Thursday, March 7, 2013

52 Filipinos, 8 Malaysia cops killed in Sabah clashes as of late Thursday

From InterAksyon (Mar 7): 52 Filipinos, 8 Malaysia cops killed in Sabah clashes as of late Thursday

Felda Sahabat, Malaysia - Malaysia said clashes between intruding Filipino militants and its security forces had left 60 people dead as of late Thursday, as it rejected a ceasefire offer from the fighters' leader.

Police chief Ismail Omar said 32 followers of a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan had been killed in two confrontations since Wednesday near the scene of a three-week standoff in Sabah state, after a military assault to dislodge them.

That brought the total dead to 60, including 52 militants. Eight Malaysian policemen were killed in skirmishes last weekend.

Troops and police are currently hunting the Islamic militants in a remote region of Borneo island, where they landed last month to assert a long-dormant territorial claim in what has become Malaysia's worst security crisis in years.

A spokesman for their Manila-based leader, who called for a midday ceasefire, said 235 people including eight women took part in the original incursion.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who flew to the region Thursday to inspect security operations, said he told Philippine leader Benigno Aquino by phone the ceasefire offer was rejected.

"I told President Aquino they must lay down their arms immediately," Najib told reporters in a village near where the army and police were searching for scores of militants.

"They have to surrender their arms and they have to do it as soon as possible."

The "sultan", Jamalul Kiram III, declared a unilateral ceasefire for 12:30 pm (0430 GMT) and urged Malaysia to reciprocate.

But Najib said Malaysian forces would press on with the offensive, sending more soldiers into the hilly region of vast oil palm estates and pockets of jungle.

Authorities said one intruder was killed in a clash Wednesday and 31 on Thursday.
They gave no details, other than to say one encounter was in the village of Tanduo, where the standoff began, and the other in the neighbouring village of Tanjung Batu to the east.

The remaining militants were still believed to be in the two villages.

Anger has mounted in Malaysia over the incursion, which began February 12 when fighters arrived from the southern Philippines to press Kiram's claim to the area.

Kiram says he is heir to the Sultanate of Sulu, which once ruled islands that are now part of the southern Philippines as well as Sabah.

The main group of militants was holed up in the sleepy farming village of Tanduo for three weeks until two deadly shootouts with security forces at the weekend triggered a military assault to dislodge them.

The attack scattered the fighters and security forces were combing through huge oil palm groves for them.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged a peaceful resolution of the bizarre incursion.

"(Ban) urges an end to the violence and encourages dialogue among all the parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation," said a statement released by his office late Wednesday.

Kiram declared the "unilateral ceasefire... in order to reciprocate the call of the UN to preserve lives", his spokesman said.

Tension is running high in eastern Sabah due to the incursion. Residents of some towns have fled after police said gunmen were spotted in other areas down the coast, raising fears of a wider guerrilla infiltration.

Late Wednesday police said the bodies of six police officers killed in a weekend ambush in the coastal town of Semporna were mutilated.

"The bodies of dead police personnel were found to have been brutally mutilated by the armed intruders," a statement said, giving no further details.

Police have said six militants responsible for the ambush were later killed.

The incursion has created a delicate situation for the two neighbours, with Manila earlier calling for Malaysian restraint just before Tuesday's military assault was launched.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said late Wednesday that his government might seek Kiram's extradition if Manila failed to take action. But the Philippine government said that was unlikely, citing the lack of an extradition treaty.

USS ‘Blue Ridge’ crew told to behave while in Manila

From the Business Mirror (Mar 7): USS ‘Blue Ridge’ crew told to behave while in Manila

THE crew members of the US Pacific Fleet’s flag ship were told to behave during their four-day furlough in Manila.
“They should behave accordingly and watch each other,” said the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) commander, Capt. Will Pennington.
Pennington spoke to reporters shortly after the arrival of the warship at the Manila South Harbor for a routine port call midmorning on Thursday.
Pennington said there were 90 sailors of Filipino ancestry among USS Blue Ridge’s 700-strong crew.
“They are doing a good job,” he said.
One of them is Chief Petty Officer Archie Amante, 34, a native of Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila, and a 15-year veteran of the US Navy.
Amante asked journalists about the traffic in Manila.
“Is it still the same way to go to Tondo?” he asked in Tagalog. Amante said this is his third visit to the Philippines. His first ship was the USS Juneau (LPD-10). He has been aboard USS Blue Ridge for two years.
Amante said he plans to visit Boracay and Misibis, Albay, on his next visit to the Philippines as the USS Blue Ridge’s port visit is too short.
Pennington said the crew would engage in community relations, as well as sports activities with the Philippine Navy during the USS Blue Ridge’s stay.
Pennington said his ship’s visit to the Philippines has nothing to do with the country’s ongoing tiff with China and the grounding of the USS Guardian (MCM-5) on January 17.
“The visit was long planned well before those incidents happened and nobody should be afraid of our visit,” he added.
Pennington talked to reporters who he allowed to tour the ship’s forecastle, flight deck, pilot house and the wardroom.
At the flight deck, journalists also saw two Sikorsky H-60 helicopters, which are used for transport by the ship’s ranking officers.
The USS Blue Ridge arrived after a two-day trip from Hong Kong. Pennington said it is not the policy of the US to reveal the future ports of call of its assets.
The USS is currently forward-deployed to US Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, and is the third Navy ship named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range of mountains in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern US.

