Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ASG brigand nabbed in Sulu operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): ASG brigand nabbed in Sulu operations

Troopers from the 41st Infantry Battalion have arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorist in Talipao, Sulu early morning Tuesday.

Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu spokesperson, identified the arrested bandit as Pauji Asgari.

Seized from him was an M-16 assault rifle; ammunition, electric cords, combat pack, cellphone, hammock, a motorcycle, and a Marine battle dress attire.

The suspect was arrested 5:00 a.m. Asgari's arrest stemmed from reports of concerned residents who gotten leery of the presence of armed men in their community.

Brig. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, JTF Sulu commander said "the success of the apprehension is due to the cooperation of local residents".

"We expect more ASG to be arrested and more hostages to be rescued with the cooperation of local residents of Sulu. We have seen this in the rescue of Martina Yee, the neutralization of the notorious Muktadil brothers and the recent successful encounters of our troops against the ASG," he added.

The suspect was brought to Camp Bautista Hospital in Jolo for medical check-up and psycho-social processing 6pm Tuesday and was formally turned over to the police in downtown Jolo for filing of appropriate charges at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The focused military operation launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines since July resulted to the rescue and recovery of 16 hostages while a total of 12 kidnap victims remain to be rescued.

"The relentless combat operation will continue until we deal a crippling blow against the ASG bandits and until all hostages are rescued," Dela Vega stated.


100 sergeant majors attend AFP Council of Sergeant Major Consultative Meeting

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): 100 sergeant majors attend AFP Council of Sergeant Major Consultative Meeting

Around 100 sergeant major from the various military commands nationwide attended the AFP Council of Sergeant Major Consultative Meeting Tuesday.

This took place at the AFP celebrated the 47th anniversary of the Office of the AFP Sergeant Major (OAFPSM).

A week-long celebration, starting from Oct. 17 to 21, highlights this occasion, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

“The meeting was aimed at discussing issues and concerns regarding the morale, welfare and discipline among non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and the latest policy updates within the organization," he added.

AFP vice chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Glorioso V. Miranda, in his speech, encouraged the senior enlisted leaders to work as a team in order to achieve the overall mission of the organization.

“I have high confidence in our sergeants major and senior NCOs. Without them, none can be accomplished by this organization. I hope that this consultative meeting will be helpful in our policy-making to further develop the AFP,” he added.

This year’s celebration takes off with the inclusion of Senior and Junior NCOs on a selected activity as they are also celebrating the 20th NCO Anniversary.

Arevalo said the celebration focuses mainly in the conduct of consultative meetings with sergeants major from the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy, including those from the General Headquarters, Unified Commands and AFP Wide Service Support and Separate Units.

With the theme “Propelling Excellence of Jointness in the NCO Corps”, the OAFPSM aims to promote oneness and camaraderie among the Senior Enlisted Leaders of the AFP.

The Sergeant Major System in the AFP started in 1967 when the Philippine Government sent a civic action unit known as the First Philippine Civic Action Group (1PHILCAG) to Vietnam.

The unit then had no sergeant major. However, the commanding general of 1PHILCAG, then Brig. Gen. Gaudencio V. Tobias recommended for the designation of a senior NCO to become the unit’s sergeant major in the person of Master/Sgt. Evodio A Toledo from the Philippine Army.

The OAFPSM was activated on Oct. 16, 1969 as a Personal Staff at General Headquarters AFP. Currently at the helm of the office is First Command Master Sgt. Romeo H. Jandugan, the AFP Sergeant Major.


MILF’s econ arm has helped 4,853 individuals

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 18): MILF’s econ arm has helped 4,853 individuals

THE Program for Local Economic Development through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (Pledge) of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has assisted a total of 4,853 individuals from 11 conflict-inflicted areas in Mindanao as of October 2016.

Julhaina Cadon, program coordinator, in her speech Monday during the opening of the Pledge Fair and Interagency Meeting that will run until today, October 18, at the SM City Annex –Davao, the enterprise program was formed during the peace process. It was implemented since December 2013.

“It is a program that builds communities’ skills in enterprise development to increase and provide employment by providing business tools, equipment and facilities, facilitating production and enterprise skills training and connecting communities with public and private markets,” she said.

The two-day fair has the theme: “Promoting Unity through Inclusive Growth initiative.”

The near 5,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries of the program are from the 42 Pledge business groups registered and in full operation, which has provided over 1,000 livelihood and employment to people.

The businesses are located in six provinces in the island-region. These are in Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Davao Oriental, South Cotabato, Maguindanao and Basilan.

The 42 Pledge enterprises, Cadon said, are engaged in fish processing, dress making, home décor production, embroidery making, halal bakery, seaweed production, banana processing, furniture craft making, rice and corn support facilities and production, coconut processing and indigenous products production, among others.

“We have trained 1,178 individuals in enterprise development, 51 percent of which are women,” she added.

Jamel Macaray, member of the board of directors of BDA, for his part, said all stakeholders shall share one vision and encourage all the entrepreneurs to work together.

He said the program is centered on the objectives of improving livelihood and better access to services, building capacities of Bangsamoro people and building social unity among communities.

Satar Abdulrahim, Pledge People’s Organization president, shared his story of hope and resiliency with the program.

“After I lost my child in a mosque bombing in Maguindanao, we closed out a sari-sari store and moved to Piagapo (Lanao del Sur) where it is much safer. To be part of Pledge spring water bottling enterprise is a chance for me to do business again and help my community and family earn,” he said.

In a press briefer, Pledge budget is at P113 million. It is funded by Mindanao Trust Fund with donors coming from European Union, Australian Aid, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Canadian International Development Agency, The World Bank IBRD-IDA, USAid, and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aid Programme.

Pledge is also implemented in partnership with International Labor Organization.


Blind army soldier to join heroes run

From the Manila Times (Oct 18): Blind army soldier to join heroes run

SECOND Lieutenant Jerome Jacuba lost his eyesight when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off during a combat operation in Maguindanao in southern Philippines in May this year.

Still confined at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC) in Quezon City, he asked his commanders recently to allow him to join the Heroes Run organized for the benefit of the families of fallen and injured soldiers who gallantly risk their lives in answer to the call of duty.

To be held on October 30, the 5th Heroes Run is the biggest get-together for men and women of the AFP well as the general running public on their quest to aid the fallen and injured soldiers’ dependents.

It is an annual fund-raising event spearheaded by the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc.

Jacuba said despite his condition, he will run in the 5-kilometer category.

He cannot see anything except for glimpses of light.

Jacuba said he is determined to run and be an inspiration, not just to his fellow soldiers, but to the people.

“Joining the Heroes Run is a self-reaffirmation that I can still do something for the Philippine Army and for the families of my fellow soldiers in spite of my present circumstances. I also would want to set a good example to my daughters,” he pointed out.

