Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No enough evidence to link NPA on arms search

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Aug 23): No enough evidence to link NPA on arms search

Photo courtesy of the New People’s Army

Police can’t rule out whether the passenger intercepted at a checkpoint on Monday, August 21, have links to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Spokesperson, Police Senior Inspector (PSI) Ma. Teresita Gaspan said the passenger’s bag was found to contain seven .45 pistols, and UZI submachine gun with three magazines and a silencer.

 The person of interest is estimated to be between 20 to 30 years old, but Gaspan would not go further in terms of his motives and links.

The passenger was said to come from Lipata, Surigao City and was identified by the conductor who did not return after they were disembarked for profiling at the Task Force Davao checkpoint. Gaspan said the DCPO has no other detail about him yet.

The bag was detected by a bomb-sniffing dog at around 9 a.m. on Monday, a day after the Kadayawan festival, in a checkpoint in Sitio Licanan, Barangay Lasang, Bunawan District.

Gaspan said the firearms were detected inside the baggage compartment of a Bachelor bus with plate number WOY 113, from Tacloban, Leyte bound to Davao.

The conductor already had their statements in the fiscal office for the regular filing of the case against the suspect, she said.

Except from the law enforcers on official duties, all permits to carry firearms are suspended in the whole island of Mindanao since the implementation of Martial law in May following the Marawi City siege. With this, the law enforcers have been mandated to implement stricter measures and inspections to secure the city.

BIFF offers to mediate between MILF, ISIS-linked breakaway

From the Davao Today (Aug 24): BIFF offers to mediate between MILF, ISIS-linked breakaway

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama (File photo/
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is offering help to an ongoing rift between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and several ranks supporting the Islamic state militant group (ISIS).
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said they want MILF to allow them to negotiate between the two groups, as people in the community have been affected by their fighting.

“It’s not good, they are both Muslim organizations,” Mama told DavaoToday in a phone interview Wednesday, August 23.

Fishers in the communities in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, for instance, cannot fish anymore as they are seen as targets by both sides. The fishermen usually go out before the crack of dawn, and they are often mistaken as fighters for using flashlights in the dark.

Tension reportedly rose on August 2 after a faction of the BIFF called Jamaah Mohajirin Wal Ansar (JMA) headed by Esmael Abdulmaguid or Abu Turaipe tried to raise their flag in a MILF bailwick in Datu Salibo in Maguindanao.
The JMA is a splinter group who broke away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters faction headed by Esmael Abubakar alias Bongos.

The MILF believes the JMA faction who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State are coddling foreign terrorists who might have a hand in the Marawi crisis.
The Bongos faction, on the other hand, broke away from Kagi Karialan Animbang who replaced the BIFF founding chairman Ameril Umbra Kato who died in 2015. Kato once headed the MILF’s 105th Base Command.
A source privy to the side to the operations of the MILF also told Davao Today: “it is our mandate to quell these terrorist groups.”

Captain Arvin Encinas, chief of the Department of Public Affairs Office of the 6th Infantry Division could not give the exact figures yet on the casualties due to the clearing operations of the MILF, but gave an estimate of nine fighters on the side of the MILF have been killed.
“They can talk instead of fighting,” said Mama.

MILF’s Iqbal exhorts lawmakers on passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 22): MILF’s Iqbal exhorts lawmakers on passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law

Duterte Iqbal handshake

President Duterte engages in a dialogue with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other MILF officials, including Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal. Photograph from Malacañang Photo Bureau.

Mohaqher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), asked Congress on Tuesday to “work around the flexibility of law” in tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is aimed at ending decades of rebellion and achieve lasting peace in the Mindanao region.

Malacañang has submitted to the House of Representatives the draft BBL, which will guide the chamber in crafting the bill.

Iqbal, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which is comprised of representatives from the government and the Moro rebels, exhorted the House to stick with the version of the BBL as submitted by the BTC that, he said, was “reflective of the true aspiration of the Bangsamoro people.

“For the sake of just and lasting peace and development, we urge our honorable legislators to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by the BTC,” he said in a message at the launch of the book “Beyond Peace Tables: Reflections on the GPH-MILF Peace Process” authored by Dato Tengku Abdul Ghafar.

He added: “Any other proposed bill, like or similar or lesser than RA 9054 that created the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), runs counter to the agreements of the parties and, more seriously, will only prolong the sufferings and agonies of the people.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our esteemed legislators who are present today to look at the Bangsamoro problem as a political and not a purely legal issue,” he said, elaborating that some Philippine Constitution luminaries see the charter as a political document.

