Saturday, September 24, 2016

DoJ pushes raps against Marcelino

From Tempo (Sep 22): DoJ pushes raps against Marcelino

The Department of Justice has reversed its earlier ruling and pushed for the filing of charges against Marine Col. Ferdinand Marcelino and a foreigner in connection with the multi-million shabu lab drug raid in Manila early this year, police officials disclosed yesterday.

Chief Supt. Antonio Gardiola, former commander of what is now the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, said the decision of the DoJ is a vindication on the part of the PNP which has been pushing for the indictment of Marcelino after they chanced upon him inside a shabu lab they raided in Manila early this year.

“Now that the decision was already reversed, we are happy. We are just doing our job, whoever you are for as long as you are involved, we will get you,” said Gardiola.
The case against Marcelino became controversial as both police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents who conducted raid were surprised to see Marcelino inside.

Marcelino, an active member of the Philippine Marines, used to work as an official of the PDEA. He, however, denied his links to illegal drugs and claimed that he was in the area because the same place was the subject of their operation.

But Marcelino, AIDG officials said, could not present any document that would justify his presence in the area.

Nearly R380 million of shabu was seized during the operation.

With the reversal of the decision, former AIDG Legal and Investigation Division chief Chief Insp. Roque Merdegia said they expect the issuance of an arrest warrant anytime soon.

The case is expected to be filed before a Manila court anytime soon.

“We are just waiting for the issuance of arrest warrant and after that, they can be considered as wanted,” said Merdegia.

Marcelino was released recently for lack of evidence. His co-accused was identified as Yan Yi Shou who also worked as a PDEA asset.

In yesterday’s hearing, the name of Marcelino again cropped up after Deputy Director General Benjamin Ma-galong, PNP deputy chief for operations, said that the former was present during the top level meeting before the implementation of a big raid at the New Bilibid Prisons.

He said Marcelino was able to get vital information during the vital meeting as a representative of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

MILF: Orientation dialogue held in Carmen, Cotabato

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 24): Orientation dialogue held in Carmen, Cotabato

Another orientation-dialogue on Federalism and BBL was held in Barangay Manarapan, Carmen, North Cotabato last September 18 through the joint efforts of Al Guiabaliyah Islamic Foundation (Al-GIF), Manarapan Coconut Planters Association, Inc. and Damuling Bangsamoro Fishermen Association.

The said people’s organizations are members of Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FBCSO) operating in Mindanao which was in its sixth leg of giving orientations to the communities about the concept of federalism and the significance of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to the Bangsamoro peoples.

Mr. Nas Pulindao, vice president of FBCSO, gave an overview of the program. He stressed that this series of activities is setting the stage for the next larger advocacy to be made in the future in order to strengthen support to the GPH-MILF peace process.

The activity was attended by MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal who explained the advantages of federalism, the comparison between unitary and federal forms of government, and the importance of the BBL to the struggle of the Bangsamoro. He also gave updates on the status of the implementation stage of the peace process between the GPH and MILF.

Officers of FBCSO led by Abdullah Salik, Jr. were also present in the event. They participated during the input sharing and answered some issues and concerns from the participants who attended the said event.

Barangay Chairman Engko Dalid of Manarapan, Carmen, Cotabato welcomed the guests and participants. Datuan Panolimba, an officer of Committee on Information based in Kapalawan Provincial Office, delivered his word of wisdom while Engr. Toto Laguialot of Community Halal Producer Cooperative (CHAPC) acknowledged and recognized the participants from different sectors of society.

The event was realized through the initiative of Mr. Bansilan and facilitated by Alih Anso.  Ms. Maria Riihela of Non Violent Peace Force (NP) North Cotabato Field Operation also attended as an observer of the very successful event.

MILF: Editorial--IPs should take hold of their destiny

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 24): Editorial--IPs should take hold of their destiny

In a forum organized by the Communication Foundation for Asia in Sta. Mesa, Manila on the 23rd of this month, representatives of the indigenous peoples, also known as “lumads”, complained of being caught in the middle during armed confrontations between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces.

Their people especially children, women, and the aged are usually the unwilling victims of this continuing skirmishes. They also disclosed that the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is not satisfactorily protecting and promoting their rights especially over their ancestral domain. At times, the office, they added, is found more on the side of “other people”.

