Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cops brace for clashes between NPA, rival group

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 31): Cops brace for clashes between NPA, rival group

Police in Western Visayas have been alerted to a possible escalation of armed hostilities between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the breakaway Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade following the killing of an RPA-ABB commander in Iloilo.

Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., Western Visayas police director, said the PNP has been closely monitoring the two groups after the NPA claimed responsibility for the killing of Joven Tababa who belongs to the RPA-ABB faction led by Nilo de la Cruz. Heavily armed men gunned down Tababa in Barangay Bagacay in Tigbauan town in Iloilo on Jan. 25.

In a statement on Jan. 29, the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command, the rebel group operating in southern Panay, claimed responsibility for the attack. Rebel spokesperson Ka Ariston Remus said Tababa was punished for involvement in killings, extortion and threats against residents of Tigbauan, Guimbal and San Joaquin towns in Iloilo and Sibalom town in Antique. Remus also accused the RPA-ABB of serving as “armed goons of politicians.”

The RPA-ABB has denied the allegations of the NPA and has accused the communist rebels of killing RPA-ABB leaders in retaliation for breaking away.

In the group’s statement issued to the news organizations in Iloilo, the RPA-ABB condemned the attack and vowed “justice” for Tababa.

The Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa Pilipinas (RPMP) broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA in the 1990s over ideological differences.

Police: NPA’s Larangan Guerrilla 1 staged ambush-massacre

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jan 31): Police: NPA’s Larangan Guerrilla 1 staged ambush-massacre

THE Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Noppo) officer-in-charge identified Thursday the attackers who killed nine persons in La Castellana town as members of the “Larangan Guerilla 1” of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Senior Superintendent Celestino Guara said during the case conference at Noppo Wednesday that the suspects, based on investigations, were NPA members who, at the same time, are residents of Barangay Puso, where the ambush happened.

He said some of them were also from Negros Oriental, particularly operating in Central Negros. Guara said they already have the identities of the 15 to 20 suspects, but they are still validating the suspects’ participation in the incident.

Murder charges will be filed as soon as possible against the suspects, assured Guara. He said the identities of the suspects were determined through intelligence efforts of the Philippine National Police and Army.

Killed in the ambush last Sunday were Police Officer (PO) 1 Richard Canja, a resident of Barangay Cabacungan, La Castellana, who sustained a gunshot wound in his head; Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) members Ulysses Tamayor, Jonathan Mateo and Ramir Complesa; civilians Virginia Ordonez and Lito Lucban, all of Barangay Cabacungan; civilian driver Ricky Dingcong; and barangay tanods (village watchmen) Mario Ricablanca and Tiotimo Esplegera of Barangay Puso. Wounded were PO3 Constantino Villegas, PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez, Bonifacio Bayate, Cristoto Perolino, Jerry Lacquedo, Roger Bajar, Jamil Roma, Victoriano Donasco, Jason Ocsimar, all residents of Barangay Cabacungan.

The victims were on board a canter truck used by the policemen and the BPATs who were requested to secure the benefit dance as part of the fiesta celebration of Barangay Puso when they were waylaid.

Guara said that based on the statement of the witnesses, some NPA members were also wounded when PO2 Alvarez returned fire. He said the two cops are now in stable condition.

He added that based on the intelligence report of the Army, the suspects used high-powered firearms identified with the NPA rebels who were transported from within the Visayas area.

He said they recovered from the crime scene about 100 empty shells of assorted high-powered firearms, including from AK 47 assault rifle, a firearm identified with the rebel group.

Guara also said that 302nd Infantry Brigade will put up a detachment and assign additional Army personnel in Barangay Puso to secure the safety of the residents against the presence of the NPA.

Warren Rodwell death threat by Al Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah

From the Courier Mail (Jan 31): Warren Rodwell death threat by Al Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah


Terrorist group threatens to kill Australian hostage
  • Photo posted on Facebook
  • "Save his life before it’s too late"

  • TERRORIST group Al Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah has said it will kill Australian hostage Warren Rodwell, in the latest threat to the Australian government. 
    The threat was accompanied by a new photograph of Mr Rodwell surrounded by masked gunmen. According to social media website Rappler, a post on Facebook from Tuesday by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah shows the gaunt figure of the Australian hostage.
    The message contained a threat to kill Mr Rodwell if ransom money was not paid to the group immediately.

    In the photo Mr Rodwell is holding a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, dated January 25, 2013.
    Perth link to Aussie hostage

    Warren Rodwell

    Kidnapped Australian Warren Rodwell as he appeared in a video released to YouTube.

    PerthNow today came across a blog created by Mr Rodwell which goes into great detail his family history and working life.

    According to the blog, Mr Rodwell was born in Homebush on the outskirts of Sydney in 1958.

    One of his children was born in Subiaco in 1988.

    His other two children were born in Queensland in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

    According to the blog one of his children had a baby of their own in 2010.

    “I developed a love of the beach at a very young age,” Mr Rodwell writes on the blog.

    “Have travelled around most parts of mainland Australia. The cities that I know best are Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.”

    Terrorist threat on Facebook

    The Facebook message posted by the terrorist group is directed at the Australian Government and says: "We will give you a chance to save his life before it's too late."

    “To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee’ah,” the group said.

    "If you have concerned (sic) with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it’s too late, as soon as possible time (sic), otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death,” the group added.

    Foreign Minister Bob Carr told ABC radio this morning the Federal Government was continuing to work to secure the release of Mr Rodwell. He said the Philippines government was leading the response and had devoted significant resources to securing Mr Rodwell's release.

    The Federal Government has a policy not to pay kidnapper ransoms with taxpayer dollars.
    But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last year agreed to implement Senate recommendations that families are "made aware of the option of engaging a private kidnap and ransom consultant".

    "If a family chooses to engage a kidnap and ransom specialist, DFAT will continue to provide the family and their representatives with as much information as possible bearing in mind national security and privacy concerns," DFAT said.

    Currently there are four other foreigners being held for ransom in the Philippines. The last ransom hostage to be executed by his captors was a Peruvian American in 2001. There is a possibility the terrorists may not be politically motivated.

    In December 2012 the terrorists released a proof-of-life video of Mr Rodwell, who was kidnapped at gunpoint on December 5, 2011, and has been held hostage in the jungles of the southern Philippines since.

    A video clip released in December last year on YouTube by the group shows the 54-year-old retired soldier looking thin, haggard and depressed.

    "This video clip is to say that I'm alive. I am waiting to be released," Mr Rodwell says before adding a few seconds later: "I personally hold no hope at all for being released."

    The Homebush-born man says on the video - which runs for one minute 58 seconds and is believed to be authentic - that he is being held in isolation while negotiations for his release are under way.

    Mr Rodwell was taken from his Southern Philippines home by suspected extremists on December 5, 2011. He was living in the area with his wife.

    DFAT’s Smart Traveller website recommends Australians do not visit the area of the Philippines where Mr Rodwell was living.

