Sunday, September 25, 2016

A ham-fisted hegemon

From the Banyan section of The Economist (Sep 24): A ham-fisted hegemon

IT IS already being described as the moment when America’s “pivot” to Asia was seen to have gone awry. Not the shock when Rodrigo Duterte, the new president of the Philippines, an American ally, caused titters by calling Barack Obama the “son of a whore”—but when he called a few days later for an end to American military assistance, including joint patrols in the South China Sea. “China is now in power,” he declared, “and they have military superiority in the region.”

China is chuffed. The Philippines, after all, had brought a landmark case against China’s activities in the South China Sea to an international tribunal at The Hague. In July the tribunal rubbished China’s territorial claims and criticised its construction of artificial islands. Outraged, China swore to ignore the ruling. America insisted it must be binding. Its interest in the South China Sea, it has always said, is in upholding international law. So imagine its embarrassment now. The vindicated plaintiff appears to be saying to China, “Go ahead, help yourself.”

The intention of the pivot was to reassure America’s allies in the region. Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of American forces across Asia and the Pacific, boasted last week that, in terms of American military hardware, “Everything that’s new and cool is coming to the region.” That includes the first of the Zumwalt class of destroyer, with looks straight out of “Star Trek” and a captain by the name of James Kirk. Yet although America has boosted its strength in the Pacific, its defence budget is severely constrained. Chinese military spending, meanwhile, has been growing by 10% a year, much of it on naval, satellite and cyberspace programmes designed to deny America access to the airspace and seas around China in any conflict, and to undermine America’s commitments to its Asian allies.

America still has the world’s strongest armed forces, and even the most fearsome military presence in East Asia. Yet the alchemy of power involves more than iron force, as Admiral Harris underlined by stressing another vital aspect of the pivot: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country free-trade pact foundering in Congress. In August the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, called TPP’s ratification “a litmus test” of American credibility in Asia. With both presidential candidates opposed to TPP, and Mr Obama’s chances of pushing it through the lame-duck Congress looking ragged, it is a test America will probably fail.

And yet it is still too early to call time on the pivot and declare China the next Asian hegemon. China remains far less adept as an alchemist of power—though not for want of trying. Its diplomacy towards its neighbours is full of “mutual respect”, “win-win” relationships and “common destiny”. President Xi Jinping makes much of his “One Belt, One Road” initiative to create infrastructure tying Eurasia closer to China by land and sea. Meanwhile China lavishes aid and state-led investment on smaller countries in South, Central and South-East Asia.

China’s munificent approach towards its periphery, as Evelyn Goh of the Australian National University points out, is supposed to make it harder for countries drawn into China’s economic embrace to maintain a system of regional security with America at the core. Some already see a new order asserting itself, with China again at the celestial heart of things, and neighbouring states orbiting like planets around it. Mr Duterte’s own pivot would seem to be a case in point.

It all sounds very benign, especially since China’s courtship emphasises a shared approach to development. That, in turn, rests on continuity in neighbouring states, reinforcing political elites and their existing priorities. Who would argue with that?

Well, for a start, anyone who opposes the prevailing political order in the courted countries. China’s close involvement with the ruling elites in such places only adds to local resentment. In 2011 widespread animosity, even within the regime, led the head of Myanmar’s military government, Thein Sein, to halt construction of a huge dam being built by Chinese state companies. The weakened junta subsequently ceded much of its power to Aung San Suu Kyi, who now heads an elected government, further diminishing China’s influence. An own goal, in other words.

In Sri Lanka last year the surprise electoral defeat of the strongman president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, happened in part because his family had openly courted Chinese investment and benefited from it. The defeat put China on the back foot and opened the way for Indian re-engagement with the island. Tiny Laos is increasingly unhappy at being a Chinese client state, with locals chafing at Chinese loggers and plantations. The closed, communist country gave Mr Obama a hearty welcome earlier this month.

Next door in Cambodia, the flagrant cronyism from which key Chinese businessmen profit may prompt a backlash as soon as the ageing and thuggish ruler, Hun Sen, is seen to be ailing. Even in the Philippines, a provocation in the South China Sea, such as the start of construction on the Scarborough Shoal, from which China dislodged the Philippine navy four years ago, might cause Mr Duterte to tack back to the United States. Ordinary Filipinos, after all, are wildly pro-American.
Losing sight, losing its cool
China has two blind spots, Ms Goh concludes. The first is its tendency to downplay what she calls the “autonomous agency” of small neighbours. Any discomfort with its embrace is mistakenly ascribed to the machinations of America. The second is its failure to grasp how aggressive behaviour—not least in the South China Sea—undermines China’s more benign efforts to win influence. The gap between growing material power and lagging status and clout is the “dissonance” that so frustrates Chinese leaders. And so the concern in the next few years is not that China gets its way, but that it doesn’t, and proceeds to vent its spleen.

Kidapawan mayor to MNLF: Stop recruiting in IP villages

From GMA News (Sep 26): Kidapawan mayor to MNLF: Stop recruiting in IP villages

Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista urged leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to stop recruiting indigenous peoples in remote villages to join their group.

MNLF members found recruiting and conducting training among the tribes in Junction and Sumbac villages will be arrested.

Evangelista signed a cease and desist order to implement the directive. In his letter, the mayor called on Monreal and MNLF members to cease and desist from performing the activity.

He also said there was no formal coordination with the city government, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The mayor said barangay officials told him that Datu Lito Monreal, said to be an MNLF leader maintaining a camp in Brgy. Guangan in Makilala, is allegedly spearheading the recruitment and training.

The group members, armed with high-powered firearms, supposedly enter the villages at night.

"It caused panic among constituents especially that they are bringing firearms when they enter the village at night," Evangelista said.

A validating team he sent to the barangays confirmed that the MNLF is conducting recruitment in the area.

Evangelista directed Lt. Col. Harold Argamosa of the Philippine Army's 39th Infantry Battalion and Supt. Leo Ajero, city police director, to ensure that the recruitment be stopped peacefully and in an orderly manner.

"We would like to make sure that the rights of our tribal constituents in these villages would not be exploited," Evangelista said.

MNLF: Activity is legal

Monreal however said that the recruitment activity is legal and has the permission of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.

He said in a radio interview that he has all the documents to prove that the activity is sanctioned by the MNLF National Command.

Monreal also said he plans to talk to Evangelista about the matter. However, Monreal did not say whether the recruitment activity will be stopped. .

Spirited next round of talks seen in Oslo

From the Philippine Star (Sep 26): Spirited next round of talks seen in Oslo

National Democratic Front officials Fidel Agcaoili and Randall Echanis on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 wave shirt at the peace forum in Davao City in support of the government's renewed peace negotiations with the communist party. / AJ Bolando

The National Democratic Front (NDF) yesterday said it expects “spirited and interesting” continuing talks with the government in Oslo, Norway from Oct. 6 to 10.

“The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)’s guide for establishing the people’s democratic government plus the program for a people’s democratic government of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines will serve as ‘guiding frameworks’ in crafting an agreement on social and economic reforms under the proposed framework and outline exchanged by the NDFP,” the organization said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the government and the NDF exchanged notes on the framework and outline for the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms, the second substantive agenda to be tackled in the next round of peace negotiations.

