Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sabah villagers kill armed MNLF member - report

From the Philippine Star (Mar 4): Sabah villagers kill armed MNLF member - report

A member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was killed by a group of teenagers as he attempted to round up villagers in Kampung Senallang Lama in Lahad Datu, Sabah, a Malaysian online news website reported.

The Star Online report came as Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF's Islamic Command Council, confirmed on Sunday that the group has sent reinforcements to assist members of the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu in Lahad Datu.

The Malaysian online news site's report said that the armed man described as a former commander of the MNLF, "knocked on doors ordering the villagers to assemble in one area before marching them to the mosque."

It reported that the MNLF member, armed with an M16 assault rifle and a grenade launcher, was already 60 years old.

The report said that a group of teenagers attacked and killed the MNLF member as he was guiding his hostages to the mosque.

The reported quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that the slain gunman was involved in a shootout with security forces in Kampung Sri Jaya at the seaside village of Simunul in Semporna.

The Star Online and Bernama, Malaysia's national news website, reported that six Malaysian policemen and six "intruders" from Sulu were killed in the clash in Simunul on Saturday night.

The Sultanate of Sulu on Sunday claimed that five Malaysian officers were killed and four ranking security officials were held captive by Filipino residents of Sabah.

It claimed that the Filipinos attacked an army convoy and a district police headquarters after Malaysian forces killed an Imam and his four sons in Lahad Datu.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultanate, said that Malaysian forces suspected that the Imam was harboring Alepiuya Kiram, another brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

The royal army number to nearly 300 that landed on Lahad Datu weeks ago was led by Kiram's other brother, Agbimuddin.

At least 12 people were killed in an encounter between Agbimuddin's group and Malaysian forces on Friday.


Number of NPA Surrenderees Rose by 56%, NPA Violence Drops by 21%

From the Armed Forces of the  Philippines Website (Mar 4): Number of NPA Surrenderees Rose by 56%, NPA Violence Drops by 21%

The Armed Forces of the Philippines reported the number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels that returned to the government fold last year rose to 367 from 235 recorded in 2011. This accounted for the successful implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan particularly the Localized Integration Program (LIP).

The IPSP Bayanihan also sustained its momentum by posting a 63% increase in the total of neutralized communist rebels in 2012, according to various reports from field units of the military.

Also, the number of NPA-initiated violent incidents (NIVIs) dropped by 21% from 473 in 2011 to 374 in 2012. This shows the continuing decline of NPA-initiated violent incidents during the implementation of IPSP Bayanihan. Before it was launched in 2011, the AFP recorded 501 NIVIs in 2010.
The violent armed group continues to attack civilians and non-combatants as demonstrated in their recent attack in Negros Occidental that killed nine civilians and their raid of the DOLE Philippines and Del Monte Plantation. 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.
Clergy, Peace Advocates Condemn Negros Massacre

Meanwhile, the Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental condemned the NPA’s attack on civilians that also wounded 12 people on January 27.
“Those lucky ones, who narrowly escaped death from the bursts of gunfire randomly aimed at them as passengers of the truck and who repeatedly identified themselves as civilians, witnessed how the killers cold-bloodedly and heartlessly ‘finished off’ some of the wounded one by one by firing at their heads at close range and in some instances, in spite of pleadings to be spared,” said the statement.
The statement further denounced the distortion of facts when the NPAs admitted the massacre. “Not only that this admission came almost after a week had elapsed, it came with distortions of the facts, a bundle of justifications and promises of indemnification which were meant to sanitize the barbarity of the act and impress the world of the group’s faithful adherence to agreements it signed with the government,” the statement said.
On the other hand, the Peace Advocates of Negros also slammed the execution of pleading survivors of the ambush, saying that “no motive is so compelling, no cause so demanding and no ideology so righteous that it will justify the murder of so many innocent [civilians].”
“While we support the initiatives of the government to talk peace with the communist group in pursuit of just and lasting peace for our country, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to sustain its gains from the IPSP Bayanihan in our operations against the violent armed rebels through focused and intelligence-based security operations. We will continue in our effort to convince the NPA to abandon the armed violence that continues to hamper growth and development in our country,” Gen Bautista said.

Human-rights violations under Aquino on upswing–Karapatan

From the Business Mirror (Mar 5): Human-rights violations under Aquino on upswing–Karapatan

KILLINGS under President Aquino’s watch have gone from bad to worse with the increased militarization in areas believed to be strongholds of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the human-rights group Karapatan-Alliance for Advancement of People’s Right said.
In its 2012 year-end report, Karapatan said that “killings have gone back to being gruesome” and “attacks against the people are marked with contemptuous boldness.”
Extra-judicial killings, the group said, aggravates the sorry-state of people who are still mired in poverty, reeling from high prices of basic commodities and services, unemployment, measly wages, sham land reform and inadequate housing.
Karapatan said in a statement that even the government’s campaign against poverty which is anchored on cash dole-outs under the controversial Conditional Cash Transfer Program or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is under question, as more cases of corruption surface.
“No hope can be pinned on this President whose government fails to lighten and, instead, adds to the burden that the people, especially from the basic sectors, endure,” the report stated.
The group, which documents cases of human-rights violations in the Philippines, reported that 13 out of the recorded 51 cases of extra-judicial killings in 2012 involve minors as victims.
The group has recorded a total of 137 cases of extra-judicial killing since Aquino assumed power in June 2010.
Aside from extra-judicial killings, the group recorded 14 cases of enforced disappearances, 3 cases of rape involving minors, 154 cases of frustrated killings, 72 cases of torture, 229 cases of illegal arrests, 269 cases of illegal arrests and detention, 203 cases of illegal search and seizure, 205 cases of physical assault and injury, and 27,308 cases of threat, harassment and intimidation.
The group also reported that 8,336 individuals were forcibly evicted, and 30,260 people were forcibly evacuated.
According to Karapatan, the year 2012 saw increased military operations and deployment of more troops in areas believed to be strongholds of the CPP-NPA.
Large-scale mining operations are protected and guarded against resistance from the affected communities, which resulted in the forced evacuation and displacement of thousands of tribesmen and farmers from their land, and hundreds of cases of human-rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearance, illegal arrests and detention and torture, Karapatan reported.

