Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rebel camp falls after 30-minute clash

From the Manila Times (Mar 6): Rebel camp falls after 30-minute clash

AN undetermined number of leftist rebels were believed killed and wounded after they clashed anew with government forces in the island province of Northern Samar, according to a military spokesman.

Capt. Gene Orense, 8th Infantry Division spokesman on Wednesday said the encounter between combined forces of the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion and 81st Reconnai­sance Company and some 25 members of the New People’s Army took place at the Palapag Complex in the municipality of Palapag.

He said the Maoist rebels were forced to abandon their temporary camp in the said area following a 30-minute firefight.

The seized NPA camp, according to Orense, has a nipa hut and 10 makeshift bunkers made of laminated sacks.

Recovered from the encounter area were two M16 rifles, two land­mines, a rifle grenade, magazines and ammunitions for M16 rifles and subversive documents.

No government forces were killed or wounded but Orense expressed belief that there were casualties and injuries on the NPA side because of the heavy exchange of gunfire.

Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug, 8ID commander attributed his troops’ successful counter-insurgency operation to the support and assistance of the local leaders and the civilian population.

“The NPA camp was seized throu­gh the information given by the residents that enabled our troops to track the location,” he said.

“We will continue securing the communities against rebel influence and other armed threats, and we will be in close coordination with the local leaders and other stakeholders in ensuring peace in every community in the region.” Layug added.

Army troops are currently conducting pursuit operations against the NPA rebels in the area.
A total of six NPA camps have been recovered by elements of the 8ID since January.

In 2012, a total of 131 NPA camps were seized/discovered by the military troops. Eight camps were recovered with enemy resistance and 123 of these camps were taken without enemy resistance.

Arrival of Navy’s new cutter stalled

From the Manila Times (Mar 3): Arrival of Navy’s new cutter stalled

THE arrival of the Philippine Navy’s second weather high endurance cutte, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, has suffered another delay because of extensive training being undergone by its crew that will take several more months to enable them to thoroughly master the ship’s state-of-the-art equipment.

Lt. Commander Gregory Gerald Fabic, Navy spokesman, disclosed on Sunday that the arrival of Alcaraz has again been rescheduled from April to August this year because of the training and orientation requirements that the crew need to undergo.

“This is because the ship, its more of technical. It is unlike in the training in the Army wherein you just teach them how to fire. The ship has sophisticated equipment, navigation, fire control, among others, that is why the people sent there have to undergo extensive training,” Fabic said.

Fabic admitted that the delay would affect the capability upgrading program of the Navy as the Alcaraz has already been earmarked for deployment in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and other critical areas of the country.

“Of course, it has a big impact because this is an additional vessel to safeguard our water, territorial waters. It is a capability upgrade of the Navy because it is a weather high endurance cutter intended for long distance patrol,” he added.

The warship was originally scheduled to arrive from the US in December 2012 or in January 2013, but postponed to February and now moved to March or in April.

As this developed, the Chinese state media reported that Maritime Safety Administration of Hainan has deployed three more surveillance ships in the West Philippine Sea to “strengthen the country’s [China] maritime law enforcement capacity and test the patrol team’s rapid response abilities in the South China Sea.”

The Philippines and China, along with Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and Taiwan, are claiming in whole or in part the Spratly group of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said that the BRP Ramon Alcaraz would be better equipped and more capable than the country’s first similar cutter, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

Early this year, President Aquino ordered top defense officials in a meeting in Malacañang to observe “due diligence” in the proposed capability upgrading of the Del Pilar and Alcaraz to make them capable and strong enough in securing the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo disclosed that their talks centered on the current firepower of the subject Navy cutters and what more can be added to further increase their capabilities relative to the security of the Malampaya Gas Project and other service contracts of the Department of Energy (DOE) off the coast of Palawan province in the West Philippine Sea.

“What was discussed was the security of Malampaya. Those ships will also be used in securing Malampaya and other service contracts of the DOE. So we updated [him] on the status of PF 15, the Gregorio del Pilar, and the status of PF 16 [Ramon Alcaraz], when it [Alcaraz] will arrive, its capability and what still can be done to increase its capability,” Manalo disclosed.

According to Manalo, the President was amenable to the proposal but instructed them to first observe “due diligence” in selecting the best available option, adding that the president also gave them an “additional instruction” which he did not elaborate.

Among those they planned to install, Manalo further said, were surface-to-surface missile and surface-to-air missile systems but that would all depend on the result of their ongoing study.

MILF: BLMI’S Writeshop kicks-off in Davao City

From the MILF Website (Mar 6): BLMI’S Writeshop kicks-off in Davao City

The Writeshop for members of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) sponsored by The Asia Foundation (TAF) commenced yesterday, March 5, 2013 at the Pinnacle Hotel in the progressive city of Davao. The main activity centers on the preparation of the Manual of Operations for the BLMI that once approved by the institute’s Oversight Committee and the Board of Directors shall become a roadmap for its smooth operation and implementation of its programs.

Initially the proposed Manual of Operation will contain various parts such as acknowledgement; foreword/ message; introduction; background (history of the organization, organizational profile; vision, mission, goal, mandate and core principles); organizational governance; organizational management; strategic planning; managing programs; training and resource center management; managing finances; managing people; office management; travel and transportation/ meal expenses and publicity.

The three-day activity is facilitated by Ms. Nelia Agbon, Program Manager of Kids for Peace Foundation; Ms. Noraida “Noda” Chio, Senior Program Officer; Mr. Eric Aseo, Program Officer; and Ms. Katrina Auditor, Assistant Program Officer.

The participants who are laboriously working on their assigned task for presentation are Sheikh Mahmud Sumilalao Ahmad, the institute’s Executive Director; Esmael A. Abdula, Training Director; Mr. Omsar Paradan, Finance Officer and alumnus of the Ateneo de Davao University; Ustadz Abdulsalam Alabat, a foreign educated aleem and expert on Sharia’h Law; Uz. Hisham Nando, also a foreign educated aleem; Mohammad Ishaq Macapoli; Tirso Tahir and Majid Nur, both representing the island provinces; Ahmad Mama and Mr. Zamin Unti, Administrative Officer. Four volunteer staff is also attending including this writers. The workshop presentation will start this afternoon and the finishing touches on the initial output of the proposed manual will be made tomorrow.

The Board of Directors and the institute’s Oversight Committee are expected to meticulously review/ study further and make revisions or amendments on the draft output.

Another phase of the writeshop may be scheduled in due time by TAF as the task of preparing the manual is not expected to be completed in the 3-day activity. Once the manual is finally completed and approved by BLMI’s top hierarchy, the institute will ultimately have a clear guideline on how it operates; performs its mandate/role and employ efficiently its strategies in delivering its services to its clientele.

