Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bus Torched

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 9): Bus Torched

TANZA, Cavite — A passenger bus was burned on Thursday by a still unidentified group on Soriano Highway in Barangay Amaya II, here, police reported yesterday. Torched was the Binato Liner bus unit, with Body No. 1127 and license plates WCC-511, which is owned and operated by a resident of Naic, this province. Supt. Romeo B. Desiderio, Police Provincial Office (PPO) information officer, said no one was hurt in the incident which happened at 10 p.m. on February 7. Desiderio stopped short of pinning the blame on communist rebels – known for attacking bus firms that refuse their extortion demands – but confirmed that one of the four armed arsonists allegedly shouted: “That’s for not paying your taxes!”

Kato: No Plans of Disrupting Aquino Visit

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 10): Kato: No Plans of Disrupting Aquino Visit

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) has no plans of disrupting the visit of President Aquino in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao which is scheduled on Monday, the head of the renegade group announced Sunday.

“We don’t mind it (Aquino’s visit). And we are not going to disrupt it,” BIFM spokesman Abu Misry Mama when interviewed by the Manila Bulletin.

The BIFM is headed by Commander Ustadz Ameril “Umra” Kato, who formed also the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after splitting from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

MalacaƱang said the President Aquino is embarking on a peace mission and wants to see for himself what government can do to help in the development of the strife-torn region.

His visit is historic since it will be the first time a Philippine leader will set foot on the MILF stronghold at Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao.

The President and MILF Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim will be launching the social welfare project Sajahatra Bangsamoro (Peace Bangsamoro) at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BMLI). Sajahatra Bangsamoro will be implemented in Moro communities.

An ally of the President in the Senate shunned critics of the visit, saying that Aquino is not stooping low in his attempt to meet with the leaders of the MILF in their camp.
“What’s wrong with that? If the President wishes to visit any province in the country, there is nothing wrong with that. He is the president of the Philippines, not just of Manila, of MalacaƱang, of the Visayas or of Ilocos,” said Senator Franklin Drilon.

The Liberal Party (LP) senator said critics must not misconstrue the Aquino’s action which is merely showing a different tack in achieving peace in conflict-stricken Mindanao.

Drilon said the President needs his team in Congress to push, as a pillar of his peace-making initiative, the creation of a Bangsamoro Republic that would take the place of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The Bangsamoro Republic is one of the milestones in the framework agreement of the ongoing peace negotiation between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” he said.

He said it is vital for Aquino to have a majority in Congress for the remainder of his term in order not to undermine his ongoing efforts to bring an enduring peace in Mindanao.

Army to maintain deployment in Quezon despite communist rebels’ ‘weak presence’

From the Business Mirror (Feb 10): Army to maintain deployment in Quezon despite communist rebels’ ‘weak presence’

DESPITE what it claimed to be the “weakening presence” of communist guerrillas, an Army officer said government forces remain in the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon pprovince.
Col. Generoso Bolina, Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command spokesman, said the Army will send a battalion to replace the 76th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the 201st Infantry Brigade, that started trasferring to Mindoro on Tuesday.
After staying for 10 months in the Bondoc Peninsula, the 76IB will transfer to Mindoro to replace the 80IB, which is due for scheduled battalion retraining at Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, Capt. Ramon V. Ibarrientos, battalion spokesman, said in a statement.
Bolina confirmed Ibarrientos’s statement and that said soldiers under the 76IB have began redeploying from Catanauan, Quezon, to Occidental Mindoro.
“The retraining of the 80IB of the 204th Infantry Brigade prompted the transfer of troops from Quezon,” Bolina said.
He added that another battalion would replace the 76th IB since “we still need to maintain three battalions in Quezon province.”
He explained that the Armed Forces maintains two battalions on Mindoro Island, one for Mindoro Occidental and another for Mindoro Oriental.
There will be another battalion to be deployed here because the 76IB can’t stay in Mindoro for too long, Bolina said in Filipino.
However, Bolina declined to identify the battalion that would replace the 76IB and the date that its replacement would arrive.
He added that the replacement would be swift so that the New People’s Army (NPA) would have difficulty to adjust and re-gain whatever territories the armed insurgent group lost.
“Bago pa sila maka-adjust may bago nang battalion. Kaya nga dapat medyo mabilis iyong pagpalit,” Bolina said.
Bolina claims that the NPA strength in Bondoc Peninsula has diminished from 70 armed guerrillas in 2011 to only 38 as of the end of last year. He did not say how he arrived at the figure.