Jacuba is a loving father to two young daughters.

His youngest child, turning two years old this year, was only 22 days old when he last saw her.

“I will be running because I want to inspire the people and tell them that anyone can be a hero,” he said.

Jacuba’s brother Pfc. Joevanny Jacuba, also an enlisted Army personnel, will be assisting him when he joins the run.

According to Col. Benjamin Hao, Army spokesman, it has been six months since Jacuba lost his eyesight and he still have scars from the IED shrapnels, and grains of sand are still embedded on his skin.

“But, with the fortitude he has shown, his heart and soul is healing fast,” Hao said.

There was a brief but powerful encounter between President Rodrigo Duterte and Jacuba when the President visited the AFP Medical Center in July.

It was a moving sight when the President embraced Jacuba as he thanked him for the sacrifices he has done for the country.

Hao said Jacuba had finished a 6-week short course on Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA).

 The Army man can now use basic computer features, such as Word, Excel and Power Point.

He is using a laptop, installed with NVDA features, given to him by the President.

The 5th Heroes Run 2016 will be held simultaneously in Manila, Iloilo and Davao on October 30 and in Baguio City on November 13.


Lopez to tap rebels for DENR projects

From Tempo (Oct 19): Lopez to tap rebels for DENR projects

Environment secretary Gina Lopez is open to forming an ‘unholy alliance’ between her department and different rebel groups to push for the development of Mindanao.

During an environmental forum at the Ateneo de Davao University, Lopez said she will try to reach out to rebel groups in conflict-affected areas of the region, specifically the provinces of Lanao and Maguindanao.

The planning is a bit different because there has to be psychosocial healing. There should be no more fighting for now, we work together and bring peace. Who wants to fight? You can feed the children and make the place beautiful,” said Lopez.

Lopez plans to offer war-torn areas with sustainable agro-forestry development in Mindanao to end the fighting in the region and at the same time maximize the potentials of its environment.

“Based on that, they will make plans and programs, and I will fund it. But it should be based on the environment. It’s all environment, water oxygen, mountains, sustainable living, that’s all kalikasan. But I wanna do other things,” added Lopez.

Meantime, Lopez condemned the killing of anti-mining activist Jimmy Saypan, and reminded stakeholders of a need for environmental justice.

“War reigns in Mindanao because there is social injustice. ’Yung taga Mindanao hindi nag-eenjoy ng resources ng Mindanao,” Lopez said.

She said that her own agency was partly to blame for allowing mining in areas that may have led to the suffering of the people.


Feature: Generation ‘Me’ transforms into Generation Peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 19): Feature: Generation ‘Me’ transforms into Generation Peace

Today’s youth belonging to the millennial generation – sometimes called Generation ‘Me’ – are deemed accustomed to an ‘instant gratification’ lifestyle others quickly dismiss as misplaced entitlement. Bangsamoro leader Datu Beds Kali proves just how wrong this judgment through his diligent advocacy towards peace with fellow youth leaders.

Kali has lived all of his nineteen years in Cotabato City, a place that’s often the setting for a socio-political landscape marred by blood, conflict, and social and economic injustices. However, together with other Bangsamoro millenials, Kali has dedicated his life to re-setting the course of this narrative into one rooted on a culture of peace, justice and nourishment of diversity.

“I have lived in an area in Mindanao that is among the most affected by war and conflict. We have witnessed firsthand violence and the unfairness of the world, in this corner alone. When there is conflict, we see our lives being flashed on the television screen, as if people here didn’t get hurt or didn’t personally get affected by those conflicts, those catastrophes,” said Kali, recounting his personal experience during a recent flare up between government forces and armed lawless elements.

“They call us ‘the future of tomorrow’, but how can that be, if we are prevented from attending school because there are no more classrooms? And the few ones left are re-purposed as evacuation centers? Our mothers worry day and night, praying for the safety of their husbands and children. It is sad, but ‘round here, prayers don’t always get answered.”

The horrors of armed-conflict and the additional layer of injustice brought about by misrepresentation and inaccurate reports in the media made Kali and other Moro youth leaders realize that the ill effects of today’s armed conflicts will continue to reverberate until the next Bangsamoro generation.

“I have witnessed how my people have struggled for peace. Amidst cries, shouts, and pleads to give peace a chance, I have seen my people struggle. We are all victims of violence and negative stereotypes; and these things will continue if we do not rectify prevailing social and historical injustices,” said Kali.


M’sia warns South-east Asia to be on alert as offensive begins in IS-controlled Mosul

From Today (Oct 18): M’sia warns South-east Asia to be on alert as offensive begins in IS-controlled Mosul

Iraq’s push to recapture terror group’s stronghold of Mosul may drive thousands of miliants here

KUALA LUMPUR — The launch of an operation by Iraqi forces on Monday (Oct 17) to wrestle back the Islamic State’s (IS) stronghold of Mosul could lead to an exodus of its fighters to the region, said Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, as he called on countries in South-east Asia to step up their guard against the threat.

“It has not started yet because the offensive only started today...(but) intelligence have informed me that the numbers are not going to be small. Either they go back to their countries of origin or they find safe havens in certain regions. So we have to be very proactive,” he told reporters.

“I have instructed Mindef (Ministry of Defence) and the army to keep an eye on the development in Iraq and Syria because we are worried that they might come here and it won’t be a small number. It will be thousands of them,” he said.
The IS has about 20,000 foreign fighers. Analysts had previously said more than 1,000 people from South-east Asia, mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS and returnees will come back battle-hardened with combat skills, violent tendencies and extremist ideology.

“This is why it’s important for us to have a trilateral relationship with Indonesia and the Philippines. We need to ensure we can get as many intel as possible to strengthen and to protect our region,” Mr Hishammuddin added.

Nations around the region including Malaysia has been on high alert for attacks from IS-linked militants, with Malaysia and Indonesia being identified by the terrorists as a high-priority target.
Indonesia saw its first militant attack in several years in January, in which four people were killed.

The gun-and-bomb assault in the heart of the capital Jakarta was claimed by IS.

Last month, Indonesia uncovered a plot by a group of terrorists based in Batam planning a rocket attack on Singapore’s Marina Bay.

In Malaysia, IS supporters managed to stage a grenade attack on a nightclub in Selangor on June 28, which injured eight people.That was the first attack by IS in Malaysia, which marked a breakthrough by the terror group after numerous plots were previously thwarted by the authorities.

To date, the authorities have foiled 13 terror attacks, with seven of these being ordered from Syria. They also believe more than 110 Malaysians have left for Syria since 2013 to join IS and 21 were confirmed to have been killed there.

Last week, Malaysian police announced that it has detained 16 men for suspected militant links after a two-week operation across the country, including 14 with alleged links to IS.

