Monday, March 11, 2013

LATEST ON LAHAD DATU: Kg Tanduo secured, Ops Daulat may end soon

From the New Straits Times (Mar 12): LATEST ON LAHAD DATU: Kg Tanduo secured, Ops Daulat may end soon


Soldiers in an armoured vehicle monitoring the beach at Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, during the ‘Ops Daulat’ mopping-up exercise against terrorists from Sulu on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Ministry of Defence
DISENGAGEMENT TALKS: Jamalul's brother has meeting with Philippine govt
THE conflict on the east coast of Sabah may be reaching the end sooner than expected.

After a series of heavy bombardments in the red zone in Felda Sahabat, security forces yesterday announced that they had secured Kampung Tanduo, the scene of fierce fighting over the past week.

This was where the terrorists from Sulu had holed up since they landed on Malaysian shores a month ago.

Security forces had nabbed 97 people suspected of having links with the terrorists. Most of these arrests were in Semporna, where there is a large squatter settlement of Suluks.

"The end is in sight," said Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib yesterday.

His statement was given added credence when reports out of Manila stated that Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, the younger brother of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, was in a closed-door meeting with Philippine Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to discuss the "disengagement" of the so-called "royal Sulu army".

Roxas was quoted as saying that the meeting centred on the "disengagement" of the gunmen in Sabah to protect the innocent who are not involved in the conflict.

The Malaysian government had warned that there would be no ceasefire until the terrorists laid down their arms and surrendered unconditionally.

While negotiations are going on between the Sulu sultanate and the Philippine government, thousands of Suluks residing illegally in Sabah are making their way back to Sulu.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 Suluks boarded barter boats from Sandakan for southern Philippines.
Yesterday, another group of more than 300 followed suit.

Body of dead Sulu gunman identified as 'General' Haji Musa

From the Malaysia Chronicle (Mar 12): Body of dead Sulu gunman identified as 'General' Haji Musa

LAHAD DATU - The body of a dead Sulu gunman whom police believed was a high-ranking figure of the terrorist group was identified as that of "General" Haji Musa today.

Haji Musa who was tasked to lead the so-called Royal Sulu Army of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III was killed along with 31 other gunman at Kampung Tanjung Batu in a battle with Malaysian security forces on Thursday.

On Sunday evening, police and the army personnel who are in the process of recovering the bodies of 45 dead gunmen that lay in a decomposed state in the village and Kampung Tanduo sent 16 remains of the enemy to the Lahad Datu Hospital (HLD) mortuary.

Federal police forensics assistant director (disaster victim identification) chief ACP Hussein Omar Khan when met at the HLD at noon said that although the bodies are highly decomposed and was beyond recognition, police believe Haji Musa's body was among those brought in for a post mortem.

The remains of the gunmen that were in body bags were stacked in a two-tiered shelf in a cold room at the hospital.

"There are a total of 18 bodies of the gunmen here. Two was brought in days earlier while the rest were sent here on Sunday.

"A team of pathologists led by Datuk Dr Zahari Noor of the Penang General Hospital will conduct the post mortems." said Hussein who is heading the police forensics team for Ops Daulat.

He said if the bodies are not claimed after the post mortem is done, the dead gunmen will be placed in a temporary burial grounds. He added that more bodies are being recovered by security forces at the battlefield to be sent over to hospitals here and nearby towns.

Hussein said there are 87 forensics personnel, mostly from Kuala Lumpur who will assist in the exercise of recording details of the recovered bodies and gathering clues.

On March 7, following a fierce gunfight between security forces and the Sulu intruders at Kampung Tanjung Batu, 31 of the enemy were killed.

Police had revealed that they had also shot dead a "general" based on the insignia on the military fatigues he was in. It was initially suspected that the gunman was Jamalul's younger brother Agbimuddin Kiram.

Agbimuddin is the head honcho of the group while Haji Musa was the "ground commander" in charge of planning the offensive on Malaysian security forces.

Agbimuddin's whereabouts remain unknown though there are speculations that he may have sneaked out of Kampung Tanduo fled Malaysia.

People in Asia-Pacific oppose US-Japanese military alliance and reinforcement of US military presence

Posted to Website of the pro-CPP Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) (Mar 10): People in Asia-Pacific oppose US-Japanese military alliance and reinforcement of US military presence

We, people in the Asia-Pacific region, strongly oppose the reinforcement of the U.S. military presence that has rapidly grown region-wide and consolidation of U.S.-Japanese and other U.S.-led military alliance.

Last January 2012, the U.S. Obama administration announced its ‘rebalancing’ strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region. Under the new military strategy that focus the containment and restraint against China, the U.S. imperialism has reinforced its military deployment in the region massively and further intensified the military alliance with its allied countries such as Japan, South Korea, Philippine and Australia. It has become main factor that rise military tension in the region. We fight together against such moves that confront peace in the region.

In fact, the construction and consolidation of U.S. bases and the reinforcement of U.S. military deployment are rapidly promoted in the region. The U.S. intend to construct new U.S. base in Okinawa; build new Korean naval base in Jeju Island and expand/consolidate U.S. base in Pyeongtaek of South Korea, consolidate its military bases in mainland of Japan such as Iwakuni and Kanagawa; further reinforce the continuous presence in Philippines; start to deploy the U.S. marines in Australia; and expand its military base in Guam massively. Joint military exercises also increase in different area. These maneuvers are going on along with massive oppressions and human right violations against resisting people, getting the support from anti-people governments in respective countries. We regard the struggle against such maneuvers as our common agenda and organize joint struggle in solidarity with struggling people in different countries.

At the same time, we condemn that the U.S. and Japanese imperialism justify the consolidation of U.S.-Japanese military alliance and the reinforcement of U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific. Military tension over Diao-Yu Islands is rising now. Japanese and the U.S. imperialism should stop their propagated actions that rise military tension immediately. Japanese government should show its sincere reflection on past Japan’ invasive war and colonization on Asia It should withdraw the claim of its territorial rights over Diao-Yu Islands and Dokt Island that Japan seized one-sidedly in the process toward colonization and of invasive war and colonization on Asia and stop its maneuvers toward intensifying of U.S. military alliance and Japan’s own military building-up. These are the way to stop the development of military tension into actual military conflict. We fight long with this way.

We also recognize that both of the reconciliation and reunification of cross-straight between mainland China and Taiwan and the realization of independent and peaceful reunification of Korean Peninsula have significant importance for building of lasting peace in the region, and oppose U.S.-Japanese imperialists’ intervention against them. From this viewpoint, we condemn U.S.’s continuous selling of armament to Taiwan government, and express our solidarity to people in Taiwan who protest it. At the same time, we oppose the sanctions and the war plot of the U.S. and Japanese imperialists against North Korea.

