Wednesday, February 6, 2013

MILF: BLMI-BDA conduct training on “Human Rights, Mediation and Conflict Resolution”

From the MILF Website (Feb 7): BLMI-BDA conduct training on “Human Rights, Mediation and Conflict Resolution”

In line with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) new focus on infusing skills to its members from armed combat training to various fields of knowledge and skills training, the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) jointly conducted the first ever training on human rights, mediation and conflict resolutions to twenty (20) male participants coming from various entities of the MILF last January 27-31, 2013 at the BLMI Training Center, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The activity was part of the series of human capacity building program lined-up at the training center and funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

This training was aimed at capacitating the participants on basic human rights as contained in the Philippine Constitution, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the international principles on human rights enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; mediation process; and on resolving conflicts. It was also intended to provide awareness to the participants on human rights protection, its violations normally perpetrated by men in uniform.

The first day of training centered on “Empowering Dispute Resolution and Management Process (EDRMP) with Ms. Marides Virola- Gardiola of the Center on Humanitarian Dialogue-Philippines (CHD) as the speaker. She is the author of a book “Taking Peace into their Hands”.

She delved on conflicts, sources of conflict and analysis of conflicts. She described conflict as direct/physical violence; cultural violence; and structural violence. The latter pertains to laws enacted, but sometimes repressive to the people resulting to discontent, unrest and conflict. One participant said that in Mindanao, “The settlements put-up by the government aggravated the situation as it marginalized the native inhabitants and all laws passed pertaining to it were oppressive”. Ms. Gardiola said that to resolve structural conflict there is need for strong legislative advocacy and amendments of laws.

From the 2nd day to the 4th day, the topics were about conflict resolution and mediation. Mr. Kalmie Abdulhassad, a CHD Mediation Staff from Jolo, Sulu narrated their experiences on mediation in conflicts at Sulu; how they successfully resolved many “rido” or clan disputes. He presented their process called “Tumikang Sama Sama (Moving Forward Together). Mr. Abdulhassad said that they were able to settle 20 conflicts since 2010 with the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), local government units and well-respected community elders in Sulu.

Another speaker, Mr. Edilberto “Evhoy” Villaruel, Mindanao Coordinator of the Community Organizers Multi-Diversity intelligently discussed about conflict resolution, mediation and its procedures. He described the importance of communication skills in mediation and resolving conflicts to address miscommunication that will further aggravate the dispute.

Diplomacy, patience and flexibility on the part of the mediator are a must.

The topic of human rights was discussed on the last day of the training by Mr. Makakua M. Buat of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRac). Mr. Buat is a law graduate and was accompanied by Mr. Akas Parinding, MinHRac member. He dealt substantially on the aspect/principles of human rights which is a universal guarantee protecting individuals and groups against actions by governments that interfere with fundamental freedom and human dignity. He described human rights as collective rights, one that guarantees self-determination for community of people especially those that suffer wanton discriminatory acts from lawful authorities or states; and individual rights. Like the issues previously discussed, the participants actively participated as the subject matter was so interesting.

The 5-day training was indeed a success. On hand to facilitate and oversee the flow of the activities were Ustadz Abdulsalam Alabat, Mr. Ahmad Mama and Mr. Omsar Paradan, all members of the BLMI’s Steering Committee; Mr. Zamin Unti, Administrative Officer and Mr. Basser Ayob, Project Coordinator.

The activity ended with a short closing program with reactions/messages from participants representing the regions where they came from and distribution of certificates. In their short remarks, Uz. Alabat, Mr. Mama and Mr.Unti thanked the participants for their active participation in the entire duration of the training. Atty. Zainuddin Malang, Executive Director of MinHRac delivered a short but inspiring message. He exhorted the participants to give importance to basic human rights, respect, protect them and avoid violating peoples’ rights.

MILF: Biwang Province Youth hold assembly for unity and solidarity

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 7): Biwang Province Youth hold assembly for unity and solidarity

In a bid to strengthen their unity and solidarity, the Moro youths from Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and South Cotabato gathered in an assembly on January 27, 2013 at the Municipal Gymnasium of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The activity was participated in by almost 500 delegates from Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, Maitum, Kiamba, and Maasim in Sarangani Province and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato which comprise the Biwang Province.

Nu’ain bin Abdulhaq, National Chairman of the Agency for Youth Affairs, graced the occasion. He reminded the Moro youth on the message of the late Ameerul Mujahideen Sheikh Salamat Hashim, “I have already planted the seed of Jihad in the hearts of the Bangsamoro people so that they will continue the struggle for peace and freedom.”

Abdulhaq also issued appointments to the newly selected sets of officers in the provincial and municipal hierarchies of the local youth affairs.

He stressed the need for the Moro youth to be united for a common cause and keep on striving to develop themselves through education.

Biwang Province AYA Chair Teng Usman thanked the delegates for showing their solidarity in the assembly and urged his fellow youth to active in all their undertakings geared towards developing their communities.

He reminded the participants that as a youth, there are tasks awaiting them in the future, thus it is important that they should be prepared.

Usman also hoped that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will succeed so that peace and prosperity for the Moro people will be realized.

Hadji Salim Abu, Ad Hoc Joint Action Group representative, gave the assembly an update to the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

The Chairman of Lake Sebu AYA reminded the youth to fear Allah at all times and whatever they do to please the Almighty, they must put their trust on Him.

Ambrilla Mamadra, AYA Provincial Secretary in the Biwang Province, urged the youth to take the opportunity being young and strong to do good things to his fellow Muslims and keep track on the right path.

The mayor of Lake Sebu was invited but was not able to attend due to important engagement. He sent his son as proxy.

The delegates were so thankful for the support of their elder leaders which serves as their guide and inspiration.

Biwang Province is named after “Taga-Biwang” (People from the left side), which pertains to the constituents of Palimbang and its adjacent towns.

Taga-Biwang is a sub-tribe of the Maguindanaon.

Lull in fighting between MNLF, and Abu Sayyaf in Sulu - police

From the Zamboanga Today (Feb 7): Lull in fighting between MNLF, and Abu Sayyaf in Sulu - police

The battle between Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas and Abu Sayyaf militants in the troubled island province of Sulu has subsided, a top local police official said.

“Pansamantalang nagpapahinga sila ngayon... walang bakbakan at walang putukan ngayon,” Senior Supt. Antonio Freyra, police chief of Sulu, said in an interview over RMN Straight to the Point.

The death toll in the fighting between the two armed groups in Patikul, Sulu, has reached 26 wherein eight MNLF fighters killed in the clash were beheaded by Abu Sayyaf.

According to the reports, the MNLF forces were trying to secure the release of hostages, Jordanian television journalist Baker Atyani who is kept for months in the jungles of Sulu when the fighting erupted.

It was learned from MNLF sources that Habier Malik’s group clashed with a group led by Julasiman Sawadjaan, who is believed to be holding Atyani, a Japanese treasure hunter Mamaito Katayama, and two other Filipinos—Edmund Gumbahali, a consultant of the Non-Violent Peace Force, and Carlos Tee, an airport engineer of Jolo Airport.

Freyra made clear that they are not siding anyone involved in the conflict, except the civilians numbering about 400 families who fled from their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire.

Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, had earlier said government forces were not intervening in the fight between the two groups.

He said that it’s difficult for them to get involved because it might appear that they have something to do with the fighting.

Based on police and MNLF tallies reported earlier showed that 18 of the bandits were killed, 26 people were killed altogether in the gun battle.