    Here is the full Facebook post re-published on the website Rappler:

    In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Universe. May Allah bestow peace and blessings upon our Leader Muhammad, Leader of those who strive in Allah's way and Imam of the pious. May He also bestow peace and blessings upon his family and his companions, and all those who strive for the Sharee’ah until the Day of judgment.

    We the Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, Our Jihad will continue with the permission of Allah azza wa jalla, we will raise the flag of Islamic Sharee’ah and we would not be perturbed by the people who dispute with us and also not the people who aggress us, until you witness the dignity and the supremacy in our Ummah, or we will be meeting Allah azza wa jalla while in the advance and not in retreat.

    To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee’ah, if you have concerned with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it’s too late, as soon as possible time, otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death.

    To our brothers in Islam we would like to make it clear that our activities like this are not for personal interests or just to gain money for personal use, let it be known to everyone we are on war against the forces of shaytan in the Philippines, its allies and supporters, and whatever we gain from this war is to be used for our future operations and other necessities.

    Who is Warren Rodwell?

    AUSTRALIAN Warren Rodwell has been held hostage by terrorists in the Southern Philippines for 423 days, after being kidnapped by six gunmen on December 5, 2011.

    Mr Rodwell is close to becoming one of the longest-held Australian captives outside wartime.

    A close friend describes him as an "adventurous" spirit who headed to the Southern Philippines so he would not become "stuck in a rut".

    Mr Rodwell is understood to have served in the Australian Army in the 1980s and has spent much of the past fifteen years travelling the world.

    His website indicates that he is an avid photographer.

    He has spent time in South America and spent much of his decade before captivity teaching English at Chinese universities.

    Mr Rodwell was living in the Philippines, in the dangerous Zamboanga Sibugay province with his wife, Miraflor, when he was abducted.

    Bloodstains were found by local police at his coastal home.

    The kidnapped Australian has children and siblings, with his three adult children understood to live in Perth.

    The family said in a statement in January 2012 that they did not wish to make any comment about Mr Rodwell.

    "We are sure people will understand that this is a difficult time for our family and friends," the statement read.

    "We do not, at this stage, wish to make any public comments, and ask that the media respects our privacy."

    The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing the family with consular assistance.

    Mr Rodwell grew up in Sydney. During his youth, he spent several years at Sydney’s Burnside Homes as a ward of the state. He later returned there to do a pastoral counselling course in late 2010.

    Rev. Martin Levine lectured Mr Rodwell in the course at the Alan Walker College of Evangelism.

    Rev. Levine said he was doing the course "for personal development".

    "He certainly wasn’t someone who spoke easily about his background," Rev. Levine told "I was dumbfounded he was in the Philippines in the first place."

    2 firms join bidding for 21 PAF helicopters

    From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): 2 firms join bidding for 21 PAF helicopters

    Two firms joined yesterday’s bidding for the acquisition of 21 UH-1H helicopters for the Philippine Air Force. They are the Israel-based Radom Aviation Systems Ltd. and the US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc.

    A total of seven firms purchased bid documents from the Department of National Defense, but only Radom and Rice submitted offers.

    The five firms that bought bid documents but did not join the bidding were Serpenair Group Inc./Bell helicopter, ST Aerospace Engineering PTE. Ltd, Stone of David Tactical Equipment Co., Overseas Aircraft Support Inc., and Aerospace Engineering Group.

    Defense officials postponed the opening of bids scheduled yesterday.

    Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said he believes the government can still acquire the UH-1 helicopters in time for the elections. The defense department wants the helicopters delivered on or before March 31.

    The government has allocated P1.26 billion for the purchase of the helicopters and the integrated logistics support package.

    The Air Force made the request for additional Hueys in 2011. It only has 16 mission-capable Hueys, 51 units short of the ideal number of operational combat utility helicopters.

    The defense department first held a bidding for the helicopters last December. However, it was declared a failure after bidders fell short of some requirements.

    Deles eyes 'balanced' composition of Bangsamoro TransCom

    From the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) (Jan 31): Deles eyes 'balanced' composition of Bangsamoro TransCom

    Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles on Wednesday said that the composition of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (TransCom), a body mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law as provided in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), “shall have gender, ethnic and generational balance.”

    “This is to ensure that voices of all Bangsamoro stakeholders, including women, indigenous peoples, and the youth, will be part of the TransCom that will craft the Basic Law,” she stated.

    Once drafted, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be certified urgent by the President and submitted to Congress for passage. It will undergo a plebiscite in the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro. Upon ratification, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is deemed abolished, according to the FAB.

    Deles related that the Government of the Philippines (GPH) nominees to the TransCom have been processed by the Search Committee and are expected to be submitted to the President very soon. The MILF officially submitted their list of nominees to the GPH panel on the first day of the 35th Formal Exploratory Talks held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 21-25, 2013.

    “The parties have already listed their nominees for the TransCom and their clearances along with their profiles will be submitted to the President,” Deles said.

    GPH Peace Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, during a video conference held over the weekend at Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headquarters in Pasig City, spoke to reporters via live streaming from Kuala Lumpur and said that the TransCom is expected to be set up in the next few weeks.

    “Very soon we’ll have the members of the Transition Commission announced and duly appointed, and they can start working together on their mandate,” she said.

    Last December, President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 120 which paves the way for the creation of the TransCom tasked to craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law as provided in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

    Coronel-Ferrer related that “in this sense, both parties recognize that the implementation of the FAB has started.”

    The FAB, which received enormous support from various sectors, was welcomed by both Congress and Senate through Resolutions No. 2971 and 922, respectively.

    Both resolutions expressed support to the establishment of the TransComm, saying that ”The FAB also provides for the empowerment of the Bangsamoro people by creating the space for their meaningful participation in the process of enacting the Bangsamoro Basic law through the creation of the Transition Commission.”

    During the 35th round of formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, the GPH and the MILF peace panels as well as Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohammed extended their profuse thanks and gave a big round of applause to North Cotabato Representative Jesus N. Sacdalan who served as an observer during the said round. Sacdalan, along with Tupay Loong of Sulu, Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao and Acmad Tomawis of Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino partylist, introduced Congress Resolution No. 2971 which expressed “support to the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF and its implementation, including the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.”

    Further, they thanked Senator Teofisto Guingona who expressed the same support by sponsoring Senate Resolution No. 922.

    PAF: Commander Pacific Air Forces Visits PAF

    From the Philippine Air Force Website (Jan 30): Commander Pacific Air Forces Visits PAF

    The Commander, Pacific Air Forces GEN HERBERT J “HAWK” CARLISLE, USAF visited Philippine Air Force last 26-30 January 2013 at Headquarters PAF, Col Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

    Full military honors was accorded to GEN CARLISLE upon his arrival at Headquarters Philippine Air Force (HPAF) Quadrangle, Air Force Commanding General LT GEN LAURO CATALINO G DELA CRUZ AFP led the welcome party.

    The Vice Commander, MGEN RAUL GABRIEL L DIMATATAC AFP, Chief of Air Staff, BGEN WILFREDO ONA AFP, CJVAB General Officers, Unit Commanders and HPAF Staff joined the Commanding General during the arrival honors at the HPAF Quadrangle.