Series of blasts rock Maguindanao town

From ABS-CBN (Mar 6): Series of blasts rock Maguindanao town

Four separate explosions rocked the town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao Monday night, police said.

Shariff Aguak Mayor Bai Sahara Ampatuan said the first explosion transpired in a vacant lot in Barangay Poblacion followed by another explosion at the residence of Datu Ali Kuli, where 2 ammunitions of an M203 grenade launcher landed at the roof the house.

Ali Kuli and his wife were hurt in the explosion, sustaining minor injuries.

Minutes after the incident, another loud explosion was heard in an abandoned house in Barangay Poblacion.

No casualty was reported but authorities recovered a rocket-propelled grenade a hundred meters away from Ali Kuli's house.

The 4th explosion occurred at Bec-Bec store in Poblacion Shariff Aguak where the M203 grenade launcher landed and exploded at the roof of the establishment.

Shariff Aguak police chief Marlon Martinez told ABS-CBN News that the series of explosions had nothing to do with politics.

Meantime, Sahara Ampatuan believes the attack was intended to hurt civilians.

She is not also discounting the possibility that she is the target of the attack, saying the first explosion transpired just 70 meters away from her residence.

The mayor appealed to authorities to investigate and arrest the people behind the attacks.

ASG members linked to deadly Zambo attacks nabbed

From ABS-CBN (Mar 6): 2 ASG members linked to deadly Zambo attacks nabbed

Authorities have arrested two members of the Abu Sayyaf group allegedly responsible for the deadly attacks in Zamboanga City, including the November 2012 bombing of a pension house that killed 3 persons.
By virtue of an operation supported by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa’s Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) and the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), Sajid Amajad - also known as Abu Tahjid - and his brother Edil, were arrested in an operation conducted in Barangay Muti in Zamboanga on Tuesday morning.

“Sajid was arrested at around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday while driving his motorcycle and was subsequently turned over to Zamboanga City Police Office. About two hours later or at 11:20 a.m. of the same day, his brother, Edil, was arrested during a follow up operation,” said retired police Gen. Felizardo Serapio Jr., executive director of the PCTC.

The brothers supposedly report to Khair Mundos, who has a $500,000 reward on his head. Mundos is believed to be a key leader and financier of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that has links to international terror organizations al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Mundos was captured in 2004 but he escaped from a provincial jail in 2007. While in government custody, he allegedly confessed to arranging funds for terrorist bombings throughout Mindanao.

The brothers are facing murder charges in connection with the bombing of the Atilano Pension House in downtown Zamboanga City in November 2012, which also left 27 injured.

The Amajads were also reportedly among those responsible for the bombing of Rural Transit Bus along MCCL Highway in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City in August last year.

At least six people, including a two-year-old child, were injured when an improvised bomb ripped through the passenger bus.

They also allegedly took part in the kidnapping of two Chinese traders, one of whom was rescued by government security forces during a daring daylight raid on the Abu Sayyaf’s newly-established training camp in Barangay Calabasa last September.

Five members of the terror group were killed and one was arrested following the raid.

The operation that led to the arrest of the Amajads was initiated by the anti-terrorism task force “Sanglahi” and was carried out by operatives from Task Force Zamboanga, Police Regional Office 9, the PCTC, 84th Special Action Company of the PNP Special Action Force, Police Regional Intelligence Unit 9, Zamboanga City Police Office, Naval Intelligence Support Group-Western Mindanao and the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations for Western Mindanao.

Malaysia wants sultan extradited

From ABS-CBN (Mar 6): Malaysia wants sultan extradited

Malaysian authorities will ask the Philippine government to extradite Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III if criminal charges are filed against him in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani issued the statement Wednesday, as Malaysian troops continued their manhunt for the sultan's supporters in Sabah.

"AG's Chambers will seek a request for the extradition of Jamalul Kiram III from the Philippines, should a case be made against him," Gani said, as quoted by state news agency Bernama.

Gani was the lead prosecutor in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial in 1998.

The Philippines does not have an extradition treaty with Malaysia but has a mutual legal assistance pact under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Malaysian authorities are now treating the sultan's armed supporters as "terrorists."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement Tuesday night, said Foreign Minister Anifah Aman raised the issue of criminal cases filed against the "terrorists" with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

"Malaysia needs clarifications about the law that these terrorists will be charged with in the Philippines, and for the law to be studied by Malaysia’s Attorney General," Anifah said.

"I also emphasised that actions need to be taken against Jamalul Kiram for his many statements inciting hatred and violence," he added.

Del Rosario allegedly promised Anifah that "the Philippine Government will charge the Sulu group involved in Lahad Datu and Semporna to the fullest extent of the law in the Philippines."

Anifah, in the statement, also claimed that Del Rosario "agreed that this group should be labelled as terrorists."

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has denied the Malaysian foreign minister's statement, saying it was "written out of context." It said Del Rosario only agreed to the phrase "terroristic acts" in reference to alleged atrocities committed by the armed followers of Kiram III.

Chinese chopper patrols over Spratlys - report

From GMA News (Mar 6): Chinese chopper patrols over Spratlys - report

A Chinese helicopter patrolled parts of the disputed Spartly Islands in the West Philippine Sea on Monday afternoon, the Chinese government reported.

China's government portal on Tuesday posted a Xinhua
quoting the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration as saying the chopper monitored part of the Islands.

"The helicopter took off from the Haixun 31, a marine surveillance ship, to monitor maritime traffic in waters near Dongmen Reef of the Nansha Islands," it said.

The administration also said that this was the first time a Chinese maritime helicopter was dispatched to patrol the South China Sea.

China refers to the Spratlys as the Nansha Islands. It is one of six claimants to the islands, the others being the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Xinhua said the Haixun 31 is one of three Chinese marine surveillance ships that left Sanya Port in Hainan province last Thursday.

China said the patrol seeks to boost China's maritime law enforcement capacity and test the patrol team's response abilities in the South China Sea.

It added the fleet has "covered 800 nautical miles, monitored the navigation environment in waters near the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands and conducted safety inspections for more than 40 Chinese and foreign vessels."

Malacañang slams Kiram daughter's 'malicious representations'

From GMA News (Mar 6): Malacañang slams Kiram daughter's 'malicious representations'

Malacañang on Wednesday called Princess Jacel Kiram’s actions “incendiary and irresponsible,” adding that the fake photo she circulated to the media calls into question the integrity of her branch of the Kiram family.

Jacel, the daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, on Monday fed the media a photograph of dead soldiers, which she claimed were Malaysian casualties in an encounter with her father’s followers who remain holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

After being alerted by readers, GMA News Online has verified that the image is fake, and most probably of dead Thai soldiers killed in Thailand in 2007. The image has previously appeared elsewhere on the Internet.

