Thursday, November 3, 2016

Misuari blames Malaysia for 2000 Sipadan kidnappings

From Rappler (Nov 3): Misuari blames Malaysia for 2000 Sipadan kidnappings

The MNLF leader makes the allegations against Malaysia before President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet in Malacañang, a week before the President's visit to Malaysia

ABU SAYYAF. A frame grab from video released by the Abu Sayyaf reportedly shows German hostages iwhile being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. The two were eventually released. Screen grab from Aby Sayyaf video

ABU SAYYAF. A frame grab from video released by the Abu Sayyaf reportedly shows German hostages iwhile being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. The two were eventually released. Screen grab from Aby Sayyaf video

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari resurfaced in the national scene on Thursday, November 3, bearing allegations against Malaysia, the facilitator of the peace process that he is expected to join.

Misuari claimed Malaysia is behind the kidnap-for-ransom activities in Sulu, particularly citing the 2000 Sipadan kidnappings attributed by Philippine authorities to the Abu Sayyaf Group. He even threatened to bring the case before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Malaysia is involved in this kidnapping for ransom. Probably one day, I will drag their leaders to the ICC. I have all the evidence in my hands," Misuari claimed in a speech at Malacañang's Rizal Ceremonial Hall Thursday afternoon, November 3.

"They are hiring my own people. Even Sipadan, they hired my cadre officers.They offered them millions," Misuari alleged.

In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the worst terror attacks in the Philippines, attacked a diving resort in Sabah to kidnap 21 individuals including 10 Malaysians, 9 Europeans, and two Filipinos. They were brought to Sulu, where they stayed for 5 months until ransom was paid.

The Sipadan incident placed the Abu Sayyaf in the international spotlight.

The Abu Sayyaf is also notorious for beheading hostages who are unable to pay ransom. The Philippine military has dismissed the Abu Sayyaf Group as a kidnap-for-ransom group that is devoid of the idealogies of its founders. But one of its leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and has been tagged as the amir for Southeast Asia. (READ: 4 PH terror groups link up with pro-ISIS fighters in region)

Duterte's visit to Malaysia

Misuari made the allegations against Malaysia at a brief Palace event organized to mark his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, who had even let him use the presidential podium so the MNLF leader can give his "short talk." Others in attendance are the Duterte Cabinet and members of the media.

Misuari's rant against Malaysia comes a week before Duterte's scheduled visit to that country. (READ: Duterte going to Malaysia to discuss piracy problem)

Duterte invited Misuari to Malacañang after a Pasig court ordered the temporary suspension of warrants of arrest against him. He is facing charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity for his role in the September 2013 Zamboanga siege that killed over 200 people and displaced 24,000 families.

Misuari is expected to join the peace process with the MNLF's rival group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and send representatives to the yet to be created Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC).

The BTC, to be created by executive order, will revise a law creating a new Bangsamoro region that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM was created upon the completion of the peace process between the government and Misuari's MNLF in 1996. Members who did not support the peace deal broke away to form the now dominant Muslim rebel group, the MILF.

Meanwhile, the creation of a Bangsamoro region is the implementation of the peace deal between the government and the MILF, facilitated by Malaysia.

Duterte said he supports the creation of the Bangsamoro region, but the proposed law has to be revised to be "inclusive" of all interest groups such as the MNLF.

In Malacañang, Misuari said he refused repeated requests from the peace facilitator, Malaysia, for a meeting. "I don't have the heart to see these people after they make a conspiracy to destroy the honor and integrity of my people," he said.

Misuari also lamented how, in a press conference in Malaysia, a foreign reporter chastised him for the Sipadan kidnappings.

"One German lady stood up and pointed a finger at my face. 'You know, governor, your people are the worst in the world.' News on Sipadan had just broken in the world media," Misuari narrated in Malacañang.

Misuari meets Duterte after court suspends trial, arrest order

From CNN Philippines (Nov 3): Misuari meets Duterte after court suspends trial, arrest order

A local court suspends proceedings on rebellion charges against MNLF leader Nur Misuari in connection with the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013. The reason, to give way for his participation in the ongoing peace talks.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari is a fugitive no more — at least for the next six months.

This, after the Pasig Regional Trial Court suspended proceedings on rebellion charges  against Misuari in connection with the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013.

The court also ordered the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Bureau of Investigation to forego serving Misuari's arrest warrant for six months, or until April 27, 2017, or unless sooner lifted by the court.

"It appears that suspension of proceedings in the instant cases insofar as Misuari is concerned, is needed to allow the much desired peace talks to resume," according to the resolution signed on October 27 by Judge Maria Rowena San Pedro of Branch 158.

"This would naturally mean that criminal prosecution of Misuari, would, in the meantime, be put on hold," the court said.

