Monday, January 14, 2013

Muslim rebels seek release of hostages held by Abu Sayyaf extremists in Philippines

From the Associated Press (Jan 14): Muslim rebels seek release of hostages held by Abu Sayyaf extremists in Philippines
Muslim rebels seek release of hostages held by Abu Sayyaf extremists in Philippines

Armed members of Moro (National) Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group which signed a 1996 peace pact with the Philippine Government arrive at Patikul township, on the volatile island of Jolo in southern Philippines Monday Jan. 14, 2013 to seek the release of foreign and Filipino hostages long held by al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen in mountain jungle lairs of the extremists on southern Jolo island. MNLF commander Khabir Malik said his group sent about 10 armed commanders to the jungle hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf on island to convince the extremist group's leaders to safely release all their captives. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan)

A Muslim rebel group which signed a 1996 peace pact with the Philippine government said it sent emissaries on Monday to negotiate the release of foreign and Filipino hostages being held by al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen on southern Jolo island. Moro National Liberation Front commander Khabir Malik said his group sent about 10 commanders to the jungle hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo in Sulu province to convince the extremist group's leaders to release all their captives. Malik waited with hundreds of armed rebels in Sulu's Patikul town for word from the emissaries, who he said were given three days to negotiate.

He refused to say what the MNLF would do if the Abu Sayyaf militants do not free the captives, who police say include a Jordanian journalist and two European bird watchers. "We're resorting to peaceful discussions and God's wisdom to ask them to turn over their hostages to us," Malik told The Associated Press by cellphone from Patikul. "If they won't agree, we'll leave to God whatever will happen."

Malik said his group took the step after its commanders decided in a recent meeting to help the government, military and police clean up the image of Sulu, a poor, predominantly Muslim region 950 kilometres (590 miles) south of Manila that is a stronghold of the Moro insurgents. The MNLF has denied any links with the Abu Sayyaf, but the military and police have long suspected some rebels provide refuge and other support to the extremists. Some fighters from the two groups are related by blood, security officials say.

Sulu's image has been tarnished by high-profile kidnappings for ransom, beheadings, bombings and deadly attacks blamed on the Abu Sayyaf, especially in the early 2000s. Although U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives have considerably weakened the Abu Sayyaf, an estimated 300-plus extremists in Sulu and nearby islands remain a national security concern.

Malik said the MNLF move was not aimed at bolstering the candidacy of its chairman, Nur Misuari, who is running for governor of a five-province Muslim autonomous region in the south in elections on May 13. The rebels, he said, would not pay the ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf for the captives' freedom. "We have long planned this but we could not co-ordinate well and muster the force we'll need so these violators will listen to us," Malik said.

Malik's group signed an autonomy deal with the government in 1996 but the pact did not lead to the disarming of the rebels, who returned to their communities with their firearms. The group later split into different factions with Misuari's group retaining hundreds of fighters and accusing the government of reneging on commitments to provide political and economic concessions under the accord.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a larger insurgent group with broke off from Malik's group in 1978, is currently engaged in Malaysian-brokered peace talks with the Philippine government.
Sulu provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra said Malik informed him of the MNLF plan to negotiate the freedom of the hostages. Sulu police forces were on standby but would not get involved in the rebel initiative, he said.

Malik said the MNLF emissaries would attempt to meet with Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed militant, and other Abu Sayyaf commanders. Washington has offered a $1 million reward for the capture or killing of Sahiron, who has been accused of many terrorist acts.

Authorities believe the captives include a Dutch and a Swiss citizen who were abducted in February while bird watching in nearby Tawi Tawi province. Abu Sayyaf gunmen are also believed to be holding a Japanese treasure hunter and a Jordanian TV journalist together with two Filipino crew who reportedly travelled to Abu Sayyaf encampments in Sulu to interview the militants in June but failed to return.

Lawyer vows JI man's wife will face trail

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 14): Lawyer vows JI man's wife will face trail

THE counsel for the wife of a slain Malaysian national, who was tagged as member of the international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, assured on Monday his client would appear before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) proceedings next month. Annabelle Nieva Lee of Sorsogon earlier pleaded not guilty to the illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions or explosives charges filed against her on the arraignment last Friday before Judge George E. Omelio of the RTC Branch 14. The accused is scheduled to appear again before the court on February 14, 2013 for the pre–trial. Lawyer Ben Joseph Tesiorna, counsel of the accused, told Sun.Star Davao that attending the court proceedings is assured especially because his client pleaded not guilty.

"She (Lee) will appear again before the court. She believed that she is innocent, and since she pleaded not guilty that means she is willing to prove herself that she has nothing to do with the crime earlier charged against her," Tesiorna said. Aside that Lee believed she is innocent, Tesiorna also issued the statement because his client is under the custody of the Naval Intelligence and Security Group (NISG) and this cannot be cannot be rescued by any terrorist group should there indeed be any.

Senior Superintendent Ronald M. dela Rosa, chief of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO), said the authorities here will do everything to protect the people and maintain the peace in order in Davao City. "Mag-rambol sa mi (with the terrorist group) una nila makuha si Lee (They'll have to go through the authorities first before they can rescue the woman)," dela Rosa said, adding that whether the court will allow Lee to post bail, she cannot just leave here. Tesiorna said they would file a petition for bail for the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges filed against the accused next week.

Lee was arrested last December 14, 2012 after her husband, Mohd Noor Fikrie Bin Abd Kahar, was shot dead by authorities along Camus St., in Davao City. The City Prosecutor's Office found probable cause to charge Lee based on the evidence presented by the authorities. Recovered from the possession of the accused was the improvised explosive device made from 60mm mortar. Authorities also recovered mobile phones and other "explosive materials" from the accused.

Tulawie wants to be detained in Davao

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 14): Tulawie wants to be detained in Davao

THE camp of Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights activist who was accused to be behind a bombing incident in Sulu in 2009, requested the court to detain him in Davao City despite the junking of earlier motions to hold the hearings here. Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Manila has upheld its recent order issued in October last year transferring the trial of Tulawie's case in Manila for various reasons.

Lawyer May Ann Arnado of the Mindanao People Caucus (MPC) and one of the legal counsels of Tulawie in Davao City said they are hopeful that the court this time will hear their side and allow Tulawie to be detained in Davao City Jail, where he is presently detained for several months now.

One of the main complainants against Tulawie is Sulu Governnor Abdusakur Tan, who was the one who requested the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the case trial venue from Davao City to Manila. Tan cited several reasons for his motion to transfer the trial venue, which was granted by SC in October of last year, one of these reasons is that Davao City is not a neutral place to try Tulawie since various human rights activists are very active in the city and this might affect the case.

Arnado said they wanted Tulawie to be detained in Davao City while the case is being heard in Manila primarily for security reasons since Tulawie's family received direct threats. Tulawie, he said, is also not safe once he will be permanently detailed in Manila.

The first hearing for Tulawie's case is set on January 25, just a few days away but the court is yet to decide on their pending motion. "We are exhausting all the available remedy to be able to secure him (Tulawie) and protect his safety," Arnado said Monday.