There are more reasons to believe they were telling the truth. It can be seen in their eyes the aura of sincerity. They don’t have heavy reasons not to tell the truth, especially given that two of the discussants are military men, one active and the other already retired.

Indeed, the situation of the IPs is fragile and pitiful! Usually poor, uneducated, and the hinterland, as their habitat, we can only imagine how difficult for them to stay away from harms’ way.  If they stay completely neutral in the NPA-AFP conflict, it is no guarantee that they will not be held suspect by either side. If they side with any of the protagonists, surely they will be considered enemy to the other.

The IPs are now pushed to the wall. They are not amply protected. Worse, their ancestral landholding continues to shrink and shrink in the face of aggression unleashed by unconscionable and greedy carpetbaggers.  If they don’t act correctly and fast now, they will become completely defenceless in the near future. Chances are that they will fight among themselves, because weak people are easily intrigued and manipulated by the strong and moneyed.

This is an unsolicited recommendation. We hope we will not be misunderstood, because in making this overture, we have the best of intention.  Moros fully understand the situation of the IPS, and vice versa. Only the oppressed can understand each other.

The IPs should organize themselves and put up a national or regional movement. Only an organized people can put up a systematic or effective responses to opportunities or threats. We are not saying you arm yourselves and fight the government or any other armed group.  That is completely outside of the point.  Our point is that the government can help you, because it is intended to serve the people, but the same government is peopled by some of those pestering your communities. They are in all types of businesses, plantation economy, in mining, in energy, etc., and many if not most of them care only for their profits. They don’t care about you. The CPP/NPA/NDFP can also help you, in some or many ways, like the MILF, because their agenda is national democratic in character and for all peoples in Mindanao, respectively.  But there is no better and reliable promoter and protector of your interests, limbs, and properties, than you yourselves. You are the ones involved and it is your future that is at stake! Take hold of your destiny! This is best for you!

10th ID trooper nabbed for pilfering, selling ammunition

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): 10th ID trooper nabbed for pilfering, selling ammunition

The Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division has placed one of its soldiers under arrest after the latter was caught pilfering and selling ammunition on Friday.

In a statement Sunday, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Rhyan Batchar identified the erring trooper as Sgt. Jeffrey Ordoño and assigned at the 10th Division Training School.

As per reports, Ordoño has allegedly pilfered around 1,000 live ammunition and sold it to civilians.

Batchar said the suspect will be facing charges for violation of Articles of War 85 also known as “waste and unlawful disposition of military property”.

If evidence warrants, he shall either undergo administrative or judicial proceedings which may include trial by court martial.

US, PHL marine units to participate in PHIBLEX 33

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): US, PHL marine units to participate in PHIBLEX 33

US marines and sailors from the US Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike will be participating in the 33rd Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) which will take place in various locations in Luzon and Palawan from October 4 to 12.

Humanitarian civic assistance efforts, an amphibious landing exercise and live-fire training featuring artillery are just a few of the many team building opportunities during PHIBLEX 33, all designed to advance cooperation, improve inter-operability and assist in strengthening bilateral amphibious capabilities.

"The opportunity to train and build mutually beneficial capabilities with our Armed Forces of the Philippines partners is essential for sharpening our bilateral amphibious and humanitarian assistance capabilities, both hallmarks of the US Marine Corps,” 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen said.

“Exchanging expertise and cultivating our longstanding security alliance provides a cornerstone for security and stability in the region, and has for decades,” he added.

PHIBLEX 33 will include approximately 1,400 US service members based in Okinawa, Japan and 500 Filipino personnel working side-b yside to grow capabilities and better prepare to operate together during a natural disaster or armed conflict.

The humanitarian and civic assistance portion of the exercise, beginning this month and concluding on Oct. 12, includes engineering projects to improve local infrastructure and health engagements to exchange medical best practices and supplement the medical needs of Philippine citizens.

Field training during the exercise includes small arms and artillery live-fire which will provide the and US Marine units multiple opportunities to maintain and sharpen their skills while enhancing an already high level of inter-operability.

Additional US units participating include Amphibious Squadron 11, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the three ships of Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (BHR ARG).

The ARG consists of the USS BHR (LHD-6), the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), and the USS Germantown (LSD-48).

Philippine units include the 3d Marine Brigade and the Philippine Navy’s new strategic sealift vessel, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601).

