Friday, March 8, 2013

AFP, NPA war encounters’ continue

From the Manila Channel (Mar 8): AFP, NPA war encounters’ continue

Picture shows guns, ammunition, explosives and subversive documents seized by the AFP from the New People’s Army camp in Palapag, Northern Samar last Tueday

PALAPAG, Northern Samar — ARMY troops belong to the 34th Infantry Battalion and 81st Reconnaissance Company of the 8th Infantry Division on Tuesday encountered with the New People’s Army rebels in the jungles of Palapag, Northern Samar.

The government troops, after the 30-minute firefight, seized the whole area believed to be the camp of the NPA with one improvised hut and 10 makeshift bunkers made of laminated sacks.

The fleeing rebels, estimated to be numbering 25 fully armed fighters, left at the scene two M-16 rifles, two landmines, one rifle grenade, magazines/ammunitions for M-16 rifles and subversive documents.

In Iloilo City, troopers from the 82nd Infantry Battalion also encountered a group of New People’s Army in Barangay Bad-as, San Joaquin, Iloilo 7:15 a.m. the other day.

Major Ray C. Tiongson, chief of Division Public Affairs Office said the troops while conducting peace and security patrol, responded to a report NPA rebels were extorting money and food supplies in said Barangay.

The troops, during the 25-minute encounter, recovered backpacks, personal belongings, and subversive documents of high intelligence value while the NPA withdrew to different directions.

No casualty in the government side while undetermined number of casualties from the NPA due to bloodstains in the encounter site, the military claimed.

Army officials said the series of encounters between the government forces and the rebels were the result of a successful ‘Bayanihan’ effort of the local officials and local populace through the Bayanihan teams in said areas of concern.

Major General Gerardo T. Layug, commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City said the support and assistance of given to them by the local leaders and its populace is a clear manifestation that the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit manifests in the communities.

“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.

MILF: Editorial--Spoilage has many ugly faces

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Mar 8-15): Editorial--Spoilage has many ugly faces

Not everybody is happy about the impending success of the peace talks. Some say against it openly, others have revolting hearts and keep it within themselves. However, when the opportunity presents itself, they grab it and take no time to conspire to bring it down.

Spoilage has many ugly faces and odd ways. Even the not weird intention can turn into spoilage after many players of varying agenda plotted together to promote their selfish or vested interests or simply to destroy the peace process. Once hell is let loose, it is difficult to contain the consequences.

Clearly, MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari is riding high on the current Sabah stand-off. Perchance, this is one way to show his great displeasure over the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) and the impending success of the ongoing peace negotiation.

Did Misuari take part in the sending of the so-called Royal Army of Sulu to Sabah? We do not know. But what is true and on the record is that he declared on several occasions especially during their Summit Conference in Davao City early last year that he is spearheading a move to claim Sabah from Malaysia. He is like a bank manager that after he or she is out of office, he asked people to hold up the bank he once served. Did he forget that the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996 of which he was one of the main signatories nowhere is mentioned about Sabah? People really have short memories.

In the ongoing GPH-MILF peace negotiation, Sabah is simply not part of the agenda. One cannot discuss something which is not arrayed for discussion.

For this reason, the MILF has not come out with an official statement on the stand-off except to say: “no comment”. We believe this is the best or most appropriate position the MILF can take. The issue is so sensitive that any statement even done objectively or made in the higher interest of the Bangsamoro people can boomerang and put the MILF in bad light, which is very hard or nearer to impossible to defend. It is like plugging the holes of a decaying wooden boat submerged in water: one hole plugged creates more holes because of the pressure of water.

Perhaps, the only way to upscale or concretize the MILF position is to call for the settlement of the problem by peaceful means. The call for pacific means is based on a universal principle. By this way, we are not putting forth a decision that A is right, B is wrong, or C is half-right and half-wrong. That would be part of the whole process.;postID=3446035419593030416

MILF: Sugoda Buayan Province Dawah Committee holds general assembly

From the MILF Website (Mar 8): Sugoda Buayan Province Dawah Committee holds general assembly

More than a hundred Imam, Asatidz (Madrasa teachers) and officers of Dawah Committee of Sugoda Buayan Province held a General Assembly at Barangay Bawing in General Santos City on February 16, 2013 aimed to strengthen the Da’wah (Islamic call/propagation) Committee and re-affirm their commitment to their objectives.

The speakers were Sheikh Mohammad Faujan Tahiran, the Vice Chair of Suonul Masaguid, Sheikh Nurul-am Abdullah, an active preacher and peace advocate, and Sheikh. Ahmad Rashid, Representative of Lujnatul Ulya.

The three visitors shared their insights on the role of Du’at (preachers) in propagating Islam and pointed out the urgency to continue Islamization in the Muslim communities amidst the strong influence of the western culture.

They also stressed that Imams and Asatidz here have significant role to play in strengthening Islamization. Moreover, the resource persons reiterated the significance of unity, being God-fearing and Islamic education towards a developed and peaceful Muslim communities.

The participants were also informed on the prospects of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which was signed by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on October 15, 2012.

The FAB is a working document that will pave way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The delegates were urged to support the FAB and strengthen their unity as they steadfast in propagating Islam in the province.

Moreover, the resource persons reiterated the significance of unity, being God-fearing and Islamic education towards a developed and peaceful Muslim communities.

The participants were also informed on the prospects of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which was signed by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on October 15, 2012.

The FAB is a working document that will pave way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The delegates were urged to support the FAB and strengthen their unity as they steadfast in propagating Islam in the province.

The officers and members of the Da’wah Committee in Sugoda Buayan were introduced to the speakers by their Provincial Chairman Ustadz Abdulsatar Alangan.

Alangan expressed gratitude to the guest speakers and the participants which came from Glan, Malapatan, Alabel, Malungon, all towns of Sarangani Province, and General Santos City.

Army tags NPA in Barug leader slaying

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 7): Army tags NPA in Barug leader slaying

THE Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division hinted that the New People's Army (NPA) could be behind the killing of a barangay council and militant leader in Baganga town in Davao Oriental on Monday.

Cristina Morales Jose, one of the leaders of Barug Katawhan, a group composed of survivors of the Typhoon Pablo, was shot dead around 6 p.m. Monday while on her way home from a council session in Barangay Binondo.