In the meantime, pending the decision from the court for the defense's motion to detain Tulawie here, Arnado said they will coordinate with various groups and with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the safe transfer of Tulawie to Manila for his first trial. For Tulawie's trial in Manila, several progressive lawyers have already signified to volunteer to be part of tulawie's legal team Manila. "This is a sensitive case and we already had enough threats that is why we cannot put his safety in jeopardy," Arnado said.

Army preparing for war on other front: Climate change

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 15): Army preparing for war on other front: Climate change

Soldiers of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division are gearing up to face an enemy “more deadly” than insurgents, according to Brig. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., commander of the 7th ID based in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City. “We are psyching our soldiers for another kind of campaign, another front, which is more deadly. I am referring to the impact of climate change, like strong typhoons and flooding,” Catapang said. Describing the powerful typhoons that devastated Mindanao last year and Luzon two years ago, Catapang said “the typhoons and floods claimed more than 10,000 lives. If (this) continues, the number of fatalities (could) surpass the 30,000 deaths in the insurgency problem.”

The Army officer said the responsibility for fighting the New People’s Army (NPA) in areas declared insurgency-free had been turned over to the respective peace and order councils in Central Luzon and the Ilocos. “If the role of the soldier is as the protector of the people, then it is appropriate to engage them in helping the people against the impact of climate change,” Catapang said. He said the soldiers would be a big asset in their new role as their services are available 24 hours a day.


“We are now requesting for the procurement of disaster-response equipment that our soldiers can use in times of calamity,” Catapang said, adding that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would join a summit on climate change this year. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he said, had asked the Army to determine at this summit the specific actions that soldiers could take whenever typhoons hit the country. Catapang also challenged the leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA to join the military in fighting climate change, which he described as their “common enemy.”

Exceeded duties

“We are now fighting a new war which is deadlier. We must join together in saving lives, building disaster-proof schools that can be converted to evacuation centers, and (engage in) other activities to help the victims of this more deadly war,” he said. In Baguio City on Saturday, outgoing AFP chief of staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa noted that Filipino soldiers “have remarkably exceeded their duties” as the AFP confronts new problems generated by climate change and a shrinking world economy.

Aside from combat assignments, soldiers are also tasked to rescue victims of calamities because extreme weather has rendered most of the country vulnerable to disasters, he said in a speech at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), where he was honored with a testimonial parade ahead of his retirement on Jan. 20. Dellosa graduated in 1979 as a member of PMA “Matapat” Class.

Dellosa said he was leaving the military at the crossroads of peace because the impending resolution to the Bangsamoro conflict ended the cycle of violence he once experienced as a young lieutenant during martial law. He added that progress made in negotiating peace with secessionist groups and communist rebels meant that future military officers from the PMA “have every reason to look to the future with vigor and dynamism.”

Ramos wishes would-be successor well

From the Philippine Star (Jan 14): Ramos wishes would-be successor well

Reiterating that he wants to spend more time with his wife and children, outgoing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Benito Ramos to questions about his resignation. Ramos, who resigned last week, faced defense reporters Monday after giving an orientation to retired general Eduardo del Rosario, his possible successor. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has recommended del Rosario to succeed Ramos but a formal appointment has yet to be made.

Ramos said he wants to spend more time with his wife, who is suffering from diabetes, and his two children. “I believe that my services in the Army for 36 years plus two years at the OCD (Office of Civil Defense) are good enough for the service of the Filipino people,” Ramos said. Ramos was chief of the Army’s elite forces when he retired from the service in 2008. “We are already senior citizens and we are not growing any younger. I want also to devote my time, the remaining days of our lives, the twilight years of our life together as a family,” he added.

Ramos admitted that his children are now aloof towards him since he was away from home most of the time. “As for my wife, I am not a doctor and I cannot heal her but my presence, the togetherness of a family is also important,” Ramos said. Ramos expressed confidence that whoever succeeds him would be able to perform the job.

Ramos refused to confirm that he would be succeeded by del Rosario, who was his junior officer in the Army. He said nothing is final until the president makes a formal appointment. Del Rosario, however, said his visit to NDRRMC was some sort of an “on-the-job training” for him. “I have 17 days to orient myself and undergo my OJT or on the job training and if selected by the president, I’ll be ready to takeover on Feb. 1,” del Rosario said. Del Rosario reported to the NDRRMC at 10 a.m. Monday. He was introduced to local civil defense officials and representatives of some member-agencies of NDRRMC. Del Rosario retired from the military service last November as commander of the Army’s 2nd division based in Tanay. A member of Philippine Military Academy class ’80, del Rosario was the head of Task Force Kailihim, which conducted search operations after the aircraft carrying then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed off Masbate last August.

Some NDRRMC employees were shedding tears as Ramos was thanking his subordinates and the media for their support. “To whoever will succeed me, let us make maximum participation of the media,” Ramos said.

Gov't assures equal protection under Bangsamoro

From the Philippine Star (Jan 14): Gov't assures equal protection under Bangsamoro

The government today assured that all people who will be covered by the new Bangsomoro entity will get equal protection. Chief peace negotiator Miriam Colonel-Ferrer made the assurance following the concerns raised by some groups that insecurity, land issues and political marginalization will worsen under the proposed Bangsamoro. "There will be equal protection for all in the new political entity that will be called the Bangsamoro," said Ferrer. She stressed, however, that apprehensions over insecurity, land issues and political marginalization did not result from the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). "They are part of the unacceptable status quo that we now wish to transform through the peace process," she said. The creation of the Bangsamoro is contained in the FAB that was signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October last year.

China daily to 'troublemaker' Philippines: You 'had better get used' to seeing more of our patrols

From InterAksyon (Jan 15): China daily to 'troublemaker' Philippines: You 'had better get used' to seeing more of our patrols


As the Department of Foreign Affairs plans another protest against China over the reported rendering of a new official Chinese map, Beijing's state-owned media on Monday fired a broadside at DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, accusing him of deliberately raising tensions in the region. The state-owned China Daily accused the Philippines of "playing the role of troublemaker" and seeking every opportunity to escalate tensions in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. In its editorial page, China Daily cited the efforts of DFA Secretary del Rosario to get Beijing to clarify its deployment of more patrol ships to guard the islands and waters of the South China Sea. Such frequent patrols are the normal exercise of sovereignty, said China Daily, and instead of continuing to make noise, Manila "had better get used to it."

Manila, like Vietnam, has also protested Beijing's inclusion of a nine-dash map - which shows China owning the entire South China Sea - in the design of the new Chinese passports. The DFA-set policy, followed by immigration, is not to stamp Philippine visas on these new Chinese passports, and instead stamp the visa on a separate application form provided by Philippine authorities to Chinese citizens traveling to the Philippines.

