Friday, March 15, 2013

PHL Coast Guard prepares for 'critical' next stage of USS Guardian salvage ops

From GMA News (Mar 16): PHL Coast Guard prepares for 'critical' next stage of USS Guardian salvage ops

Although salvage work on the grounded minesweeper USS Guardian may be more than 50 percent complete, the Coast Guard said Saturday it is bracing for the "critical" next phase, which may take some time.

Coast Guard Palawan and Task Force Tubbataha head Commodore Enrico Evangelista said the next phase involves cutting up the hull and removing it from the reef.

"Itong part na lang na hull, (pero) kailangan nito anim na araw diretso na magandang sea condition. Baka dito tayo magtatagal nang kaunti (The next phase is to remove the hull but we will need at least six straight days of good sea conditions. This may take a while.)," Evangelista said in an interview on dzBB radio.

So far, he said they have removed much of the ship, including parts of its engines.

He also said there has so far been no major problem threatening the ongoing salvage operations.

Evangelista added tourist divers have been "understanding" and cooperative of the 500-meter radius safety zone around the operation site.

When asked if some tourist divers had attempted to get near the salvage area, he said, "so far wala naman (none so far)."

"Naintindihan nila kailangan ipatupad ang safety zone na yan (They understand the need for a safety zone)," he said.

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

Malaysia to PHL: You have three days to claim your dead in Sabah

From GMA News (Mar 15): Malaysia to PHL: You have three days to claim your dead in Sabah

Malaysian officials said their government has officially written to and asked the Philippines to claim the remains of Filipinos killed in an offensive against armed elements from Sulu, the Bernama news agency reported Friday.

"If there is no response in three days, we will go ahead and bury the dead, Police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib of Sabah said in a news conference in Lahad Datu.
"Security forces have crippled the movement of Sulu terrorists in Sabah, and its leader Agbimuddin Kiram has fled to the Philippines," Bernama also reported via its Twitter account.
Bernama also quoted Hamza as saying that the "security forces have so far detained 97 suspects and 233 people for trying to enter the operation zone of Ops Daulat."

Hamza said the three-day deadline has its basis in the Geneva Conventions.

The Sabah police chief said 61 Filipinos were dead after 11 days of the joint military-police operations in a plantation in Lahad Datu.

Hamza and Major General Datuk Ahmad Zaki of the Malaysian Army said that of of late Friday afternoon 27 of the remains have been taken out of the plantation and "10 more bodies have yet to be brought out of Kampung Tanjung Batu.

Hamza added that their personnel discovered 15 bodies and three gravesites in the operations zone.

Sultanate Bares Secret Bid To End Sabah Standoff

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 16): Sultanate Bares Secret Bid To End Sabah Standoff

Outside efforts to end the Sabah standoff have stepped into high gear through a “secret diplomatic effort.”

Abraham J. Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesman, revealed this yesterday as he said the head of state of an unnamed Western country started the effort two or three days ago to bring Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu to meet in Brunei to find ways to end the standoff that started on Feb. 12 in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Idjirani, citing a reliable source, said the Sultanate of Brunei was tapped by the Western country to communicate to the Malaysian government the effort toward a peaceful resolution of the standoff.

He made the announcement after reiterating the sultanate’s appeal to Malaysia to produce the 10 arrested members of the Royal Security Force (RSF) so there condition would be known. Idjirani said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already sent a “note verbale” to Malaysia concerning the conditions of the RSF members.

“We also would like to make an announcement that a secret diplomatic effort has already been made with a neutral nation and that is now compelling Malaysia to take heed of the that secret diplomatic effort,” said Idjirani, also the secretary general of the sultanate.

Idjirani said Brunei was tapped as the venue and the one to facilitate the peacemaking process.

He said Sultan Jamalul Kiram III had already written Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei to seek his help.

Idjirani said it is “they (Brunei) who knows” the Sabah issue.

However, he refused to call the peace efforts as “secret negotiation” or “back-channeling.”

“No, not a secret negotiation, but a secret diplomatic channel or effort na ginagawa ngayon ng ibang nation to convince the Malaysian government to sit down and discuss as well as to come up with a resolution of the issue between the Malaysian government and the Sultanate of Sulu,” said Idjirani.

He declined to name the main country doing the effort.

(But) we are permitted to announce that there is an ongoing secret diplomatic effort made by sympathetic nations, and the one being informed is a neighboring country in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Charges Filed

Charges of inciting to war and violation of Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) gun ban were filed before a local Tawi-Tawi court against 38 alleged followers of Sultan Kiram and RSF members intercepted in three separate incidents off the seas of Tawi-Tawi by the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said has already ordered Prosecutor General Claro Arellano to immediately indict at least 38 individuals who were believed to be involved in the Sabah crisis.

Earlier reports said authorities confiscated several firearms from the 38 individuals when their boats were intercepted off the waters of Tawi-Tawi last Wednesday.

De Lima said the charges filed against the 38 individuals are violations of the Comelec gun ban, which absorbs the offense of illegal possession of firearms, and Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code or inciting to war.

“The 38 will continue to be detained in the naval facility in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-tawi unless the court says otherwise,” De Lima said.

No State Of Calamity

In Tawi-Tawi, the provincial government said it is still capable of meeting the requirements of the Filipino-Muslim refugees and evacuees that are arriving here from Sabah.

Governor Sadikul Sahali, who also chairs the Provincial Crisis Management Committee (PCMC), has ruled out any plan of the provincial government to declare “Tawi-Tawi under a state of calamity.”

The situation is still manageable and we feel it is not yet necessary for us to declare the province under the state of calamity, since we still have enough funds and food to meet the daily requirements of the refugees and evacuees that are arriving here from Sabah,” Sahali said.

Agbimuddin Kiram flees Sabah, is back in Philippines, says Malaysia

From InterAksyon (Mar 16): Agbimuddin Kiram flees Sabah, is back in Philippines, says Malaysia

Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who led Filipinos some 200 Filipinos to Sabah last month to reassertthe Sultanate's claim over the territory, is believed to have fled back to the Philippines, Bernama, the official portal of the National News Agency of Malaysia reported Friday night, quoting police and military officials.

A separate report from Star Malaysia quoted Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Jeneral Zulkifeli Mohd Zin as saying that Agbimuddin "has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland." Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar told Malaysian journalists that, going by field commanders' reports, Agbimuddin was no longer with his group in Sabah.

"Agbimuddin Kiram also known as Azzimudie Kiram is believed to have fled to the Philippines, leaving behind his followers in Lahad Datu, Sabah," a Bernama report carried by the independent news site said. "Heavy mortar attacks by the security forces are believed to have forced the terrorists to break into smaller groups, resulting in 10 more individuals detained."