The resolution was released to reporters on Thursday.

The court's decision is in response to Misuari's motion to suspend proceedings and enforcement of arrest warrants against him, which he filed on October 14.

The Philippine government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Department of Justice, supported the motion. The court heard the motion on October 17 and 25.

Meeting with the President

Later in the day, President Rodrigo Duterte met with Misuari in Malacañang, after Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza fetched the Moro leader from Jolo, Sulu.

Duterte had previously said he wanted to talk with Misuari about the peace process.

The MNLF signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996 but its members have held on to their weapons.

Misuari is facing charges for the 2013 Zamboanga siege wherein MNLF rebels attacked government forces and took about 300 hostages. The military said more than 200 people were killed during the fighting which lasted for almost a month.

His temporary freedom, however, comes with a number of conditions to ensure his prosecution later on:
  • Misuari, OPAPP and DOJ must seek authorization from the court if peace talks will be held outside the Philippines
  • Misuari should appear before the Philippine embassy in the country where peace talks are held
  • Misuari, OPAPP, and DOJ, must file monthly reports on the progress of peace talks and Misuari's whereabouts during the six-month suspension
  • The OPAPP should immediately inform the DOJ as soon as peace talks are terminated, and the DOJ shall file a motion to lift the court's suspension of proceedings
[Insert: Court Resolution]

Zamboanga City Mayor reacts

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco — who was also the city's mayor during the 2013 siege — told CNN Philippines Network News that her city still "strongly" supports the President's initiative fore peace. However, she pointed out that the suspension of the proceedings "does not mean the accountability of those responsible will be forgotten."

Climaco added that the city government will continue to pursue its "cases in court against all those responsible MNLF members during the siege."

Mr. Duterte’s Asia

From Global Risk Insights (Nov 2): Mr. Duterte’s Asia (By Jon Lang)

Mr. Duterte’s Asia

Rodrigo Duterte, the Filipino firebrand president who has been known for his trademark public insults, has surprisingly announced an end to the US-Filipino military alliance. 

Visiting Beijing last week, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the “separation” of the Philippines from the United States, both economically and militarily. Long a staunch critic of the United States, Duterte’s public remarks threatened to reverse decades of close alliance and cooperation between the US and the Philippines. Such a reversal of Filipino foreign policy would have significant implications for China’s growing sphere of influence as well as the US “pivot to the Pacific”. China has already made significant and unlawful territorial claims in the South China Sea including the construction of military installations on the Spratly Islands, Filipino sovereign territory.

Duterte walking a thin line

Following his trip to Beijing, Mr. Duterte traveled to Japan for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister and staunch US ally Shinzo Abe. In Tokyo, Mr. Duterte carefully walked back his earlier call for a separation from Washington, explaining that he is pursuing a separation of foreign policy rather than the severance of formal, diplomatic ties. Nevertheless, his sharp reversal carries with it significant regional concerns.

It is likely that Mr. Duterte’s break with Washington over economic and military aid will lead to a significant uptick in state-directed investment in the Philippines from Chinese state-owned firms. This action would reflect a similar approach Beijing took to the election of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who attempted to normalize the country’s relations with its longtime rival. China responded with national investment, but as time passed, it grew restless with the perceived lack of reciprocity from Taipei. In the case of the Philippines, China would likely seek future acceptance from Manila in response to its activities in the Spratly Islands.

While Mr. Duterte has long had an anti-American track record, recent US foreign policy may have inadvertently contributed to closer ties between Manilla and Beijing. Following The Hague’s ruling in favor of Filipino sovereignty over the disputed Spratly Islands, the Washington encouraged Manilla to engage Beijing in a discussion rather than resorting to more aggressive measures to preserve their territory. Even while running for the Presidency, Mr. Duterte frequently cited that, from his perspective, the US was not fulfilling its treaty obligations to the Philippines which further encouraged him to rapproach the regional power upon assuming office.

More a symbolical statement than a clean break

Regardless of Mr. Duterte’s preferences, it is unlikely that these overtures to Beijing will significantly alter the Asian balance of power. While China has offered $13.5 billion in aid, it wants from Manilla the one thing Mr. Duterte cannot provide: deference on Chinese control of the Spratlys. Mr. Duterte is popular domestically due to his violent crack-down on drug dealers, but this popularity would not be able to endure Filipino acquiescence to China regarding the disputed islands, particularly following The Hague’s ruling. China is highly unpopular across the Philippines with 65% disapproval rating. Conversely, the United States holds a 64% approval rating. Mr. Duterte’s comments in Tokyo walking back his earlier comments demonstrate his awareness of this domestic political dilemma. He knows that he cannot unilaterally disengage from the two defense pacts the Philippines holds with the United States without legislative approval, approval he would never receive.