ASG refusal to release Jordanian TV journalist triggered MNLF action

From the Manila Times (Feb 10): ASG refusal to release Jordanian TV journalist triggered MNLF action

The failure—or refusal—of the Abu Sayyaf Group to fulfill their commitment (sworn to before the Holy Quran) to release the Jordanian television journalist Baker Atyani triggered the fighting between the MNLF and the terrorist kidnappers at Sangay village, Patikul, last Sunday February 3.

Respected Islamic cleric and MNLF Central Committee Secretary General Ustadz Ibrahim Murshi told The Manila Times the Hatib Ahajan and a certain Asman of the ASG had sworn by the Holy Quran to Ustadz Habier Malik, chief of the MNLF’s Asadullah National Task Force (ANTF) that they would release Atyani.

“Asadullah” which means the Lion of God is the name of the task force involved in the MNLF’s Oplan Purging for Peace, this it is called the Asadullah National Task Force.

It is composed of Bangsamoro Armed Forces belonging to all national and state commands in Lupah Sug. More than one division has been engaged in this Operation Purging for Peace.

Ustadz Murshi reiterated that the main objective of this OPP is to purge or clean up Lupah Sug or the province of Sulu from the loathsome stigmas or stains of kidnapping, drug trafficking, and other outlawed activities.

Notwithstanding the strict implementation of the OPP by the ANTF, it will still uphold the doctrine of peace and Islamic persuasion espoused by MNLF founder and Chairman Nur Misuari.

The MNLF Secretary General also emphasized that kidnapping per se is a crime against humanity that everyone must condemn.

He likewise said that the in the MNLF leadership have been emphasizing force is to be used only as a last recourse.

He said that with the ASG’s unstoppable program of criminality it is now about time to use this last recourse.

He said that although the MNLF believes that war is inhuman, barbaric and catastrophic, they have to wage an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf now.

He said even the United States has classified ASG as terrorists. So, if only to achieve a total peace and security for the rest of the Bangsa Moro people, the work of the Abu Sayyaf bandits and kidnappers must be terminated.

How MNLF-ASG relations shifted from co-existence to state of war

From the Manila Times (Feb 10): How MNLF-ASG relations shifted from co-existence to state of war

The Moro National Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group in the past co-existed with one another in the hinterlands of Sulu.

Although there was never any tactical alliance between the two groups. But because both professed the Islamic faith, they did not confront each other.

This co-existence went to the extent that ASG forces could pass through the area of responsibility of the MNLF unharmed.

The situation abruptly changed when the Abu Sayyaf resorted to kidnapping for ransom. Their victims were both foreign nationals and Filipinos.

Since then, the MNLF leadership decided not just to distance their Front and their members from the Abu Sayyaf but also to condemn the ASG for their “non-stop kidnapping of innocent people.

What the MNLF leadership found most reprehensible is that the Tausug ASGs even kidnapped their fellow Tausugs in Sulu. As long as they thought victims’ families could raise ransom money the ASG perpetrated kidnapping.

In effect, the ASG members have used kidnapping as an income generating tool to raise funds for their group.

In one phone interview with the Times in the past, one ASG commander who identified himself as Abu Ali even admitted that though kidnapping is condemned by everyone they had to resort to it purposely to raise funds to purchase more highpowered weapons to add to their arsenal and to finance their operations as well.

Some have said that the ASG founder was a former MNLF member.

Ustadz Murshi made it clear to The Times clarified that the late Abu Sayyaf founder Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani was not a full-pledged member of the MNLF, but he was a supporter of the MNLF-led “Jihad Fi Sabilillah” (Fighting in the Way of Allah) during the years before the MNLF and the Philippine government forged the 1996 Peace Agreement, among whose result is the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the blessing of the Organization of the Islamic Conference now known by the name Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The currently acknowledged Abbu Sayyaf Chieftain is Raddulan Sahiron of Patikul.

He was “a sagacious and intrepid commander of the MNLF until the early 1990’s,” said Ustadz Ibrahim Murshi.

But, said Ustadz Murshi, Sahiron detached himself from the MNLF because he believed that the Philippine Government was not sincere in its relation with the MNLF.