US commits P320M for law enforcement in PH

From Rappler (Sep 25): US commits P320M for law enforcement in PH

These funds 'will be used in strict compliance with US legal obligations, and basic international law enforcement and policing standards,' a US official tells Rappler

TOP OFFICIAL. US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield listens during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center on February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP

TOP OFFICIAL. US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield listens during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center on February 24, 2015, in Washington, DC. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP

The United States this week committed around P320 million ($6.7 million) to boost law enforcement in the Philippines, an official of the US State Department told Rappler.

William Brownfield, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs of the US State Department, said he approved this contribution "for the support of rule of law and law enforcement."
Brownfield said the US sent the Philippines a diplomatic note about this new commitment earlier this week.
The exact amount involved is P323.304 million ($6.725 million), according to the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
Speaking to Rappler through a phone call from the US, Brownfield said he hopes to spend this money on programs to:
  • Strengthen the rule of law in the Philippines
  • Provide greater due process in the country's justice system
  • Improve the country’s maritime security
"Wherever the funds eventually go, these will be used in strict compliance with US legal obligations, and basic international law enforcement and policing standards," Brownfield explained.
Brownfield once served as US ambassador to Colombia, which is known for a decades-long war on drugs. Before this, he was US ambassador to Venezuela and Chile.
He is married to former US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, who is now counselor of the US State Department.
Brownfield approved this new contribution as the Duterte administration faces two major law enforcement issues:
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, which has killed more than 3,330 people
  • The dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
Human rights abuses barred
On the US' P323.304-million contribution, Brownfield said: "The funding is now available for programs and support in the Philippines. 'Available' means the two governments can now discuss and reach agreement on where and how it would be spent."
When is the soonest that the Philippines can get hold of this funding?
It depends, for one, on "where we agree to put the funding," he said.
If the funds will be used to improve courts or to boost maritime security, the funding "could move fairly swiftly, and we could find that by the end of this year, these programs are actually operational."
He said that this is because "no one would criticize efforts to improve due process and access to justice in the Philippines."
Brownfield said, too, that "there are no accusations that maritime security and maritime law enforcement are producing any abuses."
"On the other hand, if we move into more complicated areas, it could take a very long time, because we obviously have to ensure that the government of the Philippines is comfortable with the program," the US official said.
"Obviously, any program in the Philippines eventually must be decided by the government of the Philippines, but I also have to be assured that the program would not put us in violation of US law. And if the program is in any sensitive area, this could take a good period of time," he added.
In his case as US Assistant Secretary of State, Brownfield said US law prohibits him "from providing assistance to any individual or any unit – security force, police, or military – that has engaged in human rights abuses."
'Rigorous vetting'
The US earlier said it is ready to give the Philippines around P1.54 billion ($32 million) for law enforcement training and services.
The INL Bureau of the US State Department said that P224.46 million ($4.665 million) of this larger amount "is set to be transferred soon, via an Interagency Agreement, from INL to the US Coast Guard."
This funding aims "to support maritime security in the Philippines."
"There is additional money which was previously appropriated by Congress for use in the Philippines, but no decisions have to be made on that funding's use until next year," a spokesperson for the INL Bureau said.
Duterte earlier said the US' pledge of $32 million for law enforcement was a way of making amends with the Philippines.
The US reacted by saying that this "is not new funding, but rather cumulative funding previously appropriated."
The US said this funding is subject to "rigorous vetting" as in the case of other forms of security assistance. The US said all of its security assistance, in turn, "promotes human rights."
Duterte, however, has chastised the US over human rights.
On a planned meeting with US President Barack Obama, which was later aborted, Duterte said that "nobody has the right to lecture" him on human rights.
Duterte said he will "answer" Obama if the US president explains America's deadly pacification of Muslims in the southern Philippines at the start of the 20th century.

Crowdsourced, 'hacked' ideas for peace coming to NDF negos

From Rappler (Sep 24): Crowdsourced, 'hacked' ideas for peace coming to NDF negos

Peace negotiators intend to collect and present the best crowdsourced ideas for peace when talks with the National Democratic Front resume in October   

CROWDSOURCED IDEAS. Patmei Bello Ruivivar during the Social Good Summit. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

CROWDSOURCED IDEAS. Patmei Bello Ruivivar during the Social Good Summit. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

For the government panel handling peace negotiations with Asia’s longest-running insurgency, achieving lasting peace and pinpointing the “root causes of conflict” means having a process that’s “inclusive and transparent.”

