Saturday, March 16, 2013

Video Interview--Nur Misuari: 'We had to fight for it'

From Al Jazeera (Mar 16): Video Interview--Nur Misuari: 'We had to fight for it'

The former Moro National Liberation Front leader discusses the crisis in Sabah and peace in the Southern Philippines.

[Video: Talk to Al Jazeera--Veronica Pederosa interviews MNLF leader Nur Misuari (25 minutes)  Go to following URL:

A new crisis in Southern Philippines is underway - it is a conflict with Malaysia over a province called Sabah.

Armed Filipino men are challenging the Malaysian government’s power over the province, claiming that this land belongs to the Sultan of Sulu who lives in the Philippines.
"We have achieved something tremendous in our quest for peace in our homeland as well as of course enhancing the freedom of our people. We had to fight for it and in fact we have lost hundreds of thousands of lives just to be able to reach this point. The problem is that our homeland is so rich, not only in terms of history but [also] in terms of its resources, that's why so many people want to occupy this land. And they applied what they call the classical policy of divide and rule so that our people could not unite and fight as one nation to roll back all of these foreign aggressors."
- Nur Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Fron
But the implications here could be severe for the region.

At stake could be the peace deal between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) leader Ibrahim Murad. The deal was designed to bring peace to Mindanao and allow the fighters there to build a semi-autonomous Islamic state, to be called Bangsamoro.

The party that brokered the deal was Malaysia. Its Muslim-dominated government used its influence with the Islamic fighters in Mindanao to bring the parties together. But now, there are allegations that members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the original Islamic insurgency group, feels sidetracked and has allowed some of its men to fight the Malaysian government presence in Sabah.

Which brings us back to where the conflict in Mindanao started - it is in places like this that the resistance against what they call Philippine colonialism was nursed.

The fighters would hide in the Muslim ghettos with sympathisers and in turn bring soldiers into the alleyways hungry for revenge. Every family speaks of those years with an overriding sense of loss.

The man who started it all back in the 1970s was Nur Misuari. With international backing he negotiated a separate deal with the government in the 1990s, but he never managed to reach the success MILF reached after splitting with his group.

Today, when we caught up with him in his home in Mindanao, we found a man who is clearly not happy with the current state of affairs. Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to Nur Misuari, the former leader of the MNLF about the crisis in Sabah and peace in the Southern Philippines.

Malaysia lets foreign media cover Sabah ops, says Kiram followers starving

From GMA News (Mar 16): Malaysia lets foreign media cover Sabah ops, says Kiram followers starving

Even as they claimed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah are starving, Malaysian authorities are allowing foreign media to cover the ongoing operations of security forces in the area, a Malaysian news site reported Saturday.

A report on the New Straits Times quoted Malaysian defense minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying Kiram's followers who are "still holed up in Sabah are starving" and that "[their] morale is at the low point."

Meanwhile, Zahid said the Malaysian Cabinet last Wednesday agreed to allow foreign news agencies, including the Philippines, to cover the military operations.

"The security personnel may also escort the foreign journalists to Ground Zero for them to get a better picture on the ongoing operation," Zahid said.

He added the foreign media crew can station their personnel at the media center in Felda Sahabat.

Since March 5, Malaysian security forces had been conducting offensive operations in areas of Sabah believed to be where Kiram's followers are hiding.

Malaysia has also rejected a unilateral ceasefire offer from the sultan, and instead insisted on having Kiram's followers surrender unconditionally.

US defense official to visit RP for security discussions

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 17): US defense official to visit RP for security discussions

United States Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit the Philippines and other Asian countries from Mar. 17 to 21, the US Embassy in Manila announced yesterday.

Citing a statement from the Pentagon, the embassy said Carter, during a four-day visit, will conduct “defense consultations on a range of common security challenges.”

The statement read the US official will also reinforce US support to its allies in Asia.

Carter served as US undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from April 2009 until October 2011.

Carter, as an undersecretary, led department efforts to “accelerate fulfillment of urgent operational needs, increase department’s buying power and strengthen nation’s defenses against emerging threats,” according to his biography posted on the US Department of Defense Web site.

Carter also served as assistant secretary of defense and international security policy during the Clinton Administration.

On Friday, the USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), a submarine tender, arrived in Subic Bay for a routine port call that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the US and the Philippines.

The visit will allow the ship to conduct maintenance, replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

The USS Emory S. Land is part of the US Pacific Fleet and is homeported in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

While in Subic, the ship’s crew will continue its subject matter expert exchanges with the Philippine Navy.

The crew will also engage in several community service projects with schools, medical institutions, orphanages and other local community centers, as well as community relations activities such as sports events.