The exchange of the framework and outline was agreed upon during the meeting of the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms (RWC-SER) of both parties last Aug. 24.

The substantive agenda on social and economic reforms is next to be negotiated by the two parties according to the framework agreement set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

“We anticipate a spirited and interesting discussion on the frameworks, and at the same time expect it to be a bit contentious,” said NDF consultant and RWC-SER member Randall Echanis.

However, Echanis said “the interests, rights and welfare of the people and addressing the roots of the armed conflict should be of utmost importance.”
Echanis added that “under the NDFP proposal, the responsibility for implementation of the agreement shall be joint and separate.”

The guide for establishing the people’s democratic government is a 1972 document of the CPP that is being used by the NDF as basic law in setting up the organs of people’s political power in guerrilla bases and revolutionary territories.

According to the NDF proposal, among the main objectives are to carry out agrarian reform and national industrialization; advance the rights of the exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors of society; uphold, protect, defend and promote economic sovereignty; and protect the environment

Philippine Maoist leader wants to keep armed unit

From the Gulf Today (Sep 26): Philippine Maoist leader wants to keep armed unit

MANILA: The chief Communist rebel negotiator said they intend to retain their armed component the New People’s Army (NPA) instead of surrendering their arms once a peace treaty is signed with the government.

Luis Jalandoni, a former priest and the head of the National Democratic Front (NDF), pointed out the NPA members could be used to protect farmers and communities as well as serve as guards to protect the forests.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA will no longer fight, so what will we do?” Jalandoni told a media briefing in Davao City, referring to the possible signing of a peace pact with the government.

“The NPA,” he said, “can then be used to protect communities and farmers and can even serve as guards to protect forests.”

On Sunday, Malacanang Palace through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, has yet to react to Jalandoni’s statement.

The NDF is the political arm representing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed component the NPA in the resumption of their peace talks with the government in Oslo, Norway which has been brokering the negotiations.

On the other hand, the CPP and the NPA have been waging a Maoist-style insurgency against the government for more than 45 years, considered the longest in Asia and the Pacific.

On Thursday night, President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte disclosed he discussed with Jalandoni over dinner in a Davao City hotel the ongoing peace negotiations following reports that government and Maoist negotiators have been meeting in Manila to hasten the peace process.

Duterte did not reveal details of his talks with Jalandoni but said he would leave it up to the government and rebel negotiators on how to go about the formal negotiations that resumed in Oslo, Norway in August.

The two panels are to resume the second round of formal talks in Oslo from Oct.6 to 10 but former congressman Hernani Braganza, a member of the government panel, earlier disclosed they have been meeting the Maoist representatives in Manila to help hasten the negotiations.

Braganza disclosed that one of the issues they tackled in Manila was the possibility of extending the unilateral ceasefire declared while their representatives are talking peace in Oslo.

Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping enterprise poses bigger threat to Philippines’ neighbors

Posted to the Asia Times (Sep 25): Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping enterprise poses bigger threat to Philippines’ neighbors (By Noel Tarrazona)

As the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) gets richer through illegal activities like kidnapping and extortion, they are posing a security threat to Philippines and its neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia by using their ill-gotten wealth to acquire more arms, hire new recruits and bribe community leaders to make them turn a blind eye to their crimes.

According to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, ASG received as much as $1.1 million in ransom for the release of Norwegian captive Kjartan Sekkingstad who was kidnapped from a tourist resort in September 2015 along with a Filipina who has been freed.

Since 2012, the group has made $10 million from kidnapping and extortion activities. This is more than enough to ensure a luxurious life for the 400-odd armed members of the group operating in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

A month before the release of Sekkingstad, Duterte had announced $1.1 million ransom was delivered to the ASG. Sekkingstad’s release came on Sept 17.

In June, a Malaysian media group reported that the ASG received $3 million for the release of Malaysian brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29, their cousin Lau Jung Hien, and Wong Hung Sing, 34. The four sailors were kidnapped from a commercial barge in the waters off Pulau Ligitan on April 1 as they were returning to Tawau, Sabah, after sending a cargo of wood to Manila.

In October 2014, the ASG released German captives Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen in Patikul, Sulu, after the two were abducted near Borneo and held captive for six months.

ASG spokesman Abu Rami told Philippine media they received $5.6 million in ransom for the release of Okonek and Dielen. The Germany government denied paying any ransom but ASG circulated a video clip of the ransom money being handed over to them for the Germans’ release.

Among other known kidnapping cases by the ASG is that of Australian Warren Richard Rodwell who was abducted from his home in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, in December 2011. He was released in March 2013 after his family paid $160,000 in ransom.

In June 2012, Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani, Al-Arabiya’s TV bureau chief for Southeast Asia, and his two Filipino companions, Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero, were abducted in Jolo, Sulu. Vela and Letrero were freed in February 2013 while Atyani was released in December 2013 after the ransom was delivered to ASG.

In April this year, Gao Huayun, a Chinese national, and a Filipino resort worker Marcy “Mimi” Dayawan, were abducted from Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia and brought to Sulu by an armed group suspected to be the Abu Sayyaf. They were released on May 31.

Mindanao residents believe kidnappings have made ASG members instant millionaires.

Duterte’s policy to eradicate the ASG in their hometown is not an easy task despite the deployment of 10,000 trained soldiers as the group has been using their financial resources to mislead the military in their counter intelligence measures.

Major Filemon Tan, military spokesman, has been seeking the support of communities to cooperate with the government. But the ASG is giving a portion of their ransom money to community residents who are now having second thoughts about cooperating with the military.

Analyst Rommel Banloi, executive director of Terrorism and Violence think tank agency in Manila, says ransom payments are used by the group to buy arms, pay off members, hire new recruits and bribe community elders to make them keep quiet.

“They realized that kidnapping for ransom is an enterprise to finance their movement,” Banloi was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

An AFP report said ASG remained elusive for Philippine military authorities because of the group’ mastery of the terrain and the support they received from communities.

Philippines military has finally found a new ally, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in their fight against ASG. The MNLF, through the sub leadership of Commander Abraham Joel, is collaborating with the military with which it had signed a peace agreement in September 1996.

General Arnel dela Vega of the Sulu Task Force was quoted in the Philippine Daily Inquirer saying that he “hopes to see more collaboration from different stakeholders in the coming days to destroy the ASG.”

[Noel Tarrazona is a freelance international journalist. He can be reached]

Malaysian captive of Abu Sayyaf pleas for help in phone call to media

From the Straits Times (Sep 26): Malaysian captive of Abu Sayyaf pleas for help in phone call to media

Abu Sayyaf gunmen holding hostages including Mohd Ridzuan (second from right).

Abu Sayyaf gunmen holding hostages including Mohd Ridzuan (second from right). PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

An SOS message has been sent out by a Malaysian hostage held by Abu Sayyaf rebels, pleading for help as he has been starved and beaten up.

"We can't bear it anymore. We are in pain. All of us are sick. We have cuts on our bodies. We are weak. No food to eat. What's more, we are beaten. There are people who want to shoot us. Please help us."

Those were the words of Mr Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, one of the five Malaysians abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from Lahad Datu waters in the east coast of Sabah on July 18.