Sahiron belived, said Ustada Murshi, that the Philippine government was not sincere in its pledge to honor its international binding obligation to implement the 1976 Tripoli Agreement that was signed in Libya under the sponsorship of the late Libyan strongman, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

This resentment of Sahiron was exacerbated by the non-full implementation of the t996 Final Peace Agreement, Ustadz Murshi added.

Court frees suspected NPA commander

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 10): Court frees suspected NPA commander

VIRAC, Catanduanes—A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leader regained his freedom 10 months since his arrest in March last year after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) here dismissed for lack of evidence the three murder cases filed against him by the Army and police.

Judge Lelu Contreras of the Catanduanes RTC Branch 42 ordered the release of suspected NPA commander Daniel Frias after state prosecutors failed to prove Frias’ guilt.

Frias, who denied that he was a communist leader and said his real name was Romeo Madara based on his baptismal certificate and barangay clearance, was freed on Jan. 28, the same day Contreras issued her decision, a copy of which was received by the Inquirer on Friday.

Police arrested Frias, along with an Alicia Aguenza, in Cabuyao, Laguna, on March 26, 2012, while allegedly trying to rob a taxi driver.

Three criminal cases were filed against Frias for the death of two soldiers and a civilian in separate incidents in 2007 and 2008.

Aquino, MILF chair Murad to sign socio-economic initiative

From the Philippine Star (Feb 10): Aquino, MILF chair Murad to sign socio-economic initiative

President Benigno Aquino III and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim will lead the launching of the socio-economic initiative dubbed "Sajahatra Bangsamoro," on Monday.
The president and Murad, who witnessed the signing of the framework agreement on Oct. 15 last year, will lead the launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a list of projects which will uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of the MILF in the next 12 months in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview today that the historical launch is a proof of the Aquino government and the MILF's sincerity and commitment to forging peace in Mindanao.

"It's the first time I think that the president is visiting one of the MILF territories or communities in peacetime," she said.

Valte said both the government and MILF troops have committed to ensuring everyone's safety in the event and had joined together to secure the area where the president will visit.

The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades to establish a self-ruled Muslim state in southern Philippines. The Philippine government and the MILF formally signed on Oct. 15 last year the framework agreement, a road map for final political settlement to end the decades-old armed struggle in southern Philippines.

2,500 AFP, PNP, MILF forces to secure Pnoy visit to MILF HQ in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Feb 10): 2,500 AFP, PNP, MILF forces to secure Pnoy visit to MILF HQ in Maguindanao

A formation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

In a rare move, around 2,500 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will join forces Monday to secure President Benigno Aquino III on his visit to the MILF headquarters in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

This particular security force is composed of the AFP, PNP, the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), and members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the CCCH/AHJAG (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities/Ad Hoc Joint Action Group).

On Saturday, the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division led by its commander Major General Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo held a ceremonial boodle fight with the MILF fighters as a show of solidarity amid the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

The boodle fight is in line with the “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” program in Sultan Kudarat on Monday. The Sajahatra Bangsamoro is the government’s concrete socio-economic peace program that aims to uplift the health, education, and livelihood conditions in MILF communities.

Aquino will be the first Philippine president to visit the MILF main camp of Darapanan amid a peace deal with the rebels.

Go to Negros ambush site to find the truth, AFP dares NDF's Jalandoni

From InterAksyon (Feb 10): Go to Negros ambush site to find the truth, AFP dares NDF's Jalandoni

The Philippine Army in Western Visayas challenged Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to visit La Castellana in Negros Occidental where New People's Army (NPA) rebels recently killed nine people, mostly civilians.

This, after Jalandoni justified the NPA rebels’ action by saying those on board the truck fired first at the rebels manning a checkpoint. Jalandoni claimed the rebels also seized three high-powered firearms from the victims.

Jalandoni also denied that the victims were shot in the head.

But Major General Jose Mabanta, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said investigation conducted by the scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) and witness accounts indicate that the victims were shot in the head.

“We are challenging Jalandoni to come out of his comfort zone in the Netherlands and go straight to La Castellana to see for himself what really transpired last January 27, 2013.” Mabanta said Sunday.

He again urged the leadership of the NDFP and the NPA to surrender to authorities the people behind the incident.

"The government will pursue the case and see to it that the Rule of Law must be applied to all," Mabanta said.