In the Philippines, the Abu Sayyaf group based in the southern Philippines, which has acted as a hostage-for-ransom gang for more than two decades, has pledged its allegiance to IS. Late last month, the Maute militant group that supports IS staged a daring jailbreak in the southern Philippines, freeing 23 detainees.

Kurdish forces on Monday began advancing on a string of villages east of Mosul, the start of a long-awaited campaign to reclaim Iraq’s second-largest city from the IS, which seized it more than two years ago, officials said.

About 4,000 Kurdish pesh merga troops are involved in the operation to retake 10 villages, the opening phase of a battle that could take weeks or months and could involve nearly 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops, with American warplanes providing air support. Iraqi counterterrorism forces, which work closely with American Special Operations commandos in Iraq, are also expected to join the Kurdish forces in the coming days.

The push to retake Mosul if successful, will be one of the biggest setback to the IS as it was in the city’s Great Mosque that IS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, that spanned the borders of Iraq and Syria.


Abu Sayyaf kidnappers harassing us for RM2m ransom, hostages’ families say

From the Malay Mail Online (Oct 18): Abu Sayyaf kidnappers harassing us for RM2m ransom, hostages’ families say

The families of the five men who were kidnapped in Dent Heaven waters off Lahad Datu in July are claiming that the Abu Sayaff terrorist group in the southern Philippines is harassing them on ransom payment.

Gustiah Sultan, 46, the wife of Tayudin Anjut, 45, one of the victims, said the families had been receiving endless calls from them on the ransom payment.

“The last call we received from them (Abu Sayaff) was at 4.19pm on Wednesday (Oct 12) asking for ransom totalling RM2 million within four days.

They threatened that they we will behead the victims if the money is not paid...but we pleaded for more time,” she told reporters here today.

Gustiah, who spoke on behalf of the families, said they were at their wits end and hoped to get all the help they could so that the victims could return home safely.

The five victims, all Malaysians, were crew members of a tugboat. The others were Abd Rahim Summas, 62; Fandy Bakran, 26; Mohamad Jumadil Rahim, 23, all from Lahad Datu, and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, from Felda Jengka 7, Pahang.

Gustia also said the families were fearing the worst as they learnt that Abd Rahim had been separated from the others.

“When my husband called, he had told my nephew that they had taken him away and did not know where he was brought to,” she added.

The victim’s tugboat, the Serudong 3, was hijacked by the group as it was passing Dent Haven waters while on its way to Semporna from Sandakan.

The tug was later found aground on a sand bank in the area with the crew missing and their quarters ransacked.

The Abu Sayaff group, noted for their kidnap-for ransom activities, brought the victims to their hideout in Mindanao island in the southern Philippines. — Bernama


Army: IPSP Bayanihan in Negros successful

From the Sun Star-Dumaguete (Oct 17): Army: IPSP Bayanihan in Negros successful

THE Philippine Army officials in Negros said the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan on the island is a success.

Colonel Francisco Delfin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said the people are responding positively to the various activities being implemented under IPSP Bayanihan for peace and development.

Unlike in the past when people would cower in fear or even hide upon seeing uniformed Army soldiers, he said the citizenry now welcomes the presence of government troops in their communities.

Delfin said they are getting positive feedback from the civil society organizations (CSOs) on the change in people’s perception of the Army today, which he attributes largely to the government’s transformation program of the Philippine Army.

The transformation program puts emphasis on professionalism and “adherence to international human rights laws,” Delfin said, adding: “You can see that our operations now are not tainted with complaints of human rights violations.”

In the one year and a half since his assignment to Negros Island, Delfin said that he has not seen or received any complaint of human rights violations by any of his men.

The transformation program has greatly helped in the success of the IPSP Bayanihan, as people now have the trust and confidence in the Army and are now cooperating with the government troops, he added.

Lieutenant Colonel Roderick Garcia, commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, points to the peace initiatives in the second and third districts of Negros Oriental where “conflict has been managed.”

Garcia said the operations and activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) have “scaled down” in these areas, as he cited the local government units and the CSOs for their support and cooperation in the peace efforts.

He said after these areas where cleared of the insurgency problem, the 79th IB is now into non-traditional efforts, such as participating in socio-civic activities like tree planting, Brigada Eskwela, coastal clean-up, and medical and dental missions, among others.

These non-combat activities have actually brought the Army closer to the people, he added.

“We just want the people to know that we are here to help alleviate their lives and for peace and development to take place in their area,” Garcia said.

He said the 79th IB also provides manpower to the Philippine National Police (PNP) when needed, as well as being on call 24/7 during disasters and other emergencies.

When asked what will happen when the IPSP Bayanihan terminates at the end of this year, Delfin assured that the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is continuously assessing the campaign to determine if there is a need for its continuation.

The IPSP Bayanihan is a campaign of the AFP and shared and co-authored by other stakeholders in the non-government sector in winning the peace and reeled off on January 1, 2010.

Delfin said that while some parts of Negros still are affected by the insurgency, the problem is no longer as critical as it was in the recent years.

Meanwhile, Marietta Jambora, convener of the Bantay Bayanihan in Negros Oriental, said the weekend meeting was part of the IPSP Bayanihan nationwide research to conduct an evaluation and assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and accomplishments of the campaign plan since its implementation.

Jambora said these will be submitted, along with recommendations, to the general headquarters of the AFP “as inputs to the crafting of the next campaign plan”.

On Tuesday, October 18, officials at the AFP general headquarters will be sitting down with the Security Reform Initiative (SRI), the national secretariat of the Bantay Bayanihan network nationwide, to discuss the “IPSP Bayanihan’s impacts from a security reform perspective,” said Jambora.

Bantay Bayanihan is a network of civil society organizations, now reaching 150 network-members in 16 conflict-affected areas nationwide performing an oversight function on the AFP’s implementation of IPSP Bayanihan and opening dialogue spaces for peace and security reform issues.


Military blasts protesting indigenous peoples, militant groups with water cannons

From GMA News (Oct 18): Military blasts protesting indigenous peoples, militant groups with water cannons

The military on Tuesday morning greeted indigenous peoples (IPs) and militant groups with water cannons during a protest action at the Armed Forces of the Philippines main headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Photos posted on the Manilakbayan 2016's Facebook page show the protesters being blasted by water cannons at Camp Aguinaldo's Gate 2, facing EDSA.

At least 3,000 IPs, Moro and militant groups marched to Camp Aguinaldo to insist their demand for the military to pullout its troops from their communities. They are also calling for justice for the alleged killings of their members.

The IP groups started their march to Manila last October 8. They arrived  last week, October 13 and are currently staying at the University of the Philippines' Diliman campus in Quezon City.