Military operations against the Filipino "intruders" will continue, notwithstanding the purported "fleeing" of Kiram, Malaysia's defense officials said.
Members and leaders of the Kiram group have yet to respond to Malaysia's latest report.

51 families flee fighting in Butuan

From MindaNews (Mar 15): 51 families flee fighting in Butuan

 BLOCKING TEAM. Members of the Butuan City Public Safety Company conducts checkpoint at a road junction leading to Barangay Bonbon where an encounter with the New People's Army took place on March 14, 2013. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

BLOCKING TEAM. Members of the Butuan City Public Safety Company conducts checkpoint at a road junction leading to Barangay Bonbon where an encounter with the New People’s Army took place on March 14, 2013. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

BUTUAN CITY — Fifty-one families fled their homes after fighting broke out between elements of the police’s City Public Safety Company and suspected New People’s Army rebels in Sitio Malanay, Purok 8, Barangay Bonbon on Thursday.

Police reports said the clash erupted at 11:20 a.m. and they reinforcement from the Regional Public Safety Battalion arrived at 1:00 p.m.

Another gunfight with the estimated 100 rebels who were about to withdraw took place upon the arrival of the reinforcement, the reports added.

The clash sent 51 families from Purok 7 and Purok 8, Bonbon fleeing to a nearby tourist adventure park.
“We all packed our bags and left our homes for fear as we heard loud explosions and automatic gunfire from the hills,” said Jessica Sobrero a resident of Purok 7.

“Our neighbors started getting out of their homes with their children so we followed with my family to the nearby tourist park since they have security and the area is well lit,” she added.

Senior Inspector Christian Lipke Rafols II, CPSC platoon leader said the encounter resulted from a pursuit operation against the rebels who disarmed two policemen last Wednesday in Bonbon.
He said the policemen were in Bonbon to serve arrest warrants.

“Our team caught up with the rebels the next day (Thursday), ending in a firefight,” he explained.

Rafols said the CPSC which was personally led by its commander, Chief Inspector Ferdinand Dacillo, stayed in the area overnight to ensure the safety for the villagers.

He added that they recovered an improvised explosive device that did not explode.

By 7:00 a.m. Friday the area was declared safe for the villagers to return to their homes. Police withdrew at around 10:00 a.m.

The regional police office reported that there were no casualties and injuries on the side of the police and civilians.

Last week, 126 families from three sitios in Barangay Anticala were displaced for five days after elements of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army encountered around 200 NPA members.

Rodelyn, an Innocent Victim of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan

From the PRWC Blog (CPP) (Mar 12): Rodelyn, an Innocent Victim of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan

Jose Percival Estocada Command
NPA-Central Panay
March 12, 2013

The morning of March 11, 2012 was just as any other day had been for the Tumanduk people of Tacayan, a mountain barrio in Tapaz, Capiz. Old men chewed betel nut, men and women worked the fields with some of their older children while the younger ones went to school. Most were hungry the better part of the day, but that was to be expected with the persistent rains, for there could be no harvests from their kaingins. However, a deafening explosion in the centre of the barrio shattered that afternoon this seeming quiet. A child was killed and her little sister wounded.

The six-year old girl was Rodelyn Aguirre; she was chopping firewood just outside their home while her younger sister, Roda, played nearby. Their grandfather was inside the house when he heard a whooshing sound; he rushed outside, for the people of Tacayan were not utterly new to the sound of bombs flying over their heads, but before he could call his two granddaughters, the bomb hit and exploded right before him. Rodelyn was still alive when he rushed to her, she told her grandfather to put hagonoy on her wounds because she could not do it herself. Roda was crying as shrapnel studded her body. Roda was treated of her wounds in a local hospital. Rodelyn died on the way.

Rodelyn was a smart girl, only six and already responsible, she would cook rice for her father to fill his belly when he got home after hauling bananas to town, she could care for herself and her little sister even at such a young age. Full of promise, her teacher would say, promise turned to dust, a once happy family reduce to wailing mourners at the pulling of a trigger, the trigger of an M203 grenade launcher that belongs to a Peace and Development Team of the Charlie Coy of the 61st IB. How frightening the world must have become for little Roda, full of monsters and booby-traps which reduced her sister to a bloody mass. How bleak and dark the world, how much more sorrowful for her mother and father when their children’s laughter was silenced and replaced with screams of pain, and later muffled cries of fear.

On the morning of March 12 the Military Command in Camp Peralta immediately issued a statement denying anything to do with the death, saying it was an improvised explosive device being assembled by the NPA, while the soldiers in the detachment in Brgy. Tacayan quietly picked up the evidence, shrapnel, and bomb fragments, from the explosion site and brought them back to base, never to be seen again. Unbeknownst to them that some residents had all ready picked up some fragments and brought those to the police station, evidence that indicated ammunition of an M203 grenade launcher. Moreover, the police findings were just that the explosion was caused by 40mm grenade from an M203 or M79 grenade launcher. When the military found out, they swiftly changed their statement, saying this time, that there was an encounter with the NPA, and later, when nobody believed an encounter would only have one large explosion, they said that it was the grandfather who was making bombs.

The 61st IB has no humanity, they show it by the fact that they would let one of their soldiers bomb an innocent girl, and hide that murderer. They proclaim their innocence; they show it by not even lifting a finger to help the young girls’ family cross the river with their bloodied victims; they show it by mocking the Aguirre’s when they said they would fight back and have Rodelyn’s body autopsied. The Army has no honor to speak of, they prove it over and over with the crimes they commit against the people they claim to serve, with every false statement they force feed to the media and the public, with every murder of man, woman and child in the mountains of Panay. These so-called Peace and Development Teams promote only violence and thievery, they bring a culture of immorality to the barrios, seducing 15-yr-old girls and leaving their bastards to the hapless families. They have “film showings” of pornography to tempt the men, even buying whores for old men. They have no regard for the hardships of the tumanduk farmers, trampling their crops every time they have military operations. Is this how the US-Aquino regime presumes to “develop” the country? Noynoy Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan has shown its true colors. The soldiers of this reactionary regime come to the mountains not to promote peace and safeguard the people. They come to threaten the Tumanduk and steal their land, they come to abuse them and seduce their children, reduce them to frozen terror, keep them in their homes too afraid to open their windows for fear of bombs and bullets killing them and their young ones. They have no respect, no regard for the Tumanduk, their lives and the lives of their children mean no more to them than a few half-baked lies and ridiculous alibis; they did not even care enough to make their statements believable.

