Monday, March 4, 2013

'Sulu army' defeated - report

From Rappler (Mar 5): 'Sulu army' defeated - report

OPERATION SUCCESFUL? An army helicopter flies in Cenderawasih near the area where the stand-off with Filipino Sulu gunmen and Malaysian security forces was taking place in Tanduao village on March 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

OPERATION SUCCESFUL? An army helicopter flies in Cenderawasih near the area where the stand-off with Filipino Sulu gunmen and Malaysian security forces was taking place in Tanduao village on March 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

The Filipino militants engaged in the standoff in Sabah were defeated by the assault launched by Malaysian security forces to evict them from the site, a local report said on Tuesday, March 5.

"The Sulu armed group was totally routed by [the] Malaysian security forces' overwhelming firepower," police sources told online newspaper The Star.

The report added that no there are no casualties on the Malaysian side but this is yet unknown for the followers of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

According to The Star, the security situation is now "under control" in Sabah but police and military personnel have been placed under high alert in certain "strategic locations" where there is fear of retaliation by Kiram's men.

Raja Muda Kiram, the leader of the standoff, earlier said that the assault had scattered their positions, while the sultan's spokesman insisted that they will not surrender and fight until the end to highlight their claim to Sabah.

Malaysian security forces launched on Tuesday fresh attacks on the more than 100 Filipino gunmen holed up in Tanduao, Lahad Datu and nearby villages in Sabah, forcing villagers to flee their homes.

Najib stressed that "the government must take action to defend the country's dignity and sovereignty as demanded by the people" and indicated that all efforts to prevent bloodshed had "failed."

Six former rebels get LGU assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 4): Six former rebels get LGU assistance

Six former rebels received six sacks of high-breed corn and one sack of rice each from the local government unit of Kapalong, Davao del Norte a week after they surrendered to the government.

Captain Harold Ho, civil-military operations officer of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade identified the recipients as Otoy Boy-ang, Lino Molohinday, Randy Agbang, Maugan Malibato, Gamai Mai and Botchoy Mantog, who all hail from Sitio Mulig, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

He said the military facilitated the initial assistance which came from the local government of Kapalong.

Ho said the six surrenderees qualify to receive benefits under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program after they laid down two Carbine rifles, two magazines with two live bullets and home-made explosives when they surrendered to the 84th Infantry Battalion in February 24.

“We are facilitating the initial assistance in coordination with the Municipal Agriculturist’s Office while the municipal government gave away six sacks of rice to help the surrenderees and their families,” he said.

Colonel Buenaventura Pascual, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Division welcomed the latest surrenderee and assured assistance to the rebels who wish to return to the mainstream society and to start their lives anew.

He urged rebels who want to return home to send surrender feelers either through the soldiers, members of the clergy, religious pastors or the local government officials.

“I am very happy for this, as a clear indication that we are winning the peace. Indeed, it reinforces our commitment, the joy of having our brothers back,” he said.

New 4ID assistant division commander assumes post

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 4): New 4ID assistant division commander assumes post

The newly installed assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division (4ID) formally assumed his post today.

Col. Romeo G. Gan, the new 4ID’s assistant division commander, is a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Matikas” Class of 1983. He served as the commander of the 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade based in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur prior to his designation here.

He replaced Brig. Gen. Romeo L. Gapuz who was earlier designated as division commander of the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division based in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Gan, aside from his continued service to this division since May 2011, was already part of the Diamond Team in the past. He was designated as the assistant chief of staff for operations in 2005, where he met the challenge of merging three offices, the operations, the civil-military operations, education and training.

During his assumption speech, he mentioned his past assignments and designations which include his commandership of the 12th Infantry Battalion and being chief of staff of the 8th Infantry Division. He also expressed his commitment to serve the 4ID under Maj. Gen. Nestor A. Añonuevo and expressed his gratitude for his designation.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to Col. Gan in his new designation as the assistant division commander, you have my confidence and I know that with your qualities and rich experience I can expect a helping hand in leading this division,” Añonuevo said.

AFP to integrate more CPLAs, recruit additional CAFGUs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 4): AFP to integrate more CPLAs, recruit additional CAFGUs

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assured it will integrate additional former members of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) to the military and train more civilian auxiliary forces in order to sustain the improving peace and order situation in the region.

MGen. Joel Ibañez, commanding general of the 5th Infantry Division, said they will offer additional recruitment quota for the CPLA provided they undergo the disarmament, disposition and reintegration (DDR) process.

“We want that the bayanihan program of the AFP is co-implemented by former armed groups and trained militias so that they themselves can feel the joy and satisfaction of working together for the welfare of the communities,” he said.

He said former rebels will not only be recruited to provide security and fight insurgents but also to help bring public service to the far-flung barangays through the AFP’s bayanihan program and convergence with local government units and national agencies.

On the other hand, Col. Roger Salvador, commanding officer of the 501st infantry brigade said they will also target to recruit 120 Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) particularly from Balbalan and Pinukpuk to provide security in areas still infiltrated by the New People’s Army (NPA).

As reported by Lt.Col. Felix Benitez, commanding officer of the 21st infantry battalion, four mountain barangays in Balbalan and four also in Pinukpuk are still NPA territories and are under the military’s tight watch.

Last month, 40 CAFGUs finished the basic military training courses held here and were dispatched to their areas of origin to beef up security and civil action manpower during outreach missions.

Sulu clan clash leaves 4 dead, 6 others wounded

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): Sulu clan clash leaves 4 dead, 6 others wounded

AT least four people including a policeman were killed and six others were wounded after fighting broke out between two clans in a remote village in Sulu province over the weekend, police reports said on Monday.

Belated reports at Camp Crame said that the fighting of the groups of Makintan Juraim and Hadjiron Saribon erupted over the weekend at Barangay Lahing-Lahing, Omar, Sulu.

The reports said that the four fatalities were identified as Bebilyn Sayah; a certain Dad and Madul and Police Officer 1 Allad Lalihasan Sahi, assigned with Panglima Estino to the police station in the province.

Those wounded include Abdu Sahibad; Mudar Kalil; Alkisar Hamsani; Nonjin Janna; Jinga Durang and Ritz Ammad, all of whom were brought to a nearby hospital, the reports said.

The reports said that the fighting between the two groups broke out stemming from political and personnel grudge between the two groups’ leaders, the reports said. Elements of the Omar Municipal Police station are still investigating the said incident.

NPA burns heavy equipment in Batangas

From the Manila Times (Mar 3): NPA burns heavy equipment in Batangas

Authorities related that the group, led by one Leslie Cresino, political commissar of Apollo 12, Guerilla Front Honda, burned a grader owned by the Valentino Patron Construction Co., which is being used in the cited construction project in Barangay Bukal, Padre Garcia in the province.

Construction workers on site narrated that they were caught unaware when the armed group arrived at the scene and immediately proceeded to destroy several heavy equipment.

Residents of Barangay Bukal reported the incident to the police. Authorities claimed that the said residents were alarmed by the unexpected escalation of violence in their barangay.

Maj. Cesar Lubaton, commander of the 740th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force, said that he was dismayed over the incident.

“The locals themselves, not only expressed their dismay but their anger as well since the sabotage of the project will mean a delay on the much needed infrastructure project,” the commander told The Manila Times.

Meanwhile, Col. Ivan Samarita, commander of the 202nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, thanked the residents for their cooperation and vigilance.

He advised the construction company to continue with the project.

Police are still investigating the incident while the company prepares to file criminal charges against the perpetrators.

The said criminal charges that will be filed by the Philippine National Police will be used in seeking the arrest of the Maoist rebels.