Tubbataha salvor operations to await 2nd crane ship's arrival as waves foil work on Guardian

From InterAksyon (Feb 10): Tubbataha salvor operations to await 2nd crane ship's arrival as waves foil work on Guardian

Underscoring the technical difficulties that experts warned would come with such a complicated salvor operation, efforts by the crew of a US crane ship to start taking out piece by piece a US navy minesweeper aground on Tubbataha Reef were foiled by strong waves, and failed to start as scheduled on Sunday.

As a result, official decided to await the arrival of the second, bigger crane ship on February 15, to remove portions of the USS Guardian (MCM5), which remains stuck in, and continues to do damage to, the UNESCO-tagged marine sanctuary on Sulu Sea in Palawan.

“The Smith Borneo has failed to anchor due to strong waves. They tried to lower the four anchors but only one had a good bite on the seabed, so they did not push through. They’re assessing the situation and thinking of just wait for the arrival of the bigger salvage crane ship, the Jacson 25 which has a more dynamic positioning system,” Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard Palawan district, said.

He said the Jacson 25 can “hold position without anchoring”. The ship sailed Saturday afternoon from Singapore and is expected to arrive on February 15 at around 9 p.m. It will directly proceed to the Tubbataha Reef.

“For the meantime, Smith Borneo stops its operation including cutting parts of the Guardian while it waits for the arrival of Jacson 25. As soon as Jacson25 arrives, there will be a briefing and then operations begin,” Evangelista said.

He said the damage on the reef remains at more than 4,000 square meters.

Evangelista said taking down the Guardian piece by piece could last until the first week of April.

“You know, we all have to be very careful in this operation. This isn’t something that can be rushed. The upright position of the boat must be maintained always; and at the same time, one must consider the sea condition; the sea keeps moving while they’re working. Inside the boat, there are pipes that must be removed or taken apart before a particular section may be lifted, in order to lessen the debris that could fall into the sea and damage the reef further,” he explained, speaking in Filipino.

The minesweeper of the US 7th Fleet ran aground on the reef on January 17. Philippine maritime authorities had warned the captain not to sail on prohibited maritime area in the country but the order was defied. The US Navy then rescued and whisked off the ship’s officials and crew to its military base in Saebo, Japan, a move that was criticized as violative of usual procedures for documenting incidents like this, and apparently meant to avoid legal responsibility for the culprits.

The US government has promised to pay for damages its ship caused to the reef, but remained silent on why its sailors violated Philippine maritime laws and even a provision of the UNESCO on World Heritage Sites.

Rebels burn heavy equipment in Agusan

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): Rebels burn heavy equipment in Agusan

Suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) reportedly burned heavy equipment used in the repair and construction of national highways in Santiago, Agusan del Norte, on Friday.

An army report reaching here said that the heavy equipment, a dump truck and a mixer, owned by Vice Gov. Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental were burned Friday morning by heavily armed men believed members of the NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Lt. Patrick A. Martinez, spokesperson of the army’s 42nd Civil Military Office in Agusan del Norte, said that the burning of the heavy equipment reportedly took place when Oaminal refused to pay ‘extortion money’ asked by the NPA rebels.

Martinez said that the timely response of elements of the army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion forced the rebels to withdraw resulting in the minimal damage to heavy equipment.

Lt. Col. Potenciano C. Camba, commanding officer of the army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said that responding troopers were able to extinguish the fire on the heavy equipment.

Camba said that the army dispatched government troopers to the area after the army command received text messages from concerned residents that armed men burned the heavy equipment along the national highway.

‘We were glad that the civilians were now feeding us timely information about movements of the NPA rebels in our area. This shows that the rebels were losing support,’ Camba added.

'Sajahatra Bangsamoro' launch shows government's sincerity, seriousness in forging a 'just and lasting' peace in Mindanao -- Malacanang

 From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): 'Sajahatra Bangsamoro' launch shows government's sincerity, seriousness in forging a 'just and lasting' peace in Mindanao -- Malacanang

The launch of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a socio-economic initiative aimed at uplifting the health, education and livelihood conditions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communitiese on Monday shows the sincerity and seriousness of President Benigno S. Aquino III and the government in “forging a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” a Palace official said on Sunday.

