throw back to the sea the shells that they had gathered.

Meanwhile, U.S. security expert Ray Powell said that the claim in the CCG’s statement that it “drove away” a PCG vessel is a common display of bravado from China, often employed when a competing ship vacates an area unwanted by Chinese authorities.

The CCG asserted on Monday that it forced a PCG vessel to depart from waters near China’s Huangyan Island.

11 PNP officers get one-star rank promotion

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11, 2024): 11 PNP officers get one-star rank promotion (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – Eleven police colonels have been promoted to brigadier generals, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Sunday.

Promoted to one-star rank are Colonels Christopher Abrahano and Jericho Baldeo from the Office of the Chief PNP; Manuel Abrugena from the Special Action Force; Nestor Babagay Jr. from the Office of the Directorate of Intelligence; Jovencio Badua Jr. from Police Regional Office (PRO) 1 (Ilocos); Dionisio Bartlome Jr., chief of Drug Enforcement Group; Aligre Martinez from PRO 4A (Calabarzon); Eleazar Matta from PRO 13 (Caraga), Noel Sandoval from Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management; Rogelio Simon from Police Security Protection Group; and Noel Vallo from Directorate for Logisitics.

Their promotion took effect on Feb. 6, as stated in a document dated Feb. 9.

In January, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) assured that there would be no delay in the processing of promotions of third-level police officers.

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) earlier passed a resolution mandating the completion of the processing of promotions for third-level police officers within 30 days after receipt of complete documentary requirements.

DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., also the chair of the Napolcom, said the promotion “would further improve the morale of the personnel and inspire them to work relentlessly in fighting criminality, illegal drugs, corruption, and in maintaining peace and order in their assigned jurisdictions.”