The group cited the case of Jenesis Ambason, a tribal leader in Agusan del Sur, who was shot and tortured to death. Ambason’s head had shrunk owing to heavy beatings.
Another victim, Ely Oguis, a barangay council member in Albay, was shot and beheaded.
Karapatan also cited the killing of the members of the Capion family in Mindanao, where witnesses allegedly heard a military official issue an order to finish off the two children who survived the shooting “so there would be no witnesses left.”
“The Capion massacre typifies the collusion of the civilian bureaucracy, the military and big business interest and, at the same time, an example of how the Armed Forces turns its guns against unarmed civilians when they fail to get their targets,” the report added.
Karapatan is blaming Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the Philippine version of the US Counterinsurgency Guide, for the worsening human-rights situation in the Philippines.
Ironically, the group said this extra-judicial killings and other form of human-rights violation continue with impunity.
While Karapatan noted Mr. Aquino signed Administrative Order 35, creating a “high-level interagency superbody” that will investigate cases of extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture, among the nine members of the interagency body are the chiefs of the Armed Forces and the National Police, the two institutions which the group said, are the primary perpetrators of human-rights violations.
Karapatan, added that Mr. Aquino’s Executive Order 79, which outlines the Aquino administration’s mining policy, served as marching orders to the “Investment Defense Forces”–the Army, the Citizens Armed Forces Geographic Units and the paramilitary groups that are accredited as Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA)— to clear the mining areas, and remove hindrances such as a resistant populace.
“In several instances, the military even tried to cover up the killings, claiming that the civilian victims were NPA rebels killed in an encounter with soldiers,” the report stressed.
As in the cases of farmer-leaders, indigenous peoples’ leaders who oppose large-scale mining, logging, and plantations operated by foreign companies are first tagged as supporters, sympathizers, if not members of the CPP-NPA themselves, before being killed, abducted or arrested and detained.
Urban poor leaders who fight back during demolitions are not spared by state forces, according to Karapatan, citing the cases of Arnel Leonor, 20, a youth resident of Silverio Compound, Parañaque, who was killed in one such violent demolition on April 23, and John Khali Lagrimas, 14, who was shot and killed while standing on the roof of a furniture shop that was on the row of houses to be demolished in Tarlac City a few weeks after Leonor’s death.
Karapatan said 2013 is a challenging year for the people’s movement to be vigilant and determined in its pursuit of social justice and genuine democracy.
The Aquino administration, the group said, will continue to use deception, and is expected to be more politically repressive and might even go to the extent of limiting the flow of information like imposing an anti-cybercrime law.
“The Aquino administration is set to consolidate its rule in the midterm elections in May. The present line up of the majority of the candidates reflects the dominance of the same ruling elite that has exploited and oppressed the poor majority in our country. It is still the same names, the same economic and political interests,” the group warned.
Worse, Karapatan noted that 2013 is also the end of Phase I of IPSP Bayanihan. This year IPSP Bayanihan “author” Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista was appointed Armed Forces chief of staff, Karapatan said.
“It was Bautista, who declared the bare-faced lie that the fugitive Gen. Jovito Palparan is the last of his kind in the military, despite the continued violations committed by the military against the people and in the interest of the ruling class and the US,” the group noted.
“Already the uptrend in human-rights violations is observable, especially the incidents of extrajudicial killing, illegal arrests and detention, bombings and forced evacuation,” Karapatan warned.

Army: P23-million property damaged by NPA attacks in South since 2010

From the Business Mirror (Mar 5): Army: P23-million property damaged by NPA attacks in South since 2010

THE Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division said nearly P1 million worth of property a month was damaged due to attacks by communist guerrillas.
“From 2010 to 2012, a total of P23 million, or almost P1 million a month, worth of property has been damaged as a result of 16 NPA [New People’s Army]-initiated violent incidents against business establishments and government projects,” Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said.
Mabanta, 3rd ID commander, said the damage included sugar-cane plantations, heavy equipment, trucks, farm tractors and facilities, and telecommunication sites that were burned and destroyed in attacks in the past two years.
These attacks, Mabanta said, also led to the death of 46 people, nine of whom were killed in an ambush in January in La Castellana.
Mabanta described such attacks as “desperate attempts to counter the government’s efforts in bringing our country into a just society and lasting peace for a sustained development. We now have a good economy and yet, elements of the New People’s Army are continuously disregarding the law and are the ones who do not want progress in our country.”
Mabanta also accused the NPA of damaging farm equipment after “extortion” demands are not met, citing the case in Poblacion, Lemery, Iloilo in 2010.
This was also the case in the attack on Philex Mining Corp. in 2011, according to Mabanta, when suspected NPA guerrillas attacked the mining site in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.
However, in a statement on its web site, the Communist Party of the Philippines said it “punished” Philex Mining “because of its intentional dumping of toxic waste in Mantuboy Creek, Bacuyangan River and the Sipalay River that resulted to fishkill in the shorelines of Sipalay City, loss of water source for irrigation of the peasants of Sipalay and Hinobaan that resulted to decrease or losses in production.”

Misuari blasts Aquino

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 6): Misuari blasts Aquino

‘He has done very bad for siding with the enemy’

The Palace on Tuesday fended off scathing criticism about its handling of the Sabah crisis, saying it had done all it could to bring it to a peaceful end, but Moro leader Nur Misuari blasted President Benigno Aquino III for “siding with the enemy of his people.”

“What kind of leader are you when you abandon your people?” said Misuari, former chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front. “If the President has nothing to say, he should not open his mouth anymore.”

Filipino Muslims protest in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Makati against the assault on the Filipinos in Sabah.  DANNY PATA
Filipino Muslims protest in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Makati against the assault on the Filipinos in Sabah. DANNY PATA

“What he has done is very bad,” he added. “It is unbecoming for a head of state to be siding with the enemy of his own people. These are his own people. I don’t know who is advising him and for what reason. He is aligning this country with Malaysia, a colonial power occupying the land of our people. I am against that, totally against that.”

Misuari also warned Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak against killing the sultan’s followers and harming Filipino civilians in Sabah.

“Once you do that, that will be tantamount to declaration of war against our people and the Moro National Liberation Front. It is our sacred duty to protect our people. Every drop of their blood is sacred to us,” he said.

On the government’s threat to arrest and charge the Sabah intruders if they return to the country, Misauri said: “Let them do that. The country will be in total chaos, I promise you.”

Former Tawi-Tawi governor Al Tillah also slammed Malacanang’s reluctance to bring the Sabah crisis to the international community, saying President Aquino’s stand smacked of a sellout, not only of the Sultanate of Sulu but also of the entire Filipino people.

“What did President Aquino trade to gain this peace process with our brothers in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front championed by Malaysia?” Tillah said.

“The Muslim Filipinos are just defending their historic rights. There is no rebellion against existing authorities,” he said in support of the sultanate.

In Makati City, militant groups protested in front of the Malaysian embassy to call for an end to the violence in Sabah and urged the government to give priority to resolving the crisis.

The picket, led by members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Migrante, Katribu, Bayan Muna, and the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, forced the embassy to close its gates past 10 a.m. and suspend its operations temporarily.

The protesters carried placards condemning the bloodbath and ongoing violence that left at least 20 Filipinos dead and many others wounded. They also urged President Aquino to defend the country’s national sovereignty and the welfare of the Filipinos in Sabah.

Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado scored “the government’s passivity and inaction” on the Sabah standoff and its inability to avert bloodshed.

Tony Liongson of the Moro Christian People’s Alliance, condemned the “wrong position” taken by President Aquino on the crisis.

“His decisions showed that he could not protect the interest of the Filipino people,” Liongson said.
Of the 235 followers that joined Kiram’s brother, Agbimuddin, in Sabah, Misuari admitted that some were “MNLF freedom fighters” but he did not say whether his men were among those who were killed.

Mr. Aquino has earlier called the armed incursion in Sabah as a “foolhardy” and “hopeless” undertaking by the Kirams.

Also on Tuesday, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales said the Aquino administration failed miserably in the way it handled the crisis, saying the government underestimated Kiram and his followers.

“This is too bad. They failed miserably in handling this. Malaysia is taking cue from us, and because the government has shown that it does not really care for the sultanate, that it does not give the sultanate importance, then why should Malaysia think twice about attacking the followers of the Sultan?” Gonzales said.

“They did not give the sultanate any way out for compromise. First the government says they should surrender. Then the government warns them they would be arrested once they return to the Philippines,” he said.

After the fighting started, the government is now saying it is beyond them to help the Kirams because that is already in the hands of Malaysia, he said.

Gonzales, who spoke with the sultan Sunday, said the first step the government should have taken was to give due recognition to Kiram and “what he represents.”

“I think this government is afraid of Malaysia. This government is afraid to take a definite stand. That is why they are leaving it up to Malaysia to settle this,” he added.