US-funded anti-terrorist training center inaugurated

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): US-funded anti-terrorist training center inaugurated

A P12-million training center for anti-terrorism, funded by the US government for the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC), opened last week in Zamboanga City.

Public Safety College President Ruben Platon and US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. inaugurated the facility in rites at Camp Felicisimo Marcos in Barangay Pasonanca, Zamboanga.

The P12.3-million secured training facility, constructed on the grounds of the PPSC Regional Training School-9 is designed for anti-terrorism training for police and law enforcement officers. The conduct of various police training under the PPSC will be sponsored by the US International Criminal Investigation Assistance Program (Icitap).

The building was completed in January 2013 with funds from the US Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-West. The US Department of Justice, through its Icitap will provide training at the facility for Philippine National Police units from the provinces of Zamboanga and Sulu. Some of the law enforcement training will include anti-trafficking in persons, community-oriented policing, human rights, ethics, leadership, and forensics investigation.

US Justice department/Icitap Program Manager Richard Miller and PPSC Vice President Marcelino Lipana, witnessed the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the PPSC and the US Embassy for the secured facility.

Platon thanked the US Embassy for its generosity and sincere effort to help the PPSC in the training of police officers in the fight against terrorism. He cited the US Justice department-Icitap and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their contributions in the capability enhancement and skills development of PPSC students who are at the frontline in anti-terrorism.

Battle zones widen; MNLF enters fray

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): Battle zones widen; MNLF enters fray

Malaysian police attend to a gunman who was shot dead during a shootout with soldiers in Simunul village. At least 26 people have been reported killed after a bizarre invasion by Philippine followers of a self-styled sultan. AFP PHOTO

THE crisis in Sabah has turned several towns into battle zones as Malaysia intensified its campaign to drive away armed Filipino intruders.

The crisis took a turn for the worse as the fighting spread to more areas after the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) joined the fray by deploying its combatants to Sabah to support the sultanate of Sulu.

The sultanate had started calling the clashes in Sabah the Sultan Jamalul Kiram Spring, after the Arab Spring, which triggered revolutions and violent protests in several Arab countries in 2010.

According to Abraham Idjirani, the spokesman of sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd, the fighting between Malaysian forces and members of the Sulu Royal Army has reached Sandakan, Sabah’s second largest city.

“This is the Sultanate Jamalul Kiram Spring. We are doing this in the name of the Filipino people,” Idjirani told reporters.

Idjirani said that as of Sunday, Sandakan has been turned into another battle zone even as the “battle of Semporna” remains at a stalemate.

To prevent further loss of lives, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Kuala Lumpur on Monday to talk with Malaysian officials and appeal for maximum tolerance for the followers of the sultan.

Seven people were reported killed in a clash in the town of Semporna on Saturday as Malaysian policemen were also pursuing a number of armed intruders in the town of Kunak. Reports said that Semporna has turned into a ghost town after the firefight on Saturday because residents fled the area for fear that they too may be caught in the gun fight.

The MNLF claimed that their men were able to enter Sabah on Sunday.

The group said that reinforcements from Mindanao breached the Malaysian security cordon in Sandakan and ambushed two truckloads of men belonging to the Malaysian Territorial Army Regiment.

“The reinforcements were able to wipe them out,” said Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’S Islamic Command Council. Idjirani, however, denied that the Royal Sulu Army is being aided by MNLF fighters.

He claimed that the escalation of violence was an “unorganized, spontaneous uprising” by Filipinos residing in Sabah. Fighting between the two sides have left 26 people dead since the standoff begun last month.

During the firefight on Saturday, the sultan’s followers captured four Malaysian officials.

Idjirani, however, said that the captives will only be released to representatives of international humanitarian groups.

He explained that the group led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin, refused to release their captives to Sabah officials because they fear that the officials might later end up dead and the sultanate will be blamed for it.

Idjirani also said that the sultan was able to reestablish contact with Raja Muda a day after Malaysian officials shut down cell sites in Lahad Datu.


Fearing that the fighting in Sabah will lead to more deaths, del Rosario flew to Kuala Lumpur on Monday to appeal for maximum tolerance for the followers of the sultan.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that the secretary will meet with Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman “to continue discussions on how to avert further loss of lives.”

Del Rosario will also convey the Philippine government’s request for a full briefing from the Malaysian authorities regarding the situation in Lahad Datu and ask clearance for the Philippine Navy ship, BRP Tagbanua, to proceed to Lahad Datu.

The ship, which was dispatched from Tawi-Tawi province more than a week ago, has medical personnel onboard.

“Ever since the Kiram group landed in Lahad Datu three weeks ago, Secretary del Rosario has been in touch with the Malaysian authorities on a daily basis in search for a peaceful resolution to the situation,” the department said.

Block force

Meanwhile, ground troops and at least 10 Philippine Navy ships have secured the island provinces and islets and the entire sea separating Mindanao from Malaysia to prevent the supporters, followers and members of the so-called Royal Army of Sulu from traveling to Sabah.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Monday explained that the security cordon was implemented to ensure that nobody would be able to cross to Sabah. He denied reports that speedboats and small-motorized vessels have slipped past the closely guarded areas.

Gazmin said that Philippines troops cannot be involved in the flushing out of Filipino intruders in Sabah.

“We cannot get involved. It’s the call of the Malaysian government,” he said.

The President’s directive, he said, is to help the evacuees and at the same time identify those involved in the standoff.

Pinoys return

As the Sabah crisis sizzled, 289 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Malaysia returned home to escape the clashes in Sabah.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said that the workers came home on Sunday.

Baldoz said that she instructed various Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) agencies to assist the returning Filipino workers.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has been told to assist returnees, who plan to stay in the country for good, by providing reintegration assistance through the National Reintegration Center for overseas Filipino workers.

The reintegration program includes providing job matching and job referral assistance for those who will elect to work in the country; and giving out of livelihood business starter kits for those who wish to engage in businesses.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration had also been instructed to assist the workers who wish to go back to their employers in Malaysia after the situation has normalized.

“The DOLE helped facilitate their smooth arrival, and we are ready with our reintegration programs and other services for other Filipinos, who may decide to return to the country either for good or to wait for the situation to stabilize before returning to Sabah,” the labor chief said.

The Bureau of Immigration also on Monday said that 288 Filipinos were deported from Sabah.

Immigration Intelligence chief Antonette Mangrobang said that they are waiting for an official report from their Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga field office. She said that more Filipinos are expected to return from Malaysia because of the crisis there.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific Air flights from Manila to Kota Kinabalu have not been affected by the standoff.

According to Cebu Pacific communications manager MP.Pestano-Fojas, all CEB flights to Kota Kinabalu are normal.

Military blamed for abuses vs children

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 4): Military blamed for abuses vs children

Reports of rape, extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests, detention and torture have marked the first two years under the Aquino Administration as result of the military counter-insurgency operation in the countryside, a left-leaning women’s party-list group said on Sunday.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus called on President Aquino to scrap Oplan Bayanihan, a joint civilian and military operation that focus on civic action rather than combat operation.

She said that in the past two years at least 64 children have become victims of rape and sexual assault, 14 of extra-judicial killings, 18 of frustrated murders, 15 of illegal arrest and 13 of torture.

“We call on the president to scrap Oplan Bayanihan and immediately pull out troops from the communities. For as long as this government condones human rights violations, the president is accountable for aggravating the culture of impunity,” De Jesus said.

Oplan Bayanihan was the military response to incursion by the Communist New People’s Army in the communities in the countryside. It’s aim is to control a particular community or population instead of defeating a particular enemy.

Oplan Bayanihan was implemented on January 1, 2011 and officials called it “a whole-nation approach.” It was part of the battle for the hearts and minds of Filipinos in the countryside.

