Thursday, February 7, 2013

Moro HR group decries continuous abduction, disappearances

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 8): Moro HR group decries continuous abduction, disappearances

A new Moro human rights group based in Taguig City, Metro Manila has sent this open letter dated February 4, a copy of which was furnished the Luwaran yesterday.

Speaking through a certain Ahmad Hamja, secretary general of the Hustisya-Moro, the group made this claim:

 “The still fragile peace situation in Muslim Mindanao was seriously threatened by the abduction and enforced disappearance of Sheik Basher Mursalum, an Alim or Muslim scholar, last 22 January by suspected operatives of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) and Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF). Sheik Mursalum was on his way home to Brgy. Labuan, Zamboanga City. Until now, Sheik Mursalum is still missing. The Western Mindanao police and the head of the Task Force Zamboanga have not acknowledged custody of the victim.”

The letter alleged that two days after Sheik Mursalum’s abduction, Muin Hamja, a 40-year old fisherman of Brgy. Kumalarang, Isabela City in Basilan, was arbitrarily arrested by elements of the PNP last 24 January at around 2:30 a.m. at his residence. The Basilan PNP has denied custody of the victim when his family went to the police camp in Isabela City. For four days, Muin Hamja was missing until the PNP surfaced him at the Basilan Regional Trial Court (RTC) on 28 January. He was charged with kidnapping and tagged as an Abu Sayyaf.

He continued: “These latest waves of abduction incidents of Moro civilians in Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan have a chilling effect on the Moro people despite the grand signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) by the GPH and the MILF on 15 October 2012 in Malacanang that seeks to establish a Bangsamoro autonomous region and achieve peace in Mindanao and the country.”

The letter further asserted: “President Aquino declared that the FAB ushers in peace in war-torn Mindanao. He just signed the Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 which criminalizes enforced disappearance cases. His new AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista, author of the national security plan Oplan Bayanihan, also boasts of a reformed and human rights-oriented military armed and police forces under his reign.”

However, a follow-up of the story from Mr. Hanja cannot be made, because no one was answering his contact number.

No lead yet on Lanao bombing

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 7): No lead yet on Lanao bombing

THE Provincial Police Office of Lanao del Norte is still conducting an investigation to determine the motive of Monday’s bombing in Tubod, Iligan City that injured five persons.

Police Provincial Director Gerardo Rosales told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that a special task group has been created to hasten the investigation.

“We have suspects but we could not divulge yet their names so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation,” Rosales said.

He, however, said no case has been filed yet pending the result of an in-depth investigation, particularly by the Special Investigating Task Group.

Rosales said they have invited three persons, who were pointed by former Salvador town mayor Johnny Tawantawan as allegedly the ones responsible for the incident.

“Maraming angle ang tinitingnan natin dito so no conclusion yet. Pero nag-evaluate na ang CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), Soco (Scene of the Crime Operatives), EOD (Explosive Ordnance Demolition) and the intelligence sa mga ebidensiya,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tawantawan and his legal counsel, Lawyer Omar Usop, believed they were the target of the bomb.

Usop was with Tawantawan when the explosion happened in a parking area near Ismael Restaurant in Barangay Poblacion in Tubod town around 11:15 a.m. last February 4.

NPA rebels torch heavy equipment in Mindanao

From the Manila Times (Feb 8): NPA rebels torch heavy equipment in Mindanao

MEMBERS of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) have struck again in two separate incidents in northeastern Mindanao by burning the heavy equipment of construction firms that refused to pay their revolutionary taxes.

First Lt. Joe Patrick Martinez, commanding officer of the 42nd Civil Military Operations Co., Fourth Infantry Division, said on Thursday that the first incident happened in Barangay San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte province.

Martinez said that some 10 fully armed men of the guerilla Front 16 of the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NMRC) burned a crane truck used in the ongoing construction of a bridge along the national highway of the said province.

The rebels, he added, poured gasoline on the heavy equipment followed by a gunfire to sow terror among the residents in the area, while fleeing in southeast direction.

“The crane truck is owned by Dumalo Construction and it was burned because of the failure of the owner to give in to the extortion demands of the NPA,” Martinez further said.

The second incident happened at Barangay Curya, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, just a day after the burning incident in Alegria, wherein they burned a dump truck and a mixer being used in the repair of the national highway.

Martinez said that the culprits belong to the NPA Region sentro de Grabidad of NMRC.

According to Martinez, the trucks were burned by the NPAs because their owner, Vice Gov. Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental province, also refused to pay revolutionary tax.

Soldier killed in Surigao del Sur ambush

From the Manila Times (Feb 8): Soldier killed in Surigao del Sur ambush

ONE soldier was killed and his companion wounded after they were ambushed by suspected New People’s Army rebels on Wednesday in Surigao del Sur province, police reports said on Thursday.

Reports sent to Camp Crame by Caraga Police regional office identified the fatality as Staff Sgt. Gilbert Sionzon, 43; wounded was Ampol Daging, 31, a military informer.

Supt. Martin Gamba, Caraga police spokesman, said that the ambush took place at about 8 a.m. on Wednesday along the national highway
in Barangay Magosilum, Cantillan, Surigao del Sur.

The reports said that the ambush victims were on a motorcycle and were on their way to Barangay La Union in the same town, when an unknown number of rebels fired at them.

The reports said that responding policemen recovered from the crime scene a Honda XLR motorcycle owned by Daging, a .45-pistol with magazine loaded with six ammunition, three cartridges and a pair of slippers.

US Sailors Come to Pampanga Child’s Aid

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 8): US Sailors Come to Pampanga Child’s Aid

Two US sailors who are part of a support team for the salvage of “USS Guardian” provided aid to a severely injured child while on liberty pass near Angeles City in Pampanga.

A statement from the US 7th Fleet said LTJG Joshua Stokes and Lt. Chris Davis were at a wake boarding facility February 5 when they heard loud screams nearby.

The two sailors “rushed to the water’s edge and found the young child being carried from the water by a struggling family member,” said the statement from the 7th Fleet.

It was learned that the child was suffering “severe facial lacerations after being violently struck by a wake boarder.”

Stokes immediately took the child whom he carried ashore and to a nearby building, while Davis notified the facility’s staff and coordinated their assistance.

The sailors also administered first aid until a van arrived to transport the child to a local hospital.