AFP in state of confusion over Duterte defense policy shift, solon claims

From GMA News (Oct 18): AFP in state of confusion over Duterte defense policy shift, solon claims

A party-list lawmaker on Tuesday claimed the Armed Forces of the Philippines is currently in a state of "confusion" amid President Duterte's public pronouncements about China and the US.

In a media briefing, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, who belongs to the "Magnificent 7" minority bloc, said he agreed with a Social Weather Station survey showing that the Philippines still trusts the US more than China.

He said these sentiments toward the US and China can be seen especially in the military.

"Nararamdman ho natin na there is confusion actually in the Armed Forces right now [over] the apparent shift, defense policy shift of this administration from US to China," said Alejano, a former Marine captain in the military.

The lawmaker noted Duterte's sudden fondness over strengthening ties with China, despite having a territorial row with it over the West Philippine Sea, on one hand, and the President's tirades against the Philippines' long-time allies like the US and the European Union on the other.

"For the longest time, mayron tayong different exercises with the US. Ang ating defense strategy is actually intertwined with that of the US," said Alejano.

Alejano said Filipino soldiers have been trained to fight "perceived enemies" who might threaten Philippine sovereignty.

"Before, the exercises were designed to raise the skills level ng mga sundalo. Ngayon, ang exercises nila ay designed sa perceived enemy... like ito, invasion from China. Nakatutok na exercise nila doon," said the lawmaker.

"Eh ngayon from an external security threat, naging mabait, magaan ho tayo doon sa China," Alejano added.

He said that Duterte's plan to purchase hardware from China and Russia would have a "strategic impact" on the Philippine armed forces. "Ang gamit, doktrina, exercises natin, naka-align sa ating allies," he said.

"If you shift that to China, mabubulabog lahat. Training [and] education ng Armed Forces. Kaya mayroon ngang confusion and pag-aalinlangan," he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. earlier said the shift in foreign policy was because “America has failed us.” 

"This has also compelled him to realign our foreign policy towards an independent track in pursuing the overriding national interest and in upholding and protecting our sovereignty and territorial integrity," Yasay said.

'Caught in a trap'

For his part, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin cautioned the President against being too close with China.

"Do you remember the story of the spider enticing the fly, spinning his silky web and the poor fly was caught in the trap? We don't want to get caught in a trio going to China," he said.

Villarin said Duterte should in fact invoke the Philippine claim over the West Philippine Sea through the favorable international arbitral decision, which the lawmaker said had given the Philippines a "moral high ground."

Alejano said lamented how Duterte's actions seemed to be "weakening" the arbitral decision. "We can use that [ruling] to build a consensus among nations. I don't believe China will not pursue their interest in the West Philippine Sea," he said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman echoed the sentiments of his colleagues in the "Magnificent 7."

"Philippine sovereignty is not made in China. It is made and ingrained in our Constitution and simply upheld by the arbitral decision," he said.

Lagman also hit the Duterte administration for its "flawed" priorities, saying the government remains focused on fighting illegal drugs despite a recent survey showing that salary and job creation are the Filipinos' top concerns.

"The present administration should be able to heed what the people demand to be resolved and solved, to be addressed," said Lagman.

"That's really a popular advice to the presidency. Incidentally, I think the complexion of diplomacy is 'polygamy,'" he added.


The U.S. Needs the Philippines for Its Strategic Location

From The New York Times (Oct 18): The U.S. Needs the Philippines for Its Strategic Location (By Malcolm Cook)

President Duterte clearly has a problem with the United States and his country’s alliance with its former colonial ruler. He has called for the end to planned joint patrols in the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea and to the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises. In both cases, he noted Chinese concerns as a reason for his declarations.
Missiles from China’s nuclear-armed submarines would transit through the Luzon Strait. The U.S. benefits from continued access to Philippine bases.
 If these presidential pronouncements are translated policy, they will be little more than an annoyance to Washington and its Pacific Command. The Philippine Navy has little capacity to conduct patrols beyond its coastal waters and the annual exercises build Philippine not American capabilities. Even if the Armed Forces of the Philippines start to buy Chinese and Russian arms as suggested by the president the impact will be mostly symbolic given the country’s meager defense budget. These actions will hurt the Philippines not the United States.
If President Duterte’s more recent musings about reviewing or rescinding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are followed through the situation would change. The actions of America's weakest and most dependent ally will pose a danger to vital U.S. and homeland security interests.

China’s recently activated nuclear-armed submarines are located at Hainan Island in the South China Sea. For these submarines’ missiles to pose a first or second strike threat to the continental United States, they must transit the South China Sea and enter the Western Pacific. Their most suitable route would be through the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan. This year’s Malabar naval exercise with the United States, Japan and India took place around this strategic passage and focused on anti-submarine warfare.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed by Duterte’s predecessor in 2014, provides U.S. forces greater access to Philippine bases including some strategically located to better address this new nuclear threat. If access to these bases are reduced or stopped there is no clear alternative.

A quarter century ago, Philippine identity politics led to U.S. forces being asked to leave. Then, Singapore quickly offered the U.S. greater access to its military bases and became the most important security partner for the United States in Southeast Asia. The Philippines became the main target of Chinese actions in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

This time, if Philippine identity politics leads to another rejection of the U.S. military, it is unlikely the Americans could look across the Strait to Taiwan to fill the void. Soon, the United States may clearly have a problem with President Duterte.

[Malcolm Cook is a senior fellow at Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore and a visiting professor at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.]


Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Net trust rating of countries: "Very Good" +66 for United States; "Good" +47 for Australia and +34 for Japan; "Moderate" +16 for Norway and +14 for the Netherlands; "Neutral" +3 for Taiwan; "Bad" -33 for China

From the Social Weather Stations Website (Oct 18): Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Net trust rating of countries: "Very Good" +66 for United States; "Good" +47 for Australia and +34 for Japan; "Moderate" +16 for Norway and +14 for the Netherlands; "Neutral" +3 for Taiwan; "Bad" -33 for China

The Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey findings on public trust in selected countries are in the October 18, 2016 issue of BusinessWorld.

The survey background and supporting charts are posted below.

BusinessWorld (BW) is the media partner of SWS in polling, for exclusive first publication by BW, the SWS Indicators of Governance and the Economy. The original SWS report will be posted in the SWS website two days following the BW publication.

Survey Background

The September 2016 Social Weather Survey was conducted from September 24-27, 2016 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide, 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao (sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao).

The area estimates were weighted by National Statistics Office medium-population projections for 2016 to obtain the national estimates.

The Social Weather Survey items on public trust in selected countries are non-commissioned. These items were included on SWS's own initiative and released as a public service. The specific countries included in the surveys are based on their relevance to foreign affairs.