The militants, in their earlier protest in Davao City, believed that Jose's death manifested the real score of Oplan Bayanihan of President Benigno Aquino III, adding that despite the "No Red Tagging" policy, soldiers continue to defy this.

The 10th Infantry Division downplayed the accusations of the militants, especially on the red tagging.

Speaking at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Philippine National Police (PNP) press conference in Task Force Davao (TFD) headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said as far as their division is concerned, their troops, particularly the 67th Infantry Battalion, are close with the victim due to their aim to assist the communities with their various outreach program activities.

"Yes, we know that she is also a member of the Bayan aside from being a barangay councilor. But we never had a problem with her. Ni minsan wala an nag-away ang 67th IB ug si kagawad. That's why natingala mi na pagbuto sa balita, sundalo dayon gipasanginlan nila," Paniza said.

Paniza said based on information they gathered, Jose was shot dead at Poblacion in Baganga and not in Barangay Binondo.

He said before the victim went outside from council session, there were already three unidentified men posted outside the municipal hall.

"Matud pa gani sa mga nagbantay didto, pagsakay ni kagawad ug tricycle, misunod tong tulo ka mga lalaki na nagtambay sa gawas. Wala daw panumbalingi sa mga tagadidto kay basin kaila ra sa maong kagawad tong mga lalaki. La mi nagdahom mga 5:30 p.m. na balita nga patay na siya," Paniza said.

He said the communist group might have something to do with Jose’s death because of the latter's close relationship with the government troops, adding the victim has only been sacrificed for the propaganda of the NPA.

Citing the explosion incident in Barangay Fatima of Paquibato Ditrict in Davao City last year, Paniza said that after the incident, the militants, especially the Karapatan, immediately issued the report that government troops were behind the incident.

As to accusations and complaints of the militants on red tagging, Paniza said the division never tagged them as members or supporters of the communist group and that they are just making stories.

"We never accused them as members of the NPA. But they are the ones' tagging themselves in terms of their actions. If they are not members or supporters of the communist, then let the people know," Paniza said, even as he challenged the militants to denounce the NPAs.

Paniza said the 10th Infantry Division is open for any investigation on the death of the barangay council, adding they would even invite investigating bodies on the matter, as they want also justice for Jose.

Photo: Kaisa-Ka conducts anti-US military protest at Subic Bay Freeport

Posted to  the Sun Star (Mar 8): Photo: Kaisa-Ka conducts anti-US military protest at Subic Bay Freeport

Women protest rejecting US presence in Subic

SUBIC. A member of women group Kaisa-Ka participates in a protest rejecting the presence of US troops inside Subic Bay Freeport. The protest was held outside Subic Bay Freeport to also celebrate 102nd International Women’s Day. (Anthony Bayarong)

10th ID jurisdiction expands toward North Cotabato area

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 7): 10th ID jurisdiction expands toward North Cotabato area

The 10th Infantry Division has requested for an additional battalion as it expands its area of responsibility to North Cotabato. The 10th ID, under the Eastern Mindanao Command, has officially expanded its jurisdiction last Friday, tasked to look after six municipalities in North Cotabato with heavy communist rebels presence.

Maj. Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo, 10th ID commander, said they needed additional bodies to augment their troops.

“It depends (on) how we can cope up with our forces. Initially, we were not satisfied and we need really to iron it out, on how we are going address the expansion,” He said.

The commander added that they will focus more on the NPA-affected areas since the situation between Moro Islamic Liberation Front is getting better and stronger. He revealed that the portions of North Cotabato used to be under the area of responsibility of the 6th ID.

Due to the ongoing agreement between the MILF, the 6th ID will now be under the wing of the Western Mindanao Command.

Alleged NPA accused of killing tribal datu hunted

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 8): Alleged NPA accused of killing tribal datu hunted

Authorities are tracking down the primary gunman who was responsible for killing a son of tribal datu in Purok 4, Barangay Carmen, Bagiuo District last Saturday evening.

Lt. Col. Edgar Nigos, commander of the 84th Infantry Battalion, identified the suspect as Roberto Castillote of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, allegedly a member of NPA’s Front Committee 54.

Nigos said that according to witnesses, Castillote shot Paulino Landim Jr., resident of Purok 8 in Sitio Pictan, Barangay Cadalian. The victim was hogtied and allegedly accosted by about 10 armed men at around 7 p.m.

“There were witnesses saying that Landim was pleading for his life,” he said, adding that the barangay captain was also present when Landim was killed.

Based on the police report, Landim was forced to kneel down in front of a chapel where he was shot three times on the chest and back.

The Baguio Police Precinct was able to recover a slug and two empty shells of caliber .45, a 42-inch black twine and soil samples with blood stains. He disclosed that the suspect had a standing warrant for murder.

According to Nigos, the victim was accused of being an informant of the army.

The battalion commander also revealed that the armed group asked for a cellular phone and rain boots from the victim two weeks prior to the incident, adding that the group allegedly met with the victim on Feb. 28. However, the victim was not able to give in to their demands.

Nigos said the NPA might have interest on the victim’s high-power binoculars and camera which was believed to be another reason for killing him. The equipment were issued to by the US government since he was an employee of the Philippine Eagle Center and was tasked to look over birds on top of the mountains.

Teach-In at UP Palma Hall: Things to know about the Tubbataha and the VFA

Posted to the pro-CPP Arkibong Bayan (People's Archive) Website (Mar 7): Teach-In at UP Palma Hall: Things to know about the Tubbataha and the VFA

Tubba Talk: UP Alliance to Save Tubbataha, Junk VFA

The historic AS lobby, scene of numerous teach ins prior to and during martial law, was the venue for the Tubbatalk Teach In today. UP professors with backgrounds in marine anthropology, Physics and European Languages as well as a professor of Marine Biology from Ateneo shared with UP students the various dimensions of the impact on the environment, on sovereignty and on the people of the incident in Tubbataha and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

The teach-in was capped by a performance of the UP-CIS Bunraku Ensemble featuring Philemon the puppet fisherman. Bunraku, according to Wikipedia: "Bunraku" , also known as Ningyo joruri, is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre, founded in Osaka in 1684."

