Monday, October 31, 2016

MILF: BLMI conducts FGD with ZC Community and Moro Religious Leaders

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 31): BLMI conducts FGD with ZC Community and Moro Religious Leaders

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) in partnership with local Moro non-government organizations conducted focus group discussion with Zamboanga City’s Community and Moro Religious Leaders (MRL’s) on October 26 at Madrasatul Ilhtida Il Muallimeen, Arena Blanco, this city.

Tirso Tahir, Officer of BLMI facilitated the program together with Mr. Macksu Magang of Southern Islamic Action for Prosperity and Harmony Network (SIAPAHAN)

In his message, Hadji Asa Insani, Community leader of Arena Blanco encouraged the participants to participate in any form of productive discussion and lawful activities that explore issues and concerns of the Bangsamoro cause.

Mr. Magang of SIAPAHAN talked on the concept of unity as a basic tool in strengthening an organization that every Muslim must adopt and implement consistently. He also reminded the participants about the divine ordain related to unity.

Allah said in Noble Qur’an “And hold fast, all of you together to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves.” (3:103).

Mr. Hatta Said, a Peace Advocate and Community Organizer discussed the concept of leniency and openness to other’s legitimate concerns and grievances.

“It should be given due consideration for its addresses the issues and promotes inclusivity and transparency as upheld by Islam Religion” Mr. Said stressed.

In wrapping-up the group discussion, Mr. Tahir cumulated the discussants consensus points and gave emphasis that through candid discussion some vital issues and concerns were properly threshed out and arrived at common consensus for collective adaptation and implementation.

Why Duterte Really Hates The USA

From The Daily Caller (Oct 31): Why Duterte Really Hates The USA (By Ryan Pickrell)

The president of the Philippines is engaging in a personal fight against the U.S., leading people to question his hatred of America.

Under former president Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines was a strong American ally. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, is moving in a different direction.

Duterte said earlier this month that he would “break up with America” and last week announced in China his “separation from America.” He has also promised to end joint drills and war games with the U.S., and called for the removal of U.S. troops from the Philippines, threatening to tear up existing defense agreements. Due to opposition from the Filipino citizenry and the defense community in the Philippines, both of which have strong ties to and positive views of the U.S., Duterte is retracting some of his more shocking statements. But, his animosity towards the U.S. remains and will most likely continue to be a key part of his presidency.

Duterte’s disdain towards America is often blamed on U.S. criticisms of his brutal shoot-to-kill drug war, which resulted in thousands of deaths and led the U.S. to inquire about possible human rights violations. When President Barack Obama expressed an interest in discussing these issues with Duterte, the bombastic president called Obama a “son of a whore” and told him to “go to hell.”

So, why does Duterte hate America? There are five possible explanations, and any one or combination could potentially explain the president’s disdain for the U.S.

Explanation one: Duterte revealed last year that he was molested by American Catholic priest Paul Falvey when a student at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University. The president said that the priest who abused him has been “forgiven but not forgotten.” Such a traumatic experience may have left a lasting mark on Duterte, possibly stirring up anti-American sentiment early on.
“I will never kneel before the Americans,” Duterte said earlier this month.

Explanation two: Duterte grew up with a strong sense of nationalism, which laid the groundwork for the rise of an anti-American/anti-colonialism attitude. During his university years, he studied under political science professor Jose Maria Sison, and his nationalistic sentiments became much more pronounced. The now-exiled Sison founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an organization based on Mao Zedong Thought, and helped to foster an anti-American attitude critical of U.S. imperialism. Such attitudes led to the closing of the Subic and Clark military bases in the 1990s.
The president moves closer to China, praising the communist country’s ideologies, possibly a result of his education. Duterte also threatens to tear up the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed when Benigno Aquino III was in office. EDCA, which was hailed as a landmark agreement by the U.S. and the Philippines, gives the U.S. access to five military bases in the Philippines. Duterte is actively pushing for the complete removal of the U.S. military from the Philippines.

Explanation three: Duterte was denied a visa to the U.S. to visit his girlfriend when he was in college. When the interviewer at the U.S. consulate asked him whether or not he would get married and try to stay in the U.S., he reportedly said, “Even if you offer me free visas for a lifetime and even if you offer me 10,000 dollars, I’d still return to my country and be a Filipino.” He was not granted a visa to the U.S., and this issue has clearly weighed on him for many years.

“The problem is you go to America. You’ll not be issued a visa,” Duterte said recently. “But the Americans can enter the Philippines anytime without visa. Why?,” he asked.

Explanation four: Duterte was reportedly harassed by American security personnel at the Los Angeles International Airport. While traveling, his travel authorization papers disappeared, and he was detained by LAX security. “If there’s a plane available going back to the Philippines now, I’ll be happy to ride and go home,” he told them. “That was the last time I went to America,” he explained. Duterte’s troubles getting to and entering the U.S. negatively impacted the future president.

Explanation five: Duterte suspects that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was behind a series of deadly attacks in Davao, a city in Mindanao and the current president’s hometown, that killed dozens and injured hundreds.

An ammonium nitrate bomb exploded in the hotel room of a U.S. citizen named Michael Meiring in 2002. Meiring, who was severely injured by the blast, was picked up at the hospital and taken away by U.S. government agents. Meiring was taken back to the U.S., where his name was changed. He died in 2010 with a lot of unanswered questions.

The prevailing theory in the Philippines is that Meiring was a U.S. operative, possibly CIA, carrying out a destabilization or false flag attack that went awry. Bombs went off later at Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf in 2003, killing 38 and injuring 204.

The story that emerged is that the CIA, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), launched the attacks but pinned them on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamic insurgency, to justify intense military action and greater U.S. military involvement in Mindanao. Although the U.S. later reversed its policy on the MILF and a peace was brokered between the Philippine government and the insurgency, the U.S. continued to deploy troops into the region to combat the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militant Islamic insurgency groups.

Duterte asserts that the U.S. massacre of Moro people at the turn of the century created the Islamic insurgency problem in Mindanao. The Abu Sayyaf Group reportedly evolved from the recruitment of Muslims from the Philippines to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Duterte perceives the U.S. as the core problem in a conflict that has destabilized the Southern Philippines for decades.