    PN: Rear Admiral Edgardo D. Tamayo Assumes as the New Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy

    From the Philippine Navy Website (Jan 30): Rear Admiral Edgardo D. Tamayo Assumes as the New Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy


    Rear Admiral Edgardo D Tamayo assumed as the new Vice Commander of the Philippine on January 29 2013 at Headquarters, Philippine Navy (HPN), Naval Station Jose Andrada, Roxas Boulevard, Manila. The Change of Office Ceremony was presided by the Philippine Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis M Alano.

    A member of PMA Class 1980, Rear Admiral Edgardo D Tamayo replaced his classmate Rear Admiral Edgar L Abogado who served as PN Vice Commander for almost 4 months and presently the Commander of Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in Cebu City.

    Rear Admiral Tamayo served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, J4 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for 18 months before being appointed to his present position as the Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy.

    During his speech, Rear Admiral Tamayo expressed his enthusiasm as the new Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy. “I find it significant to assume today as the Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy with the sincerest intention and dedication to work harmoniously for the greater interest of the command under the leadership of the Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy”, Admiral Tamayo said.

    He likewise called on the Officers, Enlisted Personnel and Civilian employees of the Philippine Navy to pledge and dedicate their unswerving commitment to work towards a common purpose in order to accomplish the PN’s mission.

    On the other hand, Vice Admiral Alano expressed his confidence and assurance that Rear Admiral Tamayo will able to live up with the challenges in his new position as the Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy.



    Rebel groups expected to enforce access fee to politicians during campaign period – Army

    From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 31): Rebel groups expected to enforce access fee to politicians during campaign period – Army

    The Communist Party of the Philippines/ New Peoples’ Army and the National Democratic Front are expected to enforce the access fee or what they call “permit to win” to politicians during the campaign period as one of their source of income.

    During the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting here, Major Ryan Callanta reported that every election period, the rebels harass candidates to collect money during their campaign sorties,.

    “We want to inform you that the rebels have many sources where they collect what they call revolutionary taxes. Mining, agriculture ventures and illegal logging are among the firms where they draw their resources,” Callanta said.

    In order to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful election, the army said they have already formulated strategic plans and major activities with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be implemented before, during and after election, and one of the activity that they consider most important is the security for the transport of the PCOS machines to be used during election.

    “We have already identified the 115 voting centers all over the province of Agusan del Sur, and we have already assigned our battalions to safeguard the said voting centers. For the 26th Infantry battalion (IB), they will cover 82 precincts, 24 for the 75th IB and nine voting centers for 29th IB,” Callanta said.

    “Even with the threats posted by these groups, we are here to protect and ensure the safety of our people and to neutralize their violent plans in order to maintain peace,” Callanta said.

    Samar Brigade Commander gets his first star

    From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan31): Samar Brigade Commander gets his first star

    The Samar Brigade Commander responsible for the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Affairs in Western and Eastern Samar was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in December.

    Brigadier General Romeo Lopez Labador AFP is the Commander of 801st Infantry (Bantay at Gabay) Brigade, 8th ID, PA who was instrumental in the successive declarations of 12 municipalities and one city of Eastern Samar as Manageable Conflict- Affected and Ready for Development Areas.

    Prior to his stint as the Brigade Commander of the 801st Brigade, he held staff positions of major responsibility such as battalion commander of the 32nd Infantry Battalion at 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army, and other equally distinctive positions in Cagayan de Oro City and other areas.

    “I am very much privileged to be promoted while serving as an army commander here in Samar. I have served my early years as an officer in this province and by that I was molded to be a good, capable and competent officer,” he said.

    He added, “I am also a living witness to the improving peace and security situation of the province in which I am optimistic that soon Samar provinces will be declared as insurgency-free provinces,” Labador said.

    Labador is a recipient of various military awards and decorations which include the Distinguished Service Star, Military Merit Medals, Military Commendation Medals, Sagisag ng Ulirang Kawal, Long Service Medal and Letter of Commendations from various military commanders and civilian heads.

    27 barangays to benefit from AFP’s convergence program in Davao del Norte

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): 27 barangays to benefit from AFP’s convergence program in Davao del Norte

    A total of 27 selected barangays in this province will benefit from the provincial government’s convergence for peace and development program (PDOP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), along with the Philippine National police (PNP) and other agencies this year.

    OIC-Provincial Administrator Norma Lumain said they were still collating reports from different barangay heads to submit needed documents in order for them to be included as beneficiaries of the program. She said the initiative was set to continue in bringing basic government services to residents of far-flung areas in the province.

    In 2012, Lumain said more than 60,000 indigents in 30 under-privileged barangays in the province benefited from the program. Services will still include free social, medical, surgical, dental, laboratory, legal, and agricultural, among others.

    The recipient barangays which were identified by the military as among the geographically isolated and depressed areas (GIDA) were not included in the convergence missions held in previous years. Lumain said the convergence team would be visiting five disadvantaged barangays before taking a break during the election period.

    The convergence team will be conducting community medical and social outreach activities on February 22 in Barangay San Agustin, Tagum City.

    NPA surrenders in Zamboanga del Sur

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): NPA surrenders in Zamboanga del Sur

    A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel, who desires to live peacefully together with his family and due to hardship in the mountains, surrendered to the military in Zamboanga del Sur province on Tuesday.

    Lt. Col. Rommel Almaria, commander of the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion, identified the rebel surrenderor as Alex Dungog alias Ronald, 28, a resident of Barangay Tabugon, Tambulig municipality.

    Dungog surrendered following a series of negotiations around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at the detachment of the 55th Infantry Battalion’s Alpha Company in Tambulig town, Almaria said. He said Dungog, who surrendered without firearms, is a member of the NPA’s Front Committee Joji of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee based in Zamboanga del Sur.

    He said Dungog was recruited in October last year. Meanwhile, First Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III commended the Bayanihan Team and the officials of Barangay Tabugon for the successful negotiations that led to Dungog's surrender.

    28 ex-NPAs receive provincial assistance

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): 28 ex-NPAs receive provincial assistance

    The provincial government of Leyte, through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) had once again provided reintegration funds to former members of the New People’s Army.

    This was the highlight of the Ceremonial Awarding of Financial Assistance to 28 Former Rebels held at Brgy. Cagnocot, Villaba, Leyte, on Wednesday , said First Lt. Rod Vincent Babera, civil military officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion.

    Each former rebel received P 10,000 worth of pre-surfacing assistance while five other former rebels were given additional P 25,000.00 for surrendering with firearms. The former rebels were confirmed to be members of Front-Committee Leyte (FC-L) which the military battled for several years.

    First Lt. Babera said that in the message, Col. Rafael Valencia, area commander of the military in Leyte, asked the recipients to set as examples and encourage their former comrades to return to the folds of the law and avail the programs in store for them.

    He added that their commanding officer had stressed that former rebels should use the assistance they received to start anew and for the brighter future that lies ahead of them and their respective families.