U.S. and Japanese imperialist maneuvers in order to strengthen their regional hegemony, however, does never go straight as they planned. People’s resistance has grown, and imperialist ambition has been dashed day by day. We, people in the Asia-Pacific region, determine here to further intensify our common struggle against the reinforcement of U.S. military presence and U.S- led military alliance. No to U.S.-Japanese military alliance! All U.S. troops, out of Asia-Pacific!

March 3, 2013
at Taipei-City

AWC-Japan, AWC Korea Committee, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance-Philippine), ANSWER Coalition- US, China-Taiwan Labor Rights Association

Roxas, Kiram talk 'disengagement' of 'royal army'

From ABS-CBN (Mar 11): Roxas, Kiram talk 'disengagement' of 'royal army'

Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's younger brother, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, met closed-door on Monday to discuss the "disengagement" of the "royal army" with Malaysian forces in Sabah.

Speaking to reporters, Roxas said his meeting with Esmail was not the first time the government made efforts to talk to the Kiram family about the crisis in Sabah.

He said their meeting had the blessings of Jamalul, whose forces and followers went to Sabah and are currently being hunted down by Malaysian forces.

Roxas said he first met with Esmail last Thursday, and then got feelers about a possible closed-door meeting in Manila over the weekend.

"May mga katanungan sila na gustong maiparating at ito naman ay ipaparating ko. Tulad ng nasabi ni Sultan Esmail, nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na humingi sila ng oras at panahon para mapag-usapan ito at ito naman ay papaunlakan natin," he said.

Esmail is the second crown prince of Sultan Jamalul III. His younger brother, Raja Muda Agmuddin Kiram, is now hiding in Sabah after leading around 200 men to assert their claim over the disputed territory.

A radio dzMM report said Abraham Idjirani, the spokesman of the sultanate of Sulu, said Esmail acts as Officer in Charge (OIC) and handles the affairs of the sultanate in Jolo since Jamalul III is undergoing dialysis in Manila.

Roxas said the meeting centered on the "disengagement" of the royal sultanate army's forces in Sabah to protect innocents who are not involved in the standoff.

He did not elaborate, saying only that it is already public knowledge that Malaysia wants Agbimuddin and his followers to give up their arms.

"Sabihin na lang natin nasa paloob sa disengagement. Lahat tayo ay nababahala sa mga pangyayaring nagaganap ngayon sa Lahad Datu at sa Sabah at binigyan ko rin sila ng updates kung ano yung isinasagawa ng pamahalaan, lalung-lalo na sa DFA, sa pakipag-ugnayan sa pamahalaan ng Malaysia para yung mga inosente at hindi naman kasama dito ay hindi madamay sa mga pangyayari," he said.

The interior secretary said that when the standoff broke out last month, the Malaysian government had requested that Esmail be the one to act as intermediary.

"Isa mga na-request na mamagitan sa sitwasyong ito ay si Sultan Esmail at sinikap ng pamahalaan na siya ay madala dito sa Manila at makipag-usap sa kanyang kapatid at kung kinakailangan ay ihatid sa Brunei o sa Kota Kinabalu kung saan man magkakaroon ng pag-uusap, pero hindi na nangyari itong pag-uusap na ito," he said.

He added: "So, Sultan Esmail is very much aware of all of the efforts undertaken by government bago pa sumiklab ito sa putukan nung March 1 kung ano ang sinsagawa ng gobyerno at sinisikap niya na sariwain ang efforts na ito."

Idjirani, however, denied that the word "disengagement" was discussed in the closed-door meeting between Roxas and Sultan Esmail. He said Esmail is set to brief Sultan Jamalul tomorrow.

Kirams win support from Tausug clansmen

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 12): Kirams win support from Tausug clansmen

Aside from reinforcements coming from Tausug clansmen in some parts of Mindanao, the group of Radja Muda Agbimmudin Kiram has also won the sympathy of several Tausug commanders based in Sabah, along with their followers, and have joined the fight against Malaysian forces.

A reliable source said that at least three well-known Tausug commanders, who have peacefully settled in Sabah for years now, are now supporting the group of Radja Muda, the leader of the more than 200 followers of Sulu Sultanate who are now the subjects of wide-scale attacks by Malaysian forces.

“These three commanders, with their forces, are responsible in the counteractions in Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu,” said the source, who has links to the group of Radja Muda in Lahad Datu.
“They are sympathizers of the sultanate…and being Tausugs (they) defend Sabah in support for sultan’s sovereignty over Sabah,” the source added. The source gave the names of the commanders but requested they not be published.

Malaysian authorities have reported that 54 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been killed since the full-scale military operations were launched last March 1 in Lahad Datu. On the other hand, the Malaysian government confirmed only eight fatalities.

Earlier, another Tribune source confirmed the continuing sailing of hundreds of followers of the Kirams to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga Peninsula, mostly Tausugs.
The Tausug clansmen volunteered themselves to reinforce the group of Radja Muda.

Meanwhile, Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and national spokesman of the Sulu Sultanate, yesterday maintained that Radja Muda’s group remained in “good conditon” in Sabah despite Malaysian operations.

Idjirani said that Radja Muda told them at around 6:35 a.m. yesterday that his group was okay.
“He (Radja Muda) said that they are in good condition, they are fine,” said Idjirani.

“Compared to previous attacks, the operation (against Radja Muda’s group) has subsided…there are no more bombardments,” he added.

Idjirani also said the unilateral ceasefire declared by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, in reaction to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for resolve the conflict peacefully, has not been reciprocated by the Malaysian government.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas III yesterday met with the camp of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu to discuss the possible disengagement of the followers of the Sulu sultanate in Sabah amid the continuing intensified operations being conducted by Malaysian forces.

Esmail Kiram II, a brother of Sultan Kiram III, personally went to Camp Crame to meet with Roxas. Roxas refused to discuss in detail the issues raised during the two-hour meeting, pending his report to President Aquino regarding the dialog.

“We can say that it is within (talks of) disengagement because all of us are concerned over what’s happening in Lahad Datu in Sabah,” said Roxas during a press briefing after the meeting.
“I also gave them updates on what is the government doing,” he added.

Roxas said he would be meeting with the President anytime yesterday to brief him about the meeting.
“We had a wide discussion toward resolving the present problem. He has messages for the President and that was what I promised to do,” said Roxas.

The DILG chief noted that since the start, Esmail has been active in pursuing a peaceful resolution of the Sabah standoff which started last Feb. 12 when more than 200 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III occupied a village in Lahad Datu.

Roxas said that Esmail has been talking directly to Sabah authorities to prevent further bloodshed in the disputed territory.

For his part, Esmail said that the discussion was focused on how to address the present Sabah conflict. He did not elaborate stressing that, as agreed, the details of the meeting will only be made public after Roxas’ report to the President.

Roxas said the government’s main concern remains the safety and welfare of the Filipinos in Sabah, estimated to number around 800,000.