While Duterte already called for the removal of U.S. troops from the Southern Philippines, he also remains suspicious of the CIA, believing that the U.S. might try to assassinate him. He brought his concerns to light this month when he dared the CIA to try to kill him.

Duterte had several bad experiences with the U.S. and each of these experiences appears to have impacted his policies.

“Duterte became ideologically anti-American at a relatively young age and has selected experiences in his life since to fit and fuel that prism through which he sees US-Philippine relations,” Gregory Poling, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and Fellow in the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Why the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte Hates America

From The Diplomat (Nov 1): Why the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte Hates America

A deeper look at the Philippine president’s anti-American views.

When an audience gathered on October 20 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for an address by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, they may have expected to hear some kind words about China.
After all, since coming to power in June, his administration appeared to be in the midst of a dramatic turn in Philippine foreign policy toward Beijing and away from the country’s longtime ally the United States, with Duterte’s China voyage expected to lead to rapprochement after years of fierce disagreements over the South China Sea.

What the audience did not expect was a nearly 30-minute anti-American rant from Duterte, delving into the reasons why he disliked the United States – from his experiences with U.S. immigration officials all the way to the crude way Americans speak – and ending with a vow to separate from the United States.

“What is really wrong with an American character?” Duterte said at the very beginning of his remarks, before moving on to diagnose the various problems with the United States relative to “Orientals.” Duterte’s antics drew nervous laughter from the crowd and a rather puzzled look from China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

To some who were unfamiliar with the former mayor of Davao City before he assumed the presidency in June, Duterte’s hatred toward the United States may seem like either empty rhetoric to be dismissed or strategic posturing to be admired. But his advisers and others close to him repeatedly emphasize that his anti-American outlook is very deep and real and may not go away as soon as some might hope.

“It’s difficult because for him it’s policy, personal, historical, ideological, et cetera, combined,” an aide close to Duterte told The Diplomat on October 22, shortly after his visit to China.

To understand the roots of Duterte’s views, one has to take a closer look at his background, past experiences with the United States, and current grievances about U.S. policy toward the Philippines.


Part of Duterte’s anti-Americanism is rooted in his background. Though Duterte was born into a political dynasty, as were most of his predecessors, he is the first Philippine president to ever hail from the country’s south, a Muslim-majority area that had a significantly different historical experience from the rest of the Christian-dominated country.

Duterte’s sister, Jocellyn Duterte, told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that their grandmother, a Muslim, helped the president come to believe that the United States was guilty of crimes during its invasion and colonization of the Philippines during the first half of the 20th century.

Duterte is also a self-avowed leftist, a tendency that was cemented when he studied political science under Jose Maria Sison, the long-exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, in the 1960s.

The anti-colonial legacy remains a source of frustration for the president. Indeed, at the East Asia Summit (EAS) leaders’ meeting back in September, Duterte veered off of his prepared remarks and launched into an emotional speech that included a reference to the massacre that took place near Jolo’s Bud Dajo volcano in the country’s south in 1906. During that incident, U.S. troops, on the orders of Major General Leonard Wood, killed over 600 Moros – including unarmed women and children – sparking outcry not just among the Moros, but even anti-imperialists in the United States such as Mark Twain.

Duterte’s point – which one ASEAN diplomat familiar with the encounter described as “passionately delivered” – was that if the United States is interested in talking about human rights, then the full spectrum of issues should be addressed, instead of just looking at those facets that Washington wants to discuss.

The anti-colonial bent of Duterte’s worldview does not just manifest itself during sporadic outbursts, but is intimately tied to the administration’s “independent foreign policy,” which seeks less dependence on the United States and more diversification with other players, including China.

At the core of the message of the Duterte administration, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay wrote in a widely-read Facebook post dated October 4, is that the United States had failed the Philippines by holding on to “invisible chains” that reined Manila in “towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom.”

The term “little brown brothers,” which Yasay also repeated during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. in September, is a paternalistic one uttered by former U.S. President William Howard Taft at a time when the United States had colonized the Philippines during the first-half of the 20th century.

Taft, who served as the first governor general of the Philippines from 1901 to 1904 before becoming president, infamously said that America’s “little brown brothers” would take 50 to 100 years of close supervision “to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon political principles and skills.”

The phrase has been used since by anti-American voices in the Philippines who claim that the United States continues to exploit Manila’s dependence to force the country to remain subservient to Washington’s own designs instead of securing Philippine interests.

“The ‘carrot and stick’ policy of the U.S. towards the Philippines has been effectively used all through the long years since our independence to force Filipinos into submission to American demands and interests,” Yasay wrote in the same spirit.

“This is what PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] is now trying to liberate us from.”

Past Experience

Though Duterte’s background did shape his initial outlook on the world in general and the United States in particular, this worldview has also been reinforced by his past interactions with Washington.

One particular incident that continues to anger him came in May 2002, when he was mayor of Davao City. Duterte claims the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aided in the escape of American “treasure hunter” Michael Meiring after he accidentally triggered an explosive device in his hotel room in Davao City. For Duterte, that was nothing less than an affront to Philippine sovereignty.

“We were insulted by America,” Duterte said in mid-October.

In September, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who previously served as a defense attaché in the United States, confirmed to local media outlet ABS-CBN that the Meiring Incident “still rankles President Duterte to this day.”

“That was a long time ago… but he still mentions it once in awhile that he just feels hurt that the United States can come in, unannounced in his city, grab a person that is being under investigation by his police, and bring him out [of the country],” Lorenzana said.

U.S. officials, including outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, continue to deny that there was any intrusion by the U.S. government.

Duterte also seems to have a certain disdain for the American immigration system. He was reportedly denied a visa, which may have been linked to U.S. concerns about extrajudicial killings in Davao City.

He has also alleged that he has been mistreated by immigration authorities. One of the incidents he mentioned during his Trade and Investment Forum speech in Beijing was when he was interrogated by an African-American immigration officer at Los Angeles International Airport while transiting on the way to Brazil due to a missing letter for travel authorization.

Duterte said he told the officer that if there was a plane available to go directly back to the Philippines, he would happily take it instead of being detained further.

“That was the last time I went to America,” Duterte said, before going on to suggest that he may institute a new policy where Americans may have to get visas to go to the Philippines.

With such frustration building up against the United States, it was little wonder that Duterte began publicly stating his opposition to aspects of U.S.-Philippine security cooperation even during his time as mayor of Davao City, including the Balikatan exercises being held in the Davao Gulf and the United States wanting to use an airport for drone surveillance.