When the second round of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) resumes in October, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) will bring along and present “creative ideas and hacks” from Filipinos of all backgrounds.

“Now, President Rodrigo Duterte’s thrust is a more inclusive process and a more transparent one. We make sure that all voices are heard," OPAPP Communications Director Patmei Bello Ruivivar told Rappler on the sidelines of the Philippines Social Good Summit’s peace and development “ideathon” on Saturday, September 24.

"It's not just a negotiation between the NDF and the government... it's a negotiation where all people are involved. So we need their inputs,” she added.

Formal talks between the Philippine government and the NDF resumed in August this year, after years of impasse.

Ruivivar noted how peace talks under the Duterte administration have taken on a blistering pace. Talks on socio-economic reforms, political and economic reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces are happening simultaneously unlike before when they would be discussed one step at a time. (READ: PH hopes for peace deal in a year as NDF talks resume)

Peace talks with the communist rebels was among the campaign promises of Duterte, a self-described “leftist and socialist."

Ideas that emerged during the summit's “ideathon” included using sports as a means of “diplomacy through social inclusion,” a youth peace camp and caravan, and highlighting service to country through a communications campaign.

“We need a lot of creative ideas and hacks to input to the panel especially now that we're going to talk about the root causes of conflict to address that through social economic reforms,” added Ruivivar.

A mobile application also allows citizens to send in their ideas for peace. The best ideas will be presented to both the government and NDF panel is Oslo, said Ruivivar.

“Maybe they can have creative ideas on how they can integrate that,” she said.

“It’s actually solving the root causes of the problem. Usually, the default mode is violence. Now we want to say: how do we problem-solve? And that is why [OPPAP] participated in this because we want fresh ideas from different [groups],” said Ruivivar.

Crowdsourcing efforts are nothing new to the Duterte campaign.

The former Davao City mayor, who barely had any concrete political network at the start of his campaign, was swept into power through a mix of political smarts, social media savvy, and a strong grassroots campaign.

“Change is coming,” Duterte’s campaign tagline, was crowdsourced as well.
“We're changing the paradigm now; everyone is involved, everybody is a stakeholder,” she said.

'Army has control over paramilitary groups'

From the Sun Star-Davao (Sep 24): 'Army has control over paramilitary groups'

A PARTYLIST representative believes that the army's decision to absorb paramilitary groups as Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) only reflects how they have control over them.

"They simply justified that they are merely the ones behind it," Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao said in a peace forum held Friday at the Holy Cross of Davao College.

Casilao has been fighting for the indigenous peoples' rights whose lives allegedly grew chaotic due to the presence of the army on their ancestral lands. Allegedly, some of the armed men harassed and even killed the lumads (indigenous people) for having suspicious involvement with the New People's Army.

But very recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have stopped their operations on the ancestral lands of the lumads where most of the rebels are also seen. It was after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to focus their offensive operations against the terror group in Zamboanga.

Casilao said that AFP Chief General Ricardo Visaya mentioned having the option to just absorb paramilitary groups Mahagat and Bagani in the Cafgu as they still have some 37,000 unfilled positions for it.

Progressive groups and the lumads as well have been crying out that the paramilitary groups are behind the harassment and killings in their communities.

These paramilitary groups are composed of fellow lumads who are allegedly armed by the AFP to pass on the work to them in getting rid of the indigenous people.

Although the AFP has already vowed to abandon camps near the lumads' ancestral lands, Casilao said they should still investigate it as reports of discrimination still exist.

Four more Abu Sayyaf hostages in process of returning home: Wiranto

From the Jakarta Post (Sep 24): Four more Abu Sayyaf hostages in process of returning home: Wiranto

Four more Abu Sayyaf hostages in process of returning home: Wiranto

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto .(

The government is processing the return of four Indonesian hostages who have been freed by the notorious Abu Sayyaf militant group, following the release of one more captive a few days after the release of three other sailors, a senior minister has said.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said the fourth Indonesian fisherman, named Harman Manggak, would return with three other captives who were released Sunday.

"It's still in process, but they will return to Indonesia soon. [I hope] the process will take no more than a week," Wiranto told journalists on Friday.

Harman, a fisherman from Bulukumba, South Sulawesi, was the captain of a Malaysia-flagged fishing boat. He was taken hostage by the Filipino militants in Sabah waters, Malaysia, on Aug. 3. He is currently under the care of the Indonesian Consulate General in Davao.