Senior MNLF official denies 3 foreigners rescued

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): Senior MNLF official denies 3 foreigners rescued

Habib Mujahab Hashim, member of the MNLF central committee and chairman of the Islamic Command Council (ICC), also denied that the Moro group has a spokesperson named Emmanuel Fontanilla.

In an interview with radio dzMM on Wednesday, Fontanilla claimed that MNLF fighters who clashed with ASG members in the jungles of Patikul have rescued two Swiss nationals and a Dutch national.

Fontanilla also claimed that 23 ASG members have been killed in the fighting and six more bandits are in the MNLF's custody.

“Hopefully it is true, but there is no such report of rescued foreign captives by the MNLF forces under Ustadz Habier Malik,” Hashim said.

Persistent information from the police and military disclosed that five foreigners are being held by the ASG in Sulu, including Europeans Elwold Horn from Holland and Lorenzo Vinceguerre of Switzerland, Australian Warren Richard Rodwell, Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani, and Japanese Toshio Ito.

Horn and Vinceguerre, who are both wild bird watchers, were taken on Feb. 1, 2012 in Tawi-Tawi; Rodwell was seized from his house in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on Dec. 5, 2011; Atyani and his two Filipino companions were held last June 2012; and Toshio was taken on July 2010.

Atyani’s two companions Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela were freed by the Abu Sayyaf last Saturday night, but the MNLF failed to secure Atyani.

Hashim said the forces of Malik are still in the jungles in Patikul waiting for the possible resumption of assault against the ASG.

“We hope hostages are freed so that the tension between the two forces will ease down,” Hashim said.

He said residents have not also returned from their houses in the area because of the brewing tension and fear of the resumption of fighting.

Earlier reports said that the ASG has split into smaller groups to divide the attention of the MNLF forces.

Retirements spark reshuffle of senior military officers

From the Business Mirror (Feb 6): Retirements spark reshuffle of senior military officers

GEN. Emmanuel Bautista, Armed Forces chief of staff, is expected to reshuffle senior officers in the next few days because of the recent mandatory retirement and promotion of some officials holding key positions.
Camp Aguinaldo sources said Brig. Gen. John Bonafos, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Sandigan” Class of 1982, is set to assume as the new commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command based at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. Bonafos is currently the commander of the General Headquarters and Headquarter Service Command in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. He was former acting commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the 8th Infantry “Storm Troopers” Division based in Samar. Bonafos’s “mistah” (PMA classmate), Brig. Gen. Jet Velarmino, is the acting Socom chief.
Col. Eduardo Davalan, of PMA “Sandiwa” Class of 1985, is set to assume as the new commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) based at Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. Davalan is currently the chief of staff of Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo (PMA 1981), chief of the Western Mindanao Command based at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. Davalan will take over FSRR on February 11 and the change of command ceremony will be presided over by the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes (PMA 1980).
Davalan will replace Brig. Gen. Abraham Bagasin of PMA “Matikas” Class of 1983, who is set to assume as deputy commander of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) based at Camp Aquino in Tarlac. Nolcom is currently led by Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara (PMA 1979). There was talk earlier that Bagasin was being groomed for the Socom position. Then rumors followed that Bagasin was supposedly “endorsed” by someone or a group to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. The word “endorse” in the military lingo connotes lobbying against a candidate-officer vying for a position.
Earlier reports said Col. Ronald Albano, of PMA Class of 1983 and current commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade based in the Caraga region, is set to assume as the new head of the Office of The Adjutant General based at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Albano replaces Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco (PMA 1982) who was designated commander of the Armed Forces’ Civil Relations Service, also based in Camp Aguinaldo.
Jungco replaced Maj. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia (PMA 1979) who was appointed The Inspector General of the Armed Forces. Tenefrancia replaced Lt. Gen. Irineo Espino (PMA 1979), PMA superintendent.

Emissaries to defuse tensions in Sulu

From Business World (Feb 6): Emissaries to defuse tensions in Sulu

Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as well as the provincial government of Sulu have sent emissaries to the town of Patikul to defuse the tension between MNLF fighters and members of the Abu Sayyaf following hostilities since Sunday that have left more than 20 people dead.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, a senior member of the MNLF’s central committee and chairman of the group’s Islamic Command Council, told BusinessWorld informal communications have been held to prevent further bloodshed.

The attempt to achieve a ceasefire followed a reported plan of MNLF commander Habier Malik, who led an attack against the bandits on Sunday, to mount another assault to avenge the mutilation of rebels killed during the fire fight, Mr. Hashim said.

At least eight confirmed MNLF fighters were killed, three of them beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf which reportedly suffered 14 casualties.

There is no word from MNLF commanders on the field yesterday if they will heed the central committee’s appeal.

Mr. Hashim said the central committee understands the "high level of anger" among its men, saying that the beheading of fighters was unacceptable.

"To be killed in a fire fight is acceptable, but beheading the dead is another matter," he said.

"We are continuing to appeal to our brothers on the ground to postpone their assault plan just for the sake of freeing the kidnapped victim," Mr. Hashim said, referring to the pressure of the MNLF against the Abu Sayyaf to release Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani, who has been held captive for more than eight months now.

Mr. Atyani’s two Filipino television crew members were released on Saturday. Aside from Mr. Atyani, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least five hostages, including two European bird watchers who were abducted in Sulu’s neighboring island-province of Tawi-Tawi last year.

Mr. Hashim said the group’s central committee is also trying to contact MNLF founder and chairman Nur Misuari for an order to stop violence in the area.

The conflict stemmed from Mr. Misuari’s visit last month to Sulu for a meeting with his followers in Panamao. In the agenda of the meeting was cleansing the area of lawless elements.

Mr. Misuari, who is currently abroad, has been going around Mindanao as part of efforts to make his presence felt. He is running for governor in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the May 13 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, Sonny Y. Abing III, Sulu provincial information officer, said in a separate interview that Sulu Governor Abdusakur M. Tan is negotiating with the MNLF commanders, and that assistance has been provided to the more than 400 affected families displaced by the hostilities.

"They are now in the evacuation centers in Jolo," he said.

For his part, Rodrigo T. Gregorio, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said government troops are prepared to contain the conflict around the town of Patikul, which is adjacent to the capital town of Jolo.

"We have deployed forces around Patikul to prevent spillover [of violence] in other areas. As much as possible we want to contain the problem," he said.

But MNLF officials said they will pursue the Abu Sayyaf, which has splintered into smaller groups, and have possibly slipped outside the Patikul area.

Police fired fallen passengers' guns in Atimonan shootout — NBI report

From GMANews (Feb 6): Police fired fallen passengers' guns in Atimonan shootout — NBI report

Policemen involved in the January 6 bloodbath that left 13 people dead at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon were seen firing the fallen men's guns – "one by one into the air and other directions.”

This was according to the National Bureau of Investigation in its report expected to be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III Thursday, a portion of which was obtained by GMA News.

Senior Inspector John Paulo Carracedo, who was among the group seen firing the guns, was also heard shouting “i-clear na natin, i-clear na natin” after the second of the two volleys of gunfire.

Even as NBI had yet to wrap up its investigation, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima earlier told reporters that she believed the bloody encounter was "
definitely not a shootout."

The NBI report, however, said the first shot came from the SUVs of those killed.

“Subsequently, several policemen approached the two SUVs and shouts were heard 'BABA, BABA BINTANA.' Suddenly, gun shots rang out apparently emanating from the said SUVs. Immediately, PNP personnel fired their guns towards the two SUVs,” the report said.

The 300-page report also said: “Some of them (witnesses) have also seen PSI CARRACEDO taking a bag from the said SUVs.”