The crew of the ship includes 106 Filipino-Americans (out of 410 total) — 26 US Navy sailors and 80 civilian mariners. They hail from Botolan, Olongapo City, San Antonio, Pasay City, and elsewhere in the Philippines.

Below are some select profiles of the ship’s Filipino-American crew:

Supply Corps Officer Lieutenant Junior Grade Officer Michael Agojo is an officer and a second generation sailor.

Logistics specialist senior chief Randy Mangohig oversees the professional growth and development of 35 enlisted personnel aboard the ship.

Chief petty officer NiƱo Miranda is a sports community relations coordinator for the Morale Welfare and Recreation Office and is part of the Religious Ministries Team.

Gunners mate second class Veronica Connole helps train the crew in safe deployment of the ship’s self defense weapons. She also helps with translations between the ship’s crew and the local community in Subic.

Chief petty officer Enrico Manalac is a language interpreter for subject matter and expert exchanges with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

No media availability is planned during vessel’s visit to Subic Bay.

The Balikatan 2013 will take place from April 5 to 17 in Zambales province.

Balikatan is an annual Philippines-US military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement, and considered as a signature element of robust treaty alliance relationship.

As part of this year’s exercise, members of the Philippine and US armed forces will undertake joint humanitarian assistance projects in communities throughout Zambales province.

Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects will begin mid-March.

Military medical personnel will offer free medical, dental and veterinary care.

In selected communities, military engineers will construct and repair schools and other infrastructure.

The Balikatan series of exercises focus on training both the US and Philippine armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

Additionally, armed forces personnel from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Camp O’Donnell, Crow Valley, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay to improve interoperability and contingency planning.

This year, the Philippines and the US invited a small number of personnel from other partner nations in the region to attend a portion of the exercise.

 “Balikatan” in Filipino means “shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-US alliance.

Sulu sultan to haul Aquino to int’l court

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 17): Sulu sultan to haul Aquino to int’l court

The family of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III plans to charge the governments of President Aquino and Malaysia before the International Court of Justice for failing to protect Filipinos caught in the crossfire between the Malaysian authorities and Kiram’s brother Raja Muda’s forces.

Jose Aspiras, counsel for the Kirams, meanwhile, said aside from elevating the Saba issue to the United Nations (UN), the family is also studying the possibility of suing the Philippine government for its failure to protect Filipinos in Sabah.

“We could elevate the whole issue before the United Nations and the UN Human Rights Council with regard to the reported human rights violations being committed by the Malaysian police against our fellow Filipinos,” Aspiras said.

“But we could also file a case against the Philippine government for failing to protect its citizens caught in the conflict,” he stressed.

Reiterating her family’s accusation the administration is lawyering for the Malaysians, Princess Jacel Kiram yesterday bared her family has practically lost any hope the Aquino government will push forward the country’s claim to the resource-rich Sabah, calling the Aquino administration “inutile.”

At the weekly Kapihan sa Annabelle’s, Kiram, daughter of the Sulu Sultan, said her family turned down the proposal of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II for her father’s followers to “disengage.”

“There was nothing substantial reached in the talks between my uncle (Esmail Kiram) and Secretary Mar Roxas as all secretary Mar was asking for is the disengagement of the my father’s followers in Sabah,” said the Princess. “Disengagement is nothing different from surrender which the Palace had been asking from my father’s followers.”

“So, we have to reject his proposal,” she stressed.

The Sultan’s daughter also belied reports her father did not authorize her uncle to talk with Roxas in behalf of their family.

“He (Esmail) was authorized by my father to talk with Secretary Roxas but he was not authorized to commit,” Jacel averred.

Jacel also bared that contrary to reports, his uncle, Raja Muda had been killed in Sabah by the Malaysian police.

“I had just talked to him the other day and my uncle was also able to speak to him yesterday,” Jacel bared.

Asked what transpired during their conversation with the alleged leader of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu, Jacel said their conversation with Raja Muda only lasted a few seconds although she declined to comment if it was out of fear the call was being was being monitored by both the Malaysian and Philippine governments.

“He only told that us that only 23 of their forces have been killed since violence erupted two weeks ago,” said Jacel. But what is important is that we are assured he is alive. The fact that we heard his voice brought happiness to us.”

“Maybe there is divine intervention there. Maybe God has a rason for keeping him alive,” Jacel said.

The younger Kiram also denied that those killed in Semporna in Sabah were members of his father’s followers saying they were civilians who decided to stage an uprising following reprisals from the Malaysian police.

“The Filipinos in Semporna staged an uprising after their homes were raided by Malaysian police. Based on reports, there was an old man that the Malaysian police ordered to be exposed to the sun until he died,” Jacel said.

“But instead of helping our fellow Filipinos in Sabah, this government is lawyering for the Malaysians, echoing every word they utter,” she lamented.