The secretary also clarified that, contrary to claims by some parties, talks with the Kirams have been on-going in different levels since the crisis erupted in early February. “Talk is better than no talk.”

Roxas said the closed door meeting with the Kiram family, which lasted nearly two hours, covered many aspects of the Sabah issue.

Meawhile, In Gumaca, Quezon , President Aquino’s so-alled “conspiracy theory” on the Sabah conflict, supposedly involving some known personalities identified with the previous administration is “plausible,” according to re-electionist Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday.

But the senator, who is running under Aquino’s Team PNoy coalition, would not corroborate further Malacañang’s allegations, saying that he may not have some access to some classified information available to the President on the Sabah crisis.

“If the President made that statement, this means he has basis and he has access to intelligence information which we don’t have access to. So I’m going to give the President the benefit of the doubt that he has leads going to that direction.

“It’s plausible and based on some information on the ground, the President’s statements can be validated,” he said to reporters covering Team PNoy’s sorties in the province.

But the senator admitted receiving similar information supposedly involving former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, whom Aquino would not even implicate in the alleged conspiracy theory.

“I won’t go beyond what the President said,” he said.

But not too long ago, long before the Sabah conflict erupted, Trillanes, a former military officer, said he had received information that Gonzales has been supposedly doing the rounds, conducting seminars with various groups.

“He was speaking about a revolutionary environment, about several months ago, a couple of months ago with various sectors and those who actually attended it relayed the information (to me),” he said.

Trillanes said he was no longer surprised to hear of Gonzales’ name since he’s been “everywhere.”

“There’s nothing illegal about it per se but for intelligence purposes, that has value,” said Trillanes.
The senator disputed the issue of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) being supposedly in the picture on the alleged conspiracy theory. “We’re leaving it up to the probe of the President who are connected in this conspiracy,” he said.

3 dead, 8 wounded in NPA ambush in Davao

From the Manila Times (Mar 11): 3 dead, 8 wounded in NPA ambush in Davao

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed at least three government soldiers and wounded eight more in an ambush in Davao City in the southern Philippines, a spokesman for the communist group said on Sunday.

Simon Santiago said that the rebel forces attacked soldiers and policemen, including militiamen, in the village of Carmen in Baguio district during an offensive operation over the weekend. He said that rebels seized automatic weapons and ammunitions from government forces during the assault.

“The NPA ambush was to give justice to the victims of the 84th Infantry Battalion its use of lumad vigilantes in its current intensive military operations,” he said.

He said that the military offensive, which started on February 27, affected civilians in the villages of Cadalian, Tambobong, Tawan-tawan, Carmen and Tamayong.

“It is futile and illusory for the 10th Infantry Division to conjure an image of Davao City peasant villages bereft of the NPA and revolutionary forces. The recent NPA ambush and the punishment of civilian military spy in Baguio district demonstrate the pursuit of revolutionary justice consistently upheld by the people’s army,” Santiago said, referring to the killing by rebels of Paulino Landim Jr. on March 2.

The Maoist rebels accused Landim, son of a tribal chieftain, as behind the killing of a militant last month in a raid conducted by military and police in Davao City.

Fresh fighting

In Samar, fighting erupted anew between government forces and the rebels, leaving an undermined number of rebels dead and scores of other others injured, according to a military spokesman.

Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman of Eighth Infantry Division, said on Monday that the series of armed encounters happened in the provinces of Samar and Northern Samar, all known hotbeds of insurgency.

The first incident, he said, took place in the boundary of Barangay Calondan, San Joge and Barangay Barayong, Motiong, Western Samar province between troops of Alpha Co., 43rd Infantry Battalion and undetermined number of rebels.

Similarly, troops of the 20th Infantry Battalion and Pinarican Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit’s Active Auxilliary also engaged some 15 Maoist rebels in a 15-minute firefight at Barangay Kalilingan, San Jose in Northern Samar.

Recovered from the encounter sites were assorted ammunitions for AK-47, M1 Garand and M16 rifles.

According to Orense, there were no reported casualties on the government side but an undetermined number of casualties and injuries on the side of the enemy.

Lt. Col. Noel Vestuir, 20th Infantry Battalion commanding officer, said that the encounters were the result of information relayed by residents to the military.

“These NPA rebels have been harassing the local populace, forcing to give in to their so-called revolutionary taxes in exchange for securing their communities,” Vestuir added.

Prior to the said encounters, troops of 34th IB and 81st Reconnaissance Co., also overran a temporary NPA camp after a 30-minute firefight against 25 NPA rebels in Palapag Complex, Northern Samar on March 4.

The encounter resulted in the seizure of the camp and recovery two M16 rifles, two landmines, one rifle grenade, magazines/ammunitions for M16 rifles and subversive documents.

Maj. Gen Gerardo Layug, commander of the Eighth Infantry Division, assured the public that they will continue to pursue peace but will act accordingly against all armed threats perpetrated by the militants or any armed groups.

“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.

Japan to host MILF delegation

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 11): Japan to host MILF delegation

Amid continuing talks with the Philippine government, a delegation from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is set to fly to Japan next week for a visit seen to “help finalize the Mindanao peace process,” the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

In a statement, the Japanese MOFA said MILF members led by peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal will visit Japan from Mar. 17 to 23 to meet with foreign ministry officials, the first time for an MILF delegation to undertake an official visit to Japan.

“It is expected that the visit of the MILF peace negotiating panel members can help finalize the Mindanao peace process,” said the MOFA, which also noted that recent peace talks have made “substantial progress” in the 40-year conflict between the Philippine government and Islamic rebel groups in Mindanao.

The Japanese Embassy in Manila has yet to release details of the trip, including the Japanese officials the MILF delegation is expected to meet and the places they will visit.

Japan has been keenly following the Mindanao peace process as a member of the International Monitoring Team since 2006 and an observer in the International Contact Group since 2009.

It previously hosted an informal meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad in Aug. 2011, which set the ball rolling on peace talks that led to last year’s signing of a framework agreement to establish a Bangsamoro juridical entity by 2016.

Sema calls for sobriety, prudence among Moro groups

From the Philippine Star (Mar 11): Sema calls for sobriety, prudence among Moro groups

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The largest of the three groups in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Monday called for prudence and sobriety among Moro sectors critical of the Sabah issue, to prevent creating undue animosity among Malaysians and Filipinos.

Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically active MNLF faction, said issuing hostile comments based on “emotions and not on reason” will only worsen the miseries of Moro and non-Moro Filipinos in Sabah.

“Issuing comments that can inflame the situation is a disservice to our suffering compatriots there. The Filipinos, as a nation, is not at war with Malaysia. The conflict there is between the sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces,” Sema said.

“And there can always be a solution to that problem, as long as the protagonists agree to resolving the conflict according to the Islamic context of fraternalism and dialogues,” Sema said.