    PNP, Army monitoring at least 3 'armed groups' in Negros Oriental

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): PNP, Army monitoring at least 3 'armed groups' in Negros Oriental

    At least three identified suspected armed groups are under close surveillance and monitoring by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), specifically the Philippine Army, as the nation girds up for the mid-term polls on May 13 this year.

    Supt. Alet Virtucio, acting PNP provincial director, disclosed in a briefing that these groups have been “neutralized”, nevertheless they have to be under tight scrutiny as they could be utilized as “private armed groups” (PAGs) for the upcoming elections.

    The perceived armed groups in the watch list of the PNP and the AFP were identified as the Tanasan-Libron group (a suspected criminal gang operating in the southern part of the province), Dumas-og group (also believed to be a criminal gang based in the north), and the Desperado group (reportedly working off the central part of Negros Oriental), said Virtucio.

    Eight of the 15 suspected members of the Tanasan-Libron group, who the police have identified as suspects in a series of various crimes in southern Negros Oriental, have been arrested and neutralized. These include the group’s alleged leaders, Jasper Tanasan and Pacito Libron.

    As to the Dumas-og group, its suspected leader, Sanny Bacolod, was killed last November in Canlaon City in an ambush by unidentified armed men, while three of its members have already been arrested on separate occasions for a variety of crimes. Four other suspected members of the group identified by the PNP appear to still be operating in Canlaon City and nearby areas to include Guihulngan City.

    The third group, Desperado, is allegedly being led by Inting Mallari, son of Rey Mallari, a leader of the Revolutionary Proletariat Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), a breakaway group of the New People’s Army, the PNP report showed. The group is included in the watch list following reports some remnants of the RPA-ABB allegedly served as bodyguards to candidates during previous elections. The group is allegedly responsible for the shooting to death of a lawyer in Tanjay City late last year although no case has yet been filed against the suspects due to some snags, Virtucio said.

    According to Supt. Virtucio, there is also a possibility that political candidates might engage the services of armed individuals or groups from Mindanao, Cebu and Iloilo for the elections. The PNP has identified at least 21 barangays in the province as under Category I in the watch list as potential areas for intense political rivalry and 58 other barangays under Category II due to the presence of the NPA in these areas, said Virtucio.

    ARMM taps Ulama to explains Framework of Agreement provisions

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): ARMM taps Ulama to explains Framework of Agreement provisions

    The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is tapping the assistance of the Ulama (Muslim religious scholars) to inform and make the Bangsamoro people understand Framework of Agreement provisions based from the religious perspective.

    ARMM Regional Secretary Jamar Kulayan said without the assistance of the Ulama the people might still have second thoughts on the national government sincerity in signing the Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

    The national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have signed the Framework Agreement last October 15 in a ceremony held in Malacañan Palace, witnessed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, and other dignitaries.

    The Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro will pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, to replace the ARMM. “As much as possible we want to bridge the gap especially during the transition of the new entity so the people will understand, appreciate, recognize and comprehend on the new provisions of the law,” Kulayan said.

    He said ARMM’s Department of Education (ARMM-DepEd) has been ordered to work with the Ulama in explaining to the people the Framework of Agreement. More than 30 Ulama attended a three-day “Regional Ulama Summit” from Monday until Wednesday in this city in preparation for the conduct of information drive concerning the Framework of Agreement.

    Bicol police chief assures no HR violations in operations vs rebels in Masbate

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): Bicol police chief assures no HR violations in operations vs rebels in Masbate

    The Bicol regional police director has personally supervised the pursuit operations against the fleeing members of the New People's Army in the aftermath of the Saturday afternoon encounter between rebels and policemen in Monreal, Masbate.

    Chief Supt. Lawrence Guinto said on Thursday that the purpose of his intervention was to make sure that no human rights violations would be committed by pursuing members of the provincial police and the Regional Public Safety Battalion deployed (RPSB) in the area.

    After the more than two-hour gun battle between government and rebel forces in Sitio Capatagan, Barangay Cantona in Monreal, the rebels reportedly retreated towards highly populated portion of the nearby villages and took cover inside residential houses. “Being a lawyer and a former national chief of the Human Rights Affairs Office in Camp Crame, I know the situation might end up with plenty of human rights violations by either or both sides. The safety of the civilians was my paramount concern in personally supervising the operations,” Guinto said.

    RPSB reinforcement troops from Camp Gen. Simeon Ola were immediately dispatched to the scene of the encounter upon receipt of reports about the ongoing gun battle in the area involving a big group of armed rebels. It was learned that a platoon-size RPSB men were on foot patrol in Capatagan when fired upon by the rebels. A gunfight subsequently ensued between them that lasted more than two hours.

    Guinto has not confirmed yet whether the rebels involved in Capatagan encounter are die-hard NPAs or those serving local politicians as a private armed group (PAG). A company from the RPSB and the Regional Special Operations Task Group (RSOTG) was earlier deployed in Masbate to provide assistance to the local police in the peace and order campaign relative to the conduct of the upcoming midterm elections.

    Some NPA groups, along with private armed groups (PAGs), are hired by certain some politicians in the island-province during election periods, consistently earning for Masbate the label as “election hot spot.” Masbate’s lone city and 14 of its 20 towns have been listed by the Bicol police and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as election hot spots in relation to the elections this year. Since the start of total gun ban implementation last Jan. 13, at least two PAGs in Masbate have been positively identified by the RSOTG.

    F/A-50 to develop PHL external defense capability further - PAF

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): F/A-50 to develop PHL external defense capability further - PAF

    The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" the Philippine Air Force will soon acquire from the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will greatly boost the country's capability to protect its territories from intruders. Air Force spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said Thursday: "(These aircraft) will allow us to protect our territories from intruders and their commissioning in Philippines service will greatly boost our external defense capabilities."

     Okol said the new and supersonic jet aircraft will definitely advance the Armed Forces goal of having credible and external defense. "This is good news and we at the PAF are very excited at this development considering our preponderance for internal defense for the past 11 years," Okol stressed. The PAF decommissioned its Northrop F-5 A/B "Freedom Fighters" last 2005.

    Last Wednesday, the Dept. of National Defense announced that it has gotten the green light to start pre-negotiations with KAI.

    He added once the final contract on the F/A-50 is signed, the PAF can then go ahead developing its curriculum for supersonic jet operations. These include training, technical support and possible weapons for the jet aircraft.  The country is expected to spend P18 billion if this aircraft will be selected as the PAF's next supersonic fighter plane. The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

    KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50. The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

    The altitude limit is 14,600 meters, and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters, five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 liters of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks. Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

    The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI. The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN of thrust with afterburner.

    China reiterates opposition in taking sea disputes to UN

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): China reiterates opposition in taking sea disputes to UN

    China has reiterated its opposition to the Philippines' request of taking South China Sea disputes to a UN tribunal, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday. Responding to a question at a daily news briefing, spokesman Hong Lei said, "China disagrees with the move that goes against the consensus (reached before)."

    China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) with members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002. According to the declaration, relevant disputes should be solved through friendly talks and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

    Hong made the remarks after Chairman of U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce, met with Philippine officials on Tuesday. Royce said that China should agree to face the Philippines before a U.N. arbitration tribunal to avoid regional turbulence.