The Butcher Battalion has left another bloody fingerprint in the mountains of Tapaz, but instead of sowing fear, the reactionary dogs will only reap the Tumanduk people’s fury. They will find that the people they choose to demean and victimize have a long history of fight and revolution, they will find that weapons and favourable terrain does not ensure conquest, that they will be deaf and blind despite their high-tech weaponry, they will find that blood debts are not so easily forgotten. Now, more than ever, the Tumanduk people depend on their true soldiers. Now, more than ever, the call for a war front in Central Panay grows more urgent, for their will be no justice for Rodelyn, or for Charito, or for all the other victims of this fascist regime until the New People’s Army makes them pay their debts in kind and the people’s mass movement drives them away.

MILF: MILF Peace Panel invited to Japan

From the MILF Website (Mar 15): MILF Peace Panel invited to Japan

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panel has been invited to Japan as guests of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) from March 17-23, 2013. This was learned from a press release issued by MOFA last March 11. 2013.

The delegation headed by Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator will leave today for Manila and will proceed to Tokyo on the 17th. While in Japan, the group is expected to confer with officials of the ministry and make familiarization tour in various Japanese landmarks in that country. As of press time, the identities of panel members who will join Iqbal’s trip to the “Land of the Rising Sun” have not been known yet.

Japan has actively contributed to the Mindanao peace process since 2006 and has dispatched development experts to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and intensively implemented economic cooperation projects in conflict-affected areas that can directly benefit the grassroots communities (J-BIRD).

Japan has been an observer in the peace talks since participating in the International Contact Group (ICG) in 2009. On August 4, 2011, Japan hosted an informal meeting on the outskirts of Tokyo between President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim where they held informal discussions and agreed on the importance of resolving the various issues on the Mindanao peace process.

Based on the recognition that peace in Mindanao will serve regional peace and stability, Japan is contributing to the reconstruction and development of the Mindanao region through: (i) the dispatch of development experts to the Social and Economic Development Section of the IMT; (ii) the concentrated implementation of economic cooperation projects such as extending Grassroots Grant Assistance for Human Security in former conflict-affected areas (J-BIRD); and (iii) participation in the International Contact Group (ICG) that is providing advice by attending the peace talks as an observer, among others.

It is expected that the visit of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel members to Tokyo can help expedite the Mindanao peace process that will lead to the establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity in 2016.

MILF: GRP-MILF peace talks to resume as scheduled

From the MILF Website (Mar 15): GRP-MILF peace talks to resume as scheduled

The peace talks between the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resume before the end of the month.

This was the response of Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, from media men who accompanied Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe during the latter’s visit to the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Center in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last March 13.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said that the ongoing conflict in Sabah is a separate issue from the peace process.

“As far as we are concerned, the peace talks will proceed as scheduled before the end of this month,” he disclosed, adding by asking (himself): “Why do we have to complicate the issue, that’s another issue,” referring to the stand-off.

He said the Sabah issue is a security issue while the peace negotiation is a peace issue.

Asked to elaborate, Iqbal politely turned down the request, saying the Sabah issue is so delicate that it is better to keep silent and instead call for peaceful method to resolve it.

“There is no reason (for delay), anyway the two governments — the Malaysian government and the Philippine government are trying to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” he added.

Malaysia is acting as the third party facilitator in the GRP-MILF peace talks. In fact, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak personally witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) between GRP and MILF peace panels on October 15 in Malacañang.

The scheduled, according to Iqbal, was made during the last exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Iqbal said that the next round of talks will be continuation of the discussion regarding power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization.

However, Iqbal said that issues concerning wealth sharing is already settled but not yet signed while power sharing is almost a done deal.

AFP backs resumption of peace talks with leftist rebels

From the Philippine Star (Mar 15): AFP backs resumption of peace talks with leftist rebels

The military is still hoping that the peace talks between the communist rebels and the government would push through despite the recent verbal exchange between the two sides.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said they remain supportive of non-violent means to end the conflict with insurgents.

“We will continue to support the peace initiatives and peace-building efforts of the government,” Burgos said in an interview Friday.

“We are very hopeful that our doors are still open to peaceful means to resolve conflict,” he added.

The military also renewed its call for the rebels to stop attacking non-combatants and soft targets like businesses, infrastructure and civilians. Burgos said such attacks affect the livelihood of local residents.

On Wednesday, the National Democratic Front (NDF) accused the government of scuttling what was supposed to be a historic meeting between its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and President Aquino.

The NDF represents the communist insurgents in the talks.

NDF said political affairs adviser Sec. Ronald Llamas proposed a meeting between Aquino and Sison, who is also the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The NDF claimed the meeting failed to push through due to the government’s refusal to release rebels who claim to be peace consultants.

Another issue that reportedly plagued the talks is the “government’s scheme of simultaneous, unilateral and indefinite ceasefires” which, the NDF said, would allow security forces to continue violence.

NDF said the proposed meeting between Aquino and Sison was just a “mere ploy or bait” to convince its negotiators to sign a government draft declaration in just one or two meetings.

“The GPH has deliberately refused to comply with its commitments in agreements forged with the NDF, despite the full knowledge that compliance would immediately break the impasse and cause the resumption of the formal talks,” NDF said.

The communists also slammed the government for refusing to release their supposed peace consultants who are said to be covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

The agreement provides immunity from arrest to NDF peace consultants. Some of the alleged peace consultants are leaders of the New People’s Army who are facing criminal cases.

Malacanang denied NDF’s allegation, saying the talks were hampered by the “unacceptable conditions” imposed by the rebels.

“There were certain commitments that they want from us. Those are commitments that were not acceptable to the government,” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press conference last Wednesday.

Lacierda also defended Llamas from allegations that the latter spoiled the peace talks.

Batanes declared insurgency-free

From the Philippine Star (Mar 15): Batanes declared insurgency-free

The military has declared the province of Batanes as “insurgency free” and has turned over the lead role of maintaining security to the local government.

Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, chief of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, said an agreement transferring the internal security role to the local government was signed last Tuesday by security forces and civilian leaders.

“With this declaration of Batanes as insurgency free, more investors and tourists will come to invest and visit the serene and spectacular place in the country and experience the hospitality of the people,” Tejada said in a statement.

An area is declared insurgency-free if the strength of rebels within its jurisdiction is too small to influence the livelihood of residents. The military had previously admitted that the declaration does not necessarily mean the total absence of insurgents.

The signing marked the first time a Navy unit handed over the internal security operations responsibility to a province. Such turnovers are usually spearheaded by Army units.

In this case, the Navy led the turnover since military sailors are the ones frequently monitoring and securing the maritime waters of Batanes.

“Batanes will now be truly a model of a peace loving province in the country and the safest place to live in on earth,” a Navy statement quoted Basco Mayor Demetrius Paul Narag as saying.