“Ms. Jacel Kiram's use of a photo which she claimed were of Malaysian casualties has led to the discovery by media that the photograph was not of Malaysian casualties in the Sabah standoff but of Thai military casualties in a 2007 incident that had nothing to do whatsoever with the standoff in Sabah,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

Lacierda implied that the deception has further clouded the credibility of the family.

“Ms. Kiram's attempted deception goes beyond grandstanding and strays into the realm of incendiary, irresponsible action. It has called into question the credibility of Jamalul Kiram III’s branch of the family and their deadly misadventure,” he said.

“We must all now wonder: what other assertions made by the Kiram party are false?” Lacierda added.

In his statement, Laceirda also cautioned Jacel that “loose talk can cost lives.”

“We ask all to bear in mind that talk is cheap, but loose talk can cost lives. This misrepresentation of a photograph for publicity's sake is a double desecration: of those now bearing the brunt of the rash actions of Jamalul Kiram III, and of those military casualties whose service to their country has become fodder for public relations,” Lacierda said.

AFP denies rising cases of HR abuses

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6): AFP denies rising cases of HR abuses

The military on Wednesday belied the claim of human rights group Karapatan that human rights violations under President Aquino have worsened.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the group’s information was based on allegations that were not submitted to the proper channels.

“These (alleged abuses) are only allegations. Most of these are not properly filed,” Burgos said.

“We have several mechanisms in place that address alleged human rights violations. We have human rights offices and desks in all commands. Human rights [eudcation] is also part of our troop education and formation,” he added.

Burgos was asked to react to Karapatan’s claim that there have been 137 cases of extrajudicial killings since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010.

The group said in 2012 alone, 51 cases of killings were recorded, 13 of them involving minors.

Karapatan, which has consistently criticized the country’s security forces, said there were 269 cases of illegal arrests and detention, 205 cases of physical assault, 203 cases of illegal search, 154 cases of frustrated killings, 72 incidents of torture, 14 cases of enforced disappearances and more than 27,000 incidents of threat, intimidation and harassment.

Burgos could not validate the figures cited by Karapatan but revealed that the government would soon consolidate its human rights data.

“The interagency panel (on human rights) led by the Justice department will meet next week to look into the different reports of different agencies,” he said.

“They will be consolidating the human rights cases so we can come up with data for everybody,” he added.

Last November, the president issued Administrative Order no. 35, creating an interagency committee that would look into human rights abuses by state and non-state forces.

The interagency committee would exclusively handle cases of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations.

The committee has been tasked to create teams that will work towards the resolution of unsolved and new cases.

The committee is being led by the Justice Secretary and consists of the heads of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the secretaries of the departments of the Interior and Local Government and Defense, the presidential advisers of the peace process and political affairs, the chiefs of the military, the police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

The chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman will sit as observers and resource persons in the committee.

New US ship set to visit Philippines

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): New US ship set to visit Philippines

Another US vessel will visit the country even as salvage teams have yet to fully extricate the warship that ran aground in Tubbataha Reef in January.

USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, is scheduled to dock Thursday at the Manila South Harbor for a routine port call.

In a statement, the US Embassy said the port call and goodwill visit “highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Philippines.”

The USS Blue Ridge, which was commissioned in 1970, last visited the Philippines in March 2012.

The visit will be held almost two months after US warship USS Guardian got stuck in the Tubbataha Reef off Palawan.

The 1,300-ton, 68-meter-long USS Guardian ran aground dawn of Jan. 17 at the reef’s south atoll. The ship was reportedly on its way to Puerto Princesa after a port call in Subic Bay when the incident happened.

The US Navy has blamed “faulty navigation chart data” for the accident but some sectors believe the incident was caused by human error.

Transportation Sec. Joseph Abaya previously said he has been hearing theories that US sailors manning the ship may have had too much “rest and recreation” in Subic.

Tubbataha, which spans 130,028 hectares, was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1993.

Despite the damage in the reef, the crew members of the USS Guardian may not land in jail due to practices granting immunity to foreign vessels

The US has apologized for the accident and has vowed to help rehabilitate the reef.

The USS Blue Ridge is under the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes 35 countries. Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries within its area namely Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

There are around 70 ships, 200 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the fleet.

Malaysian forces seize 13 bodies of Kiram's men

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6): Malaysian forces seize 13 bodies of Kiram's men

The bodies of 13 slain Sulu sultanate army members were discovered from a mass grave in Lahad Datu, Sabah on Wednesday as Malaysian forces scoured the island state for the supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Reports by Malaysian news agencies The Star and Bernama quoted Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that Malaysian forces were still "in the process of collecting more bodies."

The reports said that photographs of the bodies and the mass grave were shown by the official during a press briefing.

After the first encounter between the royal army and Malaysian forces last Friday, the Sultanate of Sulu announced that 12 of its supporters were killed in Lahad Datu.

Reports said that eight Malaysian police commandos were also killed in the clashes on during the weekend.

Earlier reports said that another member of the sultanate's army was killed by Malaysian security forces during mopping up operations.

Malaysian forces conducted door-to-door searches in Lahad Datu as part of the mopping up operations.

Security officials in Malaysia said that members of the sultanate’s army who survived the attacks are now posing as locals in Lahad Datu to evade detection.

NPA destroys P18M in Negros properties

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 6): NPA destroys P18M in Negros properties

About P18 million worth of properties of private companies and farms have either been damaged or destroyed by the New People’s Army in Negros Island in two years, the military said.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said the atrocious attacks, including burning of sugarcane plantations, heavy equipment, cargo trucks, farm tractors, and telecommunication facilities, were perpetrated by the NPA from 2010 to 2012.

Tiongson said majority of the attacks in Negros took place in 2011.

He added the rebels attacked the Philex Mining Corp. camp in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, and burned a bunkhouse and a utility vehicle on July 6, 2011 because of the company’s resistance to pay the NPA “revolutionary taxes”.

On Jan. 9, 2012, the rebels also bombed a telecom cell site in Brgy. Hilaitan, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and damaged the powerhouse of the installation, military records show.

Other NPA-violent incidents recorded by the 3ID were the burning of five hectares of sugarcane plantation, a farm tractor and cargo truck in Brgy Tapi, Kabankalan City; Volvo heavy equipment in La Castellana; and the electric transformer of the Victorias Milling Co. pump house in Victorias City, two years ago.

Tiongson said the rebels killed 46 people since 2010, and that the January 27 massacre in La Castellana that claimed the lives of eight civilians and a police officer, was the most horrible, as the victims were shot in the head.