President Aquino will join representatives of the government and the MILF for the historic launch that will be held at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute compound in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

The ceremonial launch will include the distribution of health insurance by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth); upgrading of community-based health services by the Department of Health (DOH); college scholarships and technical-vocational training by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), respectively; educational assistance to madaris (Islamic schools) and private schools by the Department of Education, needs assessment of selected Bangsamoro communities; and Cash for Work Program, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others.

In an interview aired over government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte lauded both sides for working towards achieving the milestone. “Yes, what kind of message is the President sending? First, that we are serious about forging a just and lasting peace in Mindanao; and even way ahead of the signing, alam po natin that both panels are working on the annexes of the Framework Agreement,” Valte said.

The Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, which was signed last October 2012, will pave the way for the establishment of the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Under the agreement, the Parties agree to intensify development efforts for rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the Bangsamoro, and institute programs to address the needs of MILF combatants, internally displaced persons and poverty-stricken communities.

“Even before a peace agreement is signed, you will see that it’s about providing the social services to the MILF and to the Moros in Mindanao because of the Framework Agreement. It shows also the sincerity of both sides as a continuity to talk and to finalize the annexes in the Framework Agreement,” Valte said.

No threat from Kato on P-Noy's visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): No threat from Kato on P-Noy's visit

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao –- The military and police here on Sunday said no threats from breakaway Moro rebel group leader Umra Ameril Kato ahead of President Aquino’s Monday visit.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion troopers were closely watching the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Kato. Hermoso said even if they make noise in Maguindanao the Army is prepared.

Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police chief, said checkpoints manned by the Regional Public Safety Battalion have been set up in all the entry points of Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat where the President would launch a government service program called “Sajahatra Bangsamoro.”

The BIFF broke away from MILF due to differences over the peace process. The BIFF is seeking independence for Mindanao. In October last year, BIFF rebels launched simultaneous offensives against military and police installations in Maguindanao in a failed attempt to stop the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

“We are prepared this time,” Hermoso said, referring to any destabilization attempt. “As of now, everything is normal except the Bangsamoro people are upbeat on the visit,” he said.

In a statement emailed to the local media here, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the security matter was handled well by government forces and that the MILF has assured the government peace panel the group of Kato would not make any move against the activity.

MILF: BDA conducts the 3rd Phase Training of Tahderiyyah Teachersof Southern Mindanao

From the MILF Website (Feb 10): BDA conducts the 3rd Phase Training of Tahderiyyah Teachersof Southern Mindanao

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) conducts the 3rd Phase Training of Tahderiyyah Teachers at Tiboli Hotel, General Santos City on February 5-8, 2013which was attended by 50 Madrasa teachers from the provinces of Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and General Santos City.

The training was aimed to enhance the teaching skills of the participating teachers, an effort to help improve the quality of education of Tahderiyyah (pre-school) of 50 target Madrasa in Southern Mindanao.

It is part of the Tahderiyyah Curriculum Program (TCP) which has been implemented by BDA since 2008. The program, implemented in partnership with UNICEF and funded by AusAid, generally aims to provide Moro children ages 3-5 with access to quality education.

Advance teaching methodologies for the pre-schoolers to learn and understand their “family and community” was the focus of the training which is 3rd part of the series of training for 300 Madrasah expansionall over Mindanao and island provinces.

The program, which started with 17 pilot Madrasah in 2008, includes the development of curriculum and teachers manual which was recently translated into local dialects.

Aside from training of teachers, TCP also provide teaching and learning materials and conduct community mobilization activities in support to Tahderiyyah sustainability.

Madrasah administrators and Development Catalysts were also trained on enhanced curriculum.
Children who complete the Tahderiyyah curriculum will be eligible to be admitted to grade one since the curriculum is compliant with the requirements of the Department of Education.

The training was facilitated by Teacher Jing Pascual and pool of Tahderiyyah trainers namely Ust. Mohaliden Kudanding, Ust. Abdulrahman Andaman, Ustdza Sittie Abdullah, Ust. Mohamad Daud Ambod, and Ust. Anwar Salisipan.

Kahdidia Glang, 52 year old teacher from Madrasah Nurrol islamiya, Kabuling, Palimbang SultanKudarat Province, expressed gratitude for the learning they got from the training.

In local vernacular, she said, “Before, we used traditional method of teaching, but through the trainings, we learned and apply varied methods of teaching the children which made them be more active and participative.”

“We also learned how to approach the kids, understand their behaviour and capacities and we became more flexible now,” she added.