Tejada assured the local leaders that the military would continue to work closely with them to prevent the regrouping of rebels and to promote development.

“Maritime security will be strengthened in the vast sea areas of Batanes to abate the poaching and illegal fishing activities of foreign fishermen,” he said.

5 NPAs wounded in North Cotabato clash

From the Philippine Star (Mar 15): 5 NPAs wounded in North Cotabato clash

Soldiers wounded five New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas allegedly collecting “protection money” in a hinterland district in Makilala, North Cotabato.
1st Lt. Nash Sema, spokesman of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, said the soldiers managed to block the path of the rebels approaching Sitio Kawayanon in Barangay Luayon after having been tipped off by farmers complaining of the rebels' extortion activities in the town.

Local officials confirmed that the rebels belonged to the NPAs Guerilla Front 72.

The NPA group's several camps in North Cotabato’s adjoining Makilala, Magpet, Arakan and President Roxas have been taken over by the military in a series of operations last year.

Sema said that while they do not have an actual count of tNPA casualties, villagers reported that they saw five wounded rebels being carried by their comrades while escaping during the encounter in Barangay Luayon.

The soldiers that clashed with the NPAs recovered an M-16 rifle stained with blood.

MILF: Talks to resume as scheduled

From Rappler (Mar 15): MILF: Talks to resume as scheduled

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said the talks between the rebel group and the government will resume late March despite the ongoing tension in Sabah.

“As far as we are concerned, the peace talks will proceed as scheduled before the end of this month,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal maintained that the hostilities in Sabah would not derail the peace negotiations, adding that the Sabah standoff and the peace negotiations were unrelated.

“Why do we have to complicate the issue, that’s another issue,” Iqbal said.

Supporting the “no comment policy” of the MILF on the Sabah standoff, Iqbal said the issue is so sensitive that the Moro rebel group decided to keep mum on the issue.

Malaysia stands as the third-party facilitator to the peace negotiations with the talks being done in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was also present during the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Manila last October 15.

The scheduled talks in Kuala Lumpur this month would continue discussions on power sharing, wealth sharing and normalization.

More than 1,500 Filipinos have already fled troubled Sabah and returned to the country. The refugees were reported to be from the areas of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Central Mindanao.

Ship linked to toxic waste visits Subic

From Rappler (Mar 15): Ship linked to toxic waste visits Subic

WASTE DUMPING. The US ship involved in a recent waste dumping controversy docks again at Subic. Photo by Randy Datu

WASTE DUMPING. The US ship involved in a recent waste dumping controversy docks again at Subic. Photo by Randy Datu

SUBIC, Philippines - The US Navy ship linked to toxic wastes made a routine port call here on Friday, March 15.

In a statement on Friday, the US embassy in Manila said the USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), a submarine tender, made a port call at Subic for maintenance and supply replenishment.

The ship's visit brought back memories of the controversy involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the US Navy contractor that used to service USS Emory Land and other naval ships that regularly dock at Subic.

Government agencies earlier reported that about 200,000 liters of sewage that the MT Glenn Guardian -- a barge owned by Glenn Defense --- had previously collected from the US Navy ship Emory Land was found to be in excess of toxicity standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A Senate probe discovered that Glenn Defense dumped millions of liters of sewage wastes at sea over a period of time without government permits. "They do not even have the necessary accreditation as waste collectors from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)," Sen Loren Legarda earlier said.

The SBMA has prohibited Glenn Defense from using barges to dump waste in the sea. But Rappler sources said the company continues to operate within the freeport zone.

USS Emory S. Land, along with other US navy ships, continue to arrive in Subic bay for port visits. The staff and crew of the Emory Land include 106 Filipino-Americans out of 410.

Meet the Royal House of Patikul

From Rappler (Mar 15): Meet the Royal House of Patikul

THE OTHER SULTAN. Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II calls for the unity of the sultans over the Sabah claim. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

THE OTHER SULTAN. Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II calls for the unity of the sultans over the Sabah claim. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

Will the real sultan of Sulu please stand up?

The world has come to know Sultan Jamalul Kiram III because of the bloody standoff in Sabah involving his brother and several dozen followers, who sailed to Lahad Datu to stake the family's claim on the disputed territory.

But Kiram is only one of the descendants of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu. Meet Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II, referred to as the "Paramount Sultan" of the Royal House of Patikul. He was supposedly elected in 2004 or 2005 by royal datus and princesses to represent them.

Speaking before students of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law students on Friday, March 15, Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II lamented how they are being ignored by the national government and the media.

He was invited to speak at the forum on "The Sultanate of Sulu and Its pursuit to Reclaim Sabah," where former UP College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona explained in full detail the legal basis of the claim of the Sultante of Sulu to Sabah. Magallona maintained that the United Kingdom did not have the right to cede sovereignty over Sabah to Malaysia.

Admonish Kiram

As "Paramount Sultan," Bahjin Shakirullah said he represents the other sultans in "admonishing" Sultan Jamalul Kiram III for his "unilateral action" in Sabah. He also called on the other sultans to finally unite and decide what to do with Sabah.

The other sultans disapproved of Kiram's move, he said. "It's a unilateral action done by one of our colleagues without the consent of the royal datus, without the consent of the royal houses. Not even with the government of the republic of teh Philippines, there was no consent," he said.

But he said it's not enough to just admonish Kiram. Now that their people face peril in Sabah, all the sultans must come together to seek a peaceful solution to the standoff.


"I am here calling on the other sultans and the sultanates. We are accepting them all [who claim to be descendants of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu.] We [should] come up with a collegial decision to act on this crisis now," he said.

"We have admonished the unilateral action but we have come to the stage of a shooting war already. We have to do something for the benefit of our brothers who are put in peril as consequence of this unilateral action," he added.

Asked if he himself has already talked to Kiram, Bahjin-Shakarullan said: "I call the other sultans. I have called them several times already." But they're stubborn, he said.

A call for unity

The sultans of Sulu have long been attempting to come to a collective stand on Sabah but to no avail. Bahjin-Shakarullah said he hopes that the Sabah crisis would compel the sultans to finally resolve it.

Bahjin-Shakarullah said they are willing to accept assistance from anyone -- the Philippine government, Filipino citizens, the Moro National Liberal Front, and even the extremist Abu Sayyaf.

He said he welcomes the talks between Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Ismael Kiram II to discuss disengagement, but he maintained that it is best for the national government to gather all the sultans and discuss the matter.

"If the talk has positive effects on this impasse in Sabah, I would gladly [welcome it]. I still maintain that talks should be done not by talking separately to the sultans. Talk to the sultans as a whole to make a collegial stand," he said.