In a separate briefing at the Palace, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government’s concern now is the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah who have nothing to do with the standoff.

“They have chosen the path of violence. They have chosen to defy authorities. So, our responsibility right now is for the 800,000 Filipinos and the 95 million Filipinos here in the Philippines,” he said of the sultan’s followers who were battling Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

Lacierda made the statement after he was asked if the Kirams and their followers were now on their own in Malaysia.

Earlier, the President blamed unnamed members of the previous administration for conniving with the sultan to create the current crisis. He also justified Malaysia’s violent response against Kiram and his followers in Sabah.

Misuari on Tuesday dismissed speculation that he financed the sultan’s Sabah incursion.

“If indeed, I am that well off, why should I finance the adventure of the sultan’s men? Only about 200 people…. That’s not my way of doing things,” he said.

Misuari said that as leader of the MNLF, he was able to mobilize 4,000 fighters in the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf bandits who held several foreigners hostage in Mindanao.

He said he deployed an even larger force during the Sipadan hostage-taking incident in April 2000 after being tapped by then President Joseph Estrada.

“So, for anyone to speculate that I have anything to do with this is a kind of madness. It is very irresponsible for anybody to implicate me in this,” he said.

Earlier, Lacierda said the President has been informed of the Malaysian airstrikes, and said he was leaving it up to the Foreign Affairs Department to verify information about the attacks and the fatalities.

“I think everyone knows that we have done everything possible and we continue to do everything possible to peacefully end this standoff. Unfortunately, the position taken by the Kiram family is a position that leads down to violence,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the Palace had sent emissaries to the Kiram family since the standoff started, including Presidential Adviser On Political Affairs Ronald Llamas and National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia.
Police Director Cipriano Querol and ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman who are both Muslims, were also sent to convince the Kiram family to send their followers back to the Philippines.

Lacierda said the government’s appeal fell on deaf ears.

Lacierda also twitted Gonzales for denying his involvement in the Sabah crisis, saying the Palace had not mentioned his or anybody else’s name when it spoke of a conspiracy.


Malaysia launches air strikes against 200-man force of sultan

From Malaya (Mar 5): Malaysia launches air strikes against 200-man force of sultan

MALAYSIA yesterday launched air strikes and mortar attacks against the nearly 200 members the “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu who have been occupying a village in Sabah to end a bizarre three-week siege that turned into a security nightmare for both Malaysia and the Philippines.

The assault follows firefights in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state this past week that killed eight police officers and 19 Filipino gunmen.

The Malaysian Army has deployed seven battalions to Sandakan and Lahad Datu for the offensive. Malaysian National police chief Ismail Omar said Malaysian security forces suffered no casualties in Tuesday’s offensive, but he did not give details about the Filipinos. As of Tuesday night, wire reports said nobody from the Philippine side has been found.

Air strikes “achieved their objectives in accordance to the targets,” while ground forces who encountered resistance from gunmen firing at them were carrying out “mopping up” operations by searching houses in the village, Ismail said, without elaborating on how many have been detained.

“The government has to take the appropriate action to protect national pride and sovereignty as our people have demanded,” Prime Minister Najib Razak said after the raid began, in a statement issued through the national news agency, Bernama.

Authorities made every effort to resolve the siege peacefully since the presence of the group in Lahad Datu district became known on February 12, including holding talks to encourage the intruders to leave without facing any serious legal repercussions, Najib said.

“The longer this intrusion persisted, it became clear to the authorities that the intruders had no intention to leave Sabah,” Najib said. “As a peace-loving Islamic country that upholds efforts to settle conflicts through negotiations, our struggle to avoid bloodshed in Lahad Datu did not work.”

In Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the air strikes and assault. DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario asked his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman, during a meeting at midnight Monday, to establish a safety corridor for Filipino women and children in Sabah who are not involved in the armed conflict.

Hernandez said the request for a safety corridor is still under consideration by the Malaysian government.

Malaysia also has yet to respond to the government’s request to give clearance to a Navy humanitarian ship to dock in Lahad Datu to provide consular and medical assistance to Filipino victims of the standoff.

In his statement in Kuala Lumpur, Del Rosario said: “We came to Malaysia to endeavor to walk that last mile to try to save lives in this unfortunate conflict. We intend to fully continue this effort.”

Del Rosario arrived in Manila last night and reported straight to President Aquino in Malacañang.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Del Rosario met with Aquino for around 15 minutes and briefed him on his discussions with Anifah. He did not give details.

The DFA also took the occasion to condemn the spate of cyber attacks of Malaysian and Philippine websites amid the clash between the Sulu men and Malaysian forces over Sabah.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said the sultan’s brother, Rajah Mudda (crown prince) Agbimuddin Kiram who led the armed group in Sabah, told him in their phone conversation that fighter aircraft dropped bombs in Lahad Datu in the village that they had already abandoned.

Idjirani said Agbimuddin Kiram told them that the aircraft has been circling Lahad Datu since Monday morning. He said their leader was safe.

“Nagtataka nga si Rajah Mudda na ang bomba ay bumabagsak doon sa position ng Malaysian forces. This could be a friendly fire incident,” Idjirani said, adding that the position being hit by the bombs were previously held by Rajah Mudda’s men.

“Baka akala nila andun pa sa position na yun ang Rajah Mudda kaya dun binabagsak ang mga bomba,” he said.

He added that even the small-arms fire that followed the air strike was not hitting the Agbimuddin Kiram’s position.
“They can hear the sounds of bombs and the exchange of fire,” Idjirani said. “The truth is they are nervous. Who will not be nervous when you are against all odds?”

He said they will “find a way to sneak to safety.”

“If this is the last stand that we could take to let the world know about our cause, then let it be,” Idjirani said, describing the assault as “overkill.”

He said fellow ethnic Tausugs and Filipino immigrants sympathetic to their cause have been supplying Agbimuddin Kiram’s forces with weapons and provisions.

But he said the groups of armed men who have reportedly landed in Sabah to reinforce the sultanate forces went there voluntarily.

“If the Sultan had known about, he would stop them because he still wants to resolve this matter peacefully,” Idjirani said.

International law expert and UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. said Malaysia’s air strikes against the followers of the Sulu sultan are illegal under international human rights law, while the use of force in police operations should be absolutely necessary and strictly proportional to the threat posed by the Filipinos in Sabah.


Malaysian-Trained MNLF Fighters Join Kiram Forces

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 5): Malaysian-Trained MNLF Fighters Join Kiram Forces

Malaysian security forces are now facing battle-tested, Malaysian-trained commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who know Sabah like the palm of their hands.

Hadji Acmad Bayam, former chief propagandist of the MNLF, revealed this yesterday to the Manila Bulletin, adding that these MNLF forces may have at their disposal a huge arsenal, which they hid deep in Sabah’s rugged terrain when they returned to the Philippines after their rigid training.

Among the firearms are Belgian-made G1 and FAL, which the late Libya leader Colonel Moammar Khadafy supplied through Malaysia.

Bayam said he was confident the Malaysian authorities were not able to find the hidden MNLF firearms because they were kept very well by the MNLF commanders who stayed behind in Sabah.
During that training, Malaysian military trainors even joked about the firearms at the MNLF training camp on Jampiras Island, off Sabah, as they turned over Khadafy’s weapons’ supply.

“We are not even sure if the firearms we are giving you will not be turned against,” the Malaysian trainors had said in a jest.

“Well, speaking of self-fulfilling prophecy,” Bayam said, recalling the jokes of the Malaysian trainors.

