Saturday, July 23, 2016

162 AFPPS military, civilian personnel successfully hurdle surprise drug test

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): 162 AFPPS military, civilian personnel successfully hurdle surprise drug test

All 162 officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of the AFP Procurement Service have passed the surprise random drug testing conducted last July 21, according to AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard in a statement Saturday.

Arevalo said the random drug test was ordered by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya as part of the efforts to keep the military service drugs free.

He said the testing took place on July 21, which was in time for the AFPPS' two-day semi-annual Command Conference held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"All the 162 officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees underwent the test and everyone passed," he added.

The AFPPS, which is commanded by Brig. Gen. Alvin Francis A Javier, was the third AFP unit based in Camp Aguinaldo to conduct service-wide drug testing.

The first was the AFP Command General Staff College and the General Headquarters and Headquarters Service Command and both were declared 100 percent drug free.

Members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Task Force “Moses” conducted the random drug testing while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency supervised the process to ensure that proper procedures were observed.

“This is in line with our Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out campaign against illegal drugs that is being vigorously implemented in various AFP units at the headquarters and the units below by the AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya,” Javier said.

For his part, Visaya reiterates that, “The AFP will continue to fulfill its mandate to protect the people and the State and secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”

“And I intend to do that through an illegal-drugs free Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure that the AFP will be the example of an institution that supports the vision of our President and Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Duterte," he added.

FVR accepts offer to head China talks

From the Manila Times (Jul 23): FVR accepts offer to head China talks

Former President Fidel V. Ramos has accepted the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to head the team that will open bilateral talks with China following the decision of an international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s claim on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Ramos accepted the offer when he met with Duterte at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City Saturday night.

The meeting took place a few days after Duterte named Ramos as the Philippines’ special envoy to China, explaining his post-arbitration predicament that “war is not an option,” and peaceful talks are the way to go.

However, it was not known when the talks will start since the Philippine government had rejected China’s condition that the tribunal’s ruling will not be discussed in the bilateral talks.
In his speech in Maguindanao on Friday, the President said he is considering following Ramos’ suggestion to set aside the court’s ruling when the Philippines talks to China.

“Ramos said that it’s all right if we take out the arbitral judgment from the talks,” Duterte said. “If it’s really the will of the people, especially Congress, maybe this will lead to progress.”

“If we can just have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment, I think that we can get many benefits,” he added.

Duterte was referring to possible investments from China that may flow to his home island of Mindanao if Ramos succeeds in repairing the strained ties between the two countries.

“It’s China that has money, not America. America doesn’t have money. So, I really pray that we are able to settle our fundamental [problem], the China Sea,” the President added.

 The arbitral tribunal had ruled that China has no historic rights over the South China Sea and that it violated the rights of the Philippines with its actions in the disputed waters.

But China rejected the ruling and said that it will push on with its construction works in disputed waters.

Police arrest 14 IS suspects

From The Sun Daily (Jul 23): Police arrest 14 IS suspects

One of the suspected IS militant being escorted by members Federal Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division into a light-aircraft following arrest at an undisclosed location. — Pix credit PDRM
The Federal Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division arrested 14 suspected Islamic State (IS) militants, including a woman, following raids launched nationwide.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the suspects were detained by the police in Selangor, Perak, Kedah, Pulau Pinang and Sabah between July 14 and Wednesday.

The 14 aged between 20 to 49 years comprised of four unemployed individuals, three self-employed, two individuals working as cooks at a franchise restaurant in the Klang Valley, two private companies' employees.

The remaining three includes a mechanic, welder and a private university student respectively.
"12 out of the total suspects detained belonged to the same cell and were suspected of taking orders from known militant Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi to launch attacks in the country.

"We (police) also seized an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) weighing about 1kg in an undisclosed location," Khalid said in a statement today.

He said one of the suspects also admitted to sharing knowledge of how to make an IED with other militants through the Telegram social media application.

"Muhammad Wandy is also suspected of supplying him (the suspect) with a pistol to defend himself against the police," he added.

Meanwhile, another suspect, 49, who was arrested in Kedah was one of the main members of IS and was active in recruiting members through secret "usrah" (religious) talks in Sik, Kedah.

