Monday, February 8, 2016

Misuari gathers 2,000 loyal men in bid to install son

From The Standard (Feb 9): Misuari gathers 2,000 loyal men in bid to install son

DESPITE an outstanding warrant for his arrest, Nur Misuari gathered 2,000 fighters loyal to him at his home in Camp Astana in Indanan, Sulu, to install his son as vice chairman of his faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Wanted for leading the bloody siege of Zamboanga City in August 2013 in which more than 200 people were killed, Misuari also expressed satisfaction at the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was hammered out by the government and the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Nur Misuari
The military and police monitored the developments from afar as Misuari led a whole-day leadership assembly in his home attended by members of different state revolutionary committees and unit commanders.

“They had no hostile action plan. They were busy with their reorganization because they have a new leader and they were happy that the BBL was not passed, because that improves the chances that their 1996 final peace agreement will be implemented,” said Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu.
During the assembly, Misuari installed his son, Haji Uto Karim, as vice-chairman of their faction, Arrojado said.

“The agenda of the meeting focused on the results of the tripartite review conducted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, [on]... the implementation of the 1996 final peace agreement and their struggle for their own version of Bangsamoro independence in Mindanao,” he added.

The assembly adjourned at 4 p.m. and the participants returned “to their respective places of origin,” Arrojado said.

“As observed, there was no mention of any future hostile actions from the MNLF leadership,” Arrojado said.

A military intelligence officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said that some of the groups that joined the assembly were “leaders and members of lawless groups” such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group of the MILF.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said Misuari was hopeful that the next administration would consider fully implementing the 1996 Jakarta peace accord between the government and the MNLF.

“If the government will continue to pursue the passage of the BBL, it would be disastrous,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza described Misuari’s oldest son, in his late 30s, as “more radical than his father” and the holder of a masters degree in Arabic and Sharia Law from Libya.

He said the appointment of the younger Misuari might be in preparation for his father’s exit.

“Misuari is diabetic but his ailment is manageable,” Cerveza said. “But, in case he doesn’t want to continue or he dies, the young Misuari could eventually replace him.”

In the Jan. 28 tripartite review of the 1996 peace agreement in Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Islamic Conference and representatives of the Philippine government and the anti-Misuari faction of the MNLF expressed support for the peace process initiated by President Benigno Aquino III with the MILF and for the passage of the BBL.

Dredging project in Maguindanao on hold due to BIFF attacks—Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 8): Dredging project in Maguindanao on hold due to BIFF attacks—Army

A dredging project in Maguindanao has been put on hold as Moro rebels have been harassing government forces securing workers in Datu Salibo town.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) harassed Sunday the 22nd Mechanized Company detachment in Barangay Butalo where the dredging project was located.

She said the BIFF rebels, using Barret cal. 50 sniper rifles, harassed the Army’s Butalo detachment at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. No casualty was reported from government forces.

The project has been put on hold and would remain on hold until the security of workers a government project is assured, according to Petinglay.

The BIFF, through its spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, admitted they torched two heavy equipment of a private company dredging Butilen river.

“We set the backhoe on fire because the contractor did not coordinate with us and they violated the right of way claim of landowners,” Mama said, adding the firefight with government forces, which began Friday, led to the deaths of five soldiers, including an Army captain.

But Petinglay laughed off Mama’s claim of Army fatalities. She said Capt. Jimmy Amoloy, the 22nd Mechanized company commander, and a certain PFC Robles, were only slightly injured.

Petinglay said they received information that more than 20 BIFF men were killed, but “we cannot confirm nor deny that because we have not recovered dead bodies.”
But Mama said his group did not suffer any fatality.

“Not even scratches. Our troops were just tired,” Mama said in a phone interview.

He warned the contractor and the military that the BIFF would continue shooting at them “unless you coordinate with us.”

“We will shoot anyone — soldiers, engineers, construction workers — once you move forward,” Mama said in separate radio interview.

Petinglay said the BIFF has shown its true colors that it has been against a development project that would benefit the people they vowed to protect.

“The project will benefit every Datu Salibo resident, including relatives of the BIFF,” Petinglay said, adding the government, including the Army providing security, did not need to “coordinate” with a lawless group.

Alex Manuel, action officer of Maguindanao Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said at least 1,500 families have evacuated to safer ground for fear of getting caught in the cross fire.

Manuel also said four civilians were wounded at the height of the fighting.
“Several residents have already evacuated since the fighting begun last Friday. Four civilians were hit on Sunday,” he said.