Tourism plans 'for Nansha' assailed

The China Daily took issue, meanwhile, with the Philippine government's announcement of plans to turn "some of the disputed Nansha Islands" (Beijing’s reference to the disputed territory) into tourist destinations. "The Philippine military had already said that the country may build infrastructure on them. All these constitute an open defiance to China's sovereignty as China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters and opposes any move that could impair China's sovereignty," the Chinese commentary added. "If Manila takes further steps in this regard, it is sure to meet with strong opposition as well as countermeasures from China. It is now crystal clear that Manila is determined to play the role of a troublemaker and seeks every opportunity to escalate tensions in the South China Sea."

Such moves of Manila, the paper said, "sparked new tensions over the disputed waters." Beijing's alleged aggression is a "false accusation and Manila's top diplomat should not forget that his own country raised the tensions in the disputed waters in the first place." China's recent efforts are but a response to "Manila's provocative moves," the daily said.

'Excessive coverage' of new map

Days after China announced that it would release its new and updated official map by the end of January, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez had said in a text message the DFA will first "verify" the extent of its coverage before issuing an official statement. If the new map is confirmed, said Hernandez, "we will protest the excessive coverage in the map of China."A day earlier, MalacaƱang ordered the DFA to verify the reports made by Xinhua, a China-owned news agency.

The report quoted Sinomaps Press as announcing it has already updated and redesigned its old map by including 130 islands and islets of the South China Sea, including those contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. Sinomaps Press chief editor Xu Gencai said they published a new map to inform their Chinese nationals about China’s maritime territory, in order to safeguard its marine rights and interests; and manifest their political diplomatic stance. "The new vertical maps have marked clearly the major South China Sea islands and demonstrated their geographic relations with surrounding island countries as well as surrounding islands and islets," Xu said.

15 protests and counting

The DFA has thus far filed 15 diplomatic protests against China's excessive claims and aggression in the West Philippine Sea. Among others, Manila is protesting the establishment of Sansha City to administer Spratly, Macclesfield Bank, Paracel islands, including the creation of a legislative body and military garrison there. Manila also filed a diplomatic complaint against China’s issuance of its new electronic passport bearing the nine-dash-map.

Beijing's issuance of a policy allowing local authorities in Hainan province to board and search foreign vessels entering contested waters was also the subject of a complaint by Manila. Several protests filed by the Philippines and other claimant countries like Vietnam have done little to deter China from continuing its series of "excessive actions," which Chinese experts and officials merely frame as the exercise of a "right to protect" its interest over the disputed maritime territory.

Manila has insisted that China abide by the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which recognizes the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of countries. Following this, said DFA, the Philippines is the only country that could explore or acquire maritime features. Manila and Beijing have seen tensions rising since April, when China blocked Philippine naval authorities from arresting its fishermen who were caught illegally fishing and acquiring endangered maritime species within the 125 nautical miles EEZ, in Panatag Shoal off the Zambales coastline.

Regular patrols continue

The Chinese Oceanic Administration, which is responsible for overseeing and safeguarding national maritime rights and interests, said last Thursday it will continue to carry out regular patrols in China's "territorial waters" in the East and South China Seas. "It is normal practice for a sovereign state to patrol its territorial waters. Instead of feeling uncomfortable about it, Manila had better get used to it," China Daily said.

Mass rally versus USM president held

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 15): Mass rally versus USM president held

Parents, faculty members and students of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), Kabacan, North Cotabato, united under a common organization called USM Multi-stakeholders/sectors Movement for Truth and Justice (USMMMTJ) held a mass rally to demand the replacement of USM President Jesus Antonio G. Derije yesterday, January 14. The rallyists come from various parts of North Cotabato and the neighboring other provinces. The rally was triggered by the reappointment of Dr. Jesus Antonio G. Derije as President of the University for another 4-year term effective January 8, 2013.

Notwithstanding multiple cases filed and pending for prosecution in the Department of Justice (DOJ), Ombudsman and other courts against Derije, he was extended reappointment by the Board of Regents of USM on their meeting of January 4, 2013 at Metro Manila. Derije violated on about three (3) counts the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law as charged before the DOJ by the Watch-North Cotabato involving several millions of pesos. He was also criminally accused by Blang Waguia, et al before the Ombudsman, Davao City for another violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law. Likewise, Derije illegally leased vast irrigated rice-lands for more than ten (10) million pesos to a private individual without the approval of the BOR. He cut trees in USM without the permission of the BOR and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Grant-in-Aid scholarships intended for the poor but deserving members of the cultural communities were diverted in favour of the wealthy and members of the cultural majority (the settlers). The usual 500 slots Grant-in-Aid scholarships every year was reduced to only 250. It was distributed under bata-bata system among his favourite subordinates.

During the deliberation for his reappointment, the faculty regent, Hon. Ronald Pascual was sent out, rebuked with threat of being accused in court if he disobeys. The Honorable Student Regent was offered a free roundtrip travel abroad with best accommodation by the group of Derije but the latter rejected it.

The rallyists are led by Dr.Alimen W. Sencil on the Bangsamoro-Muslim faculty side. The side of the Christians are led by Dr. William Dela Torre. Parents and students reinforced these mentors. Among the placards carried by the crowd contained words such as: “Under Derije, no more rice products.”, “Under Derije, no more poultry products”, Under Derije, Muslims are second class citizens”, Under Derije, fund 101 is illegally diverted”, Under Derije, fund 164 is illegally diverted”, “Under Derije, dishonesty is his best policy”, “BOR alisin mo si Derije”, “Under Derije, rice-lands are illegally leased”, “Derije is the giant land crocodile in USM”, and numerous other more.

While the rally was on going, the men of Derije according to a reliable informant who refused to be named said: they prepared and positioned a truck load of metal “bastons” or “batutas” wrapped with papers on stand-by just north-west of the rally site waiting for some moments for used against the rallyists.

Army, Islamic fighters clash; 1 dead

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 13): Army, Islamic fighters clash; 1 dead

Government troops clashed with around 40 armed men in the remote coal-rich village of Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, leaving a militiaman dead, the military said Sunday. 1Lt. Betheul N. Barber, public affairs officer of the 27th Infantry Battalion, said the firefight ensued after government troops responded to report from civilians that armed men have been sighted in the area. Barber said the armed men allegedly belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is negotiating for a peace accord with the Philippine government. The BIFF was established in 2010 by former MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato who bolted out of the group due to the ideological difference with top MILF officials. The government troops have been deployed in the area two days before the firefight that occurred at around 5:50 a.m. Saturday, Barber said.

Barber identified the slain militiaman as Rene Amar Pernal, his body was recovered at around 8:40 p.m., or around 15 hours after the encounter started. A member of the 7th Cafgu Active Auxiliary of South Cotabato, Pernal was brought to the military patrol base in Brangay Ned, about four kilometers from the encounter site, he said. Barber said the military has still no information if the armed group also suffered fatalities.

2Lt. Angelo Peralta, team leader of the troops that encountered the armed men, said the clash occurred in Ned's sitio Kumilat. Peralta said they were conducting active defense patrol when the armed men fired at them. He said a certain Udtog and Mod, both from Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat led the group. Barber said additional troops were deployed on Saturday aboard a helicopter due to the remote location of the area.