The military said that regionwide, the NPA destroyed P23 million worth of properties, in what Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3ID commander, described as the rebels “desperate attempt” to impede progress in Western Visayas.

These criminal activities further show that the CPP-NPA-NDF is not putting primacy to human rights, Mabanta said in a press statement.

Military records also show the NPA burned a farm tractor in Lemery, and a dump truck in Tigbauan, both of Iloilo.

Mabanta reiterated his appeal to the public to report the activities of the rebels to put an end to their atrocities.

PHOTO | Malaysia releases pics of '13 dead intruders'

From InterAksyon (Mar 6): PHOTO | Malaysia releases pics of '13 dead intruders'

Malaysian officials hold up a picture that purports to show nine dead bodies piled on top of each other. Photo courtesy of

Malaysian officials on Wednesday released photos bolstering its claims that its campaign against armed intruders from Sulu has killed at 13 of the members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu.

"This is released to show that what is ongoing is real and not a figment (of anybody's imagination)," independent news site quoted Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at Felda Sahabat Residence in Lahad Datu. "This is the reality on the ground."

Defense Minister Zahid Hamidi held up a picture that purported to show nine dead bodies piled on top of each other.

The Malaysian officials produced another picture of a Sulu fighter supposedly killed on Wednesday morning. "A final photograph showed a burial ground which did not depict any dead bodies," but in which three bodies were supposedly buried, Malaysiakini said.

Malaysia's military on Tuesday launched a fierce assault including jet fighters on up to 300 Filipino intruders after a deadly three-week standoff, but the militants' supporters said they had escaped and were alive and well.

Malaysia's national police chief had also raised doubts about the success of the air and ground attack, saying "mopping up" operations had yet to find any bodies and suggesting at least some of the militants might have slipped away.

The outcome of the operation remained unclear more than 11 hours after it began. Malaysian officials said their forces suffered no casualties but they gave no details on the fate of the Filipinos, whose allies based in Manila claimed they had survived and were still resisting.

Malaysia hunts missing Filipinos as more fighters join

From Rappler (Mar 6): Malaysia hunts missing Filipinos as more fighters join

Malaysian forces searched house-to-house Wednesday, March 6, after armed Filipino invaders apparently escaped a military assault, as a Philippine guerrilla warned more fighters had arrived.

Malaysia Tuesday, March 5, launched an attack with jet fighters and soldiers on up to 300 Filipino invaders in a bid to end a bloody three-week standoff in which 27 people had already been reported killed, including eight policemen.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had declared the operation was "weeding out" the holed-up followers of a self-styled Muslim sultan from the Philippines, who had come to assert a long-dormant claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah.

But authorities later indicated the militants had escaped into surrounding farmland in the remote region of Borneo island, where residents were already on edge over reports of roaming gunmen and two bloody shootouts.

"Follow-up action and house-to-house searches are being carried out carefully to ensure the safety of the policemen and soldiers," state news agency Bernama quoted police as saying.

A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which waged an insurgency against the Philippine government until 1996, said hardened fighters from his Muslim group had arrived to support the militants.

"Many have slipped through the security forces," Muhajab Hashim told AFP in Manila.

"They know the area like the back of their hands because they trained there in the past," he said, referring to long-standing allegations that Malaysia helped trained MNLF leaders in their insurgency against the Philippines.

"We are expecting more of them to join (the battle) even if our official instruction is for them to refrain from going."

Malaysian federal police chief Ismail Omar said late Tuesday after the assault that no militants had yet been found dead or captured. He did not explain how they could have escaped a cordon in place for the past three weeks.

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

"We of course hope that they have not escaped."

Malaysians, accustomed to watching neighbors Thailand and the Philippines grapple with Muslim insurgents, have been shocked by the drama, and authorities have been criticized for the ease with which the invaders slipped in to Sabah.

The crisis comes as Malaysia's 56-year-old ruling coalition is bracing for what is expected to be the country's closest-ever election against a formidable opposition, which has slammed the handling of the incursion.

The episode began February 12, when Malaysia's government said an estimated 100-300 armed Filipinos had landed in Sabah and were surrounded in the sleepy farming village of Tanduo.

After an initial standoff, violence erupted there Friday, March 1, with a deadly shootout, followed by a second gunfight a day later in another town hours away. Authorities have said 27 have died in the shootouts and related violence.

The intruders are followers of Jamalul Kiram III, 74, the Manila-based self-proclaimed heir of the former sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled part of the southern Philippines and claimed sovereignty over Sabah.

The Sulu sultanate's power faded a century ago but its heirs continue to insist on ownership of resource-rich Sabah, and still receive nominal Malaysian payments under a lease deal originally struck by Western colonial powers.

Who stood to benefit from Atimonan killings?

From Rappler (Mar 6): Who stood to benefit from Atimonan killings?

His involvement in the illegal numbers game jueteng allegedly pushed Supt. Hansel Marantan - the head of the Atimonan checkpoint operation - to hatch a plan that led to the killing of 13 men on January 6.

That, plus intelligence failure, led to the killing of "innocent" victims at a police checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon two months ago.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) reached this conclusion in its investigation of the killing of 13 suspected criminal gang members on January 6 in Atimonan, Quezon.

The killings led to the suspension of at least 23 members and officials of the Philippine National Police, including Marantan.

The NBI said that that the supposed encounter in Atimonan - called "Coplan Armado" - was conceived based on intelligence information gathered by Marantan that Vic Siman, the alleged leader of the gang, and his people were members of private armed groups hired by jueteng and drug lords.

"The Atimonan encounter was a well-calculated plan to close the book on Vic Siman under the pretext of Coplan Armado using government forces and resources," the NBI said.

The intelligence was faulty, however, as only Siman was reported to be in the vehicle the police shot at; the authorities failed to verify who the other men in the vehicles were - the victims were aboard two black Montero sports utility vehicles - before they carried out the operation.

The NBI said that Marantan's intelligence, even if accurate, was still doubtful because the victims, if they had intended to carry out criminal activities, should have used unregistered vehicles and unlicensed firearms. The vehicles were registered and all of the firearms were licensed, however, except for one.

Jueteng wars

The NBI also concluded that the "checkpoint" in Atimonan was intended to kill Siman and company because of numerous violations in police operational procedures and Marantan's personal tiff with Siman.

The NBI said that Marantan had the motive to kill Siman because he (Marantan) was the protector of "Ka Tita," Siman's rival in the jueteng operations in Laguna.

Marantan was allegedly called "Bunso" by "Ka Tita" and his live-in partner "Ka Ogie," a retired police officer from the Western Police District.