    During the briefing, Hong said he had made clear China's stance on the Philippines' demand to go to arbitration last week. On Jan. 23, Hong urged the Philippines to avoid taking any action that could complicate the issue after Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said that the Philippines government has taken the South China Sea disputes to an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    Hong said all countries signing the DOC should adhere to their commitments and that relevant disputes should be solved through negotiations between sovereign states directly involved.  China has always been committed to addressing disputes with the Philippines through bilateral consultations and negotiations so as to safeguard bilateral relations and regional peace and stability, Hong said, adding that it showed China's utmost goodwill and sincerity.

    The spokesman said that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters in the South Sea and that it has consistently opposed the Philippine illegal occupation of some islets and reefs of the Nansha Islands. There was no immediate reaction from the Philippine government.

    Troops raid sawmill, seize logs

    From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 31): Troops raid sawmill, seize logs

    GOVERNMENT authorities have shut down a sawmill and confiscated illegally cut logs in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte province, a top military official said Thursday.

    Army’s 1st Infantry Division (1ID) commander Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, said the illegal operation of the sawmill was uncovered after an informant tipped them about its existence.

    Cruz said Colonel Ricardo Jalad, commander of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion (35IB), along with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) and the police, raided the sawmill at 2 p.m. of Wednesday at Malingao village, Tubod, Lanao del Norte.

    The sawmill was owned and operated by Eddie Solatorio, who failed to present any documents to prove its operation is legal, according to Cruz. The raiding team confiscated a total of 27 round logs of different species, he said.

    He said the raid is in support to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) mandate in protecting the environment. He also lauded the concerned citizen who tipped them the illegal operation of the sawmill.  Cruz encouraged the public to join, through Bayanihan spirit, in mitigating the effect of calamities caused by human activities.

    NPA rebel yields to military in Zamboanga Sur

    From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 30): NPA rebel yields to military in Zamboanga Sur

    A communist rebel has surrendered to the army-led militias in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, officials said Wednesday.

    Officials said the 28-year old Alex Dungog, of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, escaped from his unit due to extreme hardships and now wanted to return to the folds of the law.

    Dungog told military interrogators that he joined the New People’s Army in October 2011 in the town of Tambulig.

    General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said local village officials helped Dungog surrender to the 55th Infantry Battalion. He also commended the troops for their Bayanihan campaign in the province.

    “We welcome the decision of Alex Dungog to go back to his family and live a peaceful life. We expect more NPA members to abandon their armed struggle in days to come due to the sincere effort of our soldiers and local government officials who are facilitating to bring peace and development to the countryside thru the Bayanihan Team Operations,” he said.

    There was no immediate statement from the NPA, which has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a communist state in the country.

    Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill Australian hostage in Philippines

    From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 31): Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill Australian hostage in Philippines

    Philippine authorities on Thursday said efforts to locate a kidnapped Australian adventurer Warren Rodwell as well as other foreigners being held by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf continue in Mindanao.

    This after a new video of Rodwell, 54, surfaced in Internet and in the clip, masked gunmen surrounded the former Australian army, now looking frail than previous pictures provided by the kidnappers to his Filipino wife.

    The kidnappers have threatened to kill Rodwell, who kidnapped December 2011, from his seaside home in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay province and is believed being held captive in the Muslim province of Basilan, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

    “To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee’ah, if you have concerned with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it’s too late, as soon as possible time, otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death,” the Abu Sayyaf said.

    The Philippine Army said troops have been searching for Rodwell who was last known to be in Basilan.

    “Our efforts to locate Rodwell are continuing, but so far we have no reports about him,” General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional army commander, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

    In the latest video, Rodwell was holding a newspaper dated January 25 and his captors – one holding a machine gun and the two others brandishing automatic rifles – stood by his sides.

    Rodwell is married to a Filipina Miraflor Gutang, 28. The rebels have originally demanded $2 million ransom for the release of Rodwell, but it was not immediately known how much ransoms the Abu Sayyaf is asking for the remaining captives, who are being held by different rebel commanders.

    “To our brothers in Islam we would like to make it clear that our activities like this are not for personal interests or just to gain money for personal use, let it be known to everyone we are on war against the forces of shaytan in the Philippines, its allies and supporters, and whatever we gain from this war is to be used for our future operations and other necessities,” the Abu Sayyaf said.

    The Abu Sayyaf is also holding 4 other foreigners and two Filipinos and just recently rejected demands by a former Muslim rebel group to free their captives.

    Army officials said a senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, Habier Malik, tried to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the freedom of the hostages in the hinterlands of Sulu Island.

    “As far as we know, the Abu Sayyaf has rejected the MNLF efforts to secure the release of the hostages, not without ransoms,” said Army Col. Rodrigo, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City.

    About 2,000 MNLF members headed by Malik tried to persuade the Abu Sayyaf to free the hostages.

    “The efforts of the MNLF to secure the freedom of the hostages are unilateral on their part and have the permission of the local government officials and military commanders on the ground. But our efforts are also continuing to safely recover all the victims,” he said.

    Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra, the Sulu police chief, said the Abu Sayyaf is holding a Japanese treasure hunter, Toshio Ito, 66, since 2010 and was last reported to have been helping the rebel group in cooking food for them and freely moves around.

    He said aside from the Japanese, the Abu Sayyaf is also holding Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, 43, and his two Filipino assistants Rolando Letrero, 22, and Ramelito Vela, 39.

    The trio, he said, went to Sulu province in June last year to secretly film the Abu Sayyaf for a documentary on Al Arabiya News Channel. Prior to his detention, Atyani has had previously travelled to the province in secrecy to interview terrorist leaders, the Philippine military said.

    The military has previously said it would arrest Atyani for espionage should he be released by the Abu Sayyaf. Atyani had also clandestinely interviewed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

    Freyra said two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, kidnapped in February his year in Tawi-Tawi province had been brought to Sulu.

    Police in Tawi-Tawi said the duo was allegedly seized by members of the Moro National Liberation Front. Another group of kidnappers are also holding a Malaysian fish trader Pang Choon Pong, who was seized in October 2011 in Tawi-Tawi, but his fate remains unknown.

    In November last year, Malaysian authorities said two of its nationals were seized by 5 gunmen disguised as policemen from a palm oil plantation in Sabah near the Philippine border.

    It said the two, who are cousins, were both working for the plantation in Lahad Datu, and had been taken at gunpoint. Their companions said the gunmen spoke in Malayu and Tausug, a dialect commonly used in the southern provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

    There were no immediate reports whether the foreigners are being held in either of the two provinces, but Malaysia said the victims could be in Tawi-Tawi.

    Navy: Ship run aground is a complete loss

    From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 31): Navy: Ship run aground is a complete loss

    The U.S. Navy plans to dismantle a minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef off the Philippines because the ship is a complete loss and because removing it intact would cause more damage to the reef and the ship’s hull, a spokesman said Wednesday.