On Wednesday (Sept 21), Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami called The Star from Jolo island, southern Philippines, and passed the phone to Mr Mohd Ridzuan, 32, for him to send a message to the Malaysian government.

"I'm a hostage from Malaysia. My name is Mohd Ridzuan Ismail. And I'm asking for help from the government and my boss to rescue us as soon as possible," the sailor said in Bahasa Malaysia in an eight-minute conversation.
"We're suffering in Jolo island. We appeal to the Malaysian government and our boss to negotiate for our release as we want to return home as soon as possible," he said, sounding forlorn.
There is a possibility that Mohd Ridzuan might die in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf who had beheaded its first Malaysian hostage Bernard Then in November last year.

Mr Mohd Ridzuan, who is from Pahang, was kidnapped with four other Sabahan sailors - Tayudin Anjut, 45, Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, and Fandy Bakran, 26.

Their empty tugboat was found listing in waters off Dent Haven in the Tambisan area of Lahad Datu, close to the sea border with the Tawi-Tawi chain islands in the southern Philippines.

Mr Mohd Ridzuan said they were being held in a jungle.

"Only sometimes we are fed. Even for drinking water, we have to take water from the drain. If there is food, it is only rice to line the stomach," he said.

On whether they were beaten up, Mr Mohd Ridzuan said they were hit with a gun.

"We are frightened. This is not our place. They whack us and they told us that they can shoot us." At nightfall, he said the captives would be tied up.

"We sleep on the ground. And when it rains, we get soaked," he said.

Asked how many gunmen were keeping watch on them, Mr Mohd Ridzuan said "there were many, too many to count".

Initially, he said his captors would contact his boss but lately the vessel owner had stopped answering the calls.

"Please contact my boss and my family so that they can help us to get home as soon as possible. It has been two months. We don't know what else to do," he said.

A day before Mr Mohd Ridzuan's plea came, the Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami said in a telephone interview that the captors were asking for 100 million pesos (S$2.82 million) for the release of the Malaysians.

The hostages, he said, were kept in Luuk municipality in Jolo island by an Abu Sayyaf leader identified as Abu Khalif.

He said the hostages were separated into three groups.

"I'm told that the oldest hostage is sick," said the spokesman who identified his group as Al Harakatul Al Islamiyyah. He was probably referring to 62-year-old Abd Rahim.

Asked whether Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari could negotiate for the release of the victims, he said: "If he has 100 million pesos. If not, then no."

He also claimed there was no military presence where the hostages were being kept, despite reports of an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf by the Philippine military.

"Why don't they want to counter us?" he challenged.

On Sunday (Sept 25), the Abu Sayyaf spokesman sent two photographs of the hostages to The Star. He couldn't send the photographs earlier as Internet connection in Jolo town was slow.

It is believed that Malaysian authorities are working with their Filipino counterparts to secure the release of the captives.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun declined to discuss negotiation on the hostages, merely saying that they were "still waiting".

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said he would direct the police to intensify communication and negotiations with the kidnappers to free the victims.

The families of the hostages have kept away from the media. The only statement they have issued so far was that they were praying for the safe return of their loved ones.

Malaysian hostage says tortured, starved by Filipino captors

From the Malay Mail Online (Sep 26): Malaysian hostage says tortured, starved by Filipino captors

 Abu Sayyaf militants are beating and threatening to kill Malaysian hostages they are holding, alleged one such abductee who was allowed to speak to the media. According to a report by The Star newspaper today,

Mohd Ridzuan Ismail — one of the five Malaysians kidnapped by the terrorist group in July — also said their captors were torturing them and not feeding the captives.

 “We can’t bear it any more. We are in pain. All of us are sick. We have cuts on our bodies. We are weak. No food to eat. What’s more, we are beaten. There are people who want to shoot us. Please help us,” he was quoted as saying during a phone call to the newspaper.

The Abu Sayyaf kidnappers contacted The Star last week and made Mohd Ridzuan convey the message purportedly from Jolo Island in the Philippines where they are thought to be held.

The other Malaysians who were kidnapped by the terror group include Tayudin Anjut, Abd Rahim Summas, Mohd Zumadil Rahim and Fandy Bakran.

 “We’re suffering in Jolo Island. We appeal to the Malaysian government and our boss to negotiate for our release as we want to return home as soon as possible, Mohd Ridzuan was further quoted as saying.

The Abu Sayyaf group is reportedly demanding for 100 million pesos (RM8.5 million) to release the captives.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun declined to comment when contacted by The Star.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed reportedly said he will direct the police to intensify negotiations and communications with the kidnappers to free the victims.

Abductions of locals and tourists for ransom by Filipino gunmen continue with disturbing regularity in Sabah despite the formation of Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) to ostensibly improve border and maritime security in the state.

The incidents were enough for countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand to issue travel warnings and advisories for their citizens who were considering visiting Sabah.

Malaysia officially does not recognise such ransom demands, but doubts were raised after the families of victims from a previous incident said they raised RM12 million to ransom the four Sarawakian sailors who were abducted on April 1.

Lorenzana to open this year's ADAS exhibit

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): Lorenzana to open this year's ADAS exhibit

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will officially open the 2nd edition of ADAS, Defense, Security and Crisis Management Exhibit which will take place from Sept. 28 to 30 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City.

ADAS 2016 is the only defense and security exhibit in the Philippines which is again fully endorsed and supported by the DND, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other related government agencies.

The Philippine National Police have for the first time, also added their support and endorsement to ADAS 2016.

This year’s show has grown by over 40 percent as compared to 2014, and there will be over 140 exhibitors from 25 countries showcasing the latest cutting edge equipment and technologies.

Anchoring the international lineup are bellwether companies such as Airbus Defense and Space, ASELSAN, Bell Helicopter, Brahmos Aerospace, DuPont, ELBIT, Israel Aerospace Industry, Kia Motors, KAI, Leonardo, MBDA, MKU, RAFAEL, SAAB and HARRIS, to name but a few.

A major feature of the show will be the seven national and group country pavilions from Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Philippines, Singapore and the USA, with the Israeli and Korean pavilions requiring impressive exhibition areas for this year.

Given the extensive global industry participation, ADAS 2016 will again attract a large gathering of procurement specialists, system integrators, suppliers, and evaluators.

It is anticipated this year’s show will attract 10,000 professional and trade visitors which will underscore the statement that ADAS 2016 will be the biggest defense, security and disaster management event in the Philippines.

PAF in the market for PHP12.8-M worth of UH-IH spares

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): PAF in the market for PHP12.8-M worth of UH-IH spares

In line with efforts to ensure that it has sufficient spare parts inventory, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of PHP12,895,560.25 for the acquisition of components needed for the maintenance of its Bell UH-IH "Huey" combat utility helicopters.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for Sept. 28, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Submission and opening of bids is on Oct. 11, 9 a.m. at the same venue, said PAF Bids and Awards Committee chair Brig. Gen. Nicolas Parilla.

The PAF operates around 20 UH-IH and seven UH-IDs for troop, cargo, humanitarian and disaster relief, combat missions.