Stokes is assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 while Davis in with the Reconnaissance Force 7th Fleet detachment Kadena.

They are in the country with Combined Task Unit 72.2, providing P3-C Orion support to the salvage of USS Guardian (MCM-5), which ran aground Jan. 17 at the Tubbataha reef.

The P3-C Orion is a maritime patrol aircraft and is flying from Clark Air Base in Angeles City.

Friendly Forces

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 7): Friendly Forces

After declaring almost all provinces in Central and Northern Luzon as peaceful and ready for further development, the Philippine Army leadership is now bent on ridding its men of undesirables and employing the friendly approach to win over the communities they serve.

Brigadier General Greogrio Pio Catapang Jr., division commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, warned abusive soldiers and ordered them to live up to the command motto: “Bawal ang Abusado, Kawal ay Disiplinado.”

Catapang said soldiers must remember the guiding principles and fundamental virtues of 7th Infantry Division as a professional organization and use the friendly approach in winning over the communities where they serve as security forces.

He outlined his campaign to rid his command of soldiers who are “ABUSADO,” which stands for A-Alak (alcohol abusers); B-Babaero (womanizers); U-Utang (habitual money borrowers); S-Sugal (gamblers); A-Arogante (arrogance); D-Droga (drug abusers); and O-Others (other illegal acts).

MNLF Verifying Release of Jordanian Journalist

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 7): MNLF Verifying Release of Jordanian Journalist

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is verifying reports from its sources that Jordanian television journalist Baker Atyani had been released by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as MNLF combatants overran the bandits’ camp here on Thursday.

A source of the Manila Bulletin said the Abu Sayyaf had released Atyani on February 1 at 6 p.m. in Parang-Parang, a coastal area near Quezon Beach in Patikul, Sulu.

Six armed men wearing bonnets arrived in a two-engine (250 horse power each) speed boat in Parang-Parang to fetch Atyani that night, one day ahead of the release of his two Filipino camera crewmen – Roland Letrero and Ramelito Vela, the source said.

Authorities neither confirmed nor denied the report, but MNLF leader Ustadz Habier Malik said he “received the same information.”

Asked if he had also received information that Atyani was released by the Abu Sayyaf in exchange of a P100-million ransom, Malik said he also received information that a huge amount of money was withdrawn by the Abu Sayyaf from a bank in Jolo, Sulu that same day.

The MNLF leader added that it could be the reason why they found many dwellings with comfort rooms and water pipe connections at the ASG camp, but failed to find “any traces of Atyani.”

Uneasy silence hovers in Sulu

From Malaya (Feb 7): Uneasy silence hovers in Sulu

MNLF takes up position; ASG disperses

STILL quiet. The Patikul municipal police station in Sulu yesterday said it has not monitored any movement from either the Moro National Liberation Front or the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, which clashed Sunday.

Some 2,000 MNLF members have assembled in the town in anticipation of a retaliatory attack from the Abu Sayyaf.

The MNLF remains in “defense mode” while the Abu Sayyaf bandits have split in small groups to avoid being cornered by the MNLF, said Senior Insp. Kris Conrad Gutierrez, Patikul police chief.

“Walang putukan, tahimik naman... So far, wala kaming na-monitor na movements sa magkabilang panig,” he said.

Gutierrez said the 2,000 MNLF forces are gathered in Sitio Kankitap and Kantatang, both in Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul town. They are led by Habier Malik.

Malik last month said his group started negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf to help government secure the release of hostages, including foreigners. Last Monday, Malik said his group decided to attack the Abu Sayyaf after negotiations collapsed.

The police and the military have been on alert since Monday for a resumption of hostilities. They have reported at least 22 dead in the Sunday clash.

Gutierrez belied the claim of MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla who said Wednesday that their troops in Sulu, augmented by their troops from Basilan, overrun Abu Sayyaf camps in Patikul town and rescued three foreign hostages in operations that started Friday last week, or a day before the bandit group released two Filipino hostages.

Gutierrez said the police had not monitored any fighting other than the Sunday clash. “Nasa area kami nung February 1 wala naman kaming narinig na anumang putukan,” he said.

“Last February 4 (Monday), may na-monitor kami movements pero yun ay dahil ni-retrieve ng magkabilang grupo ang mga namatay nilang members at inilibing na rin nila,” Gutierrez added.
He said they also interviewed residents and “assets” in the area to confirm reports on the three rescued foreign hostages but no one can confirm it.

He said they have also not monitored any MNLF troop coming from Basilan arriving in Patikul.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista disputed reports about a resumption of hostilities in the hinterlands of Sulu.

He said the only fighting recorded was last Sunday’s.

Bautista said government troops remain deployed in Sulu to ensure that there will be no escalation or spillover of the fighting.

Ramon Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said government’s “primary task” is to secure civilians.

Other issues like stopping the fighting “will come after we’ve done the primary task.”
Carandang said government also wants to make sure that any hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf remain safe.

President Aquino earlier said the MNLF attack on the Abu Sayyaf is not sanctioned by the government even if it has a standing peace agreement with the MNLF.

MNLF scours mountain ranges for ASG

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 8): MNLF scours mountain ranges for ASG

Fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) continued to scour the mountain ranges of Patikul, Sulu in the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) following intense fighting last weekend that resulted in the killing of 22 people, four of whom were reported to have been beheaded.

A reliable source, who is privy to the goings on in Sulu, said that MNLF fighters have been massing up in the mountains on Upper Kaunayan in search of the ASG believed to still be holding hostages.

“They (MNLF fighters) are still in the mountains of Patikul, combing every corner to locate the ASG (fighters) who went into hiding…there were reports that the ASG (fighters) have transferred to another place but the MNLF troops are slowly moving toward them,” the source said.

The source added the MNLF had already managed to penetrate Baunuh and Kabbuntakas in the outskirts of of Barangay Buhanginan but no Abu Sayyaf rebel was in sight.

The MNLF fighters are now said to be hunting down the Abu Sayyaf band of commanders Sawadjaan and Palo in Tubig Ibah in Upper Kaunayan, also in Patikul, a known stronghold of ASG leader Radullan Sahiron.

“This area is very difficult to penetrate…it’s a crooked terrain,” the source said.