Current Grievances

In addition to his background and his past experiences with the United States, Duterte’s current grievances about the Obama administration also factor into his anti-American outlook.

His beef with the Obama administration dates back to the Philippine presidential campaign when Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador, spoke out against Duterte’s offhand comment that he would also have wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who was sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 prison riot in Davao City.

The incident rocked Duterte’s campaign and angered him personally, and he still continues to insist that his comments were taken out of context. As president, he has since made a homophobic slur against Goldberg and publicly accused him of trying to meddle in the Philippine elections.

Duterte’s advisers say he is also still frustrated that some of his other comments have similarly either been taken out of context or misreported entirely.

Take for instance the first time Duterte was said to have insulted Obama by using the Philippine termputangina” – which, though often translated as “son of a whore,” is actually a phrase commonly used in the Philippines to express frustration. Duterte was actually directing that at the reporter, not Obama himself, a point that continues to be missed even among prominent media outlets today.

Even so, the way the remarks were interpreted in the United States and around the world, and the backlash Duterte faced, only increased his frustration.

Duterte also feels like he has been disrespected by the Obama administration in the way that it has criticized his “war on drugs” – one of his key domestic priorities.

In an October 16 interview with Al Jazeera before his trip to Beijing – his first since taking office – Duterte said that although he acknowledged that the United States had its concerns, what troubled him was the crude way in which it expressed them, not registering its concerns at the proper international fora and instead suggesting that if Duterte did not stop what Washington considered rights violations, U.S. assistance could be cut.

“That is not acceptable to us actually,” he said. “That is a very serious, very serious mistake.”

Future Prospects

Where Duterte will eventually end up on the United States remains to be seen. On the one hand, with new ambassadors now in both countries, a fresh administration in the United States expected soon in January, and the next U.S. president set to visit the Philippines next year when the country assumes the ASEAN chairmanship, the opportunity for a patching up is there.

But on the other hand, Duterte’s rhetoric shows few signs of easing anytime soon. After his controversial “separation” comment in Beijing, his aides and other Philippine officials predictably rushed to clarify his comments. Yet upon landing in the airport in Davao City, Duterte doubled down on his anti-American rhetoric, saying that he would not go to the United States “in this lifetime” and would even go as far as finding a way not to fly through the country when he attends the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Peru.

Even his aides are not certain about how Duterte’s view of the United States might evolve through the course of his single six-year term.

“[W]e need to see how much adjustment room is there and it takes time,” said one aide, who declined to be identified so he could speak freely about the nature of the president’s views.

[Prashanth Parameswaran is an associate editor at The Diplomat.]

NDF alarmed over violations of ceasefire

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 31): NDF alarmed over violations of ceasefire

The National Democratic Front (NDF) has expressed concern about “persistent reports” from its military arm New People’s Army (NPA) of alleged violations of the Philippine Government’s (GRP) own unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In his letter to GRP Peace Panel Chairman Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, NDF Peace Panel Chairman Fidel Agcaoili complained that “AFP troops continue to make incursions into the territory of the NPA in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations.”

“Such military operations only serve to heighten tensions and serve as disincentive to forging a more stable bilateral ceasefire,” Agcaoili told Bello.

Bello had earlier written Agcaoili last October 20, urging the NDF to join the GRP in simultaneously declaring “their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral, indefinite ceasefire.”

The GRP Peace Panel Chairman made the proposal because the two sides were not going to be able to work out a bilateral ceasefire agreement to meet an October 26 deadline.

In a statement sent to the media Sunday, the NDF said there was no need for it to make a simultaneous declaration with the GRP because it had always been clear that the unilateral ceasefire that the communist group declared on August 28 “will remain valid during the course of peace negotiations until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP with the GRP within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDF Negotiating Panel.”

Agcaoili also reminded Bello about the government’s commitment for the release and proclamation of amnesty for political prisoners which was included in the joint statements issued by the two parties in the June, August and October talks in Oslo, Norway.

“The fulfillment of such commitment would serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire,” Agcaoili said.

It was earlier reported that about 50 political prisoners – most of them elderly, women, sick and detained for more than 10 years – will be released in the coming weeks. It would be the second batch of detainees that would be released by the government, after the first group of 22 NDF consultants were set free in August.

As it is, there are more than 400 political prisoners awaiting their release either on bail, presidential pardon or withdrawal of cases by the government.

Peace talks moving

From the Cebu Daily News (Oct 31): Peace talks moving


Three issues to be tackled in 3rd round negotiations with gov’t and CPP-NPA-NDF

The Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) will tackle three contentious issues in the third round of peace talks scheduled for early next year in Oslo, Norway.

Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on peace process, said that the three main items in the agenda that they would have to thresh out in the next round of the talks would be social and economic agenda, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Dureza, who described these issues as “madugo” or difficult to negotiate, however, said that the peace talks were progressing at a fast pace as compared to it being deadlocked in the past four years.

“So makita nimo nga fast kaayo ang progress karon sa negotiation but as I always say, dili gyud ni sayon dayon nga moingon ta nga naa nay kasulbaran dayon,” he said.

“Lawom pa ning negotiations nga mahitabo but we are seeing the goodwill already between both sides,” he said.

Despite admitting that there is still a long way to go, Dureza said their decision to accelerate the timeline by tackling items in the agenda simultaneously helped in hastening the pace of the talks.
He also cited the political will of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to move the negotiation process into an active one.

Dureza said Duterte’s allowing political prisoners to be freed had been instrumental in the negotiation process.

He said those who were released were only those who were needed on the negotiation table, although some had been released for humanitarian purposes.

After two rounds of peace talks in Oslo, Norway, some 71 political prisoners had been released.
In the next round, Dureza said they would be releasing another 20 political prisoners.

He also cited transparency in the peace talks by allowing media to cover the peace process and letting the public know what is being discussed in the peace talks.

“Negotiations now are very transparent,” he said. “While I talk with CPP-NPA-NDF on the table, there is a bigger table outside that must have some kind of understanding and acceptance nga mao ni gistoryahan because at the end of the day, we will need public support. At the end of the day, you will have to get public support with whatever agreements you sign with the CPP-NPA-NDF. ”

He also cited the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF as a significant development in the peace process because it provided a conducive and enabling environment for the conduct of the peace negotiations.