This testimony could bolster the claim of the daughter of one of the slain men that her father was carrying cash when he and his 12 companions were allegedly ambushed by a composite police and military team at the checkpoint.

Christine Consemino said her father, Police Superintendent Alfredo Perez Consemino, was also a businessman who owned a security agency in Quezon and was bringing P5 million in cash to a client as bond at the time of the incident. The supposed money, however, vanished.

GMA News tried to reach Carracedo through Superintendent Hansal Marantan, the team leader of the team at the checkpoint, but Marantan said Carracedo has been advised by his lawyer against issuing statements regarding the issue.

Law enforcers manning the checkpoint claimed the men were killed in an encounter connected to an operation targeting members of a gun-for-hire syndicate. Witnesses, however, said the victims, which included two active policemen and environmentalist Jun Lontok, were ambushed.

The “24 Oras” said it was not clear what the contents of the bag that Carracedo allegedly took were.

A separate "24 Oras" report said the NBI, the main agency tasked to investigate the case, postponed the submission of its report to President Benigno Aquino III to Thursday so it could add more annexes.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had earlier said that the report would be submitted to Aquino on Wednesday.

Photo: More Pinays join the Marine Corps

From GMANews (Feb 6): Photo: More Pinays join the Marine Corps

Newly-recruited female Marines jump off a rubber dinghy during a sea drill at their headquarters in Ternate, Cavite on Wednesday. About 350 women combatants in the 10,000-member Philippine Marines go through the same rigid physical and mental training as their male counterparts. Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

Video Report: MNLF leader says Baker Atyani is still alive

Posted to ABS-CBN (Feb 6): Video Report: Baker Atyani, buhay pa ayon sa isang lider ng MNLF (MNLF leader says Baker Atyani is still alive)

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)

Tuloy ang bakbakan ng Moro National Liberation Front at Abu Sayyaf sa Patikul, Sulu. Kwento ng isang lider ng MNLF: nakita umano nila ang Jordanian journalist na si Baker Atyani na buhay pa.

(Continue fighting of the Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu. Report by an MNLF leader: They allegedly saw the Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani still alive.)

No MNLF rescue of 3 foreign hostages of Abu Sayyaf - military

From InterAksyon (Feb 7): No MNLF rescue of 3 foreign hostages of Abu Sayyaf - military

The military's Western Mindanao Command denied reports that three foreign hostages of the Abu Sayyaf Group were rescued by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Colonel Rodrigo Gregorio, Wesmincom spokesman, said a check with the 2nd Marine Brigade commander based in Sulu showed that there have been no MNLF offensives against the ASG since Sunday.

A certain Emmanuel Fontanilla, who introduced himself as a spokesman of the MNLF, told several media interviews that the MNLF were able to rescue three foreign hostages from the ASG on Tuesday, inluding two Dutchmen and a Swiss national.

"Wala pong katotohanan yan. Yung commander sa ground, yung commander ng 2nd marine brigade (Col. Orlando de Leon) siya mismo nag-deny lahat ng information na yun na lumalabas na hindi totoo yun," Gregorio said in a phone interview.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier said the ASG is holding at least five more foreigners hostage in Sulu, including Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani and two European birdwatchers.
Gregorio said Fontanilla was spreading "disinformation" to the media.

In an earlier interview, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista said soldiers in Sulu were instructed to maintain vigilance while at the same time ensure that the conflict does not spillover to other areas in Sulu.

CPP denounces plan to deploy US navy "volunteers" around Tubbataha

From the CPP Website (Feb 6): CPP denounces plan to deploy US navy "volunteers" around Tubbataha

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the Aquino regime for planning to allow the US Navy to deploy “peace corps-like volunteers” around the Tubbataha Reefs supposedly to “guard” the area and ensure that no sea vessel will run aground again in the reefs.

“Such a plan smacks of hypocrisy! After the USS Guardian intruded into the Tubbataha wildlife protected area, caused substantial damage to the corals and exhibited bellicosity against Philippine park rangers, it would constitute extreme stupidity and servility for the Aquino regime to allow the US military to deploy its so-called volunteers in the park area and entrust them with the task of protecting the reefs,” said the CPP.

“In the first place, the US Navy should be held accountable and be punished for its complete disregard for Philippine sovereignty,” added the CPP. “The Filipino people should reject the US offer of compensation if this will serve only to evade the payment of fines concomitant to being held accountable for violations of existing Philippine laws.”

More so, such US offer of compensation should be rejected if this will serve only to justify the deployment of more American naval forces, whether they be volunteers or not, in the Tubbataha area or elsewhere,” added the CPP. The CPP pointed out that the US Peace Corps is a US government interventionist tool that uses various socio-economic projects as covers to carry out intelligence and social mapping.

The CPP also denounced the docking yesterday at Subic Bay of another US warship, the US naval guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale. The USS Stockdale arrived just a few days after a US nuclear attack submarine, the USS Cheyenne, docked at the same area.

In accordance with US plans to shift its foreign naval operations to the Asia-Pacific, more dockings by US warships and submarines in the Philippines are expected.

“Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the US military is being allowed by the Philippine government to freely enter, patrol and dock in Philippine sea facilities and make effective use of the country as its military outpost and platform for its hegemonist operations in the Asia-Pacific.”

MNLF spokesman claims 3 foreigners rescued from Abu Sayyaf

From GMANews (Feb 6): MNLF spokesman claims 3 foreigners rescued from Abu Sayyaf

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Khabir Malik (front left) gathers fighters at their camp in Jolo, Sulu on Monday. More than 20 people have been killed in Sulu since Sunday after the MNLF launched a rescue attempt to free Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani who was kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits eight months ago. The MNLF, a group of former Muslim rebels who have made peace with the government, attacked jungle bases of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu to free the Jordanian. Reuters

Following days of fighting, the Moro National Liberation Front spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla on Wednesday claimed that MNLF fighters overran an Abu Sayyaf camp in Sulu and rescued at least three foreign nationals.

But Fontanilla would not say during an interview on radio dzBB if the rescued foreigners included TV journalist Baker Atyani, who had been missing since June 2012.

He also declined to reveal the present whereabouts of the rescued foreigners, saying many groups in Patikul town in Sulu were "interested" in taking custody of them.

But Fontanilla said that the three foreigners were safe in MNLF custody.

However, the dzBB report also quoted MNLF Islamic Council chairman Habib Hashim as saying there has been no fighting Wednesday.

Furthermore, Hashim also said that MNLF chairman Nur Misuari has not authorized Fontanilla to speak for them.

Aslo, Sulu police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra said he has received no report of fighting between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf, radio dzBB's Tuesday Niu reported.

Government elements

Fontanilla said they plan to turn over the foreigners to the Philippine government but are waiting for the return of chairman Nur Misuari, supposedly from abroad.

"Ang dating niya (Misuari), five days from now o isang linggo," he said.

Fontanilla added that in the process of overrunning the camp, four Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed and these four were "government elements."

"Sana bigyan tuon ito ng gobyerno... ito raw ay mga AWOL," he said, citing initial reports reaching him.

Fontanilla also clarified that the alleged government men were not hostages. When asked if they belonged to either the police force or the military, he would only say, "both sides."

Firefight erupts anew in Patikul

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 7): Firefight erupts anew in Patikul

3 foreign hostages rescued by MNLF

Sporadic fighting broke out on Wednesday in Mt. Sinumaan in Patikul, Sulu as thousands of Muslim rebels pursued hundreds of Abu Sayyaf terrorists that abandoned their mountain stronghold, retreating deep into the jungle with 13 hostages of various nationalities.