Last Saturday, an intense firefight erupted between the group of Sawadjaan and the MNLF band of Habier Malik after the release of Abu Sayyaf hostages Ramel Vela and Rolando Letrero, crew men of Jordanian broadcast journalist Baker Atyani, whose whereabouts remained unknown.

Col. Orlando de Leon, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade,said a “misunderstanding” between the MNLF and ASG in handling the hostages led to the intense firefight that resulted in the killing of eight MNLF fighters, four of whom were beheaded and 14 Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Despite the intense fighting last Saturday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remained on the sidelines of the conflict.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, however, vowed that the military will remain on-guard to prevent the possible spillover of the conflict to the civilian populace in Patikul.

Hostage ransom missing

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 6): Hostage ransom missing

P30m to free Atyani lost in transit

A bungled delivery of P30 million ransom to terrorists in exchange for the release of kidnapped Jordanian journalist ignited a fierce gunbattle with Muslim rebels in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu, in which 22 combatants were killed, rebel leaders said on Tuesday.

Khaber Sampang, head of the Special Branch Service of the Moro National Liberation Front said the fighting broke out last Saturday during a confrontation with the Abu Sayyaf on the release of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani and two Filipino television crews. “One word led to another and shots were fired,” Sampang said.

President Aquino said the government did not sanction the attack launched by the MNLF and directed the armed forces and the Philippine National Police to “contain” the fighting and prevent a spillover outside the Patikul area.

“Our first priority is securing the civilians who might be caught up in the conflict areas,” Aquino said.

The ransom money, which was funded by an unidentified Jordanian official, was “lost in transit” and it was a major factor that prolonged the captivity of Atyani and the other hostages.

The two Filipinos were freed but the Abu Sayyaf held on to Atyani, who was abducted in June 2012 when he went into the jungles to do a story on the terrorist group. The MNLF, which has entered into an autonomy agreement with the government, has interceded for the release of the hostages.

After a lull in the fighting to bury their dead, the MNLF has mobilized thousands of troops for a new assault on the terrorist groups led by Radullan Sahiron in Mt. Sinuman.

Sampang said three gunmen wearing hoods intercepted a courier and two women, who were sent to deliver the ransom to the Abu Sayyaf last August and “up to now we don’t know what happened to the money.”

“We suspect that the armed men belong to the Abu Sayyaf, but we still have to determine it,” Sampang said.

He said both sides were angry at the disappearance of the ransom money and when the the MNLF went into the Abu Sayyaf stronghold to demand release of the hostages, it resulted into a gunbattle.

Emmanuel Fontanilla, the MNLF spokesman, said they were negotiating the delivery of Atyani and the other hostages to MNLF chairman Nur Misuari but “nagkaroon ng intriga and nagkaroon ng misunderstanding.”

“The negotiation was that Atyani would be delivered to the chairman (Misuari) but unforunately the chairman was not around and another party came into the picture, which makes the negotiation very complicated,” Fontanilla said.

“Kung wala sana itong third party na nagpalabo sa usapan, wala sanang nangyari kaguluhan,” he said.

Atyani was working for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, who went into the jungles with two Filipino crews, Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero, to do a story on the Abu Sayyaf.

The two Filipinos were released on Saturday night hours before the gunbattle broke out involving 300 MNLF fighters and more than 200 Abu Sayyaf bandits, but reports of casualties varied with up to 50 dead, but officials placed it at 22.

“We’ve only five wounded and four fatalities. The Abu Sayyaf suffered 11 fatalities. Iyung mga balitang may napugutan ng ulo ay walang confirmation,” Fontanilla said.

Fontanilla said he was confident that the Abu Sayyaf will eventually turn over Atyani to Misuari, who is now in Egypt, despite the hostilities between the two groups.

“Ang plano namin ay hintayin si Chairman kasi siya ang nirerespeto sa area, Moro Islamic Liberation Front man o Abu Sayyaf pati na ang gobyerno. Baka sa kalagitnaan ng February ang balik niya. Sa ngayon nasa Egypt para sa isang conference,” Fontanilla said.

Misuari is a candidate for governor of the Autonomouis Region in Muslim Mindanao. He is running against ARMM officer-in-charge Mujiv Hataman of the president’s Liberal Party and former Sultan Kudarat Rep. Pakung Mangudadatu of the United Nationalist Alliance.

Col. Orlando de Leon, Commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said troops were stationed in the area to avert spillover of the conflict to adjacent areas.

“Iniikutan sila ng mga tropa para hinde sila lumabas sa conflict areas at wala sila madamay na mga civilians. Doon lang sila kung saan sila nag-aaway,” De Leon said.

“I have instructions that the wounded should be accommodated in our hospital for treatment, whether Abu Sayyaf or MNLF, as mandated by International Humanitarian Law,” De Leon said.

Hostages’ turnover set

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 8): Hostages’ turnover set

Misuari to present to govt 3 rescued foreign captives

The Moro National Liberation Front on Thursday said it will turn over to the government the three hostages—two Swiss and one Dutch who were rescued from nearly one year of captivity—as soon as MNLF chairman Nur Misuari arrives from the Middle East.

“They [the hostages] will be turned over to the government as soon as MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari arrives from Egypt this week,” MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said. “We have custody of the three foreigners. There are lots of groups, including politicians, who want to spoil what we did,” Fontanilla said.

But the MNLF fighters, who overran two camps of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf after several hours of fighting, now face “credit grabbers and politicians” who raised doubts about the rescued hostages in their custody, Fontanilla said.

He said the information about the rescue came directly from the battlefield and relayed to Misuari. Those claiming otherwise including politicians had no direct knowledge of the developments in the area and were actually out of the loop, he said.

He declined to reveal the names of the three foreigners, who were held hostage by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Patikul for almost one year. Nine other hostages of various nationalities, including Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, were still being held by the terrorists.

MNLF fighters overran two Abu Sayyaf camps in the jungles of Patikul last Saturday. At least 31 combatants were killed in the fighting as the terrorists retreated deep into the jungle with the MNLF in pursuit.

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; unidentified Japanese; and two unnamed Filipinos.

Fontanilla said Misuari has issued orders on MNLF officials to stop issuing statements regarding the hostages until he returned to the country from Egypt where he attended a conference.

But Fontanilla slammed various quarters from contradicting his statement about the rescue, which is “now a matter of security because we don’t want to endanger the lives of these people.”