Manuel said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu has ordered the provincial relief team to attend to the needs of displaced families.

The dredging project, funded through the congressional work of Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, is aimed at preventing floods in Datu Salibo town.

Army step up Davao security operations

From the Manila Times (Feb 9): Army step up Davao security operations

DAVAO CITY: A number of armed confrontations between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were recorded after the 10th Infantry (Agila) Divi- sion intensified its securi- ty operations in its areas of jurisdiction.

On Feb. 6 at about 5 a.m., elements of Bravo Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion engaged a group of fully-armed NPA rebels belonging to guerrilla front 71 of the Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR) in the boundaries of Jose Abad Santos town in Davao Occi-dental and Glan, Sarangani, Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of the 10th ID said in a statement on Monday.

Batchar added that the second encounter took place on the same date, at about 2:30 p.m. in Sitio Binotaam, Ba-rangay Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley province when troopers belonging to 46th Infantry Battalion engaged an escaping group of NPA rebels belonging to guerrilla front 2 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) led by a certain Alias Raden.

On Feb. 7, another armed encounter that lasted for six minutes took place between the elements of 46th IB and the rebels in Sitio Logpaton, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan.

“No soldier was hurt on these incidents while the NPAs were believed to have suffered casualties as they left behind traces of bloodstains and various personal effects and other paraphernalia after fleeing the site of the incidents,” Batchar said.

Elements of 46th IB and 73rd IB are still conducting pursuit operations against the NPAs in their respective areas of operation.

In the same statement, Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of 10th ID, reiterated his earlier statement that the command’s campaign against the NPAs would be relentless.

“We will continue our peace and development initiatives for the people of Davao Region. We encourage NPA members to abandon the armed struggle and return to the folds of the law. But for those who continue to choose the path of violence, we will vigorously pursue and defeat them using legitimate force,” Valencia said.

Clashes between soldiers, rebels erupt anew in Southern Mindanao

From MindaNews (Feb 8): Clashes between soldiers, rebels erupt anew in Southern Mindanao

Units under the 10th Infantry Division engaged New People’s Army rebels in Compostela Valley and Davao Occidental provinces over the weekend.

The weekend clashes followed a series of encounters between the military and the NPA in Compostela Valley last February 3 where three soldiers were killed and three others were wounded, an Army official said.

In a text message to MindaNews, Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, 10ID public affairs chief said the first encounter happened at around 5 a.m. on Saturday and lasted 15 minutes.

Batchar said Bravo Company of the 73rd Infantry Battalion clashed with the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 71 in the Far South Mindanao Region covering Jose Abad Santos town in Davao Occidental and Glan town in Sarangani Province.

On same day, another 15-minute encounter took place at 2:30 p.m. in Sitio Binotaan, Brgy. Kingking, Pantukan in Compostela Valley when soldiers chanced upon members of NPA Guerrilla Front 2 led by a certain Raden.

The third clash occurred in Sitio Logpaton, Brgy Kingking when rebels opened fire at soldiers manning a checkpoint at 3 p.m. on Sunday resulting to a six-minute gun battle.

Batchar said no soldier was hurt. He claimed the rebels suffered casualties.

He said the NPA has large formations in the two provinces based on their assessment but added the 1001st Brigade can address rebel presence in these areas.

“Soldiers of 46IB and 73IB are still conducting pursuit operations against the NPAs,” a press release from the 10ID dated Feb. 8 said.

Last Feb. 3, Army 1Lt. Ralph Pantonial, Pfc Eulezys Bantulo, and Pfc. William Moreno were killed, while Pfc Jestoni Sabido, Cpl. Merlven Velunta, and a certain Herbert Aquino were injured in separate military operations.

In a press release Sunday, the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao claimed the Feb. 3 clashes resulted in 30 military casualties.

It said the NPA’s Comval Davao Gulf Subregional Command ambushed the 46th IB in three separate incidents on Feb. 3 – at 12:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The first ambush occurred in Sapang Tin-aw, Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan killing nine soldiers including 2Lt. Garcia. Ten were wounded and one was rendered missing, the NDF press release said.

“At 7:30 pm, the Red fighters ambushed the Army, damaging the military’s truck in Brgy. Cabahian where two soldiers were killed, including Army officer Capt. Pantonial, and seven others were wounded.  A Red fighter took a sniper shot and killed Sgt. William Morenio of the 46th IB in Barangay Biasong, Pantukan at 7:00pm,” the rebel group said.