Because of this, it is likely much of this inflammatory language, while he may personally be anti-American, is driven by a desire to attract Chinese investment. China has a history of heavy investment in countries with the expectation of returns which do not always materialize. While there is current excitement in Beijing, the promised money will not be sufficient to purchase a greater sphere of influence in the South China Sea. The United States will simply wait Mr. Duterte out.

[Mr. Lang is a Principal at Key Global Advisory, a geo-political and economic risk consultancy. His prior professional experience ranges from strategy consulting at Deloitte to national US policy development for the White House. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in European Political Economics from the London School of Economics, and is currently completing a global executive MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.]

US Embassy: No comment on stalled firearms sale to PHL

From GMA News (Nov 3): US Embassy: No comment on stalled firearms sale to PHL

The US Embassy in Manila would not say whether the US government has indeed stopped the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines over extrajudicial killings linked to the country's war on drugs.

US Embassy Press Attache and First Secretary Molly Koscina said US Federal rules prevent them from confirming the alleged stoppage of the planned sale of up to 27,000 assault rifles by the  US to the Philippines.

"The Department is restricted under Federal regulations from commenting on the status of commercial export license approvals of proposed commercial defense sales," Koscina told GMA News Online.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, in a media interview in Makati City on Thursday, cast doubts on the veracity of the report about the stoppage of the sale of rifles to the Philippines.

“As of now we do not have any official word from the State Department. I just read the report in the newspaper and I think that is not true,” Yasay said.

The issue of extrajudicial killings is being cited as the reason for the supposed stoppage of the planned sale of assault rifles by the US to the Philippine National Police.

According to a Reuters report, the US Department of State halted the sale after US Senator Ben Cardin allegedly opposed it due to his concerns about supposed human rights violations in the Philippines.

Cardin is the top Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Duterte on Wednesday dropped expletives anew as he commented on the supposed stoppage of the sale of rifles.

"‘Yan ang problema ko sa Amerika. May bilib ako sa kanila. Pero ang problema, nawalan ako ng respeto kaya binabastos ko sila. Kasi binabastos," Duterte said in a speech in Pangasinan.
"Tingnan mo mga unggoy. ‘Yung 26,000 na baril na bibilhin natin sa kanila, ayaw ng ipagbili. T— ina mo," he added.

Call for probe on killings

Amid Duterte's fresh tirade against the US, the embassy reiterated its call for a probe on killings.

"We encourage thorough and transparent investigations into all credible reports of extrajudicial killings and strongly urge the Philippines to ensure that its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its international human rights obligations," Koscina said.

"We continue to be deeply concerned by reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines," she added.

The US statement showed that it will not relent from expressing its concern on the killings despite Duterte’s reaction to criticisms on his bloody war against narcotics that has left more than 3,000 dead.

The embassy said the US remains "strongly committed to the alliance that we have with the Philippines," adding that they are "working closely with Members of Congress to deliver security assistance to our allies and partners worldwide."

US President Barack Obama himself "attested to his commitment to that alliance when he traveled to the Philippines a year ago to meet with President Duterte’s predecessor and discuss strengthening and deepening that alliance," Koscina said.

Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the US State Department and Obama for raising concern over the wave of killings since he assumed office in June 30.

Duterte called Obama a “son of a bitch” and told him to “go to hell.

While launching a series of tirades against its treaty ally, Duterte has threatened to sever ties with Washington, end joint military training with them and announced that he will align with China and Russia – Washington’s strategic rivals.

The Philippine leader also lambasted the United Nations and the European Union for raising concerns on human rights violations committed during police operations against drug suspects and the widespread vigilante killings across the country, which was encouraged by Duterte’s pronouncements that he wants to kill those involved in illegal drugs.

Oldest defense ally in Asia

The Philippines, a former colony of the US from 1898 to 1946, is the oldest security ally of the US in Southeast Asia.

The Philippines and the US became treaty allies with the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951, five years after the US formally recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.
  • The US is the country that the Philippines has the highest number of treaties with: Mutual Defense Treaty (signed on August 30,1951)
  • Agreement relating to Military Assistance (signed on June 26, 1953) 
  • PH-US Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (signed on November 21, 2002)
  • PH-US Agreement on the Non-Surrender of Persons (signed on May 13, 2003)
Meanwhile, the Philippines also has an executive agreement with the US — the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which is not a treaty.

EDCA allows the US to build structures, store weapons, and station troops, civilian personnel, vehicles, vessels, and aircraft in the Philippines for 10 years.

In exchange, the US is expected to help in the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), provide humanitarian assistance during calamities, conduct joint military training with the Philippines, and assist in maritime security.