Sulu Police Provincial Director Supt. Antonio Freyra denied Fontanilla’s claim about the rescue and said the three foreigners were still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf but he did not elaborate.

Fontanilla also called for an investigation into reports that four soldiers, who were killed in the gun battle with government troops in Basilan, were part of the Abu Sayyaf group that fled into the island from Sulu.

“An independent body should be established to unravel the truth behind the soldiers involvement with the Abu Sayyaf,” Fontanilla said.

Khaber Sampang, Chief of the MNLF Special Branch, said the terrorists broke up into small groups and some of them fled to the jungles of Lamitan in Basilan to elude MNLF fighters.

He said MNLF forces have been deployed in the towns of Panamao, Talipao, Jolo, Basilan and Parang to hunt and intercept the terrorists, who were still holding Atyani and the other hostages.

Atyani, who works for the Dubai-based Al-Arabia TV, and two Filipino crew were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in June 2012 when they went into the jungles of Patikul to do a story on the terrorist group last year.

The Abu Sayyaf released the two Filipinos last Saturday, but held Atyani after the P30 million ransom in exchange for his release disappeared because the courier was intercepted and robbed by hooded gunmen.

“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.”

Fighting broke out when the MNLF confronted the Abu Sayyaf and insisted that Atyani and the other hostages be released. The casualties quickly rose from 22 on Saturday to 31 by Wednesday when the MNLF resumed their assault after a lull in the fighting to bury their dead.

Reports said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista flew to the area on Wednesday to assess the situation and attend briefings of the military commanders on the security situation.

President Aquino has ordered the military and the police to contain the violence in Sulu and prevent a spillover to nearby provinces.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House Committee on National Defense, urged the Aquino government to stay out of the conflict and instead toss the problem to the Ulamas League of the Philippines.

Biazon, who is former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, said the Muslim leaders should be allowed to get on top of the situation before the government take necessary steps and avoid escalation of the conflict.

“The Aquino government should not meddle in the issue,” Biazon said.

Bangsamoro in 16th Congress agenda

From Business World (Feb 7): Bangsamoro in 16th Congress agenda

THE PROPOSED law that will create the Bangsamoro region will be among the priorities of the 16th Congress, a lawmaker yesterday said.

"For one, we have to work on the amendment of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) charter because the framework agreement and the peace agreement that we will sign will require extensive amendments," said Senator Franklin M. Drilon in a press conference a day after Congress adjourned to allow lawmakers to prepare for the midterm elections on May 13.

"That will be the major work at least for the first year of the next Congress," the lawmaker added.

The 15th Congress will end its third and final session on June 7. The 16th Congress, meanwhile, will convene on July 22.

A law is needed to create the Bangsamoro and to repeal Republic Act No. 6734 or the Organic Act which created the ARMM.

The Transition Commission created under Executive Order 120 will draft the Bangsamoro law and will submit the same to Congress. The law will be submitted to a referendum in the inclusive areas.

The Bangsamoro will cover Isabela City in Basilan, Cotabato City, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and some villages in North Cotabato, in addition to the five provinces in ARMM, namely, Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Last October, Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders, headed by its chairman Murad Ebrahim witnessed the signing in Malacañang of a plan preparatory to a final peace pact.

Government and Moro negotiators are finalizing key annexes on wealth and power sharing and decommissioning of rebel forces that will be embodied in the peace agreement.

On the other hand, the issue of amending the Constitution, Mr. Drilon said, "as we talk now, it is not part of agenda of PNoy (President Benigno S. C. Aquino III)."

Congress leaders in July last year expressed interest in introducing Charter changes, particularly on the economic provisions that were deemed as restrictive to business and investments.

No saved foreigners, say officials, MNLF

From Business World (Feb 7): No saved foreigners, say officials, MNLF

Moro rebel leaders, security and local government officials have debunked claims that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters have rescue three foreign hostages from the Abu Sayyaf.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, a senior member of the MNLF central committee and chairman of the group’s Islamic Command Council, told BusinessWorld yesterday the rebel leadership could not confirm reports quoting a certain Emmanuel Fontanilla, who identified himself as an MNLF spokesman, that the three victims were freed after rebel fighters overran an Abu Sayyaf camp in the provinces.

Mr. Hashim added he does not even know Mr. Fontanilla.

"I only heard his name a few days ago, and I never met him," he said.

Provincial officials and security in Sulu also denied Mr. Fontanilla’s reported information.

"It’s unconfirmed. No such report has reached me from my field officers and from MNLF sources here," Sr. Supt. Antonio J. Freyra, provincial police chief, said in a separate interview.

"There’s no truth to that report," Sonny Y. Abing III, provincial information officer, said.

In a radio interview, MNLF commander Habier Malik, who is leading the assault against the Abu Sayyaf in the town of Patikul, also denied they have rescued three hostages.

Rodrigo T. Gregorio, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said some quarters are spreading misleading information.

"They are fabricating reports. No truth per report from our field unit," he said.

Mr. Freyra said there is no monitored movement of armed elements in Patikul.

"Up to this time and date, there is no unusual movement from both groups [MNLF and Abu Sayyaf]," he said.

On Sunday, fighting erupted between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf after negotiations from both sides to surrender foreign hostages held by the bandits bogged down.

The MNLF, led by Malik, launched an attack at the lair of the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, killing eight MNLF members and 14 bandits.

Prior to the fighting, the Abu Sayyaf has released two Filipino hostages who are the crew members of an Arabic news channel. Jordanian journalist Baker Atiyani and four other foreigners, are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf. Most of the victims have been captive in Sulu for almost a year already.,-say-officials,-MNLF&id=65565

DND to purchase P1.7-B worth of body armors

From ABS-CBN (Feb 7): DND to purchase P1.7-B worth of body armors

The Department of National Defense (DND) will procure P1.76 billion worth of force protection equipment or body armors to minimize casualties of those in the battlefields.

DND assistant secretary for personnel and concurrent DND-Bids and Awards Committee chairman Efren Fernandez said the 44,080 sets of body armors will be for the use of Army and Marine soldiers, most of whom are deployed in war-torn areas.

A pre-bid conference will be held on Feb. 14 at the DND-BAC conference room in Camp Aguinaldo. The deadline for the submission of bids will be on February 28.