"We are ready to accept any form of outside assistance from anyone - from the government of the Philippines, from the citizens of the Philippines. We accept any advice that could mean the safety of our colleagues," he said.

Government's duty

International law expert Harry Roque, a professor at the UP College of Law, called on the government to save the Filipinos in Sabah.

"I have no personal knowledge about [Malacañang's] conspiracy [theory]. Even if it were true, it would not be a reason to abdicate on the inhenerent obligation of the state to protect its nationals. If the Philippine government cannot discharge its basic obligation to its people - to protect them- what can it do?," said Roque.

"Let's not even talk about conspiracy. Let's contemplate how to protect Filipino nationals when they are in trouble. If we can appeal for clemency for convicted drug mules and for someone like Flor Contemplacion, why can't we do the same thing for 200 of our nationals who are now really sitting ducks in the island of Sabah," Roque added.

Bahjin-Shakirullah said they welcome all assistance to end the impasse - including assitance from the Moro National Liberal Front and the Abu Sayyaf. "We don't recognize whether they are MNLF, MILF, or Abu Sayyaf. They are all Raayats of the sultanate. It is their moral responsibility to help their brothers," he said.


Old documents show that the Royal Sultanate of Sulu has given the Philippine government the authority to assert the Sabah claim.

Bahjin-Shakarullah maintained that they have the power to revoke this agreement if they find that the Philippine government is not pursuing its claim.

But Roque disagreed with him. Roque said the Sultanate of Sulu doesn't have the power to revoke the authority it has already given the Philippine government.

Bahjin-Shakarullah insisted however that "there is an automatic revocation of this power of attorney."
Roque joins former UP College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona in arguing for the Sultanate of Sulu's rights over Sabah. In the same forum, Magallona presented how the United Kingdom could not have ceded its sovereignty over Sabah to Malaysia because the sovereignty over the territory belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.

Cordillera lass is No. 2 in PMA 'Pudang-Kalis' Class of 2013

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 15): Cordillera lass is No. 2 in PMA 'Pudang-Kalis' Class of 2013

The 22-year old female cadet from the Kankaney tribe of Lamut, Beckel, La Trinidad, Benguet and Tabuk, Kalinga, is number two in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Pudang-Kalis (Puso’t Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa) Class 2013.

Cadet First Class Maryam Dinamling Balais leads three other female cadets in the Top 10 of the 124-strong Pudang Kalis Class who will graduate this Sunday, March 17.

Balais who is set to join the Philippine Navy (PN) will receive the Vice Presidential Saber, PN Saber, Australian Defense Best Over-all Performance Award, Navy Professional Course Plaque, Natural Sciences Plaque and the Social Sciences Plaque.

Maryam whose parents are Dimas and Nora Balais, joins her three brothers in serving and defending the country. The fourth of five siblings, she has two brothers who graduated from the PMA and another one who graduated at the Philippine National Police Academy.

Apart from Balais, the three female cadets in the Top 10 are Cadet First Class Joselyn Advincula at No. 5 and will join the Philippine Army (PA), No. 8 is Cadet First Class Vanessa Factor who will join the PN, and a No. 10 is Cadet First Class Maila Maniscan, who will join the PA.

There are 19 female cadets and 105 male cadets who are graduating in the Pudang-Kalis class which name was derived from the Muslim term which means “sacred sword” whose blade symbolizes the heart and honor of the members of PMA Class 2013.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is the guest of honor and speaker during the PMA commencement exercise on March 17, at the Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City.

Marines detachment in Puerto Princesa attacked

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Marines detachment in Puerto Princesa attacked

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -– Col. Andrei Costales, commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade in Palawan, confirmed to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that two armed men believed to be members of the leftist New People’s Army (NPA) attacked a Marine detachment in Barangay Tagabenit in this city, but failed to injure anyone.

Costales said at around 9:00 a.m. Thursday, two armed men fired five shots at the detachment of the 34th Marine Company under the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team (4th MBLT).

Witnesses whom he did not identify reportedly said that when the troops fired back, the two men were seen fleeing the area in a hurry.

“Categorically, we’re not saying they are already members of the NPA because were are still conducting our investigation. But if you remember, their anniversary is this March so there is a possibility that they stage something like this,” Costales said. The NPA was formed on March 29, 1969.

Tagabenit, which is adjacent to Barangay Cabayugan, the home of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), is also a popular tourist site in the city because of the Ugong Rock promontory and the zipline outdoor adventure it offers.

The brigade commander said they are very cautious not to categorically conclude that the NPAs staged the attack. However, it is also possible that it was carried out so the pocket force of the leftist movement in the province can show that it is still strong.

Costales said none of the Marines who were in the detachment were injured as it is very hard to see them even from any advantageous position. This is because the detachment is hidden from view by thick shrubs and bushes.

Empty shells of M16 were found from the area where the two armed men reportedly fled, said Costales.

As a result, both police and Marines authorities are now on heightened alert in Tagabenit and other areas where the NPA may reportedly strike in lieu of its upcoming founding anniversary.

He also said that they are investigating the possibility that the two are not really members of the NPA, but maybe related to two individuals who were arrested last year for illegal possession of firearms in the same barangay.

“Maybe gusto lang gumanti ng mga iyon, at ito ang isa sa angulo na iniimbestigahan pa din namin kasama ng police (Maybe they just wanted to retaliate, and this is also one of the angles we are investigating with the City Police Office),” he explained.

Armed group disarms 2 Butuan City police personnel

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 21): Armed group disarms 2 Butuan City police personnel

Butuan City -- Government troopers are presently conducting clearing operations in the hinterlands of Brgy. Bonbon, this city following a disarming incident of two police personnel of Butuan City Police Station 3, Butuan City Police Office Wednesday afternoon at Purok 8, Brgy. Bonbon this city.

Reports from Butuan City Police Office states that SPO1 Walter Suralta and PO3 Romulo B. Lagare, assigned at the Butuan City Police Station 3 warrant section went to the area to serve a subpoena and to verify the report of illegal cutting of trees at Sitio Malunay of the same barangay. The two were not in police uniform for security reasons, following reports that sightings of armed groups were seen in the area. There were reports even, according to police, that the rebels are planning to attack a community assistance center (COMPAC), located at the same barangay.

Upon their return after accomplishing their assigned task, the two were heading back to their station when upon reaching Purok 8 of the said barangay, more or less 30 armed men stopped them on their way. Upon verification, the armed men accordingly noted the two handcuffs found in their possession, probed further and found out later that they really were policemen. They were then accordingly ordered to fall facedown to the ground and continued frisking both of them. Taken from Suralta’s possession was a handcuff, his PNP identification card, a SIM pack, his cellular phone battery and a USB while from PO3 Lagare, the armed men took away his 9mm Tauros Pistol, a magazine with ten live bullets, a handcuff, his PNP ID, SIM pack and also his cellular phone battery.