Minister Hopes Abu Sayyaf Frees Indonesian Hostages This Month

From Tempo.Co (Nov 3): Minister Hopes Abu Sayyaf Frees Indonesian Hostages This Month

Minister Hopes Abu Sayyaf Frees Indonesian Hostages This Month

Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu gestures during his talk with reporters at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) in Jakarta, June 17, 2016. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Two Indonesian crew members of Tugboat Charles 001 are still being held hostage the Abu Sayyaf group at the southern Philippines. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu expects both to be release this month.

“I hope [they will be released] this month,” Ryamizard said Wednesday at the Jakarta International Expo Center in Kemayoran.

Ryamizard said that the government has been acting prudently. He confirmed that efforts to free two Indonesians who have been taken hostage since 21 June continue to be done. “We want them alive,” he said.

In a bid to tackle piracy, Ryamizard said that Indonesia has initiated plans to hold joint patrols with neighboring countries: Malaysia and the Philippines.

“We have only hold patrols with the Philippines, trilateral patrols will be planned early next year,” said the former the Army chief of staff.

Indonesia had freed 9 out of 11 Indonesians abducted by Abu Sayyaf group between June, July and August, 2016.

Two crew members of Tugboat Charles 001 managed to escape during the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) assault on Abu Sayyaf stronghold. Three crew members of the same boat was released through negotiation last month.

The Indonesian government was also aided by the Philippine government to free three East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) fishermen and a South Sulawesi sailor who were abducted when working on board a Malaysian-flagged fishing boat.

Reds say no need to renew ceasefire declaration but warn GRP of military violations

From InterAksyon (Nov 3): Reds say no need to renew ceasefire declaration but warn GRP of military violations

NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili (file photo by Raymund Villanueva, Kodao Productions)

Communist rebels turned down a government offer to renew their separate unilateral ceasefire declarations even as they warned that continued military operations would only “heighten tensions and serve as disincentive to forging a more stable bilateral ceasefire” between both parties.”

Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, wrote his government counterpart, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, saying the August 28 ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army “will remain valid during the course of peace negotiations until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP with the GRP (government) within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel.”

He also reminded Bello of government’s commitment to release and declare an amnesty for political prisoners under joint statements issued on June 15, August 26 and October 9.

Fulfilling this commitment, he said, would “serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire.”

On the other hand Agcaoili cited “persistent reports from regional NPA commands” about military “incursions into the territory of the NPA in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations.”

There have also been recent reports of activists being arrested or targeted for raids for allegedly being in law enforcement “drug watch-lists.”

Editorial: A special dev’t program for Mindanao

Editorial from the Manila Bulletin (Nov 3): Editorial: A special dev’t program for Mindanao

Mindanao today has possibly the best opportunity to catch  up with  the rest of the country. For the first time in our history,  we have a president from Mindanao – Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City. The two chambers of  Congress are led by Senate President Koko Pimentel of Cagayan de Oro and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao.

President  Duterte  launched  last Saturday  in Cotabato  City  a Comprehensive Reform  and Development  Agenda  for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other conflict areas in the region, with a promise  that the national government  will  bring in more funds for development  and   growth  than ever before. Mindanao,  he said, could become the richest region of the country because of its abundant natural resources and its vast agricultural lands.

But Mindanao is also  the region with the greatest peace and order problem  today. The Armed  Forces are  now  conducting a drive against the Abu Sayyaf, with 38 now killed in the ongoing offensive  by  Task Force Sulu and the Army 11th Scout Ranger Company.  Abu Sayyaf, it may be recalled, drew  international  condemnation when it beheaded  kidnap victims from Canada and released other hostages from Indonesia only upon payment of ransom.

Elsewhere  in Mindanao,  an uncertain peace reigns in areas where the  government  has reached out to the Moro Islamic  Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front,  and the New People’s Army. These  three  major  armed groups are now  meeting with representatives of the Duterte administration which has  specific programs for them, including a federal  system of government that will give the Moro leaders more than the usual authority of autonomous  regions.

The problems in Mindanao are many but not insurmountable  and  the new administration should succeed where previous ones have failed.  Today President Duterte is engrossed in the campaign against  drugs all over the country. He is also striking out for a more independent  foreign policy.  He has  called for a massive infrastructure spending program that should push national development to new heights.

But his heart, surely,  is  closest to Mindanao. This  long-neglected third region of our country, always a  “land of promise” that has not been fulfilled. During his speech in Cotabato  City, he spoke of the promise of agriculture, pledging to  provide tractors and  fishing boats to the people.  In the short term, he directed the Department  of Social Welfare and Development  to  focus on projects that will help the people fight poverty and hunger.

We  look forward  to this special program for Mindanao. It will help balance  national efforts for the various regions of the country and  boost  that southern island’s  contribution  to  total Philippine  growth and progress.

