Communist insurgents wearing military uniforms abducted five soldiers in Davao City, in the latest of a series of violent acts following the collapse of peace talks, authorities yesterday said.
The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels set up a checkpoint in Sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato Proper around 4:30 p.m. Monday and seized the five soldiers as they were passing through on motorcycles, Capt. Raul Villegas, deputy public affairs officer of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID), said.
Seized were Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfcs. Ronald Gura, Bernie Padilla, Donato Estandia and Pvt. Marteniano Pasiagas Jr.
One of the troops, apparently the team leader, Lt. Neven Canitan, managed to escape.
“(The) troops were in civilian attire without any firearm because they were going to the market to procure food supplies and coordinate with an NGO (non-government organization) for the scheduled feeding program in the community,” Villegas said.
“It is very unfortunate that the NPA bandits took advantage of the situation to achieve their barbarity,” he added.
The NPA rebels performed a barricade in the area and acted like they were military personnel to deceive commuters, Villegas said.
He added Canitan escaped after jumping off from the motorcycle and throwing himself in a ravine after sensing unusual demeanor along their route.
“Following his instinct, he immediately jumped from the motorcycle and threw himself in a ravine to escape,” Villegas said of Canitan.
Police reports tagged the group of NPA commander Leoncio Pitao, alias Parago, as behind the abduction.
Military troops were deployed to conduct hot pursuit operation.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. condemned the latest NPA act.
“We strongly condemn this act of abducting soldiers who are not in combat mission. The troops were in civilian attire and without firearms when they went to the market for a peace and development mission with an NGO that would benefit the community,” he said.
The communist has been waging a 44-year-old armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the NPA has about 4,000 fighters.
The government had been hoping to sign a pact to end the rebellion before President Aquino ended his six-year term in 2016. But the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed.
Davao, the biggest city in Mindanao, has long been a hotbed of communist insurgency.
Three soldiers were killed last June 4 in another part of Mindanao when they stumbled into a communist guerrilla jungle training camp and walked on a landmine.
Eight members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) died last month when communist rebels ambushed them in Cagayan province.
Meanwhile in Agusan del Sur, five civilians were killed while millions worth of heavy equipment were burned down after NPA rebels attacked a private corporation in the province.
Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), said undetermined number of NPA rebels swooped down at the compound of Sienna Lyn Corporation in Barangay Remedios, Esperanza town around 9:30 a.m.
“Accordingly, they (NPAs) burned down five heavy equipment to include tractors and then the NPAs left five dead in the area,” he added.
Bongosia said the fatalities were believed to be workers of the private company involved in the agro-industrial business.
The Army official, quoting initial information, said some of the victims were elderly.
The identities of the fatalities were not immediately available.
Bongosia said that fatalities were gunned down.
He said the attacking NPA rebels were aboard two trucks.
The military expressed belief that the attack was motivated by the communist group’s extortion activities.
“We are seeing extortion here…they (NPA rebels) were not heeded,” Bongosia said. AFP
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 08:00 Published in Nation
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday met with visiting United States Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, tackling regional security issues, including the ongoing dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
In a chance interview by Camp Aguinaldo reporters, US Ambassador Harry Thomas said that Mabus’ visit highlights the US Navy’s and US Marine Corps’ continuing commitment to the Philippines.
Thomas admitted that the issue on the dispute in the West Philippine Sea was discussed during the less-than-hour meeting between Mabus and Gazmin, who was with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano.
“On West Philippine Sea? Always we talk about… as Secretary (John) Kerry has said, as Secretary (Hillary) Clinton said before, we want to ensure freedom of navigation, no economic coercion and that these sea lanes are open,” Thomas said.
“That is what they talked about and that we need to adhere to the code of conduct. We discussed these things on the table,” the ambassador added.
Thomas was referring to the non-binding declaration of code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea among claimant-countries, namely, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
Asked if the Philippines can invoke the existing Mutual Defense Treaty with the US should the dispute with China worsens, Thomas replied “we don’t deal with hypothetical in any way... but all secretaries have said we always stand by our treaty commitment.”
“Your question is hypothetical and I think nobody wants to go to war. We want peace,” Thomas stressed.
Aside from the West Philippine Sea issue, Thomas said the meeting also tackled the continuing US assistance and calls of US naval assets in the Philippines as part of the US rebalancing in the Pacific Region.
“We have over 70 ship visits a year. That we are repairing ships in Subic for the first time in over 20 years, that’s a multimillion-dollar injection into the Philippine economy and that we will continue to assist,” Thomas said.
In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the meeting also tackled the AFP modernization program.
“The representatives from the two departments discussed security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, modernization efforts and the US’s commitment to provide humanitarian assistance in times of disasters/calamities. Secretary Mabus further intimated the critical nature of the Philippines for the US rebalance in the Asia-Pacific,” it said.
GOV’T PEACE PANEL BLAMED FOR DELAY IN TALKS
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday said its impatient commanders on the ground cannot “wait forever” for an agreement as the rebel group accused the government peace panel of deliberately delaying the negotiations on the forming of the Bangsamoro substate by perpetually postponing the meeting between the two panels.
MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said that many MILF commanders are now getting impatient, believing that the government of the Philippines (GRP) is deliberately delaying the signing of a peace accord.