Another team was deployed Sunday also through a helicopter ride to help in the clearing operation in the clash site, Barber said. Barber said the armed men could have been around for quite some time in the area, noting that Barangay Ned "has been the highway of armed men going towards Maitum in Sarangani." Last year, military officials in South Cotabato said the New People’s Army was trying to establish a presence in Barangay Ned.

San Miguel Energy Corp., a unit of San Miguel Corp., has set up a base camp in Barangay Ned in a bid to extract massive coal deposits in the area. Studies showed that the Daguma Mountain Range, which straddles Ned, contains coal resources of 426 million metric tons. Initial exploration and drilling has blocked 55 million metric tons of minable reserves in 526 hectares of the mountain range. San Miguel had announced plans to build a coal-fired power plant with Ned as the source of raw material.

Kidnappers strike anew, seize restaurant owner in Maasin

From the Zamboanga Today (Jan 13): Kidnappers strike anew, seize restaurant owner in Maasin

Kidnappers struck anew in this city, abducting a member of a prominent family in the coastal Barangay of Maasin, barely 54 days after a public school teacher was kidnapped in Labuan, also a coastal village in the western coast of Zamboanga City. Flordeliza Ramones Ongchua, a public school teacher who was kidnapped on November 13, 2012 in her house in Labuan, several miles from where the teacher was seized, was released by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Jolo town.

At least a dozen gunmen barged in Ongchua’s house after failing to find their target, the village chieftain, Ronald Maravilla, who is a relative of the victim. City police director Sr. Supt. Edwin de Ocampo identified the latest victim as Edgar Fabella y Mortera, 52, married, owner of an eatery in the said barangay. The victim is also a son of Mrs. Rosario Mortera Fabella, a retired city school supervisor, and Felipe Fabella, Sr., a retired principal of the city public school. “He was forcibly seized by five unidentified armed men outside Chichay Pata Hauz along the highway of Barangay Maasin, this city, Friday night,” De Ocampo said.

Fabella was brought to a pump boat docked at the adjacent coastal area in front of the business establishment and taken towards the east ward direction by the three suspects. Two other suspects wearing color black and orange shirt sped away on board a motorcycle towards the downtown area, according to the police report.

The eldest brother of the victim, Felipe, averred that the victim’s son, Zandie, was tending their store then the suspects pretended to be customers bought some cigarette sticks from their store while the victim was standing at the gate near the store. Zandie told policemen that there was a sudden commotion and saw his father lying on the ground prompting him react and punched one of the suspects but became restless when he was poked with a handgun by the suspect.

Felipe said that his nephew sought assistance from them however, when they responded at the scene the suspects were already at the shoreline forcing the victim to board their pump boat. “Armao iyo de palo despues ya precura iyo atraka na mga kidnappers pero ya palya iyo ase kay ya planta ya comigo el uno na mga suspechao su pusil...yaman atras ya lang yo,” Felipe said in the chavacano vernacular. Felipe told Zamboanga Today that the three suspects sped off with his brother, Edgar, while the other two suspects fled towards the city proper simultaneously with their companions.

De Ocampo and Task Force Zamboanga commander Colonel Glenn Macasero responded to the scene and both coordinated with the units with air and water assets for possible hot pursuit operation. Witnesses said that the suspects were on board a stripe colors blue, yellow and white pump boat and a black motorcycle.

The City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) convened at City Hall led by Mayo Celso Lobregat. Lobregat said that the victim’s family called up Maasin Barangay Chairman Misael S. Bernardo, who was in Manila attending the burial of his family, then informed Sinunuc Police Station commander Sr. Inspector Arthur Alejandro about the abduction. The mayor said that it took about 10 minutes for the kidnappers to execute their plan then afterwards the family reported the incident to the authority. He also said they have no information regarding the medical condition of the victim because the family are still confused and under stressed on the situation. The mayor formed Task Group Edgar headed by the local police chief to focus on the investigation of the case.

On the other hand, De Ocampo divulged that the police operatives of Sinunuc Police Station has constantly advise people residing near coastal areas and possible targets of kidnapping to be vigilant and alert. CPOC disclosed that as of the press time, no words have been received by the family from the abductors.

Meanwhile, servant leader and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) congressional aspirant of District 1 Monsi dela Cruz expressed sadness over the latest abduction incident. “Another kidnapping incident has happened just this evening with a member of the Fabella family taken, very Tragic indeed. My prayers and solidarity (go) to the family in their present moments of anxiety and pain,” Monsi wrote in his Facebook page. Monsi asked: “What is happening to our dear Zamboanga City? Kidnapping last night occured again. Killings still happening and other crimes, city very dirty. Something must be done asap! Is this what they call progress!?”

Of what significance is the much publicized billions of government deposits in the banks heralded with pride, if our people are not happy and secured in their homes, in our streets and many people hungry and jobless, businessmen complaining of high taxes but poor services?” Enough is enough of praise releases, and names of government officials in vehicles and other infrastructures, as if the money used were their own when in truth and in fact it belongs to the taxpayers and people. It is sad, something must be done. It is time for a change!”

Gov't websites hacked ahead of cyberlaw debates

From ABS-CBN (Jan 14): Gov't websites hacked ahead of cyberlaw debates

Hackers defaced Monday several government-owned websites, a day before the Supreme Court hears oral debates on the constitutionality of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The official websites of the National Food Authority and the local government of Mambulao, Camarines Norte were defaced with a message from Anonymous Philippines. The message attacked the government for failing to heed the hackers’ call to abolish certain provisions in the Anti-Cybercrime Law curtailing freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress.

“What happened to the law? Are all laws meant to be broken? Are they made to fool people, deprive them of their right in exchange of what we believe as ‘Heavens for Politicians?’ Some say we are against the law because it would hinder our ‘criminal activities’ but WE do not oppose the said law in any way if it is for the greater good,” the message read.

“We are the voice of the weak, the sense of the numb, we are bonded by cause and purpose. We are ANONYMOUS, We are LEGION, We do not FORGIVE. We do not FORGET, Government of the Philippines, it's too late to EXPECT US,” it added.

The hacking was allegedly sanctioned by Anonymous #OccupyPhilippines, PrivateX, Philker, Symbianize Hackers, Blackrain, Falcon, Sh4d0wFiend_h4x0r, #pR.is0n3r, busabos, d4rkb1t and n3far1ous.

Posts on the PrivateX and Anonymous Philippines Facebook pages said the websites of the Metro Manila Development Authority, Cebu Port Authority, Philippine National Police-Region 8 and National Maritime Polytechnic were also defaced but these websites were up as of posting time.
The Supreme Court is set to hear on Tuesday oral arguments on the petitions to declare the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as unconstitutional. This, after the SC earlier issued a 120-day temporary restraining order against the implementation of RA 10175 after various groups petitioned the Court to strike down provisions of the law.