By early evening, reports from the combat area said fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rescued three hostages — two Swiss and one Dutch — but Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was still held by the terrorists.

“The three hostages are now secured in an undisclosed MNLF camp in Sulu,” MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said. “The situation in the area is volatile.”

Fontanilla said the number of casualties rose to a total of 31 killed: eight MNLF and 23 Abu Sayyaf; 16 wounded: nine Abu Sayyaf, seven MNLF; and six Abu Sayyaf captured.

He said an undisclosed number of Abu Sayyaf fled to Basilan island and encountered government troops and four soldiers were killed in a gunbattle but no reports of casualties on the side of the terrorists.

About 3,000 MNLF fighters were spread out in the forests of Mt. Sinumaan hunting for 700 Abu Sayyaf terrorists moving in small groups to elude pursuers, said Khaber Sampang, Chief of the MNLF Special Branch Service.

“We will not stop running after them until they finally release their hostages and put a stop in kidnapping people, which not only affected the living conditions of Joloanons, but also created fear among traders,” he said.

At least 22 combatants were killed last Saturday when the MNLF assaulted two Abuy Sayyaf camps in the forest. The MNLF overran the two camps after several hours of fierce fighting, which was ignited by a bungled delivery of P30 million ransoms in exchange for the freedom of kidnapped Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani.

Atyani, who works for the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, and two Filipino camera crew were abducted in June 2012 when they went into the jungle to do a story on the Abu Sayyaf. The Filipinos were released last Saturday, but the Abu Sayyaf held on to Atyani.

Sampang said the Abu Sayyaf camps in Sitio Datag, Patikul were fenced and surrounded by foxholes, where the terrorists took positions during the fighting, but they failed to repel the MNLF attack.

The two camps, called Kan-Tatang and Sangay, about 15 km away from the city, has underground bunkers and barracks and the approach were laden with landmines, according to Sampang.

He said the Abu Sayyaf fighters put up a strong resistance during the attack, but were outgunned by the MNLF, who were armed with caliber 57 anti-tank weapons, 90 recoilless rifles and 81 mortar tubes.

Sampang said the two camps, where the hostages were held for almost a year, were now under the control of the MNLF and tightly guarded to prevent the terrorists from coming back.

He said about 4,000-strong MNLF forces now control the following areas: Jolo, Indanan, Talipao, Parang, Panammao and Panglima Estimo.

Sampang identified the ASG leader as Raddulan Sahiron and the group commanders as Sihata Latih, Muallam Idang Susukan and Imam Hajan.

The hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf, in addition to Atyani, were: Warren Rodwell, an Australian kidnapped in Zamboanga City in December 2011; European birdwatchers Ewold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra; two unidentified Malaysians, an unidentified Japanese; and two unnamed Filipinos.

After a lull in the fighting as both sides buried their dead, the MNLF mobilized thousands of troops for a new assault on the terrorists on Tuesday to get Atyani after the ransom money “disappeared in transit” when three hooded men intercepted and robbed the courier.

“Up to now, we still don’t know what happened to the money,” Sampang said. “We suspect that the armed men (who robbed the courier) belong to the Abu Sayyaf.”

President Aquino has said he did not sanction the MNLF attack and directed the armed forces and the Philippine National Police to prevent the fighting to spillover outside of the Patikul area.

“Our first priority is securing the civilians who might be caught in the conflict areas,” Aquino said.
Sulu police chief Sr. Supt. Antonio Freyra said thousands of residents in the perimeter of Patikul were displaced by the fighting and fled to temporary shelters put up by the government.

Philippine Marines Brigade Commander Col. Orlando de Leon said troops have been deployed in Sulu to contain the violence in the area and insure the safety of residents.

De Leon said wounded combatants, whether MNLF or Abu Sayyaf, brought down from the mountains will be accommodated in hosptials for treatment as mandated by International Humanitarian Law.

Salvaging operation begins at Tubbataha

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 7): Salvaging operation begins at Tubbataha

The salvaging operation of the USS Guardian at the Tubbataha Reef officially started on Wednesday following the arrival and anchoring at the site of the ship-borne crane Smit Borneo from Singapore. “Yes, we already started the salvaging operation. The ship crane will be anchored 10 meters away from the reef,” said Philippine Coast Guard Palawan District commander Enrico Efren Evangelista.

Evangelista, who also heads Task Force Tubbataha, said they proceeded with the operation after concerned government agencies, including the Tubbataha Protected Areas Management Board, approved the salvage plan presented by Smit Borneo. The board is headed by Palawan Governor Baham Mitra.

Evangelista said that anchoring will take at least a day, before the actual salvaging operation can proceed. He said two anchors will be placed 800 meters deep in front, and the two others will be positioned at the back at 300 meters deep.

Mitra said that “sectioning” the USS Guardian in several parts appeared to be less destructive, although the crane ship has to drop anchor on the protected reef 2,500 feet below the water.

Philippine Coast Guard chief Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena confirmed that the board gave its thumbs-up to the plan.

Isorena said the actual salvaging operation will start on either Sunday or Monday, and may take until April.

He added that the salvaging crew was still waiting for the result of an assessment by the Task Force before the US Navy starts cutting up the ship.

The latest assessment showed that more than 4,000 square meters on the coral reef were destroyed.
The board also requested to have two representatives on board Smit Borneo to observe the operation. It also asked for a joint ecological assessment of the damage after the 224-foot US minesweeper is fully extracted from the reef.

Evangelista said that the board asked the salvage ship to avoid entangling marine life and creatures, like big fishes and sea turtles, if they would use nets during the operation.

The board also asked the captain and crewmembers of Smit Borneo and all those engaged in the operation to abide by the Tubbataha Nature park rules and regulations.

The US government had promised to compensate for the damages on the reef and offered a rehabilitation plan after the ship is completely removed from the reef.

Washington, however, remained silent on questions why its sailors violated Philippine maritime laws and a UNESCO World Heritage Site regulation when the ship intruded into prohibited territory.

Environmentalists and militant groups have called on the government to file charges against the captain and crew of the Guardian who were immediately sent back to their base in Japan after the incident.

The Guardian was sailing for Indonesia from its last port call in Subic Bay in Zambales when it crashed on the on Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, Tubbataha Management Office head Angelique Songco said that the grounding of the USS Guardian in the protected marine park may have adverse effects on its tourism industry.

Songco said that approximately 1,500 tourists were expected to arrive in the marine park this year, which was comparatively lower than last year due to the stranding incident.

Of the eight diving sites in the marine park that are open to tourists, Songco said they are seriously considering closing two since these were the ones directly affected by the grounding incident.
Songco said the TPAMB would stand by its demand to hold the US Navy accountable for the damages caused by the grounding.

Initial cost estimate may reach P100 million for the damages. Songco said this does not cover the cost of restoring the reef and the damages to its other constituencies which extend to water quality and bird and fish life.

The TPAMB has sent to the US Navy a notice of violation, which listed pertinent provisions of Philippine law that the USS Guardian had violated, but said they have not yet received any answer.
Among the violations that the board has listed were unauthorized entry, non-payment of conservation fee, damaging the reef and destroying resources.

AFP claims success over IPSP Bayanihan

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 7): AFP claims success over IPSP Bayanihan

Despite the claimed success of the military’s internal peace and security plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan,” more than 100 government security personnel and at least 53 civilians were killed by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) during 374 atrocities in 2012 in various parts of the country.

In a press statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) said that the NPAs killed at least one civilian every week last year.