Now, Filipinos in Sabah, who are not part of the forces of the Sultanate of Sulu, have already joined the fighting in reaction to what they perceived as Malaysian “atrocities” for killing Imam Maas and his four sons at 7:50 p.m. Saturday.

He recalled that Malaysia’s leadership had even suspected the then chief minister of Sabah, Tun Mustapha, a Tausug from Sulu, of “conspiring” with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari to secede the oil-rich island.

“You know, if Mindanao is to Manila, Sabah is to Kuala Lumpur,” said Bayam, explaining that Mindanao and Sabah are the “milking cows” of the Philippines and Malaysia, respectively, for their rich natural resources.

Bayam, who yielded to then President Fidel V. Ramos, stayed in Sabah, Malaysia, for nine years before the peace talks with the Ramos administration in 1993.

Bayam stayed in Sabah on-and-off, in 1976-79, in 1980-1986, among other dates.

Further, he said many of the seasoned rebel commanders and rank-and-file members chose to remain on Sabah island to live there.

Majority of them are from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Peninsula, but there are also Maguindanaons, Iranons, and probably Maranaos, he said.

A few days ago, he said one of the MNLF foreign-trained commanders belonging to the Top 90 Batch, told him that he was enlisting Tausug warriors and others for reinforcement to the Royal Security Force (RSF) of the Sultanate of Sulu.

“I was trying to contact him yesterday but his phone cannot be reached anymore. I guess he was able to penetrate the Malaysian and Philippine sea-borne blockades in their respective borders.

Bayam described the commander “as soft-spoken but firm and true leader-fighter in actual shooting war.” However, he requested that the commander’s name be not made public.

Last Sunday, Abraham J. Idjirani, spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said 40 people from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula breached the blockades and reached Lahad Datu, Sabah, scene of the standoff that erupted into a firefight.

He said there are many others who are now trying to go to Sabah and help the sultan’s followers led by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.

Bayam said that with the way the situation in Sabah is going on, he sees no turning back.

On the other hand, he said this gives the United States an opportunity to correct its “historical error” it committed against the Moro people.

He said this was even acknowledged by the administration of then President George Bush in response to a letter from the late Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim.
Cooler heads should put themselves at work and resolve the issue on Sabah claim.

“This is the best time and opportunity,” Bayam said. “They should seize the fleeting opportunity or lost it forever.”

“As the only leader of the free world, the only guardian of human rights, freedom and democracy, the American government has the opportunity to correct the historical error against the Moro people,” Bayam said.

Feeling Abandoned

Meanwhile, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who still feeling abandoned by the Philippines yesterday said they are now relying on the United Nations, United States, and United Kingdom for help.

He said they are no longer waiting for any help from the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III because none is coming anyway.

Kiram aired his sentiments on DZMM radio early Monday morning.

“We are not waiting anymore. No more. There is no help (from the Philippines),” he said in Filipino.
He said now they will rely on the UN, US, and UK.

On the appeal of the President to preserve the lives of the Sultanate of Sulu’s followers in Lahad Datu, Sabah, the sultan struck a defiant mood.

“No more. There is no more preservation... it’s in the hands of Almighty Allah,” the sultan said.
As this developed, former congressman Satur Ocampo, Dr. Carol Araullo, both Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and Vice President Rafaelita Gonio of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), paid a visit yesterday at Astanah Kiram in Maharlika Village, Taguig City.

Ocampo and Araullo expressed support to the cause of the Kirams in trying to claim Sabah from Malaysia.

Ocampo said that the President should review the government’s stand because the new developments.
Gonio said her support is a personal one because Philconsa has not yet made its position on the issue.
At about 12:20 p.m. also yesterday, another militant, independent senatorial candidate Teddy Casino also arrived to visit the sultan.

Early Sunday evening, former secretary of Department of National Defense (DND) Norberto Gonzales made a surprised visit at Astanah Kiram, as he belied allegations he had a hand in the Sabah standoff.

He said he saw the sultan on television and felt sad for his condition.

On Malacañang’s allegations he was allegedly one of the “instigators” of the Sabah standoff, he said he did not know about it.

Whether he is a “collaborator” in the now bloody standoff, he had an answer.

“If being a friend (makes you) a collaborator, then I am a collaborator,” said Gonzales, the former former National Security Adviser of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.


Rebels attack select targets in Mindanao

From the Manila Times (Mar 5): Rebels attack select targets in Mindanao

FOLLOWING the military’s claim that the Maoist rebels are dwindling, the New People’s Army (NPA) responded on a high note by launching guerrilla attacks on selected military detachments in Mindanao and Visayas.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday showed that the first two attacks were separately launched against military targets in Surigao del Sur province.

Attacked were the patrol bases of Echo Company, 23rd Infantry Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division in Barangay Tagbayani in Sison town and the Peace and Development Teams at Sitio Buya, Barangay Camamonan, Gigaquit.

First Lt. Stephen Basco, civil military operations officer, 301 Infantry Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division, said that the attacks were launched by the rebels’ Guerrila Front 16 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

But on both occasions, Basco said that the government troops managed to retaliate also with heavy fire that forced the rebels to withdraw.

Because of the twin attacks, Basco added that all the subordinate units under the 30th Infantry Battalion have been placed in full alert status.

The latest incident happened on Tuesday between troopers of the 82nd Infantry Battalion and Maoist rebel members in Barangay Bad-as, San Joaqun, Iloilo City.

Major Ray Tiongson, chief of the Public Affairs Office-Third Infantry Division, said that the government troops were conducting peace and security patrol when it received reports that the rebels were extorting money and food supplies from residents of said village.

Lt. Col. Eldwine Almase, commander of the 82nd IB, said that the encounter lasted for about 25 minutes before the insurgents withdrew to different directions.

Recovered from the area, he added, were backpacks, personal belongings and subversive documents of high intelligence value.

He said that there were no casualties in the government side and neither from the rebels, though there were bloodstains in the encounter site.

Earlier, Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said that the number of the rebels that returned to the government in 2012 rose by 56 present to 367 from 235 recorded in 2011.

He added that based on reports from various military field units also showed a 63 percent increase in the number of neutralized rebels in 2012, while NPA-initiated violent incidents dropped by 21 percent from 473 in 2011 to 374 in 2012.

The military earlier claimed that from a peak of 24,430 revolutionary fighters in mid-1980s, the underground group’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 because of battle losses and surrenders.

This was disputed though by the Communist Party of the Philippines, saying that the militants’ revolutionary forces were steadily growing in strength and poised for big leap in the coming years.


Rebel ranks dwindle from desertions

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): Rebel ranks dwindle from desertions

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that the membership of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has further dwindled because of losing mass base support and the successful implementation of the government’s new anti-insurgency strategy.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Armed Forces spokesman, on Monday said that the number of rebels that returned to the government fold in 2012 rose to 367 from 235 recorded in 2011, or a 56-percent increase, while posting a 63-percent increase in the number of neutralized rebels in 2012.

Burgos added that reports from various military field units also showed that the number of rebel-initiated violent incidents dropped by 21 percent from 473 in 2011 to 374 in 2012.

“This shows the continuing decline of NPA-initiated violent incidents [NIVIs] during the implementation of the IPSP [Internal Peace and Security Plan] Bayanihan,” he pointed out. “Before it was launched in 2011, the AFP recorded 501 NIVIs in 2010.”

But the Army has no updated record on the actual numbers of Maoist rebels nor information on the number of new recruits.