"Ka Tita" who used to be a club operator in Ermita, Manila, was able to start his video karera operations in Laguna following Marantan's transfer from the Highway Patrol Group in Quezon City to the Laguna Police Station.

Siman - who allegedly started as a video karera operator - then sought the support of other gambling operators in Laguna and also had ties with the "Batang Kubo" criminal syndicate. The hostile rivalry has led to the killing of police operatives in the area.

The NBI said that Siman's death would have benefitted Marantan two ways:

a. The "territorial landscape" of "Ka Tita" would expand as well as her collectors

b. Marantan would have another "feather to his cap" for stopping Siman

Flawed procedures

The NBI said that the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, did not conform to PNP operational procedures.

There was no signage at the checkpoint and the policemen were not in prescribed uniform during the operations, which was meant to conceal their identities. No marked PNP vehicle was also used; a Philippine Army truck was parked to block the road.

The PNP's rules of engagement were also violated when the police forcibly opened the windows of the vehicles, pointed their guns at the two vehicles and fired at the men inside.

The NBI added that the crime scene was tampered with, and that there was delay in the turnover of evidence from the PNP's Scene of the Crime Operatives to the NBI.

The NBI said there was also poor handling of evidence by the SOCO as the clothes of the victims were placed in wet bags instead of being preserved or air-dried and that the same group was also inefficient in handling the slugs it recovered.

Witnesses and forensics

The NBI gathered the testimony of 3 principal witnesses and 6 corroborating witnesses.

The 3 principal witnesses were on board a 10-wheeler truck that was stopped at the second checkpoint.

The witnesses had aliases to protect their identity.

"Johnny Parcon Ocampo" said that the authorities flagged down the Montero vehicles but they only slowed down. The checkpoint signage was then placed in front of them and the army truck was used to block them.

An armed man in civilian clothes then shouted "Fire! Fire!" and the shooting started, lasting for 20 seconds, according to Ocampo.

When a gunshot was fired from one of the SUVs, shooting ensued again.

The second witness, "Tomas Javier," said that one of the men went out of the vehicles with his hands raised but was still shot at. Another man was also shot at even if he was already lying on the ground, Javier told the NBI.

The third witness, "Archie Pelayo Reyes," gave the same statement as that of Parcon, adding their truck was 7-8 meters far from the SUVs.

The corroborating witnesses from a nearby prawn hatchery said they heard gunshots coming from the checkpoint.

There was also one witness - Rolando Boncayo Vico - who said that the men inside the vehicle fired first at the team composed of 23 policemen and 25 members of the military.

The NBI said that Vico's testimony could not be corroborated though.

The findings of Felicisima Francisco, a forensic chemist at the NBI, indicated the men inside the vehicles did not fire at the policemen.

The 196 bullet entrance holes in one Montero and 61 in the other all tested negative for gunpowder residue.

The NBI has recommended the filing of murder charges against Marantan and 20 other PNP personnel as well as against 14 AFP members.

DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima also said they should be charged for obstruction of justice because the firearms they surrendered were not the ones used in the operations.

Over 11,000 MILF families to gain from DSWD’s cash-for-work program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 4): Over 11,000 MILF families to gain from DSWD’s cash-for-work program

Over 11,000 families, all members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are set to benefit from the cash-for-work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DSWD 12 Regional Director Bai Zorahayda Taha said the initial number of beneficiaries are located in Region 12 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Taha explained, the inclusion of these families in the agency’s cash-for-work program is part of the immediate interventions promised under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program.

President Benigno Aquino III launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program on February 15 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

It intends aims to uplift the health, livelihood and education conditions of Bangsamoro communities.

The cash-for-work program, Taha continued, is among the confidence-building measures that the department has identified in support to the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program and the on-going peace negotiations.

Under the program, indigent MILF-member families will be provided temporary employment.

Meanwhile, the regional office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) or PhilHealth here also announced that over 11,000 families are also scheduled to receive their PhilHealth cards that they could use to avail of health insurance benefits just like the members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of DSWD.

Operation Pacific Angel to benefit 6,000 disaster victims in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 5): Operation Pacific Angel to benefit 6,000 disaster victims in Negros Oriental

Around 6,000 disaster victims in Negros Oriental will benefit from the joint humanitarian mission of the US Pacific Air Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dubbed "Operation Pacific Angel" that started Monday, March 4 until March 9.

OPA Mission Commander Ltc Alvin Alana in a press conference said the humanitarian mission of PAF and US military will provide medical health services to 500 patients a day for six days or from March 4 to 9 in two sites --- Macias Sports Complex in Dumaguete City and Osmeña Park in Tanjay City.

Likewise, the mission will include services on medical, dental, optometry, and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges.

Army Commander of Negros Oriental, Col Francisco Patrimonio for his part said, priority beneficiaries of this mission are victims of typhoon Sendong and the earthquake. On December 2011, typhoon Sendong slammed Negros Oriental followed by the devastation wrought by the 6.9 magnitude quake in February 2012, according to Patrimonio.

Patrimonio further said the humanitarian exercise aims to enhance the capability of the AFP in responding to disasters or natural calamities.

The United States has provided $100,000 to support disaster relief efforts for victims of Sendong following President Aquino declaration of a state of national calamity in the province.

Col. Alana on the other hand, said his group serves preventive health care, provides free eyeglasses and medicines, and do referrals only for local surgery if it’s necessary.

Now on its sixth year, the OPA is an exercise led by the Pacific Air Forces with AFP for humanitarian undertakings.

On top of the humanitarian mission, the OPA is also expected to rehabilitate three school buildings in the province, disclosed Patrimonio.

Patrimonio said a group of personnel of the US military and AFP has started its mission today to repair, renovate, and upgrade school facilities in Bio-os Elementary School in Amlan town; Pamplona Central Elementary School in Pamplona; and Tugawe Elementary School in Daiun where a water tower will be installed and repainting of classrooms will be done.

Patrimonio thanked Lt Col Alana and the Pacific Angel group for choosing Negros Oriental as beneficiaries of this humanitarian mission. “This is the first time that a foreign military humanitarian mission is held here in Negros Oriental,” he added.

Army, police forces, U.S. Air Force conduct joint exercise in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 5): Army, police forces, U.S. Air Force conduct joint exercise in Negros Oriental

Eighteen military men and 15 police personnel in Negros Oriental took part in a civil disturbance management (CDM) exercise with the United States (US) Air Force Pacific Command at the Sibulan Police headquarters.

The subject matter expert exchanges (SMEES) exercise is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-US joint and combined humanitarian civic action or civil military operation dubbed “Pacific Angel 13-1.”

The activity is being conducted from March 4 until March 9 in Negros Oriental, said Army’s Acting Information Officer, Capt. Cresencio Gargar.