AFP: US soldiers in Negros on ‘humanitarian’ mission

From the Business Mirror (Mar 6): AFP: US soldiers in Negros on ‘humanitarian’ mission

THE 40 American soldiers in Negros Oriental jointly conducting exercises with the Philippine military are on a humanitarian mission, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.
“This undertaking is part of our continuing engagements with the US Armed Forces for the benefit and development of rural communities in the country,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista said on the fourth day of Operation Pacific Angel.
The week-long joint operation that began Monday, according to an AFP briefing document, is being conducted for the first time in Negros Oriental until March 9.
The AFP said the American soldiers and Filipino troops under the Philippine Army’s 302nd (Achiever) Brigade began the operation with repairs on three school buildings and two medical missions.
The AFP said the Americans, members of the US Pacific Air Force (USPacAF) under the US Pacific Command (USPaCom) headed by Lt. Col. Alvin Alana, will also help put up a water tower and paint classrooms.
The AFP said about 35,000 patients are expected to benefit from the daily medical missions composed of general healthcare, optometry, dental, physical therapy and circumcision.
“We are looking forward for this mission and see the smiling faces of the patient, especially the children we will help,” said Alana.
The AFP said aside from medical missions, the soldiers will also hold lectures on “preparedness among different forces during calamities and disasters.”
Last year, a magnitude 6.9-earthquake hit Negros Oriental leading to the death of 51 people, 112 injured and 62 missing, according to a report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
“The total number of population affected in 180 barangays, nine municipalities, two cities, and two provinces in Central Visayas or Region VII [was pegged] at 63,899 families [and/or] 320,165 persons,” the NDRRMC report said.
Bautista said they expect Operation Pacific Angel to become an annual activity.
The USPaCom arrived on Sunday in the Philippines or six days before the lead ship of the US Seventh Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, docked in Manila.

Army troops sent to Palanan to build schools

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7): Army troops sent to Palanan to build schools

The 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army (5ID,PA) based at Gamu town sent last week army troops composed of the camp’s engineering brigade to help in the construction of school buildings in the town of Palanan.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, public affairs chief of 5ID, said the deployment in the area is part of the army’s spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ aimed at helping the government in its efforts to bring development in remote areas.

Bayanihan is a flagship program of the present Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Emmanuel Bautista.

The coastal town of Palanan is one of the four coastal towns in Isabela considered hard-to-reach due to the absence of road networks in reaching the area.

The town can only be reached by air and sea transportation.

It is also one of the coastal towns hardest hit by typhoons Juan, Pedring and Quiel in recent years which has damaged agricultural crops and infrastructure to include school buildings.

U.S. Fleet flagship in Manila

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7): U.S. Fleet flagship in Manila

The United States Ship (USS) Blue Ridge (LCC-19) will arrive in Manila Thursday, March 7.

The United States Seventh Fleet flagship will dock at the Manila South Harbor for a routine port call and goodwill visit.

According to the United States Embassy, the visit will highlight the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Philippines.

Aside from being the command ship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge is also the lead ship of the two Blue Ridge-class command ships of the U.S. Navy.

Its primary role is to provide command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) to the commander and staff of the US Seventh Fleet.

The USS Blue Ridge was commissioned on November 14, 1970 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as a command and control ship for the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Embassy Manila-Public Affairs Section/RJB/JEG-PIA NCR)

2 guards to testify in Anikow case

From the Philippine Star (Mar 7): 2 guards to testify in Anikow case

Two security guards of the Rockwell Center will be taking the witness stand in the next hearing of the Anikow murder case on Thursday at the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 59.

Makati City Assistant Prosecutor Hannah Arriola said the prosecution will be presenting security guards Dominador Arroyo and Randy Lecta.

Arriola said the two security guards will be testifying on the incident involving the four accused: Galicano Datu, 22, Juan Alfonso Abastillas, 24; Crispin Dela Paz, 28; and Osric Cabrera, 27; were arrested by the Makati Police.

Arriola said the two security guards blocked the Volvo sports utility vehicle used by the accused in fleeing the scene and later radioed the Makati Police for assistance.

The accused had earlier posted P300,000 each in bail after the court ruled that the prosecution had failed to show evidence that there was conspiracy to commit murder and that the accused had killed Anikow with abuse of superior strength.

“We will be presenting the two security guards just to complete the evidence. They have no personal knowledge of the incident but they were the arresting officers,” said Arriola.

The two security guards were supposed to have been presented in court Thursday but the prosecution asked the court to present them on Friday's hearing instead.

Police arrest ranking NPA leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): Police arrest ranking NPA leader

Police operatives arrested on Wednesday a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), who is also one of Bicol’s most wanted persons, at Barangay Lanang, Aroroy town in Masbate, a report reaching Camp Gen. Simeon Ola, the police regional headquarters, here said Thursday.

Joint police and military operatives collared Ruel Vargas alias Weng, a native of Masbate, at his hideout in Aroroy town, according to Supt. Renato Bataller, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol spokesperson.

Vargas is in PNP list of most wanted persons for the killing of Nelson Nadura, a former NPA rebel leader who turned media reporter in the ‘80s.

Bataller said Vargas is considered by the PNP as Bicol’s 3rd ranking most wanted person and carries a P150,000 bounty on his head.  Vargas is facing murder and rebellion charges at the Regional Trial Court Branch 47 under Judge Maximino Ables.

Bataller said Vargas is a member of the executive committee of communist guerrilla front under the NPA Jose Rapsing Command operating in Masbate province.

2 hurt in separate grenade attacks in Maguindanao, North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): 2 hurt in separate grenade attacks in Maguindanao, North Cotabato

A Muslim couple was hurt when motorcycle-riding men fired fragmentation grenades in three different areas in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao Wednesday, the Army said here Thursday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said another grenade attack also hit the Cotabato City house of a town treasurer in Maguindanao but nobody was hurt.

Two powerful improvised explosive devices were defused by Army bomb experts in Mlang, North Cotabato on Wednesday night.