The military had earlier claimed that from a peak of 24,430 revolutionary fighters in mid 1980s, the underground group’s strength has dwindled to 4,043 because of battle losses and surrenders.

But it was disputed by the Communist Party of the Philippines, saying that the rebels’ revolutionary forces were steadily growing in strength and poised for big leap in the coming years.

The IPSP-Bayanihan is the Armed Forces’ new anti-insurgency campaign strategy that was started in 2010 when President Benigno Aquino 3rd assumed the country’s top post.

Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, military chief of staff, spearheaded the crafting of the IPSP-Bayanihan in 2010, while he was the Army’s deputy of staff for operations or J3 in 2010.

During his assumption as Armed Forces chief in January, Bautista vowed to bring down the insurgency problem to a negligible level before the end of his tour of duty, or before the Aquino administration bows out on 2016.

“That is our goal for the NPA to be irrelevant, for the armed struggle to be ended, to render the armed struggle irrelevant,” he said. “By the end of my term, substantially, I’ m not saying zero, it can never approach zero.”

He pointed out that the timeframe of Bayanihan is up to 2016 but stressed that by this year there must be substantial accomplishments on its target achievements.

“While we support the initiatives of the government to talk peace with the communist group in pursuit of just and lasting peace for our country, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to sustain its gains from the IPSP-Bayanihan in our operations against the violent armed rebels through focused and intelligence-based security operations.


NPA extort strategy bleeds candidates

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): NPA extort strategy bleeds candidates

THE communist New People’s Army (NPA) has institutionalized extortion as integral and permanent part of their activities during election, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman, 8th Infantry Division, on Monday said that the extortion scheme which is implemented through the so-called permit to campaign (PTC) and permit to win (PTW) fees was contained in documents recovered by troops of the 63rd Infantry Battalion at Brgy. Capo-toan, Las Navas, Northern Samar.
“In another separate document, the NPA leadership issued a guide to the NPA insurgents in Eastern Visayas how to conduct an extortion scheme to politicians or local candidates who will run in the May 2013 elections” Orense added.

Documents, he pointed out, revealed that the extortion scheme would be implemented in three levels by the leadership of local communist movement and their armed group, the legal left organization and their sympathizers.

He explained that the leadership of local communist movement and their armed group focus in the conduct of discreet discussion with politician on the political line, supporting the legal left organization and direct benefits to their sympathizers.

The legal left organization, on the other hand, will discuss cooperation in the platform, ticket, campaign, vote watch, finances and resources for the campaign, while the sympathizers will engage in negotiations with politicians regarding the direct benefits they will receive once they pay the so-called PTC or PTW fees.

NPA documents recovered in Eastern Samar also showed that candidates for governor are charged up to P5 million; congressman, P500,000; vice governor, P500,000, board member, P1000,000; mayor, P100,000; vice mayor, P75,000 and councilor, P50,000.

On top of the PTC, the NPA is also requiring each candidate to give one high-powered firarm or an equivalent amount of P180,000.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgo Jr. said that politicians should not give in to the demand of the rebels as it would only “spell more problem” for them.

“We have asked not to give into their demands because [doing so] will forever made them and dependent to the rebels and the NPAs will be extorting money to them all the time,” Burgos said.

He added that giving money to the NPA would also bolster its strength and provide the means to conduct more terror activities.

Burgos stressed that candidates should instead coordinate immediately with the police or the military when they receive demand or extortion letter from the NPA so that the authorities could make the corresponding counter-move.


‘Royal army’ existence first monitored in 2001 – nat’l security adviser

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 5): ‘Royal army’ existence first monitored in 2001 – nat’l security adviser

The existence of the “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu was first monitored by intelligence units in 2001 and was seemingly a “harmless” group during that time, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said Tuesday.

In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Garcia said initial reports on Sultan Jamalul Kiram III Royal Security Forces revealed that the group held trainings but did not carry firearms. He said it was just like “a group trying to make a statement.”

“Parang harmless naman sila,” Garcia said, noting that Kiram III even ran for a senatorial seat under Team Unity in the 2007 elections.

However, Garcia said that the group went off the intelligence radar in 2005, but it apparently remobilized after “the group didn’t feel that they were given enough participation and role in the framework agreement” between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

For the full interview, listen to the attached audio clip from Radyo Inquirer 990AM.


Thousands of Tausug sailing to Sabah to aid beleaguered comrades – MNLF exec

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 5): Thousands of Tausug sailing to Sabah to aid beleaguered comrades – MNLF exec

Thousands of Tausug from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have sailed to Sabah to reinforce members of the so-called royal army of the sultanate of Sulu who are fighting it out with Malaysian security forces, a Moro National Liberation Front official said Tuesday.

“We can no longer prevent our people. We are hurt and many of our people, even the non-combatants, are going to Sabah to help the sultanate,” Habib Hashim Mudjahab, chair of the MNLF’s Islamic Council Committee, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

But Lt. Gen, Rey Ardo, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said they have not monitored reports of reinforcements trying to enter Sabah.

“But we cannot avoid that some residents who have relatives in Malaysia would react to the situation,” he said.
Acting Gov. Mujib Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also denied receiving reports about reinforcements for the “Royal Army.”
Mudjahab said at least 10,000 Tausug from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga on Monday night started to reinforce the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III now holed up in a coastal village in Sabah via the Philippines’ so-called “southern backdoor,” a route regular traders are familiar with.
He said the reinforcements “sailed in small numbers so they can easily penetrate Sabah unnoticed.”

“The naval blockade is of no use; our military should have known that. We did that before at the height of Marcos regime. We can easily go to Sabah and blend with the people there,” he added. He was referring to a naval blockade thrown up by the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard to ensure armed sympathizers do not joined the beleaguered men in Sabah as reinforcements.

Days ago, Mudjahab said, he advised several MNLF commanders against going to Sabah to help a group of about 200 men who landed in a coastal village in Lahad Datu on Feb. 9 to assert the sultanate’s claim to Sabah. They engaged Malaysian authorities in a standoff that has resulted in a series of skirmishes since last Friday. At least 27 people, including eight Malaysians have been reported killed in the violence. The Malaysian Air Force is reported to have dropped bombs Tuesday on the Filipinos’ suspected lair.

“I told them to hold on to their ranks and avoid getting emotionally affected with the situation. But our President Noynoy (President Benigno Aquino III) kept issuing statements favoring the Malaysians, which made our people agitated. The President must realize that for the Tausugs, being pushed to the wall, fighting for a cause, is dying with victory,” he said.

He said with three old heirs of the Sultanate, “who have no history of rebellion, living quietly on their own, now leading the cause in Sabah, is something great for the Tausugs.”

“It is about pride and honor, and our people are ready to sacrifice,” Mudjahab said.

Ajil Jaffar, 50, an oil palm plantation worker in Kota Kinabalu and who was among those repatriated to the country on Sunday, said he wanted to return to Sabah.

“I want to help them. It’s our honor to be with the sultan so that this deportation and abuses will stop,” he said.

A retired educator in Tawi-Tawi, who asked not to be identified by name, said the sultanate of Sulu represents an extension of their rich heritage. “They are the first Filipinos. The sultanate of Sulu was already there even before Philippines existed,” he said.

Amirah Lidasan of the nongovernmental group Suara Bangsamoro said the status of the sultanate of Sulu was unfinished business that “keeps on nagging us.”

“We have a bloody history of Moro people getting killed while defending the homeland. It also speaks of the Philippine government’s giving in to the interest of foreigners instead of its citizens,” Lidasan said.