“The NPAs were responsible for 374 violent incidents recorded for 2012 which caused the death of 53 civilians over the country. Rounding up the statistics, an innocent civilian is killed by the NPA every week last year,” the AFP said.

“These violent incidents perpetrated by the NPA also resulted in the killings of 81 members of the AFP, eight from the Philippine National Police (PNP), and 22 Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA),” it added.

The military claimed that the 2012 NPA atrocities have decreased compared to 2011attacks blamed to the communist armed group which totalled 447, composed mostly of harassments and ambuscades.
On the other hand, the AFP claimed to have neutralized 555 NPA personalities last year, 367 of whom voluntarily surrendered to the government.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista has claimed the success of the IPSP “Bayanihan” which is designed to defeat the country’s insurgency problem by 2016.The IPSP “Bayanihan” is a paradigm shift from the combat approach to whole-of-nation approach to address insurgency.

Bautista vowed the military’s continued commitment to the peace process but maintained that efforts to address communist atrocities will remain.

“We will continue to intensify our focused security operations against armed rebels who continue to wage armed violence causing loss of innocent lives, destruction of properties, and damage to vital economic facilities and infrastructures,” he added.

Last year, the military placed the NPA strength at 4,043.

Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, deputy chief of the AFP-PAO, said the military’s working figures on the strength on the NPA at end 2012 at approximately 4,000.

“With the continuous deception and recruitment of the NPAs, we cannot determine the exact number of NPA rebels,” said Garcia.

AFP places NPA strength at 4,000

From Malaya (Feb 6): AFP places NPA strength at 4,000

THE military yesterday said it neutralized 555 fighters of the communist New People’s Army last year. These fighters killed 164 government troops and civilians during the same period, it said.

Of the 555 rebels, 367 surrendered while the rest were either killed or captured during the conduct of combat operations, or apprehended, said Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos.
The military’s working figure on NPA strength as of end 2012 is “approximately 4,000,” according to Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, deputy chief of the AFP public affairs office.

But as of end 2011, security officials pegged the strength of the NPA at 4,043 men.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista last month vowed that the military will render the communist movement inconsequential before he retires from the service in July next year.
Burgos said the NPA launched 374 violent incidents last year, killing 53 civilians.

“Rounding up the statistics, an innocent civilian is killed by the NPA every week last year,” he said.
Burgos said the rebel activities also resulted in the death of 81 soldiers, eight policemen, and 22 government militiamen.

Burgos said the NPA activities included 10 attacks during the holiday ceasefire, during which a soldier and a militiaman died.

Last month, the NPA conducted 10 violent activities that led to the killing of three government troops, 10 civilians and wounding of 27 troops and nine civilians.

MILF to be given Philhealth cards, socio-economic services

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 6): MILF to be given Philhealth cards, socio-economic services

Can you imagine Murad Ebrahim, the battle-hardened Moro rebel leader, flashing a Philhealth card? It’s not far-fetched.

Beginning next week, Ebrahim and former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will begin enjoying socio-economic services, including membership in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., as part of the government’s goodwill gesture toward achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.

President Benigno Aquino III is launching a socio-economic initiative, addressing the health, livelihood and educational needs of Bangsamoro communities, this coming Monday, at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao.

As a follow-up to the October 2012 preliminary framework agreement for the Bangsamoro entity, the Aquino administration is rolling out the socio-economic services for the former rebel group within the next one and a half years.

The deal provides, among others, the creation of the Bangsamoro entity with greater political and economic powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Both camps hoped to sign a comprehensive peace agreement next month.

The socio-economic programs are being implemented in the context of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, which recognizes that development is crucial to “sustainable peace,’’ and decommissioning the MILF entailed providing alternatives for a “more productive life,’’ according to Secretary Teresita Deles.

“I think both parties have agreed that the Bangsamoro and particularly those who have fought and are coming into the Framework Agreement will not have to wait 2016 to feel the impact of the peace that is being built now,’’ the presidential adviser on the peace process said in a Malacañang briefing.

The initiative has called “Sajahatra Bangsamoro,’’ an Arabic-Melayu-Bahasa derivative that meant blessing, prosperity and peace, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said.

“It truly is representative for what this project is about,’’ he said in the joint briefing. He said the beneficiaries – the former rebels – had no access to such services.

“They were not part of mainstream. They were located in areas purposely to be away from government, away from us. Now they are coming down to be with us and now we are going to provide them with the services that everyone else has been enjoying anyway,’’ he said.

Under the program, the ex-fighters and their families would be covered by health insurance under the PhilHealth, and the community-based health services would be upgraded by the Department of Health, Almendras said.

“Some of them will now become members of Philhealth. So there will be a symbolic turnover of a Philhealth card to the chairman himself [during the launch],’’ he said, referring to Ebrahim.

In the afternoon, the DoH will hold a medical mission for some 300 people, coming from different MILF communities in Mindanao.

The Commission on Higher Education will grant college scholarships, while the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority will provide technical and vocational training. The Department of Education will extend assistance to madaris, or Islamic schools.

“We will be distributing certificates of scholarships to those who have finished high school and will be joining the university ranks. CHEd will be distributing the few hundred scholarship grants to Muslims students who will be joining the state universities and colleges in Mindanao,’’ Almendras said.

“TESDA will be offering training programs and in the afternoon, they will have a demonstration of some basic skills and training that will be needed to help some of the members of MILF who have been detached from mainstream society come back to more productive activity,’’ he added.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will assess the needs of selected Bangsamoro communities, and offer cash for work program.

The Department of Agriculture would distribute seeds and introduce planting technology to prospective tillers in the Bangsamoro territory, Almendras said.

The bureaucracy, including key Cabinet officials, will show up at the launch in a “very big scale,’’ according to Almendras.

The MILF delegation will be headed by Ebrahim and peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal. Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab’Ghafar Tengku bin Mohammed and Malaysian head of secretariat Che Khasna were invited.

“The MILF organization will be there. Field commanders will be there. Some combatants will be there. We have also invited the Chief of Staff, the head of the Army, the head of the Air Force. Actually that is my problem, my problem is the grounds of the BLMI is not big enough to accommodate all the people who would want to come. I am talking about dignitaries,’’ Almendras said.

Definitely no guns would be allowed at the venue, “right smack in the center of the MILF camp,’’ Almendras said.

“In the past two weeks, both the government organizations mainly the Presidential Security Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, everybody has just been working together to find a way to bring it together into a situation where the place is going to be safe for all of us. We will be going there,’’ he said.

To prevent giving the event any partisan color, no senatorial candidate has been invited, he said.

After Monday’s launch, the government will mount a caravan, and hop from one Bangsamoro community to another, offering the same services and programs, in partnership with the MILF.

“We will not stop there, we will be going to other locations in Mindanao and we will be doing the same thing. The idea is for all of the people in Mindanao, former rebels to begin to feel the presence of the services of the national government,’’ Almendras said.

Officials could not give a figure on the cost, but said this would be taken from the individual budgets of departments providing the services.

“The reason why we cannot give you an amount yet is because the numbers are not set. The very nature of the discussions with the former rebel groups is they have never given us their exact numbers and details and all that. And slowly this is coming through,’’ Almendras said.

Eventually, everything would be finalized, but the services would not be limited to the MILF alone, he said.

“We are going to be ready for anyone else who wants to join. The idea is Sajahatra Bangsamoro is not about exclusivity, it is about inclusivity. It is not about saying this is just for this group,’’ Almendras said.

Deles said this was just the start, and the bigger program would come after the signing of the peace agreement.

