Saturday, April 18, 2015

MILF to BIFF: Back peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 19): MILF to BIFF: Back peace

After Kato’s death, Murad calls for ‘one struggle’

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim AFP FILE PHOTO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim. AFP FILE PHOTO

One struggle.

This was the message of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in asking the breakaway group to support the peace process with the government after the death of its leader, Ameril Umra Kato, last week.

It was also apparently a move by the MILF to end the fighting between the military and the BIFF, as MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said the group’s peace panel could work for a ceasefire should the BIFF consider rejoining the MILF.

The invitation was part of the letter of condolence sent by the MILF leadership to the BIFF after Kato died on April 14 from a heart attack.

Murad signed the one-page letter, dated April 15, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer on Saturday.

Both the MILF and the government are striving to save the peace agreement they signed last year after nearly 20 years of negotiations.

The peace process, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), came under attack from legislators and the public following the deaths of 44 police commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.

Brotherhood in Islam

“At this juncture, as one brotherhood in Islam and the need for one struggle, the MILF calls upon the leaders of the [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement]/BIFF to return to the fold of the MILF and support the ongoing peace process and the passage of the BBL as the final solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro Question and conflict in Mindanao,” Murad said.

“Rest assured that [the] MILF and its peace panel will do everything possible so that all of you will be covered by the protocols of the [government]-MILF peace process, including the ceasefire,” Murad added.

The BIFF is smaller than the MILF, but as an armed organization it has managed to wage its own war against the government since 2008.

A ceasefire is in effect only between the government forces and the MILF. The truce does not cover other armed groups like the BIFF in Mindanao.

Under Kato’s leadership, the BIFF rejected the MILF’s decision to talk peace with the government and continued to fight for a separate Muslim state in Mindanao.

Kato used to head the 105th Base Command of the MILF until he and two other commanders broke away from the MILF after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Moro homeland deal between the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the MILF in 2008.

Kato, his cousin Wahid Tundok and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian led their MILF units in bloody attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in August 2008, soon after the Supreme Court decision.

Tundok and Pangalian eventually returned to the MILF, and have remained with the organization.

Three-cornered joust for AFP top post

From InterAksyon (Apr 18): Three-cornered joust for AFP top post

President Aquino's plans and calculations about when to appoint a director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has a parallel with the scenario of appointing the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) when General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. retires past the middle of this year.

Catapang, like PNP Officer-in Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, will be reaching his mandatory retirement age of 56 this July.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado is reportedly on top of Aquino's choices. Aquino's second choice, sources say, is Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) Major General Ricardo Visaya.

Asked to confirm that he "begged off" to give way to Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Irriberi for the chief of staff position, Delgado denied "the rumor" in a recent interview with during the Alumni Homecoming last March at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City.

"Beg off? Not true," Delgado said, without giving any further comment. He did point out that he will "cross the bridge" when he gets there.

Irriberi is also a contender for the top military position, but Delgado and Visaya, who both had opportunities to work personally and professionally with Aquino, is perceived to have the advantage over him.

Delgado was the former close-in security man of TV host Kris Aquino, the President's sister. Visaya, on the other hand, became the "trouble shooter" of Aquino.

Both Visaya and Irriberi are members of the PMA "Matikas" Class 1983.

Delgado belongs to the PMA "Sandigan" Class 1982.

"Jeff (Delgado) and Bong (Visaya) undeniably have the full trust and confidence of the President," said a senior officer, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak about the matter.

Irriberi, however, is close to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who had been touted tangentially, as being the so-called "Board of Gazmin" that actually refers names of candidates to the Board of Generals (BOG) which is the screening and recommending authority to the Commander-in-Chief.

On Thursday, Aquino said he is not keen about accept the resignation of Espina as PNP-OIC.

Espina submitted his resignation even before his promotion to the position of Deputy Chief of Administration from his former position as Deputy Chief of Operations.

Espina is now second-highest officer in the PNP, the top position of which remains vacant after the suspension in December 2014 (and then resignation in February 2015) of former PNP director general Alan Purisima in the wake of the deadly Mamasapano mission that killed 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) on January 25.

Aquino hinted he might appoint the next PNP chief on or before December 2015, a month or so after the mandatory retirement of Purisima in November.

Because of this, Purisima continues to hold the four-star general rank despite his resignation from the position of PNP chief, and only early retirement will leave a vacuum in that position.

Only one other officer is holds the four-star general rank both in the AFP and PNP.

But according to retired police general-turned Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, he believes Aquino had already made a choice as to who to appoint PNP chief.

That would be Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, who once belonged the Presidential Security Group that guarded the then First Family of the late former president Corazon Aquino through several coup attempts in the past.

"I think the President would really look for somebody he could trust. According to information, that person could be Chief Supt. Petrasanta. I understand the Aquino family owes some debts of gratitude to the police officer," Acop said.

"This could be why the appointment of the next PNP chief might come in July or August because by then, the suspension of Chief Supt. Petrasanta would be lifted," he added.

Petrasanta, a member of the PMA "Maharlika" Class 1984, stepped down as regional director of the Police Regional Office 3 (PRO3), after the Office of the Ombudsman ordered him suspended for 6 months over an anomalous contract and for the alleged sale of high-powered firearms to communist insurgents.

He was chief of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division when more than 1,000 AK47 assault rifles were discovered missing.

Palace tells MILF: Bring Mamasapano 'self-defense' claim to proper forum

From GMA News (Apr 18): Palace tells MILF: Bring Mamasapano 'self-defense' claim to proper forum

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should bring to the proper forum its claim that its men acted in self-defense in the clash that left 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force dead, MalacaƱang said Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this a day after MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar reiterated they will not surrender their fighters accused of killing the 44 in the fateful clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

"May tamang lugar para ilabas ang ganitong depensa. (D)oon nila ipaliwanag ang depensa," Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

She added the Department of Justice is "doing its job of initiating prosecution against prsons who may be guilty of criminal acts under our laws."