Last week, a 16th petition against the law was filed before the SC by youth leaders. The petition assailed the law for "infringing on the youth's civil liberties." Among provisions that petitioners want nullified by the high court is the provision that criminalizes libel on cyberspace. They said it is "very alarming" that the law still allows the prosecution under the Revised Penal Code of anybody prosecuted for e-libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The group urged the high court to extend the 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued against the implementation of the law; the TRO lapses on Jan. 29.

Inside the 'killing zone' in Atimonan

From GMA News (Jan 14): Inside the 'killing zone' in Atimonan

One of the bullet holes in HGV Beach Resort’s thick concrete wall.

It was the perfect spot for a killing. The site where 13 men were gunned down on January 6 forms the middle part of an S-shaped stretch of Maharlika Highway in Atimonan town, Quezon. Because of the curve in the road, the checkpoint where the shooting occurred was in a blind spot, unseen from the vantage point of the other police-military checkpoints at each end of the S-curve.

An abandoned beach resort sits a few meters from the road, its wall bearing bullet holes that have been encircled by white chalk marks. Next to the resort is a shrimp hatchery with large gates. Apart from the caretaker of the resort and the hatchery, civilians live quite far from where the incident took place.

Just a week later, the road is dead silent, except for the occasional rumble of a passing bus, car or public utility vehicle. What’s left are a couple of white gloves that had been used by investigators to probe the incident, during which about 40 law enforcers from the army and the local police as well as intelligence operatives fired at the two-vehicle convoy, killing all 13 people inside. The dead included a well-known environmentalist, a businessman and two on-duty police officers.

The boundary between Brgy. Lumutan in Atimonan and Brgy. Tanauan in Plaridel town is a generally peaceful place, the residents say; though having a police checkpoint there is not uncommon in the area, the usual source of commotion are vehicular accidents.

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An arch welcomes visitors to Plaridel town just a few meters from where the incident happened.visito
s to Plaridel town just a few meters from where the incident happened.
This was why when the residents heard the gunshots, they at first thought someone had set off firecrackers left over from New Year's Eve. According to one of the residents, the shots lasted for five to 10 minutes. It was one of the Quezon province police officers who said that the place was the perfect "killing zone."

Conflicting reports

The two Mitsubishi Montero Sport vehicles carrying the victims were found on the left side of the road. The first vehicle bears a PNP Academy commemorative plate on the front and a special plate ("VIC 27") on the back.

According to the NBI Forensics Team, the first vehicle was riddled with 214 bullet entry points and 96 exit points. Almost all of the bullets entered from the right. The PNP's Scene of the Crime Operation Operatives, on the other hand, recorded 184 entry points and 91 exit points for the first vehicle. For the second vehicle, which has a For Registration plate, the NBI notes 59 bullet entry points and 33 exit points, while the PNP's SOCO recorded 45 entry points and 29 exit points.

The first car’s windshield was almost broken, with 28 bullet entry points, while that of the second vehicle had about five. The first car’s tires were all blown. The second vehicle's right front wheel was the only one undamaged. According to the National Bureau of Investigation Forensics Team’s initial findings, the windows had probably been rolled up as the glass in all of them were either completely or partially shattered.

A source, who was able to take pictures after the incident, said that two people were found in a canal near the cars, indicating that some of the men were able to get out of the car. This is contrary to earlier reports that none of the men was able to leave the car during the incident. A Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory sketch confirmed the source’s statement. The sketch also showed that one of the doors of one of the SUVs had been open. The Quezon provincial police earlier said the passengers fired at lawmen manning the checkpoint.

Following conflicting reports from the police and the relatives of the fatalities, the President appointed the NBI to be the sole agency to investigate the incident. The NBI's initial investigation shows that most of the shots were fired by the law enforcers manning the checkpoint.

Not 'normal'

Intelligence Officer Supt. Hansel Marantan, who led the joint police-military checkpoint contingent and who was injured during the incident, has ties to the town’s police chief. In an interview, Atimonan police chief inspector Jonar Yupio disclosed that Marantan and former Atimonan Police Chief Grant Gollod worked together at the Quezon Police Public Safety Management Company; Gollod was a deputy official under Marantan. Yupio noted that having three checkpoints in the area was not "normal." The place usually has only one manned checkpoint, he said.
The curve in the road on the way to Atimonan.
Also unusual was the number of intelligence officers included in the order. "Kasama po ang intelligence ng probinsiya… Hindi ko po alam kung bakit ganun kadami," he said. However, he added that before the checkpoints were put in place a command conference with the intelligence team was held at the Atimonan police station. "Lagi po kami may schedule ng checkpoint. Random po iyon. Nagbibigay po ng schedule ‘yung higher head po sa headquarters sa Lucena," a sweating Yupio said.

GMA News Online tried to obtain a copy of the checkpoint schedule for January, but Yupio said that the schedule was no longer at the station as it was passed together with the incident report.

Military warned residents

There are some houses along the highway, though down the slope of the road from where the incident took place. The residents first suspected fireworks when they first hear the shots, but were soon disabused of the misconception. Kuya Ambo (not his real name), recalled how a military officer shouted, "'Wag na kayong lalabas" in their direction when the shooting began. Many of the residents obeyed, holing up in their homes, though other residents left their houses in a panic and ran to the Lamon Bay shore. Kuya Ambo said he and his family stayed inside until morning.

When Kuya Ambo went out to the road the next morning, there was nothing to see, he said—not even blood as the rain from the night before must have washed it away.

The road going to Plaridel.
It started with two gunshots

Another resident, Ate Anday (not her real name), heard two gunshots at first. "May narinig kami na dalawang putok tapos may sumisigaw na dun. Parang medyo nagkakagulo na sila. Akala nga naming ay paputok lang galing sa Bagong Taon," she said. And then the barrage began. "Maya-maya ay may kasunod na ratratan na," Ate Anday recalled. "Kami po ay dapaan na rine. ‘Yun lang po ang aming alam."

Ate Nenita (not her real name) said that her children were traumatized by the sounds. "Ay ano ba mama, ano ang nangyayari?" she recalled them asking her. "Ngayon lang nangyari sa aming buhay ‘yun," she told GMA News Online. "Ang layo pa naman ng pinangyarihan. Ang layo sa amin. Rinig po talaga [ang putukan]. Baka ako tamaan ng ligaw na bala, ay kami ho ay takbuhan."

Killing of 13 men in Atimonan 'not justified' — NBI exec

From GMA News (Jan 14): Killing of 13 men in Atimonan 'not justified' — NBI exec

The killing of 13 men in last week's supposed shootout in Quezon province was “not justified,” according to a ranking official of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), citing partial results of the ongoing probe. “Parating tinatanong kung rubout ba ito o encounter. At this time, kung ako ang tatanungin on whether the killing is justified or not, tingin ko hindi,” NBI deputy director for regional operations services Virgilio Mendez told GMA News Online in a phone interview. “They [law enforcers] might be claiming that they were performing their law enforcement duties. Basta ang sa akin, sa tingin ko the killing was not justified,” he added.