After the signing of the FAB, the President called Almendras, Deles and other Cabinet officials to a meeting, and indicated he wanted a socio-economic program for the MILF.

“This is not a whim; this is not a sudden thing. This was very well-thought of plan. The President himself has been pushing this from the very beginning,’’ Almendras said.

Meanwhile, the government and the MILF were ironing out the details of the annexes of the FAB for eventual signing of the comprehensive agreement in March, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said.

“This initiative is certainly a very important confidence building measure leading to the signing of the comprehensive agreement,’’ she said of the program.

The shortlist of proposed members of the transition commission that would draft the Bangsamoro basic law is now being reviewed by the President.

NPA atrocities in CARAGA region worsen

From the Philippine Star (Feb 6): NPA atrocities in CARAGA region worsen

Atrocities committed by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the Caraga region and Northern Mindanao have worsened since the start of the year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday.

According to a report from the Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion based in Cagayan de Oro City, NPA rebels have liquidated members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA), killed civilians for not paying “revolutionary taxes,” and burned houses and construction equipment.

The military report was dated Feb. 3 and signed by Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, 4th ID spokesman.

The report said the insurgents killed CAA members Nife Pura, Danilo Bacudan and Ruel Atipon on Jan. 20, Jan. 25 and Jan. 30, respectively.

The rebels also killed a certain Necias Senit Magkanta, 70, and Albert Mendez Nomansia, 35, over the non-payment of “revolutionary taxes.”

The NPA guerrillas also ransacked the houses of active and retired soldiers and their relatives in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental last Jan. 22.

The AFP report added that the insurgents destroyed six hectares of banana plantations and burned heavy equipment owned by Dole Philippines in Surigao del Sur.

Last Feb. 4, 10 suspected NPA rebels burned construction equipment being used in a multibillion-peso road repair project in Barangay San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte.

Lt. Col. Vincent Iringan, commander of the 30th Infantry Brigade, has deployed troops to Alegria town to pursue the NPA attackers.

One soldier wounded in clash with leftist rebels in Compostela

From the Philippine Star (Feb 5): One soldier wounded in clash with leftist rebels in Compostela

About a hundred leftist rebels attacked an isolated army outpost in the southern Philippines today, triggering a fierce clash that left one soldier wounded, officials said.
The fighting in Maco town, Compostela Valley province between soldiers and New People's Army rebels came almost a week after a spate of attacks by the insurgents in several army posts that resulted in the death of a soldier, according to Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.

Paniza said at least 100 NPA guerrillas assaulted the army detachment in Tagbaros village around 6 a.m. local time but they were repulsed by militiamen and soldiers defending the camp.

Corporal Wahad Sahadjan, the camp commander, was slightly wounded in the shoulder, and authorities believed the attackers also suffered casualties due to blood traces in their route of withdrawal, Paniza said.

Tuesday's clash happened a day after soldiers killed a rebel in a brief fire fight in San Fernando town, in Bukidnon province, according to Lieutenant Colonel Eugenio Julio Osias IV, regional army spokesperson.

The 4,000-strong NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting a leftist insurgency in 60 Philippine provinces since 1969.

Abra rebels belie troops claim of killing guerrillas

From the Philippine Star (Feb 6): Abra rebels belie troops claim of killing guerrillas

Communist guerrillas on Tuesday evening belied the military and police’s claim of killing four New People's Army rebels in an encounter in Lagangilang town in Abra on January 30.
“Magkatuwang na pangungurakot at pagsisinungaling ang nasa likod ng mga hungkag na pahayag,” said Diego Wadagan, spokesperson of the Abra-based Agustin Begnalen Command (ABC) of the CPP-NPA. Wadagan also said the alleged surrender of a supposed NPA leader in Abra last week was also a hoax.

He added that officials of the AFP and PNP pocket rewards whenever they make up news about killing or arresting rebels.

The 503rd Bridage earlier announced that its forces in Abra killed four guerrillas in armed skirmishes in sitio Manipit, barangay Kayapa, Lagangilang morning of January 30. No body count was however showed by the government forces.

Wadagan confirmed that a unit of the Procopio Tauro Front of the ABC clashed with government forces, but he said no rebel was killed or hurt.

The rebel group spokesperson also said the alleged surrender of Connie Santiago Valera, 29 of Poblacion Lacub, Lacub town also in Abra was a lie. First, Wadagan said, Santiago is not an official of the ABC and particularly not a high-ranking leader of the Ilocos Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA as claimed by the Cordillera police.

Wadagan said it is a “modus operandi of officials of the AFP and PNP to tag ordinary citizens as high ranking leaders of the CPP-NPA so that they can collect the bounty reaching millions of pesos.”

The Cordillera police earlier tagged a son of Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF) spokesperson Simon Naogsan – Grayson Naogsan—as a high ranking leader of the CPP-NPA in the region and placed a more than P10 million reward money for his arrest.

The younger Naogsan was reportedly arrested while having coffee at a huge mall in Baguio City last year and is now being held at the Ifugao provincial jail for various criminal charges.

The government earlier earmarked P400-million reward money for the arrest of top ranking CPP-NPA-NDF leaders in the country.

“Kaya’t ilang mga ordinaryong mamamayan na ang arbitraryong dinadakip at pinaparatangang matataas na opisyal ng CPP-NPA-NDF,” Wadagan said.

The rebel spokesperson also claimed that four farmers who were looking for honey were held for a least five days by the military during the day of the encounter. They were even told, Wadagan said, not to tell anyone about that incident. Those reportedly held for days were Anacleto “Killito” Tugade, Ceferino “Boying” Poclani (Barangay Kagawad of Kayapa), Jemmy Esmie Bageng, and Bonifacio “Pacio” Bagang.

Also before the January 30 encounter, young Kayapa villager Meymar Alcantara, who was tagged as an NPA supporter, was reportedly mandhandled by soldiers.

Sayyaf splits forces, tension rises

From the Philippine Star (Feb 6): Sayyaf splits forces, tension rises

The Abu Sayyaf group split into smaller groups and was reportedly preparing to resume its fight with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Ustadz Habier Malik in the mountains of Patikul, Sulu, a senior MNLF official disclosed.
The forces of Malik have been massing its forces in Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul town near the jungle lair of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron since Tuesday after fighting halted. The fight between the MNLF and the Abu Sayyaf left more than 30 killed on both sides.

Habib Muadjahab Hashim, a senior leaders of the MNLF central committee and chairman of the Islamic Command Council (ICC), said hundreds of MNLF forces under Malik continued to mass for “a final assault.”

“We are praying that Malik [not attack] because they (MNLF troops) might just incur even more casualty because the Abu Sayyaf is prepared and is in a better vantage position,” Hashim said.

Hashim said they have received reports the Abu Sayyaf has split into smaller groups for easy combat maneuver and be less visible against the bigger MNLF targets.

“I’m afraid the moment they (MNLF) attack they will just suffer more casualties because the Abu Sayyaf fighters are much prepared and they split into smaller groups,” Hashim added.

He said they still believe the fighting can be prevented through the order of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari who is currently in Middle East attending the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

“We highly believe Malik will follow being a disciplined leader. However, there is no information yet if contacts have been made to appeal to Misuari to call the order to halt the MNLF operation,” Hashim said.

Hashim said tension continued to reign in Patikul and close to 500 families have already evacuated from three barangays of Danag, Kaunayan, and Mampalam.

The Sulu provincial area coordination center disclosed that at least 468 families or about 2,340 dependents have been displaced by the fighting between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf.

Most of the displaced villagers are reportedly staying with their relatives.