"One of his recruits was Abu Ghani Yaacob @ Abu Kedah who was killed in Syria on April 17," Khalid added.

In Perak, a 43-year-old woman was arrested for active in promoting IS propaganda and was planning to go to the southern Philippines with the help of Dr Mahmud Ahmad, a militant in Abu Sayyaf group.

The suspects were detained under chapter VIA - Offences Related to Terrorism, Act 574 Penal Code and will be investigated following the procedure under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Act 747).

Kidnapped Malaysian sailors yet to reach Jolo hideout

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 23): Kidnapped Malaysian sailors yet to reach Jolo hideout

The five Malaysian sailors kidnapped off Sabah last week have yet to slip into Abu Sayyaf’s mountainous jungle hideout in Jolo.

They are believed to be held by self-proclaimed Abu Sayyaf commander Apo Mike alias Najan Sahidjuan at Pandami Island near Jolo in the Sulu province.

READ: 5 Malaysians feared abducted near Tawi-Tawi, Sabah

Jolo-based anti kidnapping activist Prof. Octavio Dinampo said they were held at Pandami where the gunmen felt secure as it was the “territory” of another Abu Sayyaf leader Mulphi Jurahmad, a comrade of Najan.

Mulphi and Najan were said to be among the kidnappers of the 21 Malaysians and foreign tourists from Sabah’s east coast Sipadan island in 2000.

“From there, the gunmen will try to bring in the five kidnap victims into Maimbung or Parang in Jolo before taking them to their mountainous jungle lair at Indanan,” Octavio said.

He said the abduction of the five sailors from a tugboat on July 18 was carried out notorious kidnap for ransom gang brothers Nikson and Brown Muktadil.

The five were then handed over to Najan who is perceived to be “reliable” among the Abu Sayyaf gunmen to guard the hostages and to deal their release.

“It’s a case of one success leading to another. He was successful in handling the Indonesian sailors a few months ago and they expect this to continue,” Octavio added.

He said there was a delay in bringing the five Malaysian sailors into Jolo amid house to house checks by Philippines security forces in the past week.

READ: Muktadir brothers suspected in abduction of Malaysians

“They are carrying out the checks on the pretext of looking for drug pushers and addicts. They are hoping to catch other criminals as well,” Octavio added.

The five were reported missing from their tugboat at 3 p.m. on Monday by its owners after it was spotted listing in Dent Haven waters in Lahad Datu an hour earlier.

The other missing tugboat crewmen were Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Fandy Bakran, 26, Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23 all  from Tawau and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, from Pahang.

Malaysian police foil plot on top officers, 14 IS suspects arrested

From the Asia Times (Jul 23): Malaysian police foil plot on top officers, 14 IS suspects arrested

14 IS suspects arrested in Malaysia
One of the IS suspects (C) in the custody of the federal police Special Branch’s Counter-Terrorism Division

Malaysian authorities said on Saturday they had foiled a bomb attack on top police officers and arrested 14 suspected Islamic State (IS) operatives in a week-long operation.

The suspects included a senior IS member who is believed to be responsible for recruiting a Malaysian IS militant, Abu Ghani Yaacob, who was killed in Syria on April 17, Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.

“Based on a search, police managed to seize one completed IED weighing one kilogram, for use in a planned attack on the top PDRM leadership,” Khalid said in a statement, using the Malay acronym for the Royal Malaysian Police, and referring to an improvised explosive device, or bomb.

Malaysia’s security agencies are on guard against IS spreading in the Muslim majority, but multi-ethnic Southeast Asian nation.

A few months ago, officials estimated nearly 50 Malaysians, most of them from the Muslim ethnic Malay majority, had joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

Khalid said police believe the 49-year-old senior IS member detained in the northern state of Kedah was an active recruiter and was responsible for arranging for IS members to travel to Syria.

A 43-year-old woman, who was believed to have been planning to sneak into the South Philippines to join the IS-aligned Abu Sayyaf group, was detained in a separate raid in Perak state.

The 12 others detained in separate operations in various places including the capital, Kuala Lumpur, are believed to be from the same cell, Khalid said.