Sulu forces hold Sabah cop, officers

From Malaya (Mar 4): Sulu forces hold Sabah cop, officers

THE camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III yesterday said his forces have captured four Malaysian officials following a clash in Semporna town, which resulted in the killing of two Filipino imams and their children.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said his group got information that their followers in Sabah have captured two ranking Malaysian military officers, one police official, and another government official following a clash in the town of Semporna, about 190 miles by road from Lahad Datu.

“Without provocation ay pinagpapatay na lang silang lahat,” Idjirani said in a hastily called press briefing in Maharlika Village, Taguig.

The incident was not reported by Malaysian media.

Idjirani identified the killed imams, or Muslim religious leaders, as Imam Maas and Imam Jul who he said were killed along with their children during a round-up by Malaysian authorities.

He said the Filipinos involved in the clash were not members of the Sultan’s Royal Security Force but were sympathizers.

He said Kiram did not order his followers and sympathizers in Semporna to attack or capture the Malaysians.

He gave the assurance that the captives’ rights would be respected and that they would be used by the Sultanate of Sulu “as an opening witness to the numerous `atrocities’ of the Malaysian government against Filipinos in Sabah.”

Idjirani said they have received reports that reinforcements from the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga arrived in Sabah Saturday night following the Semporna clash and last Friday’s firefight between the group of Rajah Mudda (crown prince) Agbimuddin Kiram and Malaysian security forces that led to the death of 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police commandos.

“This is an organized patriotic act in show of support to this struggle of the Sultanate of Sulu. It did not come or was ordered by Sultan Kiram,” he added.

Their information, he added, is that the groups have around a thousand members who are possibly armed with assault rifles and other weapons.

Kiram’s daughter, Dayang Dayang (princess) Sitti Jacel Kiram, appealed for sobriety among their followers and sympathizers.

“I was directed by my father to make an appeal to our supporters, sympathizers and relatives in Sulu for sobriety because we still believe that this problem can be resolved peacefully,” she said.

She urged the Philippine government to look into information that their relatives in Sabah are being harassed by Malaysian authorities since the standoff started.

She said her family fears that their relatives might bear the brunt of the anger of the Malaysian authorities. She said it was not the first time that Filipinos were harassed and even deported in a crackdown by Malaysia.

An emotional Sultan Kiram, after attending Sunday morning prayers in his house in Maharlika Village, criticized the Aquino administration for allegedly mishandling the Sabah crisis.

“Malamang buong Muslim, buong Tausug magpakamatay dahil dito. This is not a joke, malaking gulo ito. Pilipino kami tapos Malaysia pa ang kanilang tinutulungan,” Kiram said.

The sultanate maintained that 10 of its followers were killed in last Friday’s firefight with Malaysian security forces while four were wounded. Ten others were captured.
Kiram said he is still open to negotiation. Yesterday, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales visited Kiram.

Kiram and Gonzales have ties with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo. Kiram ran under Arroyo’s slate during the 2007 senatorial elections but he lost.

Jacel said government is treating them like terrorists even if what they are fighting for is not for the Kiram family but for the entire Filipino nation.

“Ang sakit po na ang gobyerno mo bilang Pilipino ay mas kinakampihan pa ang Malaysia…Mapayapa ang aming intensyon na tumira sa Sabah at ang pinaglalaban namin dito ay karapatan sa Sabah at hustisya,” she said.

Jacel said communication between Kiram and his brother who remains in Sabah despite the tightening cordon of Malaysian security forces have been cut off but they seem to be all right.

Kiram earlier said that his brother sent him a text message early Saturday saying he and his remaining followers were ready to die.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Ambassador Eduardo Malaya and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jose Brillantes, a former ambassador to Malaysia, met with Royal Malaysian Police Inspector General Tan Sri Ismail Omar in Lahad Datu.
The two diplomats told Ismail that an embassy team is in Lahad Datu in a humanitarian and consular mission for Filipinos affected there.

Malaya asked that the consular team be allowed to extend assistance to the wounded Filipinos and other affected nationals, and to “have access to them once practicable.”
Brilliantes was dispatched from Manila to Malaysia last February 25 to assist the Philippine Embassy in handling the situation.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Sabah issue “is not just a purely legal matter” but also involves foreign policies.

“Masalimuot talaga ito. A decision to be made on this issue will have to entail several considerations,” she said in a text message.

De Lima has been tasked to study the validity of the territorial claim of the Philippines as well as the possible criminal liability of Agbimuddin Kiram who led a force of 180 men and women, of whom 30 were heavily armed, to Sabah.

She said the Department of Justice is already halfway in determining the legality of the sultanate’s claims, and the government is mulling bringing the Sabah issue before the International Court of Justice for resolution to arrest further eruption of violence in the area.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said government has contingencies in case the situation in Sabah escalates and becomes more violent.

She also dismissed Kiram’s request for intervention from the United States.

She also said it is up to actor Robin Padilla, a Muslim, if he would help negotiate for the return of Kiram’s men to the Philippines.

Padilla visited Kiram Saturday and handed a P500,000 check for the Sultan’s dialysis treatment.

Last batch of Sokol ‘copters’ undergoes tests

From the Business Mirror (Mar 4): Last batch of Sokol ‘copters’ undergoes tests

THE last batch of W-3A Sokol helicopters that the government bought from Poland has been placed under flight and certification tests as a prelude to commissioning, a Philippine Air Force (PAF) official said.
“Our crew are putting [the aircrafts] in a series of tests and for certification. Once these requirements are met, commissioning of the four will immediately follow,” PAF Spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said on Monday.
The four 6-ton class helicopters are the last of the eight batches that the Department of National Defense (DND) ordered from PZL-Swidnik SA in 2010.
The first four were delivered last year and were commissioned in March 2012.
The fifth and sixth Sokol helicopters, on the other hand, arrived in the Philippines on November 26, 2012. The seventh and eighth batches were delivered last month.
PZL-Swidnik, an AgustaWestland company, said the Sokols were transported from Lublin Airport to Clark Air Base onboard an An-124 Ruslan large cargo airplane.
The company added that the Sokols are “equipped with the latest navigation and avionics systems including 4-axis autopilot, EFIS system and night-vision goggle- compatible cockpit, allowing them to operate day and night in all weather conditions.”
Each helicopter, it added, can transport up to 11 troops in the cabin or can lift up to 2,100 kilograms, or 4,630 pounds, using its external cargo hook.
Powered by two engines, each with the take-off power of 662 kilowatts, the Sokols reach maximum speed of 260 kilometers per hour or 140 knots.
The company added that each helicopter can fly 734 kilometers or 402 nautical miles or stay airborne for over four hours using its standard fuel tanks.
“I’m pleased that the excellent operational capabilities of the Sokols are greatly appreciated by the Philippine Air Force. I look forward to expanding our close partnership with the customer in the future providing technical support and ongoing operational support for the Sokols,” PZL-Swidnik’s statement quoted Management Board President Mieczysław Majewski as saying.

Palace gives Malaysia free hand in Sabah row, links GMA to siege

From the Business Mirror (Mar 4): Palace gives Malaysia free hand in Sabah row, links GMA to siege

Malacañang won’t call on Malaysian authorities to stop the ongoing military operations against remnants of some 200 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who survived the reported Sabah slaughter at Lahad Datu town in North Borneo last week, despite pleas to resume talks with Kiram’s group to avoid further bloodshed.