Army seizes NPA camp anew

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Feb 6): Army seizes NPA camp anew

This NPA camp discovered by the elements of the Army’s 20th IB in the hinterlands of Barangay Luisita in Victoria, Northern Samar can accommodate at least 15 persons. (DPAO Photo)

Elements of the Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion based in Northern Samar have seized another camp of the communists New People’s Army (NPA) on Monday.

Lt. Col. Noel Vestuir, 20th IB commander said the composite team from his battalion led by 1Lt. Florencio Tayo discovered an abandoned NPA camp which could accommodate about 15 persons in the hinterlands of Barangay Luisita, Victoria town in Northern Samar.
“The discovered NPA camp was believed to have been abandoned by the NPAs four days ago,” Vestuir said.
“We would like to commend the populace of Barangay Victoria for always coordinating with us in ensuring peace in their area; the community strongly denounces the presence of the NPAs who conduct extortion activities not only to businessmen but to ordinary farmers and populace in the area,” Vestuir added.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug, commander of the 8th ID in Catbalogan City said the discovery of several NPA camps is a clear manifestation that the NPA in Samar provinces is losing ground literally and losing their influence over the people which eventually will lead to their downfall and collapse.
“The 8ID is currently intensifying its efforts in securing our communities against all forms of armed threats through sustained security operations and constant coordination and linkages with the stakeholders through the spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ in attaining peace throughout the region,” Layug added.
In a related event, last Jan. 30, military troops from Charlie Company, 34th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt Harold Bryan Llandado discovered an NPA abandoned harbouring site at vicinity Sitio Cagutsan, Barangay Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar which can accommodate around 50 NPAs.
Last Jan. 26, troops of Alpha Company of 20th Infantry Battalion, 8ID headed by 1Lt Raul Delos Santos also discovered an abandoned NPA camp composed of one kitchen, one comfort room, 15 makeshift bunkers that can accommodate 15 NPAs at Sitio Catmaalad, Barangay McKinley, Catarman, Northern Samar.
On Jan. 18, military troops from Alpha Company, 34th Infantry Battalion, 8ID under 2Lt. Glenn De Ramos discovered an NPA camp also at the vicinity of Sitio Cagutsan, Barangay Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar which can accommodate around 15 NPAs.
For 2012, a total of 131 NPA camps were seized and discovered by the military troops. Eight camps were recovered with enemy resistance and 123 of these camps were seized without enemy resistance.

OPAPP: NPA Rebels Violated Human Rights

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Feb 6): OPAPP: NPA Rebels Violated Human Rights

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has found that the New People’s Army (NPA) violated both the human rights and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in killing eight civilians in Brgy. Puso La Castellana last Jan. 27.

Lawyer Jaime Arroyo, secretariat head of the OPAPP-Government of the Philippines Monitoring Committee, said that the NPA’s admission of the crime and the testimonies of the eye witnesses whom they interviewed in La Castellana yesterday would prove that the NPA indeed violated the human rights of civilians and the IHL.

Arroyo had conducted an investigation with OPAPP legal consultant, Norman Carreon and visited Brgy. Puso, La Castellana yesterday to talk to the survivors and families of the victims, as part of their documentation on the peace process.

"We came here upon learning of the ambush last Jan. 27. Two events that transpired confirmed our initial suspicion: the admission by the NPA in the local command that they are responsible for ambush; and the statements of the eye witnesses we interviewed saying the victims were shot at close range and the ambushers shouting "Mabuhay ang NPA (Long live, NPA!)," Arroyo said.

"This is an attack on civilians which is specifically prohibited under the International Humanitarian Law," he said.

The two lawyers also met with Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday afternoon to also brief him of their findings in La Castellana. Accompanying them in their visit to the governor were Col. Oscar Lactao, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, Senior Supt. Celestino Guarra, acting Negros Occidental Police director, and the two injured policemen - PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez and PO3 Constantino Villegas.

When asked if their reports will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III, Arroyo hinted it will. Another task is to spread awareness on Republic Act. No. 9851, approved in 2009, that upholds human rights and IHL. RA 9851 (Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity) punishes offenses against IHL because under the law, civilians are not supposed to be harmed by either party, Arroyo said.

This law is unique as it enables civilian victims to file charges against perpetrators by either side in the armed conflict, he added.

Arroyo said OPAPP has no active role in the filing of charges against violators of HR and IHL, they can only advise the civilians or local authorities (military and police) to file charges under this law. He said there’s not a widespread knowledge of RA 9158, even in Manila, thus it is seldom invoked for purposes of prosecution.

"We are not the DOJ (Department of Justice), we are not even the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) but we can supply the data in pursuing the case," Arroyo said.

"From our personal perspective, the more appropriate criminal charges would be under RA 9851 which punishes war crimes," he said.

"We have a very comprehensive and well-crafted law (RA 9158). There is a growing move to spread awareness of this law, It is apt for armed conflict," he added.

But Arroyo said OPAPP does not stand in the way of local authorities in their filing of charges, they only suggest if the authorities themselves would want to include it. He said there’s no problem if the police had already filed charges against the NPA. "They can upgrade of amend the complaint if they want," he said.

On La Castellana Ambush, Murder Raps Filed vs 20 NPA Rebels

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Feb 6): On La Castellana Ambush, Murder Raps Filed vs 20 NPA Rebels

Police yesterday filed murder and frustrated murder charges against 20 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels suspected to be behind the ambush of nine people in La Castellana, Negros Occidental last Jan. 27.

Senior Superintendent Celestino Guarra Jr., acting Negros Occidental Police Prov’l director, said they have filed nine counts of murder and 14 counts of frustrated murder against the NPA suspects before the Prosecutor’s Office, yesterday afternoon.

The respondents are mostly members of the "Larangan Guerilya 1" of the NPA. A certain Magno Flores was named main respondent in the charges for the ambush that left eight civilians and a policeman dead.

Flores is allegedly the leader of the NPA’s Squad 2 operating in central Negros and he was pinpointed by witnesses as the one leading the ambush, Guarra said.

He said there were about nine members of the squad under Flores, while another squad joined them during the ambush. Guarra added that more charges for violation of the International Human Rights Law will also be filed against the suspects.


Guarra said the list of respondents yesterday was not complete yet. They only listed the main "actors" or the "executioners" but later on, the "planners" and "helpers" will also face charges when their identities will be revealed while the investigation continues.

As for Romeo Nanta, a high ranking rebel whom the police and military also tagged as the mastermind behind the ambush, Guarra said they will soon find out if indeed Nanta was among the "planners."

If his name crops up in the investigation, he will also face charges, Guarra said. Nanta, commander of the Regional Operations Command of the NPA in Negros island, was freed from jail after posting bail bond of P100,000 for robbery-in-band charges.


Col. Oscar Lactao, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, yesterday said they will give more assistance to the survivors and the families of the victims.

One of these is giving psychiatric help to those traumatized by the incident, in coordination with the La Castellana Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, he said.

Lactao reiterated his call to the NPA leaders to surrender their men involved in the ambush, because based on the International Human Rights Law, perpetrators should be surrendered to the competent authority, and that is our judicial system.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said the Provincial Capitol is studying the plan to give more assistance to the survivors and families of the victims.

He called the incident a "heinous crime" and said he feels sad for the young children left orphaned because of the death of their parents.


Next to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is also investigating the bloody ambush in La Castellana.

Lawyers Jaime Arroyo and Norman Carreon of the OPAPP-Government of the Philippines Monitoring Committee Secretariat went to Brgy. Puso to talk to the survivors and the families of the victims to gather evidences on the incident, Capt. Leo Christopher Cunanan, civil-military operations officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said.