“So, the interpretation is not strictly legal but political,” he said.

He added that many, if not most, of the provisions in the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s submitted BBL are in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is an agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.

“The bottom line is, as Congress goes through this legislative process concerning the proposed BBL of the BTC, we ask that our honorable legislators go by what will achieve justice, and what will achieve the purpose of justice. This means having to work around the flexibility of law,” he said.

The BBL is among the bills set by the House as a priority for passage. Several lawmakers have filed their own version of the measure.

In the recent 16th Congress, the bill was not passed for lack of time.

Passage of the bill will be seen as a major achievement for President Rodrigo Duterte, who was a mayor in a Mindanao city for 22 years and has made peace deals a priority for his government.

The submission of the bill comes at a critical time amid fears that rebel groups allied with Islamic State have been exploiting disillusionment over the failure of the previous Congress to pass the law, and have used it to recruit fighters.

The Mindanao region remains under martial law, which was declared in May 23 this year, and was extended until December 31, 2017, following clashes between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

No need for loyalty checks in AFP despite anti-Duterte buzz created by ‘PADEM’ – military official

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 23): No need for loyalty checks in AFP despite anti-Duterte buzz created by ‘PADEM’ – military official

A loyalty check among members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not necessary despite a statement circulating in social media by purportedly active members of government forces calling for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The military’s public affairs chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo made this clear on Wednesday, August 23, in a radio interview.

The army colonel said the issues raised by the shadowy group calling themselves Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM) were baseless.

“Hindi na po natin kailangang bigyang dignidad pa ang mga ganyang akusasyon sa pamamagitan ng pagsasagawa ng [We do not need to dignify their accusations by conducting a] loyalty check,” he said.

“Sigurado po tayo na ang miyembro ng AFP ay tumatalima sa ating Constitution at kumikilala sa duly constituted authority. Walang dahilan upang tanggalin ito at ang kanyang suporta sa commander-in-chief [We are sure that members of the AFP are obeying the Constitution and are acknowledging the duly constituted authority. There is no reason to remove this and to cut the support to the commander-in-chief],” he added.

Arevalo was responding to the statement issued this week by PADEM calling for Duterte to be held accountable for “betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people.”

The group has listed 10 alleged crimes of the Duterte administration, which included corrupting the PNP and the AFP, allowing China to occupy the West Philippine Sea, and the mishandling of the Marawi City crisis.

They also vowed to work for the withdrawal of military and police support from the President, whom they accused of using government forces as his private army.

However, Arevalo maintained that the morale of the soldiers under the Duterte administration remained high and the orders given from the commander-in-chief to the military are legal and in accordance with the law.

“Tayo po ay tatalima sa anumang magiging kautusan ng ating commander-in-chief sapagkat ‘yun naman po ang nakatadhana sa ating sandatahang lakas ng Pilipinas [We will obey the orders of our commander-in-chief because that is the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines],” he said in the DZRH interview.

He also said both the AFP and the PNP did not acknowledge the existence of the group, surmising it was a group whose members were pretending to be active members of government forces.

“This could be group na ina-assume ang sinasabi nilang personalidad nila or kasama sa grupo nila ang aktibong miyembro ng [who are assuming that part of their group are active members of the] AFP and PNP. Subalit [however], insofar as the AFP is concerned, wala pong ganyang grupo at hindi po ‘yan konektado sa AFP [there is no such group and it is not connected to the AFP],” he said.

He said they are verifying the identities of personalities behind PADEM and whether or not they are active members of the military and the police.

Arevalo also responded to an accusation by the group regarding the practice of favoritism in the military and violation of standards in the promotion and assignment of military officers.

“These are untrue and baseless. Meron po tayong board of senior officers, meron po tayong board of generals na sila pong nag-evaluate ng ating recommendees. At ‘yon naman po ay fino-forward lang natin sa [We have a board of senior officers, we have a board of generals who evaluate the recommendees. And that is what we are forwarding to the] commander-in-chief through the SND, Secretary of National Defense, for approval,” he explained.

As for the other issues that PADEM enumerated in their statement, Arevalo said these matters are currently being handled by appropriate government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Kung ang hinggil sa West Philippines Sea, ‘yan po hina-handle ng [On the West Philippine Sea, that is being handled by the] Department of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

“Hindi gawain ng inyong armed forces ang diplomacy o ang foreign relations. Merong po tayong kagawaran ng ating pamahalaan na siya pong nakatadhanang gumanap ng tungkulin na ‘yan [Diplomacy and foreign relations are not the tasks of the Armed Forces. We have departments in the government whose mandates are to fulfill such responsibilities.],” he added.