PNP presents awards to PHL’s 10 outstanding cops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 26): PNP presents awards to PHL’s 10 outstanding cops

The Philippine National Police (PNP), together with the Metrobank Foundation and the Rotary Club of New Manila East on Monday gave recognition to the country’s 10 outstanding policemen for their dedicated and exemplary service.

PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa led in the awarding of plaque and check for the 10 “COPS” (Country's Outstanding Police Officers in Service) during the flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The 10 COPs were each given a check amounting to PHP500,000, a medallion from the Metrobank Foundation and a plaque from the Rotary Club of New Manila East.

In his speech, Dela Rosa urged the 10 COPS to be even more inspired to perform their job well for the country.

The 10 COPS awardees are Senior Supts. Susan Jalla and Mario Rapiza, Jr., Supt. Jemuel Siason, Chief Insp. Ryan Manongdo, SPO3 Ezrael Lantingan, SPO3 Hamidhan Tebbeng, SPO2 Jeffrey Ojao, SPO1 Mhay Rubio, PO3 Nida Gregas and PO2 Fatima Lanusa.

Meanwhile, a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between the PNP and the Metrobank Foundation for the search of the next COPS awardees in 2017.

Duterte says US may back coup to oust him

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 25): Duterte says US may back coup to oust him

President Duterte raised the possibility of a US-backed coup d’etat against him due to his pursuit of an independent foreign policy that would stop the country’s reliance on the American government and at the same time warming up diplomatic relations with China.

Saying if ever the US turns its back on the Philippines due to his administration’s war on drugs, which the US and its allies criticized as employing methods that violates human rights, Duterte said Russia and China will definitely welcome him.

Duterte indicated that he might even send Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa to the US to be his  rapporteur on the human rights violations against African Americans in reply to the United Nations (UN) and US government demands to allow human rights groups to probe his war on drugs.

Duterte, however, said that Washington might back coup plots against him.

“That’s how America is. Pointing at us... Later on the Americans may instigate  coup d’etat, coup d’etat here,” Duterte said Friday in a speech in General Santos City.

“So what if they don’t want us? There is China and Russia, Bato (Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa is going there,” the President added, saying that he is looking forward to strengthen the Philippines’ mutual security ties with Moscow and Beijing.

Last Sept. 11, Duterte said he would prefer American special forces  who have been advising local troops battling Muslim extremists to leave Mindanao saying the existence of the foreign soldiers were counter-productive in the government’s peace effort in the region.

Duterte made the statement a week after he called US President Barack Obama “a son of a whore”, causing Obama to cancel their scheduled bilateral meeting at the Asean summit in Laos.
Adanar also warned of destab

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar earlier warned of destabilization efforts, including the possibility of a coup, against the Duterte administration.

But as for the left-wing National Democratic Front (NDF), such conspiracy theories that the US is out to oust Duterte is due to his leftist tendencies.

Top NDF leader and suspected Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chairman Benito Tiamzon said certain elements in the military are against the administration’s peace negotiations with the communist movement, which was a view supposedly fueled by the US government.

“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,” Tiamzon said in a forum with students of the Rizal High School in Pasig City.

Historically, Duterte’s fears are possible as he has repeatedly noted the predicaments endured by vocal anti-US leaders in the Middle East, particularly Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Moamar Qaddafi of Libya, who were both ousted and eventually killed, allegedly by American infiltrators.

Notably, Bolivian President Evo Morales, in 2008, bared a coup attempt against his government that’s accordingly sponsored by the US whose Ambassador to Bolivia at that time was Philip Goldberg.

Goldberg, who was eventually expelled from Bolivia, is the current US Ambassador to the country and has been a frequent subject of Duterte’s personal tirades, even calling him once as a “gay son of a whore”.

Following a series of expletives against Washington and US President Barack Obama, this is not the first time that Duterte has voiced his intentions to improve relations with US rivals Russia and China.
Earlier this month, the Commander in Chief instructed members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to go to Russia and China to learn new techniques in carrying out aerial warfare.

“There are countries that offered us so many, they told me to just simply choose from them. I’d like to tell you, some of our guys there, you can also go there if you want. I’d like to ask (Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana) to chaperon you, technical people, to tour Russia and China and look for what’s more efficient (military hardware and training),” Duterte said last September 13.

Duterte even complained earlier of the country receiving “recycled” weapons, ammunitions and aircrafts sold to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) but which it can’t use, saying the acquisition of these were “waste of funds.”

“You know, I’ll tell you something… We are a recipient of so many things from America. Thank you for your generosity, but they sold us two—only two F50-A (aircrafts). It’s F50-A, but they never gave us the missiles and the bullets and the cannons to fire from that. That’s why when I was sworn in as Presidents I told them, ‘Do not waste our money on that’,” the President said before the Filipino community in Jakarta earlier this month.

Noise gets louder

Andanar had said earlier some Filipino-Americans in New York are hatching a plan to oust President Duterte by January next year.

He said a Cabinet member, who is in New York and whom he refused to identify, was told of the plan by another Fil-Am who attended the same function.

“I was just talking to somebody in New York now who is also a member of the Cabinet – I won’t mention his name. But he also heard of the Fil-Ams in New York who are planning. They are hatching a plan to oust the President by January 2017,” Andanar said on radio.

He added that he even asked the official if he has evidence to prove it or if this is another hearsay.
“There are stories, there are speculations. But at the same, the surveys will show otherwise because Filipinos in the Philippines are like what you said – more than 90 percent support our President. But then again, if you have all of this news going around internationally, it does not help,” Andanar said.

He said any destabilization initiative would not help the government, considering that Duterte is also being criticized for the extrajudicial killings brought about by the anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano also cited a Plan B of the Liberal Party (LP) which targets the ousting of Duterte and to install Vice President Leni Robredo in his place.

He said it centers on discrediting the Duterte administration especially in relation to the number of killings that has reached more than 3,000 in the war against illegal drugs.

Robredo and the LP described Cayetano’s disclosures as “farfetched.”

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque had warned about the possible plot of the United States to unseat Duterte.

Roque cited Duterte’s scathing remarks against Obama before they met in the ASEAN summit in Laos early this month, and the “coincidence” of a purported witness pinning down Duterte over alleged summary killings.

“The Senate testimony came immediately after the President confirmed he wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy,” Roque observed, referring to Sen. Leila de Lima’s witness, alleged self-confessed Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato.

“It is too much of a coincidence that the testimony intended to pave the way for his ouster came immediately after President Duterte declared his independent stance,” said Roque.

Another factor Roque raised was the background of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who has not yet been replaced despite Duterte’s bias against him when he criticized him over the rape-slay of a female Australian missionary in the Davao jail 1988, which was made during the campaign period.

“Remember that US Ambassador Goldberg was kicked out of Bolivia for stirring a coup,” Roque disclosed, noting that “Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled Goldberg out of the country in 2008.”

Warming of ties slows Beijing’s Panatag Shoal plan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 26): Warming of ties slows Beijing’s Panatag Shoal plan

For several years, Chinese Coast Guard vessels and fishing trawlers have hovered around the reef, known to the world as Scarborough Shoal and to Filipinos as Panatag Shoal. Giant dredges, suitable for building a military base, were recently rumored to be on their way there.