The CDM exercise aims to enhance the inter-operability of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and AFP in dealing with mass protest and crowd control.

302nd Brigade Commander and the Exercise Director, Col Francisco Patrimonio however said that “though we are not expecting any mass protests and rallies during humanitarian mission between the AFP and US in the province, we want that our troops are prepared to any eventualities that may arise during conduct of the activity. Besides, this is a good exercise for the PNP and AFP to work jointly in preparation for the forthcoming elections.”

According to Gargar the local PNP and U.S. Air Force Pacific Command both exchanged its expertise in CDM techniques and formations during the discussion with the troops and practical exercises.

After the discussion, the troops equipped with shields, helmet and batons rehearsed the series of CDM formations in front of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) headquarters.

Capt Gargar said the practical exercise was closely supervised by PCI Lomente of the PNP, the Operations Officer of NOPPO with Sgt. Anthony Johnson of the US Air Force who demonstrated several techniques on how to use the telescopic baton - a vital CDM equipment.

NPAs intimidate residents of barangay

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 6): NPAs intimidate residents of barangay

Lawless elements reportedly intimidated civilians in Barangay Bad-as, San Joaquin, Iloilo at about 7:15 in the morning of March 4,2013.

Army troopers of 82nd Infantry Battalion under 2Lt Nomarson Samonte while conducting their regular peace and security patrol, received a report from the civilians of the said barangay that they are being intimidated by the New People's Army who are extorting money and food supplies from them which prompted them to respond.

Lt. Nomarson said that calls for help from the people are always responded because they cannot afford to falter in their efforts to maintain peace and security in the communities.

According to LTC. Aldwine Almase, Commander of the 82nd Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army, the troops who figured in the encounter which lasted for 25 minutes recovered backpacks, personal belongings and subversive documents of high intelligence value while the NPA withdraw to different directions.

Almase said no casualty in the government has been reported while there are undetermined number of casualties from the NPA due bloodstains found in the encounter site.

Maj. Ray C. Tiongson. Division Public Affairs Office head said that Maj. General Jose Mabanta Jr., Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, reiterated the Army's commitment for peace and security to be always felt by the people who only wants to live peacefully and helping each other to have a progressive community.

Mabanta said, "Once again in the spirit of Bayanihan, I call upon those who are still up in the hills to lay down their their arms and abandon the path of armed struggle.We sincerely offer you peace and we will help you, together with the rest of the stakeholders, live normal lives again with your families and loved ones,"

Meanwhile, hot pursuit operation is being undertaken by the government troops to run after the fleeing rebels.

Troops arrest two Abu Sayyaf bandits in Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Troops arrest two Abu Sayyaf bandits in Zambo City

Combined police and military forces have arrested two suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in an east coast village of this city, a top police official disclosed Wednesday.

Arrested on the virtue of warrant of arrest for murder were Edil Amajad and his brother, Sajid, according to Zamboanga City police officer-in-charge Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo.

De Ocampo said the Amajad brothers were arrested one after the other Tuesday in Barangay Muti, 58 kilometers east of this city.

The combined police and military forces swooped down Barangay Muti following information about the presence of the Amajad brothers in the place, De Ocampo said.

First to fall into the hands of the lawmen was Sajid, who was arrested around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and Edil was cornered two hours later following continuous operation in Barangay Muti, he said.

The arrested suspects are believed to be followers of Marzan Ajijul, who is reportedly to have established a lair in Barangay Muti, he disclosed.

Pursuit operations continue aimed to arrest Ajijul, he said.  The Amajad brothers were arrested by joint forces from the Regional Intelligence Division 9, Task Force Zamboanga, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), Special Action Force, Naval Intelligence Service Group, Zamboanga City Police Office and other law enforcement units.

NPA rebels admit killing Davao barangay police

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): NPA rebels admit killing Davao barangay police

The New Peoples Army (NPA) has admitted the killing of a barangay police who they claimed acted as a civilian intelligence agent and participated in counter-revolutionary operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the remote Barangay New Carmen, Baguio District here.

In a statement signed by an NPA spokesperson, the NPA said the killing of Paulino Landim Jr. on March 2, 2013 at Purok 4, Barangay Carmen, Baguio District was a punishment of the NPA’s military tribunal for his participation in the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations.

The NPA also boasted the release of five other civilian assets after finding that they were serving as forest guard volunteers of Philippine Eagle Conservation Program Foundation.

The NPA said Landim together with Cesar Aggas, Jomer Manando, Alvin Aggas, Elmer Aggas and Jerbel Aggas were arrested and detained on March 1. But on March 2, all but Landim were released by the NPA.

NPA said that the so-called order against Landim was handed down on March 29, 2012 due to his reported participation as military spy which reportedly resulted in the killing of NPA member and wounding another by operatives of 84th Infantry Battalion and Police Special Action Force on February 25, 2011.

New SOLCOM chief assumes duty at turn-over of command rites

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): New SOLCOM chief assumes duty at turn-over of command rites

Newly-appointed Major General Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo assumed Monday as the Commanding General of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) during the turn-over-of-command ceremonies at the Camp General Guillermo Nakar in this city.

The new SOLCOM chief is a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 80 and was commander of 6th Infantry “KAMPILAN” Division (6ID), Philippine Army based in Awang, Dato Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao prior to his new post.

He replaced outgoing SOLCOM chief Major General Nonato Alfredo Peralta while Brig. General Romeo Gapuz will assume the post he has vacated at the 6ID.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista presided over the Change of Command ceremony attended by local government officials, private sector representatives, Quezon Police provincial officials, mistahs and friends.

In his remarks, General Bautista said: “Ordoyo is not new in Southern Luzon as he was assigned with SOLCOM in 1996 as young major then, therefore, he is very familiar with the area.”

On Ordoyo’s credentials, the AFP chief of staff also revealed that “his good military accomplishments made him the best choice for the new post.”

Major General Ordoyo also served as chief of the AFP Intelligence Service and was commanding officer of the 301st infantry brigade.

Citing records from the military headquarters, Major General Ordoyo noted that SOLCOM has achieved far in the maintenance of peace and order and expressed “to build on the confidence I could do as great as what my predecessor has done.”

In his acceptance speech, Ordoyo remarked that SOLCOM cannot do it alone and appealed from supporters and friends “to extend the same support to me and together we will make Southern Luzon a safe place to live for the people.”

Meanwhile, the outgoing SOLCOM commander Major General Peralta currently holds the 2nd Infantry Division command based in Tanay, Rizal and committed his service for the Southern Tagalog region.

Peralta said, “A lot of things are still to be done in Region 4A and 4B and there’s no room to slow down after all these years that we have achieved together” and pledged support to the new SOLCOM chief.

