Duterte orders occupation of SCS islands belonging to the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

It was reported that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy all islands of the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS) to strengthen the country’s claims to the area.

I would presume these are the islands, reefs, shoals, and other features within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) over which, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. The EEZ stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its coast.

Whether or not this is the new code of conduct for the SCS among claimant nations in the region vis-à-vis China, which has laid claim to almost all of SCS simply because it bears its name, one can only surmise that, indeed, this must have the blessing of China leadership.

Obviously China does not want to appear as a despotic neighbor for as long as the small claimant nations let them be where they are now and whatever else it is going to do in the future.

This seems to be a nascent ‘modus vivendi’ approach of China towards some members of the ASEAN, like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, now that they are well entrenched in the area with their seven man-made militarized islands.

What else can the Philippines do except to take advantage of the ‘benevolent act’ of China giving us the situation and occasion to lay emphatic claim of our own with the following statements by Duterte:

“We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control. And I have ordered the armed forces to occupy all these.”

“It looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we better live on those that are still vacant. At least, let us get what is ours now and make a strong point there that it is ours.”

China knows that it has gotten us by the “cojones” (balls) already. Our subservience to them cannot be denied and this was manifested when Duterte hinted that going to war against China is nothing but a suicidal act. It is simply a classic case of the saying: “if you cannot beat them, join them.” And that is what we are doing with China.

But ours in not the first case of having islands, reefs, shoals and other features occupied.

I am sharing with you this link for better appreciation of the subject:

http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/south-china-sea-who-claims-what-in-the-spratlys/.

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Military setback in Basilan

 

Wounded soldiers arriving at military base in Zamboanga

The recent military setback in Basilan where 19 soldiers, including 3 young officers, were killed in a fierce battle against the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), that claims to have lost 6 of their followers, does not only leave a foul taste in ones mouth, but questions the manner by which we fight the war against insurgency.

That the 19 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) killed belonged to the elite Special Forces even adds more to the doubts and apprehension of Filipinos on whether or not they are adequately trained for critical and unpredictable missions.

There is no doubt in the commitment, bravery and the willingness of our soldiers , including officers fresh from the country’s premier military school, to die for the country, but these alone won’t win us the war.

What will carry the troops through and make the mission quite successful and fulfilling is receiving the correct and reliable field intelligence report about the enemy in the area, the soldier’s preparation, his readiness, his frame of mind that leaving everything to chance is a no-no, the adequacy of their weapons for any particular objective, the competency in the logistics involving communication, coordination so that the troops could have the necessary things when needed, especially an aerial firepower support, and most of all the capability of those leading the mission.

What is disturbing about this recent failed mission, where soldiers were sent to Al-Barka to check reports that armed men, including Dan Laksaw Asnawi, were holding kidnap victims, was the testimony of a Private First Class Arnel Balili, wounded soldier, saying, that while some 90 Moro rebels were advancing, he and 39 other members of the Special Forces had to spend time loading fresh bullets into empty magazines so they could return fire.

How could one sustain the fight and kill enemies and expect to come out alive when you are exposing yourself as a target, your eyes not even on the enemy, but on what you are doing – loading fresh bullets into empty magazines?

Pursuing somebody like Asnawi, an MILF commander, who was among those involved in the beheading of 14 Marines during a 2007 clash, also in Al-Barka, calls for the highest degree of preparation for the mission to be accomplish.

Unfortunately, the troops came short of it, thus lives have to be sacrificed.

What is in jeopardy now is the on-going peace talks between government and the MILF, especially of allegations that the terror group Abu Sayyaf has been linked with the former in this encounter.

The question now is: Shall government suspend the peace talks and run after the killers or shall government resume the peace talks and expect “misunderstanding” to happen again in the future, while a truce is agreed upon and any skirmishes that entails lose of lives shall be called just an “isolated case?”

Peace is important and it is to the interest of all Filipinos, Muslims and Christians alike, to have lasting peace and stability in Mindanao.

But, if the good intention of government to go into peace negotiation is made a mockery by these rebel groups in pursuit of their own unpatriotic agenda of dismembering the republic, then let our government military forces intensify their preparation and their resources, and review their strategy to effectively wage a war that the government is determined to win.

Let this recent bloody and deadly encounter in Basilan be a lesson in correcting our weaknesses and edifying more our strength as we move forward in our plans for the next offensive.