But the election in May of a new President in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who has since showered threats and epithets on the United States, has changed China’s calculation.

That does not mean China has given up on the long-term goal of what could be a vast military base on Panatag Shoal. But for the moment, the plans appear to be postponed.

More important for Beijing right now, Chinese analysts say, is friendship with Mr. Duterte and an effort to wean his country away from its treaty alliance with Washington.

Transforming a shoal right under his nose would ruin any chance of that, these analysts say.
Irrational move
“It would be irrational to build it into a fortress now,” said Zhang Baohui, a professor of international relations at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

“The government would like the Philippines to at least remain neutral in the rivalry between the United States and China. Now at least they have a chance,” he said.

In July, an international tribunal in The Hague delivered a harsh rebuke to China’s activities in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, not far from the Philippines.

But China has ignored the decision.

The Obama administration praised the ruling as legally binding but refrained from trumpeting it.

The reasoning was that little could be done, short of risking military confrontation, to stop the construction of facilities like hangars for fighter jets and buildings for radar and surface-to-air missiles.
Military bases
Three of seven artificial islands in the Spratlys are designed as military bases, the American military says.

Among them, Zamora Reef (Subi Reef) has a harbor bigger than Pearl Harbor, and another, Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), has a land perimeter nearly the size of the District of Columbia’s, a submarine warfare officer in the US Navy, Thomas Shugart, said in a paper issued this past week.

Together, the three islands could probably accommodate as many as 17,000 military personnel and support aircraft able to deter or counter an American military intervention, said Shugart, who is serving as a senior military fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington but writes as an independent analyst.
Even bigger prize
Panatag Shoal, with a deep lagoon covering nearly 155 square kilometers, offers an even bigger prize as a potential Chinese military base.

“The picture would become even worse were China to build and militarize a similar island base at Scarborough Shoal,” Shugart wrote.

Both China and the Philippines claim the shoal, which the United States used as a firing range during the Vietnam War. Until 2012, Chinese and Filipino fishermen operated there.

Then China seized the shoal, and Chinese Coast Guard vessels have chased away Filipino fishermen ever since.
Overlapping claims
Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh called on the claimants to exercise self-restraint and solve the disputes by peaceful means.

Pham said the parties should abide by international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and respect diplomatic and legal processes.

Just 280 km from the Philippine coast and Subic Bay, where the United States stations fighter jets and naval vessels, Panatag Shoal is in a particularly strategic place.

Its conversion into a military base would enable China to project military power across the South China Sea from a triangle of bases formed by the shoal, the Spratly archipelago to its south and the Paracel Islands farther to the west and closer to the Chinese mainland, Shugart said.

Anticipation regarding China’s plans for Panatag Shoal has been building since March, when, at a meeting in Washington, US President Barack Obama warned President Xi Jinping of China against taking action that could activate American treaty obligations to the Philippines, said a senior US state department official.

In the heated arena of South China Sea politics in China, the shoal—known as Huangyan Island here—has become a touchstone for both hawks and more moderate voices.

Two fiery speeches at campuses in southern China in July by a popular current affairs television personality, Jin Canrong of Renmin University in Beijing, drew support from online chat forums.
Construction next year
He said that China would begin construction on Panatag Shoal next year, and that despite the warnings from America, “the spirit of President Xi is, ‘We must do it.’”

Jin described piling sand on coral at Panatag as an ambitious project that would take four years but said that China needed to complete it to achieve de facto military control over the South China Sea.

In an interview after his speeches, Jin said the tribunal ruling would have no effect on China’s plans for Panatag Shoal.

Still, Mr. Duterte’s openness to talking with China, and his cantankerous attitude toward the Americans, would probably delay the construction plans for Panatag Shoal, Jin said.

A pause, he said, would allow for talks between China and Southeast Asian nations on a so-called code of conduct to lay down rules of behavior in the South China Sea.

On the heels of Mr. Duterte’s election, China and the Philippines began preparatory talks last month at a meeting in Hong Kong between former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos and Wu Shicun, the president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a Chinese government think tank.

The spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said on Friday that China looked forward to Mr. Duterte’s visiting Beijing soon.

Russia eyes military deal, transfer of technology to Philippines

From Update.Ph (Sep 25): Russia eyes military deal, transfer of technology to Philippines

Officials from the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) discussed with Philippine Embassy officials in Moscow possible Philippines-Russia military cooperation which may include acquisition of Russian military equipment and technology, September 16.

Among the topics that were discussed include different modes of financing, transfer of technology, investment in domestic military production and servicing, training, and after-sales service and maintenance.

Russian officials include Mr. Sergey I. Buganov, Chief of the First Department on Military and Technical Cooperation with Foreign States, and Mr. Valery A. Orel, Chief of the Section on Military-Technical Technical Cooperation with Countries of the Asia-Pacific Region.

Philippine Ambassador to Russia, Carlos D. Sorreta, and Third Secretary and Vice Consul Luningning Camoying, the Political Officer of the Embassy, met with the Russian officials.

“We welcomed the briefing, which was quite revealing, particularly as to the extent that Russia is able to interact with a large number of countries in this field and the different mechanisms that are employed, including in terms of the acquisition and transfer of Russian military equipment,” Ambassador Sorreta said.

“This is all part of our job to explore opportunities that could contribute to our government’s efforts to modernize our defense capabilities,” the Ambassador added.

The briefing followed the recent visit to Moscow of a Department of National Defense Delegation led by Undersecretary for Finance and Materiel, Raymundo De Vera Elefante, which met with top Russian defense officials, including officials of the FSMTC.

DOJ to send high level panel of prosecutors to Marcelino plea hearing at Manila RTC on Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): DOJ to send high level panel of prosecutors to Marcelino plea hearing at Manila RTC on Monday

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will send a high level panel of prosecutors on Monday to the Manila court hearing of the plea of Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino seeking to dismiss the drug case filed against him.

The panel is composed of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, Senior Asst. State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera and Asst. State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez to present its case against Marcelino and his co-accused, Chinese national Yan Yi Shou, represented by Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta at 9:30 a.m., Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 17.

The court will specifically hear the motion of Marcelino and Yan seeking deferment of issuance of arrest warrant and arraignment and also the dismissal of the illegal drug possession charges against them.

Prior to the DOJ’s new ruling, PDEA and the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (PNP-AIDG) filed a Joint Omnibus Motion dated June 27, 2016 assailing the previous DOJ resolution which dismissed all the charges against Marcelino and Shou for insufficiency of evidence.

In a 28-page resolution dated Sept. 15, 2016, the DOJ, through Assistant State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez said, “Wherefore, premises considered, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution dated May 23, 2016 which dismissed the complaint against the respondents for violations of Section 8 (Manufacture of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals), in relation to Section 26 (Attempt or Conspiracy), and Section 11 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals), Article II of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002”, as amended by Republic Act 10640, is hereby Partially Granted”.

The PAO argued that there was no probable cause to indict the accused and that issuance of the arrest warrant "would have dire consequences upon them who will again be deprived of their liberty despite the weakness of the evidence against them."

The PAO further argued that the arrests were illegal because it was not established that Marcelino and Yan have exercised control over the premises where the illegal drugs were found.