LGUs here expressed optimism of a secured Southern Luzon under his wings with a proven track record in the military service branch.

His PMA class ’80 mistah and contemporaries threw in their support to Ordoyo as a multi-awarded military officer and recipient of the four “Distinguished Service Stars” awarded to a position of major responsibility.

Ordoyo also received seven Bronze Cross Medals, 27 Military Merit Medals and a string of awards and commendations from various military and civilian organizations.

Major General Ordoyo took various military studies and training such as the Scout Ranger Orientation course in April 1980, Basic Airborne Course in November 1980, Military Intel Officer 1982, Field Artillery Officer Advance Course in USAFAS, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA in 1991 and Command and General Staff Course in 2001.

He is a “full-blooded Ilonggo” but hailed from Fort Andres Bonifacio, Makati City. He finished his elementary years in Paco Catholic School and completed secondary school at Villamor High School in Pasay City. Ordoyo took a year in BS Statistics at the University of the Philippines, Diliman before he entered PMA.

NBI executive summary report on Atimonan incident points to 'rubout' -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): NBI executive summary report on Atimonan incident points to 'rubout' -- Palace

Malacanang Wednesday said the Executive Summary report on the Atimonan incident submitted to President Benigno Aquino III pointed to a "rubout."

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a press briefing, said that page 50 of the Executive Summary report stated that "ultimately, the NBI probe reached the conclusion that no shootout occurred, thus, validating the initial result of the PNP (Philippine National Police) fact-finding committee."

"The probe findings also showed that the victims were summarily executed and all indications point to a rubout," the report further said.

Valte said this is the criminal liability of Supt. Hansel Marantan, deputy chief of the Calabarzon regional police intelligence group; Police Officer 2 Romy Cerdena, Police Insp. John Paolo V. Carracedo, SPO1 Arturo C. Sarmiento, James Andres Melad, and others.

"Meron po kasi mga PNP personnel who had directly participated in the operation," she said. President Aquino has directed the Dept. of Justice for the filing of charges against Marantan, Melad, and others involved in the Jan. 6 Atimonan shootout that killed 13 persons.

"The recommendation is for multiple murder charges," said Valte. The Palace official said the Executive Summary report was adopted in full by the Pesident. "So, lahat po ng conclusions noong NBI report ay sinang-ayunan po ng ating Pangulo," she noted. Police earlier said the gun battle between government forces and the 13 alleged members of a criminal group on board two vehicles occurred around 3 p.m., on Jan. 6, along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Lumutan in Atimonan, Quezon after the group opened fire at police and military officers manning a checkpoint.

Relatives of the slain victims and witnesses attested that it was a shootout. Marantan, however, insisted the shootout in Atimonan, Quezon was a legitimate police operation.

"From the very beginning, what the President said was 'we will find those responsible for this. If there is any culpability, then we will press charges.' Malinaw naman po ‘yung mensahe ng Pangulo. Aalamin natin kung ano ‘yung talagang nangyari sa likod nung insidente. Sino ‘yung may sala at kung meron tayong mahanap, kakasuhan natin sila dahil hindi naman pwedeng… especially if you are in uniform you cannot be the one to violate the laws," said Valte. "Marami po ‘yung ebidensyang nakita doon sa nakalap nung PNP fact-finding, pati din ho doon sa NBI investigation. Meron po silang mga witness accounts, yung documentary," she said.

21 PNP, 14 AFP officials to be charged in Atimonan "rubout"

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): 21 PNP, 14 AFP officials to be charged in Atimonan "rubout"

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima Wednesday confirmed they have recommended the filing of multiple murder and administrative charges against 21 officers of the Philippine National Police and 14 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in connection with the Atimonan check point shooting incident.

The shooting incident claimed the lives of 13 policemen, soldiers and civilians in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.

In a press conference, De Lima said among those recommended charged with multiple murder and administrative cases are former Calabarzon PNP regional director Chief Supt. James Melad, Senior Supt. Hansel Marantan, among others.

De Lima said the NBI executive report was accompanied by numerous annexes submitted by the NBI to the President through the DOJ Secretary. She added the President personally read the NBI executive report, hence, it took some time before it was released, including the annexes.

De Lima said they were given by the President the clearance to release the report and file the appropriate charges. She said multiple murder charges will be filed against 21 PNP personnel who directly participated in the "Operation Armado" led by Marantan, Melad, and 14 from AFP personnel headed by Lt. Col. Monico Abang, who was the commander of the AFP Solcom Special Forces Battalion.

The respondents were also recommended charged for obstruction of justice for allegedly tampering the scene of the crime, De Lima said.

In the multiple murder charges, De Lima said the NBI conclusion was arrived at after a thorough investigation, based "not only on testimonial but typical forensic investigation because there were findings of mishandling of evidences."

De Lima said the conclusion of the NBI was similar with the conclusion of the PNP Fact-Finding Committee in that there was no "shootout" as it was a case of summary execution through rubout.

"The findings of the forensic investigation corroborated the testimonies of three eyewitnesses who were on board a truck, two of them participated in the ocular inspection (of the crime scene)," De Lima said.

During the reenactment, De Lima said the third witness cooperated, however, "the names of the witnesses were indicated in the report but were hidden under pseudonyms for their own security as they are now in the Witness Protection Program."

One of the important findings, which is disturbing, De Lima said is that "some of the victims were either already lying on the ground and surrendering but were still fired upon by the operatives."

De Lima said some PNP operatives after the incident, were involved in the "tampering of the crime scene such that the PNP fired guns in the air after everyone has been confirmed dead to make it appear that the weapons were used by the victims during the incident."

After the victims were killed, De Lima said the firearms were gathered and fired on air to make it appear that there was a shootout. De Lima said the tampering was further done such that "karamihan ng firearms surrendered to NBI were not directly used by the PNP and AFP during the incident, hence, they should be charged with obstruction of justice, because it hampered the investigation, because most of the surrendered firearms were not used in the incident."

De Lima said there were limitations on the part of the NBI in its investigation, but there were conclusions supported by appropriate evidences such that the PNP SOCO first investigated the case, there was a significant delay in the turnover of physical evidence by the SOCO and the crime scene was tampered.

In the conclusion on page 64 of executive report, De Lima said, all of the firearms surrendered by the PNP and the AFP, the paramount objective of the operation was to kill all the victims, one of them was already in the act of surrendering. De Lima said "the checkpoint was intended to kill Victor Siman and his group."

Aquino says Sabah standoff incident has led to 'propaganda war'

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Aquino says Sabah standoff incident has led to 'propaganda war'

President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday said the standoff by the armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and his continued insistence for his Royal Army to remain there despite numerous appeals by the Philippine government to come back has led to a "propaganda war."