 

Dying for peace in Mindanao

 

Victims of Abu Sayyaf savegery at Patikul, Jolo

I take off my hat for the brave soldiers of Marine Battalion Landing Team 11 who recently had a savage encounter with the Abu Sayyaf rebels when they chanced upon their sanctuary while operating in Panglahayan village in Patikul, Jolo.

But, my heart bleeds and my blood boils in anger at the inhuman acts of the insurgents and traitors in decapitating two of the seven casualties and the wounding of twenty one others. As if killing them, fair and square, was not enough, the scum have to resort to savagery, still.

The government and the military’s objective in ensuring peace and stability in Mindanao has always been a noble vision. It is in carrying the mission that the government’s armed forces know, understand and accept that in doing so they are putting themselves in harm’s way.

It was reported that from the outset, the Marines were in a “disadvantaged position” when they came upon the heavily defended Abu Sayyaf lair. This means that the enemy camp was located on high ground and having this vantage position, with their foxholes or dugouts everywhere, they could very well see and make the surprising move of attacking first. The estimated 70 rebel gunmen were purportedly led by Abu Sayyaf commanders Isnilon Hapilon and Radulan Sahiron.

Saheron and Hapilon are on a U.S. State Department wanted list for involvement in numerous murders and kidnappings, including three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2009 and an American missionary couple in 2001.

Outraged by the beheading committed, President Benigno Aquino said, “I condemn these atrocities that are meant to put pressure on the peace process — to derail our efforts to counteract the causes of banditry, rebellion, and terrorism.”

PNoy then issued this implacable warning, “Mark my words: to those of you who perpetrated this atrocity, know that you are now number one on my radar. It might take some time, but make no mistake about it: you will be brought to justice to answer for your crimes.”

The death of these heroes and those wounded has to be avenged, no if and buts about it. Hope the ranking officers in the field, coming from the country’s premier military school, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), will do their utmost that their war strategy against the insurgents is better than those of the enemy.

Meanwhile, the seven Marines, upon the recommendation of their superiors, are set to receive Gold Cross medals, the third highest recognition for a soldier. They will also be posthumously promoted to the next highest rank.

 

 

Pangilinan’s questionable appointment to BuCor

Retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan

People are wondering why President Benigno Aquino is sticking to his choice of newly retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan as new head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), when the latter is facing a plunder suit in the Department of Justice (DOJ) for his allege involvement in fund anomalies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

It must be remembered that former AFP budget officer and whistleblower, George Rabusa, accused Pangilinan of being the “bagman” of the late AFP Chief of Staff Arturo Enrile.

If Aquino is very much interested in the services of Pangilinan to head BuCor and reform it, citing the latter’s strong counterintelligence background, why can’t he just have the case expedited or wait until the case is resolved to see if the person is clean or not?

Assuming that Pangilinan is not close to the president, as affirmed by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, then why should PNoy be in great hurry? BuCor has been running considerably well since Ernesto Diokno, the President’s shooting buddy, was sacked for allowing part of the bureau to look like a motel while giving special treatment to rich convicts.

But, if it will take a long time to have a decision on Pangilinan’s case, why not just consider another personality that will better compliment PNoy’s advocacy of having people in government that will follow a straight path?

Is having a military background really an important requisite for heading BuCor? It will help, but, certainly, it is not a “must have” qualification for an administrative position.

I would like to believe that a BuCor administrator must possess clear understanding of local and national laws connected with inmate rights and detention standards, due process and sentencing. He should have knowledge of employment laws and staffing policies and procedures. He should be aware of the basics of prison administration including routines and techniques regarding work, education and rehabilitation of inmates.

An administrator has also to develop and implement training procedures, delegate tasks, assess inmate needs, assign placement and transfers of inmates within the institution, examine security measures and suggest necessary changes, review inmate communications and react accordingly and coordinate inmate activities. Of course he has to prepare the budget, too, for the institution.

To head BuCor one does not necessary have to come from the military service.

A career government personnel whose integrity, managerial competence and excellent inter-personal relationship have been recognized, can very well run BuCor.

Garcia and Ligot should go to jail

I don’t know if retired generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot were brilliant strategist in the battlefields, but they sure distinguished themselves as accomplished manipulators of AFP funds so that it ended up in their deep pockets and overflowing into the pockets of their ilk.

Both are not called generals for nothing, these crooks!

I wouldn’t have minded at all if they swindled government to help the needy, the homeless, the hungry, the sick and all the poor that abound in our society.