In seeking the dismissal of the case, PAO argued that The chain of custody of seized drugs was also not "properly preserved and safeguarded."

Lastly, the PAO pointed out that it was also not in Marcelino's character to engage in illegal drugs as he was a known intelligence operative.

Marcelino and Yan, alias Randy, insisted that their arrest in a shabu facility in Sta. Cruz, Manila last Jan. 21 was illegal because they were conducting an intelligence operation at that time.

They said they were only performing their lawful duties at the time of their arrest, when anti-narcotics agents seized nearly 77 kilograms of shabu.

It cited his "commendable work of running after drug lords and shutting down drug laboratories have taken a huge toll and caused insurmountable losses to those unprincipled government officials who make a living out of the suffering of others."

Marcelino has again became controversial after embattled Sen. Leila de Lima publicly claimed that he was being coerced into tagging her in illegal drugs trade - a claim that Marcelino himself immediately denied.

Earlier, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II denied Sen. De Lima's claim, noting that he does not even know that the resolution earlier clearing Marcelino of drug charges has been reversed by his department.

“I did not even know about that resolution until I read it in the news,” Aguirre added.

DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes explained that the resolution of the motion for reconsideration filed by the Philippine National Police-Anti Illegal Drugs Group and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency did not come up to the level of the Secretary's office.

“Procedurally, it does not reach the level of Secretary Aguirre. The Office of the Secretary is not involved in such case,” Balmes said in Filipino.

It was Assistant State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez who signed the resolution reversing the June 21 resolution of the DOJ clearing Marcelino and his Chinese companion Yan Yi Shou of the drug charges.

The resolution was approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon.
Balmes also denied de Lima’s claim that they are pressuring Marcelino to testify against the senator.

AFP sees no destabilization threats in the offing

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): AFP sees no destabilization threats in the offing

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has said it is still to detect or monitor any group or groups planning to destabilize the government.

This was stressed on Sunday by AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.

"We see no groups nor interest groups that might destabilize the government," he added.

Arevalo also assured the public that the AFP will not be a party to such attempts as the present-day military men and women are more professional and development-oriented.

"We have learned from our past experiences and we don't want to repeat what has happened in the past as adventurism or destabilization efforts often damaged our economy and the country. We have already picked up economically and the AFP would not want to take part on those activities that would disrupt these developments," he added.

"We are brokering peace with all quarters. It's quite remote for the AFP to be the one to cause destabilization," Arevalo stressed.

Government team 'ready for peace'

From the Sun Star-Pampanga (Sep 25): Government team 'ready for peace'

The entire Philippine government team is all set for the next round of negotiation in Oslo, Norway, on October 6 to 10, an official said Sunday.

“All the Reciprocal Working Groups are functioning well and the Reciprocal Working Committees have conducted meetings too. I think it's all systems go for the next round. We're ready for peace,” said Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, League of Cities of Philippines national president and adviser of the Philippine Government Peace Panel for the talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP was stalled during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III and was revived when President Rodrigo Duterte gave the go signal for the release on bail of several top-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) who are said to be advisers of the NDFP for the negotiations.

Among them are Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, who are said to be the CPP chairman and secretary general, respectively.

The Tiamzon couple and other CPP leaders were released several days before the first round of talks last August 22 to 28, also held in Oslo, Norway. They traveled to the Norwegian capital and participated in the talks and went back to country a few days after. They are expected to join the next round of peace negotiation.

The CPP and NDFP, together with its armed wing, the New People's Army, have been waging a nearly five-decade war in the Philippine countryside. They are pushing for genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, independent foreign policy and other programs.

"President Duterte has acknowledged that basic reforms must be implemented. In fact, the choice of progressive individuals in key social reform departments of government was a clear indication that the President is serious in addressing the roots causes of this protracted war,” Pamintuan said.

Bulatlat: Martial law or not, need for radical change remains

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Sep 25): Martial law or not, need for radical change remains

“The Marcos dictatorship failed to crush the revolutionary movement. …and no one can defeat it as long as the societal bases and factors for their existence remain.”

NDFP peace consultants join the commemoration of martial law n Mendiola on Sept. 21 (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

NDFP peace consultants join the commemoration of martial law n Mendiola on Sept. 21 (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

As the nation commemorated martial law declaration on Sept. 21, various groups recalled not only its sins, but also how the Filipino people valiantly put up a fight by waging a people’s war, which still continues to rage in the Philippine countryside.

In the rally at foot of Mendiola Bridge in Manila, progressive groups stressed how the socio-political and economic structure and the resulting poverty and oppression remain as 44 years ago. Thus, the same radical struggle persists.

“The Marcos dictatorship failed to crush the revolutionary movement. No reactionary government after Marcos succeeded to crush the revolutionary movement, and no one can defeat it as long as the societal basis and factors for their existence remain,” said Renato Reyes Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general.

The afternoon gathering proved such point, as several consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) went on stage. Almost all introduced themselves as student activists who went underground and carried out revolutionary tasks in the countryside after Marcos declared martial law. The NDFP consultants were released from detention to join the GRP-NDFP peace talks in August.

The appearance of the consultants stirred cheers, such as “Long live the national democratic revolution!”

Danny dela Fuente, spokesperson of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), recalled that as a youth activist in the First Quarter Storm (FQS) student protests of 1972, they sang songs about revolution and chanted slogans, such as “Join the NPA!” – just a stone’s throw away from the President’s office in MalacaƱang Palace, and amid rumors of martial law declaration.
Such a slogan sent a chill to the spine of the Marcos Dictatorship, as it still does to those who benefit from the status quo.

With the GRP-NDFP peace talks being pushed by President Duterte, progressive and underground groups alike push for fundamental socio-economic and political reforms to address the roots of poverty.

“For the first time, and under the Duterte government, a window of opportunity opened to discuss meaningful reforms…which gives us a chance to discuss what kind of changes we want, and how to attain these fundamental changes,” said Dela Fuente.

Armed struggle as an option

The martial law period, for all its darkness, still had its bright side, as the revolutionary movement provided an option for the people to fight. As the contradictions sharpened between classes in society, so did the political stand of many youths, who made a crucial decision that changed their lives forever.

“Ako’y nagpapasalamat sa martial law dahil ito ang nagtulak sa akin para maghanap ng mga kasama at sumapi sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan (I am thankful for martial law, because it pushed me to look for comrades and join the New People’s Army),” said consultant Jaime Soledad, in sarcasm, yet in all honesty.

Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, one of the NDFP consultants, told the crowd she is “a product of the FQS,” an activist in the pre-martial law era.

“When martial law was declared, we were hunted by government, so we went underground…I was imprisoned four times, but I carried on,” she said. Bocala now has grandchildren. “Pero tuloy pa rin dahil di pa nalulutas ang problema, ng mga anak ko, ng mga apo ko at ng buong sambayanang Pilipino,” she said.

Another peace consultant, Loida Magpatoc, said she was only 13 when martial law was declared. Her family were settlers from Bohol who were brought to Mindanao, where they faced hardship and oppression during martial law. But things changed when NPA members came to their community and organized the people to fight for their rights. Inspired by revolution, she joined the underground movement when she came of age, at 19.