At the same time, it linked former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Sabah case, saying the sultan could not have rallied his followers to invade Sabah without external support from a third party.
President Aquino dismissed as “alarmist” reports that Kuala Lumpur was also waging a simultaneous crackdown on Filipinos working in Malaysia. “Hindi ganun ang nangyari [That was not what happened],” he said, adding that he talked with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday and precisely appealed that the 800,000 Filipino workers be spared.
The President told reporters at a news conference at the Palace on Monday that “cases [based on intelligence reports] are being prepared” by the government against still-unnamed suspects reported to be involved in financing the trip of Kiram’s followers to Lahad Datu that ended in the bloody Sabah standoff last week.
He said that on the basis of evidence that will stand in court, charges will be filed against these suspects belonging to “private armed groups” that, according to him, operate “in connivance” with the immediate past administration of now lawmaker Arroyo.
“We are aware that there are those who conspired to bring us to this situation, a situation that has no immediate solutions. Some of their identities are clear to us, while others continue to skulk in the shadows,” Mr. Aquino added.
He pointed out that the family of the sultan “could not possibly have settled on this course of action alone.”
The President warned, “All those who have wronged our country will be held accountable.”
Earlier, Deputy Spokesman Abigail Valte told Palace reporters in a briefing also on Monday that the government was “leaving up to Malaysia” any decision to continue going after Kiram’s followers still holed out in Lahad Datu.
She debunked speculations that the Aquino administration was “lawyering for the Malaysians” instead of helping the Kirams pursue their ancestral and proprietary claim to Sabah that Kuala Lumpur has been leasing from the Sultanate of Sulu, paying rent amounting to about P70,000 a year.
To help neutralize armed Filipino intruders who have killed eight police officers in Malaysia’s bloodiest security emergency in years, Kuala Lumpur sent hundreds of soldiers to Sabah also on Monday.
Nineteen Filipino gunmen have also been slain since Friday in skirmishes that shocked Malaysians unaccustomed to such violence in their country, which borders insurgency-plagued southern provinces in the Philippines and Thailand.
The main group of intruders comprises nearly 200 members of a Philippine Muslim clan, some bearing rifles, who slipped past naval patrols last month, landed at a remote Malaysian coastal village in eastern Sabah state’s Lahad Datu district and insisted the territory was theirs.
Public attention focused also on Monday on how to minimize casualties while apprehending the trespassers, who are surrounded by security forces as well as an undetermined number of other armed Filipinos suspected to have encroached on two other districts within 300 kilometers (200 miles) of Lahad Datu.
Army reinforcements from other states in Malaysia were being deployed to Sabah and would help police

 bolster public confidence by patroling various parts of the state’s eastern seaboard, Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said.
“The situation is under control now,” Hamza added. “There will be cooperation” between the military and the police.
He declined to elaborate on specific strategies or on a call by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for lethal action.
“There is no way out other than launching a counterattack to eliminate” the intruders, Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying on Sunday. “Although many of them will be killed, this cannot be avoided because they had attacked Sabah, and not the other way around.”
Malaysia’s current leader, Prime Minister Najib Razak, declared over the weekend that security forces were authorized to “take any action deemed necessary.”
Some activists say the crisis illustrates an urgent need to review border security and immigration policies for Sabah, where hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have headed in recent decades—many of them illegally—to seek work and stability.
Groups of Filipino militants have occasionally also crossed into Sabah to stage kidnappings, including one that involved island resort vacationers in 2000. Malaysia has repeatedly intensified patrols, but the long and porous sea border with the Philippines remains difficult to guard.
Some in Muslim-majority Malaysia advocated patience in handling the Lahad Datu intruders who arrived on February 9. But the deaths of the Malaysian police officers, including six who were ambushed while inspecting a waterfront village in a separate Sabah district on Saturday, have triggered widespread alarm over the possibility of more such intrusions and demands for a swift resolution.
The Filipinos who landed in Lahad Datu, a short boat ride from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, have rebuffed calls for them to leave, saying ownership documents from the late 1800s prove the territory is theirs. The group is led by a brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu province in Mindanao, while the identities of other suspected Filipino intruders whose presence became known in two more Sabah districts over the weekend are unclear.
Edwin Lacierda, spokesman for President Aquino, reiterated calls in Manila for followers of the Kiram clan to surrender and return home, saying the Philippine government would then look into their property claim to Sabah.
“We continue to ask them that life is a better option than death,” Lacierda told ABS-CBN TV. “These casualties, the wounded, the fatalities, are all the product of what we have been trying to avoid, the bloodshed.”
The Philippine government is continuing to exert pressure on the clan to peacefully end the standoff and is also concerned about the safety of 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah, the spokesman said.
The crisis could have wide-ranging political ramifications in both countries. Some fear that it might undermine peace talks brokered by Malaysia between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim rebel group in southern Philippines.
It also could jeopardize public confidence in Malaysia’s long-ruling National Front coalition, which is gearing up for general elections that must be held by the end of June. The coalition requires strong support from voters in Sabah to fend off an opposition alliance that hopes to end more than five decades of federal rule by the National Front.
To prevent any more supposed intruders from beefing up the sultan’s followers in Sabah, Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said also on Monday that they have deployed 10 ships to Lahad Datu.
“We’re thinking maybe the followers of Sultan Kiram are sending reinforcements,” he explained.
The government has also deployed BRP Tagbanua (AT-296), a transport ship that is awaiting permission from Malaysian authorities to dock at Lahad Datu and start repatriation of Filipino citizens interested to return to the Philippines.
The ship, which can carry 150-200 people, has on board medical and social welfare personnel, emergency supplies and food, all of which would be used for an evacuation.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was scheduled to leave for Kuala Lumpur also on Monday to convey the Philippine request for Malaysian authorities for a full briefing of the situation in Sabah.

AFP officers dismayed over Rabusa’s immunity grant

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 5): AFP officers dismayed over Rabusa’s immunity grant

Some military officers are dismayed over the Ombudsman decision giving immunity to former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) budget officer retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa on the plunder charge slapped against him by a former auditor of the Commission on Audit.

The officers, who requested anonymity, were one in saying that Rabusa was in the center of the top-level corruption in the AFP during his time as budget officer under the defunct AFP office of the deputy chief of staff for comptrollership or J6.

“Not fair,” a senior Army colonel described the decision issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. “He was the architect (of military corruption during his time) and yet he is spared. He should have been in jail with Garcia,” he added.

The officer was referring to discharged Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who was the AFP comptroller and was Rabusa’s immediate superior. Garcia is presently detained at the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP).

“He (Rabusa) is a principal and not a pawn. He was the one orchestrating everything. It’s not fair, but we can’t do anything it’s the decision of an independent body,” another officer based in Camp Aguindalo told The Tribune.

A senior field commander said that Rabusa also pocketed millions of pesos from the military coffer.

“He should surrender his ill gotten wealth. The immunity doesn’t morally exonerate him,” the Mindanao-based officer said.

“This is very disappointing. We expected President Aquino’s ‘daang matuwid’ to really go after corrupt people, that there will be no sacred cows. He (Rabusa) benefitted so much from corrupt activities during his time as budget officer, why spare him?” asked a mid-ranking officer.

The Ombudsman dismissed the plunder case filed against Rabusa by Arturo Besana, former resident auditor of CoA assigned to the AFP from 1994 to 1995 on the ground that he (Rabusa) enjoys immunity as a state witness.

Besana accused Rabusa as the “brains” behind the multi-billion corruption in the AFP during his tenure as budget officer.

But Morales stressed that the complainants against Rabusa could not question the decision of the Department of Justice (DoJ) turning Rabusa as witness.

Rabusa, during the Senate inquiry in 2011, revealed the hundreds of millions of pesos were given as “pabaon” to retiring military chiefs. His revelations led to the filing of criminal cases against three former AFP chiefs, namely, Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu.

Reyes committed suicide at the height of the Senate hearing on the alleged military corruption.