UP Community Says Save Tubbataha Junk VFA
January 30, 2013

Concerned members of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman community express outrage over the wanton damage of the Tubbataha Reef by the USS Guardian, a US mine sweeper that initially docked at Subic last January 12 and was supposed to make a stopover at Puerto Princesa City before going to Indonesia.

The Tubbataha Reef, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993, is part of the Coral Triangle which contains at least 40% of the world fish and 75% of the world’s coral. It also serves as one of the key sources of coral and fish larvae of the greater Sulu Sea which sustains the fishing activity in the surrounding area. (Source:

US Navy estimates place the damage at 1,000 square meters of the marine protected area. However, until the US mine sweeper is removed from the site, the extent of the damage cannot be determined. . According to environmental experts, it takes one year for a millimeter of coral to grow naturally and 250 years for a meter of coral to mature. The warship has damaged thousands of years’ worth of coral growth and the delicate balance of the ecosystem it supports.

That the US Navy will only be fined US$300 (or roughly PhP12,000) for every damaged square meter is unacceptable even if it may be legal. The Coral Reef is priceless and its damage is made worse by the blatant and arrogant disregard of the US forces of territorial integrity and Philippine sovereignty.

First, the warship ignored the warning of the Park Rangers that they were entering a protected area and should not proceed. Instead the US Captain referred them to the US Embassy.

Second, when the ship ran aground, the crew prevented the Park Rangers from boarding the ship by going into a battle formation.

This is not the first time that US military presence, allowed by the Visiting Forces Agreement, has brought harm to our people and our environment and encroached on our sovereignty. The US has not yet cleaned up the toxic wastes that they left in Subic and Clark since 1992. Just recently, a US Naval contractor dumped solid and human waste in the vicinity of Subic Bay. Drone and missile testing is being done inside our territory. The New York Times reported the admission by US officials that in 2006 an American Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, fired a “barrage of Hellfire missiles” in the “jungles of the Philippines”. Early this year, a US drone was discovered floating off the island of Masbate. President Aquino himself has admitted that he has allowed the overflights of US drones over Philippines.
US military forces, battle ships, and warplanes can move around Philippine territory and do damage to the people and environment with impunity because of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
It is in this light that concerned members of the UP Diliman community strongly call on the Aquino administration to make the US Navy accountable for the damage to the Tubbataha Reef and to assert the Philippines’ territorial integrity and national sovereignty .We renew our call to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement. This call is consistent with the patriotic tradition of the University of the Philippines .
Save the Tubbataha Reef!

US Troops Out Now!

Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement


The claim to Sabah: A historical perspective

From ABS-CBN (Mar 7): The claim to Sabah: A historical perspective

MANILA, Philippines -- The issue of who rightfully owns North Borneo, or Sabah as people has come to know it, stems all the way back to the 1600s, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Undersecretary Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III said.

Speaking with Mornings@ANC on Thursday, Quezon shared a timeline of key events that he had compiled on Sabah's history to help shed light on the long-standing Sabah claim issue.

He, however, clarified that the timeline, which starts at the 1640s, is not an official position paper of the Philippine government.

Quezon said historical documents show that the Sultanate of Sulu, which controlled the Sulu islands in the Muslim southern Philippines, indeed owned a part of Borneo, including Sabah.

During the 1700s, the Sultan of Brunei transferred a piece of its land under the control of the Sulu sultanate. Around 1800 to 1850, the Sultan of Sulu then gave a part of its land to another sultan who gave it away to the Dutch.

Indonesia, as a successor to the Dutch, later owned the land.

The Sulu sultanate then "lost" its remaining land, which was later named Sabah, during the period of European colonialism in 1878 after it was either leased or sold to a British trading company, which remains a controversy up to now.

He clarified, however, that under the current arrangement, the heirs of the Sultanate still receive annual payments from Malaysia.

"This was all property of the Sultan of Brunei and at a certain point, he gave a big chunk of what he owned in his part of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu. The Sultan of Sulu, in turn...sort of put a chunk under the control of another sultan who promptly gave it away to the Dutch," he said.

He added: "Then again in 1878, he had the remaining chunk and the whole controversy is whether he leased it or sold it to a company called the British North Borneo Company (BNBC)... This is what we know as Sabah basically."

End to the existence of Sulu sultanate as a country

Quezon said when the United States of America took over the Philippines, the Sultanate of Sulu, under The Carpenter Treaty, agreed to give up its sovereign rights over Sulu provided that the sultan would still be recognized as the "spiritual leader" of the Muslims.

"In the end, the Americans took over the Philippines and in 1915, there was an agreement that put an end to the existence of the Sultanate of Sulu as a country."

"Basically, what the Sultan of Sulu accepted...was 'I recognize the sovereignty of the United States and in exchange, I get some property, an allowance and I am recognized as the spiritual leader of the Muslims in my old territories,'" he said.

Quezon said the Sabah controversy this time emerged anew as the sultan only mentioned giving up his sovereign rights over Sulu.

"What about his claim on [Sabah] by which at this time was under the control of the British?"
He noted that in 1888, Britain declared BNBC as a protectorate and later handed it over to the new nation of Malaysia in 1963.

Title of Sultan of Sulu disputed among heirs

Quezon also noted that another problem arose when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, "the last uncontested sultan," died in 1936. He said the title of Sultan of Sulu was disputed among the heirs for over 10 years.

"The heirs were fighting among themselves and couldn't agree on who will be the actual sultan," he said.

The dispute was only settled in 1950 when Esmail Kiram was crowned Sultan of Sulu.

In 1962, Sultan Esmail then asserted their ownership of Sabah and decided to give up their sovereign rights to the Philippines but reserved to the heirs of the Sultanate their rights over income from lease payments, which at that time was coming from the Malaysian government.

In 1963, the Philippine government, under then President Diosdado Macapagal started laying out its claim over Sabah.

Constitution, Baseline Law

In 1968, Republic Act 5446 was signed into law. The Baseline Law includes "the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty."

The 1973 Philippine Constitution also defined the country's territory to include "all the other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic or legal title."

In 1977, the Malaysian government asked the Philippines, under then President Ferdinand Marcos, to give up its claim on Sabah. The Malaysia wanted the Philippine government to eliminate the clause on "historic title" in its constitution and repeal RA 5446.

The 1987 Constitution then defined the Philippine territory to include "all the other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction."

Quezon said that while the Philippines did take out the "historical title" phrase, it was unclear whether the government had already given up its claim on the disputed territory.