    There’s also a chance the USS Guardian might break up or sink if crews tried to remove it without taking it apart first, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Darryn James said.  Limiting damage to the coral, which is part of a national marine park, is important to the Navy, James said.

    We really do care about being good stewards of the environment,” he said by telephone from Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor.

    The Navy has presented the ship removal plan to the Philippines, which is reviewing it. “We’re working very closely with the Philippine coast guard, with their navy and their government personnel. We’ve been grateful for their support as we all work together to remove Guardian and minimize further damage to the reef,” James said.

    It’s expected to take over a month to dismantle the Guardian, which ran aground before dawn on Jan. 17.  Crews have already removed 15,000 gallons (56,780 liters) of fuel from the ship. They’ve also taken off hundreds of gallons (liters) of lubricating oil and paint. They’ll be removing human wastewater and other materials that could harm the environment, James said.

    The U.S. Navy is hiring floating cranes to help with the removal. A contractor in Singapore is sending the cranes, which should arrive on site in a few days. The Navy originally said the Guardian would be lifted by crane onto a barge and taken to a shipyard. But now the Navy says the ship is “beyond economical repair.”

    No one was injured when the ship ran aground at the reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park. The park is a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, about 400 miles (644 kilometers) southwest of Manila.

    The Guardian was on its way to Indonesia after making a rest and refueling stop in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of Manila.

    Vice Adm. Scott Swift, the U.S. 7th Fleet Commander based in Yokosuka, Japan, has ordered an investigation into the grounding.

    The incident damaged at least 1,000 square meters, or 1,200 square yards, of coral reef, according to an initial, conservative estimate by the Philippine coast guard.

    Angelique Songco, park manager of Tubbataha Reef, the damage is the worst ever in the sanctuary since the park was established in 2001.

    The Navy and the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, have apologized for the grounding and promised to cooperate with its close ally.

    Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said last week that the U.S. Navy must explain how the ship got off course. He said the Navy would face fines for damaging the environment.

    The Navy paid the state of Hawaii $8.5 million to settle claims after a much larger vessel, the USS Port Royal guided missile cruiser, damaged thousands of square yards, or thousands of square meters, of coral when it ran aground off Pearl Harbor in 2009.

    Reattaching more than 5,000 broken coral colonies and otherwise restoring that reef cost the Navy more than $6.5 million.

    The Guardian is 224 feet long, less than half the length of the Port Royal.

    The Navy last dismantled a grounded ship in 1971, after the USS Regulus ran into trouble when a typhoon lashed Hong Kong, James said.

    Conspiracy eyed in Atimonan shooting

    From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 31): Conspiracy eyed in Atimonan shooting

    The National Bureau of Investigation has found that the killing of 13 people at a joint police-military checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon province, on Jan. 6 was a “conspiracy,” and decided to bring criminal charges against the policemen and soldiers involved.

    NBI investigators have also learned from the soldiers who augmented the police team at the checkpoint that police officials allegedly tampered with evidence to make the killings look like the results of a shootout, a source with knowledge of the investigation told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Wednesday.

    “There was a clear conspiracy to neutralize the victims, but the charges will be according to the degree of their participation that led to the deaths of 13 people,” an Inquirer source said.

    The source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said those directly involved in the killings and were at the checkpoint would be charged as principals, while those who were not at the checkpoint but were part of the conspiracy would be charged as accessories.

    The source said the findings were based on examination of the evidence and the testimonies of witnesses, including the soldiers from the Army’s First Special Forces Battalion.

    Local and provincial police in Quezon reported the incident as a shootout between government security forces and a group of guns for hire.

    Later, it turned out that it was a police operation for the arrest of Victor “Vic” Siman, alleged operator of the numbers racket jueteng in Southern Luzon.

    Siman was killed at the checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Barangay (village) Lumutan, Atimonan, along with 12 other men who were traveling with him. The families of those men claimed there was no shootout and that the victims were summarily executed, prompting President Aquino to order the NBI to investigate.

    The NBI investigation is almost over, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters Wednesday.

    De Lima said she was expecting to receive the report on the investigation from NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas anytime.

    She declined to confirm reports that the soldiers who took part in the Atimonan operation had been offered to turn state witnesses.

    De Lima herself urged the soldiers last week to disclose what they knew, and assured them of government protection.

    That must have been arranged, as the soldiers seemed to have cooperated with the NBI investigators.

    Tampered with evidence

    The source said the investigators learned from the soldiers that police officials tampered with evidence to make the incident look like a shootout.

    To do that, the source said, police officials used the firearms of some of Siman’s companions, fired them, then planted them next to the bodies of those men.

    The source said the police officials also manipulated the crime scene to show that there was “a heavy exchange of fire.”

    “They used the high-powered firearms found with the victims and fired at the concrete [wall] of a closed resort near the crime scene,” the source said.

    The source also said the soldiers maintained their claim that the first shot came from the occupants of the first of two sports utility vehicles that carried the victims.

    From the testimony of the soldiers, the investigators learned that the response from the government’s side was excessive, the source said.

    “One of the soldiers admitted he finished a magazine of his M-14 rifle and reloaded,” the source said.

    Standing by men

    The Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Wednesday said the soldiers just did their job and he stood by them.

    “Our direction is unity of effort with all security forces to address security issues. Our soldiers, they just do their job. As long as they did their job, there is nothing really to worry about because they did what they thought was right,” Bautista said in a press conference.

    Bautista declined to comment on the Inquirer’s report that the Special Forces troops had been offered to become state witnesses.

    “I think the justice department or the NBI can answer that,” he said.

    Bautista said the military was reviewing the procedures followed by soldiers when police call for augmentation forces in their operations.

    Bautista said the police’s notice of request for the Atimonan operation, made by the team of Supt. Hansel Marantan, was “under a tight time frame.”

    “There was no time to study the situation. We are reviewing how we can have due diligence given time constraints. We want to be deliberate,” Bautista said.

    Marantan was reportedly wounded during the operation. He has been suspended and is facing investigation on the killings.

    Only 10 soldiers

    Early reports on the incident said 25 Special Forces members supported Marantan’s police team at the checkpoint.

    But clarificatory reports established the actual number of soldiers who took part in the operation at 14, as the rest of those deployed stayed behind at the Atimonan police station.

    Of the 14 soldiers who took part in the operation, four were assigned to the first of three checkpoints. They did not see the killings, which happened at the second checkpoint.

    Clan wars remain a concern among ARMM authorities

    From the Philippine Star (Jan 31): Clan wars remain a concern among ARMM authorities

    The high prevalence of clan wars in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, blamed for much of the internal displacements in some ARMM towns last year, remain a serious security problem regional authorities aim to address squarely as the elections comes near.
    ARMM officials planned out security preparations in relation to the conduct of this year’s election, mostly focused on averting outbreak of politically motivated conflicts or 'rido' among rival Moro clans that pitted candidates for local and regional elective positions.

    ARMM’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman, said the regional police office and the region’s local government secretary, lawyer Makmod Mending, have been directed to tap the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in addressing election-related security issues in areas where electoral exercises have perennially been troublesome.