Follow up and clearing operations is presently ongoing at the hinterlands of the said barangay conducted by the Butuan City Public Safety Company augmented by the troopers of the Philippine Army from 58th Infantry Battalion. The Police in the region as well as the armed forces are in full red alert particularly in preparation for the forthcoming NPA anniversary, this month.

Abu Sayyaf bandit falls in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Abu Sayyaf bandit falls in Zamboanga City

Operatives of the government’s Task Force Sanglahi have arrested an Abu Sayyaf bandit with a P600,000 reward for his arrest in this southern port city, the police reported Friday.

Arrested was Jailani Basirul, alias Bas and Angkit, who is facing a string of cases for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in two courts in Basilan province, the police said.

Basirul was arrested around 7:10 a.m. Friday near the City Hall along Valderoza Street, this city.

It was not made known what Basirul was doing along Valderoza Street.

He was arrested on the strength of warrants of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branches 1 and 2 of Basilan province, the police said.

The cases against Basirul stemmed from his alleged participation in the kidnapping of six workers at the Golden Harvest Plantation in 2001 in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan.

Two of the six workers were beheaded while the rest were either freed or have escaped during military pursuit operation.

Salvage team to remove main hull of grounded USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Salvage team to remove main hull of grounded USS Guardian

The salvage operation team will be preparing to remove the hull of the grounded USS Guardian as soon as all engines of the minesweeper have been removed, weather permitting.

Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Task Force Tubbataha (TFT) chairperson and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan chief, said Friday over a local radio station here that if the engines and other structures have been completely removed in the next following days, Jascon 25, the main salvor in the salvage operation, will prepare to remove the hull of the navy minesweeper on the South Atoll of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP).

”Next to be removed after everything is lifted off is the hull. This is the body of the ship that used to support the deckhouse,” he said, adding it will probably take five days to a week to completely remove the hull.

Like earlier, Evangelista said removal of the hull largely depends on the weather prevailing in Tubbataha.

While salvage operations continue in Tubbataha off the island town of Cagayancillo, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) launched on March 13 in Manila a fundraising project for the construction of a new P20-million “dream ranger station” in the protected reef.

In a media release by the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO), it said the the current ranger station, built in 2000, has been battered by storms for more than 10 years.

“Over the years, the Styrofoam-reinforced structure has undergone a litany of repairs to prevent seawater and rain from entering and has also needed additional facilities built, such as a water cistern and septic tank. In the past few years, the upkeep of the structure has become significantly more expensive,” it said.

The plan for the new ranger station came up to provide the Tubbataha’s ranger team a “more modern living space and up-to-date facilities.”

Architect Dylan Melgazo volunteered through WWF-Philippines to visit Tubbataha and assess the condition of the present ranger station and to conceptualize a design for its replacement in 2012.

The design for the new ranger station by Melgazo was unveiled Wednesday during the fundraising project launch at Milky Way Restaurant, Makati City.

The WWF said several companies have already expressed willingness to get involved in the Tubbataha project, particularly after the grounding of the USS Guardian.

PAF commanding general eyes Palawan as center of disaster response, humanitarian aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): PAF commanding general eyes Palawan as center of disaster response, humanitarian aid

Philippine Air Force (PAF) Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz said the Department of National Defense (DND) is keen on improving human assistance and disaster response facilities in Palawan to make it the center of its relief operations in the country.

Speaking before the wingmen of the 570th Composite Tactical Wing Thursday on the occasion of its 40th Foundation Day, Dela Cruz said part of the accomplishment targets of the PAF this year are towards improving human assistance and disaster relief response services due to the frequency of calamities taking place.

He said among those the PAF is looking forward to implementing soon are the rehabilitation of its radar system on Mount Salakot in Puerto Princesa to assist in the detection of any air activity over the province; and the deployment of two W-3A Sokol Helicopters from Poland.

The W-3A Sikol Helicopter is the first to be fully designed and serial-built in Poland. Dela Cruz said it is conventionally designed and constructed to perform a typical range of missions, including passenger transport, VIP cargo, medical evacuation, firefighting and search and rescue.

He added the helicopters will come from a batch of eight that the PAF will purchase, and will be further enhanced to serve in searches and rescue missions, as well as disaster response.

Aside from these, the PAF commanding general also announced that two additional hangars will be constructed at the Camp Antonio Bautista Airbase, the home of the 570th CTW, for other arriving air assets.

He added that PAF is also contributing to the plan to speed up the rehabilitation and repair of Rancudo Airstrip in the Kalayaan Chain of Islands to cater to the air assets of the Philippines that are deployed to monitor the countries territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Army serves 160 medical patients

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Army serves 160 medical patients

STA. CRUZ, Placer, Surigao del Norte -- Some 160 patients availed of the government’s free medical mission led by the Philippines Army here in the hinterlands of Surigao on Thursday, an army officers said Friday.

Lt. Stephen G. Basco, spokesperson of the army’s 30th Infantry Battalion based here, said that the army together with local government units held the medical and dental mission in the hinterlands village of Lahi and Gigaguit, all of Surigao del Norte.

He said the medical mission provided tooth extraction to 22 patients, circumcision of 26 patients, and extended medical consultation and treatment to 112 farmers in the area.

Basco said the medical and dental civic program of the army and local government units was a continuing program of the government in a bid to provide free medical and dental assistance to the poor people in depressed areas in the countryside.

The activity aims to promote good health and wellness in the communities where medical and dental services could not be delivered regularly due to distance and accessibility problems, Basco said.

Police on alert over CPP-NDF-NPA founding anniversary on March 29

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 15): Police on alert over CPP-NDF-NPA founding anniversary on March 29

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has placed its forces on alert to thwart possible hostile actions by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) which is celebrating its 44th founding anniversary on March 29.

Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) Chief Supt. Juanito Vaño has ordered all his provincial and city directors to be on alert and “take extra defensive measures to pre-empt any possible violence” that the CPP-NDF-NPA may carry out ahead of the scheduled anniversary.

“Secure all police camps, vital installation, economic key points and places where people converge. Work and coordinate closely with the local government units, our force multipliers and the military, to prevent harassments of PNP personnel, ambuscades, raids, and sabotage of cell sites,” Vaño said in his directive.

Vaño said the NPA might employ tactical guerilla style warfare on soft targets such as isolated and less fortified police and military outposts, government installations and infrastructure and vital facilities.