Fernandez said the procurement will be via an open competitive bidding process using a non-discretionary "pass-fail" criterion as specified in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Government Procurement Act.

"Bids received in excess of the ABC (Approved Budget for the Contract) shall be automatically rejected at the bid opening," he explained.

The bidding will be open to all, whether local or foreign firms, he stressed.

The winner will have to deliver the equipment within 365 calendar days from the opening of the letter of credit.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said: "This is in line with our thrust to minimize casualties. This is a big development. We value human resources, that's why we put premium to their protection while they conduct security operations.”

Whatever happened to…?: Exposé on AFP’s ‘rampant irregularities’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 7): Whatever happened to…?: Exposé on AFP’s ‘rampant irregularities’

The recommendation to file plunder charges against several former military officers for the misuse of P2.3 billion in public funds is still pending in the Office of the Ombudsman, which has jurisdiction over the prosecution of graft and plunder cases in the Sandiganbayan.

A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel made the recommendation in January 2012, based on the complaint filed by Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former military budget officer who hogged the headlines in 2011 for his revelations on the military practice of giving retiring senior officers with multimillion-peso “pabaon” (sendoff gift).

In a resolution, the panel recommended plunder charges against retired Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff Generals Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, and former AFP comptrollers Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot for allegedly pilfering military funds.

Included in the charges were retired Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, retired Colonels Cirilo Donato and Roy Devesa, retired Lt. Col. Ernesto Paranis, J-6 accounting division chief Generoso del Castillo and former state auditor Divina Cabrera.

‘Semblance of truth’

Rabusa’s “grandiose illustration of the ‘rampant irregularities in the AFP relative to the malversation, misuse and misappropriation of its funds appears to have a semblance of truth,” the DOJ panel said.

In his complaint filed in the DOJ in April 2011, Rabusa cited personal knowledge of irregularities by members of the so-called “comptrollership mafia.”

He served as budget officer of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff (ODCS) for Intelligence or J2 from 1994 to 1998, and of the ODCS for Comptrollership or J6 from 2000 to 2002.


Rabusa said key AFP officials colluded to carry out a scheme of converting commercial vouchers into cash for unofficial expenditures; incorporating discretionary funds into the military budget; and converting military funds through procurement offices.

Rabusa’s disclosure stemmed from his testimony in a January 2011 Senate blue ribbon inquiry into the controversial plea bargain deal between special prosecutors and ex-comptroller Garcia for the latter’s plunder case.

In the inquiry, Rabusa said that he had pocketed money and that he had helped his former boss, Garcia, “convert” almost P1 billion from 2001 to 2002 for distribution to ranking officers and other recipients outside the AFP.

Rabusa also claimed that when Gen. Angelo Reyes retired as AFP chief of staff in 2001, he received a total of P150 million in military funds.

Rabusa also claimed that by the time Villanueva and Cimatu retired the two took home a total of P227.4 million and P110 million, respectively. Former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Efren Abu also benefited from spurious transactions, according to Rabusa.

Reyes denied the allegations against him and filed graft charges against Rabusa in the Office of the Ombudsman.


Appearing before the Senate inquiry, Cimatu denied Rabusa’s claims, saying his only pabaon were the 40 medals and citations he received in his 37-year military career.

In a statement, Villanueva described Rabusa’s allegations as “mind-boggling,” adding that he only got a “modest retirement pay” when he stepped down from office.

At the height of the controversy, Reyes committed suicide on Feb. 8, 2011.

Ligots’ unexplained assets

In a succeeding hearing, Rabusa said senior officers had a slush fund of P20 million for their personal and operational use. The fund was replenished by allocations skimmed off the salaries and operational expenses of military units.

Also brought up in the inquiry were the unexplained assets of Ligot and his wife, Erlinda, in the country and in the United States.

The Senate hearings prompted the Bureau of Internal Revenue to file multimillion-peso tax evasion complaints against Garcia and Ligot, and their wives, in March 2011.

For his complaint, Rabusa named 22 respondents and presented to the DOJ over 20 folders containing pieces of evidence, such as receipts, checks and various documents to prove how military funds were misused. He described his case as “airtight.”


But for lack of sufficient evidence, the DOJ cleared 11 of the respondents: Abu, retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, retired Major Generals Epineto Logico and Ernesto Boac, Navy Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan, Col. Gilbert Gapay and Maj. Emerson Angulo.

Also absolved were Col. Robert Arevalo and former state auditors Arturo Besana, Crisanto Gabriel and Manuel Warren.

Challenging the panel’s recommendations, Cimatu’s camp said that Rabusa’s complaint was based mainly on spurious documents and that it was his cohorts and him who misused military funds.

Following his exoneration, Besana filed a plunder complaint against Rabusa in the Office of the Ombudsman, citing Rabusa’s own admission that he committed various offenses involving “billions of pesos.”

NPA rebels torch construction equipment in Agusan del Norte

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): NPA rebels torch construction equipment in Agusan del Norte

Communist rebels in Agusan del Norte torched on Wednesday two construction equipment owned by a local official who refused to pay revolutionary tax, the military said.

First Lieutenant Joe Martinez, chief of the 42nd civil-military operations company, said the rebels burned one dump truck and one mixer in Barangay Curva in Santiago town at about 1 a.m.

Martinez said the atrocity occurred after the owner of the equipment, Misamis Occidental Vice Governor Henry Oaminal, had refused to yield to the extortion demands of the rebels.

Local policemen and members of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion are now probing the incident and are now running after the suspects.

“The damage could have been worse if not (for) the information from the residents who texted us regarding the presence of the said armed group in their community,” said Lt. Col. Potenciano Camba, chief of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion.

“The heavy equipment were slightly damaged after we have immediately extinguished the fire. This only shows that the NPA (New People’s Army) no longer have the support of the people in the area,” he added.

P-Noy to visit MILF stronghold on Monday

From the Philippine Star (Feb 8): P-Noy to visit MILF stronghold on Monday

President Aquino will make a historic visit on Monday to the stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in an effort to push forward the peace talks, his office said yesterday.
Aquino’s trip to the outskirts of the 12,000-member MILF’s main base in Maguindanao will be the first peace mission there by a president since the insurgency began in the 1970s.