Hermoso said two men riding in tandem on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade at the residential house of Norodin Samaon on Oblate Village, Barangay Rosary Heights 4, Cotabato City at about 8:00 p.m. Samaon is the municipal treasurer of Talitay, Maguindanao.

Another grenade was found at the main gate of Samaon’s house and was safely defused by bomb experts.

Eight hours earlier, four rifle grenades were fired by still unidentified men in three areas in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, according to Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police director.

Two rifle grenades landed in the roof of Ali Silongan Kuli, 40 and exploded at about 10:00 a.m. Kuli and his wife Hanna were slightly wounded.

Another rifle grenade was found at a vacant lot in Barangay Poblacion Shariff Aguak.

While the police and Army were defusing the grenade, another rifle grenade fired from M-203 grenade rifle fired from nowhere landed in another vacant lot, about 400 meters away.

Supt. Jocson said no one has claimed responsibility and police remained clueless on the motive of the grenade attacks.

It came while the police and Army are implementing election gun ban and Maguindanao still under state of emergency in the aftermath of 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

In Mlang, North Cotabato, an alert balut vendor prevented what could have been a bloody Wednesday night when his alertness brought him to an unattended bag at a roadside.

Police Inspector Rolando Dillera, deputy town police chief, said the vendor noticed that a man alighted from a passenger jeep near a restaurant. The man was carrying a back pack which he put down in a dimly lit area then boarded another vehicle.

Dillera said the vendor approached the bag, checked on it and found two 60 mm mortars inside. He then alerted the police who cordoned off the area until bomb experts arrived and properly defused the explosives.

Police found two 60 mortars with blasting caps and mechanical clock as trigger mechanism. No one has claimed responsibility and investigators remained clueless on the motive of the bombing attempt.

Photo: USS Blue Ridge on 4-day good will visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): Photo: USS Blue Ridge on 4-day good will visit

The USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) prepares to drop anchor at Manila South Harbor for a four-day goodwill visit. The ship sailed in at 9:28 a.m. March 7. (PNA photo by Priam F. Nepomuceno)

Army encounters NPAs at Butuan City watershed area

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): Army encounters NPAs at Butuan City watershed area

Army Special Forces on security patrol encountered an undetermined number of armed men believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) Wednesday afternoon.

Col. Potenciano Camba, commanding officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, confirmed in a local radio interview Thursday morning that his troops were conducting a security patrol following reports from civilian residents near the area that an armed group was collecting supplies and other materials from them.

But the soldiers were fired upon by the armed group upon reaching Sitio Tagkiling, Brgy. Anticala, this city, around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The exchange of gunfire went on for about 20 minutes after which the armed group withdrew from the area.

The pursuing government troopers, according to Camba, discovered a temporary camp abandoned by the fleeing rebels. Shells and magazines of AK47 and M16 rifles and backpacks were recovered in the encounter area.

The place of the encounter is part of the Taguibo Watershed area which was near the tree-planting activity site on March 2 participated by some local political bets, students, members of the socio-civic groups and faculty members of Father Saturnino Urios University, according to Camba.

The army official said incidents of harassment including in other parts of the region must be a way of the rebels to show that they are still a force to reckon with, particularly that their anniversary on March 29 is approaching.

President Aquino orders AFP to 'reassess' sending of troops abroad

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): President Aquino orders AFP to 'reassess' sending of troops abroad

President Benigno S. Aquino III has tasked the Armed Forces of the Philippines to reassess the viability of sending Filipino troops to assist in humanitarian missions vis-à-vis the need to uphold the peace and security at the home front, saying a “delicate balance” between the two had to be reached.

In an interview here, the President said he wanted the “vital function” of Filipino contingents sent to the Middle East, Haiti, East Timor, Cambodia and the Golan Heights.

“Ngayon, ‘yung lahat itong deployment nga na ito, may vital function. We are part of the global community. Syempre, kung may katahimikan sa Gitnang Silangan ay nakakatulong rin sa ating sarili ito na, for instance, basta nagkaroon ng giyera diyan nagkakaroon ng upward spiral ng price of oil; napapataas ang lahat ng bilihin, etc,” the President said.

“So tina-task ko ang ating AFP, in particular, to…parang to reassess, matagal na, na can we afford to send this number of people? I am told the number is about a thousand for all of the deployments everywhere when we also have our needs here in the country,” he added.

“So I’m still awaiting the results of that study. Ang balancing is meron naman tayong obligasyon na makatulong mag-enhance ng world peace, ano, pero meron rin naman tayong pansariling interes. Kailangan rin sigurong pagtugmain... ‘yung hindi napapabayaan ang alin man ditong obligasyon,” the President said.

MNLF chair calls on Pnoy, UN and UK to intervene in Sabah row

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): MNLF chair calls on Pnoy, UN and UK to intervene in Sabah row

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Muslimin Sema has called on President Benigno Aquino III, United Nations and United Kingdom to intervene now in the Sabah row before more lives will be lost as the tension continued between the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and the Malaysian forces.

Sema, also the vice mayor of Cotabato City, said that it is now the right time for Aquino and officials of UN and UK to act before it’s too late. “I am calling on Pnoy, UN and UK to intervene in Sabah (row) to avoid slaughter of Sultan Kiram’s followers,” he said.

This came after the national government has remained passive on the incident even as more than 30 people were already reported killed in the ongoing battles between two warring groups of Kiram’s armed men and Malaysian police forces.

It was reported that some of Kiram’s men holed up in Lahad Datu are MNLF members, who were earlier trained in Malaysia.

In a press conference in Davao City on Thursday, Aquino was quoted as saying that the Sabah incident is now being investigated by the Department of Justice in determining the people behind the armed conflict and the extent of their involvement.