Meanwhile, Hataman said at least 70 Filipinos arrived in Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi yesterday (Tuesday) to escape being caught in the crossfire in Sabah.

“They boarded a commercial vessel and they arrived this morning,” Hataman said.

Hataman has been meeting for what he called “security and social preparations” with the military and local government officials since Tuesday morning.


Military: Insurgency in Lawaan ‘manageable’

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Mar 5): Military: Insurgency in Lawaan ‘manageable’

Insurgency in the municipality of Lawaan, Eastern Samar has been declared “manageable” due to the efforts of security forces and local officials, according to the military.

Army Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City , said Lawaan is the latest town in Eastern Samar province to be declared “manageable conflict-affected and ready for development area” by the local government and security forces.
The declaration was contained in municipal resolution No. 24 issued last February 27.
In a statement, Lawaan town Mayor Candida Gabornes said through the declaration, the local government unit will continually exert all its efforts by cooperating, assisting and supporting the military and Philippine National Police in maintaining peace and order in the municipality.
An area is declared insurgency-free if the strength of rebels within its jurisdiction is too small to influence the livelihood of residents.
Once an area is declared as such, the lead role of maintaining peace and order would be transferred to local officials from the military.
Samar is said to be one of the areas in the country with huge concentration of communist insurgents. Other areas with strong rebel presence are Negros, Davao region and Bicol provinces.
Brig. Gen. Romeo Labador, commander of the 801st Brigade, said the improved security situation in Lawaan can be attributed to the cooperation between security forces and civilians.
“We can foresee that Lawaan will soon become a developed municipality in the near future,” Labador said.
Orense meanwhile said a total of 13 towns and one city in Eastern Samar have been declared insurgency-free and “manageable conflict-affected areas.”
These are the municipalities of Taft, Maydolong, Balangkayan, Hernani, San Julian, San Policarpo, Sulat and Boronggan City, Salcedo, Guiuan, Mercedes, Balangiga and Llorente.

Misuari: Ex-MNLF fighters involved in Sabah

From Rappler (Mar 5): Misuari: Ex-MNLF fighters involved in Sabah

Members of a major Philippine Muslim rebel force who were meant to have disarmed in the 1990s as part of a peace pact are involved in deadly battles in Malaysia, the group's leader said on Tuesday.Misuari: MNLF involved in Sabah

Nur Misuari, who founded the Moro National Liberation Front in the late 1960s, confirmed "freedom fighters" from his group were part of the militia sent by a self-proclaimed sultan to claim the Malaysian state of Sabah.

"I cannot deny that some of them are known to be MNLF freedom fighters," Misuari told a news conference in Manila, although he insisted he was not personally involved.

"They went there without my knowledge. I have not ordered anyone to join them. It would be very irresponsible for anybody to implicate us."

Misuari made the comments while visiting Jamalul Kiram III, the self-anointed Sultan of Sulu, who sent between 100 and 300 men from the southern Philippines to Sabah on February 12 to press his ownership claim.

Malaysian security forces launched a major offensive on Tuesday to end the standoff, which has so far left at least 27 people dead, although the sultan's men reported that they had survived.

The MNLF "freedom fighters" earnt their battle experience during decades of armed struggle against the Philippine government that cost tens of thousands of lives.

The MNLF had fought for an independent state in the southern Philippines, while also claiming Sabah state as part of their ancestral homeland.

The group signed a peace pact with the Philippine government in 1996 which created a Muslim autonomous region in the south, and set aside the claim over Sabah.

The MNLF peace pact led to a less-compromising splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation front, continuing the battle for independence.

The MILF is now close to signing a final peace deal with the government, which ignores the Sabah claim completely and would lead to the MNLF losing political influence in the southern Philippines.
Observers have speculated MNLF members may have helped launch the Malaysia offensive because they feared they were losing power.

However Misuari insisted MNLF leaders were not involved directly in the Malaysia standoff, and even offered to go to Kuala Lumpur to mediate a peaceful solution.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino's spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said that the Philippine Navy had stopped 70 more people from getting across the sea border to help the militants.


REMEMBER WHEN | The Bud Dajo massacre, 107 years ago today

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): REMEMBER WHEN | The Bud Dajo massacre, 107 years ago today

As far as timing goes, Malaysia may not have chosen a more un-propitious date to mount its assault on the followers of the Sulu sultanate led by the crown prince, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who had occupied a village in Lahad Datu town in Sabah in a bid to press their historic claim to the territory.

This is because, 107 years ago to the day, on March 5, 1906, the then American colonizers began an operation that, by the time it ended three days later, saw at least a thousand Tausug men, women and children dead in what still resonates among natives of Sulu and Filipino nationalists as “the Bud Dajo Massacre.”

Bud Dajo is an inactive volcano near Jolo in whose crater a community of Tausug lived who refused to submit to American rule.

Only six Tausug survived the slaughter.

The Americans suffered anywhere from 15 to 25 dead and over 75 wounded.

In 2006, the Philippine Senate approved a resolution authored by Senator Aquilino Pimentel honoring the Tausug of Bud Dajo as “martyrs of freedom.”

“They did not wish to submit to American rule by paying taxes or surrendering their weapons,” the resolution reads.

It also declares March 6 Bud Dajo Day “in remembrance of the supreme sacrifice that the defenders of Bud Dajo made for love of their homeland.”

In Honor for the Flag: The Battle of Bud Dajo - 1906 & The Moro Massacre, Robert Fulton says two-thirds of the Tausug killed were women and children, mostly members of the warriors’ families and many of whom also fought the colonizers.

Although the Tausug had an excellent defensive position, the ten-to-one firepower advantage enjoyed by the Americans made the battle extremely lopsided.

The Tausug also call the incident “The Battle of the Clouds” by the Tausug for the mists that often shroud the mountain peak.

Fulton noted that, despite the odds against them, the Tausug of Bud Dajo remained defiant, jeering and yelling at the enemy, and beating gongs and drums to mark the start of battle.


Misuari denies hand in Sabah crisis

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): Misuari denies hand in Sabah crisis

Nur Misuari talks to media at the home of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. Beside him is sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani. (photo by Abigail Kwok, InterAksyon.com)

Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari on Tuesday denied any hand in the attempt of the Sulu sultanate to press its claim on Sabah by sending more than 200 followers to the territory. The spokesman for the sultanate also denied speculations that Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had a hand in the crisis.

This, as the Sulu sultanate, speaking through Princess Jacel Kiram, asserted that no instigator, financier or foreign interest was behind the mission of the sultanate's followers in Sabah.

Misuari, who visited Sulu Sultant Jamalul Kiram III at the latter’s Maharlika Village residence in Taguig City, said any talk about his involvement “are all wild speculations.”

In the first place, I have not inspired anyone to make this venture,” he said, adding, “I cannot preempt the sultan.”

And, he added, for him “to finance (the Sabah venture) is out of the question.”

On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III claimed there was a “conspiracy” behind the Sabah voyage of the sultanate’s followers and vowed to punish those responsible.

However, he admitted that he did not have enough proof yet to name names.

Although Misuari acknowledged that some of those involved in the Sabah sojourn are MNLF “freedom fighters,” he said their involvement was “without my knowledge.” The standoff erupted in violence Friday and, by Tuesday, saw Malaysian security forces mount a massive assault in Lahad Datu town.

Misuari, however, said he would not be surprised if MNLF fighters went and supported the Royal Sulu Army as it was a "matter of duty" on their part.