Indonesia-Australia Defense Relations in the Spotlight

From The Diplomat (Nov 1): Indonesia-Australia Defense Relations in the Spotlight

A look at where defense ties stand in some key areas following the fourth “2+2” dialogue.

The bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia, two neighboring, significant and highly-capable actors in the Indo-Pacific, has long been turbulent. But since the emergence of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last September, the bilateral relationship has been given a new boost. Turnbull made a successful trip to Jakarta in November last year, and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is set to reciprocate that with a visit Australia next month.

Ahead of Jokowi’s trip, the two sides held the fourth “2+2” dialogue between their foreign and defense ministers, the primary forum to discuss defense and strategic issues within the bilateral relationship. The dialogue provides an opportunity to assess where they are on some key areas in their defense ties.

Unsurprisingly, most media attention was focused on the deliverables on the maritime security front. The joint statement noted areas for future collaboration, not just bilaterally, but also in regional and multilateral forums such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which Indonesia is chairing until 2017, and the East Asia Summit, with Jakarta and Canberra convening the 2016 Maritime Security Cooperation Seminar in Sydney.

But Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu stole the headlines when he said Indonesia and Australia were well on their way to starting bilateral patrols covering the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea (See: “Are Indonesia and Australia Mulling South China Sea Joint Patrols?”).

Of course, combined patrols between Australia and Indonesia are far from new. The Australian Defense Force and Indonesian Armed Forces have been conducting coordinated maritime security patrols (AUSINDO CORPAT) since the first one in April 2010.

This March, the Australian Border Force (ABF) conducted a maritime security patrol with the Indonesian Coast Guard (BAKAMLA), which is just beginning to take off under Jokowi (See: “Indonesia’s Maritime Ambition: Can Jokowi Realize It?“).
But focusing on the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea would no doubt be a significant step. With respect to the South China Sea, having two capable non-claimants maintain a combined, regular presence in the Indo-Pacific is a clear example of regional states managing a maritime front that has become increasingly tense following China’s growing assertiveness there. The Sulu Sea also offers additional opportunities for cooperation given the increased attention to it of late, including with trilateral patrols between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”).

There were also other issues discussed beyond maritime security. One important area of bilateral cooperation is counterterrorism amid growing worries about the Islamic State (See: “ASEAN’s Islamic State Conundrum”). Though cooperation here in areas like intelligence-sharing has been ongoing – albeit interrupted at times by crises and to an extent limited by some lingering distrust – it has gotten a boost over the past year or so. Last year, both sides set up and held the first meeting of the Indonesia-Australia Ministerial Council on Law and Security, which is now regarded as the primary forum to discuss matters of domestic law and security, including counterterrorism, complementing the “2+2” dialogue, which deals with defense and strategic issues.

Collaboration in specific areas is also picking up, with countering terrorism financing being a case in point. The inaugural Asia-Pacific Counterterrorism Financing Summit was launched last November and co-hosted by both sides. Though its existence may not be known to many, it is already making headway, developing a regional risk assessment on terrorism financing in Southeast Asia – the world’s first. The second meeting was held in Indonesia this August. Australia has also been working with Indonesia on detention and reintegration, as both are co-chairs of the Detention and Reintegration Working Group within the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). In September, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop officially launched the GCTF Countering Violent Extremism in Prisons Program, which has already been helping prison officials in Indonesia curb radicalization in prisons – long a problem in the country’s cells.

Cybersecurity is another area that deserves attention, especially since it is getting more formal attention in regional meetings. In June, the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) added a working group focused on cybersecurity (See: “ASEAN Defense Chiefs Agree to New Cybersecurity Group”). There are also a number of cyber efforts focused on measures such as incident response, confidence-building, and cyber-capacity-building. Earlier this month, Singapore unveiled the ASEAN Cyber Capacity Program at the inaugural ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity (See: “Singapore Unveils New ASEAN Cyber Initiative”).

The Australia-Indonesia joint statement was a bit vague on this cybersecurity relative to what some had expected, merely noting that the ministers had committed to “elevating security cooperation” including in the area of capacity-building. But there have been efforts to foster collaboration between the Indonesian National Desk for Information Resilience and Cyber Security and the Australian Cyber Security Center (Indonesia does not have its own cybersecurity agency as yet) (See: “Does Indonesia Need a New Cyber Agency?”). The statement also mentioned that the inaugural Indonesia-Australia Cyber Policy Dialogue will be held in Australia “at the earliest opportunity.”

Other areas of defense cooperation were also discussed between the two sides and included in the formal agenda. For example, the joint statement made reference to Australia’s support of Indonesia’s vision of providing 4,000 peacekeepers by 2019 as well as the establishment of the Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime. The two defense industries have also agreed to develop a mine-resistant armored vehicle, based on the Australian Bushmaster design and customized for the Indonesian military’s operational needs.

But beyond the specific agenda items at this “2+2” meeting, what is clear is that both sides are committed to strengthening the Indonesia-Australia defense relationship, and that this commitment is already yielding some significant returns. Though defense will be only one of several areas in focus when Jokowi visits Australia, that is a point that is worth remembering.

New Maute bomb plot uncovered

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 1): New Maute bomb plot uncovered

The Philippine Army has uncovered a plot by the local terrorist Maute Group to bomb either Davao City or Maguindanao based on the testimonies of four members responsible for the Sept. 2 Davao night market bombing that killed 14 people and injured 70 others.

Col. Benjamin Hao, Army spokesperson, said in an interview that the plot was revealed during the interrogation of four members of the Dawla Islamiya Fi Cotabato–Maute Group who were earlier arrested by Army soldiers in Cotabato City.

The four were identified as Mohammad Lalaog Chenikandiyil also known as Datu Boi; Jackson Mangulamas Usi aka Abu Mansor/Jam; Zack Villanueva Lopez aka Haron, and Ansan Abdulla Mamasapano aka Abu Hamsa have been turned over to the Philippine National Police.
They were arrested on the strength of the search warrant, for violation of Republic Act No. 10591 (Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition), issued by Judge Banzawan Ibrahim of the Cotabato Regional Trial Court.
Diversionary tactic
As to the possibility that the plot could be carried out, Hao said: “Everything is possible because this is a terrorist group. Just the same our job is to make sure to stop them from their plans.”