Sema and many clerics in Central Mindanao have been appealing for a peaceful and immediate end to the crisis in Sabah.

Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, a commissioner in the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said it us un-Islamic for Muslims to fight each other over issues they can resolve through dialogues and consensus-building.

“For now, what we want is an immediate end to the hostilities in Sabah,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim also appealed to the Malaysian government to allow representatives from Manila to visit the conflict-stricken areas in Sabah to enable them to attend to the needs of thousands of Filipinos displaced by the hostilities in the island state.

A Tausog Imam, Yusoph Sabirani, said Malaysia should reciprocate Kiram's unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Sema also branded as “pure lies” the recent published reports that the MNLF, which signed a peace pact with the national government on Sept. 2, 1996, has sent guerillas to Sabah to reinforce the followers of Kiram.

“Those reports are not true. The MNLF has a peace agreement with the national government. We in the MNLF will not embark on anything that will endanger the lives of Filipinos in Sabah, regardless of whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims,” Sema said.

Members of the MNLF group led by Sema and the rank-and-file personnel of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are also urging local and international human rights organizations to help look into the situation of Filipinos in Sabah.

Suspected NPA fighter falls

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 11): Suspected NPA fighter falls

Another suspected New People's Army red fighter, allegedly one of those who participated in the attack and burning of a military outpost in northern Negros, was apprehended Saturday by the police in Brgy.Punao, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

Fermin Vaflor Jr., alias Ka Jun Jun Alles, was arrested by virtue of arrest warrants for arson and robbery with homicide issued by San Carlos Regional Trial Court Judge Kathrine Go.

Supt. William Senoron, director of the Regional Intelligence Unit 6, yesterday said Vaflor, who used to be a member of the TMX platoon of the Northern Negros Front, was denied bail by the court.

The arrest of Vaflor, who had been lying low after the issuance of an arrest warrant against him and his comrades, for the raid of the Polopangyan detachment and the summary execution of its commander, SSgt. Efraim Bagonoc, came almost three weeks after Joel Danioso, an alleged commander of the NPA Yunit Militia, was also arrested for similar offenses in Brgy. Winaswasan, Calatrava.

After an arrest warrant was issued against him, Senoron said, Vaflor was re-assigned to the South West Front of the NPA. Since he could not adjust to his new assignment, Vaflor went inactive in the revolutionary movement, returned to Brgy. Punao, San Carlos City and worked as a truck driver, before his arrest.

Police Inspectors Rannie Bantolio and Efren Yu-ing led the combined police teams that included the Regional Intelligence Unit 6, in the arrest of Vaflor, who has been turned over to the San Carlos City police jail for detention.

Army, NPA clash displaces 126 families in Butuan City

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Army, NPA clash displaces 126 families in Butuan City

Bae Linganay, chairman of the Indigenous Women group of the Manobo tribe of Sitio Patagon, organizes fellow evacuees at their evacuation site in the Sitio Tagkiling Tribal Elementary School in Barangay Anticala, Butuan City. ERWIN MASCARINAS/

BUTUAN CITY - A total of 126 families from three different sitios here evacuated their homes with the continuing clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) starting March 6.

Residents from Sitio Patagon, Dugyaman, Cadhaan evacuated to Tagkiling Tribal Elementary School in Barangay Anticala for fear of their lives after explosions echoed throughout their communities as government troops from the 3rd Special Forces (SF) Battalion of the Philippine Army stormed the area after a large movement of NPA rebels was sighted nearby.

Arselito Mandag Jr., known as Datu Tomotowas II, one of the Manobo tribal leaders in Sitio Patagon and Dugyaman, said: “We heard the first explosions and the sound of successive gunfire at around 3:00 in the afternoon and it lasted for 15 minutes. We all got very worried and frightened especially the children and the old people in our community. Some immediately packed their things and left.”

Datu Tomotowas pointed out that the next round of gunfire pushed everyone to leave for fear of escalation.

“At around 5:00 in the afternoon another round of firefight erupted but this was more explosive than the earlier encounter between the soldiers and the leftist group. It lasted almost an hour, we all left our homes and relocated here in Tagkiling,” he said.

Jersen Masabu, purok president of Sitio Dugyaman and Patagon revealed that he was able to prepare some of the people of the danger that was about to happen.

“A day before it happened we noticed armed men had been passing by some of the villages, we estimated them to be around 200 people and we believed they were members of the NPA. Then soldiers appeared, so I alerted several families that something might happen,” said Masabu.

Masabu stressed that the explosions and exchange of gunfire so frightened the villagers that they had flee the area.

“It was a very frightening experience, we were afraid for the children who were still in school and about to return home. We all headed for the school for fear that we might get hit by the crossfire,” said Masabu.

Maliza Salahay, 13, was on her way home from school when the firefight erupted.

“While walking with some of the children from our school, we suddenly heard gunfire and explosions. Someone told us not to proceed and go back to school; we were very frightened from the sound we heard. We immediately went back to school and waited for our parents to arrive,” she said.

Lt. Col. Potenciano Gamba Commanding officer of the 3rd SF Battalion explained that the combat operation was needed after they received reports of armed NPA members sighted in the area.

“We received reports from the villagers that there was presence of NPA in the area. So we sent our troops and after the ensuing gunbattle we discovered a big camp in the forested area in Sitio Patagon which can accommodate more or less 100 people,” said Gamba.

Malaysian media told: Refer to intruders as 'terrorists'; stop calling Kiram a 'sultan'

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Malaysian media told: Refer to intruders as 'terrorists'; stop calling Kiram a 'sultan'

azlanMalaysian journalists stationed in Lahad Datu, Sabah, to cover Ops Daulat have been told to refer to the Sulu intruders as ‘terrorists’ and to stop referring to the Sulu sultan by his title.
The Sabah Security Committee, chaired by Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman (left), issued the order on Monday morning without elaborating.

Yesterday, Bernama had quoted Ahmad Maslan, the deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department, as saying that the intruders who have terrorized others should not be likened to a respectable group like an army.

"Stop referring to that terrorist group as the royal army of the Sulu sultanate ... it is also inappropriate to link the Sulu community in Sabah with the group,” he said at a meeting with Suluk community leaders in Lahad Datu on Saturday night.

"Evil has nothing to do with race. One can be evil because of greed, power greedy, with shallow religious faith and possess animalistic character."

Malaysia clears standoff-hit village, Sabah deaths now 63

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Malaysia clears standoff-hit village, Sabah deaths now 63


Malaysian forces unleash mortar fire on Tanduo village, near where Suluanons were known to be holding fort, in this March 8, 2013 photo provided by the Malaysian Ministry of Defense. AFP-MOD

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police said Monday they had cleared a remote village at the heart of a month-long incursion by Filipino Islamists as another gunman was killed, raising the toll in the crisis to 63.