SWS employs its own staff for questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork, data-processing, and analysis, and does not outsource any of its survey operations.

Chart 1

Table 1

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Table 5


SWS SURVEY | Filipinos trust the US most, and China least

From InterAksyon (Oct 18): SWS SURVEY | Filipinos trust the US most, and China least

How trustworthy are these seven countries to Filipinos? SWS sought the answers in its Third Quarter Survey.

Their President might lately be bashing old friends like the US while cozying up to neighbor China that their government sued - and won against - in a global court. But for Filipinos, it seems America remains their most trusted country and China, the least trusted, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.

The "Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Net Trust Rating of Countries" as reported by its partner BusinessWorld also showed historical data on how Filipinos have in the last two decades trusted - or not - seven countries, including the US and China.

The historical data for five of the seven countries went as far back as the Ramos presidency two decades ago.

America, where over an estimated 4 million Filipinos are based, scored the highest net trust rating (% much trust minus % little trust) of +66, a figure described by SWS as  "Very Good".

Falling under the "Good" rating segment are two countries enjoying very friendly relations with the Philippines and counted among its most reliable ODA partners: a rating of +47 for Australia and +34 for Japan.

Described as "Moderate" are the ratings of Norway,  +16 and the Netherlands, +14.

Taiwan's +3 rating is deemed "Neutral."

China, however, scored the lowest net trust rating of -33, which SWS deems "Bad".

The Third Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey -- conducted Sept. 24-27 via face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide and with a ±3 percentage-point sampling error margin -- found 55% of Filipinos having “little trust,” 19% undecided, and 22% having “much trust” in China, Businessworld reported.

That yielded, BW reported, "a 'bad' -33 net trust in the Philippines’ giant northern neighbor, down nine points and a grade from the “poor” -24 logged in June 2016."

SWS classifies net trust ratings of at least +70 as “excellent”; +50 to +69 as “very good”; +30 to +49, “good”; +10 to +29, “moderate”; +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “bad”; -50 to -69, “very bad”; as well as -70 and below as “execrable.”

United States

Though the United States scored a very good net trust rating of +66 (76% much trust, 11% little trust, correctly rounded) as of September 2016, it actually represents a 6-point decline, and one grade down, from the excellent +72 in June 2016. The US' net trust rating as far as Filipinos are concerned has been above +60 since June 2010, reaching as high as excellent +82 in December 2013.

Net trust in the United States has been positive since SWS first surveyed it in December 1994, ranging from moderate +18 in May 2005 to excellent +82 in December 2013.

President Duterte has in recent weeks been critical of the United States, citing historical injustices committed against Filipino Muslims at the turn of the 20th century; belittling the real benefits of US military assistance; seeking an end to joint military exercises, among others.

However, BusinessWorld noted that Duterte’s pivot has been questioned by analysts noting the Philippine economy's substantial economic ties to its long-time ally America, from which a sudden de-coupling could have adverse effects.

Among others, BusinessWorld pointed to data that:

• the US accounts for 15.89% of total Philippine export of goods at $5.786 billion in the eight months to August; while China accounted for 10.38% at $3.781 billion;

• net foreign direct investments (FDI) from the US accounted for 1.6% of net FDI from all countries at $76.73 million from January to July, down 86.67% from $580.48 million the past year, while China provided just $3.3 million, a reversal from $140,000;

• cash remittances from Filipinos in the US stood at nearly $5 billion also as of July -- a third of the $15.3-billion global total. Flows from China were at $95.826 million -- less than 1 percent of the total -- though more than three times $29.69 million the past year.


Similarly, Australia has been scoring positive net trust ratings since SWS first surveyed it in April 1995, ranging from neutral +3 in September 1995 to very good +55 in August 2012.

In September 2016, Australia scored a good net trust rating of +47 (62% much trust, 15% little trust), just 2 points below the good + 49 in June 2016.


SWS first surveyed public trust in Japan in December 1994, and found neutral net ratings from December 1994 to December 1996, ranging from -2 to +9. It rose to moderate +17 in June 1997, and has since then been at moderate to good levels, reaching as high as good +47 in August 2012 and December 2013.

In September 2016, Japan scored a good net trust rating of +34 (56% much trust, 21% little trust, correctly rounded). This is a 14-point increase, and one grade up, from the moderate +20 in April 2016.

Norway, The Netherlands, Taiwan

Two countries (Norway, The Netherlands) were rated for the first time in the SWS survey, and this accounts for their being represented by small blips in the chart whereas the others go back to the Ramos presidency. The September 2016 survey found net trust at moderate +16 (41% much trust, 25% little trust) for Norway, and moderate +14 (40% much trust, 26% little trust) for the Netherlands.

It found a neutral +3 (36% much trust, 34% little trust, correctly rounded) net trust rating for Taiwan. This is 10 points above the neutral -7 in September 2013.


Net trust in China has been positive in only 7 out of 40 surveys since SWS first surveyed it in August 1994, reaching as high as moderate +17 in June 2010 and as low as a "bad" -46 in September 2015.

While the Third-Quarter SWS no longer indicated the historical context in which the previous surveys were conducted, it appears the lowest trust ratings obtained by China coincided with those periods in its relations with the Philippines that were marked by acrimony over territorial disputes. It scored a -36 on at least three periods tied to the sea rows:

• In June 1995, just as Manila was raising hell over the building of ostensible "fishermen's shelters" at Mischief Reef that eventually grew into what was long suspected and feared: heavily fortified garrisons;

• In May 2012, a month after the standoff began at Scarborough Shoal between Chinese coast guard ships and a Philippine military escort ship;

• In June 2014, just weeks after Manila submitted its Memorial (the main paper summarizing its arguments) on March 30, 2014; and after the arbitral tribunal at The Hague held its second meeting on the Philippine case (May 14-15).

China's lowest net trust rating of -46 was obtained in September 2015, just weeks after the case hearings began at The Hague.

When sought for comment by BusinessWorld, Herman Joseph S. Kraft, University of the Philippines associate professor for Political Science, said in a mobile phone message that “the negative rating probably comes from sentiments regarding China’s attitude towards the arbitral decision.”

“The Chinese government’s refusal to accept the content of the award might be seen as defiance in the face of what Filipinos see as a legitimate decision.”

Though he had been profuse in publicly thanking the Chinese for committing to help build rehabilitation centers for Filipino addicts - a stand that ironically clashed with his repeated assertion that most of the shabu entering the Philippines came from China - Duterte had given a firm assurance that when it came to the UN arbitral court ruling on the maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, he would be firm with counterparts in Beijing when he meets them this week.

"I will not bargain anywhere, we will continue to insist that is ours," Duterte told a news conference in Davao. "The international tribunal decision will be taken up."
He vowed he will not "barter" away territory and economic rights.