Others implicated by Rabusa were Garcia, former AFP comptroller retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot ; retired Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, who served as executive assistant to Villanueva; Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, who served under Cimatu; Col. Roy Devesa, executive assistant of Reyes.

The AFP, for its part, said it respects the decision of the Ombudsman.

“We fully trust our justice system. The AFP respects the decision of the Ombudsman to dismiss the plunder and graft charges filed against retired Colonel Rabusa,” AFP-Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

“Every member of the AFP understands that the steps undertaken by any judicial or investigating body is part of the Judicial system under the Constitution which we have sworn to defend and uphold at all times,” it added.’s-immunity-grant.html

PHL-US military, police hold crowd control drill

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 4): PHL-US military, police hold crowd control drill

A civil disturbance management exercise was conducted by personnel of the police, 302nd Infantry Brigade and the US Air Force Pacific Command at the PNP headquarters in Sibulan, Negros Oriental Saturday, a press release from the 302nd IB said.

The activity was in line with the PHL-US armed forces joint humanitarian civic action/military operation “Pacific Angel 13-1” starting today until March 9 in Negros Oriental.

The exercise was aimed at enhancing the interoperability of the PNP and AFP in dealing with mass protests and crowd control, the press release also said.

Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Brigade commander, said “We want our troops to be prepared for any eventualities that may arise during the Pacific Angel mission. This is also a good exercise for the PNP and AFP to work jointly in preparation for the May elections.”

The activity was participated in by 18 soldiers from the 79th and 11th IBs, and 15 from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office. Equipped with shields, helmet and batons, they rehearsed the series of CDM formations and learned the techniques of using the telescopic baton, the press release added.

‘Harassment of partylist groups still on’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 4): ‘Harassment of partylist groups still on’

The harassment and intimidation of progressive party-list groups by state security forces have remained unabated, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said Saturday.

Casiño, an independent senatorial candidate of Makabayan (Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan), said even he has not been spared from such harassment.

Makabayan comprises party-list groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women's Party, Kabataan, Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, Migrante and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Despite harassments and intimidation, Casiño said they remain unfazed as they continue to get support from the ordinary people.

A ranking official of ACT in Western Visayas was earlier linked to the killing of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo, who died two years ago, in an encounter with suspected New People’s Army rebels in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Casiño, who recently held campaign sorties in Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava, Negros Occidental, earlier admitted he is a leftist, but not a communist.

“I am not a communist and I am not a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I am not receiving funding from them,” Casiño said.

Casiño, a three-term representative of Bayan Muna party-list, has asked the Commission on Elections to provide an additional allowance of P2,000 for teachers who will man the polling precincts in the May elections.

He said the measly P3,000 honorarium that each teacher receives for their election duties is not enough to compensate for their sacrifices.

“Our teachers make a great contribution to our country. They not only teach the youth and serve as their second parents, they also safeguard our votes,” Casiño said in a statement.

More NPA surrenderees in 2012 - military

From the Philippine Star (Mar 4): More NPA surrenderees in 2012 - military

The number of communist rebels who surrendered increased last year due to government programs that provide livelihood to former insurgents, the military said Monday.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said 367 rebels abandoned the communist movement last year, higher than the 235 recorded in 2011.

“The increase in the number of NPA (New People’s Army) surrenderees can be attributed to the localized integration program undertaken by local chief executives in NPA-affected areas,” Burgos said in an interview.

The integration programs, which vary from one province to another, seek to assist rebels who will lay down their arms to live peaceful lives. The programs involve the giving of livelihood and financial assistance to former insurgents and their dependents.

Burgos said the number of violent incidents initiated by NPA members also decreased last year, dropping to 374 from 473 in 2011 and 501 in 2010.

The military, however, admitted that the insurgents continue to launch attacks against civilians. Burgos cited the recent raid in the Del Monte and Dole plantations in Bukidnon and the ambush in Negros Occidental that left nine persons dead.

“Such modus of force and intimidation to coerce civilians including private firms and individuals to give in to their demands are desperate moves by the NPA who continue to lose their mass base support,” Burgos said.

Security officials have linked the attacks on businesses to the supposed extortion campaign of the rebels.

Despite the supposed gains of the government’s security plan, the military admitted previously that the NPA extorted more than P25 million from individuals and businesses last year. Sources said among the main sources of the extortion revenues are plantations and mining firms.

Burgos said the government is now addressing key issues like poverty and lack of access to basic services to curb the rebels’ recruitment activities. He said these issues are being used by the insurgents to lure civilians to join the rebellion.

Military data showed that there are about 4,000 communist rebels in the country.

Sabah crisis sparks 'cyberwar'

From the Philippine Star (Mar 4): Sabah crisis sparks 'cyberwar'

A still from a video posted by hacking alliance Anonymous Philippines for their Malaysian counterparts on Saturday.

A hacker war between "cyber armies" from the Philippines and Malaysia has set off alongside the escalating tension in Sabah due to the clashes between the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces.

On Monday, the "Philippine Cyber Army" continued with its onslaught claiming to have attacked 175 Malaysia-based sites including state-owned pages.

Individual Malaysian hackers appeared to have started the attacks on Philippine websites last Saturday, posting online threats and videos meaning to send a message to the Philippine government to keep away from the region of Sabah.

The Malaysian group first defaced the government-owned site of the municipality Moal Boal, Cebu.

"Bring your ship and take back your dogs. Stop killing Malaysian army and police. Otherwise, we will attack Philippine Government websites," said a message that took over's homepage on Saturday, signed by screen names of hackers supposedly from Malaysia.

Another message from hacking group "Anonymous Malaysia" was found over several government and private businesses' websites on Saturday, with a message addressed to "All Armed Forces Philippines" to drive Filipinos off Lahad Datu, Sabah, where the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu marched last February to stake their claim on the area.

Almost instantly, the "Anonymous Philippine Cyber Army" and related hackers retaliated starting with a call to the Philippine government to secure its online properties from Malaysian hackers.

"Nalulungkot po ako. Hindi po talaga maganda ang nangyayari. Anonymous versus Anonymous ang kalalabasan," Filipino hackers posted on the same page, referring to 'Anonymous' as a supposedly "united" worldwide alliance of cyberpunks.

The Filipino group then posted a warning video to their Malaysian counterparts and went on to hack about 20 private websites under Malaysia's national domain (.my) on Sunday.


The official Facebook page of Anonymous Malaysia on Monday posted a graphic claiming that they have made "peace" with hackers from the Philippines and vowed not to push through with attacks.

"Let us help both The Philippines and Malaysia unite, not find a reason to fight," the hackers said.

The decision to cease the cyberwars appeared to have been called by the international Anonymous body, urging both groups to "stop" those who have joined the "petty cyber-war."

"The petty cyber-war will gain us nothing but wrong impressions from ordinary people. Our goal is to peacefully unite the collective consciousness of humanity," the letter read.

Young rebel leader surrenders to police in Benguet

From the Philippine Star (Mar 4): Young rebel leader surrenders to police in Benguet

A 20-year-old communist guerilla turned himself in to policemen, bolstering efforts by the government to bring down the number of rebels operating in the highland region.

Juliver Linglingon Hambon alias “Ka Joker”, a native of sitio Nampaling, Barangay Namal, Asipulo town in Ifugao, surrendered after negotiations initiated by Ifugao policemen led by Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro.

An active member of the New Peoples Army’s (NPA) Nona Del Rosario Command operating in the western part of Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, Ka Joker went down from his group’s mountain lair on February 21 without a firearm in Barangay Amduntog, Asipulo town, also in Ifugao.

Casimiro said that Ka Joker is ranked No. 15 in their Periodic Status Report on Threat Group (PSRTG) watch list for the 3rd quarter in 2012.