Acquisition of Japanese boats to better guard PHL seas vs Abu Sayyaf, pirates & drug smugglers—Dominguez

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Acquisition of Japanese boats to better guard PHL seas vs Abu Sayyaf, pirates & drug smugglers—Dominguez

The procurement of over two dozen Japanese ships and high-speed boats—topped by two largescale vessels whose acquisition were sealed during President Duterte’s just-concluded official visit to Tokyo—would significantly shore up the security and border patrol capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), especially in running after drug smugglers as well as Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists and pirates who prey on foreign and local mariners and seafarers in the South, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

Given the porous shoreline that span 36,289 kilometers throughout the archipelago, Dominguez said the PCG is in dire need of first-rate boats to better guard Philippine shores and the high seas we share with our neighbors against narco traffickers who peddle their drugs here or use the country as a transshipment point for their contraband and also against ASG terrorists and bandits who kidnap or rob sailors at gunpoint.

In fact, Indonesian suppliers have recently stopped their deliveries of coal to power-generation plants in the South following the spate of ASG-orchestrated kidnappings of Indonesians who navigate tugboats and coal-laden barges bound for Mindanao through the maritime borders that the Philippines shares with Indonesia and Malaysia.

Preliminary talks on transforming a Davao City international port terminal into a transshipment hub for cargos destined to Japan, China and other neighboring countries from a consolidation port in Indonesia have fallen through because Indonesian authorities were cool to the prospects for such shipments to pass through ASG-infested Philippine waters.

“Our government’s acquisition of these patrol vessels and high-speed boats would give a big boost to our Coast Guard’s capabilities in securing our waters,” said Dominguez, who was the signatory, along with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) president Shinichi Kitaoka, to a 16.5-billion yen loan covering the purchase of two 94-meter largescale patrol ships for the PCG’s use.

Equivalent to PHP6.8 billion, this Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan deal signed by Dominguez and Kitaoka was among the five agreements that were signed by Manila and Tokyo officials during President Duterte’s visit to Japan.

Acquired at a concessional interest rate of between 0.01 percent and 0.10 percent and payable in 40 years (inclusive of a 10-year grace period), this package is part of Tokyo’s continuing assistance to the PCG under Phase 2 of its Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP).

The signing of the 16.5-billion yen loan was witnessed by Mr. Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The PCG is getting 10 40-meter patrol vessels from Japan under Phase 1 of its MSCIP.

The first of these boats was delivered to the PCG last August, the second one is expected to be handed over to the Coast Guard this December, and the rest are due for delivery between next year and August 2018.

Tokyo has also announced the provision of additional vessels for the PCG through a 600-million yen (about PHP280 million) grant for the procurement of high-speed boats and other equipment to boost the Philippines’ anti-terrorism and security activities.

This additional package includes one 20-meter high-speed vessel and 14 units of 11-meter high speed boats.

This means that inclusive of the two largescale patrol vessels that the Coast Guard is getting under the JICA deal signed by Dominguez and Kitaoka, the PCG is getting 27 boats under Phases 1 and 2 of the MSCIP and through an additional grant from Tokyo, to strengthen its anti-terrorist, security and border patrol capabilities.

President Duterte told reporters last Tuesday that dealing with the “deteriorating peace and order” in waters between the Philippines and Malaysia will top the agenda of his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his Kuala Lumpur visit next week.

Such talks, he said, will include border control, border crossing, “and, maybe, joint military and police operations.”

“There is a need for us, the three countries—Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia—to talk about this seriously and to put a stop because it has somehow paralyzed the trade and commerce in that area,” he said.

Mr. Duterte had discussed security matters with President Widodo during his recent visit to Indonesia.

In past reports, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had confirmed the abduction of 17 Indonesian sailors in separate incidents over the March-April period and of seven more Indonesians in the Sulu Sea in June.

Media reports bared that three Indonesian fishermen were also seized by suspected ASG militants last July that once again underlined the weak security in the Cerebes Sea that borders the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Also in July, Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives had intercepted off Subic, Zambales a foreign vessel suspected of being a floating laboratory for manufacturing shabu (metahmphetamine hydrochloride).

According to a separate media report, the PCG has bared plans to start inspecting—with the assistance of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)—all local and international vessels in waters off General Santos City and the provinces of Davao, Sarangani and Agusan, in keeping with President Duterte’s war on illicit drugs.

An estimated 70 foreign fishing boats reportedly berth daily in different Southeastern Mindanao ports.

Weapons suppliers must meet field requirements before acquisition -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Weapons suppliers must meet field requirements before acquisition -- AFP
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said weapons and equipment suppliers are more than welcome to supply its needs provided they can comply with the stringent field requirements set by the military.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo when asked whether other dealers or manufacturers can be tapped to meet the weaponry and other logistical needs of the military.