But the remaining followers of a self-styled Philippine Sultan were still being hunted in a neighboring village and surrounding farmland a week after Malaysia sent in the army to root them out.

The armed group landed on the coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island early last month in a bizarre bid to assert the "sultan's" historical claim to the areas.

Surrounded by security forces, they dug in for a standoff in the sleepy village of Tanduo amid vast palm oil plantations until a deadly shootout prompted a military attack that scattered the militants.

Sabah state police chief Hamza Taib said security forces had now secured Tanduo but were pursuing the remaining fighters in the village of Tanjung Batu and surrounding areas.

He added that another gunman was shot in Tanjung Batu on Sunday, bringing to 54 the number of militants killed in Malaysia's worst security crisis in years.

Eight police officers were killed in earlier shootouts and security forces also shot dead a teenager at the weekend. It has not been made clear whether the teen was a local or one of the militants.

Supporters of Manila-based Jamalul Kiram III, whose supporters call him the heir to the defunct southern Philippine sultanate of Sulu, have said about 235 people took part in the mission.

The incursion has created a delicate situation for the two neighbors, with Manila under pressure to prevent the deaths of the Philippine nationals, while Malaysian public sentiment has strongly backed the tough army action.

Hamza also said the number arrested in Sabah since the incursion began grew to 97 with 12 new arrests.

Police have said those arrested had suspected links to the incursion, but have provided no details.

Killed Sulu 'general' could be ex-MNLF commander Haji Musa – Sabah police

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Killed Sulu 'general' could be ex-MNLF commander Haji Musa – Sabah police

The Sulu "general" killed by Malaysia security forces few days ago is believed to be former Moro National Liberal Front (MNLF) commander Haji Musa, said Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib.

“We believe it’s him, we had found his clothes, but when he was shot, he was not wearing uniform,” he told a press conference at Felda Sahabat Beach Resort, Lahat Datu today.

He was responding to a question on whether one the 22 corpses of the self-styled ‘Sulu royal army’ members, currently placed at the Tawau and Lahat Datu hospitals for post-mortem, has been identified as Haji Musa. 

However, Hamza was unable to give further confirmation as more evidence is needed to conclude this matter.

“I can’t say whether he’s Haji Musa, as it only can be proven when the investigation is completed.

“When the corpses were recovered from Tanjung Batu, I had seen the status of the dead body, but I can’t confirm positively.

“Because when I would like to confirm it positively, I must have solid evidence, such as documentation and an identity card,” he added.

He said that the Forensics Department had yet to reply to him over this matter.
It’s reported that a general of the armed intruders was killed in a firefight in Tanjung Batu last Thursday.

However, inspector-general of police Ismail Omar said on the following day that it was not Agbimuddin Kiram the leader of the intruders and brother of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

‘We didn’t kill teenager in panic’

Meanwhile, Hamza also denied that the security forces had killed an unidentified teenager yesterday as they were tense and had panicked.

He said that the security forces had undergone training and are acting professional on the ground.

“If (you) want to say that we are tense, I think it’s impossible because the police and army have been well-trained.

“We are professional, so we are well-prepared to face any kind of situation,” he added.

When asked whether there is a possibility that the authorities had made such a mistake, he replied, “Maybe this assumption is correct”.

He also stressed that the police will detain suspected intruders under Section 130(c) of the Penal Code and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

Hamza said that there was no gunfight with the intruders today and the situation in Lahat Datu and Semporna town has returned to normal.

A teenage boy was shot dead yesterday morning at Kampung Sungai Bilis while security forces were tracking intruders near the red zone.

The Criminal Investigations Department is carrying out checks on his identity.

Jabidah recruits plotted standoff

From Rappler (Mar 11): Jabidah recruits plotted standoff


  TAWI-TAWI, Philippines – They were part of a covert military operation to seize Sabah from Malaysian control in the late 1960s. This time around, they are part of an overt plan to claim it again.

Two of the members of the Royal Sultanate Army – or the Royal Sultanate Force (RSF), as they're commonly known here – who trooped to Sabah on Feb 14, 2013 were among the recruits of the Jabidah commando unit under the secret plot Oplan Merdeka 4 decades ago. (Read: Sabah, Merdeka and Aquino)

Oplan Merdeka (freedom in Bahasa Melayu) was hatched by the Marcos military to send Muslim recruits to invade Sabah in 1968. The exposed plot soured relations between Manila and Kuala Lumpur, prompting the latter to train and provide sanctuary to rebels belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front.

It is also here, in this picturesque Simunul town lulled by clear waters and white sand, where the Jabidah unit's chief recruiter and trainor, then Army Maj Eduardo Martelino, held initial training for his recruits. He set up a training camp here called Sophia, named after a beautiful Simunul lass he later married.

Two of Martelino's recruits, Musa Abdulla and Ernesto Sambas, were among at least 13 Simunul residents who boarded two ships to Lahad Datu, along with about 200 of their comrades, last February 14.

The two were able to escape from Corregidor Island in 1968 before the military shot dead their fellow recruits in what is now known as the Jabidah massacre, that lit the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao.

Today, Musa and Sambas are said to have cut off communication with their families in Simunul. Did they survive the Malaysian military offensive in Lahad Datu? Or were they among the reported 60 casualties in the Sabah standoff? No one here knows.

Although they share a common past, Abdullah and Sambas have different stories to tell.

Musa is the known military strategist of the gunmen in Sabah.

On the other hand, Sambas is a frustrated soldier who had tried in vain to return to service. He was the first Jabidah recruit from Simunul to be commissioned by the military as an officer with the rank of 2nd lieutenant, according to the book "Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao" by Marites Dañguilan Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria that was first published in 1999.

The strategist

While Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, an heir of the Sultan of Sulu, is the known leader of the armed Filipinos now on the run in Sabah, it was really Musa who mapped out the plan behind the Sabah standoff, Simunul residents told Rappler. (Read: Raja Muda escapes arrest)

Now in his 60s, Musa is the deputy chief of staff of the RSF, a rank below Raja Muda, they added.

After the botched Merdeka plan, Musa retired from the military. It's unclear what he did for a living in the succeeding years. Somewhere in between, he became the deputy chief of staff of the RSF.

Simunul Mayor Nazif Ahmad Abdurahman said Musa lived a retiree’s life. He would farm every now and then and was often seen buying fish from the port on early mornings. Musa’s wife, Aurelia, is the principal of Simunul Elementary School.

Musa’s home, a tattered wooden abode with a run-down car parked in a makeshift garage, is located by the side of the RSF camp in Simunul. From his house, he would have a good view of the entire camp, especially the meeting area where RSF members held regular meetings before the standoff.

Ibnohasim Akmad, an RSF member from Sulu, said Musa is their more visible leader, not Raja Muda.