Hao said the group had bombed Davao City as a diversionary tactic and in retaliation for the massive military operations launched against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other local terrorist groups in Sulu and Basilan.

He stressed though that both the Army and the PNP were still working on evidence that would prove the plot to be true.

Based on the Army’s assessment and intelligence reports, Hao said the plot, if implemented, would target any place in Mindanao although Davao City and Maguindanao were mentioned in the interrogation report.
37 members killed
Meanwhile, another ASG member was killed in an early morning encounter between soldiers and members of the bandit group in Indanan, Sulu, on Sunday.

This brings to 37 the total number of ASG members killed since the intensified combat operations was launched in July while scores were also wounded on the ASG aside. On the other hand, 15 soldiers were killed and 28 were wounded during the same period.

Troops from the 11th Scout Ranger Company, acting on a report from local residents, immediately sent a patrol and engaged the bandit group of about eight men in a brief firefight before the ASG scampered away.

Malaysia’s New Anti-Terror Force

From The Diplomat (Nov 1): Malaysia’s New Anti-Terror Force

Country forms integrated special operations unit to respond rapidly to terrorism threats.

Last week, Malaysia launched a new integrated special operations unit to respond rapidly to terrorism threats and attacks.

The National Special Operations Force (NSOF) – comprising officers from the Malaysian police, army, navy, and coast guard – will be the first responders to local terror threats, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a speech during the unit’s launch at an army camp.

According to Najib, Malaysia is the first country in the world to form an integrated security force to respond to terror threats.

According to a statement by Malaysia’s defense ministry, NSOF will serve as a quick reaction force, mobilizing land, air, and maritime units to confront a threat before handing over the reins to security forces. No further details were given as to how NSOF would operate.

NSOF, which Najib described as almost fully operational, will comprise 170 personnel, including 17 officers, and will be based at the Sungai Besi military camp just outside the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur. NSOF personnel would initially be seconded from the various agencies, with designated posts made once the unit is actually fully operational.

Najib said NSOF was being formed as part of the country’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS). Malaysia is one of the key countries that has served as a test case for the “Blue Ocean Strategy,” developed by two business professors, which argues that sustainable success comes from creating blue oceans of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Officially, Malaysia’s NBOS involves more than 80 ministries and agencies, with areas including not only safety and security, but also public service, women, youth and family, entrepreneurship, and education.

Najib’s announcement comes amid a rising Islamic State threat in Southeast Asia (See: “ASEAN’s Islamic State Conundrum”). Malaysia itself experienced the first ISIS attack on Malaysian soil when a grenade blast hit a nightclub in Puchong back in June. The attack came after months of arrests, deadly plots foiled by authorities, and worrying disclosures about some civil servants and even security forces being either actively involved in or sympathizing with ISIS (See: “How Serious is the Islamic State Threat in Malaysia”).

In his remarks, Najib said that 250 Malaysians involved with the group have been detained thus far, 32 have died in Iraq and Syria, and more than 60 people are still fighting for the group.

But the NSOF would not only be involved in tackling the Islamic State threat. Malaysia also faces a number of other security challenges as well, including Abu Sayyaf militants from the Philippines.

Malaysia: Families of Kidnapped Sailors Miss Ransom Deadline

From BenarNews (Oct 31): Malaysia: Families of Kidnapped Sailors Miss Ransom Deadline


Gustiah Sultan and her husband Tayudin Anjut sit with their two children during the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday in July 2016.

The families of five Malaysian sailors kidnapped in July and apparently being held by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants in the Philippines are in limbo some two weeks after failing to meet the militants’ ransom demand.
Gustiah Sultan, a 46-year-old housewife who has acted as a spokeswoman for the sailors’ families, said she hoped for the best despite missing an Oct. 16 deadline to come up with a ransom of 2 million ringgit (U.S. $480,000). She said kidnappers threatened to behead the hostages if the families failed to come up with the money.
“I really don’t know what to do. All I could do is pray and hope that the government will help us with this troubled episode of our lives,” Gustiah told BenarNews.
On July 18, suspected ASG members kidnapped five crew members from the tugboat Serudong 3 during a hijacking at sea off the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. The five men are Abd Rahim Summas, 62; Tayudin Anjut,45, Fandy Bakran, 26; Mohamad Jumadil Rahim, 23; and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32. Ridzuan is from Felda Jengka 7, a palm oil settlement in Pahang state in peninsular Malaysia, while the other four are from Lahad Datu in Sabah.
Khalid Abu Bakar, the chief of Malaysian police, and Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, who heads the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), told BenarNews that they had no updates on the kidnappings. Abdul Rashid Harun, the police commissioner in Sabah, declined comment.
Gustiah, whose husband is Tayudin, has spoken to the media about efforts to raise funds to pay the ransom since the days following their kidnapping.
The Borneo Post reported on July 21 – three days after the men were taken – that Tayudin had contacted his employer about a ransom of 20 million ringgit ($4.76 million). Tayudin told his boss that the men were in good condition and were in Basilan, a province in the far southern Philippines.
In September, Gustiah served as a spokeswoman when the families sought permission from police to ask the public for donations to pay ASG’s ransom demand. This time, she said the kidnappers had demanded 100 million Philippine pesos (8.65 million ringgit or $2 million), the New Straits Times reported on Sept. 28.
The most recent ransom demand came on Oct. 12.
Gustiah was able to speak to her husband during the phone call and intelligence officers determined that the call came from ASG. She said her husband told her that his fellow hostages were mostly well, but surviving on little food and water.
“We don’t have that kind of money. Even after four days, we could only come up with 3,670 ringgit ($881) through donations, which is far off that the amount they demanded,” Gustiah told Benar.
She has not spoken with the captors since the deadline passed and does not know the status of her husband and his fellow sailors.
“Even after the deadline, we can only collect about 20,000 ringgit ($4,800) in cash. I don’t think we can manage what they demanded by year’s end. I even begged them that we can’t afford such money and needed more than four days to come up with that amount. I just hope my husband and the rest are fine,” Gustiah said.
‘Unwitting financiers’
Southeast Asia terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna said governments that pay ransoms are “the unwitting financiers of ASG.”
“The only government that refused to pay was the Canadians and ASG beheaded their nationals. Canada should convene a regional and a global meeting to address this global challenge,” said Gunaratna, a columnist for BenarNews who directs the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

He added both Malaysia and Indonesia should work with the Philippines to develop a strategy to contain, isolate and eliminate ASG. Philippines alone is incapable of fighting ASG effectively.