“The perception is that the signing of the comprehensive compact agreement is deliberately being delayed by the government, giving unrealistic reason for the delay,” Jaafar said.
Asked what could be the reasons of the GRP peace panel in delaying the peace negotiations, Jaafar referred the media to GRP peace panel chairman Prof. Miriam Ferrer.
“I suggest that you interview the government, the honorable chairperson of the GRP peace panel because they are the ones deliberately delaying the signing of the comprehensive compact agreement by delaying the meeting between the two peace panels,” Jaafar said. “We are not the ones delaying,” he added. Jaafar said the MILF leadership has not heard of any update from the GRP.
“There is none and we are not expecting to receive new words from the government today or maybe tomorrow,” he said.
Jaafar emphasized that the sentiments of MILF ground commanders is that they cannot wait forever for the signing of peace accord with the government.
Asked what the MILF leadership told the field commander, Jaafar replied “that is only for us, we are not obliged to (say) what we told them. I cannot answer that question.”
Pressed if the delay in the peace negotiations would not lead to possible attacks from the “impatient” MILF leaders, Jaafar answered “I cannot answer that question…you are implying something for that question so I refuse to answer that.”
Ferrer admitted earlier that the government intends to introduce some changes to the draft annex under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), particularly on aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms and revenue sharing.
She said the negotiations on the stalled FAB wealth-sharing annex will resume soon in Malaysia.
“This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the annexes on power and wealth-sharing very soon,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer said the negotiation had reached the point of the most crucial
issues of the FAB. “it is to be expected that finding agreement on details (of the FAB annexes) has been more difficult and complex,” she said.
She said on the power-sharing annex, three classes of sharing of powers were identified between the central government and the Bangsamoro regional government which are “reserved” powers or matters over which competencies are fully retained by the central government; “concurrent” powers or aspects of jurisdiction subject to the shared or joint authorities of the central and regional governments; and “exclusive” powers or competencies that are to be devolved to the Bangsamoro.”
Ferrer said some of the reserved powers were already identified which are defense and external security; foreign policy; common market and global trade provided that the power to enter into economic agreements already allowed under Republic Act 9054 shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro; coinage and monetary policy; citizenship and naturalization, and postal service.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said channels of communications remain open for the discussion and settlement of contentious issues, particularly the wealth-sharing and power-sharing annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
Deles made the response in reaction on the statement made by Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, who claimed that “a stalemate” has cropped up in the ongoing talks between the GRP and the MILF which was the banner headline of a Manila newspaper in its June 16, 2013 issue.
“Channels are open in order for us to discuss and settle the contentious issues,” Deles said.
Iqbal was quoted the other day as saying that the peace talks have reached “a stalemate” but the MILF leadership has urged MILF ground commanders to be patient to avoid the resumption of fighting in southern Philippines.
It may be recalled that in the summer of 2000, an all-out war erupted in Central Mindanao between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF wherein the military captured all 49 MILF camps, including Camp Abubakar.
Again in 2007, heavy fighting broke out following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain which was declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
However, backdoor negotiations continued and formal peace talks resumed in the latter part of 2010 and continued to gain headway over the past three years.
Ferrer, for her part, pointed out that indeed the “talks are at the last stages; left for resolution are the hard issues” — referring to the wealth-sharing and power sharing.“Had these been easy, they would have been settled months ago,” adding that “in any case, both parties remain committed to the primacy of the peace process and the public is behind this pursuit.” “I am certain both of us will try our best to arrive at workable compromises.”
Earlier, Ferrer said that the next round of talks will tackle the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing which are the most contentious issues in the ongoing negotiations.
“During the last round of formal talks, the Parties agreed to meet again after the elections and in the interim to process the remaining issues in the annexes through an exchange of notes with the help of the facilitator,” Ferrer said.
“This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the Annexes on Power and Wealth-sharing very soon,” she added.
Malaysia is the third party facilitator in the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.
Ferrer admitted that “because the Annexes will further detail what is provided in the Framework Agreement, it is to be expected that finding agreement on these details has been more difficult and complex.”
At the same time, Ferrer said that confidence-building measures between the GRP and MILF continue.
She cited as example the ongoing planning for the provincial launches of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, President Aquino’s concrete, socio-economic initiative aimed at uplifing the health, education, and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.
The program was launched jointly by the government and the MILF in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao recently following the signing ofr the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
With respect to the agreements on cessation of hostilities, the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF continues to hold, Ferrer said.
“In fact, no armed skirmishes were recorded for the year 2012,” Ferrer said as a “testament to the good working relationship between the government and MILF through the coordinative mechanisms overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire.”
Ferrer also said that both peace panels are “taking the time to continue consultations with stakeholders and their respective constituencies.”
On the part of the GRP peace panel, “these include engagements with government agencies not only for legal and technical concerns relating to the drafts but also to consolidate support for the implementation of the comprehensive agreement and the prospective Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Ferrer said.
Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said on radio the government did not want a repeat of the earlier memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD) that also detailed the Bangsamoro homeland but was met with strong public opposition for the fine tuning of the annexes.
“Given that the last three remaining annexes contain some heavy issues so to speak, the government is really taking a close look that the contents of the annexes will pass muster,” Valte said.
Once passed into law, the FAB will pave the way for the establishment of the new substate, the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
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