He said the Philippine government would only make a concrete move upon reaching the result of the ongoing investigation.

Sabah on Borneo island has been the subject of a tug-of-war between descendants of a Sulu sultan and Malaysia. The crisis took a violent turn this month after Malaysian troops attacked members of the Sultanate of Sulu who arrived in Sabah on Feb. 14 to stake their claim on the island.

MNLF condemns terrorist acts in Eastern Sabah

From the Philippine News Agency/Bernama (Mar 7): MNLF condemns terrorist acts in Eastern Sabah

The Moro National Liberation Front of southern Philippines has condemned the violent acts committed by the terrorists who intruded into Lahad Datu and Semporna in Sabah, its present chairman Muslimin Sema said Thursday.

Muslimin, appointed chairman by the front's highest decision making body, the central committee back in 2008, also stated that Nur Misuari was just an ordinary member of the central committee. The MNLF, he said, considered Sabahand and Malaysians as their own brothers.

"We (MNLF) do not support with (sic) what is happening in Sabah (the intrusion and the violent acts of the terrorists). We disapprove it. The incidents in Sabah are done to drive a wedge between our peoples.

"The incidents are also to break the bond between Sabah and the southern Philippines, as well as between Malaysia and Philippines. They want to destroy the bond (between the two peoples)," he told Bernama in an exclusive interview via telephone from Manila Thursday.

Two days ago, Malaysia dispatched fighter jets and ground troops in armored personnel carriers to put to a end a nearly three-week armed standoff in the seaside village of Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

The joint police and military security operation codenamed "Ops Daulat" is still ongoing right now. The intense standoff in Lahad Datu and Semporna has cost the lives of eight policemen and at least 52 terrorists.

On Misuari's statement recently that the MNLF was ready to send its armed fighters to Sabah to help the Sulu terrorists, Muslimin said, he was dissapointed with the former MNLF leader.

"His statement is uncalled for and irresponsible. I hope that I have the power to stop him (Misuari) from making the statement. Sabah and Malaysia are not our enemy," he said.

Misuari, he said, was just an ordinary central committee member and did not wield wide influence in the front.

Asked if there were members of the MNLF involved in the Sabah incidents, he said an investigation had been launched by its central committee to determine the matter.

"The investigation by the central committee members in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu have found that no regular members of MNLF are involved in the Sabah intrusion. We are not involved in any kind of violence," he said.

However, Muslimin said, if there were members of MNLF involved with the violent acts committed in Sabah, it was done on their own and was never condoned by the front's leadership.

"If they committed the acts, it was done as an individual person as the MNLF never sanctioned their acts," he said, adding that most of the Filipinos' residing in Sabah earned a decent living.

CPP/NPA: Pfc. Neil Bartolome a spy and a legitimate target of the NPA

Posted to the CPP Website (Mar 7): Pfc. Neil Bartolome a spy and a legitimate target of the NPA

Karlos Manuel
NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Operations Command (Efren Martires Command)

The Efren Martires Command of the New People’s Army-Eastern Visayas said today that a legitimate military action occurred last March 1 in Brgy. Roxas, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar against elements of the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “Private First Class Neil Bartolome was killed in a counter-offensive launched by our Red fighters and people’s militia to defend the people against human rights violations committed by the 20th IB in the guise of ‘bayanihan’,” said Ka Karlos Manuel, EMC spokesperson.

Ka Karlos Manuel also clarified that the 20th IB troops were in Brgy. Roxas to conduct Oplan Bayanihan’s triad operations combining psywar, combat and espionage. “It is a violation of international huanitarian law for combatants to use civilian communities as their base and to use civilians as human shields. But in this latest incident, it is clear from the statements of 20th IB chief Lt. Col. Vestuir that Pfc. Bartolome and another soldier were mingling with civilians as they walked towards their base in a civilian community. Furthermore, Pfc. Bartolome and his companion were unarmed and pretended to be civilians while their unit was on active operation, because they were in fact doing intelligence work when he was killed. According to the laws of war, spies are considered combatants and Bartolome was therefore a legitimate target for the NPA counter-offensive.”

Manuel also condemned Lt. Col. Vestuir for saying “the area will be investigated” to identify those suspected of involvement in the tactical offensive. “Lt. Col. Vestuir wants to dismiss the existing civil war in the country by insisting that an act of war is simply a criminal action. He is also looking for a reason to intensify the harassment of civilians merely suspected of supporting the revolutionary movement. It is irresponsible for Lt. Col. Vestuir to make such a statement because this will encourage soldiers to attack civilians, including progressive activists and human rights advocates, who all do not participate in the armed hostilities.”

Manuel furthermore said that in the midst of the relentless military offensives of the AFP, all units of the NPA and the people’s militia are ready to intensify guerrilla warfare, defend the people and defeat the US-Aquino regime’s anti-people Oplan Bayanihan.

MILF: Bangsamoro Development Agency staffs undergo training on website management

From the MILF Website (Mar 7): Bangsamoro Development Agency staffs undergo training on website management

Seven staffs of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)- Central Management Office (CMO) and Six Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Officers (RMEO) from the six BDA Regional Management Offices (RMOs) underwent a Website Management Training on February 26-28, 2013 at the Community and Family Services International (CFSI) Training Center in Cotabato City.

The activity gave the participants the technical capability to manage the contents of the website which includes posting files like photos and texts, photo editing, and setting up links to other sites.

They were also briefed on the basic components of the website and were given tips on writing news articles.

The training was funded by European Union (EU), thru the International Monitoring Team – Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Component (IMT-HRDC), and Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP).

IMT-HRDC Information and Communication Technology Consultant Victor Sapar facilitated the training with inputs from some BDA staffs. He pointed out the importance of constant updating and posting correct information on the website.