Officials from both the Indonesian and Malaysian governments have denied that they paid ransoms earlier this year in securing the release of other sailors from their countries who had been held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines.

“Most ASG fighters support the Islamic State and the money will be used by ASG to grow and expand,” Gunaratna told BenarNews.

ASG, which has pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State (IS), has collected millions of dollars through kidnappings in recent years, according to online reports.

This year alone, ASG has collected at least 354.1 million Philippines pesos (U.S. $7.3 million) from ransom paid for hostages, Philippine-based news website reported.

Davao bombers planned another attack, says AFP

From Malaya Business Insight (Nov 1): Davao bombers planned another attack, says AFP

A GROUP blamed for the September 2 bombing in Davao City, which left 14 people dead and scores wounded, had planned to conduct a follow-up attack either in Maguindanao or Davao, a military spokesman said yesterday.

Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao said the Army’s assessment indicates the plot had been pre-empted by the arrest of seven suspected bombers and an accomplice, all members of the Maute Group. But the military is not letting its guard down, he added.

Hao said probers learned of the plot following the arrest of three of the suspects last October 4 and an accomplice last October 9, all in Cotabato City. Last Saturday, Army intelligence operatives arrested four more suspects, also in Cotabato City. Hao said at least six more suspects are being tracked down by Army operatives.

Asked if the group was planning another attack in Davao City, Hao said: “The information that was given to me was not specific… The plan is in Davao or Maguindanao.”

There are three Davao provinces -- Davao del Sur, Davao Del Norte and Davao Oriental. Davao City is a chartered city.

The official could not immediately say when the group would execute the follow-up bombing. “What our intelligence community told me was that there was a plan.”

Officials earlier said the Davao City bombing was meant to divert military focus from the intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan. The Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf are known to have links.

PH won’t drop claim to Panatag: Esperon

From Malaya Business Insight (Nov 1): PH won’t drop claim to Panatag: Esperon

NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. yesterday said the Duterte administration will continue to assert the Philippines’ claim to the disputed Scarborough Shoal in spite of China’s move of allowing Filipino fishermen resume fishing activities at the shoal.

“Yes of course. Maybe not now, but when we go to another round of talks, we will again assert it,” Esperon said of the Philippine claim over the shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which is about 124 nautical miles from Iba, Zambales.

Esperon said the shoal is now back to being a traditional fishing ground for Filipino and Chinese fishermen, which is in keeping with the ruling last July of a United Nations arbitral court that declared the shoal as such.

“We have a historical right and it’s part of our territory… that’s within our 200-mile EEZ (exclusive economic zone) because it’s just 124 miles away (from Zambales),” he said.

Esperon said President Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, briefly talked about the Scarborough Shoal during the President’s state visit to China from October 18-21 “but there was no conclusion to it because the position of China is that it has historical rights over it.”

“The President reiterated that we won in court. The other leader also reiterated that it’s (Scarborough Shoal) historically their territory so it was not resolved,” Esperon said.

Esperon said Duterte is confident the Chinese would no longer harass Filipino fishermen going to Panatag.

“What remains there are Coast Guard vessels of China, no (Chinese) Navy ships, and our fishermen are not being accosted. They’re not being driven away, meaning there’s friendly (co-existence),” said Esperon.

Latest aerial reconnaissance conducted by the Navy showed four Chinese Coast Guard vessels are still guarding the area, maintaining the usual presence since China seized control of the shoal in 2012 after a standoff with Philippine vessels. However, Filipinos are now fishing in the area “unmolested,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said last Sunday. Lorenzana also said the development was a welcome event, noting the Chinese vessels have been harassing Filipino fishermen going to the area for the past four years.

In the July decision, the UN arbitral court did not rule on the territorial dispute over Scarborough. However, it declared that the shoal is a traditional fishing ground, meaning fishermen from both countries can fish there. China has refused to recognize the arbitral court.

“As of now, we’re back to our traditional fishing ground… So in effect, they (Chinese) recognized that it’s a traditional fishing ground. That is what’s prevailing there, a traditional fishing ground,” said Esperon.

Esperon said Duterte’s visit to China may have contributed to the situation in Scarborough Shoal, although he stressed “there was no expressed agreement (over the shoal).”

“But it seems like the traditional rights of our fishermen are being respected (by Chinese),” said Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief, adding the prevailing situation at the Scarborough Shoal is a “win-win” for both sides.

Billions of aid, projects pour into Mindanao

From Tempo (Oct 31): Billions of aid, projects pour into Mindanao

President Duterte is about to make true his campaign promise of pouring funds into the conflict-torn Mindanao region.

Apart from millions of agriculture and electrification projects, Duterte has revealed his intention to put up a modern hospital either in Sulu or Basilan which will be funded by a billion-peso offer from a businessman he declined to name.

“There is a businessman who offered to help,” Duterte said in a recent visit to Cotabato City. “The person offered to donate P1 billion. I said I will accept it if he will build a hospital in Jolo or Basilan.”

Duterte said the hospital construction would start next year, hoping it would address the healthcare needs of the people in the area.

“If the funds are given, I will start it next year. The hospital in Jolo will be built and I hope there won’t be wounded soldiers or Abu Sayyaf rebels would comprise most of the patients. I hope conflict will end,” said Duterte.

“You made me president. Ngayon tapos na ang eleksyon, bubuhusan ko ng pera ang Moro region.”
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the government has put in place a massive electrification project worth P646.84 million for the region’s five provinces which has two cities and 116 municipalities.

This despite the report of the Department of Energy that the ARMM P574.23 million for the on-grid electrification projects from 2015 until 2016 that benefited a total of 39,365 households.

For the grid-electrification plans under Duterte’s government, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur will get R4.84 million, Tawi-Tawi with P18.31 million, Basilan with P2.81 million, and Sulu with 10.88 million next year.

Duterte and Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi led the ceremonial switch-on of the recently completed electrification projects of the DoE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) at the ARMM Regional Government Compound in Cotabato City on Saturday.