Akmad, who was left behind when the group went to Sabah, said that during his one-month stay before the Sabah standoff, Raja Muda – who lives in Barangay Tubig Indangan, a kilometer away from the camp -- only visited their camp "sometimes."

It was Musa, Akmad said, who taught them about “military rules.”

“He just taught us certain formation then we were briefed about rules and regulations about the military, how to do it as military, how to follow military laws,” Akmad said.

Akmad refused to provide details of their “trainings," but denied these included firing guns.

He said goodbye

Musa’s wife, Aurelia, said he told her about their plan before the group left for Sabah.

“The truth is, he said goodbye. Even if I didn’t want him to go, I can’t do anything about it,” she said in Filipino over the phone.

COMMANDER'S HOME. Musa Abdulla, deputy chief of the Royal Sultanate Forces, lives within the camp. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

COMMANDER'S HOME. Musa Abdulla, deputy chief of the Royal Sultanate Forces, lives within the camp. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Like most Tawi-Tawi residents, it was not the first time that Musa had gone to Sabah. Aurelia said Musa had gone to Sabah twice this year to visit his siblings in Lahad Datu.

At the height of the second Malaysian assault on Lahad Datu on March 5, a police official told us: “Kapag si Musa ang nawala o nahuli, wala na, dun na mabubuwag iyan, (If Musa dies or is captured, that’s when the forces will be defeated)."

A few hours after, the Kiram family declared a ceasefire – an appeal that Malaysia rejected.
Musa’s wife said she has not talked to Musa since he left because Musa didn’t own a cell phone.

Frustrated soldier

Sambas has a slightly different narrative.

When news broke about the Jabidah massacre on Corregidor Island in 1968, Sambas’ father, a former barangay chairman for 20 years, quickly travelled from Tawi-Tawi to Manila to fetch his son from Fort Bonifacio.They returned to their home in Barangay Manuk Mangkaw on Simunul Island.

FAILED DREAMS. Ernesto Sambas rarely left his home after grudgingly leaving the military. Photo by Karlos Manlupig
FAILED DREAMS. Ernesto Sambas rarely left his home after grudgingly leaving the military. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

“His father brought him home to show our neighbors that he is alive,” Sambas’ wife, Rubia said in Sinama, the language of the Sama.

After Sambas left Fort Bonifacio, he was never able to do what he has always aspired for – to become a soldier again.

A framed certificate that shows Sambas had completed his initial Jabidah military training course hangs on the wall of Sambas' house. Aurelia said his husband served as 2nd lieutenant of the Jabidah commando unit.

"Under the Crescent Moon" tells Sambas' story as the first Jabidah recruit to be commissioned officer by the Army. "[Sambas] remembers that day in 1967 when he saw [then Maj Eduardo] Martelino's recruits jogging on the rugged streets of Simunul. 'They looked like they were having fun.' One morning, Martelino passed by Sambas' house, looking for the latter's father who was then a municipal official. Martelino ended up talking with Sambas who signified his interest in joining the troops he saw."

"It didn't take much on Martelino's part to lure Sambas into joining the Sabah mission. Sambas claimed they were told early on about this plan even while they were still in the training camp in Simunul. He was thrilled by the prospect of becoming a soldier and joining an elite mission at that. In August 1967, Sambas joined Martelino's men in their combat training at Camp Sophia, which overlooked the sea."

Sambas lived his post-Jabidah life hoping that he could one day return to the army.
Promises were made but none pulled through, including one by the late Brig. Gen. Eduardo Batalla, then commander of the Philippine Constabulary in Western Mindanao, whom Sambas’ wife said was his contemporary in the military.

Battalla had supposedly said he would help Sambas return to the military once he became a general. Batalla had reason to make such a promise; he, too, was one of the young officers assigned to train the Muslim recruits on Corregidor Island, according to the book.

But Batalla was slain in Zamboanga City in a 1989 botched operation against gang leader Rizal Ali.
“He became frustrated and disappointed. He suffered from low self-esteem,” Sambas' wife told us.
Sambas spent most of time at home and was never able to get a decent job. None of his 3 kids were able to finish schooling.

Failed dreams

At 64, Sambas still held on to his dream of going back to service, and his wife continues to question why none of those who said they would help him ever got back to them.

Unlike Musa, Sambas did not tell his wife that he was going to Sabah. Aurelia said Sambas quietly and hurriedly packed his things on the day of February 14.

“I asked him where he was going but we couldn’t talk to him. He wasn’t answering,” she said.

She only learned about the Sabah standoff after watching TV news, the main source of information for Simunul residents. The family was able to contact Sambas during the first two days of their stay in Sabah.

But they have not heard from him since.

Would Musa and Sambas repeat history and live to tell another Sabah story?

Sulu envoy to talk peace with Malaysia?

From Rappler (Mar 11): Sulu envoy to talk peace with Malaysia?

SULU ENVOY. Esmail Kiram III, brother of both the Sulu sultan and the Sabah standoff leader, wants to travel to Malaysia to discuss how to end the crisis. Photo by Jerald Uy

SULU ENVOY. Esmail Kiram III, brother of both the Sulu sultan and the Sabah standoff leader, wants to travel to Malaysia to discuss how to end the crisis. Photo by Jerald Uy
An envoy of the Sulu sultan said on Monday, March 11 he is waiting for the Malaysian government to allow him to travel to Kota Kinabalu to discuss the resolution of the conflict in Sabah.

After a first proposed meeting in Brunei did not push through, Esmail Kiram II hopes this time he will be able to talk to the Malaysians.

“I am appealing to my brother Malaysians and the Association of Sultans— let's together resolve this issue (…) as soon as possible,” said Kiram, brother of self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and standoff leader Raja Muda Kiram.

The Kirams proposed for the meeting to be held in another country, but the Malaysian government insisted on Kota Kinabalu.

“What we are focusing [is] to let our government know our sincere help from the government side in connection with that statement from the Malaysian government [that the Kirams do not negotiate with authorities],” Esmail Kiram II said in a press conference in Makati after meeting Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

After the encounter, they refused to divulge specifics of their discussion, saying the details will first have to be reported to President Benigno Aquino III, although Roxas confirmed that the government is open to more talks with the sultan's brother, who has a "direct line" with Malaysia.

Gov't did not ignore our claim - Kiram

Asked about his meeting with Roxas, the sultan's brother commented: “We have discussed strategies and means to act on the statement given by the Malaysian government.”

Esmail Kiram II defended the Aquino administration from allegations it had ignored the family's claim over Sabah and said the President has his top men taking care of the issue.

The government will also sponsor the trip to Kota Kinabalu once the Malaysian government gives the green light, he added.

Esmail Kiram II denied presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda's statement that the sultan kept him from going to Sabah.

“I prohibited myself (because it is dangerous),” he said.