China had rejected the ruling and claims nearly all of the strategically vital waters and has in recent years built artificial islands in the disputed areas that are capable of hosting military bases.

Survey background

The September 2016 Social Weather Survey was conducted from September 24-27, 2016 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide, 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao (sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao).

The area estimates were weighted by National Statistics Office medium-population projections for 2016 to obtain the national estimates.

The Social Weather Survey items on public trust in selected countries are non-commissioned. These items were included on SWS's own initiative and released as a public service. The specific countries included in the surveys are based on their relevance to foreign affairs.



SWS employs its own staff for questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork, data-processing, and analysis, and does not outsource any of its survey operations.


In pivot to China, beware the tender trap and don't junk old friends - solons to Duterte

From InterAksyon (Oct 18): In pivot to China, beware the tender trap and don't junk old friends - solons to Duterte

As President Rodrigo Duterte turns to China for military and economic partnership, independent lawmakers said Tuesday the Philippines should not ditch its “reliable, traditional allies” such as the United States.

They also warned against being caught in the trap of China’s benevolence, stressing that the country has an ongoing territorial dispute with its giant neighbor in the South China Sea.
A recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that Filipinos trust the United States most, and China the least.

“That survey would show the popular consensus of the caution being sent as an advisory to the President that there is no opposition to making friends and great partners, but at the same time, we should not jettison our reliable traditional economic and security allies,” Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said in a news conference.

He added that the President should heed the sentiment of the Filipinos, adding that “the complexion of diplomacy is polygamy.”

Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said that while the President should be reminded that the country is in a dispute with China over latter's refusal to recognize a UN arbitral tribunal's ruling on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

“One of the best ways to tell this to the President is to tell the story of the spider enticing the fly, spinning his silky web, until the fly was caught in the trap.  We don’t want to be caught in the trap,” he said.

“We all know how China has behaved aggressively in the West Philippine Sea, and for the months to come, such behavior will not change,” Villarin added.

Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billiones said he hopes Duterte’s talks in China will bring positive results.

“I hope the President will assert our sovereignty and our interests,” he said.

Lagman said the President should use as leverage in dealing with China the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that issued a favorable position for the Philippines.

“Whether or not President Duterte pulls out of his travel bag a copy of the arbitral decision sustaining the Philippines’ sovereignty over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea, China must be constantly reminded of the Philippines’ victory,” he said.

“As Spanish diplomat Salvador De Madariaga has said, the gun that will shoot is more eloquent than the gun which has shot,” he added.

Lagman continued, “It is to the Philippines’ national interest for China to be made always aware that the arbitral decision is the President’s gun that will shoot to set the tone of the bilateral talks.”


NPA urges Duterte: 'Rein in your troops'

From InterAksyon (Oct 18): NPA urges Duterte: 'Rein in your troops'

Military checkpoint in Lanao del Norte. Photographed by Erwin Mascarinas, InterAksyon

The New People's Army on Tuesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to "tame" the military, which the rebels accuse of continuing to mount counterinsurgency operations in disregard of the government's unilateral cease fire.

"It is increasingly apparent that ... President Duterte has no control of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) as his orders to the soldiers to become friendly with the revolutionary forces are outrightly [sic]  being disregarded," Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, the NPA's national spokesman, said in a statement.

He also warned that "continuing hostilities directed against the NPA and revolutionary forces endanger the indefinite cease fire."

The government and the rebels earlier separately declared indefinite unilateral ceasefires ahead of the resumption of formal peace negotiations. Both sides have also agreed to hammer out an indefinite bilateral cease fire to hasten talks intended to end the close to half-century long communist armed struggle.

However, the rebels have accused government troops of ignoring the cease fire by continuing to carry out operations or occupying hinterland communities.

Lately, two peasant leaders in Compostela Valley province, Jaime Saypan and Joselito Pasaporte, were murdered by suspects Madlos said were "militiamen under the command of" the Army's 10th Infantry Division.

And in the Bicol region, he said, "NPA leader Edwin Dematera and his companion Den de la Cruz were arrested while traveling in Magallanes, Sorsogon Cruz last October 4."

Madlos also disclosed that the military has embarked on a public relations campaign "to justify the hostile operations ... in contempt of the indefinite cease fire."

"Over the past week or so, AFP personnel have been doing the rounds of radio stations, newspapers (and) social media web sites to defend and justify the hostile counter-insurgency operations" being carried out under the counterinsurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan, he said.

In the guise of civic action, Madlos claimed, "combat troops of the AFP conduct intelligence operations in the hope of identifying leaders of local mass organizations and community leaders of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)."

He said residents of areas occupied by the military "have been lining up to join the NPA to defend their rights."

To prevent escalation and a possible collapse of the cease fire, Madlos urged Duterte to "ensure that all units of the AFP are pulled-out from their current forward deployment within the guerrilla zones of operations of the NPA and areas under the sway of the revolutionary forces."


China may give Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough Shoal

From InterAksyon (Oct 18): China may give Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough Shoal

China will consider giving Filipino fishermen conditional access to disputed waters in the South China Sea after the presidents of the two countries meet in Beijing this week, two Chinese sources with ties to the leadership said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plans to raise the plight of Filipino fishermen when he meets his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday, a Philippine official told Reuters.

Duterte is due to arrive in Beijing from Brunei on Tuesday.

China seized Scarborough Shoal - claimed by Beijing as Huangyan island and by Manila as Panatag - in 2012, denying Philippine fishermen access to its rich fishing grounds.

The seizure formed part of a case the Philippines took to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which in July rejected China's territorial claims over much of the South China Sea, including its assertion of a 200-mile (320 km) exclusive economic zone around the disputed Spratly islands.

China immediately declared the ruling "null and void" but said it is time to get talks started again between the countries directly involved in the territorial disputes to reach a peaceful resolution.

Everybody can go’

Beijing is now considering making a concession to Duterte, whose rapprochement with China since taking office on June 30 marks an astonishing reversal in recent Philippine foreign policy.

“Everybody can go, but there will be conditions,” one of the Chinese sources who speaks regularly with senior officials told Reuters, referring to Chinese and Filipino fishermen.

Asked what the conditions were, the source said: “The two countries would have to form working groups to iron out details.”

It was unclear, however, if China would agree to joint coastguard patrols.

The sources did not say what, if anything, China might demand from Manila in exchange for the fishing concession.

“It will be a return to the Arroyo days,” the second Chinese source said, referring to the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2010), when fishermen from both countries had access to waters near Scarborough.

If all goes according to script, fishery cooperation would be one of more than 10 broad framework agreements the two countries would sign during Duterte’s visit, the sources said, without giving further details.

The Philippine foreign ministry said it had "no comment at this time”.