ARMM has also received P500-million worth of assistance for its farmers and fisherfolks during the launching of the Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda (CRDA) in Cotabato City.

Duterte reiterated to role of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) when it comes to addressing the countries hunger problems.

“I want the incidence of hunger stopped. Kawawa ang mga bata. We have to do something about it,” said Duterte.

The assistance from the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) include farm equipment, post-harvest facilities, machineries, farm and agri-aquatic inputs such as rice certified seeds, corn seeds, banca, fishing paraphernalia, among others.

A new project of the DA, Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD), will allow the DA to look at the weak points of each identified poor province as priority areas, and determine its key potentials in food production and agricultural livelihood programs.

Australia and Indonesia closer to joint patrols in South China Sea

From Australian Financial Review (Oct 31): Australia and Indonesia closer to joint patrols in South China Sea

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo  with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Indonesian Foreign Minister  Retno ...

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. IRWIN FEDRIANSYAH

Australia and Indonesia have moved a step closer to joint patrols in the South China Sea after reaching an agreement to "explore options to increase maritime co-operation".
The move is part of Australia's strengthening of ties with Indonesia at a time of uncertainty in the region ahead of the US election next week and as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte unsettles his neighbours by signalling a shift away from Washington, while becoming closer with Beijing.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will make his first official state visit to Australia early next week.

"At the Australia-Indonesia 2+2 meeting last week, Foreign and Defence Ministers agreed to explore options to increase maritime co-operation," Defence Minister Marise Payne said in an emailed statement to The Australian Financial Review.

"This could include co-ordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea consistent with Australia's policy of exercising rights of freedom of navigation in accordance with international law and our support for regional security."

Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Friday after a meeting with Ms Payne and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that Canberra had "more or less agreed" to the joint patrols.

"We have already suggested to Australia the possibility of conducting joint patrols in the eastern part of the South China Sea," he said, according to a report in the Jakarta Post. "We are sure that we will soon create a plan on how to realise it."

Asked about the comments, Ms Payne confirmed the two countries had agreed to "increase maritime co-operation".

"Australia and Indonesia already conduct co-ordinated patrols and other joint activities and exercises," she said.
It is not clear whether the patrols would be done with Australian and Indonesian ships side-by-side or when they might occur.

"It's important not to telegraph freedom-of-navigation operations if they are going to be done," said Ashley Townshend, Research Fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Undercut purpose

"This would undercut the purpose of the patrols and unnecessarily stoke public tensions with China. But if there was an agreement to talk seriously about Indonesia and Australia doing patrols side-by-side or in close succession, that is significant.

"There are lots of reasons why Indonesia would be a good partner for Australia," he said. "It's not a claimant to the disputes, but it is a big and capable regional player."

In the past Jakarta has been a relatively neutral player in what has been a highly contentious issue for the region. However, under Mr Widodo, Indonesia has taken a stronger stand against China's assertive claims in the South China Sea following a series of clashes between Indonesian warships and Chinese fishing boats in the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands.

While China recognises Indonesia's claim to the islands, its nine-dash line – the controversial territorial marker it uses to claim the bulk of the sea – encroaches on the waters around them.

Indonesia held large-scale military exercises off the archipelago in early October, involving jets that carried out manoeuvres including dropping bombs on targets off the coast.

And after an Indonesian warship clashed with a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels off the coast of the Natuna Islands in June, Mr Widodo presided over a cabinet meeting on the exact same ship, the KRI Imam Bonjol, near where the clash took place.

Australia and Indonesia have repaired the relationship over the past year following Mr Turnbull's well-received visit to Jakarta last November. The relationship had been strained following the execution of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan early last year and disagreements over Australia's policy on asylum-seekers.

Duterte visits wounded soldiers in Sulu

From ABS-CBN (Oct 31): Duterte visits wounded soldiers in Sulu

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday visited soldiers who were wounded in recent clashes with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Two ASGs were killed in an early morning clash Sunday with members of the 11th Scout Ranger Company in Indanan, Sulu.

Another six rebels were killed in a separate clash between the ASG and the 21st Infantry Battalion in Patikul, Sulu.

At least eight soldiers were injured in a clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Patikul clash.

A total of 44 Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed in Sulu since intensified combat operations were launched in July, the military said.

Fifteen soldiers have been killed in action in Sulu since July, and 36 others have been wounded in action.

The successive encounters were the result of the cooperation of local residents against the ASG for their "brutal killings and illegal activities," the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in a statement.

Six wounded soldiers were visited by Duterte in the hospital in Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Sulu, namely: 

- Corporal (Cpl.) Arjay Turingan, who has a fractured left arm;
- Private First Class (PFC) Lorenso Agwayan, who has a leg injury;
- Technical Sgt. Edwin Ramos, who has a back injury;
- PFC Walter Dumpaw, who has a leg injury;
- PFC Hartblayne Akwat, who has a fracture; and,
- PFC Ladni Basitaw, who has a fracture due to a gunshot wound.

Two other soldiers have been transferred to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City.

They were identified as Cpl. Junardo Esperansa and PFC Conrad Bagsaw.

Military hospital in Sulu gets Duterte's promised upgrade

From Rappler (Oct 31): Military hospital in Sulu gets Duterte's promised upgrade

Sulu commanders thank the government and the San Miguel Foundation for the renovations

UPGRADE. Armed Forces chief General Ricardo Visaya and retired General Emmanuel Bautista inaugurate a newly renovated military hospital in Jolo, Sulu. Photo from PH military

UPGRADE. Armed Forces chief General Ricardo Visaya and retired General Emmanuel Bautista inaugurate a newly renovated military hospital in Jolo, Sulu. Photo from PH military
 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Ricardo Visaya inaugurated last week the newly renovated military hospital in Sulu, a fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte's promise in September.
Camp General Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital, a 65-bed capacity facility, primarily attends to soldiers fighting terrorist groups in the southernmost islands of Mindanao.
"The fulfillment of this dream of having a hospital in Sulu did not come easy. It faced financial challenges, among others. This is why we are grateful to the AFP leadership, to the Commander in Chief, and to San Miguel Foundation, Incorporated for their gracious donation of ambulances, equipment, and other hospital implements," said Brigadier General Mariano Mejia, the Surgeon General of the AFP and concurrent Commanding General of the AFP Medical Center.
Visaya said the hospital is testimony to the "enduring partnership between the military, local government, and public and private corporations."
The hospital started as a trauma center in 2007. It can now accommodate injured or sick military personnel, their dependents, and even civilians.