Five other Indonesian sailors, who were crewmen on the Indonesian-operated tugboat Charles, have been held captive since June 21, making them the longest-held captives in the latest string of abductions of Indonesian sailors.

Malaysia on high alert for Abu Sayyaf rebels fleeing military action

From the Straits Times (Sep 24): Malaysia on high alert for Abu Sayyaf rebels fleeing military action

Philippine soldiers arrive at a camp after an armed encounter with members of militant group Abu Sayyaf at the village of Bongkaong on Aug 26, 2016.

Philippine soldiers arrive at a camp after an armed encounter with members of militant group Abu Sayyaf at the village of Bongkaong on Aug 26, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

Federal police special branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said intelligence showed Abu Sayyaf would intensify its kidnap-for-ransom operations to fund the organisation.

Federal police special branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said intelligence showed Abu Sayyaf would intensify its kidnap-for-ransom operations to fund the organisation.PHOTO: THE STAR

Malaysia is on high alert for Abu Sayyaf members fleeing among hundreds of Filipinos for Sabah, after the Philippine military's offensive in the country's south.

Authorities say an estimated 400 are waiting for the "right time" to breach the Eastern Sabah Security Command's (Esscom) security cordon, among them elements of the militant group who plan to turn Sabah into their outpost, reported the New Straits Times on Saturday (Sept 24).

Federal police special branch director Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun told the paper that intelligence showed Abu Sayyaf would intensify its kidnap-for-ransom operations to fund the organisation.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has sent 10,000 soldiers to southern Philippines, including the provinces of Sulu and Basilan, to elimate more than 400 heavily-armed militants.

"The threat is imminent...There is only one direction that they are heading, and it is towards our shores," said Mr Fuzi to NST.
"We will not allow them to enter. Our security forces will arrest them the minute they pass the country's maritime border."
Malaysia has deployed more manpower and assets to protect the 1,700km maritime border it shares with the Philippines.

"The military, together with Esscom, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and police, are working together to hold the fort," National Security Council (NSC) director-general General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin told NST.

Mr Zulkifeli, who is also armed forces chief, said reports that hundreds of Filipinos seeking refuge on islands close to the Malaysian border were credible.

It is believed that as many as 400 of them, including rebels, are on the islands of Taganak and Bakkungan, hoping to make their way to Sandakan, the second largest town in Sabah.

"They are waiting to cross into Sabah and assimilate with their relatives and friends, who stand ready to harbour them."

Police picked up 37 Filipinos from the waters off Sandakan last week. Eighteen of them were from Basilan, while the rest were from Jolo, Abu Sayyaf's stronghold.

Sabah marine police chief Mohamad Mandun said that after questioning the 37 Filipinos, it did not seem they were members of any terrorist groups.

Last Thursday, 20 Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan surrendered after the Philippine military's offensive.

Since 1991, the group has carried out attacks such as bombings, kidnapping and assassinations in the name of fighting for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

ARMM to rehab ex-Abu Sayyaf terrorists

From the Manila Times (Sep 24): ARMM to rehab ex-Abu Sayyaf terrorists

The government agencies under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will introduce an intervention package for former Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists who surrendered recently to determine appropriate solutions to the Islamic militancy without blood shed and destruction.

At least 21 hardcore bandits, who admitted to having participated in deadly harassments of non-military targets and roadside bombings in the past years, surrendered through the Army’s 64th Infantry Battalion (IB) and Mayor Gulam Hataman of Sumisip town in Basilan.

ARMM Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman on Friday said the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) will immediately extend to the former ASG members both livelihood and spiritual assistance.

Hataman said the local council of Islamic leaders like the Ustadz or the Ulama (learned in Islam) will provide spiritual re-orientation lessons for them to re-embrace a “moderate” kind of Islam and do away with extremism.

The ARMM regional governor noted that radical preachers, just to advance their self-vested interests, are circumventing Islamic teachings on jihad, supposedly only implying rejection of sinful acts to achieve spiritual perfection.

“We have proven time and again that use of force alone cannot address the nagging rebellion problem in the Moro homeland. Even this religious extremism now plaguing some areas in Mindanao cannot be solved by use of force alone,” Hataman stressed.

The returning bandits took their oath to reform for good, respect the Philippine flag and swore allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and help protect their villages from further attacks by their former comrades.