No instigator, financier, foreign interest - sultanate

Princess Jacel Kiram, the daughter of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, also denied allegations that there were groups or people behind the group of men who went to Lahad Datu.

Reacting to President Benigno Aquino III's statement Monday warning that plotters and conspirators will be charged, Princess Kiram said, "Mr. President, wala pong nag sulsol, walang financier at walang foreign interest na nakikialam sa ginagawa ng sultanate ng Sulu."

Reading a statement from the sultan, she said, "Please, please, do not disrespect the integrity of our intentions."

She challenged Aquino to pledge to the public to protect and fight for Filipinos in Sabah. "Isumpa mo yan sa 98 million Filipinos na mga boss mo. Magpakatotoo po kayo sa inyong sinasabi na kayo ang boss ko. Sana maramdaman namin ito sa kilos at gawa [Please swear to the 98 million Filipinos whom you call your boss that you will protect Filipino lives. I hope we can truly feel you’re our boss both in word and deed].”

Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesman, meanwhile, also denied reports emerging in Malaysian media that opposition bet Anwar Ibrahim was backing the sultanate.

Idjirani said Sultan Kiram has no time to fly to Malaysia and meet with Anwar as he could not miss his regular dialysis.


47th day in Tubbataha: Salvage of USS Guardian stalled anew due to big waves

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): 47th day in Tubbataha: Salvage of USS Guardian stalled anew due to big waves

The salvage of the stranded United States Navy minesweeper USS Guardian from Tubbatah Reef in Sulu Sea was stalled anew due to giant waves, Philippine Coast Guard Palawan district commander Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said on Tuesday.

“As of this time, salvage operations have not yet commenced due to unfavorable weather condition at the site...” Evangelista said.

“The sea condition is very unsafe. We always give paramount consideration to the safety of our salvor team and also to prevent further damage on the reef,” he added.

The minesweeper has been stuck on the marine sanctuary since January 17 and has reportedly destroyed more than 4,000 square meters of the supposedly no-navigation World Heritage Site. The U.S. government has pledged to pay for the damage.

Evangelista said the salvage team on board crane ship Jascon 25 was about to begin the cutting and lifting of the parts of USS Guardian's lower deck when the bad weather struck.

Earlier, the U.S. Navy said it would finish removing the grounded minesweeper of the 7th Fleet on or before March 23.

A fisherfolk alliance and a party-list group are urging the Philippine government to bring back to the country the Navy officials and the 79 crew members of USS Guardian.

While waiting for the formal charges against them, the U.S. Navy men should be extradited to the Philippines from their homeport in Sasebo, Japan, according to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis partylist.

They said President Benigno Aquino III “should order” the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to work on the extradition of the Navy men.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the flagship of the US 7thFleet, would arrive in Manila on Thursday, March 7.

“[It] will dock at the manila South Harbor on Thursday for a routine port call and goodwill visit that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Philippines,” it said in a statement.


No dead Pinoy found 9 hours after Sabah assault; Agbimuddin's group 'intact'

From InterAksyon (Mar 5): No dead Pinoy found 9 hours after Sabah assault; Agbimuddin's group 'intact'

Malaysian soldiers in an armored personnel carrier drive towards Tanduo village in Lahad Datu town, Sabah where followers of the sultanate of Sulu have been in a standoff with Malaysian security forces. Malaysia on Tuesday said it had launched an assault to break the impasse. (photo by Mohd Rasfan, AFP)

Malaysia’s fierce assault on up to 300 Filiipinos reclaiming Sabah did not find any militants dead nine hours after the attack began Tuesday morning.

Malaysia's national police chief said "mopping up" operations in Lahad Datu’s Tanduo village had yet to find any dead militants and expressed fears that at least some of them might have slipped away.

The Filipinos have been holed up in the village since landing by boat last month, highlighting lax Malaysian security and the continuing threat from southern Philippine Islamists.

Federal police chief Ismail Omar told reporters in an afternoon press conference near the standoff site that soldiers were mopping up across a wide area of hilly plantation country but had yet to find any dead militants.

"I have instructed my commanders to be on alert because we believe the enemies are still out there," Ismail said.

"We of course hope that they have not escaped," he said, providing few other details.

He said Malaysian forces had suffered no casualties.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had no choice but to unleash the military to try to end Malaysia's biggest security crisis in years after the interlopers refused to surrender and 27 people were killed.

A day after the Philippines called for restraint, Malaysia launched a dawn assault on the estimated 100-300 gunmen, who invaded to claim Malaysian territory on behalf of a former Philippine sultanate.

Fighter jets bombed the standoff village of Tanduo in Sabah state on the northern tip of Borneo island, followed by a ground assault by troops. The area is set amid vast oil-palm plantations.

"The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah," Najib said.

Agbimuddin's group 'intact'

In Manila, Sulu Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the 300 Filipinos in Sabah, had called again to say they remained "intact."

"Raja Muda called up. Now this will put to rest the black propaganda being waged by the Malaysian government that our brothers were obliterated by the Malaysian police and military. Datu Raja Muda and his followers are all alive and still kicking," Idjirani said at a press briefing in Maharlika Village, Taguig City Tuesday afternoon.

Idjirani described Agbimuddin as like a "fox," constantly moving from one place to another to evade the Malaysian forces.

Idjarani also claimed Agbimuddin had said the bombs dropped by the Malaysian air force had not hit their positions but had, instead, fallen on security forces that had massed up for the assault.

Amid the assault, an AFP reporter at a roadblock 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Tanduo saw military transport helicopters flying toward the village, as army trucks with dozens of soldiers and several ambulances sped toward the scene.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman blamed the intruders for the assault.

"We've done everything we could to prevent this, but in the end, Kiram's people chose this path," said the spokesman, Ricky Carandang.

After a lengthy standoff, violence erupted in Tanduo on Friday with a shootout that left 12 of the gunmen and two police officers dead.

Another gun battle Saturday in the town of Semporna, hours away by road, killed six police and six gunmen, raising fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration.

Another gunman was reportedly beaten to death by Semporna residents.

Even if the Tanduo operation succeeds, the drama may not end there.

Police said at the weekend they were hunting for a group of "foreign" gunmen in yet another town, but have provided no further updates.

Followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, have warned that more militants were poised to land in Sabah.
On Monday, Aquino on claimed that the voyage to Sabah by the Sulu sultanate's followers was part of a "conspiracy" and vowed to get those he said had put thousands of lives in harm's way. However, the sultanate dismissed the claim.

In Makati City, leftist groups, who a day earlier announced their support for the sultanate's claim, staged a rally at the Malaysian embassy in Salcedo Village.

A total of 27 people have been reported killed since the first clash between Agbimuddin’s group and the Malaysians last week.

The affair has been Malaysia's worst security crisis in years, underlining instability and lawlessness in the seas between the two countries and exposing lax security along its coast.


Suspected NPA SPARU leader facing rebellion raps in Negros Oriental falls in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4): Suspected NPA SPARU leader facing rebellion raps in Negros Oriental falls in Bohol

A suspected leader of the liquidation unit of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), who is facing a rebellion charge in Negros Oriental, and his companion were arrested Tuesday evening in Barangay Alegria, Catigbian in Bohol.

The suspects were identified as Ruben Nabas alias Ebyong/Elmer/Padi/Rex, leader of Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a certain Cristituto Lastomen alias Onyot, also a member of the SPARU, a statement issued Monday by the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental said.

Both were arrested for illegal possession of firearms in Barangay Alegria, Catigbian, Bohol around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday at a checkpoint conducted jointly by the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army personnel in the area.