The hospital's inauguration came months after the military launched an all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on the island, deploying more than 8,000 soldiers to the province to wipe out the group.

Last August, 15 soldiers were killed in an ASG attack in the town of Patikul.

The hospital's capabilities now include the following:
  • immediate resuscitative care and advance trauma management
  • in-patient and out-patient services
  • ancillary services such as pharmacy, radiology, laboratory, and primary psycho-social and mental health, post-surgical and medical hospitalization and treatment, and also dental health care services.
The hospital was named after the late Army Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, who was killed by members of the Moro National Liberation Front in 1977, when he chose to meet with them – unarmed – in Patikul to discuss a possible ceasefire.

His son, former AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista, was the guest of honor and speaker at the inauguration of the newly renovated hospital. Bautista is now executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace.

"If only my father were alive, he would have been very happy for the operation of this hospital. Our gratitude goes to all of you who made this project possible. Indeed, the death of Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista and his men on that fateful day is an act of supreme sacrifice for our people. And this hospital embodies the same spirit of treating our soldiers and our people from the wounds of conflict," Bautista said.

Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council meets for unified security preparations for UNDAS 2016 and anti-terrorism drive

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 31): Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council meets for unified security preparations for UNDAS 2016 and anti-terrorism drive

In line with the security preparation for the coming UNDAS 2016, and holiday seasons, the Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (RJPSCC) recently met at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.
RJPSCC is a joint undertaking of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through Joint Task force-NCR and the National Capital Region Police Office that address criminality, terrorism, lawlessness, emergencies and disasters particularly in Metro Manila.

BGen Roberto D Domines Jr., Commander, JTF-NCR acknowledged that the meeting is very timely and necessary not just for the coming holiday seasons but more all for the terrorism act.  He also assured that the Joint Task force-NCR will support the NCRPO in all security operations especially in close monitoring of any threat and terrorism in the region.

NCRPO Regional Director, PCSupt Oscar D Albayalde expressed his gratitude to the AFP as he recognized that the joint operations of PNP and AFP are well-appreciated by the public.
Albayalde emphasized that fusion of intelligence between the AFP and the PNP could lead to more successful operations to pre-empt any act of criminality and terrorism.
Albayalde also assured that the NCRPO will support AFP whenever assistance needed.

“We will work as a team, regardless of branch of service and orientation.” Albayalde said.

Unilateral ceasefire orders of PH gov’t, NDFP still in effect

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 31): Unilateral ceasefire orders of PH gov’t, NDFP still in effect

dureza sison peace talks

The existing unilateral ceasefire declarations issued respectively by the Philippine government and communist rebel negotiator National Democratic Front of the Philippines still hold despite the two parties’ failure to meet the target deadline to craft a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Both sides were expected to come up with a draft and ink the bilateral ceasefire agreement last October 26 as agreed upon during the first round of formal talks in Norway in August this year.

The parties initially planned to meet in Davao City for the signing of the bilateral ceasefire agreement in the presence of President Duterte.
Government peace panel chair and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III communicated with NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili a proposal for the two parties to “simultaneously declare their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire” following the lapse of the deadline.

“In response to Mr. Bello’s proposal, Mr. Agcaoili informed him that there was no need for the NDFP to make such a simultaneous declaration with the GRP,” the NDFP said in a statement.

Agcaoili said the unilateral declaration of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA), which was issued on August 28, would hold pending the drafting and signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

The most testing parts during the second round of talks in Norway earlier this month were the discussions on amnesty, release of political prisoners and the bilateral ceasefire agreement.

The NDFP said the revolutionary movement has become apprehensive about signing a bilateral ceasefire with 434 political prisoners still inside different jails in the country.

Bello disclosed during the closing ceremony that the draft of the amnesty proclamation was already with the Office of the President and explained government procedures, including the concurrence of Congress, must be observed.

But he committed that the government would work on the immediate release of at least 81 political prisoners on humanitarian grounds. The list of 81 includes the sick, women and elderly.

“Mr. Agcaoili reminded Mr. Bello about the GRP’s commitment on the releases and amnesty proclamation of political prisoners in accordance with the Oslo Joint Statements of 15 June 2016, 26 August 2016 and 9 October 2016. He said that the fulfilment of such commitment would “serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire,” the NDFP said.

The continuing mutual trust despite the challenges is coming from the longstanding good relations of President Duterte and the revolutionary movement.

But the NDFP also expressed concern about the alleged continuing presence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in communities supposedly performing Bayanihan programs and anti-illegal drug operations.

“However, there are persistent reports from regional NPA commands of GRP (Government of Republic of the Philippines) violations of its own unilateral ceasefire stating that AFP troops continue to make incursions into the territory of the NPA in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations. Such military operations only serve to heighten tensions and serve as disincentive to forging a more stable bilateral ceasefire,” the NDFP said.

For NDFP consultant Porferio Tuna, the military cannot use the anti-drugs campaign as an excuse because the communist movement is already performing it even before the Duterte administration.

“Anti-criminality is part of the law and order of the organs of political power of the people’s democratic government at the base. It is not a question if there is a ceasefire or not because it is part of their task,” Tuna said.

The communist movement is known for its hardline stance against illegal drugs, having conducted raids and even meting the “death penalty” on those who are involved in the illegal drug trade inside revolutionary bases.

Tuna said the continuing implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan of the AFP has been counterproductive to the progress of the peace process.

“The conduct of Oplan Bayanihan in the last quarter during the ceasefire includes masking the nature of the operations to trick the masses and to maximize it because they know that they will not be attacked by the NPA,” Tuna said.

Tuna said that such cases were documented in at least 11 villages in North Cotabato, specifically in the towns of Arakan and Magpet where there have been alleged recruitment, training and arming of the anti-communist paramilitary group Bagani.

The Bagani caught the attention not just of local authorities but also of the United Nations for allegedly instigating the attacks, killings and massive displacements of lumad communities.

Tuna added that soldiers in several communities in Compostela Valley have been summoning farmer leaders for questioning.

Both peace panels believe that the enforcement of a bilateral ceasefire would ensure a clearer definition of hostile acts and ensure a better atmosphere to end decades of violent conflict.