The brother of the sultan also confirmed that Musa Abdulla, a member of the Oplan Merdeka covert military operation to seize Sabah from Malaysian control launched in the late 1960s, is among the sultanate's followers, although the rest are just Tausug warriors. At least 62 people -- 54 militants and 8 police officers -- have died and almost 100 detained for being involved in the month-long standoff, according to Malaysian officials.

'EXPLORATORY TALKS.' Interior Secretary Mar Roxas meets with Esmail Kiram (2nd from left) and discusses "disengagement" and questions and concerns the Kirams want conveyed to President Aquino and Malaysia. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

'EXPLORATORY TALKS.' Interior Secretary Mar Roxas meets with Esmail Kiram (2nd from left) and discusses "disengagement" and questions and concerns the Kirams want conveyed to President Aquino and Malaysia. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

4 female cadets in PMA's top 10

From Rappler (Mar 11): 4 female cadets in PMA's top 10

WOMEN'S MONTH. The 4 female cadets on PMA's top 10. From left Maryam Balais, Jocelyn Advincula, Vanessa Factor and Maila Maniscan

WOMEN'S MONTH. The 4 female cadets on PMA's top 10. From left Maryam Balais, Jocelyn Advincula, Vanessa Factor and Maila Maniscan

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines - Four female cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will be graduating at the top 10 of their class on Sunday, March 17.

Graduating salutatorian is Cadet Maryam Dinamling Balais, who will likely be the toast of the town since she hails from nearby La Trinidad, Benguet. An Igorot who's a Muslim, she's the younger sister of Senior Insp Benjamin Balais, 2006 topnotcher at the Philippine National Police Adacemy.

Graduating No. 5 is Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula, while No. 8 is Vanessa Pascual Factor. Graduating No. 10 is Maila Agrabio Masican.

Read the top 10 list below:

1. Jestony Arman Lanaja
2. Maryam Dinamling Balais
3. Prolen Atchico Bonacua
4. Jess Nestor Saludo
5. Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula
6. Leode John Ruiz Tulang
7. Mark Ferdinand Villamin
8. Vanessa Pascual Factor
9 Jhed Tabangcura Dumocloy
10. Maila Agrabio Maniscan

Once an all-male institution, the PMA opened its doors to female cadets in 1993.

Malaysian peace monitors in PH despite standoff

From Rappler (Mar 11): Malaysian peace monitors in PH despite standoff

BRONZE MEDALS. The Philippine Army gives bronze medals to Malaysian troops part of the outgoing International Monitoring Team batch 7 in recognition of their efforts to monitor peace between the Philippine government and the MILF. All photos by Ferdinandh Cabrera

BRONZE MEDALS. The Philippine Army gives bronze medals to Malaysian troops part of the outgoing International Monitoring Team batch 7 in recognition of their efforts to monitor peace between the Philippine government and the MILF. All photos by Ferdinandh Cabrera

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao – Despite tensions stemming from the month-long Sabah standoff, Malaysia sent a new set of troops to Mindanao as peace monitors.

The troops arrived over the weekend to replace the outgoing batch of peace monitors whose one-year tour of duty under the International Monitoring Team (IMT) batch 7 expired.

Malaysia is brokering a peace deal with the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The peace process is now in the fine-tuning phase, with the recent signing of one of the annexes on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Four of the 19 contingents are from the combined Royal Army of Malaysia, Royal Navy, Royal Police and civilian components. They arrived as part of the advanced party of the Malaysian monitors.

IMT batch 8 headed by Maj Gen Dato Fadzil Bin Mokhtar received a welcome during a farewell dinner for IMT batch 7.

Mokhtar addressed questions on whether or not the Sabah standoff will affect his team’s mission.
“I don’t think so. We arrived in wrong timing [but] we have no apprehension at all [that] this new tour of duty will be tarnished in relation to the Sabah issue. We are clear on our mission here: to continue to monitor the ceasefire,” said Mokhtar.

Outgoing head-of-mission of IMT batch 7, MGen Dato Abdul Rahim Bin Mohd Yusuff echoed the view.

“IMT is concerned only [with] the directive by the Philippine government and the MILF to monitor the ceasefire,” Yusuff said.

The Malaysian troops arrived amid criticism from some sectors of Philippine society about the crackdown on Filipinos in Sabah. Refugees from Sabah have reported abuses and atrocities supposedly committed by Malaysian security forces.

A total of 52 militants and 8 Malaysian police officers have been shot dead and 85 people have been arrested for possible links to the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu.

The standoff began exactly one month ago when the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III crossed over to Sabah to assert their historical claim over the territory.

Malaysian troops get bronze medals

Despite the conflict, the departing IMT batch 7 received bronze cross medals from the Philippine Army’s 6th Division. The two groups worked together for peace efforts in the past year.

Col Dickson Hermoso, Information chief of the 6th Division, said security was beefed up in anticipation of possible retaliation on the Malaysian officers by sympathizers of the Sultanate of Sulu.
“There is always a risk just like what happened to our UN Filipino contingents in Golan Heights. These are security persons and there is always a risk”, Hermoso said.

The IMT was established in 2004 to monitor the implementation of the Agreement on Peace between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Its task is to observe the implementation of cessation of hostilities signed by the two parties, to conduct field verification on reported violations, and to coordinate closely with the Joint GPH-MILF-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the local monitoring teams.

MNLF not sending forces in Sabah

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): MNLF not sending forces in Sabah

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Monday denied reports it was sending forces to augment the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III against Malaysian fighters in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

"The report is not true and I strongly say it's a figment of imagination of whoever is the source," MNLF chair Muslimin Sema said.

Sema, also the vice mayor of Cotabato City, explained that Malaysia and Sabah are not enemies of the MNLF and "therefore no reason to attack (Malaysian forces)."

"The MNLF has nothing to do with the Sultan of Sulu and they have nothing to do with us," he said.

He said they have not established whatever kind of contact or understanding that would involve the MNLF in their affairs.

"I beg to say that the informants or personalities spreading this wrong information may be promoting an agenda to destroy the MNLF. Well, I say you fail," he said.

It was learned that 61 people were already killed as Malaysian forces continued to run after Kiram's followers who are holed up in Lahad Datu.

This came even as Kiram remained adamant that his troops will not in any way surrender and leave Sabah as he declared "jihad" against Malaysia.

PMA officials assures graduating cadets understand the needs of Philippine communities

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): PMA officials assures graduating cadets understand the needs of Philippine communities

The superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) today assured the 129 graduating cadets fully understand the needs of the communities in this country where they will work as professional soldiers.

The assurance came from Lieutenant General Ireneo Espino who said that the graduating "PUDANG-KALIS" (Puso't Dagat ng Lahing Nagkakasama) Class had good immersion in both rural and urban communities through foster homes and study tours.