    The presence of rido or clan feud, which accounts for the most number of internal displacements in 2012, also poses serious security threat in some areas, he said.

    The Commission on Elections (Comelec) earlier issued separate resolutions setting guidelines on the imposition of gun ban and the setting up of checkpoints ahead of the first-ever synchronized national, local and ARMM regional election.

    Maj. Gen. Caesar Ordoyo, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they would continue to appeal to the general public to help ensure that Comelec guidelines, especially on gun ban, are being observed.

    However, officials from both the region’s police and military forces said that encouraging developments in the government-MILF peace talks will help reduce security problems during the election period.

    Hataman said while the MILF does participate now in any electoral exercise in the country, it can help influence residents and political leaders to abide by the gun ban being imposed by the poll body to prevent any hostility.

    “Everyone has to work together to resolve these issues, this is a shared responsibility, and all system must work to confront these challenges,” He said.

    ARMM groups Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

    Rebels still dream of Cordillera's autonomy

    From the Philippine Star (Jan 31): Rebels still dream of Cordillera's autonomy

    The "old guards" of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army “old guards” are still dreaming of Cordillera’s regional autonomy. Despite numbering now to only about a thousand, Abrenian Melchor Balance or "Kumander Kawar" to his colleagues, said the group's fighting spirit still lives. Kawar formally took over as Officer-in-charge (OIC) of the CPLA the other day after former Bucloc Mayor Mailed Molina went on leave after filing his candidacy as vice governor of Abra.

    Kawar, who was an original member of the rebel Tingguian Liberation Force (TLF) which merged with the splintered NPA Abra in 1986 to form the CPLA said, “kailangang isulong ang awtonomiya (autonomy must be pursued).” "Even with our number, we will continue [to fight] because it is an aspiration," said Kawar at his office at the “Camp Conrado Balweg” in the Cordillera Regional Assembly building along Harrison Road here.

    The CPLA wanted to become the Cordillera Regional Security Force (CRSF), a provision of Executive Order 220 signed by President Corazon Aquino in 1986 when the government forged a peace pact with the group at Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mt. Province.

    EO 220 also mandated the now deactivated Cordillera bodies-- Cordillera Executive Board (CEB), Cordillera Regional Assembly and Cordillera Bodong Administration – to lay down the ground work for an autonomous region.

    “It is only deactivated, but never dissolved,” said former labor leader Manuel Liwanen, former CEB director.

    The Cordillera bodies were deactivated by President Joseph Estrada in 2001 and were only given a P1 annual budget.

    Kawar, who was surrounded by a handful of his CPLA “commanders” from Abra, Mt. Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao during Wednesday’s “renewal of vows for autonomy” said "only the time-tested CPLA [members] have remained loyal" to the group.

    He also taunted CPLA members who have forged another agreement with government, which would supposedly close down the CPLA as an organization."We know who the originals are," Kawar said.

    A faction led by Ifugao Arsenio Humiding has become a socio-economic group recognized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Proces (OPAPP), and is now undertaking multi-million projects under the Pamana program.

    Kawar seemed to have found an ally in Sta Marcela, Apayao Mayor Rolando Guiang.

    Guiang, who vows to pursue a dialogue for the region's autonomy, said the road to such a dream is thorny but what is important is that Cordillerans are moving on to pursue it in the name of progress and development.

    PhL to constitute commission to draft Bangsamoro law

    From the Philippine Star (Jan 31): PhL to constitute commission to draft Bangsamoro law

    The government will form a "balanced" 15-man Transition Commission (TransCom), which will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law for southern Muslim region, a senior government official said today.

    Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that the Commission "shall have gender, ethnic and generational balance." "This is to ensure that voices of all Bangsamoro stakeholders, including women, indigenous peoples, and the youth, will be part of the TransCom that will craft the Basic Law," she said.

    Once drafted, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be certified urgent by President Benigno Aquino III and submitted to Congress for passage. It will undergo a plebiscite in the envisioned core territory of the Bangsamoro.

    Upon ratification, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is deemed abolished, according to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, signed in October last year.

    Deles said that the government nominees to the TransCom have been processed by the Search Committee and are expected to be submitted to the President very soon.

    The MILF officially submitted their list of nominees to the government peace panel on the first day of the 35th Formal Exploratory Talks held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jan. 21-25, 2013.

    Meanwhile, Philippine President Aquino has appointed Mehol Sadain, chairman of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and former Elections commissioner as a member of the government's negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    Sadain will fill the vacancy left by the appointment of Miriam Coronel-Ferrer as panel chairman. Ferrer was appointed head of the panel after chief negotiator Marvic Leonen became Supreme Court justice.

    There was no word so far on who will replace Sadain at the NCMF, an agency attached to the Office of the President.

    The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades to establish a self-rule Muslim state in the south of the predominantly Catholic country.

    Soldier killed, 2 others wounded in Samar ambush

    From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jan 31): Soldier killed, 2 others wounded in Samar ambush

    A soldier was killed while two others were wounded in an ambush incident in a Samar town last Monday morning. Killed in action was Private First Class Melvin Joy Sanchez who died due to loss of blood as he was hit at the lower part of his leg. Wounded were identified as Private First Class Edsildo Aburque and Private First Class Joel Lapisora, both hit in their feet.

    In a belated report, Captain Lemuel Baduya, spokesperson of the 801st Infantry Brigade based in Hinabangan town, Samar, said that the soldiers were in Barangay Baes, Motiong when they were ambushed by about 20 fully armed men members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. The village is about 18 kms away from the town proper of Motiong.

    The ambushed incident took place last Monday at around 10:30 a.m. while the soldiers were conducting their “bayanihan” activity in the area, seeking opinions and concerns of the village people which they hope to address through the assistance of the local government unit of Motiong. “This is an unfortunate and sad day for us. This cannot be avoided,” Baduya said.

    The dead soldier is still at the mortuary of the Army’s regional headquarters based in Catbalogan City for his family to collect while the two wounded soldiers are still recuperating. Baduya said that the group of 23 soldiers, who belong to the 87th Infantry Brigade based in San Jose de Buan, also in Samar and under the command of Col. Cirilo Balauro, were in the area when they engaged the rebels in a firefight that lasted for 10 minutes.

    According to Baduya, about 20 NPA rebels waylaid the government troops. He, however, could not say if there were NPA rebels who died in the ambush except to say that blood stains were seen where the rebels were positioned at that time, he said.

    Cops validating ambush suspects

    From the Visyan Daily Star (Jan 31): Cops validating ambush suspects

    The police are now validating the names that cropped up in their investigation as the suspects in the “massacre” of civilians in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, on Sunday.

    Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, yesterday said they have the names of suspected New People’s Army rebels, including their three or four local fighters who served as guides, based on intelligence reports and accounts of civilians.

    Eight civilians and a police officer were killed, while 12 others were injured in the ambush, allegedly perpetrated by about 15 to communist rebels. The NPA, however, has not issued any statement, in connection with the incident, so far.

    Guara said they hope to file multiple murder and attempted murder charges against the suspects next week.