RA 5446 (Baselines Law) was also amended in 2009, but a Supreme Court decision said Republic 9522 or The Baselines Law still did not relinquish the Philippine claim to Sabah.

Title of Sultan of Sulu disputed anew

When the last acknowledged Sultan Mahakutta Kiram, who reigned after his father Esmail's death in 1974, died in 1986, the title of Sultan of Sulu was again disputed among heirs.

Quezon said with many of the heirs claiming to be the rightful Sultan of Sulu, the Philippine government was left in a "quandary".

"Until it can be resolved among themselves, it leaves the government in a quandary," he said.

Quezon noted that in traditional cultures, the saying that "majority rules" does not apply. "The elders must have a unified voice. That is how you maintain both the prestige and authority."

"You need to have an understanding among everyone involved. If one or two or a group say no, then you're back to square one... That is the whole basis of you don't elect them, they don't run for office. It has to be the semblance of unity of the elders is maintained," he added.

He said Jamalul Kiram III, whose followers have been engaged in a standoff with Malaysian authorities for over three weeks now, is only one among the claimants of the title of Sultan of Sulu. Jamalul's brother, cousin, and nephew are also claimants to the sultan title.

Some 180 members of the Sulu royal army, led by Jamalul's brother, entered Lahad Datu town last February 12 to insist on the Philippines’ proprietary and sovereign rights over Sabah. As of posting, Malaysian security forces were still hunting them down. Eight Malaysian police and at least 50 of Jamalul's followers have been killed in clashes which began Friday last week.

Coast Guard: USS Guardian salvage may take till April

From GMA News (Mar 8): Coast Guard: USS Guardian salvage may take till April

No thanks to recent delays from bad weather, salvage work on the grounded minesweeper USS Guardian may go beyond Holy Week or end-March, the Philippine Coast Guard said Friday.
Coast Guard Palawan and Task Force Tubbataha head Commodore Enrico Evangelista said they may even work until the second week of April, radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo reported.
Evangelista was quoted in the report as saying that with the delays brought by bad weather, it is not impossible they may go beyond the original deadline of March 23.

He said they are also not discounting the possibility they may go beyond Holy Week, the last week of March.

Earlier this month, big waves and strong winds forced salvage crews to suspend work on extricating the USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef.

While salvage work has since resumed after the weather improved, Evangelista said they are entering a critical phase of the operation.

He said they are now focusing on removing a part of the deck, and may need five to six days to cut the hull into three sections.

The USS Guardian ran aground off Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17. The Tubbataha Management Office estimates it may have damaged some 4,000 square meters of the reef.

Kiram group calls for prisoner swap with Malaysian forces

From GMA News (Mar 8): Kiram group calls for prisoner swap with Malaysian forces

The camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Friday called for a prisoner swap with Malaysia in light of the bloody clashes between the sultan's followers and Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

A report by Sherrie Ann Torres on “Quick Response Team” quoted Kiram's group as saying that four Malaysian fighters, including a colonel, are currently in their custody as prisoners.

Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, said they have captured 10 of Kiram's fighters in Sabah after the 17-day standoff there that started early February gave way to a series of clashes, the report said.

Kiram, who has declared a unilateral ceasefire with Malaysia, wants an independent group to facilitate the prisoner swap, the report said.

GMA News Online tried calling Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez for a comment, but he could not be reached as of press time.

According to Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sulu sultanate, the group — led by Kiram's brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin — has not eaten for two days based on information reaching them.

The DFA is negotiating with the Malaysian authorities to have access to the captured followers of Kiram as the Philippine government maintains its call for Kiram's followers in Sabah to surrender.

Last February, Kiram sent around 300 followers to fight for a territorial stake on Sabah, a resource-rich part of the Borneo island, basing their claim on a historical agreement with the Brunei sultanate during the British colonization in Malaysia.

Philippine Navy Intercept Boats with Pinoy Sabah Evacuees

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 8): Philippine Navy Intercept Boats with Pinoy Sabah Evacuees

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that its forces in Tawi-Tawi have intercepted two motor launches with Filipino evacuees from Sabah on board.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cdr. Gregory Gerald V. Fabic said PN vessels conducting naval blockade at the boundaries of Sabah and Malaysia spotted the two motor motor bays around 6:30 a.m. yesterday.

When intercepted, it was discovered that the motor launches were carrying 121 people, more than 3,000 sacks of rice and assorted foodstuff.

It was also found out that the people on board were Flipinos from Sandakan in Sabah who have opted to escape from the on-going violence between members of the Sulu Royal Army and Malaysian forces.

 "They were heading for Bongao in Tawi-Tawi. Our ships escorted them to Bongao for proper disposition," said Fabic.

Citing initial reports reaching him, Fabic said the vessels may reach Bongao within the day.

Meanwhile, Fabic said a report that thousands of followers of the Sulu sultanate have been able to slip through Sabah borders is "extremely doubtful".

"On intelligence report, there are indeed a number of supporters of Sabah claim but movement of hundreds more so thousands can't be done unnoticed," said the PN spokesman.

Fabic also noted that with the escalating tension between the Malaysian authorities and followers of Sultan Kiram, the Philippine government had been urged to act for thousands of Filipino civilians in Sabah who are affected by the ongoing clash.

"With the pronouncement of Malacaá¹…ang to repatriate affected Filipinos back home safe and secured, the Philippine Navy has deployed BRP Tagbanua (AT 296) since February 25. Through inter-agency efforts, repatriation teams composed of doctors, nurses and social workers were also onboard the navy vessels in order to provide humanitarian and medical assistance," said Fabic.

Real time updates were continuously monitored by the Philippine Navy through its satellite monitoring stations.

"The defense in Sabah is a law enforcement activity. Hence, the Philippine Navy’s contribution in resolving the crisis is just to enhance its naval barrier as well as to reinforce maritime security in the vicinity of Mangsee in Palawan and in the waters off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to ensure that no more Kiram followers will be able to slip through the backdoor channel to prevent further escalation of the situation," stressed the PN spokesman.

He further said, "the naval barriers along our borders are well patrolled by both our Naval Forces West (NFW) in Palawan and Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in Zamboanga and their Marine units have adequately covered all possible ports where they will be available to monitor their movements."