One of the suspects was believed to have passed on bomb-making instructions at the behest of a Malaysian IS recruiter based in Syria identified as Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi.

The 14 suspects are aged between 20 and 49, and include cooks, a mechanic, a welder and a student.
Police did not identify any of them.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this year police had foiled an IS plot to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak and other senior ministers last year.

While both al-Qaeda and IS have recruited Malaysians, there has been no significant attack by either group inside the country since the specter of Islamist militancy loomed in the wake of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on the United States.

Dureza and Murad: a reunion across the breakfast table

From MindaNews (Jul 23): Dureza and Murad: a reunion across the breakfast table

From 2001 to 2003, lawyer Jesus Dureza, Presidential Assistant for Mindanao, sat across the negotiating table in Kuala Lumpur with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the former as government (GPH) peace panel chair, and the latter as chair of the MILF peace panel.

Early Thursday morning, July 21, Dureza, now Peace Adviser of the first Mindanawon President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, sat across the breakfast table with Murad, now chair of the MILF, exchanging pleasantries over a selection of deep fried hito (catfish), pastil (steamed rice with shredded chicken, wrapped in banana leaves), boiled eggs, pan de sal and madang (milkfruit).

It was a reunion 13 years after they last met as panel chairs.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza meets with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Thursday to discuss the implementation phase of the peace process at the MILF's headquarters in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza meets with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Thursday to discuss the continuation of the implementation phase of the peace process at the MILF’s headquarters in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO 
Dureza and Murad were the panel chairs when peace negotiations resumed in early 2001, after the talks that started in 1997 under the Ramos administration collapsed in 2000 with the declaration of an “all-out war” by then President Joseph Estrada.

When Estrada was ousted in January 2001 and Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over as President, she declared an “all-out peace” and named Dureza, her Presidential Assistant for Mindanao, as her peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF.

Dureza became the first non-military chair of the GPH peace panel in the peace negotiations with the Moro since 1974, and specifically with the MILF since 1997. Previous peace panel chairs were retired military generals.

Murad, then MILF vice chair for military affairs and chief of staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) was the first military chair of the MILF peace panel since it entered into formal negotiations with the government in 1997.

From “all-out peace” to “Buliok war”

Arroyo’s “all-out peace” brought Dureza and Murad across the negotiating table. But it would be Arroyo’s “Buliok war” against the MILF that would finally set them apart.

The “all-out peace” policy was off to a good start with the signing of the Agreement of the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks Between the GRP and the MILF  on March 24, 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, the first agreement facilitated by Malaysia, and the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, the “mother of all agreements” in the GPH-MILF talks, in June that year in Tripoli, Libya.

Two more rounds of formal talks happened that same year in Kuala Lumpur.

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 in the United States, however, would take its toll on the Bangsamoro peace process when the Philippines became the “second front” in the United States’ “war on terror.”

Arroyo suspended the talks in March 2002 but sent Norberto Gonzalez, Presidential Advisre for Special Concerns to do back-channeling efforts, even letting Gonzales sign some of the agreements, such as the May 6, 2002 Joint Communique on the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group.

Threats that they would be labeled a terrorist group prompted then MILF chair Salamat Hashim to write US President George Bush on January 20, 2003 that the MILF is “a national liberation organization, with leadership supported by the Bangsamoro People, and with legitimate political goal to pursue the right of the Moro Nation to determine their future and political status.”

By early February 2003, residents in Pikit North Cotabato started fleeing their homes following the arrival of government troops in their area, just as Dureza and his panel were presenting their draft peace proposal to then Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

Alerted by what was happening on the ground, Dureza appealed for sobriety and urged the security cluster in the Cabinet to hold their fire. He set a meeting with Murad’s panel in Cotabato City for February 12 but the MILF did not show up. A day earlier, on the feast of Eid’l Adha, ground and air attacks were launched in Buliok, Pagalungan in Maguindanao and neighboring Pikit town purportedly to serve arrest warrants on members of the Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom group allegedly being harbored in MILF areas.

Then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes was called to the Senate to explain the Buliok operations that displaced thousands of civilians, including more than half of Pikit’s population.