“It was there where I fell in love, and had a family,” she told the crowd. In 1983, she was pregnant with her first child when she was arrested and detained. In spite of her vulnerable condition, she was not spared from torture, she recounted. After getting freed, she went back to organize in the countryside, until she was arrested again in 2013.

“Imbes na mawasak ng martial law ang armadong pakikibaka, lalong lumakas, lalong lumaganap (Instead of getting crushed by martial law, the armed struggle even became stronger and widespread),” said peace consultant Renato Baleros from Leyte. He said the revolutionary movement spread like wildfire up to the remote corners of Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao.

(L-R) NDFP peace consultants Ruben Saluta, Concha Araneta-Bocala, Renato Baleros, Loida Magpatoc and Jaime Soledad and recentaly released political prisoner Alex Birondo join the protest marking the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

(L-R) NDFP peace consultants Ruben Saluta, Concha Araneta-Bocala, Renato Baleros, Loida Magpatoc and Jaime Soledad and recentaly released political prisoner Alex Birondo join the protest marking the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

The national democratic revolution follows lessons in history, that only a strong, organized force can upturn the old, entrenched, oppressive societal structures, so that the 99 percent gains political and economic power to build a new one that serves their interest.

“Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one,” German revolutionary Karl Marx once wrote.

That new and better society is on the hearts and minds of the crowd at the Mendiola rally, which was a motley mix of grey-haired, aging activists from the 70s and later decades, and the younger, energetic ones of today. It may take several more decades, but youth and student leaders pledged to carry on all forms of struggle, as they thanked their political elders who first trod the path.
In the countryside, revolutionary forces also commemorated martial law and its failure to quell the revolutionary tide of change.

“Today, the NPA has surpassed all other people’s armies in Philippine history in strength and scope of operations. It is nurtured by a revolutionary mass base that has developed comprehensively and has given reality to vibrant people’s organizations and organs of revolutionary political power,” said Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“These developments are the bases of economic and political agenda presented at negotiations that seek to attain just and lasting peace. While waging people’s war, the NPA always remain open to the possibility of a political settlement of the roots of the civil war through peace negotiations,” Madlos said.

Curfew in Esszone extended to Oct 10

From the Daily Express (Sep 25): Curfew in Esszone extended to Oct 10

Kota Kinabalu: The curfew order in waters of seven districts in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), which ended on Saturday, has been extended from today (Sunday) until Oct 10.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said with the enforcement of the curfew order, residents in the affected areas are required to be indoors from 7pm and 5am daily.

He said the curfew involved waters off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran districts.

The curfew order is extended to ensure the waters in the Esszone are not encroached upon by armed gunmen who could threaten the safety of international researchers and tourists visiting the resort islands in the area, he said in a statement Saturday.

Abdul Rashid said based on information received, the group from southern Philippines which carried out kidnapping for ransom and the Abu Sayyaf militant group were still trying to sneak into the Esszone waters to commit cross-border crime.

He said the curfew order was also extended to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Sabah residents in the Esszone area. It is also to facilitate monitoring and enforcement over movements and give a safe feeling to chalet operators and fishermen through the presence of the security forces in the area, he added.

He said all district police chiefs in the Esszone area had been given authority to issue permit to those applying for fishing activities and to pass through the curfew areas in emergency situations.

Bulatlat: NDFP to propose solutions to roots of poverty in 2nd round of peace talks

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Sep 24): NDFP to propose solutions to roots of poverty in 2nd round of peace talks

“This is the meat of the problem, the basic suffering of the people, which is connected to their stomach.”

L-R: NDFP consultants who are part of the reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms: Kennedy Bangibang, Ruben Saluta, Adelberto Silva, Alan Jazmines, Loida Magpatoc, Ed Villegas, Renato Baleros and Jaime Soledad (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

L-R: NDFP consultants who are part of the reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms: Kennedy Bangibang, Ruben Saluta, Adelberto Silva, Alan Jazmines, Loida Magpatoc, Ed Villegas, Renato Baleros and Jaime Soledad (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

Peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said they will forward proposals to resolve the roots of poverty and the country’s economic backwardness in the second round of talks with government in Oslo, Norway from Oct. 6 to 10.

This round’s GRP-NDFP talks will tackle proposals for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), which is expected to be “a bit contentious,” as the NDFP proposal involves radical reforms, such as breaking land monopoly and the domination in industries by private and foreign companies, reversal of decades-old exploitative laws and economic policies, and renegotiation of the country’s foreign debt.

In a press conference on Sept. 23, members of NDFP reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms (NDFP-RWC-SER) said their proposed objectives for Caser are:

1. Carry out genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization
2. Advance the rights of exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors
3. Uphold economic sovereignty
4. Conserve the national patrimony and protect the environment.

These are part of the 12-point NDFP program, which the revolutionary movement has been implementing in the past four decades in its revolutionary territories.

“This is the meat of the problem, the basic suffering of the people, which is connected to their stomach,” said Alan Jazmines, vice chairperson of the NDFP reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms (NDFP-RWC-SER).

The two parties exchanged their “proposed framework and outline” for Caser earlier this week.

“We anticipate a spirited and interesting discussion on the frameworks, and at the same time expect it to be a bit contentious,” said Randall Echanis, NDFP-RWC-SER member, in a statement.

Agrarian revolution

Under the NDFP’s proposed Caser, all agricultural lands and means of production shall be expropriated, but compensation will only be given to landlords who spoused progressive views toward land reform. Land shall be distributed free to tillers, who will be encouraged to form peasant cooperatives.

Jazmines said the main basis for the revolutionary movement’s growth and the development of its political and socio-economic program is the power gained by organizing peasants who compose majority of the population, and implementing land reform, or “agrarian revolution.”

Renato Boleros, another peace consultant, said they have been implementing agrarian revolution for decades in the countryside, as a revolutionary government is established from the level of the village up to the province. Its minimum program involves lowering of land rent, usury rates and prices of farm inputs, raising farm workers’ wages, increasing farm production through cooperative farming. Its maximum program aims for free land distribution.

In Mindanao, Loida Magpatoc said this maximum program has been implemented in former logging areas, where destructive companies were driven out by the New People’s Army (NPA). Political organs of power led the distribution of lands, and management of areas, whether for agriculture or for reforestation. The revolutionary government also resolves cases of conflict between landless settlers and peasants, disputes in ancestral land claims.

The implementation of agrarian revolution brings forth livelihood, increased productivity, unity and cooperation, and even raises the standard of living in the revolutionary territories, said consultant Jaime Soledad. But when state forces learn of such gains, they subject the people to military attacks.

In Leyte, as in other areas, soldiers destroy cooperative stores, fishponds and farm equipment that people acquired through their revolutionary efforts. Worse, families and communities were massacred, Soledad said.

National industrialization

The NDFP proposal for Caser aims for “maximum self-sufficiency” in industrial production of the country’s needs, harnessing the raw natural resources and skilled labor.

NDFP consultants Alan Jazmines and Ed Villegas (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

NDFP consultants Alan Jazmines and Ed Villegas (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

“We can stand on our own,”said another NDFP-RWC-SER member, Ed Villegas. He said the NDFP draft had identified 19 industries that should be controlled by government, including oil, mining and steel.