Aquino and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim will meet as they witness the launch of a social welfare project for mainly Muslim residents of communities where the rebels exert an influence, Aquino’s spokesman Ricky Carandang told AFP.

“It’s not a formal meeting, but their presence will underscore the commitment and optimism that both sides have that a final resolution to the peace process will be achieved,” he said.

“The launch of the social programs will show concrete benefits of peace,” he added.

At the launch, health insurance cards will be distributed to residents, emergency jobs offered to adults, and scholarships given to their children, Aquino’s office said.

The MILF has been fighting since the 1970s for independence in Mindanao. An estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict.

The MILF signed a “framework agreement” with the Aquino administration last October, committing both sides to form a new autonomous entity on Mindanao by 2016, when Aquino ends his six-year term.

The MILF vowed to give up its quest for an independent homeland in exchange for significant power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region.

Negotiators from both sides have been meeting in neighboring Malaysia to thresh out what they described as contentious items in the plan.

Cabinet secretary Jose Almendras said Monday’s event would be held at an MILF-run school that residents say is about half a kilometer from the main gate of the rebels’ headquarters, Camp Darapanan.

“It’s very close to the MILF camp,” Almendras said.

MILF spokesman Mike Pasigan welcomed the imminent launch of the social welfare project.

“The program will further strengthen the collaboration between the government and the MILF as we build on the gains of the peace process,” he said in a statement.

The military yesterday gave assurance that Aquino would be safe when he visits the MILF stronghold. “We guarantee the safety of the President… We have enough troops dedicated for (that),” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in an interview.

Members of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division would provide security to the President and his party.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th ID spokesman, said they are coordinating with the Presidential Security Group and the regional police to thresh out the security preparations.

The MILF is optimistic that no untoward incidents would happen during Aquino’s visit.

“The government will handle the security. We will play a part in the security but only minor. The government will play the major part,” said Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chairman of the MILF.

Aquino’s visit, he said, will be a “boost to the peace talks between us and the government.”

Another NPA Camp seized by government troops in Northern Samar

Posted to Samar News (Feb 4): Another NPA Camp seized by government troops in Northern Samar

By 20th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA

BRGY. MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern SamarA newly abandoned communist terrorist’s temporary camp was recently discovered by government security forces at Barangay Luisita, Victoria, Northern Samar just this morning at around 7:30 in the morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer, in his report to 803rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Rolando Malinao, said the camp was seized by the troops of Charlie Company, 20IB led by 1LT Florencio Tayo.

The camp can accommodate more or less fifteen communist terrorists and has just been abandoned by the CTs as they evade armed engagement with the operating troops. The camp has also a strong signal for globe and is near a water source. The camp was discovered after 20IB has launched sustained combat operations in the area of Victoria and San Isidro in response to the reported presence of communist terrorists in the area as tipped-in by the peace-loving residents.

According to LTC Vestuir, persistent reports were monitored regarding the presence of unidentified armed men in the hinterland barangays of Victoria and San Isidro towns collecting food stuffs from the residents. Vestuir added that the group was possibly in the area to enforce their Permit to Campaign (PTC) and Permit to Win (PTW) to some candidates running for local posts during this forthcoming 2013 election.

As can be recalled, another camp was also seized by 20IB last week in Catarman. According to LTC Vestuir, “the continuous discovery of NPA camps was made possible through the support of the residents in the area. Through their information, our troops were able to pinpoint and find the location of their camps that serve as a staging ground for their terroristic activities. The information provided by the populace is a clear indication that enemy revolutionary organization has already alienated the people and the communities where they got their support through their forced extortion activities”.

The seizure of the said NPA encampment is a big blow to the CTs considering that we have denied them of their safe haven and sanctuary and once again proven that the people are with us in our pursuit for peace in this part of the country”, Vestuir concluded.

Militant group slams La Castellana ambush

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 7): Militant group slams La Castellana ambush

Several sectors of society, including the Akbayan-Negros, joined in condemning the recent ambush staged by New People’s Army of a vehicle carrying civilians in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, that killed nine people, one of them a policeman.

Akbayan-Negros spokesperson Edwin Balajadia said the ambush and slaying, mostly of unarmed civilians, is a gross violation of the basic humanitarian law and human rights principles enunciated especially in conditions of internal armed conflicts.

He said the admission of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command responsibility for the incident and promising corrective actions and financial assistance to the victims, only showed its apparent insensitivity safety of the civilians concerned, most of whom came also from the poor sectors.

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, in a statement, said that the human rights group, Karapatan, that had facilitated the release of several arrested NPA leaders in Negros, who rejoined their comrades in the mountains, should also be held liable for the killings of civilians, especially in La Castellana.

Major Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3ID commanding general, said Romeo Nanta, regional operational commander of the NPA, who was bailed out by Karapatan for his robbery-in-band charges, was among the planners of the La Castellana massacre.

Mabanta said the practice of Karapatan in bailing out NPA suspects should be stopped. In a way, they are liable to the La Castellana massacre for bailing out Nanta, he added.

Aside from Nanta, Mabanta said Karapatan-Negros also facilitated the release from jail of another NPA leader, Hernando Llorente, and his wife, Faith Roseen Basirgo, who were both arrested in San Carlos City, for robbery-in-band charges, by paying P80,000 in bail for them.

Akbayan-Negros also called on members of the revolutionary movement not only to mete appropriate disciplinary actions to the erring members involved in the ambush, but also to fully observe and strongly enforce strict adherence to the basic humanitarian tenets so that such incidents will not happen again.

18 men wrongly accused of taking part in Abu Sayyaf kidnapping released from prison

From InterAksyon (Feb 7): 18 men wrongly accused of taking part in Abu Sayyaf kidnapping released from prison

The Department of Justice has ordered the release of 18 suspected Abu Sayyaf Group members accused in the kidnapping of six Jehovah's Witnesses in Patikul, Sulu on Aug. 20, 2002.

In a 12-page resolution of the Anti-Terrorism Task Force which was approved by Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano, 13 of the suspected ASG members were ordered release because they are different from the persons identified in the charge sheet. On the other hand, five other suspects were ordered released for lack of probable cause.