"In fact, barrier patrols have been able to control movements both in and out, assisting those fleeing Sabah from the violence as well as illegal transit across the border," he added.

"Yet, the Philippine Navy supports the notion of having legal and peaceful means to resolve the said issue. This is part of the Philippine Navy’s mandate to preserve stability and harmony within the region for the best interest of the Filipino nation," stated the Navy spokesman.

Aerial, sea patrols find no new structures in spratlys

From the Manila Times (Mar 8): Aerial, sea patrols find no new structures in spratlys

NO new Chinese structures is being built in the disputed Spratly group of islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), even as the Naval Forces West is preoccupied securing the vast Sulu Sea dividing the island provinces of Mindanao and Sabah, according to top official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We are doing regular patrols and reconnaissance flights in the area, we saw no new structures being built there,” Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, Western Command (Westcom) chief, told The Manila Times on Thursday.

Sabban made the clarification in reaction to reports that China has taken advantage on the Sabah standoff issue and built new structures in Spratlys.

Sabban stressed that the Sabah conflict has not affected or weakened the Westcom’s security mantle despite the deployment of some of its naval assets down the Mindanao-Sabah border.

“Even prior to the Sabah incident, we have been patrolling that area,” he added.

The Spratlys is being claimed in whole, or in part by the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.

There were reports also that China had already developed some of their claimed territories in the disputed area, while Vietnam had reportedly built a supermarket.

Sabban earlier said that all claimant countries can proceed with their respective developments on any areas that legally belongs to them under the United Nations Convention on the Rule of the Seas, or Unclos within their 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

“If it’s already legally theirs they can put up anything, the same way that when we have our own islands we can also put up our own supermarket as the case maybe,” he added.

“The mayor of Kalayaan [Island] has submitted his recommendations for development of his municipality and we are showing everybody that this is a legal means of showing the whole world that there is governance in our [island],” Sabban further said.

Kalayaan Island is part of the Spratlys. It has been declared in the 1970s as a municipality of Palawan province. A 1.3-kilometer airstrip has been built in the area to accommodate planes that deliver troops and supply.

Sabban said that Kalayaan folks should be provided with livelihood, including basic necessities such as hospitals, markets and piers and its existing airport should be rehabilitated and maintained to so that investors would come in.

“This will spur economic development for inhabitants of those islands. This will create livelihood, this will also attract tourists in that area,” he said.

”While other countries are promoting their own islands to become tourists destinations then we should, we might as well compete with their reefs and shoals, which will definitely put us n an advantage because ours are much better than theirs,” Sabban pointed out.

According to Sabban, they have also submitted their recommendations to higher authorities and hope to accomplish them before he retires from the service.

2 NPA rebels killed in Catanduanes clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 8): 2 NPA rebels killed in Catanduanes clash

Two communist rebels were killed in an encounter with government troops in Catanduanes Friday afternoon, the Philippine Army said.

Reports from 9th Infantry Division Commander Major General Romeo Calizo said troops from the 83rd Infantry Battalion encountered about 14 New People’s Army rebels in Manambrag village in San Andres town at about 3:30 p.m.

The firefight lasted for about 10 minutes, and the rebels fled in different directions.

Recovered from the site were one M635 rifle, one M14 rifle, 15 assorted ammunition, explosive device, cellphone and documents.

Pursuit operations were being conducted by the government troops.

Sulu Sultanate: The Raja Muda is safe

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): Sulu Sultanate: The Raja Muda is safe

Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and the remaining members of the Royal Sulu Army in Sabah are safe, the sultanate's spokesperson said Friday.
"Malayo iyong bombahan sa position ni Raja Muda. He and his men are safe," said Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultanate, amid speculations that Agbimuddin was the "general" of the royal army killed by Malaysian forces during airstrikes on Thursday.

Idjirani, meanwhile, confirmed that 32 people were killed by Malaysian forces on Thursday but claimed that the fatalities were civilians.

Malaysian authorities had also said that more than 50 members of the sultanate have been killed since last week.

Idjirani said the bombardment on the position of the Raja Muda continued even if the Sultanate of Sulu had declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities on Thursday afternoon.

“Tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang bombahan,” he said. The bombardment started at about 3 a.m., he added.

Idjirani also denied a claim by Malacanang that the men who joined the Royal Sulu Army in Sabah were paid $600 each.
“That is not true,” said Idjirani.

He added that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is prepared to be arrested should the Department of Justice orders it.

“He will not run. He is already an old man. Wala na tayong magagawa pa kung yun ang gusto nila,” said Idjirani.

Military post in Cotabato City attacked

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): Military post in Cotabato City attacked

An unidentified bomber blasted a fragmentation grenade at the fenced detachment of Marines at a public market here Thursday night. No one was hurt from the incident.

The bombing came just two days after motorcycle-riding men bombed the house here of a municipal treasurer of a Maguindanao town.

Investigators said witnesses saw a man scamper away after throwing the grenade at the detachment, located at at the main market in the city's eastern part.

The Cotabato City police said intelligence agents are still trying to determine the identity of the bombing suspect and his motive for the attack.

Two days earlier, two suspects threw a grenade at the house here of Norodin Samaon, the municipal treasurer of Talitay town in the second district of Maguindanao.

Samaon and members of his family were out during the attack.


MNLF faction asks Sultan followers, Malaysia to end crisis

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): MNLF faction asks Sultan followers, Malaysia to end crisis

The largest faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Friday called on the Malaysian government and the Sulu Sultanate’s followers to observe a ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed in Sabah.
Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of what is touted as the biggest of all three groups in the MNLF, said prolonging the hostilities in the mineral-rich island will affect the lives of thousands of Malaysians and Moro communities in the area.

Sema, speaking to reporters, said parties should hold a dialogue based on Islamic teachings on consensus-building to resolve the crisis.

“We are for an immediate end of the bloodshed there. Malaysia is not our enemy. We, in fact, regard Malaysia as a ‘big brother’ for having helped us in the MNLF when we fought the Philippine government,” Sema said.

Sema recalled members of the MNLF were allowed to take refuge in some of Malaysia's islands by Kuala Lumpur in the '70s.

Sema added that they remain grateful for Malaysia's continued support to the Mindanao peace process.

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“Problems and misunderstandings can be discussed amicably, without bloodshed,” Sema said.