But before this can go full stream, technical working groups (TWGs) must first coordinate with the manufacturers to determine whether the products they are selling are up to Philippine tropical conditions, can be acquired economically in significant numbers and has sufficient stocks of spares and maintenance in the market.

Arevalo said that only when these requirements are met can the TWGs recommend a particular weaponry or equipment for possible acquisition.

Earlier, Arevalo said US supplies of weapons and other defense equipment will continue pending the abrogation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

He made this comment after being asked on whether the alleged US order halting the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP) will have repercussions on the Filipino military.

"The alleged US decision to halt sales of 26,000 assault rifles to the PNP will not have an effect on the AFP as our weapons and equipment are sourced through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) which is guarantee under the MDT," Arevalo said in Filipino.

And through FMS, weapons or equipment to be acquired, will not need to pass US Congress approval unlike contracts completed using American suppliers or manufacturers.

Sole approval on FMS lies on the US government, the AFP official said.

And until the 1951 MDT is abrogated, the AFP can source its equipment needs through FMS, Arevalo added.

US Embassy in Manila alerts citizens to avoid travel to southern Cebu Island

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): US Embassy in Manila alerts citizens to avoid travel to southern Cebu Island

The Embassy of the United States in Manila on Thursday alerted American citizens in the country on plans of terrorist groups to conduct kidnappings in areas frequented by foreigners on the southern portion of Cebu Island.

In the security message for US citizens posted at the US Embassy website dated November 3, the Embassy warned its nationals not to go to areas specifically around Dalaguete and Santander (to include Sumilon Island).

"U.S. citizens should avoid travel to these areas and are reminded to review personal security plans; remain aware of their surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates," the travel alert said posted in their website.

It added: "Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security."

The Embassy also reminded all U.S. citizens of the most recent Department of State Worldwide Caution, dated September 13, 2016, which indicates there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against United States citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.

Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems – including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather, it said.

"Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses, and popular restaurants have also been targets," the advisory stated.

The Embassy reminded U.S. citizens of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines.

AFP chief participates in 7th Indo Defense Expo and Forum

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): AFP chief participates in 7th Indo Defense Expo and Forum

In line with efforts to increase defense cooperation with its neighbors, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya flew to Indonesia on Wednesday to participate to join the 7th Indo Defense Expo and Forum.

The event started on Thursday and will end on Saturday.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the event will also feature a one-day high-level meeting of senior government and military officials from different participating countries.

Over 750 companies from countries including Germany, India, Italy, Australia, South Korea, France, Turkey, USA, UK, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Belarus, and Indonesia, among other are expected to join the exposition at Kemayoran in Central Jakarta.

The 7th Indo Defense Expo and Forum is a gathering of over 750 major and minor weapons manufacturers and is aimed at the development of military technologies and capabilities in the Southeast Asia region.

General Visaya is expected to meet with his Indonesian counterpart, General Gatot Nurmantyo, and heads of delegations from East Timor, Malaysia, and Poland where they may discuss matters spanning security concerns like terrorism, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and other transnational crimes,” Arevalo said.

Part of the delegation are the Defense Undersecretary for Finance and Material Raymund DV Elefante; Chief of Air Staff Major General Rozzano D Biguez; Col. Rommel P. Roldan, Director of Philippine Air Force’ Office of Special Studies; and their respective staff.

With the theme, “Bolstering Defense industry Cooperation: Achieving a Global Maritime Fulcrum and Secure World,” the expo will be held simultaneously with the 5th Indo Aerospace, 2nd Indo Helicopter, and 4th Indo Marine Expositions. Indonesia started hosting the bi-annual expo in 2004.

"We have a standing commitment to our soldiers and by extension to the Filipino people that we will exert all efforts to bolster our own military capabilities. With this exposition and different bilateral meetings we will conduct on the sidelines, we can expect to gain new insights and inputs on how to proceed in realizing our vision of fully capable Armed Forces,” Visaya stressed.

Pasig RTC grants Misuari camp's motion to suspend arrest warrant, proceedings

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Pasig RTC grants Misuari camp's motion to suspend arrest warrant, proceedings

The Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the motion to suspend proceeding and enforcement of warrants filed by the camp of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in connection with his role in the 2013 Zamboanga City siege.

In eight-page resolution on Oct. 27 but released on Thursday signed by Presiding Judge Maria Rowena Modesto- San Pedro of Pasig RTC Branch 158, granted a motion to suspend the proceedings and enforcement of warrants of arrest against Misuari and it is effective for a period of six months unless sooner lifted by the court.  ”The suspension of proceedings and the enforcement of the warrants of Arrest against the accused Nur Misuari shall be for a period of six months from date of this resolution, unless sooner lifted by the court,” the court said. ”Accordingly, let proceedings in thses case against accused Nur MIsuari be suspended. The Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other law enforcement agencies are herbey directed to suspend, as well the enforcement of the Warrants of Arrest Issued against accused Misuari,” the court added.