Cordillera police director Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong said: “with the social integration program of the local government units to improve the living condition and raise the social stature of the rebel returnee, NPA rebels surrender and return to the folds of the law."

Last month, a ranking rebel leader in remote Lacub town in Abra also surrendered to the authorities.

Connie Santiago Valera, 29, who is using the aliases "Ka James" and "Ka Yasser” surrendered in Sitio Abubutok, Barangay Lenneng, Licuan-Baay town in Abra. The town is the gateway to Lacub town from Bangued, the province’s capital town.

Magalong said that Valera was an alleged ranking leader of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and is listed as No. 5 in the police regional office's 4th quarter “Order of Battle of 2012”.

The communist movement, meanwhile, had denied that Valera was a ranking leader of the group.

Misuari volunteers as Sabah mediator

From Rappler (Mar 4): Misuari volunteers as Sabah mediator

I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in Davao last Sunday, March 3. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in Davao last Sunday, March 3. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has told Malaysia he is willing to help in talks to resolve the Sabah standoff peacefully.

“It is my message to Malaysian Prime Minister Najjib Razak that I am ready to send my grand-nephew who is his cousin to open up talks,” Misuari told reporters at the celebration of his 71st birthday here on Sunday, March 3.

Misuari said he is also willing to personally go to Malaysia to help end the crisis.
Malaysia has not responded to his offer, Misuari added. But he said he was concerned about the children and women in Lahad Datu who "are now facing starvation and danger."

Misuari also denied allegations he is funding the armed men involved in the Sabah standoff.

Followers of the Sultan of Sulu sailed to Sabah last month to revive the Sabah claim. The Philippine government appealed to them to return home but they refused.

The situation turned violent last Friday, March 1, when Malaysian security forces launched an assault on Lahad Datu, killing 12 Filipinos. The assault also killed two Malaysian police.

Dr. Samsula Adju, member of the Bangsamoro National People’s Parliament, said the move made by Sultan Jamalul Kiram only shows that the Sabah claim is very much alive.

He added that the MNLF would also not call for the surrender of those who opted to “return to their home” but would instead urge the Philippine government to act on the issue. “This is an active claim. I want the Philippine government to act with determination. These men would not go there and sacrifice their lives if only the government handled this issue,” Adju said.

Misuari had enjoyed good ties with Malaysia in the past as it allowed the MNLF to seek sanctuary in Sabah under the Marcos regime.

But Malaysian security forces also arrested him in Sabah in 2001, after he fled Sulu following a botched revolt in the province. The arrest led to his detention in the Philippines.

Malaysia beefs up security in Sabah

From Rappler (Mar 4): Malaysia beefs up security in Sabah

Malaysia vowed to beef up security Monday, March 4 in Sabah, where at least 26 people have been reported killed after a bizarre invasion by Philippine followers of one of the heirs of the former Sultan of Sulu.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under pressure over Malaysia's worst security crisis in years, has authorized a "doubling" of police and armed forces deployed in the tense state of Sabah on Borneo island.

"An additional two army battalions have been dispatched to Sabah," Najib, who has vowed to root out the intruders, was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.

Malaysians have been shocked by the militant incursion, which began when an estimated 100-300 people landed on the shores of Sabah on February 12, claiming the state for the heir to a former Philippine sultanate.

The armed intrusion has embarrassed Malaysian premier Najib -- who must call elections by June -- by exposing lax border security and fuelling perceptions of lawlessness and huge illegal immigration in Sabah.

A standoff between the intruders and security forces who have them pinned down in the farming village of Tanduo erupted in a bloody firefight Friday that left 12 gunmen and 2 police officers dead.

Semporna firefight

Another gun battle erupted in Semporna, 300 kilometres (190 miles) away, on Saturday night, dramatically escalating tensions and raising the overall toll of reported dead to at least 18 militants and eight police officers.

It remains unclear whether the Semporna confrontation was resolved or is ongoing.
Followers of the 74-year-old Manila-based Islamic leader, Jamalul Kiram III, say the gunmen are ready to die to defend his claim to Sabah, which was once controlled by the now-defunct sultanate.

The fresh weekend clash in Semporna -- and a police claim that they were pursuing yet another group of gunmen in a nearby town -- has sparked fears of further infiltration by armed Filipinos along the coast.

The exact identities of the gunmen remains a mystery, but Malaysian armed forces chief Zulkifeli Zin told a press conference in Sabah on Sunday that the intruders appeared to have combat experience.

Their "insurgency guerrilla technique is quite good," he was quoted saying.

Not first raid by Filipino militants

Sabah has seen previous smaller-scale cross-border raids from Islamic militants and other bandits from the adjacent southern Philippines, which has suffered for decades from a campaign by Muslim insurgents.

Malaysian authorities have not clearly said whether the different armed groups in the current troubles are related, instead issuing calls for calm, saying the situation is under control.

The Star newspaper has reported, however, that thousands of families fled Semporna in panic.

Sabah's police chief Hamza Taib was quoted by Malaysian press saying an armed man in commando gear was killed by angry villagers near Semporna
It was not clear whether he was one of the six militants reported killed in Saturday's shooting.

The Sulu sultanate's power faded about a century ago but it has continued to receive nominal Malaysian payments for Sabah under a lease deal inherited from European colonial powers.

Sabah standoff heads online

From Rappler (Mar 4): Sabah standoff heads online

THE STANDOFF ONLINE. The tensions in Sabah have reached a point where online hackings are now reportedly taking place.

The Sabah standoff is making its way online, it seems. A number of reports from a Philippine tech news site points to hacking attacks from both Malaysian and Philippine hackers over the weekend.

The Pinoy Tech News website has 3 reports from March 2 and 3, with it citing that Malaysian hackers appeared to have started the online attacks by taking down or defacing a number of websites, with Philippine hackers striking back. The hack-slinging continued over the weekend, with further attacks from both sides on a number of non-government websites.

SITE DOWNTIME. Attempts to access redirected to this login page at 10:46 am.SITE DOWNTIME. Attempts to access redirected to this login page at 10:46 am.

According to the reports, the Philippines also retaliated by attacking Malaysian government websites. Checking the Malaysian government portal earlier today (10:46 am of March 4) showed a login screen rather than the actual page.

BACK TO NORMAL? Malaysia's government portal back online as of 11:08 am.BACK TO NORMAL? Malaysia's government portal back online as of 11:08 am.
By 11:08 am of March 4, the site seemed to return to normal operations.

The Star of Malaysia also reported on the attacks, adding that "CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive officer Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab said that the Government was well aware of the matter but declined further comment."

Internet users hoping to check Malaysian and Philippine government websites will want to take some precautions when surfing these pages and, at the very least, expect potential downtime on these sites should online hostilities increase.

Aquino says Sabah is a conspiracy

From Rappler (Mar 4): Aquino says Sabah is a conspiracy

President Benigno Aquino III is not changing his position to call on Filipinos holed up in Sabah to surrender. There is no room for any negotiation if they continue to bear arms, he said.

"Hindi pa rin nagbabago ang panawagan ko sa angkan ni Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. Hindi risonable ang pang-unawa kung nakatutok ang iyong arnas sa mukha ng kausap (My call to the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram has not changed: it is not reasonable to ask for understanding, if your weapons are pointed at the faces of those you are speaking with)," Aquino said.

"Kung gusto mo talagang umusad ang usapan, tanggalin mo muna ang banta sa kaligtasan ng iyong kausap," the President added.

Amid criticism of how the government handled the standoff, Aquino said the Sabah situation is a result of a conspiracy.