On Friday, Jaafar told dzBB radio the MILF will not surrender its personnel linked to the killing of the 44 SAF troopers, saying the MILF were acting in self-defense.

The DOJ earlier said 90 people, including MILF members, are to face preliminary investigation for the deaths of the SAF 44.

Valte said the justice system should have a chance to move. "Hayaan natin gumulong ang prosesong ito," she said.

She also said the peace process is proceeding on its own track, adding the Palace is optimistic the discussion for the Bangsamoro Basic Law will go on.

"We remain optimistic (this) will be given attention by our legislators," she said of the BBL that if passed into law will create a new autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

The perplexities of living in uncertainties and strife in the hinterlands and the desire to live normally with his family prodded a New People's Army team leader to yield himself back to the folds of the law on Friday afternoon.

Reports from Agusan del Sur police reaching the regional headquarters here said that Glenn J. Genete, an alleged team leader of the Baking Primera of the Pulang Bagani Command 3 (PBC-3) of the CPP-NPA left the movement and yielded himself to the police authorities in the town of Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur at 12:05 p.m. Friday.

Genete voluntarily surrendered to the joint team of the Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) 13, the Regional Public Safety Company, PRO 13 Regional Intelligence Division and Sta. Josefa Police at Purok 4, Brgy. Angas, Sta. Josefa, bringing along with him an improvised shotgun with five live ammunition.

The surrenderee is now in police custody. He said many of his former comrades have now come to realize the pointlessness of their cause of armed violence and believed in the objectives and the sincerity of the government in bringing peace and development in the countryside.

The police also assured him that it will facilitate his rehabilitation by linking him up with the proper government agencies which will help him return to his family, provide him livelihood and live a "normal' life again.

5 NPA rebels surrender in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): 5 NPA rebels surrender in North Cotabato

Five members of the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) operating in North Cotabato have returned to the folds of the law to live normal lives, an Army official on Saturday said.

Through the efforts of the 57th Infantry Battalion, the five NPA guerillas decided to surrender due to difficulty living in the mountains and running away from law enforcers, according to Capt. Jay Cabatic, 57th IB spokesperson.

Cabatic said the surrenderees belonged to Pulang Bagani Command 2 under the Sub-Regional Command of the NPA operating in the villages of Manobisa, Imamaling, Don Panaca and Manobo sa Magpet, North Cotabato.

First to show up at the 57th IB base in Makilala, North Cotabato were two NPAs then the other day three other NPAs surrendered.

One of the NPAs admitted the fighters in the hinterlands of Magpet have been going hungry with support from the masses going down.

"That prompted them to return to the folds of the law," Cabatic said. "But basically, they wanted to live normal lives with their families and children."

While they surrendered without firearms, Cabatic said the 57th IB have documents to prove they were really communist guerillas.

A livelihood assistance package assistance is being readied for the five former guerillas.

Cabatic said vital information about the NPA movement have been provided by the surrenderees.

"They said the NPA is losing mass support and is getting weak," he said.

Communist guerillas' activities in the province have waned the past six months after ranking leaders and members were neutralized in massive Army offensive last year.

The community outreach peace and development program of the military in communities influenced by the NPAs helped reduce mass base support to the rebel movement.

Cabatic said the Army will continue its peace keeping mission even several of its members have died due to NPA ambuscades and road side bombings.

Troops arrest kidnap gang leader in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Troops arrest kidnap gang leader in Zamboanga Sibugay

Combined police and military forces have arrested a kidnap-for-ransom-group KFRG leader in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a top police official announced Saturday.

Senior Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela, Zamboanga Sibugay police director, identified the arrested KFRG leader as Hussien Madi, 47, who carries the alias of Commander Rambo, Cobra and Long Hair.

Gucela said Madi was arrested during a law enforcement operation around 4 a.m. Friday in Barangay Sta. Maria, Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Madi is listed as the Top 4 most wanted persons in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

He said the arrested suspect has a standing warrant of arrest for multiple murder with frustrated murder and theft.

He said Madi belongs to a KFRG headed by Commander Itting Abas that operates in Zamboanga Sibugay and in nearby provinces.

Troops rescue two kidnapped CAFGUs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Troops rescue two kidnapped CAFGUs

Elements of 85th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rescued on April 17 two members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (CAA) who were kidnapped by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on April 16 at Balubad Village in this municipality.

CAA Zaldy Benoza, resident of Tinandog Village and CAA William Laude of Inalig Village of this municipality were kidnapped by four unidentified armed men with high-powered firearms believed to be members of SPN AMLAY, GU2, SQ-BP, STRPC.

Initial investigation disclosed that the duo went to their former Patrol Base at Balubad Village to get food supplies. However, they were held at gunpoint by their captors and were seen tied up inside their former Patrol Base.

The 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, headed by Major General Romeo G. Gan, condemned said acts of kidnapping for it has violated basic Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Immediately, the 2ID conducted pursuit operation on the said areas in order to monitor and track down NPA rebels.

Around 12:50 p.m. of April 17, troops of 85th Infantry Battalion, 2ID encountered more or less 15 NPA rebels with high-powered firearms at the boundary of Angeles Village and Balubad Village of the same municipality and successfully rescued CAA Benoza and CAA Laude from the hands of their captors.

Likewise, the troops recovered one US M14 rifle with one magazine, one landmine, six backpacks, and other subversive documents with high intelligence value.