Mendez said his initial evaluation on the Quezon incident was based on the re-autopsy of the fatalities' bodies, ballistics examinations, and statements gathered by the bureau from civilian and police witnesses. “I have basis on saying this. Hindi naman puwedeng opinyon ko lang ito. This is based on the evidence we have so far,” he said.

On January 7, thirteen men—including an environmentalist and two policemen on active duty—were killed by law enforcers after their two-vehicle convoy allegedly ignored a first checkpoint in Atimonan town. Police initially said the fatalities were members of a gun-for-hire group — a claim denied by the slain men's relatives.

An initial investigation by the NBI, which was tasked by President Benigno Aquino III to be the sole investigating body on the incident, indicated that most gunshots did not come from the victims. Based on shells recovered at the scene of the incident, those inside the vehicles fired only 10 shots.

In their inspection of one of the two bullet-riddled vehicles used by the victims, the NBI team found out that there were more than 214 entry points and 96 exit points in one of the vehicles, which used a commemorative plate from the Philippine National Police (PNP). In the second vehicle with no license plate, there were 59 entry points and 33 exit points.

A Philippine Star report published Monday quoted a police official privy to the PNP fact-finding investigation as saying that the initial facts on the incident “indicate the possibility that an ambush occurred instead of a shootout.”

Subpoenas for senior officials

In a separate television interview aired over GMA News' “24 Oras” on Monday night, Mendez said he “doubts” that the fatalities were killed in a shootout, although he added that “ambush may not be the appropriate word” to describe the Quezon incident. He said that the bureau has already summoned 12 high-ranking police and military officials to get their testimonies. These officials include Region IV-A police director Chief Superintendent James Melad, Quezon provincial police head Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, and Superintendent Hansel Marantan, the intelligence officer who was the only one injured during the supposed shootout. Mendez also said that he expects the NBI report on the Quezon incident to be completed and submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima by Friday.

Report to be reformatted

PNP Director General Alan Purisima, for his part, said that he decided to return the report of the police fact-finding team to the probers for reformatting. “Hindi po maganda 'yung organization... I gave them up to this day to reformat their report to me and be clear on what they are (threading) in their report,” Purisima said at a briefing on Monday afternoon. “Kung magbabasa ka kasi, gusto mo sana kapag binasa, naintindihan mo kahit hindi ka imbestigador,” he added. Purisima saisd the PNP is “fully cooperating” with the NBI to find out what really took place during the incident.

US vessel arrives in Subic for port call

From the Manila Times (Jan 14): US vessel arrives in Subic for port call

The United States Embassy in Manila said that another one of its navy ships, USS Guardian, arrived on Sunday for a routine fuel stop. In a statement, the embassy said that the USS Guardian, a US Navy Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, arrived in Subic Bay. “This visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation,” the embassy said. After an overnight visit in Subic, the ship will proceed to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan “for another brief visit.”

The USS Guardian is assigned to the US Navy’s seventh fleet and is forward deployed to Sasebo in Japan. The vessel’s crew of some 80 officers and enlisted personnel includes eight Filipino Americans. Notably, the ship’s highest-ranking enlisted sailor on board is a Filipino American originally from Olongapo City. Vessels of the US Navy have made over a dozen port calls to the Philippines since 2012.

Reports have indicated that the unusual number of port calls by the United States to the Philippines was influenced largely by the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim repivot. The repivot is the United States refocus on the Asia-Pacific region after it has been preoccupied on its war against terrorism campaign in the Middle East for over a decade. This strategy comes amid China’s increasingly enormous political, economic and military power in the region. China and the Philippines are currently embroiled in territorial disputes over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) islands.

Army chief favored to head military

From the Manila Times (Jan 14): Army chief favored to head military

Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine Army chief, remains the strongest choice as the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces when Gen. Jessie Dellosa retires this month. Bautista, who belongs to Philippine Military Academy Class 81, is favored because of his impressive track record and outstanding accomplishments. Senior commanders in western Mindanao command in Zamboanga City and eastern Mindanao command in Davao City prefer Bautista to replace Dellosa.

“General Bautista is a very good commander and hardworking and always maintain a low profile at work and despite the many accomplishments of the Philippine Army under his able leadership you will not hear or see him releasing information or holding news conferences to trumpet all these in the media,” said one army colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that his statement would be taken against him personally by others who are aspiring to be the next Armed Forces chief.

 “He just let the higher headquarters do the talking while he works silently and effectively on the ground,” he added. He said that other senior military officers share his views. But he was quick to say that the decision on who would replace Dellosa is with President Benigno Aquino 3rd. He said that Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin could influence Aquino’s choice; however, the recommendation of other generals is also a deciding factor.

Lontok was not an NPA rebel – kin, AFP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 13): Lontok was not an NPA rebel – kin, AFP

The family of slain environmentalist Tirso “Jun” Lontok Jr. on Sunday strongly disputed the report that he once joined the New People’s Army (NPA).  “The family knows nothing of Kuya Jun’s supposed NPA membership. We also don’t know JJ Marasigan,” Ariel Saliva, spokesman of the Lontok family, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone. He appealed to all who knew his cousin not to muddle the bloody shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon and besmirch the reputations of its victims through unsubstantiated tales and information. “If they are really friends of Kuya Jun, they should join his family in our quest for justice for the victims of Atimonan massacre,” said Saliva, who was also Lontok’s personal driver. The Lontok family in a press conference on Thursday also stressed that there was no political angle in the killing.

According to Joseph Jadway “JJ” Marasigan, chairperson of Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services Inc., in his contributed article to the Inquirer that was published Sunday, Lontok once joined the NPA and went underground. Marasigan further said that after Lontok found out that life in the boondock was not for him, “the environmentalist decided to surrender and commit himself to the government’s social reintegration program.” 

But a highly placed source from the military intelligence community also denied that Lontok had once became a communist guerrilla. The informant, citing intelligence record, said: “Lontok is an activist during his college days in Manila and went on a countryside exposure for a certain period” but the source stressed that it did not go as far as joining the communist rebel movement. “What could had follow after the exposure was his oath-taking as party (Communist Party of the Philippines) member but Lontok did not continue,” said the military source. The source added: “But he has lots of contacts with the UG (underground).”

Lontok became the Sariaya town municipal administrator from 2004 to 2007 but lied low from politics in 2008 and worked in Saudi Arabia for a year. Upon his return, he became a political adviser of the Alcalas on Quezon politics. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, the patriarch of the Alcala clan, admitted that Lontok is a close relative and one of the organizers of the Liberal Party in the province. The Alcalas and Lontok both have their roots in Dolores, Quezon.

The military source also confirmed that Victor Siman, one of the 13 persons killed in an alleged shootout with police and Army soldiers along the Maharlika Highway in Atimonan on Jan. 6, was a “jueteng operator.”  “But he (Siman) has no links with the rebel movement,” said the informant.