I would have taken off my hat to them and cheered them!

But, since the poor did not become the beneficiary of their evil deeds, some rich and powerful people on top of them must have profited.

Enriching themselves, their fellow generals, and only God knows who else, and acquiring properties here and there, as if it was the prize for their gallantry in battle, is not only diabolical and obscene, but a crime against decency and propriety of the well meaning citizens, including the lowly soldiers in the front lines fighting and dying for the interest of this nation.

Too bad we don’t have a firing squad or a gulag in place as penalty for those found guilty of their crime.

Nevertheless, seeing them behind bars for life is a consolation enough. At their age, that is where they will find their end.

It is, therefore, very heartening to know that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a multimillion-peso tax evasion complaints against Garcia and Ligot and their wives following the Senate investigation on alleged corruption in the Armed Forces.

“This is an offshoot of the investigation conducted by the Senate and then we followed whatever information was there and we were able to come up with these assessments. Hence the filing of these cases,” Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares told reporters.

Both Garcia and Ligot may have been charged with plunder and graft and nobody knows how this case will progress, but if this tax evasion charges against them will be pursued relentlessly to the hilt by the BIR to convict them and send them to jail earlier, then it would be a battle half-won already by government.

Gen. Cimatu’s perplexed appearance during senate hearing

 

Former AFP Chief Roy Cimatu

Former AFP chief Roy Cimatu’s uneasy and perplexed appearance during the continuing Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation on corruption in the AFP was pathetic, to say the least.

He didn’t seem to know what hit him. He was stuttering in his answers and sounded incoherent most of the time.

This, especially when Senator Franklin Drilon quizzed him on his knowledge about the two pieces of property in Iloilo City where one was found to be in his name.

One property was said to have been registered in June 1987 under the names of Roy and Fe Cimatu, while another property was registered in July 1984 under the name of Fe Cimatu, according to Drilon.

Documents presented by Drilon showed that at the time these were registered, Cimatu was a major in the military.

“I’m not aware of all this, your honor. I’ll check with them,” Cimatu answered, when asked if he had knowledge of their mortgage to Queen City Development Bank in Iloilo City in 2010 for P24.4 million. Them, means his wife and in-laws.

Can you believe that?

There is no amount of hoodwinking that these former generals can do to change the perception of many that, indeed, there is a widespread scam in the military.

Good that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was civil enough in advising Cimatu, saying, : “For your sake, better check records, and find out how it came to be yours.”

Reforms needed not just in the AFP

Even with the death of former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes, there should not be turning back in probing the monstrous irregularities in the military organization.

In fact delaying it will not only be an injustice to the rank and file soldiers who have been disadvantaged in this anomalous affair, but it continues to be a Damocles sword hanging over the head of every high ranking officer who feels alluded to, but whose conscience is clear.

The investigation must continue also so that the institution that is the AFP will be able to gain back the trust, confidence, and respect of the people that it has so unscrupulously taken for granted and ignored.

Most of all, the probe must continue so that the miscreants, the likes of Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot and even Col. George Rabusa, can be prosecuted for embracing, nurturing and making this systemic irregularity affecting the military institution flourish, as if it was the norm.

Many generals have been snared by this flaw in the guise of privilege, and nobody wanted to get out from it for it meant a life of security, of prosperity and abundance for the family after life in the service.

We are at the crossroads of making reforms in the armed forces that encompasses the army, navy and the air force.

Reforms are beneficial changes brought about by correcting defects, eliminating abuses, and curtailing injustices.

But, reforms also, as we have all learned from the death of Reyes, are much needed to those who are responsible for making it happen.

In the house and senate parlance, they call it in “aid of legislation.”

The success of instituting reforms in the military, or any agency for that matter, is just as important as the reforms needed by some congressmen and senators in their deportment on the floor when inviting a resource person.

In fact we need legal luminaries for legislators, but reality dictates that it  is hardly possible. So we also have doctors, engineers, accountants, etc., legislating laws for the country. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Our fault is that, we as voters, have the propensity of electing the unqualified, the comic, the celebrity and those known for their own notoriety. They make the legislative floors a stage to show the arrogance of their new-found position, to bully and play to the crowd.

We, as people, have reforms to make also. It is high time we take stock of ourselves and assess whether or not the public servants we have been sending to make the laws of the land deserve to be there.

Remember, we can always change them, intelligently, in the next elections.