On February 13-15, 2013, the facilitator trained the participants on cleaning and sharing data and utilizing free applications in the internet to publish information online at El Bajada Hotel in Davao City.

In line with its mission, the BDA implements development projects in the conflict affected areas of Mindanao with financial support from international development agencies like the Mindanao Trust Fund (supported by AusAID, NZAID, CIDA, SIDA, USAID, World Bank, EU), World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), European Union, and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The BDA, which has a mandate to determine, lead, and manage relief, rehabilitation and development of conflict affected areas in Mindanao, operates through its CMO based in Cotabato City and RMOs in different areas of Mindanao and island provinces.

MILF: MILF reiterates ‘no comment’ policy on Sabah standoff, calls for peaceful resolution

From the MILF Website (Mar 7): MILF reiterates ‘no comment’ policy on Sabah standoff, calls for peaceful resolution

The Executive Committee of the MILF had called for an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the current Sabah stand-off and to examine what possible new policy statement it can adopt in the light of this development.

The reiteration of the policy came in the heels of persistent prodding from various sectors of Philippine society especially media that the MILF should come out openly and explain its stand on the Sabah stand-off.

After several hours of deliberation, the core leadership of the MILF had reaffirmed its “no comment policy” but calls for the immediate peaceful resolution of the problem.

However, as a matter of standing policy, this no comment policy and the call for peaceful approach to problem will be elevated to and deliberated during the plenary session of the MILF Central Committee today. The Central Committee as a whole can sustain or reject the decision, which had not yet happened in any time in the past.

The Executive Committee is composed of the seven most senior members of the Central Committee, which in turn has about 70 members.

Meanwhile, one member of the MILF central governing body, who refused to be named, had told Luwaran that the Sabah stand-off does not affect the GPH-MILF peace process, saying it is another matter.

“The issue of Sabah is not part of the negotiation and we cannot discuss something which is not part of the agenda,” he explained.

He also reminded MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, who is clearly capitalizing on the current controversy in protest of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), that the GPH-MNLF Final Agreement in 1996, which he was one of the main signatories, did not contain any provision that Sabah is part of the Bangsamoro territory.

“Why is he now crying foul that Sabah is not discussed in the peace talks?” he asked.

MILF, BIFF mum over Sabah firefight

From MindaNews (Mar 1): MILF, BIFF mum over Sabah firefight

Officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) kept mum Friday after skirmishes reportedly erupted between followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Malaysian forces in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

In a radio interview, Abraham Idjirani, the spokesperson for the Sultanate of Sulu, said the first shot was fired at 10:30 am Friday allegedly by Malaysian police commandos.

Idjirani said that 10 were killed while four others were injured on their side.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman, said in a text message that they “would not comment at this time.”

Two weeks ago, 200 armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu occupied the coastal village of Lahad Datu to push the heirs’ claim on Sabah.

The BIFF, which broke away from the MILF, also declined to comment on the reported armed conflict as Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, the sultanate’s titular head, continue to push the heirs’ claim over Sabah.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said they are still waiting for their leadership to issue a stand on the matter.

Some members of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team declined to also comment regarding the Sabah standoff when asked yesterday by journalists during a turnover rite in an Army camp in Maguindanao.

Acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, in an interview also yesterday, said that he tried but failed to convince the Kiram family to resolve the matter peacefully.

He said that for about a week, he talked and negotiated with the Kirams, upon the instruction of President Benigno Aquino, for their supporters to withdraw from Lahad Datu.

In a February 26 statement, Aquino said the government has sent a number of emissaries to the Kiram family to ask them to convince the group in Lahad Datu to return home peacefully.

“In fact, there is a humanitarian ship with social workers and medical officers on board nearby to facilitate the peaceful departure of those in Lahad Datu,” he said.

Aquino said the Philippine relations with Malaysia have always been colored by the issue of Sabah—an issue that has persisted for over half a century.

“This issue is complex: from the basis of our claim, to the question of the rightful heirs, and even involving the translation of documents from an era when our grandparents weren’t even born,” Aquino said.

Aquino said then that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario “had already reached an agreement with Datuk Seri Anifah Aman that this issue should be resolved in a peaceful manner.”

Security increased for Malaysian ceasefire monitors in Mindanao amid Sabah row

From GMA News (Mar 7): Security increased for Malaysian ceasefire monitors in Mindanao amid Sabah row

Amid the row between followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian security forces in Sabah, security has been increased for Malaysian monitors of an ongoing ceasefire between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Mindanao news site reported.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines added security for the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team in five cities in Mindanao as a precautionary measure, according to a report on MindaNews on Tuesday.

MindaNews quoted senior military adviser to the government peace panel Brig. Gen. Leo Ferrer as saying in a text message that the added security was "for precautionary measures".

He added the beefed-up security, which involved AFP "force protection units," went into effect March 1, and covered all team sites, including the IMT headquarters in Cotabato City.
On March 1, a violent shootout occurred between Kiram's followers and Malaysian security forces. At least 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian commandos were killed.
The next day, another clash left six Malaysian policemen and at least six Filipinos dead. Last Tuesday, Malaysian forces conducted an assault on the area where the Kiram group was believed hiding.
The IMT has monitored the ceasefire since 2004. It has representatives from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Libya and Norway, and non-government organizations.
Malaysia had helped broker the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Work resumes on USS Guardian; part of superstructure removed

From GMA News (Mar 7): Work resumes on USS Guardian; part of superstructure removed

Amid improved weather, salvage teams on Thursday resumed work on the grounded minesweeper USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea, removing a part of the ship's superstructure.

The Philippine Coast Guard said the crews removed the part of the superstructure that contained the officers' cabin, radio dzBB's Cecilia Villarosa reported.