Sema also urged, on his group’s behalf, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to pursue peaceful means to reassert the latter's claim over Sabah.

A nephew in Kidapawan City of Kiram on Thursday said his uncle “erred” in allowing the sultan's followers to bring in guns to Lahad Datu to highlight their bid to regain control of Sabah, a resource-rich island.

“One big mistake of the sultan’s followers was that they carried with them firearms,” said Marinod Austria, 50 and an entrepreneur who operates vast tract of banana farms in North Cotabato.

Austria is the son of the sultan’s brother, Omar Kiram. Austria said he is using Austria as his surname because Omar was adopted by a Filipino-American World War II veteran in the early 1940s.

Austria said his father, also called Sultan Omar, had served as personal secretary of then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay before the latter became president.

“If they went there without arms, the Malaysian authorities might have talked to them and there would have been no violence at all,” Austria said. “Going there with firearms is different from going there for a peaceful dialogue."

Hundreds flee homes as troops, rebels clash in Butuan

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): Hundreds flee homes as troops, rebels clash in Butuan

Hundreds were displaced in a clash between soldiers and communist rebels in Butuan City, officials said Friday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also said 10 soldiers went missing due to the encounter but the Army denied this.

In a report, NDRRMC said a total of 750 persons or 150 families fled their homes due to the clash last Thursday in barangay Anticala in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

About 80 families or 400 persons are now staying inside Tagkiling Tribal Elementary School in the said barangay.

"There are also 10 Special Forces personnel missing due to the encounter," NDRRMC said in a report issued Friday.

The military, however, denied that some of its soldiers went missing after the clash.

Osias claimed their troops even seized ammunition and backpacks from the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

“We were able to recover backpacks, communication, medicine, documents and ammunition,” he said.

Regional disaster management officials are working closely with the police to get more details on the clash.

NDRRMC said 80 family hygiene kits, 96 sleeping mats, 96 mosquito nets and 200 blankets have been distributed to the affected residents.

Food items were also distributed to residents in evacuation centers.

Rebel nabbed for 2003 slay of Masbate broadcaster

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): Rebel nabbed for 2003 slay of Masbate broadcaster

After more than nine years, authorities finally arrested the other day a leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) tagged in the killing of Masbate-based broadcaster Nelson Nadura.
The suspect, Rowel Caballero Vargas, alias Ka Weng, a former member of the NPA’s executive committee in Bicol, carried a P150,000 bounty and was the third most wanted in the region, said Senior Superintendent Renato Bataller, Bicol police spokesman.

Vargas faces murder and rebellion charges before the Regional Trial Court Branch 47 in Masbate City.

A joint police team arrested Vargas in Barangay Lanang, Aroroy town in Masbate on Wednesday.

Nadura was gunned down by two men while leaving radio station dyME in Masbate City on his motorcycle on Dec. 2, 2003.

Nadura was himself a former NPA leader in Bicol who was granted amnesty in 1998 and subsequently joined the broadcast media.

U.S. Navy’s “Pacific Ambassadors” to perform in malls

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 8): U.S. Navy’s “Pacific Ambassadors” to perform in malls

The United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet Band “Pacific Ambassadors” is visiting malls in Manila for a series of rock-and-roll music this weekend.

The free public performances will be held at the Robinsons Magnolia Atrium, Quezon City on Saturday, March 9, 6 p.m. and on Sunday, March 10, 6 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Atrium, Pasay City.

Likewise, the Pacific Ambassadors will hold a master class for music students of the Philippines Women’s University in Manila on Saturday, March 9 at 10 a.m. to be followed by a performance.

Pacific Ambassadors is the musical arm of the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet. 

USS Blue Ridge arrived in Manila on Thursday, March 7 for a goodwill visit. (U.S. Embassy Manila-Public Affairs Section/RJB/JEG/PIA-NCR)

Army to file case vs NPA over barangay cop’s death

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army to file case vs NPA over barangay cop’s death

The Philippine Army is contemplating on filing formal charges against the New People’s Army for killing a barangay police who was also a civilian intelligence agent on March 2 in the remote Barangay New Carmen in Baguio district here.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said the 84th Infantry Battalion is now closely coordinating with the family of Paulino Landim Jr. to formally charge the suspects. But more than filing a case against the NPA, Paniza urged the victim’s family and the community themselves to unite in driving out the rebels in the area.

He said that residents should cooperate with the government if only not to be disturbed by the presence of these lawless elements who continued to threaten them if they would not give in their extortion activities.

This came even as the NPA admitted killing of Landim at Purok 4 in New Carmen reportedly as “a punishment of the NPA’s military tribunal for his participation in the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations”.

In a statement, the NPA also boasted the release of five other civilian assets after finding that they were just 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.

The 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.

Gunmen kill soldier in Isabela City, Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Gunmen kill soldier in Isabela City, Basilan

The police and military are investigating to unmask the culprits behind the killing Friday of a soldier in the nearby island province of Basilan.

Killed was Sgt. Joseph Hiluan, 40, who was assigned with the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion based in the province of Basilan, according to Isabela City police chief Supt. Albert Larubis.

Hiluan, who is a native of Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, died on the spot from a single but fatal bullet wound.  Investigation showed that Hiluan was jogging along the highway around 5:45 a.m. Friday in Barangay Cabunbata, Isabela City, when shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen, Larubis said.

The Scene of Crime Operatives (Soco) recovered an empty shell of a caliber .45 pistol from the crime scene, Larubis said.  He said all motives that would lead to the suspects’ identities are being looked into as an investigation is underway.

The investigation is being conducted in coordination with the 4th Special Forces Battalion, he added.

Army conducts 12-km foot march in Cagayan De Oro

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army conducts 12-km foot march in Cagayan De Oro

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division here will conduct another ‘foot march’ anytime to check the readiness of the individual soldier, an army official said Friday.

Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, IV, spokesperson of the 4th ID, said the foot patrol will empathize with fellow soldiers in the field who were frequently sent on combat operations.

He said the foot march will also test the physical strength and ensure the soldier's readiness for deployment when the need arises.

According to Osias, a foot march would involve a battalion size of 150 soldiers marching in single file toward a predetermined objective and back to camp.

“Normally, a foot march would involved a distance of 12-kilometer or more,” Osias added.