"Mulat tayong may mga taong nagkuntsabahan upang humantong tayo sa sitwasyon na ito. Isang sitwasyon na walang agarang solusyon. Ilan po sa kanila ay nakikita natin habang ang iba naman ay agkukubi pa rin sa dilim (We are aware that there are those who conspired to bring us to this situation—a situation that has no immediate solutions. Some of their identities are clear to us, while others continue to skulk in the shadows)," the President said in a press conference on Monday, March 4.

Aquino said Sultan Jamalul Kiram III alone could not have ordered the move. "Hindi kakayanin ng angkan ni Sultan Jamalul Kiram III na gawin mag-isa ang gaintong pagkilos. Kapansinpansin din ang nag-iisang linya ng kritiko para gatungan ang malubha nang sitwasyon (The family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram could not possibly have settled on this course of action alone. We have also noticed how our critics have stuck to a single messaging line to exacerbate a situation that has already grown dire)," the President said.

Aquino blames them for putting the lives of about 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah in danger. "Alam natin ang delubyong tadhana ang may gawa at kung alin ang sinadya. Ang masakit ngayon, pinili ng ilang tao na mangyari ito at sadyang nilagay sa panganib ang napakaraming Pilipino (We can differentiate events that the turbulent winds of fate have caused, from those that have been orchestrated. What is regrettable is that there were those who chose for this to happen, and, in so doing, chose to place many Filipinos in danger)," he said.

Aquino has a message to the so-called conspirators. "Sa mga taong nasa likod nito, ngayon pa lang sinasabi ko sa inyo, hindi kayo magtatagumpay. Pananaugtin natin ang nagkasala sa bansa (To the people who are behind this, even now, I tell you: you will not succeed. All those who have wronged our country will be held accountable)," he said.

Citing intelligence reports, Aquino said they have already identified "persons of interest" involved in the plot to move against Sabah. Cases are already being prepared against them, he added.

The President did not name names but he mentioned a "connivance allegedly by certain members of the past administration in the formation of this (armed group), which is a violation of the Constitution and various other laws of the land."

Asked if the conspiracy could lead to former President Gloria Arroyo, Aquino responded: "You are asking me for a conclusion that I wish I had right now. But, again, unless we have the evidence that can be brought before a court that will prove the case, I will not make an accusation," he said.

Aquino said the government is aware that the situation could get worse, but that the other option is a peaceful end to the conflict. Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario is now on his way to Malaysia to work for a possible peaceful resolution to the situation.

Aquino also downplayed the reported crackdown on Filipinos in Sabah. It is "alarmist," Aquino said.

Aquino said the response of Malaysia against the Filipinos in Sabah should be put in context. "Let us be frank with each other: If the situation were reversed, and armed groups entered our own community, would it be possible for us to do nothing? Would we not ask the government for help? Whatever your nationality may be, if there exists a threat to your safety, you would naturally retaliate and find a way to remove your citizens from harm’s way," the President said in Filipino.

Sabah, Malaysia's 'Wild East'

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): Sabah, Malaysia's 'Wild East'

Malaysian soldiers man a security checkpoint in Semporna, the Sabah town where new clashes erupted after the initial encounter in Lahad Datu between police commanders and followers of the sultan of Sulu. (AFP)

Sabah is in crisis after militant followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III invaded to stake the sultanate’s historical claim to the area. Following are key details on Sabah and the turmoil.

What is Sabah?

Sabah is a resource-rich Malaysian state about the size of Ireland on the northern tip of remote Borneo.

It is marked by huge oil palm plantations, but also some of the world's best scuba diving and rainforest-clad mountain ridges that have earned it the nickname of Malaysia's "Wild East."

Along with Sarawak, it is one of two Malaysian states on the island, which also is shared with the tiny sultanate of Brunei and Indonesia's Kalimantan state. The capital is Kota Kinabalu.

Who lives in Sabah?

Sabahans attest to a distinct identity from mainland Malaysia, which is dominated by Muslim ethnic Malays while Sabah's traditional population has been overwhelmingly made up of Bornean tribes, many of who are now Christian.

The federal government in Kuala Lumpur has faced accusations for more than three decades that it illegally gave hundreds of thousands of Muslim foreigners citizenship in return for votes for the ruling coalition.

The government has denied the charge.

But Sabah's population has surged from some 600,000 citizens in 1970 to more than three million now -- more than double the national growth rate -- amid rising tensions between native Sabahans and foreign migrants.

The foreigners, mainly poor economic migrants from the neighboring southern Philippines and Indonesia, are blamed by locals for crime, drug abuse, competition for jobs.

Sabah's government said recently 28 percent of the state's population was of foreign origin, Malaysian media reported.

What caused the current crisis?

The Sulu sultanate once controlled the Sulu islands in the Muslim southern Philippines and part of Borneo, including Sabah, but the advance of European colonialism eroded its powers.

It officially lost Sabah in 1878, via a loosely worded contract, to a British trading company that paved the way for it to eventually join the new nation of Malaysia in 1963.

While Sabah has prospered, the remote Sulu islands are among the poorest parts of the Philippines and a breeding ground for insurgents who dream of a Muslim homeland that is independent from the government in Manila.

Descendants of the Sulu sultans have continued to receive nominal rent from Malaysia of about $1,700 per year for Sabah under a deal inherited from European powers.
The intruders' exact demands remain unclear, but they have expressed resentment with the ongoing state of affairs.

Have similar incursions happened before?

Sabah has seen previous smaller-scale cross-border raids from Islamic militants and bandits from the adjacent southern Philippines, which has suffered for decades from insurgency by Muslim militants.

In the biggest incident, the Abu Sayyaf seized 21 mostly Western holidaymakers as hostages at the Malaysian scuba diving resort of Sipadan off Sabah, taking them to the southern Philippines. They were later ransomed.

Two Malaysians were kidnapped from a plantation in the area in November and were believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines.

What is at stake?

The incident risks stoking tensions between Sabahans and Filipinos.

Meanwhile, the exposure of lax security could erode support for the Malaysian ruling coalition in Sabah, an important battleground state in what are expected to be tightly fought elections due by June.

The Philippines also is watching closely for any impact on a framework agreement reached in October with the main Muslim separatist group in its south to end a decades-long insurgency that has killed more than 150,000 people.

The security crisis could also adversely impact tourism in Sabah, an increasing draw for tourists destined for its white-sand beaches, top-class scuba diving and remaining pockets of pristine rainforest.

US embassy showcases diplomacy, development and defense services in Tacloban

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): US embassy showcases diplomacy, development and defense services in Tacloban

The US Embassy launched its ‘America in 3D’ roadshow in Tacloban Robinsons Mall, where consular services were offered. JOSEPH HOLANDES UBALDE, INTERAKSYON.COM

With impressive economic indicators and a rich history, Tacloban City became the fifth city where the US Embassy launched its ‘America in 3D’ road show ON Sunday.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez welcomed to Tacloban US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr, who, aside from noting the potential of the city, also appreciated the two nations’ shared history.

Tacloban was the site of the iconic Leyte landing of Gen. Douglas McArthur and US troops in 1945 following intense battle in the Leyte Gulf, the greatest naval battle in history. It is where the general fulfilled his oft-quoted vow to Filipinos who had faced Japanese occupiers for three years, “I shall return.”

At the launch of America in 3D in Leyte, Ambassador Thomas told InterAksyon, “Tacloban is an emerging market. All the economic indicators are outstanding...we have American-Filipino history here and Tacloban is an area on the rise.”

With the two-day program, the US Embassy highlighted the key services it offers to Filipinos here in the country and those who aspire to go to America. Aside from its consular services, the US Embassy also did several outreach programs in the area.

Tacloban, which became a Highly Urbanized City in 2008, is tagged as the gateway to Eastern Visayas. It has been ranked by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as the 4th city with the highest number of deposits, hitting the P42 billion mark in 2012.