The court also said that the accused Nur Misuari , the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) are hereby directed to strictly comply with the separate written undertakings they filed with the court and let the first monthly report filed on or before November 22.

Misuari and his key commanders Ustadz Habier Malik, Assamin Bas Arki and Assamin Hussin were charged with rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

The Zamboanga City local government had filed a case against Misuari and his followers for violation of humanitarian law, which is pending at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court.

The charges were initially filed before the Zamboanga RTC but it was transferred to the Pasig RTC upon orders of the Supreme Court due to security consideration.

According to Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar, the case is in the interest of those who died and were affected by the 21-day siege which killed more than 200 civilians, soldiers, and rebels. Thus, they are standing firm in making Misuari and the MNLF answer for what happened.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier called on the military and police not to arrest Misuari so as not to affect his efforts to forge peace with the MNLF.

Return of Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal a welcome development -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Return of Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal a welcome development -- AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday said it welcomes the return of Filipino fisherfolks at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as a welcome development as it will allow them to earn a decent livelihood again.

"On the issue of Bajo De Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, the AFP welcomes the recent development (Filipino fishermen now fishing there openly) that have been monitored to have been happening in the area and we hope this continues in the interest of all those who are getting their livelihood out of the area," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

He added they will continue to monitor the situation in Panatag Shoal with the hope that Filipino fisherfolks will be able to fish freely in the area.

PNP advises public to remain calm amid US embassy alert

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): PNP advises public to remain calm amid US embassy alert

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Police Regional Office 7 (Central Visayas) on Thursday advised the public, especially foreigners, to remain calm despite the advisory of the United States Embassy alerting their citizens in the country on the reported presence of terrorist groups in the southern part of Cebu province for the possible plan of kidnapping.

The PNP made the assurance that Central Visayas is a safe and secure place to live, work and do business.

All areas in the region frequented by foreigners are augmented with additional PNP personnel to implement the tightened security coverage.

The PNP has also coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to further intensify security measures implemented in every places of convergence such as hotels, resorts, beaches and tourist destinations.

The intelligence community of PRO7 and CENTCOM (Central Command) are also constantly monitoring threat groups.

At present, there is no direct threat sighted or monitored threat groups in the region.

The PNP also urged the people to be vigilant in their daily undertakings and encouraged them to report to the nearest police station regarding the presence of suspicious persons in their respective locality.

Major AFP camps, bases to show Pacman-Vargas bout for free

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Major AFP camps, bases to show Pacman-Vargas bout for free

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has announced that major camps nationwide will be airing live Manny Pacquiao's bout against Mexican Jessie Vargas at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday (Saturday in the US).

Military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said the boxing match will be carried live also by the AFP Wellness Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna; and major bases of the Army, Navy and Air Force, including those conducting focused military operations in Basilan and Sulu against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The move would raise the morale of troops convalescing at the AFP Medical Center.

Padilla added that all AFP personnel, like President Rodrigo Duterte, are expecting Pacquiao to floor Vargas.

Pacquiao is known in the military as Lt. Col. Emmanuel Pacquiao (Res) of the Philippine Army and is an executive officer of the 1st Sarangani Infantry Battalion (Ready Reserve).

The Filipino boxer joined the Army’s reserve force on April 27, 2006 as a sergeant and rose through the ranks through meritorious promotion.

He was conferred his current rank in 2011 after satisfying the requirements for commissionship in the military.

Pres. Duterte meets Misuari in Malacañang

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Pres. Duterte meets Misuari in Malacañang

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday welcomed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari in Malacañang Palace in an occasion that carries great implications in the peace process.

The MNLF chair was in Malacañang upon the invitation of President Duterte just hours after receiving a copy of a court resolution suspending the warrant of arrest issued against him by a Pasig City court for his alleged involvement in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

“It is with great happiness that I announce to the nation that Chairman Nur Misuari, our brother, who heads the MNLF, has finally decided to just accept my invitation for him to talk to us,” the President said in a short speech.

“He has obliged and we are very grateful,” Duterte said.

The President said that the arrest warrant against Misuari was suspended upon his orders so that the MNLF chair could join the peace negotiations between government and the Moro rebel groups.

“I would like to assure Brother Nur that there was never any intention on my part to deprive you of your liberty,” Duterte told his guest.

He reminisced how, when he was still vice mayor of Davao City, Misuari was accepted with open arms by Duterte and both of them having a vision that they may someday talk together about peace in Mindanao.