Confiscated from their possession were one caliber .45 pistol and one caliber .9mm Berretta pistol, P18,220.00 cash and several suspected subversive documents.

Nabas has a standing warrant of arrest for rebellion filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 63 in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental.

Military records shows that Nabas was allegedly a former vice commander of the elite force (SDG) of the NPAs operating in the hinterlands of southern Negros Oriental.

He and his companions are believed to be responsible for the attack of two PNP camps in Bohol in 1999 which led to the loss of several firearms from the government side.

Nabas was also allegedly responsible for the bombing of two newly constructed transmission line towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines at Barangay Sta. Catalina in Sagbayan, Bohol on December 13, 2011 and in Barangay Sto. Nińo, San Miguel, Bohol on June 24, 2012.

Nabas is allegedly the triggerman in the killing of Police Chief Inspector Pelecio Domino, PNP Chief of Talibon, Bohol, the media release from the 302nd Army Brigade said.


Woman militant leader in Davao slain

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Woman militant leader in Davao slain

A woman militant leader, who was among those who led the three-day protest at the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development along D. Suazo Street here was shot dead Monday night in her hometown in Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Cristina Morales Jose, one of the leaders of Barug Katawhan, supposedly composed of typhoon "Pablo" victims from Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, was gunned down by unidentified armed men on board a motorcycle at 6:00 p.m. Monday.

Jose, also a member of the Barangay Binondo council in Baganga, was reportedly on her way to Davao City to report cases of human rights violations when the killing took place.

She was among those who joined thousands of protesting typhoon victims instigated by militant groups holding a three-day picket at DSWD compound last week to demand the release of 10,000 sacks of rice and six-month extension of relief distribution.


Six former rebels get LGU assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): 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 (LGU) 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 surrenderers 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 Feb. 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 surrenderers and their families,” he said.

Col. Buenaventura Pascual, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Division welcomed the latest surrenderer 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.


Army appeals to Rebels to spare civilians

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Army appeals to Rebels to spare civilians

For the nth time, the Philippine Army has appealed to the New People'sArmy (NPA) in Western Visayas to spare civilians from harm in the protracted armed conflict between government troops and NPA rebels owing to increasing occurrences of civilians being shot at or maimed by hidden explosives believed to be the handiwork of the rebels.

Major Rey Tiongson, Spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army at Jamindan, Capiz, said that from 2009 to 2012, 11 IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were retrieved by the Army in discrete places of the region's outback.

For obvious reasons, Tiongson said, the explosives were intended to hurt pursuing soldiers and even persons not belonging to the military establishment.

Last year, rebels shot a military convoy in Tubungan, Iloilo, wounding several civilians given free rides by soldiers as handsome gesture to win the hearts of the countryside folks.

Tiongson said further, that the rebels' strategy of sowing terror and violence is a significant sign
of the NPA's weakening, and resorting to intimidation by targetting civilians is a desperate way to prop up its sagging image.

The Philippine Army vows to support the government's peace efforts all over the country, Tiongson said.


NPA gives up in Agusan Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): NPA gives up in Agusan Sur

A member of the New People's Army (NPA) who had gone weary of spending his years eluding pursuing government troopers at the hinterlands of Loreto and Sta. Josefa towns in Agusan del Sur, surrendered himself to the authorities Monday morning.

Agusan del Sur police reports said Dandy Badao Casal alias "Ka Digong", 46, a resident of Sitio Kabunga, Brgy. Sta. Theresa , Loreto in Agusan del Sur surrendered to the Talacogon Municipal Police Station.

Casal following the negotiations for his surrender initiated by the municipal police of the said town gave himself up bringing with him a Colt caliber .45 with five live ammunition when he surrendered. He was immediately brought to Talacogon Municipal Police Station for custody.


Bad weather stalls salvage operation of USS Guardian again in Tubbataha

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Bad weather stalls salvage operation of USS Guardian again in Tubbataha

Bad weather condition in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Tuesday delayed the salvage operation again of the USS Guardian minesweeper, said the Philippine Coast Guard in Palawan.

Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, also head of Task Force Tubbataha, said regretful weather has hampered the salvage operation once more to remove the zero one level off the main body of the minesweeper.

“Hindi nanaman maganda ang panahon kaya hindi makakilos ang salvage operation team (The weather in the area is bad again that is why the salvage operation team stopped its activity today),” said Evangelista.

He said the safety of the crew and others working in the salvage operation team is paramount despite the need to meet the deadline.

After the zero one level has been completely removed, the engine will be removed next, said Evangelista. “If weather permits, the removal of the engine of the minesweeper will follow,” he said.


3 NPA rebels killed in Tuao, Cagayan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): 3 NPA rebels killed in Tuao, Cagayan

CAMP MARCELO A. ADDURU, Tuuegarao City -- Three suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed over weekend in an encounter between the communist guerrillas and the 2nd Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) at Cagayan Provincial Public Safety Company (CPPSC) in barangay Lakambini, Tuao, Cagayan.

Police Regional Office 2 (PRO2) regional director chief superintendent Rodrigo Purisima De Gracia, said that the 2nd regional public safety battalion and 8-member New People’s Army rebels under the Kilusang Larangang Guerrilla North engaged in a brief gunbattle. The three NPA killed in the encounter are still unidentified at press time.

The PNP received information from the concerned citizens that a group of rebels allegedly slept at the house of Kosep Encollado in Zone 5, barangay Lakambini, Tuo, Cagayan.

The PNP recovered assorted guns, one M16 rifle, one M14 rifle, one Caliber 9mm pistol ammunition, backpacks and other belongings and alleged subversive documents. The PNP did not suffer any casualty from the encounter, he added.


Sulu people in Sabah urged to rally behind Malaysia gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Sulu people in Sabah urged to rally behind Malaysia gov't

The people of Sulu descent in the country, particularly in Sabah, should support the government's offensive against Sulu invaders in Kampung Tanduo here, said Defense Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

"The offensive is targeted against Sulu terrorists. I hope that our Sulu friends in Sabah and nationwide will be with the government.

"We must distinguish between the Sulu terrorists and Sulu people in Sabah whether they are Malaysian citizens or permanent residents," he told a joint news conference with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein at Felda Residence Sahabat, about 130 km from here, Tuesday.

Calling on Sulu people not to be hoodwinked by rumours that action will be taken against them, Ahmad Zahid said the government would protect the interests of the people in the country.

He said the three branches of the armed forces would be stationed at strategic locations to prevent the possibility of another intrusion on Sabah's shores.


Police intercept Sultanate of Sulu followers in Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): Police intercept Sultanate of Sulu followers in Tawi-Tawi

Philippine police have intercepted 67 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, III and prevented them to sail to Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia, an official disclosed Tuesday.

Tawi-Tawi police director Sr. Supt. Joselito Salido disclosed the group was intercepted Tuesday in Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi province. Salido said they were able to convince the group to return home, and “they voluntarily heeded our advice.”

“They are peaceful and unarmed people,” Salido described the group. The group’s members came from the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, he disclosed.

Philippine government authorities have tightened their watch in the country’s southern border to prevent more followers of the Sultanate of Sulu to sail to Sabah to reinforce their comrades holed out in Lahad Datu. The move is aimed at preventing further escalation of the Sabah standoff which started when 180 members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the Sultan’s brother, sailed from Mindanao on Feb 12 to stake a claim to Sabah.

Hostilities broke out the past few days as the Malaysian government launched an assault since Kiram’s group stood its ground despite stern warning for the group to leave the place.