Romualdez also stressed that Tacloban is a university city, hosting the University of the Philippines-Leyte campus, Leyte Normal University and the Eastern Visayas State University.

"It is time the rest of the Philippines “sees the promise that Tacloban holds,” Romualdez said. “We are especially glad that our friends from the US Embassy are showing us what they can offer the Taclobanons, and we in return, can offer as a city.”

Aside from Tacloban, the past cities where America in 3D was launched are Baguio, Laoag, Iloilo and Cebu.

Semporna, Sabah death toll up to 12, situation 'under control' - Malaysian media

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): Semporna, Sabah death toll up to 12, situation 'under control' - Malaysian media

The death toll from the violence that erupted in the town of Semporna in Sabah rose to 12 even as Malaysian authorities declared the situation "under control" after clashing with supporters of the Sulu sultan on Saturday, Malaysian media reported.

Police Inspector General Tan Sri Ismail Omar was quoted by media reports as saying that the body of another Malaysian policeman was recovered late Sunday, bringing to six the total number of Malaysians killed in the clash.

Bernama, Malaysia's national news agency, said six other "intruders" or supporters of the sultan were killed.

The camp of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III earlier said among those killed were an imam and four children. Another imam was also wounded.

Malaysian police did not confirm this report.

Over 20 have been killed on both sides since violence erupted last week as Malaysian authorities moved in on the gunmen after weeks of standoff.

In a press conference Sunday night, Ismail said the bodies of the six policemen were brought to the Semporna Hospital.

"Their identities will be revealed to their respective families before being posted on the official website of the Royal Malaysian police," Ismail was quoted as saying.

Malaysia's The Star said local police also accounted for 19 of the 25 policemen caught in the ambush and police have declared the incident as "resolved."

Malaysian authorities reported the incident as an "ambush" in Kampung Sri Jaya in the Semulu settlement late Saturday but the camp of the sultan claimed local authorities attacked them first.

Ismail said police were approaching a house in the village to investigate reports on the presence of armed men in the area.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities denied that hostages were being held by the Sulu sultan's followers, adding that situation in the village has returned to "normal."

Sulu sultanate says fresh encounter between Raja Muda, Malaysian forces

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): Sulu sultanate says fresh encounter between Raja Muda, Malaysian forces

Malaysian police attend to the body of a gunman killed during a shootout with soldiers in Simunul village in Sabah. (photo by M. Jegathesan, AFP)

A fresh clash broke out Monday afternoon between followers of the Sulu sultanate and Malaysian forces who have been hunting them down in Sabah, the daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said.

Princess Jacel Kiram told a press briefing that the new encounter started just after their last phone conversation with the crown prince, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led more than 200 of the sultanate’s followers to Sabah in a bid to press their claim to the territory early last month.

“He told us he had finally bathed, sipped hot soup and eaten,” she said. “We were even joking with him, asking him if he had put on perfume.”

This was around half-past four, she said.

“A few minutes later, we received a text message from his close-in” security detail “that a new encounter was starting,” she added.

The princess said they have yet to receive more information about the new incident.
The group led by Agbimuddin, brother of the sultan, first clashed with Malaysian forces last Friday.

The sultanate said 10 of their followers were killed, four wounded and 10 others captured in the clash, which they blamed Malaysian police of instigating. Two Malaysian police commandos were also killed.

Since then, clashes have also broken out in other areas in Sabah, bringing the death toll as of the weekend to close to 30.

Armed men linked to NGCP tower bombings nabbed in Catigbian

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4): Armed men linked to NGCP tower bombings nabbed in Catigbian

The two armed men arrested in Catigbian for violating the Comelec gun ban late night on February 26 reportedly had open communication with ranking officials of the New People’s Army (NPA) liquidation squad, Special Partisan Unit (SPARU), operating in Negros Oriental.

Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch deputy chief, PInsp. Pelagio Rosagaran identified the suspects as as Alberto Pancho, 30, single and a resident of barangay Bugang in Bilar and Cristuto Lastomen, 21, single and resident of barangay Villaflorm, Carmen.

According to some classified information, the suspects are comrades of another suspect in the blasting the tower base of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines in Barangay Sta. Catalina, Sagbayan town sometime in 2011 and in Barangay Camanaga in San Miguel in June last year.

After their arrest last week, investigators filed complaints against them related to illegal possession of high-powered firearm and ammunition based on Republic Act 8294, and violation of the Comelec gun ban bassed on Comelec Resolution 9561.

Catigbian police officer-in-charge, PInsp. Rufo Potane, narrated that at about 9:30 in the evening on February 26, his team conducted a mobile patrol when they chanced on the suspects. With Potane were SPO4 Leopedro Mortejo Jr., PO3 Vito Cosmo, PO3 Nelson Januhan, PO3 Danilo Cayme, PO3 Ralph Renoblas, PO2 Vicente Garcia Jr., and PO2 Wenefredo Limocon.

Upon reaching a blind curve in barangay Alegria at around 10:30 that evening, the police mobile patrol team spotted two suspicious persons on standby on board a Rusi motorcycle painted with combination of black and white and bearing the plate no. 5560 IR.

The police team stopped the patrol car in front of the suspects, but they attempted to draw their firearm tucked in their waist, prompting the police officers to point their service firearms at them. After introducing themselves as police officers, the police team ordered the suspicious persons to raise their hands. The police officers confiscated from the suspects, a Colt .45 caliber pistol with serial no. 813678 with six live ammunitions inside the magazine, Beretta 9mm caliber pistol with serial no. M250547—a PNP property and 15 live ammunitions inside the pistol’s magazine.

The black backpack also confiscated from the suspects contained six cellphones of different models, a Cannon camera, two USB flash drives, a Kenwood handheld radio, a map of the Philippines, clothes and other personal belongings, and cash amounting to P18,220. Authorities also confiscated the suspects’ motorcycle.

Upon receiving the report, Bohol Police Provincial Office (BPPO) launched a follow-up operation. The joint operation the following day, involved elements of Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB), Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, Criminal Investigation and Detection Team (CIDT), 2nd Special Forces Battalion, Regional Intelligence Unit 7, and Military Intelligence Group (MIG) of Region 7—led by PCInsp. George Caña.

At about 2:30 in the afternoon on February 27, the composite police-military team proceeded to barangay Alegria, Catigbian after obtaining information that the two improvised explosive devices were left in a bushy area in barangay Alegria, Catigbian. According to the information, Pancho and Lastomen, and four others who remain at large were the ones who left it there.

In front of the new Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Bohol chapter president, Lawyer Menedio Thadeu Bernido, Lastomen voluntarily confessed that their group placed the two sacks accessories for an improvised explosive device assembly and two improvised explosive devices in the area.

After the PIDMB at the Bohol Police Provincial Office (BPPO) took down his statement, they proceeded to the area described by Lastomen and, indeed, saw the two sacks.

The first sack they checked contained containing 30 meters of electrical wiring cord, eight meters of orange nylon rope, two battery packs—one with small batteries, the other had 18 big batteries. The other sack they recovered at the site contained two improvised explosive devices. The composite team of police and military took custody of the items recovered from the area after taking pictures of them for documentation.

There were also reports linking Pancho and Latomen with a certain Ruben Nabas, also known as “Elmer” to some, “Padi” or “Rex” to others who is allegedly a member of the SPARU.

Reports from 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental also linked Nabas to rebellion. In fact, a warrant of his arrest has been issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 63 based in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental for rebellion. He is allegedly the NPA vice-chair of the group operating in Negros Oriental. Nabas was implicated in the killing of PInsp Pelecio Domino, who was chief of police of Talibon town and the attack on police camps in 1999.