Those ordered released due to mistaken identity are former Commissioner of the Department of Education Ustadz Ahmadsali A. Badron, who is also member of the Reconciliation and Unification of the ARMM; Hajer Arasani; Jammal Sawaban; Robin Sahiyal; Alton Ladhalaam; Edwin Siarot Sawaldi; Mohammad Said Sali; Adzhar Nawali; Abdullan Hussih; George Nami; Abdullah Ussih; Jeheri Jeron and Manny Ismael.

"There appears to be no proof of their participation in the kidnapping much less evidence of their purported membership in the Abu Sayyaf Group. Said accused were not positively identified by prosecution witnesses Amily Mantec and Roland Ulla," the DOJ resolution said.

Those ordered released for lack of probable cause are Jumlie Orie; Jul Ahmad Ahadi; Arabi Sali; Sonny Boy Barakim and Abdulwahab Hamja.

"In every criminal prosecution, the prosecution must prove two things: 1) the commission of the crime and 2) the identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Cursory identification does not suffice to convict the accused. What is needed is positive identification made with moral certainty as to the person of the offender," the DOJ resolution said.

The six Jehovah's Witnesses were abducted in 2002 by the group of Radulan Sahiron.

The kidnapping-for-ransom case is now pending before the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 266.

The DOJ moved for the reinvestigation of the case following the claims of some of the accused that they were arbitrarily arrested.

5 barangays in Coron get fund for Kalahi-Cidss sub-projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 7): 5 barangays in Coron get fund for Kalahi-Cidss sub-projects

Funding of P12.42 million were granted to five of the 19 barangays who participated in the Kalahi-Cidss Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (MIBF). The funds will be used for the implementation of sub-projects proposed by the community representatives of the winning barangays.

The Forum is a strategy for community empowerment through localized decision-making. Simply put, it is a venue for the Barangay Representation Teams (BRTs), who are volunteers of Kalahi-CIDSS, to present their sub-project proposals and choose which among the community projects will be prioritized.

The forum participants will choose what they think is the most viable and feasible based on the criteria set by the Kalahi-CIDSS Volunteers themselves.

Several Regional Project Management Office staff attended the activity to provide the necessary technical assistance.

Acting Mayor Ajerico Barracoso gave a short message during the activity saying that Kalahi-CIDSS implementation in the municipality of Coron will be of big help especially to those island barangays. He hoped that the activity will be successful, likewise with its implementation this year.

The five barangays to get the Kalahi-Cidss fund are Tara, Borac, Marcilla, Poblacion 2, and Decalachao. Some of the priority sub-projects that they have identified were the Level II water systems, school building, health station and electrification.

400 Tarlac residents benefit from dental and medical mission of Army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 6): 400 Tarlac residents benefit from dental and medical mission of Army

Around 400 Tarlac residents benefited from the recent medical and dental mission organized by the Philippine Army’s 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion (3MIB) and partner institutions in Barangay San Jose, Concepcion town.

“This undertaking seeks to show the true spirit of 'Bayanihan (brotherhood)' where different stakeholders work together to help people who are in need” 3MIB commander Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

Among those who collaborated with 3MIB in such cause included ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation Inc.; Northern Luzon Command Medical & Dental Team; Training and Doctrine Command Dental Team; Light Armor Division Medical & Dental Team; Tarlac Provincial Hospital; Central Luzon Doctors Hospital, Concepcion Rural Health Unit; Tarlac Medical Society; and Philippine Dental Association-Tarlac Chapter.

Coinciding with the occasion is the gift-giving to pupils and ceremonial hand-over of books to officials of San Jose Elementary School and launching of the “Ugnayan sa Kabataan” program.

“Ugnayan sa Kabataan seeks to encourage the youth to identify the needs and render service to their localities,” Torres explained.

3MIB covers the whole province of Tarlac and is under the operational control of the 7th Infantry Division.

MILF lauds President Aquino's sincerity in bringing peace to Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): MILF lauds President Aquino's sincerity in bringing peace to Mindanao

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday lauded the visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Maguindanao on Monday as a gesture of sincerity in bringing peace to the island.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said the launcing of "Sajahatra Bangsamoro" in the bailiwick of the MILF simply shows the President and his government is determined and sincere in finding solution to the Mindanao conflict. “It simply sends a message that the government is sincere in solving the Bangsamoro problem,” Jaafar said.

Jaafar said more people, not only the MILF, will benefit from government services once the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro will be fully implemented. “He is the only President who will bring government services to most Bangsamoro people who felt neglected for decades,” Jaafar said. “We really feel the sincerity of this government.”

On Monday, President Aquino will lead the launching of the "Sajahatra Bangsamoro" together with his Cabinet secretaries and MILF officials. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras explained that "Sajahatra" is an Arabic term which means "blessing, prosperity and peace."

He said the "Sajahatra Bangsamoro" the Aquino government is launching in Sultan Kudarat, a basic services program for MILF communities, will be held at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Sultan Kudarat.

Also expected in attendance are heads of government agencies that provide basic services such as the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Health (DOH), Agriculture (DA), Education (DepEd), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Auhtority (TESDA).

Among the highlights of the program is a medical mission wherein MILF members will be given PhilHealth cards. "There will be a symbolic turnover of a PhilHealth card to the (MILF) chairman (Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) himself," Almendras said in a statement.

Other activities include enhanced education programs in madaris schools and distribution of scholarship grants by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to Muslim students joining the state universities and colleges in Mindanao. On the other hand, TESDA will be offering training programs to help MILF members become more productive.

The DA, meanwhile, will be distributing seeds and provide new planting technology to help conflict-affected communities.

"The MILF are major beneficiaries in this program. They will benefit from Philhealth programs, they will benefit from health programs, they will benefit from DA programs, and many others," Almendras said.

"This is what Sajahatra is all about, you have to show them blessings, prosperity and peace. This will happen when there is peace."

President Aquino will be joined by Cabinet secretaries and the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP). The Malaysian third-party facilitator and members of the International Monitoring Team and foreign dignitaries will also be present.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said simultaneous with the visit of President Aquino is the holding of the Fluvial Caravan for Peace in Rio Grande de Mindanao.

The fluvial caravan will start at the Tabiran Market in Kabuntalan Mother and pass through the Rio Grande towards the Sultan Bolkiah Grand Mosque in Barangay Kalangan, Cotabato City.