Arevalo also said that the Marawi crisis should be focused instead on solving the conflict and the rehabilitation of the besieged Islamic City.

“Dito po natin ituon ang ating atensyon kagaya ng ginagawa ng AFP upang matapos ang problemang ito. Umpisahan na natin ang tinatawag na reconstruction and rehabilitation sa Marawi na siya naman pong matagal na po nating hinihintay [Let us focus our attention to the Marawi crisis as the AFP does to solve this problem. And let us start the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi that we were waiting for a long a time],” he said.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumes command of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (Bio data)

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 23): Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumes command of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division

Maj Gen Ronald Villanueva

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva. Photographed by Pat Ortiz, News5 | InterAksyon

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumed command of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division on Thursday, August 23, at Camp Evangelista situated in Barangay Patag here.

Villanueva takes over leadership of the ‘Diamond’ division from Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., who has been appointed as the new chief of Southern Luzon Command.

Before taking his new post, Villanueva was the Chief of the AFP’s Intelligence Service. He was Company Commander under the 53rd Infantry Battalion in 1987; Commanding Officer of the 28th Infantry Battalion in 2003, and later led the 26th Infantry Battalion until 2005. He was commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade stationed in Sarangani Province from 2014 to 2016.

Villanueva has served as the Defense Group Commander of the Department of National Defense, as well as commander of the Defense Intelligence and Security Group from 2007 until 2010 before orchestrating the affairs of the Counter Intelligence Division of the AFP’s OJ2 from 2010 to 2011.

Villanueva was Chief of Staff of both the 4th and 7th Infantry Division from 2012 to 2014.

Raised within the vicinity of Camp Evangelista, Villanueva spent his grade school and high school years at Xavier University, where he also obtained his master’s degree in Business Administration.

He also has a Master’s Degree in National Security from the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Diploma in International Development and Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

“Camp Evangelista have been home for my family, I grew up here since my father led this division from 1988-1990. Who would have thought that someday I would be standing here delivering my remarks as division commander just like my father did 29 years ago?” he observed.

Villanueva said the existing directives and policies of his predecessor will remain in effect until he sees the need to make any change.

“As I face high expectations and challenges in this new position, I feel a strong sense of confidence having a dedicated team. We need to work harder so progress would continue unhampered, peace and order maintained. We will also continue to work with all stakeholders,” he added.

“Mission first, morale always,” Villanueva told the soldiers comprising the 4thID.

The turnover ceremony was graced by the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, and was attended by various local chief executives, tribal chieftains, regional directors, and guests from Northern Mindanao and Caraga Regions.

Both Villanueva and Madrigal are members of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.

NPA bomb expert killed in encounter

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 23): NPA bomb expert killed in encounter

AN ORDNANCE officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Mambuto, Barangay Mabantao, Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Monday around 5:50 p.m.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the 73rd Infantry Battalion recovered one M14 rifle and three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Barangay Tudok, T’boli, South Cotabato early morning yesterday.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, identified him as Alfonzo Kambal Jr., member of Pulang Bagani Command ( PBC) 4, Sub Regional Command ( SRC4), Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC), resident of Barangay Mamangan, San Isidro, Davao del Norte.

According to the report, soldiers were conducting security operations when they encountered around five NPAs led by Kambal. The firefight lasted for about five minutes before the communist rebels fled.

Government forces recovered one .45 caliber pistol.

Meanwhile, acting on a tip given by a former NPA member of GF 73 identified only as alias Ronnie, soldiers recovered one M14 rifle and three IEDs in Sitio Lawbong, Barangay Tudok around 3 a.m. yesterday.

Ronnie previously surrendered to troops of 27th IB, bringing along with him an M1 Garand rifle and M1 carbine. He will be enrolled in the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Sayyafs behead former army man in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 23): Sayyafs behead former army man in Basilan province

Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded a former soldier who converted to Islam after capturing him in the restive Muslim province of Basilan in southern Philippines.

The body of the 62-year old former army sergeant Julio Pasawa, a native of Pangasinan province north of the Philippines, was recovered by authorities in Tubigan village in Maluso town following a raid by militants on August 21.

Pasawa, married to a local woman, was the second person beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf during the attack. A pro-government militia was also decapitated by the notorious group allied with the Islamic State.

Some 50 gunmen raided the village and torched houses and fought soldiers before fleeing to the hinterlands. The military repeatedly said that the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan has weakened due to continuous operations and surrender of dozens of fighters since last year.

But it was not immediately known why the military failed to detect or prevent the deadly attack in the town.