Military ends ops in lumad communities

From the Sun Star-Davao (Sep 24): Military ends ops in lumad communities

GUNS now seem to point at the real enemies as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vowed to stop operations on suspected rebel areas which also put at stake the lives of the indigenous people (IP) who live nearby.

On Friday's peace forum at the Holy Cross of Davao College (Hcdc), Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao said AFP Chief General Ricardo Visaya told him that five of their battalions assigned in the Eastern Mindanao were re-assigned to Jolo, Sulu to focus on bombarding the terror group Abu Sayyaf instead.

Casilao said that according to the AFP chief two other battalions based in Central Mindanao have also been commanded to divert their attention to the Abu Sayyaf Group atrocities.

These, according to Casilao, are among the developments that the previous administrations failed to deliver.

"They failed to fulfill the mandate and provision written in both declarations of previous agreements," he said.

This includes the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines.

"These kinds of agreements are fundamental. They are formed to really achieve peace that is based on social justice," Casilao cited, adding that administrations preceding President Rodrigo Duterte's failed when they preferred the road to war, counter-insurgency operations.

Meanwhile, Visaya has also said during his conversation with Casilao that the Oplan Bayanihan, a community-approach in targeting rebel groups, ended.

"Visaya said it is supposed to end in December 2016," Casilao said.

He added that Duterte's policy direction superseded his and they have ended it right away.

"The President said, if we must talk peace then we should cease to implement the last phase of Oplan Bayanihan," Casilao said.

Life in the countryside ‘freer’ than open work for NDF — Tiamzons

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 22): Life in the countryside ‘freer’ than open work for NDF — Tiamzons

NOW IT’S OFF TO OSLO Communist Party of the Philippines leader Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, raise clenched fists as they walk out of police detention on Friday  to join rebel negotiators in peace talks in Norway next week. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Communist Party of the Philippines leader Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, raise clenched fists as they walk out of police detention to join rebel negotiators in peace talks in Norway. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Life was freer working underground in the countryside, National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Wilma Tiamzon admitted as she reflected on her current role in the peace negotiations.

Tiamzon and her husband Benito went underground in 1971 when former President Ferdinand Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus, a year before martial law was declared.

They stayed underground for more than four decades until they were arrested in Cebu in 2014. The two were accused by the military of being top cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Today, they are the face of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the CPP.

Recognized as consultants of the NDF, the CPP’s political arm, they were recently released from Camp Crame and allowed to participate in the formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway. Their life has changed drastically since then.

Wilma, during an INQ&A interview, recalled how they could freely move and interact with people when they were still in the countryside.

“Hindi limitado ang iyong magagawa (You are not limited in what you can do),” she said.
Wilma said they can move around and travel from province to province.

She also said they were most safe in the countryside as opposed to working underground in the city where there is higher risk of being arrested or even killed.

She said these were the risks faced by fellow NDF consultants who have to cross cities to get to other parts of the country.

Life in prison was another thing.

“Yung buhay sa kulungan napakalimitado (Life in jail was very limited),” she said of their stay in Camp Crame.

Earlier, she told that they would read newspapers from cover to cover. Starving for news and having nothing else to do, they would read seven or so broadsheets a day.

Although granted temporary freedom, Wilma said their release has come with very strict schedules for them to follow as they campaign for greater understanding of the peace process.

“Kasi yung sa underground ang nag-aagawan sa oras namin ay talagang naka-focus lang sa iba-ibang organisasyon, iba-ibang pangangailangan ng masa. Ngayon ay tuwiran kaming kailangan makapagharap sa iba ibang (grupo), tulad dito sa media,” she said. (Because when we were underground, we could focus on different organizations or the different needs of the masses. Now we need to face different groups like media.)

She added that big businesses and social groups, as well as relatives, have been wanting to meet with them.

In an earlier exclusive interview with, they said they have yet to push through with their planned family reunion as their schedule has left little time for them to tend to personal affairs.

Benito recalled that after their release in the morning of August 19, they had to give a press conference in the afternoon. They had their visa approved that night, prepared their baggage the next morning and flew out of the country in the afternoon.

“Kaya talagang puno, punong-puno ang aming oras (Our schedules our very full),” Wilma said.
Nowadays, the Tiamzon couple grant regular interviews or hold public conferences. They are also consulting with various groups as they prepare for the next round of negotiations in October where working groups are expected to discuss the remaining three agreements of the NDF and the government.