Hermoso added the Sports for Peace inside Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao will develop camaraderie between soldiers and members of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

DSWD-Davao expanding KALAHI-CIDSS this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): DSWD-Davao expanding KALAHI-CIDSS this year

The regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) here is gearing up for the upcoming expansion of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) project this year.

KALAHI-CIDSS is a community-driven development (CDD) project of the Philippine government to empower people to improve the quality of their lives. OIC-Regional Director Priscilla N. Razon said this year’s National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP) will be implemented in 27 municipalities in the region.

The NCDDP is the scaling up of CDD, a strategy that has been tried and proven effective in KALAHI-CIDSS. The CDD gives citizens control over decisions and resources so they can undertake localized solutions to identified community problems. It aims to provide poor communities access to services and increase their participation in more inclusive local planning, budgeting and implementation.

While the DSWD is the lead implementing agency of NCDDP, Razon said they will work with other agencies under the National Inter-Agency Preparation and Implementation Team (NIAPT). These are the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Energy (DoE), Presidential Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP), Department of Finance (DoF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

She said the provincial local government unit (PLGU) engagement with KALAHI-CIDSS will also be implemented this year. In Davao Region, Razon said Compostela Valley was identified as the pilot province in the implementation of the PLGU engagement to be funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The province, led by KALAHI-CIDSS champion Governor Arturo T. Uy, demonstrated a strong commitment and support to CDD initiatives through the Assistance Towards Unity for Progress thru Empowerment, Accountability, Cooperation and Efficiency (ATU-PEACE) project. The engagement aims to influence the crafting of PLGU development plans that support poverty reduction, empowerment of poor communities, and implementation of social protection initiatives in KALAHI-CIDSS municipalities.

Additionally, Razon said the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) will be funding non-prioritized KALAHI-CIDSS project proposals exclusively targeting the construction of elementary and high school buildings, and day care centers.

In Davao Region, the municipalities of San Isidro in Davao Oriental and Poblacion Compostela in Compostela Valley were identified to receive the additional AusAID funding.

Earlier, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said this year’s implementation of NCDDP would cost P81 billion over six years, with the DSWD portion close to P31B. Razon said CDD implementation is on-going in five KALAHI-CIDSS additional financing municipalities and six Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) municipalities.

The additional financing areas are Kapalong in Davao del Norte and Pantukan in Compostela Valley; while the PAMANA areas are Compostela, Maragusan, Monkayo and Pantukan in Compostela Valley; Talaingod in Davao del Norte; and Tarragona in Davao Oriental.

All in all, the program has benefited five million households, 851 municipalities with high poverty incidence, located in 68 provinces from 15 regions nationwide, she said.

4 NPA rebels killed in Abra

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): 4 NPA rebels killed in Abra

Four suspected New People’s Army rebels were killed on Thursday in an encounter with Army soldiers in Barangay Cayapa, Lagangilang, Abra, a military official said in a belated report.

Colonel Loreto Magundayao, Army’s 5th Infantry Division spokesman, said the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion soldiers and 20-member New People’s Army rebels under the Kilusang Larangang Guerrilla North engaged in a brief gunbattle.

Army soldiers recovered assorted guns, ammunition, backpacks and other belongings and alleged subversive documents.

The rebels allegedly slept at the village as evident of the tents found there. Soldiers did not suffer any casualty from the encounter, he added.

Military agent shot dead, informant hurt in Surigao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): Military agent shot dead, informant hurt in Surigao del Sur

A military intelligence agent was slain while an informant was hurt after some unidentified assailants shot them around 8 a.m. Wednesday at the National Highway, Purok 1, Barangay Magosilum, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.

Reports from Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office identified the victim as S/Sgt. Gilbert Sionzon y Lalimos, 43, a member of the military intelligence battalion (MIB). He was then accompanied by a civilian informant identified as Ampol Daging, 31. Both are residents of the said barangay.

The victims were on board a red Honda (XLR) motorcycle heading towards Barangay Union, Madrid, Surigao del Sur. They were waylaid by the suspects who eventually shot both of them using an unknown caliber of firearm. Sionzon died of gunshot wounds on his head and body. Daging who was hit on his body was able to ask assistance from a passing motorist, who brought him to a hospital in Cantilan.

Police recovered from the place of incident a Honda XLR without plate number owned by Daging, a Norinco 1911 A1 Caliber .45 pistol bearing serial number 1004352 (China made) with one magazine loaded with six live ammunition, three fired cartridges, a pair of slippers and a towel.

Follow up investigation is still being undertaken by the Cantilan Police to determine the motive of the attack and apprehend the gunmen.

Palawan’s Tubbataha PAMB gives 5 conditions for safe salvaging of USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): Palawan’s Tubbataha PAMB gives 5 conditions for safe salvaging of USS Guardian

Before the SMIT Borneo left for Tubbataha on Wednesday, the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) headed by Governor Baham Mitra laid down five conditions before the salvage plan proposed by the U.S. Navy was given the green light.

Angelique Songco of the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) on Thursday said the conditions were to make sure that the coral reefs can be protected.

First in the list was that a Joint Ecological Assessment will be done between the U.S. Navy and the TMO before actual operation is started.

Second is the conduct of the same in assessing the true value of the damages caused by the USS Guardian.

The PAMB also mandated that their team be allowed to join the U.S. Navy salvage operation team in the vessels that would participate in getting the grounded minesweeper off Tubbataha to assure that safe operating procedures are followed.

The conditions also asked the U.S. Navy to commit that during the salvaging operation, no endangered marine species would be caught by the net to be placed around the USS Guardian to trap the debris once the sectioning would be implemented.

Lastly, that all vessels and individuals included in the salvage operation team would strictly follow the laws being implemented by the TMO in the Tubbataha.

Evangelista assured that anything that needs to be added to the already approved salvage plan would have to be brought to their attention first before implementation.

The crane ship SMIT Borneo finally reached the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) on Wednesday to commence the salvaging of the USS Guardian that got stuck in the marine protected area of South Atoll in January.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan District Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista informed the media that SMIT Borneo reached the Tubbataha at about six o’clock Wednesday and set to task immediately by carefully laying down its anchors in the Sulu Sea off Cagayancillo island town 8-10 meters away from the grounding site.

The Coast Guard top official said it took the crane ship long hours to lay down the anchors as it needed to be careful to place them in the target areas. He provided no other details as to when sectioning of the USS Guardian will happen.