Coast Guard Palawan and Task Force Tubbataha head Commodore Efren Evangelista was quoted in the report as saying the removal and transfer of the part of the superstructure to a waiting barge was done shortly after 1 p.m.

Evangelista said they are now focusing on removing another part of the superstructure that contains the captain and executive officer's ward rooms and cabins.

He said the improved weather had allowed them to resume salvage operations, after bad weather conditions forced them to suspend salvage work earlier this week.

The USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17, with the Tubbataha Management Office estimating the accident damaged some 4,000 square meters of the reef.

Operation Pacific Angel 13-1 Reaches Out to Typhoon, Quake Victims

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Mar 7): Operation Pacific Angel 13-1 Reaches Out to Typhoon, Quake Victims

Some 500 indigent residents and victims of Typhoon Sendong and 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Negros Oriental, were served daily in two days outreach services of Operation Pacific Angel 13-1, simultaneously conducted at Macias Gym in Dumaguete City and Osmeña Park in Tanjay City, all in Negros Oriental, March 4-6, 2013.

The health services include primary health care, optometry, dental services, physical therapy, ECG and circumcision. For eye care patients, the Pacific Angel also distributed free eye glasses to the patients.

Also, the engineering civic action program is ongoing at the three elementary schools in the province: Bio-os Elementary School in Amlan and Pamplona Central Elementary School in Poblacion, Pamplona.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel R. Degamo warmly welcomed the U.S. Air Force Pacific Command and the contingents from the AFP participating in the medical mission. He thanked the AFP for selecting the province as beneficiary of the humanitarian mission.

Col. Francisco Patrimonio, Commander of the Army’s 302nd Brigade and Exercise Director of the activity appreciated the U.S. Pacific Command for selecting his area as beneficiary of this mission. He also expressed gratitude to the provincial government for extending support to this project.

Operation Pacific Angel is a joint endeavor of AFP-US Humanitarian Civic Action/Civil Military Operation activities dubbed as "Pacific Angel 13-1." The objective of this exercise is to enhance the response capability of the AFP and stakeholders during disasters and calamities.

NDF-EV: Fascist propaganda keeps sowing disinformation in the media

Posted to the Samar News (Feb 24): Fascist propaganda keeps sowing disinformation in the media

By NDF-Eastern Visayas

There is no such thing as “permit to campaign/permit to win fees” and it is extremely malicious for a newspaper in the region to headline that NDF-Eastern Visayas “admits” there is such a demand on candidates seeking electoral access in revolutionary territories.

Where else did this come from except from parroting the counter-revolutionary propaganda by the Aquino regime and its 8th Infantry Division? They campaign against the exercise of state power by the People's Democratic Government which imposes guidelines on candidates in the conduct of election campaigns in revolutionary territories. Such state power is widely recognized and respected and all candidates without exception must abide by the guidelines on election campaigns.

Furthermore, the Aquino regime and 8th ID seek to divert attention away from the fact that the reactionary elections are undemocratic and are used along with state violence to keep the oppressive and exploitative system. The leading reactionary politicians in the region are all representatives of landlords and big business who oppress and exploit the people, and sell out national sovereignty and national patrimony to foreign interests. The worst of them have been big bureaucrats for long and turn their positions into political dynasties.

There are the Petilla and Romualdez dynasties in Leyte who have been squabbling over the spoils of power since the Marcos dictatorship. There is the Tan dynasty in Western Samar whose matriarch and her four children are making it a family business to run the province. There is the Daza dynasty in Northern Samar which has been plundering billions in public works projects.

These dynasties are also close collaborators with the military in wielding state authority and state violence to subjugate the people. They are oblivious to the military's human rights violations under Oplan Bayanihan. They support the 8th ID's surrender campaigns against the New People's Army. They legitimize the military's psywar campaigns and even share lucrative public works contracts. They connive with the military and police in running private armies and criminal syndicates.

Thus the guidelines on the conduct of election campaigns are there precisely because of the people's demands against the tyrants who commit violence and bribery to get themselves elected. The People's Democratic Government ensures that the rights and interests of the people are protected and that elections are peaceful, orderly and beneficial. To do these, the People's Democratic Government has both the NPA and the instruments of political power as a rising revolutionary state coexisting with and confronting the reactionary ruling state.

The people in the revolutionary territories are empowered in fighting for a genuine democratic system of governance to prevail, which even the reactionary politicians recognize and respect. Those who disparage the revolutionary movement and believe the ruling system is “democratic” and empowers the people are either exceedingly ignorant or hopelessly reactionary.

IN LA CASTELLANA - Trauma healing continues

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 7): IN LA CASTELLANA - Trauma healing continues

The trauma healing efforts for residents of Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, in Negros Occidental, to enable them to cope with the effects of the January 27 ambush, are being done without let-up by personnel from government and non-government organizations.

Capt. Christopher Cunanan, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer, said yesterday that they have prepared various activities, especially for the children of ambush victims, to help them battle anxiety and depression.

Eight civilians and a policeman were killed in the La Castellana ambush.

The 3rd CMO Battalion, assisted by the Bantay Bata 163 Negros of ABS-CBN, recently provided entertainment shows and distributed used clothing and toys to children in the barangay.

Cunanan said an incident debriefing was also conducted, in coordination with the Diocese of Kabankalan Social Action Center and peace advocates groups in Negros Occidental.

Since those most affected by the incident were the children, he said the activity has provided them the tools not only to recover, but to realize their potentials, nurture their talents and contribute once more to the growth of their community.

Eddie Mateo, brother of ambush victim Jonathan Mateo, hanged himself last month in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, because of depression, police records show.

His two sisters are undergoing critical incident stress debriefing, Cunanan said.