Wilma has been appointed chair of the working group on the end of hostilities. Benito, on the other hand, serves as the vice chairperson of the two committees — end of hostilities and political and constitutional reforms.

Wilma clarified, however, that despite their busy schedule, they enjoy their new roles.

“Hindi naman sa napapagod, gusto rin namin (It’s not that we’re tired, we also like this),” she said.
The couple agreed that they would need to work hard to get the public support for the peace talks.
Both the Philippine government and the CPP have declared unilateral ceasefires in support of the negotiations. Peace panel memebrs from both sides say they are hoping for the conclusion of the talks in one year.

This will involve the eventual end of hostilities and disposition of forces, which Wilma says will be based on the final agreement. She said they would still have to study and observe the different models proposed, including the Philippine government’s experience with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Reds warn of US plot vs Duterte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 24): Reds warn of US plot vs Duterte

Two communist rebel leaders yesterday warned that a plot to oust President Duterte by elements of the US  government, the military and moneyed groups in the country could derail the success of the peace talks.

Speaking at a forum on the peace talks, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon warned that while the progress of the peace talks with the government under the Duterte administration looked bright, there was a need for vigilance against these  “powerful forces” that might put up heavy resistance to it.

The Tiamzons, designated consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is engaged in the peace talks with the government, said the second round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, next month will take up more crucial and challenging issues.

Leftist influence

Among the issues to be tackled are the proposed general amnesty for political prisoners and a ceasefire of the two parties.

“We know that even before President Duterte was elected, there were already elements of the US government and members of some influential groups who were planning to stop the Left’s influence on the government,” said Benito in Filipino.

He also said there were members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police continuing to campaign against the peace talks.

“Because of this situation, we are hopeful yet vigilant for sudden twists that might occur due to intensified friction between the political factions,” he said at a forum attended mostly by students and teachers in Pasig City.

Murder trial

The Tiamzons were temporarily released from detention last month to participate in the resumption of the peace negotiations in Oslo on Aug. 22. They were among 22 NDF consultants requested to be released by the communist group.

The Tiamzons, said to be ranking members of the CPP-NPA’s central committee, were arrested two years and five months ago and were detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City while on trial for multiple murder.

Duterte urged: End US intervention

From the Philippine Star (Sep 24): Duterte urged: End US intervention

President Rodrigo Duterte is being urged to abrogate all agreements allowing US presence in the country.

These include the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the US-PH Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Doing such, according to human rights alliance Karapatan, would end US intervention.

Karapatan urged Duterte following the president’s rants in the last ASEAN Leaders’ Summit, showing the past and present atrocities of the US government and military in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.

Duterte earlier told the US soldiers in Mindanao to leave amid several documented reports of human rights violations by US troops.

The Department of National Defense, in a recent congressional budget deliberations said, there are around 107 US military personnel in Mindanao conducting various surveillance and drone operations.  They include 50 US Marines, 17 US Army, 20 US Special Forces, plus US Navy and civilian personnel.   

Drug war, a concept peddled by US

Throwing a sort of support for Duterte against the US, Karapatan said, “The US government is indeed a shameless hypocrite.”   

“While displaying concern for human rights in the Philippines in its criticism of Duterte, it has an undeniable record of perpetrating and instigating the worst forms of human and people’s rights violations in the country and the world over,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Aside from US intervention, the human rights group also said that the government should address the continuing drug-related killings.

“He (Duterte) should call for a stop to the killings, prosecute and hold accountable perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings, including those from the police,” Palabay said.

According to Karapatan, the government should establish meaningful reforms in the living conditions of people, especially the marginalized instead of focusing on everyday killings.

“The Duterte government should effect and ensure the provision of secure jobs with living wages, decent housing, free education and health care, and land to cultivate. It is through empowering the people and helping them provide for their needs that they will veer away from drugs,” Palabay said.

Allowing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to participate in the anti-narcotics campaign, including the revival of the Philippines Constabulary, is like bringing to life another monster responsible for violence, cruelty and all types of abuses during martial law, Palabay said.

According to Karapatan, the use of the military and other mercenaries in so-called wars against drugs is a concept that was peddled by the US government in countries such as Mexico and Colombia through the Merida Initiative.

“It is a form of military intervention which justifies American military and financial support for governments to maintain and protect US political and economic influence,” Palabay said.

It has been proven that US-funded drug wars have not eliminated the drug menace, but have targeted the civilian population, Palabay added.