"Sa ngayon, nagkakaroon tayo ng propaganda war. Kayo po testigo, nagmakailang ulit na po akong nakikiusap na kung pupuwede lumikas doon, bumalik na muna dito at pag-usapan natin ang problema niyo, sa ulit, mapayapa at mahinahon na pamamaraan," the President said in his speech during the meeting with local leaders and the community in General Santos City.

"Yung Malaysia po at ang Pilipinas, ang relasyon nila nagkaroon ng maraming kulay dahil dito sa isyu ng Sabah. Huwag ho nating kalimutan, ang sinusulong nila (Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III) ‘yung karapatan nila bilang heirs raw po ng Sultan of Sulu. Hindi pa ganoon kaliwanag na ‘yung karapatan nila ibinahagi na sa Pilipinas. Pero sa away nila, idadamay tayong lahat," he noted.

"Bilang ama ng ating bansa, obligasyon ko ‘yung kapakanan, kung hindi ng lahat, ay ‘yung talagang napakarami," he stressed.

President Aquino said it was wrong move of the Sulu Sultan to bring armed men to Sabah, endangering the lives of the estimated 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. He reiterated that sending armed men to Sabah is not the key to press the Sulu sultanate's claim, saying the matter should be discussed in a peaceful manner.

"Kung meron silang (Kiram) problema doon sa kasunduan, at kung tayo naman po ay may interes, dapat ho siguro pag-usapan nang mahinahon. Kung mali ‘yung pinagkasunduan noon, iwasto natin," he said. "Maski ano pong komunidad, maski saang lupalop ng mundo, papasok ang armadong grupo, hindi ho yata nagiging susi ’yon para sa mapayapa at mahinahong pag-uusap," he stressed.

"Ako’y umaapela sa inyo, dapat ho maliwanag na maliwanag dito. Itong pangyayaring ito mali. Kung mali bakit natin susuportahan? Dapat suportahan po natin ‘yung tama. ‘Yung tama ho magdadala sa atin sa maaliwalas na kondisyon; ‘yung mali dadalhin tayo sa kapahamakan," he added.

With regards to the propriety rights issue of the Sulu Sultanate on Sabah, the President said he already tasked the Department of Justice, Dept. of Foreign Affairs, and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office to study the validity of the country's claim over Sabah.

MILF does not want to get involved, says Chairman

From the Philippine News Agency/Bernama (Mar 6): MILF does not want to get involved, says Chairman

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in southern Philippines, is not involved in the confrontation between the Sulu gunmen and Malaysia's security forces in eastern Sabah.

Its chairman, Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, said the confrontation between the terrorists and the security forces in Lahad Datu and Semporna was a matter for Kuala Lumpur and the Manila administration to solve.

"The problem there (confrontation between the terrorists and Malaysia's security forces) is between the Malaysian Government and the Philippines. We leave it to them to solve it. "Our people are not involved in the intrusion. We don't want to get involved in the matter, we don't want to complicate it," he told Bernama in an exclusive interview via telephone from his stronghold at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, southern Philippines Wednesday.

After three weeks of failed negotiations, Malaysia Tuesday dispatched fighter jets and ground troops in armoured personnel carriers to storm the seaside village of Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, where the terrorists are holed up.

The pre-dawn security operation, codenamed 'Ops Daulat', had been successful and attained its objectives, according to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and Armed Forces Chief Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zain. The security operation to flush out the terrorists, involving more than 2,000 combined forces of the police and the army, is ongoing at this point in time.

Since the intrusion three weeks ago, eight police personnel have been killed in two separate incidents, while 19 of the terrorists were also killed in sporadic firefights.

On the action of the terrorists in invading eastern Sabah and claiming it as their ancestral homeland, the MILF chairman said he did not want to comment further, in line with the front's non-interference stance taken on the matter. Nevertheless, he earnestly hoped the Malaysian Government and the terrorists could solve the matter peacefully. "We are hopeful that the problem will be solved peacefully," he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in his quest to solve the matter peacefully, had extended numerous deadlines to the terrorists to leave Kampung Tanduo and return to the Philippines. However, the terrorists rebuffed Najib's peace efforts to end the armed stand-off and maintained their ground in Kampung Tanduo, leaving the government with no choice.

On news reports coming from the Philippines stating the fighters from the Moro National Liberation Front were ready to join in the fray to help the terrorists, Al-Haj Murad said, he did not know about it as it involved another group.

On whether the peace deal between them and the Philippine Government, brokered by Malaysia, suffered as a result of the Sabah intrusion, he said it did not. "The peace process between MILF and the Philippine Government is a separate matter and will not be hampered by the Sabah incident. The peace process is ongoing."

The MILF's negotiation team and the Philippine Government, he said, were expected to meet in Kuala Lumpur for their latest round of negotiations in the last week of this month.

The MILF and the Philippine Government successfully inked a framework agreement, ending a long-running conflict between both parties which claimed thousands of lives and left the resource-rich Mindanao region impoverished.

The framework agreement between MILF and Manila was brokered by Malaysia and signed at the Malacanang Palace on Oct 15, witnessed by Najib and his counterpart, President Benigno Aquino III.

Armed intruders must surrender first if they want to talk - Mahathir

From the Philippine News Agency/Bernama (Mar 6): Armed intruders must surrender first if they want to talk - Mahathir

The armed intruders in Lahad Datu must halt their resistance against Malaysian security forces and surrender first in order for any possible negotiations to take place, said former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"They cannot continue being aggressive. If they want to negotiate, they must lay down their weapons first," he told reporters after the 'Sharing the Experience of Nation Building' discourse at the Islamic Art Museum, here Wednesday.

It is impossible to provide an opportunity for talks until they give a guarantee that there will be no more violence, as this involves the safety of the residents and security personnel there, he said.

"They have killed our people in a cruel manner. This has provoked the anger of the deceased's next-of-kin and colleagues. We cannot take it lightly as they died in our defence," he said.

He was commenting on a local newspaper report based on quoting Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari as saying he was prepared to mediate in the armed intrusion situation.

"This is my message to Prime Minister, (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak. I'm prepared to send my kin to start talks," he said. He was quoted as saying that he was prepared to personally help Malaysia resolve the crisis, which started early last month, after the armed intruders breached Sabah's coast and entrenched themselves in Lahad Datu.

Commenting further on the alleged manipulation of information on the situation in Lahad Datu by several alternative media, Mahathir advised people not to be carried away by their approach. He claimed that the pro-opposition media definitely had an agenda to weaken the government by posting various false stories and distorting the situation. "Ignore it. Over time, it will be proven who was lying and we'll know what's right and what's wrong," he said.