The 4th ID held its first foot march for this year last Saturday in Barangays Patag and Bulua involving a 12-kilometer distance where the battalion size unit marched in single file starting at 4:30 a.m. and ended about 9:30 a.m. when the soldiers safely trekked back to barracks.

MILF still no comment on Sabah

From Rappler (Mar 8): MILF still no comment on Sabah

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Friday, March 8, maintained its “no comment policy” on the Sabah situation even as the Malaysian government continues its military offensive against the armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu.

Malaysia rejected on Thursday, March 7 the appeal of the self-styled sultan to declare a ceasefire, saying his armed followers in Sabah have to first surrender.

Malaysian police said at least 60 were killed from the firefights, including 52 Filipinos and 8 Malaysian security forces.

The MILF Executive Committee held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, March 6, to “discuss the current Sabah stand-off and to examine what possible new policy statement it can adopt in the light of this development.”

“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,” the MILF said. 

Malaysia is facilitating the talks between the government and MILF. They recently inked the Framework on the Bangsamoro territory, considered a big breakthrough in the talks.

The government peace panel declared that the peace deal would be finalized next month, April.
At least one member of the central governing body of the MILF told Rappler they're confident that the Sabah conflict would not affect the peace negotiations. “The issue of Sabah is not part of the negotiation and we cannot discuss something which is not part of the agenda,” he said.

The armed followers of Jamalul Kiram III said that among the reasons for their decision to sail to Sabah and revive the Sabah claim is their exclusion from the current peace process between the government and the MILF.

The Kirams, who come from Sulu, are associatedly largely with the MILF's rival organization, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It was Indonesia that brokered the peace agreement between the Ramos government and the MNLF.

Over 50 arrests in Sabah - police

From Rappler (Mar 8): Over 50 arrests in Sabah - police

FELDA SAHABAT, Malaysia (UPDATED) – Malaysian police said on Friday, March 8, they have arrested more than 50 people in a remote state since the start of a nearly month-long incursion by Filipino gunmen.
Malaysia has said previously that clashes between the gunmen and its security forces had left 60 people dead and has rejected a call by the fighters' leader for a ceasefire in a farming region where the militants were being pursued.

In announcing the arrests, federal police chief Ismail Omar said they had all occurred in other areas of the state of Sabah, outside the battlezone where the militants and armed forces were facing off.

"Outside the operation area, police already arrested certain suspects who we believe have links to the invaders," Ismail said.

He said more than 50 had been arrested, including men and women. He declined to give any further details on the identities of those arrested, including whether they were foreigners or Malaysians.

Scores of followers of a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan landed in the state on Borneo island last month to assert a long-dormant territorial claim in what has become Malaysia's worst security crisis in years.

Deadly shootouts

The main group of militants was holed up in a sleepy farming village for 3 weeks until two deadly shootouts with security forces last weekend triggered a military assault that scattered them amid vast oil palm plantations.

However, there have been reports of other gunmen elsewhere along Sabah's coast, raising fears of a wider infiltration by fighters and the possibility they may have been aided by sympathisers already in Malaysia.

The Philippines, meanwhile, said it had formally asked Malaysia to ensure humanitarian treatment for 10 Filipinos who it says have been captured.

The government of President Benigno Aquino III said previously that Malaysia had informed Manila that 10 Filipinos had been captured. Malaysia has not confirmed that account.

"Today, we have asked the Malaysian government to treat our people under their custody humanely," Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

"We expect and we have already informed the Malaysian embassy that our Philippine embassy team (in Sabah) be given full access to the Filipinos."

Self-proclaimed sultan

The incursion was carried out by a group of followers of Jamalul Kiram III, the self-proclaimed heir to the former southern Philippine sultanate of Sulu, which had a historical claim to Sabah.

Kiram's people say about 235 people took part in the incursion, and they also claim that 10 had been captured.

Ismail said he had no knowledge of the captives. Malaysian authorities have continually issued only sketchy information on the crisis, citing security reasons.

Ismail said the arrests were made under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, a new law introduced to replace a tough British colonial-era law as part of a reform drive.

But the new act has come under criticism for giving authorities too much power to hold people on broad grounds. London-based Amnesty International has called it "deeply flawed."

Fresh explosions reported as Malaysian jets sighted heading to Lahad Datu

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): Fresh explosions reported as Malaysian jets sighted heading to Lahad Datu

Nearby villagers claimed they heard several new explosions after at least two fighter jets were seen heading towards the Ops Daulat operation zone in Lahad Datu.
"We saw three jet fighters flying towards the Kampung Tanduo area and then we heard around eight explosions at around 7.30am," said Bikail Maheli Badal (right), 56 who was in Embada Budi.

This comes after security forces yesterday expanded their operations, which began on Tuesday, into Tanjung Labian from the initial areas of Kampung Tanduo and Tanjung Batu.

Another villager here, Ali Johan, 32 said he heard at least two explosions.

"I was inside boiling water when I heard the loud explosions," he said.

Embada Budi is about 10km from away from Tanjung Labian by road but the direct distance is less than that.

However, police manning an outpost by the road entrance into Tanjung Labian claimed they had not heard anything.

Yesterday, armed forces chief Zulkefeli Mohd Zin explained that the air strikes were not aimed at killing the enemies but was to clear an area so security forces can move in safely.

'Sufficient food'

Meanwhile, the displaced villagers in Embada Budi said they are now receiving an abundance of food after initial complaints that there wasn't enough.

"Initially there were problems but now we are getting packed food delivered to us on a daily basis, twice a day.

"Even though there are more than 650 of us placed here, there were still leftovers," said Bikail, who fled from Tanjung Labian.

Aside the packed food consisting of rice, fish and vegetables delivered at noon and 7pm daily, Bikail say they have also received enough cooking supplies for breakfast.

The food were distributed by the Malaysian Civil Defence Department.

Meanwhile, at Desa Kencana and surrounding villages near the media centre at Felda Residence Sahabat, water supply remains unstable.

Water supply resumed at noon yesterday at the villages, but it was turned off again at night until this morning.

The unstable water supply is due to shorter operating hours as the main water facility is within the red zone and workers are worried for their safety to work into the late night.

The water disruption, which began yesterday, has also taken a toll at the media centre as its water tanks have been depleted.