    Of the 173 spent shells recovered at the ambush site by the police, 37 of them belong to an AK-47 assault rifle, 103 for an M-16 armalite rifle and the rest from a .45 caliber pistol and other high-powered firearms, police records show.

    Investigators of the Commission on Human Rights in Iloilo are expected to start their independent probe today in La Castellana, to verify the existence of human rights violations and undertake documentation, in preparation for the extension of assistance to the families of the victims, CHR provincial chief Romeo Baldevarona said.

    Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista vowed to go after NPA fighters responsible for the ambush, but also reiterated the military and government’s call for the communist rebels to abandon the armed struggle.

    Bautista, former Western Visayas Army commander, said the military will continue to offer the rebels “peaceful means” to resolve the armed conflict, despite the incident.

    Bautista also said people should respond to the rebels’ claim that the revolution they are waging is for the people.

    After all, they sayit is the will of the people, he added.

    Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday assured the people of La Castellana and neighboring areas that they will conduct pursuit operations against the fleeing suspects, in accordance of the Rules of Engagement.

    Task Force La Castellana, which is composed of soldiers of the 1st Scout Ranger and 11th Infantry Battalions, as well as 32nd Division Reconnaissance Company, has been tasked to run after the suspects.

    Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, challenged people’s organizations claiming to be advocates of human rights, to denounce the senseless killings by the NPA. It seems there is a “deafening silence” from them, Lactao added.

    Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay islands, said “This inhuman act of the NPA has caused the death of innocent civilians and it is unacceptable”.

    “Their (NPA) desire to show that they are still a force here in the region at any cost caused more harm than good,” Mabanta added.

    La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor, however, described the ambush-massacre as an “isolated incident”, and he also urged the continued vigilance of the people.

    Guara said an Army detachment will be placed in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, to address the security needs of the people, traumatized by the incident.

    Ex-rebel chief joins party-list race

    From Rappler (Jan 31): Ex-rebel chief joins party-list race

    The national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), a breakaway faction of the New People’s Army (NPA), has quit his post to join politics. Stephen Paduano, who carries the nom de guerre Carapali Lualhati, is running for representative of the Abang Lingkod party list, a group that aims to push for the interest of farm workers and the urban poor.

    The RPA-ABB is the armed wing of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas (RPM-P) founded by Arturo Tabara, who was assassinated by suspected NPA hitmen in 2004 in Metro Manila. They were among the factions that broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1990s in the biggest split to hit the underground movement.

    Described by the NPA as a rogue unit, the RPA-ABB signed a peace pact with the Estrada government in 2000.

    Last year, the Aquino administration vowed to fulfill the Estrada government's pending commitments, setting aside about P100-M for socio-economic projects for the group.

    Paduano said the final draft of the RPA-ABB "closure agreement" with the government is awaiting the signature of President Benigno Aquino III.

    With the signing of the closure agreement, the group is about to become an unarmed organization. Paduano said their forces, estimated at around 700 nationwide, are now focused on mainstream politics and activities.

    Karapatan Negros secretary general Fred Caña, however, called for the disbandment of the RPA-ABB, saying it has gained political power because of government and the landlords in Negros Occidental who reportedly coddle them. Cana also accused the RPA-ABB of being behind some of the atrocities on Negros Island.

    Another US sub set to arrive in Subic

    From the Business Mirror (Jan 31): Another US sub set to arrive in Subic

    WHILE the US is still trying to remove the USS Guardian (MCM5) that ran aground at Tubbataha Reef on the Sulu Sea, a nuclear-powered US submarine is set to arrive in Subic Bay in Zambales on Friday, a statement from the US Embassy in Manila said.
    “USS Cheyenne [SSN-773], a Los Angeles-class submarine, will arrive in Subic Bay on Friday, February 1st, for a routine port visit. This stop in Subic will permit the Cheyenne to replenish supplies as well as offer its crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation,” the embassy said.
    It added, “The USS Cheyenne, named after the town of Cheyenne, Wyoming, is assigned to the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet. It is home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Cheyenne, commissioned in 1996, is the last Los Angeles-class submarine to be built by the United States.”
    Meanwhile, the US Navy has reconciled itself into dismantling the grounded minesweeper to avoid more damage on the reef. Some 1,000 square meters of corals have so far been damaged.
    The US government has remained silent why its warship entered prohibited territorial waters since Tubbataha Reef is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site.
    Military officers who requested anonymity said the minesweeper allegedly entered Tubbataha to enable her sailors to go diving. “Maganda kasing mag-dive doon kung gabi,” one officer said. The USS Guardian ran aground on January 17. 

    Philippines, US Pacific top guns discuss security ties

    From the Business Mirror (Jan 31): Philippines, US Pacific top guns discuss security ties

    LT. General Lauro Catalino de la Cruz, Air Force commander, and Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, United States Pacific Air Forces commander, met recently to discuss security issues to strengthen the defense partnership of both countries. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, Air Force spokesman, however, said he was not privy to the details of the issues taken up by the two officers.
    Carlisle also met with Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta; the Armed Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and Air Forces officials at Clark Field in Pampanga. “During his visit, General Carlisle met with Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz, the commanding general of the Philippine Air Force, to discuss areas and topics of mutual interest. Lt. Gen. de la Cruz presented General Carlisle with the Gold Wings Badge, an award bestowed upon Air Force chiefs of partner nations,” a statement from the US Embassy in Manila said.
    “These meetings offered an opportunity to exchange views on a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues, reflecting our common values and interests. General Carlisle also called on US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. and was briefed by the Embassy Manila staff,” it added, about other meetings attended by Carlisle.
    Carlisle also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, to pay his respects to the Filipino and American service members who lost their lives during World War II, as well as the Clark Veterans Cemetery.
    “The visit by General Carlisle demonstrates the strength not only of the partnership and dialogue between the Air Forces of the United States and the Philippines, but also the strong ties between the peoples of our two countries,” the US Embassy said.
    Government-to-government deal for fighter jets
    THE Department of National Defense (DND) is finalizing a plan to buy lead jet fighters from South Korea in a government-to-government transaction. Defense Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Installation and Logistics Patrick Velez said the department hopes to finish the contract negotiation by end-February and immediately begin negotiations for the acquisition. “We want to buy a squadron of TA-50 lead jet fighters through a government-to-government contract,” Velez said.
    To hasten the acquisition, Velez said the department has sought support from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other concerned agencies. “We are now cooperating toward that respect because the acquisition plan was already approved last December, the fastest way that we could have done it. We presented it early then they were able to come out with a resolution on the jets last December, which is very fast,” he said.
    On Wednesday Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the department has also been finalizing purchase proposals to complete the 138 defense projects for a “minimum credible defense.” Initially, President Aquino had approved a budget of P75 billion to fund the modernization program of the Armed Forces.
    Just recently, the President signed a new Armed Forces Modernization Act that will speed up the implementation of the projects. With the growing regional security problems in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the government has been slowly shifting its security operations from internal to territorial defense. At the moment, the Air Force does not have a single fighter jet.