Espino said that the class even went to the site where the youngest Filipino General Gregorio del Pilar (to whom the Asia's premier academy was named) died while leading soldiers to defend the escape of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Republic of the Philippines who was then pursued by American soldiers.

The site is known as "Tirad Pass" within the eastern towns of Ilocos Sur. Del Pilar died but Aguinaldo was able to reach Isabela Province during his escape but was captured later in a town known as Palanan.

"Through their immersion to the communities, they have realized what would be their duties to the people as professional soldiers," he stressed.

The 129 first class cadets, 105 of them are males and 19 females will graduate and received their direct commission as second lieutenants and ensigns of the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP), respectively, from President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Commander-in Chief of the AFP who will served as the guest of honor and speaker.

To illustrate, Espino said, is one of a member of the batch (First Class Cadet Aviles) who is still in a Metro Manila hospital after surviving a mortal wound inflicted by a jeepney robber in Manila whom the courageous PMA cadet tried to subdue some five months ago.

Son of 'tuba' gatherer in Davao tops PMA Class 2013

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): Son of 'tuba' gatherer in Davao tops PMA Class 2013

Cadet First Class Jestoni Armand Lanaja, the eldest child of poor and landless family in Davao del Sur will graduate on March 17, as topnotcher of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "PUDANG-KALIS" Class 2013.

This year's class valedictorian will join the Philippine Army(PA)."PUDANG-SALI" means "Puso't Dagat ng Lahing Nagkakaisa."

Lanaja, in an interview, said his father is a "tuba" (coconut wine) gatherer as he cannot go into farming for having no land to till, while his mother is a housewife.

He said due to stark poverty, one of his brothers could only finish high school and that no proper medical assistance could be given to his disabled sister.

"I have to enter the academy because it offers free quality education aside from giving benefits. Of course, I became a cadet to serve my country and people," he said when asked why he entered the academy.

He added with his salaries, he can help his family financially.

Lanaja described his PMA four-year engineering course as rigid and tough but extensive to prepare the cadets for their future military careers as professional soldiers.

Lanaja being the top cadet of his class was confirmed by Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino, PMA superintendent. Espino said that by tradition, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will be the guest of honor and speaker.

Meanwhile, other top 10 graduating first class cadets are Mary Ann Balais, second placer, native of La Trinidad, Benguet and who will join the Philippine Navy (PNA); Poland Ancheta Banacua, third placer; Jessie Saludo of Cavite, fourth placer; Jocelyn Advincula, fifth placer and who will join the Philippine Air Force (PAF),John Luis Tulag of Agusan del Sur, sixth plcer; Ferdinand Villanueva of Villasis, Pangasinan, seventh placer; Vanessa Factora, eight placer; Jet Cabantura Domoclog, of Gattaran, Cagayan, ninth placer; and Myla Maniscan, tenth placer.

Malaysian peace observers in Mindanao end tour of duty; new team coming

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): Malaysian peace observers in Mindanao end tour of duty; new team coming

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The 19 members of the Malaysian contingent of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) on Monday ended their tour of duty as another batch of Malaysian peace is expected.

In send off ceremonies held Monday morning at the Army's 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, Brig. Gen. Cesar Sedillo, 6th ID deputy commander, lauded the Malaysian observers, led by IMT-7 head of mission Gen. Abdulrahim Yusuf for their succession tour of duty that led to the "zero" Army-Moro rebel encounter in the last 12 months.

The IMT, composed of foreign observers, had been monitoring the implementation of the cessation of hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front while peace talks are on going.

As agreed by the GPH-MILF peace panels during the last exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, a new team of observers from Malaysia will arrive next week to continue its participation in the ceasefire monitoring.

Incoming IMT 8th mission head Major Gen. Fadzil Mokhtar and his men will serve as peace monitors until March 2014.

Sedillo told the outgoing Malaysian peace observers that the 6th ID and all units under it will extend the same assistance and cooperation to the incoming Malaysian peace monitors.

Aside from words of thanks and appreciation, Gen. Sedillo also pinned citation medals to Yusuf and other Malaysian police and military officials in recognition to their peacekeeping jobs.

Sedillo also cited Gen. Yusuf’s group for its role in addressing domestic armed conflict involving warring Muslim clans in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Sedillo noted that not a single Army-MILF encounter happened since March 2012 and attributed this to the religious observance by both GPH and MILF of the ceasefire agreement and the participation of IMT.

IMT, composed mostly of unarmed Malaysian police and military personnel and representatives from other countries like Japan, Qatar, Indonesia and the European Union, started peacekeeping missions in 2003.

During the send off ceremonies, not one from among the Philippine and Malaysian military officials talked about the brewing skirmishes in Sabah where Malaysian security forces have been hunting down Sulu Royal Army of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu also lauded the Malaysian peace monitors for helping the local government units in resolving armed conflict involving Moro clans locked in long standing family feud.

Acting Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also cited the Malaysian peace observers for their roles in mediating for Moro families engaged in long-drawn violence caused by "rido" (family feud).

Citing his office has extended the needed logistic and manpower support to the outgoing peace contingent, Hataman vowed the same support for the incoming Malaysian peace observers.

PA chief: Legal aid to be provided to 14 soldiers implicated in Atimonan shootout

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): PA chief: Legal aid to be provided to 14 soldiers implicated in Atimonan shootout

Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes Monday said they will do their best to provide legal assistance to the 14 soldiers implicated by the Dept. of Justice in the Jan. 6 shootout in Atimonan, Quezon where 13 people, including a police colonel and an environmentalist, were killed.

He also said the decision to give legal aid to the 14 was borne out by the fact that the military men were merely responding to a call of assistance by the police.

"They were merely following procedure as stated about (sic) the Joint Security Coordinating Committee and they acted in good faith regarding that matter," Coballes stressed.

The PA chief also expressed willingness to bring the 14 to the courts providing that proper charges against them are filed.

"If charges are filed, we will bring them to the courts and should a warrant of arrest be issued, we will abide by that decision," he added.

Coballes also clarified that they will only dismiss the 14 from the service once the courts issued a guilty finding against the latter.

He also pointed out that the PA is conducting its own investigation on the incident to determine whether there are lapses on the part of the 14.

Coballes said this will allow them to correct this and avoid a repeat of a similar incident.

Military personnel to be charged with multiple murder, as per DOJ recommendations, are Lt. Col. Monico Abang, the battalion commander, Capt. Erwin Macalinao, 1st Lt. Rico Tagure, Technical Sgt. Melanio Balauitan, Cpl. Clark Magusara, Pfc. Michael Franco, Pfc. Kirby-Tam Coronel, Pfc. Alvin Roque Pabon, Pfc. Ricky Jay Borja, Pfc. Melvin Lumalang, Pfc. Gil Gallego, Pvt. Marc Zaldy Docdoc, Pvt. Emergin Barrete and Pvt. Michard Manago.