PH Navy disputes report of Sulu reinforcements slipping past blockade

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): PH Navy disputes report of Sulu reinforcements slipping past blockade

The Philippine Navy on Friday disputed reports that hundreds or even thousands of followers and supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were able to slip past the naval blockade to go to Sabah and reinforce the fighters there.

Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, acting chief of public affairs of the Philippine Navy, said a movement of such magnitude would not go unnoticed by troops constantly patrolling the waters off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Although intelligence reports showed that there were a number of supporters, a "movement of hundreds, more so thousands, can't be done unnoticed."

"The naval barriers along our borders are well patrolled by both our Naval Forces West (NFW) in Palawan and Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in Zamboanga and their Marine units have adequately covered all possible ports where they will be available to monitor their movements. In fact, barrier patrols have been able to control movements both in and out," Fabic said.

He said barrier patrols were also assisting evacuees from Sabah.

When tensions escalated between the Royal Sulu Army and Malaysian forces, the Philippine Navy, under orders of Malacanang, deployed BRP Tagbanua (AT 296) on February 25. Repatriation teams composed of doctors, nurses and social workers were also on standby in the vessel.

"The defense in Sabah is a law enforcement activity. Hence, the Philippine Navy’s contribution in resolving the crisis is just to enhance its naval barrier as well as to reinforce maritime security in the vicinity of Mangsee in Palawan and in the waters off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to ensure that no more Kiram followers will be able to slip through the backdoor channel to prevent further escalation of the situation," Fabic said.

The Philippine Navy supports calls for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

Kiram camp denies 32 more killed in Sabah, says Raja Muda group on the move

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): Kiram camp denies 32 more killed in Sabah, says Raja Muda group on the move

The followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah's Lahad Datu town, led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, have managed to regrouped despite continuous assault by Malaysian forces, according to the spokesman of the sultanate.

Abraham Idjirani said they last spoke to Raja Muda at 2:30 p.m., Friday. He said the crown prince told him that although his men were suffering from hunger, they managed to reassemble and were again on the move.

Idjirani also denied 32 more followers of the Sulu sultanate were killed in Wednesday's assault by Malaysian forces. He maintained that only 10 people died from their side, while four others were hurt, and 10 more were captured by Malaysian authorities.

He said the 10 died not due to assaults but through an encounter between the Royal Sulu Army and Malaysian forces.

"Isang beses lang ang engkwentro ng Royal Security Force with Malaysian police and military.Maliban do'n wala na [The Royal Security Force's encounter with Malaysian police and military was only once]. They perpetrated these acts of atrocities. Surely they are now resorting to attacking innocent and helpless civilians," Idjirani told reporters.

He also denied reports that the Sulu Army's general, Haji Musa, was killed by Malaysian forces.
"As per verification conveyed to us by relatives of Haji Musa, he is well and alive," Idjirani said.
He said Raja Muda and his men were maintaining a defensive stance despite Malaysia's rejection of a ceasefire.

Idjirani added that Raja Muda and his men only wanted to live peacefully in Sabah. reported that the remaining followers of the sultanate were believed to have gone into hiding in locations within the Ops Daulat area.

"We believe what is left of the enemy is in hiding in certain locations," Malaysia Armed Forces chief Gen Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said at a press conference at Felda Residence Sahabat Friday evening.

Security forces that have been scouring three areas in Lahad Datu - Kampung Tanduo, Tanjung Batu and Tanjung Labian - have not engaged with any enemy in the last 24 hours, he said.

However, Zulkifeli said the Filipinos had yet to show any signal that they were willing to surrender.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar said the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 was invoked in the arrest of more than 50 people throughout Sabah suspected of being linked to the followers of the Sulu sultanate.

"They were arrested outside the operations area, throughout Sabah, to facilitate investigations because we believe they are linked to these intruders.

"They were arrested under the the new Sosma law, which is read together with the Penal Code," Ismail said.

On Friday morning, Sabah Commissioner of Police Hamza Taib said 79 suspects had been arrested, all of them outside the operations area, since February 12, with the exception of three who tried to escape from the Kampung Tanduo cordon on the night of March 2.

Ismail said the individuals included men and women, but he would not confirm if they were Suluks or had Malaysian identity cards.

"I cannot give more information because it will compromise our investigations," he said.

Asked about Manila's request to send a humanitarian team to assess the conflict situation in Lahad Datu, Ismail said the Philippines had yet to make a formal request.

"We have not received it through our government's official channels, nor have we been informed by Wisma Putera," he said.

PH seeks access to Filipinos detained in Sabah

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): PH seeks access to Filipinos detained in Sabah

The Philippines has “strongly” asked Malaysia that it be given access to the members of the Kiram group arrested in Sabah, even as Malaysia has not responded to an earlier request to allow Philippine Navy ships to dock in Sabah so that the women and children can be evacuated.

“This morning, we sent a note verbale to the Malaysian embassy to strongly request that the Philippine embassy team in Lahad Datu be given full access to 10 members of Kiram group apprehended in Sabah consistent with the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez in a briefing Friday.

The DFA reminded Malaysia that those arrested must be treated humanely.

Among the requests contained in the note verbale is for the Malaysian government to allow the Philippine humanitarian ship to dock in Lahad Datu and create a humanitarian corridor that would allow women, children and civilians to leave the island.

“So far these have not been granted. Maybe they are still considering that,” he said.

“The operationalization of this will depend on the people involved. The environment there in Lahad Datu will prevent them from allowing our people to dock in Lahad Datu,” he added.

At the same time, Hernandez suggested that the Kirams “lay down their arms” after Malaysia rejected the Sultan of Sulu’s call for a ceasefire.

“At this point, after the Malaysian government rejected the call of Jamalul Kiram for reciprocity of their declaration of unilateral ceasefire, it appears that the only option left for the Kirams to save lives for certainty is to lay down their arms,” he said.

Hernandez said the Philippines cannot validate the reports coming from Sabah, including the number of deaths, because Philippine embassy officials have not been allowed to go there.

“No information has been shared with us by the Malaysian government on the operational side being undertaken in Lahad Datu,” he said.

Hernandez said dialogues are ongoing with both parties in a bid to stop the bloodshed.

“We have been endeavoring to do that. What happened was the violence last Friday. We are continuing to explore all avenues to avoid further loss of lives,” he said.