“Little did they know that by the grace of Allah, I became the President of the Republic. And in the twilight of our years, we would be able to talk about the problem of our country, the revolution that you have led all these years and finally understanding on a common ground with government,” President Duterte said.

In the meantime, Misuari began his response with the universal greeting of peace of the Islamic world because he said that “peace is a most vital humanitarian value to us.”

“I came here only to see the President. I came here only in answer to the invitation of the President, the man whom I respect and trust,” he said.

“For I believe, as I said during the campaign, ‘that is one single man who can provide solution to the problem of peace and order to our homeland of Mindanao’” Misuari said.

He said that he was grateful to President Duterte for restoring his freedom, albeit temporarily, and vowed to fully support the Administration’s pursuit of peace and its war against drugs.

“I am so happy to be free again owing to the initiative of the President. And now I came here. Foremost in my mind is: how can we help our President finish his job through till the end of his six-year term? Because I know for a fact that he will not abandon his pledge to the people,” Misuari said.

On the government’s war against illegal drugs, the MNLF chair said that he himself had personally seen the destructive effects of drug on the lives of young people in his hometown in Jolo.

“They are destroying our children, our youth. Who will succeed us after this when our citizens are already destroyed by these drugs? To us drugs is a restless, creeping threat to humanity. Drugs is one of the biggest source of crimes to humanity,” he pointed out as he reiterated his vow to cooperate fully with government.

“Allow me to reiterate my sense of gratitude to the President and I promise that should he need our cooperation in his campaign for peace, you can count on us Mr. President,” Misuari said.

Suspension of Misuari warrant to help in ongoing peace talks -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): Suspension of Misuari warrant to help in ongoing peace talks -- AFP
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomes the suspension of the warrant of arrest against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari saying this could help President Rodrigo Duterte's vision for a just and lasting peace.

This was stressed by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla in a briefing Thursday.

The move will allow the MNLF leadership a chance to meet with government peace negotiators and make final arrangement for negotiations with the group.

Misuari was charged for spearheading the September 2013 Zamboanga City siege which killed hundreds of people and gutted a substantial portion of the city.

"Hopefully, all of these arrangements, all of these negotiations will lead to a long and just and lasting peace, sustainable peace for the whole country. It's about time for our country to develop in a very peaceful development and it is up to us to be able to resolve all of this and that's why I think the Commander-in-Chief is doing all he can to facilitate all these talks and discussions with all these groups especially in Mindanao," he added.

And while admitting that such moves will have opposition, Padilla urged the public to wait for the peace process to be finished.

"There will be oppositions to this move but let us wait, the process is not yet finished and so let's allow time for our negotiators to do their work, the more important thing is to serve justice but at the same time to bring peace to the land, so if there is a peace in the land then we can dispense justice better," he added.

US government not cancelling rifle deal with PHL -- Andanar

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): US government not cancelling rifle deal with PHL -- Andanar

Contrary to Reuters report, the United States is not cancelling a plan to sell 26,000 rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP), a Palace official said on Thursday.

Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said his American friend who is a reporter in Washington D.C. told him that the statement of US Senator Ben Cardin about the rifle deal has been twisted by Reuters.

”When the news came out, my American friend who is also a reporter in Washington D.C. talked to me and said the news of Reuters has been completely twisted. He said that was not what Sen. Cardin has been said,” Andanar said in a radio interview.

According to Reuters report, the US State Department has stopped the sale of 26,000 rifles to the PNP following opposition from Cardin over concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines.

”Senator Cardin was just referring to terrorists because there are alleged some instances in the past that the rifles have reached the terrorists,” Andanar said.

”Number two, it’s between the State Department and the US senator. Just like in any arms deal, the senators really intervene. But as far as the US government is concerned, they are not really cancelling. They are just really giving respect to the senator,” he added.

Andanar, however, said if the US would eventually cancel the arms deal, “there are many other sources where we can buy.”

He said the statement of the US lawmaker might be part the political noise due to the upcoming presidential election.

It’s an election year in the US. Perhaps this noise is just like in our situation every time there is an election year, candidates create noise,” Andanar said.

Andanar said the communication department of Malacanang has strategies to counter foreign negative press but he refused to reveal them.

”I cannot really divulge the strategies because I don’t also want the opposition to see our strategies. But we are already executing some and we will execute more,” the PCO chief said.

Amid the negative media reports and criticisms hurled against the Duterte administration, Andanar believed that “the truth will set us free.”

”We are appealing for the patriotism and nationalism of the Filipino,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte lived up to his election campaign promises to fight corruption, criminality and illegal drugs.

Most of the Filipinos have embraced President Duterte’s leadership based on recent surveys despite some minor groups criticizing his war on drugs.