US-AFP mission to benefit 6,000

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 7): US-AFP mission to benefit 6,000

Around 6,000 disaster victims in Negros Oriental will benefit from “Operation Pacific Angel”, the joint humanitarian mission of the US Pacific Air Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

OPA mission commander, Lt. Col. Alvin Alana, said the humanitarian outreach will provide medical health services to 500 patients a day for six days, or from March 4 to 9, at the Macias Sports Complex in Dumaguete City, and Osmeña Park in Tanjay City.

It will also provide dental, optometry, and engineering programs, and expert exchanges with counterpart Filipino soldiers, he added.

Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Brigade commander and exercise director, said priority beneficiaries are victims of typhoon Sendong and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake on December 2011 and February 2012, respectively.

He added that the mission aims to enhance the capability of the AFP in responding to disasters or natural calamities.

Alana said his group provides preventive health care, free eyeglasses and medicines, and does referrals for local surgery.

Now on its sixth year, OPA is expected to rehabilitate three school buildings in the province, Patrimonio said.

He added that personnel from the US military and AFP have started the repair, renovation and upgrading of facilities in the Bio-os Elementary School in Amlan town; Pamplona Central ES in Pamplona; and Tugawe ES in Daiun, where a water tower will be installed and the classrooms repainted.

“This is the first time that a foreign military humanitarian mission is held in Negros Oriental, Patrimonio said.

Malaysia rejects Sabah ceasefire

From Rappler (Mar 7): Malaysia rejects Sabah ceasefire

ONLY SURRENDER. Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi rejected self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's unilateral ceasefire and will only order his troops to stand down when the Filipinos surrender

ONLY SURRENDER. Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi rejected self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's unilateral ceasefire and will only order his troops to stand down when the Filipinos surrender

Malaysia's defense minister on Thursday, March 7, rejected a ceasefire offer by a self-styled Philippine sultan unless his fighters who launched a deadly incursion "surrender unconditionally."

"A unilateral ceasefire is not accepted by Malaysia unless the militants surrender unconditionally," Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on his Twitter feed.

Self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III had declared a unilateral ceasefire for 12:30 pm (0430 GMT), calling for reciprocation from Malaysia, whose armed forces are currently on the hunt for the invaders in a remote corner of Borneo island.

Kiram sent his followers from their southern Philippine island homes across the Sulu Sea to assert an ancestral claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah, located on Borneo's northern tip.

At least 28 people -- 20 militants and eight police officers -- have been reported killed since an initial standoff began more than three weeks ago in the sleepy farming village of Tanduo.

Zahid added: "Don't believe the ceasefire offer by Jamalul Kiram. In the interest of Sabahans and all Malaysians, wipe out all the militants first.

SABAH LOCKDOWN. An armed Malaysian policemen mans a security checkpoint in Lahad Datu on March 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

SABAH LOCKDOWN. An armed Malaysian policemen mans a security checkpoint in Lahad Datu on March 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

No unilateral ceasefire - Malaysian PM

In a televised press conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak later confirmed that his government would not accept the ceasefire announced by the sultan.

Najib, who is visiting the conflict zone, said he had talked to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and told him the militants should surrender.

Sabahans, the Malaysian leader reiterated, already voted to join the Malaysian Federation in 1962.

Najib also said that a "special security area" with 5 additional police and military battalions will be established in the east coast of Sabah while the standoff continues.

The area will cover Kunak, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Sandakan and Semporna, all facing the maritime border between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Kiram's ceasefire call came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged a peaceful resolution to the bizarre incursion, Malaysia's biggest security crisis in years.

It also coincided with a sudden visit to the area by the country's leader to inspect security operations.

Najib's government tried for three weeks to persuade the invaders to leave but launched a military assault Tuesday after they continually refused and engaged security forces in a pair of deadly shootouts.,-demands-surrender

60 dead in standoff - Malaysian police

From Rappler (Mar 7): 60 dead in standoff - Malaysian police

Clashes between Filipino militants and security forces in Borneo have left 60 people dead up to Thursday evening, March 7, including 52 of the armed intruders, according to Malaysian police.

Malaysia's police chief Ismail Omar told reporters that since 3 p.m. Wednesday, 32 followers of a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan were killed in two confrontations.

Eight Malaysian policemen died in earlier skirmishes last week, during a three-week stand-off over the group's claim to the state of Sabah on the eastern coast of Borneo.

2 bombs found in N. Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Mar 7): 2 bombs found in N. Cotabato

Two powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered along the highway in M’lang town in North Cotabato, around 730 p.m., Wednesday, police official said.

Inspector Rolando Dillera, deputy chief of police of M’lang, said both IEDs were fashioned from a 60-mm mortar with blasting cap, detonating cord, and a clock as triggering device.

Dillera said a balut vendor informed them of the suspicious package left in front of a restaurant on M.H. Del Pilar Street in Poblacion, M’lang.

The vendor told authorities minutes before the recovery, an unidentified male person left the package just few feet away from a concrete road pavement along the highway and after which, the suspect rode on a vehicle and sped away.

“There were at least two persons that were seen around the place minutes before the vendor found the package,” said Dillera.

An hour later, elements of the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal Team of the Army arrived and secured the IEDs.

Dillera said the bombs recovered in M’lang town looked like the explosives recovered and defused last January in Kidapawan City.

“But we have yet to find out as to who might be behind the planting of these bombs,” said Dillera.

'Sabah will remain with Malaysia forever' - Najib

From InterAksyon (Mar 7): 'Sabah will remain with Malaysia forever' - Najib

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other government officials at a press conference in Sabah after he was briefed on operations against followers of the Sulu sultanate. (Nigel Aw,

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Thursday declared that Sabah will remain part of the Federation of Malaysia "forever" and the country will do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

"No one should underestimate Malaysia's resolve to uphold the principle that Sabah is part of Malaysia forever and (this) cannot be questioned by anyone, be it from within or outside the country.