Lontok, a native of Dolores town located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, was known in the province to have access to NPA rebels. The mountain was once a lair of communist guerrillas. One of Lontok’s close relatives admitted in an earlier interview that the environmentalist had once helped Siman in dealing with NPA rebels in Laguna who had been harassing Siman’s operation of “bookies,” an illegal numbers game based on the government-sanctioned Small Town Lottery, in Calamba City. The relative said that a day before the Atimonan encounter, Siman had asked Lontok to join him in his trip to Camarines Norte to stop the insurgents from harassing his gambling operations in the area.

Colmenares Points Fingers vs. Military as Behind Vilification Campaign

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 14): Colmenares Points Fingers vs. Military as Behind Vilification Campaign

A Bacolodnon Congressman Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna Partylist blames or points fingers against the military as behind the campaign against Bayan Muna and other progressive partylists not to vote for them during the elections.

In an emailed press release Colmenares said, “We were able to get copies of materials that a group campaigning against us and other party list groups distributed to the public and other progressive party-list groups by calling on people not to support us because we are criminals. We have been subjected to this kind of demonization and a lot of our members have fallen victims of extrajudicial killings during the last administration in the midst of this vilification campaign.

We are sure this is committed by the military because they do not tolerate dissent, and also because we have exposed their abuses and the corruption in their budget, contracts and projects,” Colmenares said. “This effort to campaign against us is a violation of the election law because public officials cannot engage in partisan political activity, and has only strengthened our resolve to prosecute the perpetrators and also further expose their abuses and corrupt activities.”

Colmenares also recalls that in the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in 2006, the spate of extrajudicial killings during the administration of Gloria Arroyo was preceded by a series of vilification moves against legitimate organizations and their members. Alston also made a clear link of the military to the killings of activists. A change of administration did not however stop the vilification, and the killings continue.

“We have reasons to believe that this is a military-backed attempt to once again sow fear not only among our members but especially among the people. In fact, due to the intense campaign against vilification and extra judicial killings, the AFP, thru Gen. Dellosa was forced to issue a letter directive in June 2009 to prohibiting AFP personnel from vilifying progressive peoples organizations, an admission that indeed these campaigns are launched by the military themselves” he added. He is challenging the President to revoke Oplan Bayanihan, which many believe is the conductor of the extra judicial killings and vilification campaigns against the people, and order the military and its agents to stop terrorizing the people and their legitimate organizations.

On the other hand, Philippine Army Commanding Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who was once commander of the 3rd Infantry Division in Panay and Negros Islands, was one of those who burned eyebrows in creating Oplan Bayanihan. He said, collaborators of this program are multifarious sectors, from the church, education, government, NGOs, and other stake holders, aimed at bridging the government and the people particularly those in the hinterlands.  Bayanihan is collaborative efforts in rendering primary services to the less privileged segments of our society. The Bayanihan campaign is focused on the upliftment of lives of people but not to ruin people.

Col. Francisco Patrimonio, a Bacolodnon commanding officer of 302nd Infantry Brigade in Negros Oriental strongly denies such accusation of Colmenares. He said we are apolitical. We have no idea as to the campaign against any progressive partylist. We implement Oplan Bayanihan in cooperation with all sectors by providing basic services to the people.

FAB consultation series result in PPALMA area, to be reported in Congress

From the Philippine Informtion Agency (Jan 14): FAB consultation series result in PPALMA area, to be reported in Congress

After the intensive information drive regarding the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), one of the issues that the farmers would like to clarify is the assurance that the proposed new political entity will not affect the lands they are toiling. The group of farmers also want to have more consultations on what would be the content of Bangsamoro Basic Law. Farmers and barangay officials from the towns of Pikit, Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Midsayap, at Alamada or PPALMA area participated in the series of consultations.

Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Committee Chairperson and North Cotabato Congressman Jesus Sacdalan will be updating Congress and the President. Sacdalan said that among his main concern is to report the results of the consultations and forums made last December 2012 to January 7, 2013. Sacdalan also assured farmers that his office will continue the information campaign on the framework agreement to other farmer associations in his district. Over 39 villages in North Cotabato are included in the proposed Bangsamoro area. These are villages that voted "yes" to the plebiscite for inclusion in the ARMM in 2001.

9ID scores high in 2012

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 14): 9ID scores high in 2012

The Philippine Army, led by the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, operating in the Bicol has scored high in doing counterinsurgency campaign in the region. Maj. Gen. Romeo V. Calizo, commanding general of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, in his 2012 year-end report asserted that the Army is on the right track of significantly degrading the armed capability of the NPA. “The Philippine Army is successful in breaking the will to fight of many rebels compelling a significant number of them to abandon the armed struggle and creating a peaceful environment conducive to sustainable development in Bicol Region,” Calizo said.

From January to December last year, the division recorded a total of 46 government-initiated encounters compared to 27NPA-initiated encounters that left 23 NPA rebels killed while 12 soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice of dying in the line of duty. “The Army and the PNP reduced the rebel organization in Bicol by 69 for the year 2012. 23 rebels were slain during skirmishes while 17 were either captured or apprehended during combat operations. 29 others took the wise decision of returning to their families and live a peaceful life,” said Major General Romeo V Calizo, Commander of the 9th Infantry Division.

Military operations last year also yielded 36 high powered firearms, 31 low powered firearms, and 33 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used as anti personnel and anti tank landmines from the rebels while the Army lost seven high powered firearms. Early December last year, the 9th ID cleared 18 barangays in Camarines Norte free from NPA influence. “There are 23 more barangays in Camarines Norte for validation this January for clearing, and I believe that these 23 barangays will satisfy all the parameters for an NPA influence free barangay,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Buhat, commanding officer of the 49th IB in Labo, Camarines Norte. “We endeavor to reduce human rights violations as we abide by the law, rule of law and international humanitarian law. Being sincere to this, there was a significant decrease of human rights complaints against 9ID soldiers with just one (1) last year compared to 12 in 2011,” said Colonel Felix J Castro Jr, asst division commander and Human Rights Officer of 9ID.

“Our accomplishments for CY 2012 are testaments that the 9ID gained the upper hand in confrontations with the NPA in the region. Despite the death of some of our men in combat, relentless pursuit operations against the NPA have been exhausting their armed capabilities which diminish their will to fight,” said Calizo. According to Calizo, the IPSP “Bayanihan” gives the same weight to combat and non combat means in pursuit of peace. In its perspective, winning the peace or preserving the relatively peaceful environment is the objective and not merely defeating the enemy. “Our efforts on stakeholders engagement have been gaining more and more support from other sectors. As we continue to pursue the efforts to link with all agencies in the region, continued support towards improvement and development of communities are being felt by the people and there is a higher chance of success,” said Calizo, referring to the reduction of NPA’s mass support and prevention resource generation activities.

The implementation of stricter campaigns against insurgency in the countryside, helped in the decrease of the number of rebels operating there. The active presence of the Army and the incessant operations drove most of the rebels to voluntarily surrender because they are no longer able to move freely among the masses which they used to get support from by way of revolutionary taxes and other insurgent tactics. The small community of rebel returnees is among the main focus of the Social Integration Program (SIP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the 9th Infantry Division, in Bicol. “Before, the rebels can freely go to the barangays in two’s, and the people already feel afraid,” said Major General Calizo. “But if they do that now, the people in the barangay will apprehend them and turn them over to the proper authorities.”