It added the attacks were “meant to punish” the 46th IB for allegedly defending the interests of large-scale mining companies in Pantukan.

More troops deployed in Surigao del Sur

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 8): More troops deployed in Surigao del Sur

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed more troops in Surigao del Sur to beef up the four Army battalions that are already patrolling areas believed to be infested by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The elite-Scout Ranger Company (SRC) of the AFP arrived via C130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) at Butuan City (Bancasi) National Airport last week with the primary objective of helping crush the remaining NPAs and sustain the gains of the peace, security, and development efforts of the AFP’s 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade in Surigao del Sur.

The SRC troops were immediately oriented about their new area of operation and underwent cultural sensitivity, human rights and international humanitarian law seminars at the Division Advance Command Post (ACP) of the AFP’s 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) here, said First Lt. Karl Jan S. Devaras, company commander of the 41st Civil-Military Operations (Magkahiusa) at Camp Bancasi, Butuan City.

The orientation and seminar will help the newly deployed troops to get to know the culture of their new deployment area and to be reminded that respect to human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law is imperative in the performance of their duty, he added.
The SRC will augment the 36th Infantry Battallion (36h IB), 75th IB, 16th IB, 2nd Special Forces Battalion (2nd SFB) apart from the two other Special Forces (SF) groups.

These combat maneuvering battallions will also be supported by other operation control (Opcon) units of the 4th ID.

These battalions will be under the operational control of Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 402nd Brigade based in Tandag City, in Surigao del Sur.

Some special forces of the Northeastern Mindanao Police Regional Office-13 (PRO-13) have also been deployed in the province to toughen law enforcement and assist the counter insurgency operations of the AFP.

“We will not fail in our mandate to reduce the capability of the CPP-NPA in the area. And we will also help the PNP and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure honest, orderly and credible May 9, 2016 polls,” Purisima said in a statement.

NPA owns killing of Cotabato security chief

From InterAksyon (Feb 9): NPA owns killing of Cotabato security chief

The New People’s Army has owned responsibility for killing the head of Cotabato province’s Civil Security Unit over the weekend.

Bernabe Abanilla and his companion, identified by police as Degul Semillano, were gunned down by three still unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle as they got off a pickup outside the Catholic church in Barangay Doroluman in Arakan town Sunday morning.

A day later, the NPA command operating in Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces issued a statement calling Abanilla’s death “a huge victory for the people in Arakan and the revolution,” independent media outfit DavaoToday reported.

NPA spokesperson Isabel Santiago accused Abanilla, who used to be Doroluman barangay chairman, of being one of those who masterminded the murder of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, who was gunned down by a militiaman in the parish compound of Arakan on October 17, 2011, and of Benjaline Hernandez, former editor of Ateneo de Davao’s campus paper Atenews in April 2002, who was also killed in Arakan.

Chief Inspector Felix Fornan, Arakan police chief, said Abanilla was declared dead on arrival at a hospital from gunshots to the head and body.

Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza offered a P200,000 bounty for the capture of Abanilla’s killers and called his death “a great loss of a life of a man who was a dedicated family man and who was devoted to his work.”

Ex-Special Forces Regiment commander now Eastmincom deputy

From InterAksyon (Feb 9): Ex-Special Forces Regiment commander now Eastmincom deputy
Eastern Mindanao Command under Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero welcomes newly designated Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Ronnie S. Evangelista at Eastmincom headquarters. Photograph courtesy of Eastmincom PIO Capt. Alberto C. Caber.
Reports reaching Manila indicated that Brig. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista assumed on Tuesday his new position as deputy of the Mindanao-based Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
Arrival honors for incoming Eastmincom Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Ronnie S. Evangelista at Headquarters, Eastern Mindanao Command, Panacan, Davao City. Photo from Eastmincom PIO.
The command's deputy position has been vacant for nearly two months.

According to the area command spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber, Evangelista, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Sinagtala" Class 1986, replaced Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros, who had earlier been appointed commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Capiz in Western Visayas.
Eastmincom is based at Camp Navarro in Panacan, Davao City. The command is battling the 47-year-old New People's Army (NPA), the armed component of the Communist party of the Philippines (CPP).

Evangelista was former commander of the Special Forces Regiment (SFR), one of the two elite units, the other one being the Scout Ranger Regiment (SRR), of the Philippine Army's Special Operations Command (SOCOM) based at Fort Magsaysay, home of the 7th ID in Nueva Ecija.