"We will defend this principle, fact and reality with absoluteness and the entire strength we have," he told a press conference at Felda Sahabat Residence in Sabah.

Najib, flanked by Chief Minister Musa Aman and several federal ministers including Maximus Ongkili, Bernard Dompok, Shafie Apdal, Anifah Aman and Jamil Khir Baharom had earlier received a briefing on the ongoing Ops Daulat against the Filipino intruders.

Malaysia rejects ceasefire in Sabah; Philippines rejects extradition of sultan

From InterAksyon (Mar 7): Malaysia rejects ceasefire in Sabah; Philippines rejects extradition of sultan

The tweets of Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi rejecting Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's unilateral ceasefire in Sabah. (

Malaysia on Thursday rejected a "unilateral ceasefire" declared by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, even as the Philippines dismissed suggestions from Kuala Lumpur that Manila eventually extradite Kiram.

Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in a post on Twitter, said "the unilateral ceasefire (as declared by Kiram) is rejected by Malaysia, unless the militants surrender unconditionally," the minister tweeted.

"Do not trust the ceasefire offer by Jamalul Kiram. In the interests of the people of Sabah and Malaysia, destroy all the militants," he added.

In a subsequent press conference at Felda Sahabat Residence Thursday afternoon, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that, "Philippines President Benigno Aquino (III) has asked me what is Malaysia's response to the offer for ceasefire. Our stance is they must lay down their arms unconditionally and surrender them to us."

Najib was in Sabah for a briefing on the operation to flush out the sultan's followers.
Najib said Ops Daulat, the joint police-military operation "will continue for as long as it takes until we eliminate them or they surrender."

He also responded to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's call for the conflict to be resolved through dialogue, saying: "That was exactly why we did not launch the assault for three weeks with four rounds of extensions (for negotiations to have the group to return to Philippines peacefully)."

"It was only after eight of our police men were killed that we began to launch the attack," he said.
The sultan declared a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday afternoon and urged Malaysia to reciprocate, according to a statement read out by his spokesperson in Manila.

"They will not take any action. They will remain in the place where they are now. They will not expand operations," the spokesperson was quoted as saying, referring to the militants, believed to number between 100 and 300, in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

On the Philippine side, meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III rejected suggestions for the Sulu sultan's eventual extradition, saying Kiram will first have to face criminal charges in the Philippines.

"From my perspective, let them face the issues. Let our citizens here in the country face the charges that we will be proffering first, then we will talk about other developments after they have satisfied the requirements of our laws," Aquino said in an interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Sultanate defiant

The Sulu sultanate has so far counted 10 of its people dead and four injured from the assault by a combined Malaysian police-military force on Tuesday and Wednesday, with 10 others being held by the Malaysian security forces, said spokesman Abraham Idjirani.

Idjirani said despite the Sultan’s unilateral ceasefire declaration issued Thursday, their fighters will continue to maintain a defensive stance, and urged Malaysia to declare a ceasefire.

The call for a ceasefire came as Malaysia launched another assault in the area on Thursday morning.
The sultanate indicated, however, that its announcement of a unilateral ceasefire, effective 12:30 p.m. Thursday, did not mean it was surrendering its cause to reclaim what it considers part of its homeland. Sultan Kiram III said, “Wala sa bokabularyo namin ang susuko [Surrendering is not in our vocabulary]," as he proceeded to make the afternoon prayer or du'a.

He read to supporters the statement the UN statement attributed to Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon and issued in New York on March 6: “The Secretary-General is closely following the situation in Sabah, Malaysia. He urges an end to the violence and encourages dialogue among all parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.

“The Secretary-General expresses concern about the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region. He urges all parties to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards.”

The sultan’s sister Dayang Dayang Siti Krishna said, "Nagpapasalamat kami sa Diyos dahil pinakinggan kami sa aming hiling na matapos na ang putukan [We thank God for heeding our call that the hostilities be stopped],” as she called on the Malaysian government to reciprocate.

Pressed on their reaction about the reported exhumation of the dead, Idjirani said, “we would want to show the world that what Malaysia did, to dig up bodies of dead Moslems is the highest form of terrorism.”

Malaysia's request

As for the Malaysian government’s sounding out Manila on the possibility of extraditing the sultan to Malaysia even in the absence of an extradition treaty between the two ASEAN neighbors, Idjirani said, “we will fight [that]; it seems that they want their municipal laws to be implemented here.”

He added, “that is is why we wanted the Philippine government to be a partner here. The order of the UN is to stop the violence; we need it, we most welcome it."

Now, he added, “the ball is in the hands of the Malaysian government."

The official Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that despite the absence of an extradition treaty, Malaysia might ask the Philippines to extradite Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to face charges of having “incited anger and hatred.”

The news agency quoted Foreign Minister Anifah Aman as saying on a television show that Kiram " has made statements that have incited anger and hatred. Does the Philippines have laws to bring him to justice?”

"If not, maybe we will ask the Philippines to hand him over to us," Anifah added.

He said the extradition proposal has been “put forward” to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. This was, however, before President Aquino offhand dismissed the suggestion, and stressed that he would prefer those involved in the incursion into Sabah face Philippine laws first.

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah said the two countries would seek the best legal means to deal with the crisis that has erupted after followers of Kiram went to Sabah to press their ancestral claim to the territory also known as North Borneo.

Asked whether the intruders caught would be charged in Malaysia or sent home, Anifah said: "This is subject to discussion. The president (of the Philippines) asked them to surrender and return home and the Philippine government pledged to take action in accordance with its laws.”