He lamented that the Philippines is rich in resources and people, but these are being exploited by other countries and big businesses. The country had been tied up to importing goods instead of manufacturing it locally, and exporting labor and raw natural resources.

“Bakit dayuhan nagkokontrol sa mineral, aber?…We need to be nationalistic. If we don’t act now, our resources will soon be wiped out,” Villegas said.

He cited that skilled Filipino workers dominate the oil industry in the Middle East, and they can come home to help run the country’s own oil rigs under national industrialization. The country is also the fourth top builder of ships, but the industry is controlled by Koreans and Japanese, he noted.

“Shipping industry will support the fishing industry and other commercial activities,” Villegas said.
Labor organizer and consultant Adel Silva said national industrialization can reverse the worsening state of the economy, unemployment and consequently, the exodus of OFWs, now estimated at 15 million, or 15 percent of the population.

Under national industrialization, natural resources will be utilized for industries, jobs will be created, and many opportunities for economic growth will be created.

Villegas said resources for national industrialization will come from various government funds, such as foreign debt payment and the lump sum “pork barrel” fund in the national budget. Government funds will also be maximized when corruption is finally stopped.

A long process

Silva said President Duterte’s strong assertion of Philippine independence has deserved the NDFP’s “respect and praise.” Duterte’s firm stand is needed for government to implement Caser, as it entails breaking foreign domination in Philippine economy.

NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva and Ruben Saluta (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva and Ruben Saluta (Photo courtesy of Pher Pasion/Pinoy Weekly)

“We are a country that can stand on our own,” Silva said. “We will chart our path of independent development, relating to other countries on mutually beneficial grounds.”

Silva added that the Philippines can seek alliance and trade relations with countries, like Venezuela to source oil supply.

Villegas brushed off fears that the country will become “isolationist” and be broken off from the “global village.” He said these are concepts propped up by those who dominate countries like the Philippines and are against its self-sustained development.

“North Korea: it barely has natural resources, and they isolated it. But it built a nuclear weapon, and now the US is so afraid,” Villegas said.

Jazmines said they anticipate a long process in the implementation of these fundamental socio-economic reforms, but radical reforms are needed to reverse worsening poverty. Although people can get jobs abroad or work at home in industries like business process outsourcing (BPO) and electronics, he said, these are not enough.

“We cannot continue with superficial solutions. There will be major confrontation, but we look at it as a process,” Jazmines said.

Echanis said the NDFP proposal for Caser’s implementation “shall be joint and separate.” In entering into the agreement, the government will be guided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, while the NDFP, by its Program for a People’s Democratic Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Guide for Establishing the People’s Democratic Government.

The NDFP proposal also refers to “universally accepted principles and instruments of international law,” such as the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the 1948 International Labor Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.

The first batch of peace consultants will leave for Oslo tomorrow, Sept. 25.

Soldiers to teach kids dangers of illegal drugs

From the Manila Times (Sep 24): Soldiers to teach kids dangers of illegal drugs

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has commissioned 29 members of the Philippine Army to teach grade school pupils the dangers of illegal drugs.

The 29 soldiers are all members of the Civil Military Operations Group (CMOG), an elite unit of the Philippine Army (PA) that specializes in conducting psychological and psycho-social operations or “hearts and minds” campaign in the communities with the aim of winning the support of the civilian population.

They will augment the 13 police officers of the Manila Police District who are already conducting lectures in the city’s public elementary schools.

On Friday, the 29 Army teachers graduated from the 10-day training under the auspices of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), a private group whose advocacy is to educate young children on how to avoid drug addiction and how to become responsible citizens.

Estrada said training Army soldiers to become certified DARE instructors is part of his plan to expand the implementation of the drug abuse prevention program not only in Manila but also in the entire country.

“This is a historic moment. For the first time in the Philippines, the soldiers have joined the ranks of DARE officers. Our soldiers will be our forward force to spread this anti-drug education nationwide,” the mayor said during the soldiers’ graduation ceremony at Manila City Hall Friday.

The soldiers will be teaching DARE lessons to Grades 5 and 6 students in all Manila public schools.

“With your help, we can now assure the future of our children. And by teaching them how to say ‘No’ to drugs at an early age, we can also save the future of our nation,” Estrada said.

The mayor serves as chairman of the non-profit organization DARE Philippines Association, Inc., which brought and introduced DARE to the country in 1993 when he was vice president and chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC).

DARE, which originated from Los Angeles, California, is a classroom instruction program that taps police officers to teach Grades 5 and 6 students good decision-making skills to keep them away from the influence of drugs and other vices.

Antonio Abacan, Jr., president of DARE Philippines Association, Inc., said the 29 soldiers completed the 10-day, 80-hour DARE Officers Training course.

“Mayor Estrada wants more DARE instructors so we could teach more students not only in Manila but nationwide. As we go on, we will continue training more instructors, both active duty policemen and soldiers,” Abacan said.

Col. Thomas Sedano, Group Commander of PA-CMOG, thanked Estrada for letting them become part of the city’s anti-drug education campaign.

”This is the first time for the Philippine Army. We can integrate it (DARE) to our ‘Pinoy Batang Bayani’ program that teaches nationalism, patriotism, love of country to young children,” he said.

New ISAFP chief assumes post

From InterAksyon (Sep 25): New ISAFP chief assumes post

Brigadier General Ronald Villanueva assumes his new position on Monday as chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, replacing Major General Arnold Quiapo.

The turnover of command is set at the ISAFP compound in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

 Villanueva belongs to Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class ’85, and Quiapo is a member of the PMA “Matikas” Class of 1983.

The ISAFP top post is a two-star (major general) position.

Before taking the ISAFP helm, Villanueva was commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in the Davao region.
He and 24 senior officers, including AFP chief General Ricardo Visaya, had their promotions recently confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

 ISAFP is tasked to provide support of intelligence operations for the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) in connection with President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

The drug war has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, but just a third are accounted for by the police, casualties of alleged gunfights during illegal-drug operations by the police and military.; the rest are what the PNP tags "deaths under investigation."

1,400 US troops PH-bound for military drills

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 25): 1,400 US troops PH-bound for military drills

Amid President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s bombastic comments against the United States, approximately 1,400 American troops are scheduled to arrive in the country next month to join their Filipino counterparts in another round of bilateral military drills.

MB FILE - Soldiers await deployment to the war zone against the Abu Sayyaf Group at a military airstrip in Jolo, Sulu, last Thursday. (EPA)

MB FILE – Soldiers await deployment to the war zone against the Abu Sayyaf Group at a military airstrip in Jolo, Sulu, last Thursday. (EPA)

PH-US armed forces will hold the annual Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) Oct. 4-12 in multiple locations in Luzon and Palawan, the US Embassy said in a statement.

It will be the first large-scale joint military exercise between the two countries under the Duterte administration.

This comes amid President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s repeated remarks critical of U.S. policies.

Early this month, the 71-year-old maverick called for the pullout of American troops in Mindanao “to give space for peace talks between the government and Moro rebels.”

This was followed by another statement where Duterte said he does not want the Philippine Navy to engage in joint naval patrols with the U.S. and other foreign nations in international seas to avoid getting involved in any hostile act.