Free navigation

China has overlapping claims in the South China Sea with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The United States, along with Japan and other powers, want to ensure Beijing doesn't interfere with free navigation in the strategic South China Sea, which connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans and through which flows $5 trillion of trade a year.

US Navy ships have conducted "freedom of navigation" operations around artificial islands China has been building in the disputed Spratly Islands, which mostly consist of coral reefs and tidal features in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not answer directly, when Reuters asked on Tuesday whether China would offer any concessions to the Philippines on the South China Sea, including fishing rights around Scarborough Shoal.

"China's position on the South China Sea is clear and consistent. There is no change and there will be no change. This position accords with historical facts and international law," Wang said at a news conference with his New Zealand counterpart.

‘Historic visit’

Wang, however, was upbeat about Duterte’s trip.

"This will be a historic visit and a new beginning in China-Philippines relations," the foreign minister said.

China’s ambassador to Manila, Zhao Jianhua, said last Friday a budding bilateral friendship could boost chances of removing one of their biggest bones of contention in the South China Sea.

But on Sunday, Duterte said he would raise the Hague ruling and vowed not to surrender any sovereignty, comments that will not sit comfortably with Beijing.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that Duterte could be impeached if he gives up the country’s sovereignty over the Scarborough, according to Philippine media.

China's objective is to jointly develop resources in the South China Sea with its neighbors, said Lu Xiang, an international relations expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank.

"Disputes with any neighbor are not conducive for China,” he said, when asked what China wanted in exchange for any concession to Duterte.

“We need a better external environment,” Lu said.


Duterte open to war games with China, Russia

From InterAksyon (Oct 17): Duterte open to war games with China, Russia

President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to hold military exercises with China but not longtime ally the United States, Chinese media quoted him Monday as saying on the eve of a state visit.

Duterte heads to Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day trip that appears set to cement his dramatic foreign policy tilt away from United States, which he has railed against for criticizing his deadly war on crime.

"It's only China (that) can help us," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Duterte as saying in an interview ahead of his visit.

Duterte also told Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television he was willing to hold joint military exercises with China and Russia.

"Yes, I will. I have given enough time for the Americans to play with the Filipino soldiers," Duterte said when asked if he was open to war games with those two nations, as he reiterated he would no longer hold any more with the United States.

"This will be the last. It has been programmed. I do not want my soldiers to be humiliated," Duterte said, in reference to one set of war games in the Philippines that ended last week.

Duterte has sought to reshape his nation's foreign relations since taking office on June 30 by pivoting towards China and Russia while moving away from the United States, the Philippines' former colonial ruler and mutual defense ally.

Duterte has repeatedly expressed anger over American criticism of his war on crime, which has claimed more than 3,700 lives and raised fears of mass extrajudicial killings.

Last month, he told reporters before flying to Laos for the ASEAN summit that he would curse US President Barack Obama if he lectures him on human rights in connection with the drug-related killings. He also told Obama to "go to hell".

But, signaling his shift to China is also for pragmatic reasons, Duterte has repeatedly ridiculed the United States for what he sees as its weakening economic and military influence around the world.

In the Xinhua interview, Duterte again thanked China for not criticizing the crime crackdown as he held out the Philippines' hand for soft loans and other forms of financial help.

'China never criticizes'

"China never criticizes. They help us quietly," Duterte said, according to Xinhua.

Duterte is bringing an entourage of hundreds of businessmen with him to Beijing, and Philippine media have said deals worth billions of dollars are expected to be announced during the trip.

Asked if he would seek to buy military equipment from China during his visit, Duterte told Phoenix Television: "Yes, but not really in (large) numbers."

Duterte said he would also need small, fast attack boats from China to fight "terrorism".

"If China does not help us in this endeavor, we will have a hard time fighting terrorism," he said without elaborating, according to Phoenix Television.

Bilateral relations worsened under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino, who tried to challenge China's expansionism in the South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters approaching the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and has in recent years built artificial islands in the disputed areas that are capable of hosting military bases.

To counter China, Aquino allowed a much greater American military presence in the Philippines and started joint patrols in the sea with US forces.

He also filed a legal case at a UN-backed tribunal, which ruled in July that China's claims to most of the sea had no legal basis. Beijing refused to accept the ruling.

Duterte has said he does not want to use the verdict to pressure China. In recent weeks he has also cancelled the joint sea patrols with the United States and said he may cancel a pact that allows a greater US military presence in the Philippines.


Military presents weapons seized from Mindanao drug gang

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 17): Military presents weapons seized from Mindanao drug gang

Seized weapons from a drug gang in Mindanao presented by the Philippine Army. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Rhoderick Beñez)
Seized weapons from a drug gang in Mindanao presented by the Philippine Army. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Rhoderick Beñez)

NORTH COTABATO – Philippine authorities on Monday presented assorted weapons seized by security and rebel forces from a drug gang in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces in the restive southern region of Mindanao.

Military officials said members of the former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front joined the anti-drug operations last week that resulted to the arrest of 13 gang members under Samad Masgal, a notorious drug dealer.

Major General Carlito Galvez, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, led the presentation of the weapons at the headquarters of the 602nd Infantry Brigade in North Cotabato;s Carmen town.

He was joined by Colonel Manolo Samarita, the brigade commander; Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Peralta, the provincial police chief; and Lyndon Apacio, regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Those arrested were not presented to journalists, but Galvez identified them as Ali Masgal Buat, Guiamalodin Palakad, Guiama Milikano, Mandag Mamalinta, Nandi Pagao, Taokie Lumilis, Kenny Dima, Ronnie Catulong, Morem Milicano, Omar Angking, Sari Lumilis, Mantoa Gombila and Tiyabong Mamalinta.

Galvez said the gang leader was also tagged as behind deadly attacks on soldiers in the provinces.


Police chief assassinated in Marawi City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 18): Police chief assassinated in Marawi City

A municipal police chief was assassinated in Marawi City in the restive province of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said motorcycle gunmen shot Senior Inspector Darangina Ditucalan – who was assigned in the town of Poona Bayabao – while driving his pickup truck early Monday evening.

The 45-year old police chief was shot at least 3 times by two assailants who were tailing him in the village of Lumbac Madaya, just 100 meters away from his house.

Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, the provincial police chief, said Ditucalan was instantly killed. He said the attackers escaped after the shooting.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, although local radical jihadists influenced by the Islamic State are actively operating in the province and had been largely blamed for deadly attacks on policemen and soldiers in the volatile region.


Mindanao docu-film wins in Busan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 18): Mindanao docu-film wins in Busan

The Mindanaoan documentary film “The Crescent Rising” won the 2016 Busan International Film Festival Mecenat Award last October  15.