With the 9th ID’s significant accomplishments in Internal Peace & Security Operations, the NPA have been weakened. However, they have been effective in their recovery effort on their previously lost grounds. They managed to conduct several terror activities to convey their continued existence. Due to the Division’s IPSO, the NPA’s extortion efforts and their influence on the masses have been significantly reduced.

Overall, 9ID campaign is on track towards the attainment of our objectives of “Winning the Peace” in Bicol region, Calizo said, the Division has been able to perform exceedingly well in our combat and non-combat operations. This could be attributed to a pool of well-motivated, well-trained and experienced personnel of the command who get the job done. (MAL/Maj. AGuzman-DPAO-9ID PA/PIA5)

Army, PNP in North, South Cotabato on alert vs. NPAs who violate SOMO

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Army, PNP in North, South Cotabato on alert vs. NPAs who violate SOMO

Police and military authorities in South and North Cotabato have intensified patrol operations against communist guerillas who took advantage of the government's suspension of military action to terrorize and harass civilians. Col. Prudencio Asto, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers from the 57th Infantry Battalion have prevented a bloody weekend when they chanced upon communist New People's Army preparing explosives in Arakan, North Cotabato. A 30-minute firefight ensued, forcing the guerillas to flee deep into the mountains of Arakan, an NPA infested town near the border of North Cotabato and Davao City.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th IB, said government forces recovered two long firearms, blasting caps for land mines and other explosive paraphernalia. Sema said the firefight erupted between soldiers on patrol and NPA Front 53 in Sitio Anuling, Barangay Badiangon, Arakan, North Cotabato.  Asto said while the Army is religiously observing the SOMO (Suspension of Military Offensives), soldiers were under instruction to remain on guard to ensure lawless elements could not take advantage of the government's peace gesture.

In Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, government forces and NPAs also clashed Saturday, leaving a militiaman and two rebels killed in the process. Rene Pernal, a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was slain during the early morning clash. Elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt. Angelo Peralta, were conducting foot patrol in Sitio Kumilat, Barangay NED, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, when the rebels, numbering about 40, opened fire on them that triggered a running gunbattle. The armed men were led by Commanders Udtog and Mod, both residents of Palembang, Sultan Kudarat. Retreating guerillas dragged with them their slain comrades, the Army said.

401st IB joins ‘unity walk’ for fair elections

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): 401st IB joins ‘unity walk’ for fair elections

Soldiers of the army’s 401st Infantry Brigade joined local law enforcers and the Commissions on Elections (Comelec) in a ‘unity walk and prayer-rally for secure and fair elections (Safe) 2013 in Agusan Del Sur Sunday. The Army reported that stakeholders in Agusan Del Sur joined in the nationwide appeal to uphold the integrity of the election in the coming May 13, 2013 elections.

Lt. Hazel Tabago, spokesperson of the 401st brigade, said various government line agencies together with private individuals, business groups, religious groups, and students joined the unity walk in a show of support for clean, honest, and peaceful elections this year. She said that the unity walk started at the Rotunda in San Francisco, Agusan Del Sur and ended at the provincial capitol in Barangay Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur. Tabago said leaders of various religious sects led in the lighting of the ‘unity candle’ while various candidates and law enforcers signed the pledged of commitment to ensure a safe 2013 elections here.

Soldiers’ fuel allocation in Zambo increased

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Soldiers’ fuel allocation in Zambo increased

The Department of National Defense (DND) is increasing the fuel allocation to boost the military’s conduct of patrols in a bid to strengthen security in this southern port city. This came about after the DND has approved the request of House Deputy Speaker Ma.Isabelle Climaco-Salazar to augment fuel allocation of the military’s Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ). TFZ is the military’s maneuver force for the city of Zamboanga.

Salazar, who is this city’s first district congressional representative, requested for additional fuel allocation in response to the need of helping the law enforcers go on regular patrol both in land and on sea. The request for additional fuel allocation will be taken from the Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants (POL) accounts of the DND budget,Salazar said. The patrol time of the soldiers could be longer and could be done more frequently with additional fuel allocation, she said.

The allocation of additional fuel could help boost security and order as well as peace-keeping efforts in this city, she added. The facilitation by Salazar is part of her efforts in helping strengthen this city security. Salazar has turned over last week communication gadgets to the police, TFZ and various Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) in line with the effort to heighten and put in place the security and emergency response system in her district.

She pointed out that the distribution of the communication facilities to law enforcers is being done to complement all efforts in the first district in a bid to keep the peace and order in their respective areas of jurisdiction. she however disclosed that six of the 37 barangays in her district has yet to receive radio communication gadgets “pending the installation of another repeater that will accommodate these barangays.”

Indigenous peoples vow support to FAB, GPH-MILF peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Indigenous peoples vow support to FAB, GPH-MILF peace process

Various Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Maguindanao and nearby provinces have expressed full support to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The IPs made their commitment of support during the Regional Indigenous peoples Consultative Assembly on FAB and updates on the peace process held at the municipal gymnasium of Upi, Maguindanao Sunday.

The assembly was organized by the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Upi headed by Mayor Ramon Piang, Sr., a GPH panel member, in coordination on the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) and was attended by different leaders of IPs from Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat province, and Western Mindanao provinces. Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH peace panel chair, presented the FAB and the latest update on the GPH-MILF peace talks. Both sides will resume peace talks this third week of January in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

After the presentation, the more than 300 IP leaders were grouped into four for the consultation.
The first group facilitated by Johaira Wahab of the GPH panel legal team, GPH panel member Secretary Senen Bacani for 2nd groups, Undersecretary Bai Yasmin Lao and fourth group by Prof. Coronel-Ferrer. After the group workshop, the messages from the different IPs leaders in which an "all out support" to the FAB was declared.

Also present were Acting Regional ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, RLA Assemblyman Deonato Mokudef, Brig. Gen. Roland Amarille chairman of GPH AHJAG, Hadja Fatima Kanakan, Executive Director, Office of Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC), Larry Tanzo, ARMM Deputy Governor for Indigenous Peoples, Mayor of South Upi Abdullah Campong, a Teduray by tribe and members of the Sangunian Bayan of Upi and South Upi.

Ferrer told reporters that the forum was meant to educate the area's indigenous people (IPs) on the importance of the FAB, which the government and the MILF crafted Oct. 15, 2012. Hataman said IPs in Maguindanao must not be fazed by speculations on the GPH-MILF peace talks owing to the presence of North Upi's town mayor in the government's peace panel. Mayor Piang is a teduday native. Ferrer also assured participants to the forum that the government panel listens attentively to the views and suggestions of all communities, regardless of their religious identities, on how negotiators of both sides can best address the Mindanao Moro issues.

Assemblyman Deonato Mukudef, representative of IP communities to the ARMM lawmaking body, said the people of North and South Upi were elated with the presence of peace panel members. He said the IPs have agreed that the coming over was an indication their voices will be heard.