Dureza resigned on May 9, 2003. In his five-paragraph letter to President Arroyo, he said that “due to the current status of the talks and the urgency of attending to Your Excellency’s directive to fast-track development efforts,” he believes he can “give my best if I can be relieved of my tasks as chairman of the panel and concentrate on the equally important work of taking full charge of your development thrusts in Mindanao.”

Before he resigned, Dureza’s last act in the government peace efforts with the MILF was as head of delegation to the “exploratory talks with the MILF in Kuala Lumpur where they signed a “Joint Statement” on March 28, 2003 to resume the talks.

For those keenly watching the developments in the peace process then, Dureza’s resignation was “long overdue,” as veteran columnist Patricio Diaz said.

Eid Kabalu, then the MILF spokesperson, said Dureza was “bypassed many times” by the government back channel negotiator.

Mohagher Iqbal, then MILF information chief, said his resignation was good because “he was being sacrificed.”

Dureza told MindaNews then: “well, they can say anything but really, this is (resignation) is something that I had been wanting to do.”

Years later, recalling the challenges he faced as chief peace negotiator, Dureza would tell peace advocates that sometimes, it was easier to negotiate with the other side (MILF) than within government itself.

Warrants of arrest
Murad, meanwhile, was faced with warrants of arrest, along with other MILF officials (including MILF chair Salamat Hashim) for, among others, multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder in connection with the March 4 airport and April 2 seaport bombings in Davao City that left 38 persons dead and 200 others injured.

The bombings were blamed on the MILF, which repeatedly denied the allegations. A spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the March 4 bombing but Reyes refused to believe the claim.

Efforts to return to the negotiating table were intensified and on July 19, 2003, the effects of the warrants of arrest against Hashim, Murad and company were suspended as the complaint for murder with frustrated multiple murder was forwarded to the Department of Justice for review.

Six days earlier, however, Hashim had passed away in Lanao del Sur due to an illness that got complicated in the aftermath of the Buliok war. Hashim’s death was kept from the public until August 4, 2003 when MILF Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar confirmed Hashim had passed away on July 13.

Jaafar also announced that Murad was now the MILF chair and Iqbal took over as peace panel chair.
In 2004, Murad and company were cleared of the charges of multiple murder and frustrated murder, according to resolution issued by then Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez.

Dureza served in other capacities under the Arroyo administration until June 30, 2010.

New Defense chief lays out plans for DND, AFP

From GMA News (Jul 23): New Defense chief lays out plans for DND, AFP

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday vowed to transform the Department of National Defense (DND) into a "credible defense organization" that will ensure security in the Philippines.

In his first officially issued guidance to the DND, Lorenzana charted the department's future direction, affirming President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement on continuing the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) modernization program.

"The SND’s guidance is to continue the implementation of the AFP Modernization Program," the DND said in a press release.

To enhance the military's capabilities, the DND will prioritize acquisition of aircraft and other equipment which will support internal security operations.

"The Department shall also expedite acquisition activities on the pipeline and prioritize acquisition projects intended to enhance internal security operations capability," it said.

Lorenzana also directed the AFP to submit proposals that would execute Duterte's decision to convert the BRP Ang Pangulo into a hospital and the utilization of air assets of the 250th, Presidential Airlift Wing.

The DND will also improve the responsiveness of AFP to disasters. Terrorism In his directive, Lorenzana underlined increased efforts to eliminate the terrorist groups in the Philippines.

"The Department shall relentlessly focus military operations against terrorist groups and terrorist cells and likewise intensify its support to law enforcement agencies," the guidance said.

Recently, there has been a spike in the number of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf Group. The bandit group abducted 14 Indonesian and four Malaysian tugboat crew members in three separate incidents from May to June.

Lorenzana is set to meet the Defense chiefs of Malaysia and Indonesia on the first week of August to address the issue.

He stressed that the department will support the peace processes, and adhere to the principle of human rights.

Lorenzana also mentioned the importance of the Philippines becoming a strategic player in the Asia Pacific region.

"Defense cooperation with ASEAN and other key allies was identified as critical to stability and progress of the region and protection of a rules based international order," the DND chief said.