The documentary helmed by Zamboangeno filmmaker Sheron Dayoc bested other documentary entries from Asia to win the award given to the most exemplary documentary. It is the only Filipino awardee in the 21st staging of the film festival.

The Busan International Film Festival is one of the largest and prestigious film festivals in Asia held in the South Korean city of Busan.

"The Crescent Rising" revolves around three Mindanaoan stories; a man  who claims that the Jabidah Massacre is a lie, Moro rebels who believe that Jihad as a way of life and Women caught in the wrath of war.

It premiered in the 2015 QCinema International Film Festival and  winning the festival’s best documentary award. It also was the Gawad Urian winner for Best Documentary.

Dayoc is one of the prolific Mindanaoan filmmakers whose works include the Cinemalaya 2010 Best Film “Halaw”, 2015 Cinema One Originals finalist “Bukod Kang Pinagpala” and the QCinema 2016 entry “Women of the Weeping River.”


Awarding of partners, stakeholders highlights 803rd Brigade 28th Founding Anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 18): Awarding of partners, stakeholders highlights 803rd Brigade 28th Founding Anniversary

CATARMAN, Northern Samar – Guided with the theme “PEACEMAKER Brigade Dalawampu’t Walong Taon Taos-Pusong Naglilingkod at Nagmamalasakit sa Mamamayan Tungo sa Tunay na Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kaginhawaan ng Hilagang Samar,” 803rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade celebrated its 28th Founding Anniversary, Saturday, October 15, 2016, giving awards to partners and stakeholders in recognition of their valuable contribution towards achieving the brigade’s mission.

The 803rd Brigade gave recognition to 8 military awardees, 19 civilians, 7 battalion/unit and 6 stakeholders and partners including the Philippine Information Agency, Northern Samar.

In his welcome message, 803rd  Brigade Commander Mario G Lacurom stressed, "without the support, close cooperation and strong coordination they would never accomplish the common task to create an environment conducive for sustainable development and a just and lasting peace in the area of responsibility of the brigade."

Speaking before guests and honorees, Governor Jose L. Ong, Jr. expressed great appreciation to 803rd Brigade with the present leadership of Brigade Commander Mario Lacurom, saying, "for 28 years, the institution has been the constant defender of Nortehanons to any threats, actual or imminent, against their lives, security and property."

The insurgency problem in Northern Samar is relatively under control compared to the situation decades ago. Twelve out of 24 municipalities had been declared as Peace and Development Ready or under a Stable Internal Peace and Security Condition (SIPC). These, among many others, are tangible manifestations of your achievements, expressed Governor Ong as the guest of honor and speaker during the event.

Gov. Ong wrapped up his message with a reassurance that the Provincial Government of Northern Samar under his watch will remain steadfast in its commitment to be 803rd’s partner in sustaining the peace and development that the province have attained thus far.

The celebration started with an Anniversary Shootfest at Brigade Firing Range in Sept 16-17, 2016, followed by a Coastal Clean-Up and Tree Growing at the shoreline of Brgy. Baybay, Thanksgiving Mass and blessing of facilities at the 803rd Brigade compound.


Nationwide summit champions grassroots ideas on peace, security

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 18): Nationwide summit champions grassroots ideas on peace, security

In a gathering of around 500 peace advocates and practitioners here in the city over the weekend, various government agencies including the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) spearheaded a nationwide dialogue on local governments’ and civil society’s pivotal role in achieving a just and sustainable peace across the country.

“I’d like to convert this now from conversations into actions. I’d like to challenge you to continue doing; seeing to it that there is action in your inputs,” said OPAPP Secretary Jesus G. Dureza during the culmination of the first Peace and Development Agenda Summit, with the goal of building a multi-sectoral constituency of active peace actors.

The two-day event, held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, is part of the Duterte administration’s commitment to transparency and inclusivity in the peace process. Dubbed as National Peacebuilding Conversations, the event is a spin-off of the Social Development Initiatives Summit: Malasakit at Pagbabago led by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary months prior to help operationalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s goal of a people-centered security program.

Emphasizing the significance of the government’s Six-Point Peace and Development Agenda, the conference provided an avenue for brainstorming and securing support from the hundreds of participants coming from various local government units in conflict-affected areas, national government agencies, civil society organizations and official development assistance partners.

OPAPP Undersecretary for Peace Accords Nabil A. Tan shared that the cornerstone of the peace roadmap is the fundamental dialogue between the government and the Filipino people. “We call on everyone to get on board and participate in their own small but meaningful way. We want to initiate public conversations with different stakeholders. We may not all obtain the opportunity to sit at the negotiating tables, but we can be in the sidelines: pitching our ideas, sharing our concerns in the best constructive and democratic tradition.”

“We need you here: to represent the people from your community, and in turn, when you go back to your communities, to represent us. You echo the concerns of our marginalized and underprivileged sectors, in the same way that you cascade our messages to the communities war-torn and scarred as they are by long-standing conflicts,” added Tan.

NCMF Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao, meanwhile, stressed the importance of the participants’ experience and expertise as essential components of nation-building. Attendees of the event come from different backgrounds, representing a wide array of advocacies such as peacebuiding, economic matters, security, local governance, justice, human rights, and education among others.

“This meeting of leaders, decision-makers, actors, and stakeholders is a fortune; for nowadays, we face challenges in the local arena and the world stage,” Lao said.

“This pertain not only to the threats to security but moreover to impediments to the formation or maintenance of a cohesive society that works towards the well-being of all its members, eliminates marginalization, respects the identity of the minorities, and cultivates a sense of trust and belonging,” the NCMF secretary added.

Inclusivity through ideas and congressional initiatives

Featured in the summit is the utilization of the open space technology, wherein participants are invited to share their inputs on twenty-one (21) key topics under the peace process, such as the Bangsamoro affairs; human and indigenous people’s rights; women’s role; education; conflict-sensitive and peace promotion; as well as inter-agency and multi-stakeholder support.

The inputs or “gems” harvested from the conversations were then presented to the OPAPP and NCMF high officials, who in turn responded by engaging the sponsors to support the so-called gems. “We have seen our donor partners helping us in the negotiating stage with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). They are now helping us with the implementation of other agreements such as with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). We invite them to focus on providing support to these twenty-one (21) tables that are here with us today,” Dureza appealed.

“One of our new shifts in OPAPP now is to appeal already to the donor partners. Government is going to provide support but our donor partners must already align the support and their funding to these tables if they want to be with us,” he continued.

The government’s head peace adviser added that peacebuilders and stakeholders can craft actionable bills wherein OPAPP and its partners will provide assistance for those to be submitted to the Congress.

“Those who have pending Executive Orders that have not been acted upon before, let's again revise those, and divide them, and then put them back again to the offices where they should be given some action. This is one of the many things that we can do together.” (OPAPP)