He also enjoined the public to be vigilant and help the police in denying the CPP-NDF-NPA the chance “to wreak havoc as acts of terrorism and violence are the way how they celebrate their founding anniversary.”

“Together, let us end to these treacherous acts of the CPP-NDF-CPP who masquerade themselves as pro-people but in reality they take pride in revering violence,” he said.

He reminded the policemen under his command to strongly implement the so-called PNP three-tiered defense system on heightened intelligence, target hardening and incident management to downtrend NPA attacks on vital installations and soft targets.

2007 Batasan bombing case: SC dismisses murder raps vs ex-rep Salapuddin

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): 2007 Batasan bombing case: SC dismisses murder raps vs ex-rep Salapuddin

The Supreme Court(SC) has cleared former Basilan Rep. Gerry A. Salapuddin of multiple murder and frustrated murder charges in connection with the 2007 Batasan bombing incident.

The SC granted Salapuddin's petition and reversed and set aside the Aug. 6, 2008 decision and Oct. 16, 2008 resolutions of the Court of Appeals.

It reinstated the April 23, 2008 resolution of the Secretary of Justice, which excluded the name of Gerry A. Salapuddin from the charge sheet.

Likewise, the SC ordered the name of Gerry A. Salapuddin stricken off and excluded from the charges for the complex crime of multiple murder and frustrated murder filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 83.

Records showed that on Nov. 13, 2007, shortly after the adjournment of the day's session in Congress, a bomb exploded near the entrance of the South Wing lobby of the House of Representatives in Batasan Complex, Quezon City.

The blast claimed the lives of Rep. Wahab Akbar, Marcial Taldo, Jul-Asiri Hayudini, Maan Gale Bustaliño and Dennis Manila, and inflicted serious injuries on Reps. Henry Teves and Luzviminda Ilagan, Ismael Lim, Vercita Garcia, Kumhar Indanan, Larry Noda and Paula Dunga.

Investigation showed the explosion was caused by an improvised bomb planted on a motorcycle parked near the entrance stairs of the South Wing lobby.

Acting on a confidential information and learning one ASG member, Abu Jandal alias "Bong," has standing warrants of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, the police officers raided an alleged ASG safehouse at Blk 4, Lot 23, Anahaw St., Parkwood Hills, Payatas, Quezon City on Nov. 15, 2007.

The raid resulted in a firefight that left three persons dead and arrest of Caidar Aunal, Ikram Indama and Adham Kusain.

Several items were seized, including a Cal. 45 pistol traced to Julham S. Kunam, Political Affairs Assistant of petitioner Salappudin.

On Nov. 16, 2007, Kusain, one of those arrested, executed an affidavit which stated, among others, that he is from Tipo-Tipo, Basilan and stayed in the house of Salapuddin, his father's friend, when he first arrived in Manila in 2005.

Kusain said Salapuddin paid for one year of his college education.

He added he was at Parkwood Hills because Redwan had asked him to get the payment for his black XRM Honda motorcycle Redwan took from his house on Nov. 2, 2007.

He claimed Redwan did not disclose the purpose for which the motorcycle will be used and it was only after the raid he learned his motorcycle was the very same motorcycle used during the bombing at the Batasan Complex.

On Nov. 16, 2007, Ikram executed the first of his several affidavits.

He stated he is a driver working for Salapuddin since 2002; he went home to Isabela City, Basilan in June 2007 and returned to Manila in October 2007; before returning to Manila, his cousin Redwan talked to him about a mission to kill Rep. Akbar of Basilan by means of a bomb to be planted on a motorcycle; he was not informed of the reason for the mission or the identity of the person who gave the order; those who took part in the planning of the bombing included: Redwan and his wife Saing, Jang, who was a cousin and member of the staff of Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Aunal, Kusain, and Bong, who made the bomb; he brought the motorcycle with the bomb to the HOR.

In the morning of Nov. 18, 2007, Ikram gave his first supplemental affidavit and in the evening of the same day executed another supplemental affidavit.

In his first three affidavits, Ikram never mentioned Salapuddin's involvement in the plan to kill Akbar.

Ikram's narration of events altogether changed in his third supplemental affidavit dated Nov. 20, 2007.

In his fourth affidavit, Ikram, stated he worked for Salapuddin's water refilling station in Isabela City as a delivery boy; in September 2007, before the Ramadan, Salapuddin asked him to fetch Redwan and he complied and brought Redwan to Salapuddin's house on the same day; he was beside Redwan when Salapuddin ordered: "Pateyun si Cong. Wahab Akbar"; he saw Redwan again on Oct. 9, 2007 when the latter told him about the mission in Manila to kill Akbar.

Aunal and Harajun Jamiri, the ex-mayor of Tuburan, Basilan, also executed affidavits on the plot to kill Akbar.

Police authorities indorsed on Nov. 29, 2007 a letter to then Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño requesting the inclusion of Salapuddin and three more in the complaint for murder and multiple frustrated murder based on the affidavits of Ikram, Jamiri and Aunal.

Jamiri executed an affidavit on Dec. 10, 2007 withdrawing and disavowing the statements he made in his previous affidavits.

Kusain and Aunal also executed their respective affidavits of recantation on Dec. 12, 2007.

Salapuddin submitted on Jan. 3, 2008 his counter-affidavit where he reiterated the statements he made in his Nov. 17, 2007 affidavit and assailed Ikram's attempt to implicate him as Ikram's desperate act of self-redemption after owning up to the crime.

Zuño approved on Feb. 22, 2008 the Department of Justice investigating panel's supplemental resolution recommending the amendment of the criminal charges pending before the Quezon City RTC Branch 83, to include Salapuddin, et al.

Salapuddin filed a petition for review of the supplemental resolution before the Office of the Secretary of Justice on March 7, 2008.

The Secretary of Justice issued a resolution on April 23, 2008 excluding Salapuddin from the charges for the complex crime of murder and frustrated murder modifying the supplemental resolution of the investigating panel.

Respondents Jum Akbar and Nor-Rhama Indanan filed on May 13, 2008 a petition for certiorari before the CA questioning the Secretary of Justice's April 23, 2008 resolution.

In its ruling dated Aug. 6, 2008, the CA set aside the resolution of the Secretary of Justice.

Salapuddin filed a motion for reconsideration, but was denied in a CA resolution dated Oct. 16, 2008.

On Nov. 24, 2008, Salapuddin filed a petition for review before the SC.

In a minute resolution, the SC denied the petition on Sept. 29, 2010.

On Dec. 1, 2010, Salapuddin filed a motion for reconsideration.

In a resolution dated Nov. 21, 2012, the SC granted the MR filed by Salapuddin and reinstated the petition.

