Saturday, 22 October 2011

PIA News Dispatch - Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aquino condoles with families of fallen soldiers, vows justice

President Benigno S. Aquino III condoled with the families of 15 soldiers who died in a clash in Basilan this week vowing to pursue justice for their deaths.

The bodies of the 15 soldiers were transported to Manila Friday night through an Air Force C-130 plane from Mindanao, arriving in Villamor Airbase at around 6 p.m.

The President arrived at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig around 10 p.m. Friday to visit the wakes of the soldiers who died in a clash with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other bandit groups in Basilan.

During a press briefing after talking to the relatives of the slain soldiers, the President said the government was determined to run after all lawless elements, especially the Abu Sayyaf group, but not the MILF, with whom the government is having a peace dialogue.

Amid mounting calls for an all-out- war against the MILF the President called for calm and sobriety.

“Kung tutugisin natin, siyempre kailangang maliwanag kung sino ang tinutugis. Mayroong mga nagmumungkahi lusubing lahat. Anong klaseng desisyon kung pati yung nananahimik lulusubin?” the President said in response to reporters’ questions about proposals for government assault.

“Mahaba-haba na po yung ceasefire natin sa MILF. Pero doon sa iba na talaga naman pong hindi natin tinantanan, tulad ng ASG,” he added.

The president said there is an ongoing investigation on the incident to shed light to what happened adding that the results may be out next week.

At least two military officials who are responsible for handling the Basilan encounter were relieved from their posts, according to the President.

Military officials who will be proven negligent and who committed grave tactical errors may face court martial proceedings, the chief executive said.

The President commiserated with the families of the soldiers, thanking them for their sacrifice to defend the nation. He also said the state is extending financial assistance to the families of the dead soldiers as well as other support that the government can give.

Depending on the result of the investigation, the government could extend posthumous recognitions to the fallen soldiers who displayed bravery and courage in the battle field, he said. (PCOO)

Only peace talks, government reforms could end Mindanao violence, says Aquino

Peace in Mindanao could only be attained through dialogue and bureaucratic reforms, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Friday.

The President, who visited the remains of the 15 dead soldiers from Basilan, also talked with the families of the fallen warriors Friday night at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Nineteen soldiers died this week in a clash with the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and allegedly members of lawless groups in Al-Barka, Basilan.

The President has instructed the military to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and find those responsible for the killings.

During the meeting with the families of the slain soldiers, the President said such violence could erupt again because of the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and the best solution is to put an end to Muslim rebellion through negotiations.

The government has been relentlessly talking to the MILF to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao as well as initiating bureaucratic reforms in the region so that no Muslims will put up arms against the government, the President said.

The violence has been going on for decades and the present government and the MILF have established a fruitful dialogue so far, he said adding that the recent Basilan clash shouldn’t affect the ongoing peace talks with the MILF.

At the same time, the chief executive also told the families of the slain soldiers that his administration has supported a measure that postpones the election in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) so the government could implement bureaucratic reforms that will eventually eliminate corruption in government.

Because of corruption, funds intended for government projects are wasted depriving the people of important projects that would benefit them, he said.

The president also made a commitment to the families of the soldiers that justice will be done and the administration will hold accountable military officials who committed tactical mistakes that resulted to the casualties on the government side.

Extending his condolences to the families of the soldiers, the Chief Executive also promised to give financial assistance the families deserve, as well as posthumous awards to the soldiers who displayed bravery during the deadly clash. (PCOO)

Ochoa to PMA: Continue fight for peace

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Saturday urged government troops and Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets to continue fighting for peace as a fitting tribute to soldiers, two of whom were alumni of the country’s premier military institution, who died recently in an encounter in Basilan.

At the 113th Foundation Day of the PMA, Ochoa conveyed President Benigno S. Aquino III’s deepest condolences to the fallen soldiers and pledged to properly equip, arm and train government forces and future fighters so that their sacrifices in service to the country will not be in vain.

“I know many of you knew the two brave heroes who gave their lives in Basilan, and it is only right that we mourn those who have passed on,” Ochoa, said referring to 2nd Lt. Jose Delfin Keh and 1st Lt. Valdimir Maninang, who along with members of the Army’s Special Forces, died after a nine-hour clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Al-Barka, Basilan.

“We should also remember that there is no greater tribute to our brave heroes than by fighting for what they themselves fought for: to win the peace. Peace with principle, peace with honor, peace without sacrificing our sovereignty,” Ochoa said. “Our goal has always been peace because history has taught us no country has ever benefitted from long drawn-out internal conflicts.”

In the midst of this tragic event, however, the Executive Secretary said the real challenge remained. “[I]t is to honor their memory by being true to the values they lived and died for: courage, integrity and loyalty—the three words that all PMA cadets and alumni live by.”

Ochoa lauded the men and women in uniform who graduate from the military academy and those who enlist with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for their sacrifices to ensure the security and safety of the people. Despite the risks, he added, many young Filipinos aspire to enter the PMA and serve the nation.

So far the PMA has produced over 7,000 officers, including 45 graduates from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the United States. This year alone, 16,000 individuals aspired to enter the academy, but over 6,000 were allowed to take the entrance exams. Only a thousand passed and have been deemed qualified for the physical examinations, and only 200 will be accepted to begin their cadetship in April 2012.

To strengthen its reputation as a premier military training institution, several projects and programs are in now in various stages of implementation to keep in step with the demands of the times, which require, among others, the academy to prepare its graduates for the tasks of the modern soldier, he said.

According to Ochoa, the dramatic change in character and conduct of warfare and the rise of terrorism as a serious global threat only underscore the need for officers and troops to develop a world view that will enable them comprehend the nuances of the law, statecraft, diplomacy and intelligence.

“Aside from addressing the issues concerning modern combat, the academy must also prepare its graduates for duties that do not involve warfare,” Ochoa said, like in disaster response operations and mitigation, which require an understanding of the adverse impact of the weather phenomena on logistics and planning involved in mass evacuation scenarios and rescue operations, mobilization and resource management, and public and community relations.

“In these initiatives you are assured of the support of your President, who recognizes the valuable role of the academy in the government’s efforts to ensure security, justice and peace in our country,” said Ochoa. “[T]his Administration is committed to implementing reforms to build the capability of our military as well as uplift the welfare of our men and women in uniform.”

One of these key initiatives is the proposed legislation to extend the AFP Modernization Act until 2025, which calls for the acquisition of Air Force, Navy and Army equipment and material, to boost the capability of the Armed Forces to repel threats within and outside the Philippines borders. It also authorizes the Department of National Defense and the AFP to sell, lease and forge joint venture agreements involving defense real properties, and to enter into public-private partnerships to raise the funding requirements for the military modernization program.

“In short, your government wants to put all of you—those who are now in our Armed Forces and those of you who will soon join them—in a position to successfully fulfill your duties and responsibilities to flag and country,” said Ochoa, who also chairs the Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace. (PCOO)