The two lawyers met with Governor Marañon yesterday afternoon to also brief him of their findings in La Castellana.

Accompanying them in their visit to the governor were Lactao, Guara and the two injured policemen - PO2 Jeffrey Alvarez and PO3 Constantino Villegas.

Killed in the ambush PO1 Richard Canja, civilians Joselito Lucban, Virginia Ordoñez, and truck driver Enrique Dingcong; barangay tanod (watchmen) Timoteo Esplegera and Ulysses Tamayor; and Ramil Compleza, Mario Ricablanca, and Jonathan Mateo, all members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT).

The victims, together with 12 injured others and some civilians, were aboard a Fuso Canter truck on their way home from securing the fiesta in Brgy. Puso La Castellana when they were ambushed by a still undetermined number of NPA rebels.


Meanwhile, former San Carlos mayor and vice gubernatorial bet Eugenio Jose "Bong" Lacson said in a press statement that there is no justifiable excuse for the NPA in killing the civilians.

While the NPA promised to impose disciplinary action against their members, there is a need to clarify what kind of disciplinary action they will take against their members, he said.

"It is hoped that when they discipline their members, the people should be informed because they have a stake over what happened as members of the whole civilian community," Lacson added.

‘Arrest warrants of rebel actually liquidation list’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 6): ‘Arrest warrants of rebel actually liquidation list’

Army Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday called a “liquidation list” the arrest warrants issued by the New People’s Army Roselyn Pelle Command to four of its former members they accused of being “traitors”.

Lactao said arrest warrants are only issued by a competent authority, such as judges.

Rebel spokesperson Cecil Estrella said in a statement furnished to the media, that they have issued arrest warrants against the four former NPA members Bonnie Tapang Baynosa, with aliases of Ka Red, Moreno and Je-an, of Brgy. San Isidro, Toboso; Dindo Lusadas, with aliases of Ka Dondel and Lobyen, of Brgy. Libertad, Escalante City; Erving Benas, with aliases of Ka Totong, Rio and Erol; and a certain Eugene, with aliases of Ka Reden and Milan, both residents of Brgys. E. Lopez and Guimbalaon in Silay City, whom they had expelled from the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, for collaborating with the 62nd Infantry Battalion.

They are not arresting, they are killing, Lactao said, apparently referring to the NPA.

One of the rebel returnees in northern Negros, who surrendered to the 62nd IB two years ago, was gunned down by rebel assassins in Calatrava, military records show.

Estrella also said they have issued arrest warrants against former Constabulary officer Raul Baterna and Roberto and Rowena Lumayno, allegedly for land-grabbing in barangays Cambayobo and Mina-utok, Calatrava, and Bug-ang in Toboso, among others.

Lactao said they extend security assistance to rebel returnees who are being marked for liquidation by their former comrades.

He said the assassination of rebel returnees, who are no longer combatants and are now plain civilians, is also a violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

PA intensifies drive vs NPA ‘permit to campaign’ fees in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6): PA intensifies drive vs NPA ‘permit to campaign’ fees in Bicol

Philippine Army (PA) units in charge of Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSOs) in Bicol are seeing to it that local candidates in the May 2013 elections are prevented from paying “permit fees” being demanded by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Lt. Col. Teody Toribio, the commanding office of the PA’s 31st Infantry Battalion based here, over the week said that while they are dissuading local candidates from submitting to the demand of the NPA for payments.

They are also seeing to it that NPAs are not given the chance to get near these political aspirants. By preventing NPA members from getting close to politicians, negotiations and arrangement of payments could be avoided between the two parties, Toribio said.

Information reaching the Philippine News Agency have it that the NPA is demanding payments for “permit to campaign (PTC)” and “permit to win (PTW)” from local politicians running in the coming May elections in the province and municipalities in amounts ranging between P20,000 and P1.5 million, depending on the position they are running for.

It said P20,000 is for each candidate running for municipal councilor, P40,000 for a city councilor, P200,000 for city mayor, P150,000 for city vice-mayor, P150,000 for municipal mayor, P100,000 for town vice-mayor, P50,000 for provincial board member, P250,000 for vice-governor, P1.5 million for governor, and P1 million for congressman.

Sorsogon province has four candidates for governor, two for vice-governor, seven for congressman for the province’s two congressional districts, and 27 for board members. There are also 14 seats being contested by 36 candidates for town mayors and 36 for municipal vice-mayors. Two candidates are for city mayor; two for city mayor; and 30 for city councilors.

PTC is a candidate’s passport to campaign in “guerrilla zones” or areas considered as controlled by the NPA while PTW is for a candidate to be allowed by the rebels to win in the same areas.

Military intelligence reports have it that in the 2010 elections, the NPA organization in the province was able to collect about P5 million in proceeds from these fees.

Toribio said his command has been keeping close watch around its area of responsibility to prevent negotiations for these fees to transpire between candidates and the NPA. He warned candidates or their representatives from going to NPA lairs to negotiate because they would be treated as part of the rebels should an encounter with government forces take place.

Last week, two members of the NPA unit operating in the second district of the province were killed in a clash with operatives from the PA’s 31st IB in Gubat town. One of the fatalities was identified as Ritchie Espineda, commander of a rebel unit operating in the area, who was encountered by the government troops as he and his close aide were attempting to establish personal contact with a certain local candidate.

In Camarines Norte, another Bicol province considered as hotbed of insurgency, the PA’s 49th IB said in a recent statement that it has intensified internal security operations to eliminate an armed group’s modus of collecting fees for PTCs from local candidates.

Lt. Col. Michael Buhat, the battalion’s commanding officer, said Camarines Norte has 282 barangays and 70 of them are considered NPA “guerilla zones.” In security operations that are continuously being initiated by his command, Buhat said, 41 of these NPA-influenced barangays have been “cleared” from the influence of the NPA. Some 20 others are under clearing operations.

The PA is doing its best to liberate all barangays in Camarines Norte from the influence of the NPA as soon as possible so that local candidates no longer need to secure PTCs to be able to go around these villages during the campaign period, the Army official said. “We are staying on guard to prevent the NPA from collecting PTC fees from candidates in the province,” he stressed.

Army's 402nd Brigade has new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6): Army's 402nd Brigade has new commander

The 402nd Infantry (Stinger) Brigade of the Philippine Army under the 4th Infantry Division has a new commander starting today after its outgoing commanding officer was promoted to become the adjutant general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a change of command ceremony held 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Kalayaan Hall, Camp Bancasi, Barangay Bancasi, this city, 402nd Brigade Commander Col. Ronald Albano turned over the helm of the command to Col. Vicente Maligmat as officer-in-charge of the said brigade.

Presiding the turnover rites was the commanding general of the 4th Infantry (Diamond Division) Major Gen. Nestor A. Anonuevo, attended by local government officials, regional directors of the line agencies, the regional and provincial police and the top Army officials operating in Caraga region.

In his message for the occasion, Maj. Gen. Anonuevo reminded the officers and personnel of the 402nd Brigade to continue the good performance and accomplishments it had achieved under the stewardship of Col. Albano.

He also reminded the Army of its vital role especially in spearheading the implementation of the President’s Executive Order 23 and the anti-illegal logging operations in the region together with the DENR, besides the internal security operations.

Another challenge for the Army, according to Anonuevo, is maintaining the security and fairness of the forthcoming elections. The Army, he said, should always be ready to assist the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in ensuring the success and credibility of the coming political exercise as it is the foundation of the country’s democracy.