Only 22 of 38 nabbed off Tawi-Tawi belong to sultanate 'army'

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): Only 22 of 38 nabbed off Tawi-Tawi belong to sultanate 'army'

(UPDATE - 3:17 p.m.) Only 22 of the 38 people arrested off Tawi-Tawi apparently as they returned from Sabah on Wednesday are members of the Royal Sulu Army, the spokesman for the Sulu sultanate said on Friday.

Abraham Idjirani, who is also the sultanate's secretary general, told reporters Datu Panglima Sabandal Edi Idris of Basilan led the members of the sultanate’s army who were intercepted in two boats by Philippine Navy ships Tawi early Wednesday.

Earlier, authorities said they found firearms on the boats and one of the passengers was wounded, apparently during fighting in Sabah between followers of the sultanate and Malaysian security forces.

Senior Superintendent Joselito Salido, Tawi-Tawi provincial police director, said they filed charges for illegal possession of firearms and violation of the election gun ban against the suspects on Thursday.

He said 11 firearms, six of these high-powered, were seized from the two boats.

He said they are also studying the possibility of suing them for "inciting to war," which President Benigno Aquino III said the sultanate's followers may have committed, in violation of the Constitution, when they went to Sabah to press their claim to the territory and ended up battling Malaysian security forces.

Idjirani said they will be sending a legal team to Tawi-Tawi to help their followers, although he added that the detainees, who are being held at Juan Magluyang Naval Base in Barangay Batubatu, Panglima Sugala, have been treated well.

Reporters who were briefly allowed into the base Thursday evening learned 14 of the detainees are from Basilan, 13 from Tubig Indanan, four from Jolo, four from Bongao, two from Sibutu and one from Zamboanga City.

Meanwhile, Idjirani is expected to appear before the National Bureau of Investigation Friday afternoon to honor a subpoena issued in relation to the government probe into the Sabah crisis.

Alleged Abu Sayyaf member falls in Zamboanga City

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): Alleged Abu Sayyaf member falls in Zamboanga City

An alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf with a P600,000 bounty on his head was arrested Friday in Zamboanga City by a team of policemen and soldiers.

Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said Jailani Baserol, alias Bas and Angkig, is wanted for kidnapping and his alleged involvement in the massacre of rubber plantation workers in Lamitan, Basilan in 2001.

Baserol was arrested at around 7:10 a.m. in his hideout on Valderoza Street.

“He is currently detained at the Regional Intelligence Unit for medical examination and debriefing. Charges are being prepared against him,” Cerbo said.

Marines adrift at sea for 3 days survive shark attack

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): Marines adrift at sea for 3 days survive shark attack

Two Philippine Marines were rescued after drifting at sea for three days, during which they also survived an attack by “small" sharks.

Privates First Class John Paul Mangaoang, 26, and Alvin Llovido, 28, both stationed at the Kalayaan Islands, were testing a boat engine when it conked out some 20 nautical miles off Likas Island on March 9.

Worried that the boat might drift away, the two grabbed flotation devices from the boat and decided to try to swim back.

It was on their second day in the water, Mangaoang said, when the sharks attacked. Both soldiers suffered minor leg injuries from the incident.

Commodore Joseph Rustom Peña, chief of Naval Forces West, said they mounted a search, mobilizing three boats and two aircraft, 24 hour after the soldiers went missing.

Napakahirap talaga. Nakikita na nila ‘yung mga eroplano pero hindi sila nakikita nu’ng eroplano (It was very difficult. They could see the airplanes but the airplanes couldn’t see them)” Peña said.

The two soldiers were eventually picked up by the BRP Rizal on March 11 and are recovering at the Camp Gen. Artemio Ricarte Station Hospital.

Buti na lang malalakas ang loob ng mga sundalo natin at nakayanan nila ‘yung nangyari sa kanila (Fortunately, our soldiers are hardy and were able to withstand their ordeal),” Peña said.

Asked if they were still willing to be assigned to Kalayaan, both said, “Yes.”

From archfoes to best friends: AFP general, MNLF commander kiss and make up after 3 decades

From InterAksyon (Mar 15): From archfoes to best friends: AFP general, MNLF commander kiss and make up after 3 decades

MNLF commander for Palawan Taradji Padih (second from left) and AFP Western Command chief Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban (fourth from left). Photo by Elmer Badilla for

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - Archenemies do not kiss and make up. That's what a ranking officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and his nemesis, a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), thought.

But they proved themselves wrong. After 34 years of wanting to eliminate each other, retiring AFP Western Command chief Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban and MNLF commander for Palawan Taradji Padih have now become friends and textmates ready to respond to each other's needs.

In 1979, Sabban, then a junior officer, was assigned in Palawan to help quell the rebelllion in the province by MNLF fighters strugging to achieve independence for Bangsamoro. At the time, Padih was already among the dreaded leaders of the MNLF.

"Isang taon nang nasa Palawan 'yong mga MNLF warriors. Noon pa lang, matunog na talaga 'yang si Commander Padih. Matinik talaga [The MNLF warriors had been there for a year already. That early, Commander Padih was widely known already. He was fearsome], ” Sabban recalls.

But while Padih's stature as an MNLF warrior was well-known, Sabban was confident that his archfoe would be no match to the military's successive and massive assaults against the then MNLF rebels in Palawan. Sabban, however, proved to be too self-assured. The MNLF commander cheated death, suprising Sabban who got to know of his foe's survival only three years ago.

Looking back, Sabban is no longer sure whether it was him or Padih who was fortunate enough to survive. “Maswerte s'ya na na-survive n'ya 'yong mga operations ko, o baka ako ang maswerte [He was lucky, he survived my operations, or maybe I was the lucky one.]

After finding out that Padih survived the attacks, Sabban decided to make friends with his enemy of more than three decades.

Padih did not doubt the sincerity of his former tormentor. The MNLF commander says his friendship with Sabban helped build bridges for peace in Palawan.

Di ko inaasahan na magiging magkaibigan kami...Ngayon isang text ko lang sa kanya, 'andiyan s'ya agad. Matulungin pala siya [I never expected that we would be friends. Now, If I text him once he would be there for me immediately. I found out that he's helpful],” Padih says.

Bouyed by optimism that long-time foes can be friends, Sabban believes that the military can also someday forge alliance with communist rebels especially if there will be more talks than guns.

Upuan natin at pag-usapan. ‘Yong walang tatayo hangga’t hindi nagkakasundo. Tingin ko magiging okay ang lahat [Let's sit down and talk. Let's not stand up until we agree. I thnk everything will be okay],” says the AFP general.

Sabban will be retiring in April. He says he will stay in Palawan, his battleground that has turned into field of peace for him and Padih, where the former archenemies will do livelihood projects together.