Jacel reiterated her family, aside from the historical facts, have legal documents to support their claim to Sabah, which the Aquino administration had been continuously ignoring.

“We have the legal documents to support our claim and we are doing this not only for our family, but for the country,” said Jacel.

“Malaysia is a rich country but 23 percent of its gross national product (GNP) comes from Sabah. Imagine what that 23 percent in gross national product (GNP) contribution could do for our country if we could reclaim Sabah,” said the Sultan’s daughter.

Asked if they are still hopeful the government would assist them pursue their claim on Sabah, Jacel replied in the negative.

“We have practically lost all hope under this inutile government,” she stressed.

Told that United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial bets Mitos Magsaysay and Dick Gordon commented Aquino might have committed impeachable offenses including betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution through his pronouncements and inaction on the issue, Jacel retorted, “What should be done must be done.”

Still hoping for a peaceful resolution on the Sabah conflict, Jacel asked the Filipinos to help them pray that the president might be enlightened on the issue.

“Please help us pray that the president and his administration be enlightened on the issue,” said Jacel.’l-court.html

Malaysia faces blank wall on Sulu ‘royal army’ leader’s whereabouts

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 17): Malaysia faces blank wall on Sulu ‘royal army’ leader’s whereabouts

Malaysian authorities have backtracked on their earlier claim that the leader of a band of Filipino “intruders” whose incursion in Malaysia has left scores dead has reportedly fled to the Philippines.

“Police believe that (Raja Muda Agbimuddin) Kiram, leader of the Sulu gunmen, has fled to the Philippines but do not discount the possibility that he may be still lurking in Sabah,” Malaysian online paper The Star quoted Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying during a Saturday evening press conference.

“We will still continue operations and we will catch him if he is still here,” he said.

He appeared to have backed away from his earlier certainty that Raja Musa had fled this week, possibly to one of islands off Tawi-Tawi.

Kiram’s family insists Raja Muda is still in Sabah.

More than 200 followers of a self-proclaimed Filipino sultan entered Sabah on Borneo island a month ago to resurrect long-dormant land claims by Jamalul Kiram III.

Malaysian forces launched a military assault last March 5 against the group, sending them fleeing from a farming village where they had been holed up.

Ealier in the day, Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Zin said intelligence reports showed that Raja Muda, whose family says is the crown prince of the Sulu sultanate, had managed to evade security forces and slip out of Malaysia.

“(He) has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland,” Zulkifeli was quoted by local media as saying late Friday.

But his family has denied the man, the younger brother of the self-styled sultan, had left Malaysia.

When asked about the armed forces chief’s comments, the clan’s Manila spokesman Abraham Idjirani told Agence France Presse: “That’s not true.”

In a separate interview, Idjirani said the rumors were just among the black propagandas being issues by the Malaysian Armed Forces in order to demoralize their supporters.

“It is a counter strategy,” Idjirani added, noting that if Raja Muda indeed returned to the country, he should have been arrested by the Philippine National Police.

Idjirani also said he just spoke with Raja Muda around 2 p.m. on Friday.

He said the sultan’s brother confirmed that he was still in Sabah along with the group.

Meanwhile, Malaysian troops have discovered 15 more bodies of people suspected to be supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Sabah’s police chief said .

Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said the bodies were found in three shallow graves in Kampung Tanduo, according to a report from state media agency Bernama.

He said 61 “terrorists” have been confirmed killed in the “Ops Daulat” offensive against the sultan’s supporters who are claiming Sabah.

“We believe 10 more bodies have yet to be brought out of Kampung Tanjung Batu,” Hamza said.

He added the Malaysian government has asked the Philippines to claim the bodies of the slain Filipinos.‘royal-army’-leader’s-whereabouts.html

Soldiers seize Agusan rebel lair

From the Manila Times (Mar 16): Soldiers seize Agusan rebel lair

GOVERNMENT troops have foiled on Friday possible communist rebel atrocities in northern Mindanao after taking a rebel encampment following a gun battle in village in Carmen, Agusan del Norte.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, the military general headquarters in Manila, said that the encounter between troops of the 58th Infantry Battalion and a group of rebels happened at about 4 p.m. on Friday in Sitio Kabayawa, Barangay Poblacion, Carmen town.

Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias 4th, spokesman for the Fourth Infantry Division, said that their troops were conducting combat patrol operations in the area when they chanced upon a group of 15 rebels in the area triggering an exchange of fire.

“The rebels were surprised by the soldiers causing them to abandon their belongings in a hurry to flee from pursuing troops. The encounter lasted for 20 minutes after which the rebels retreated,” the army official said.

Osias added that their troops recovered from the encounter site some 20 pairs of battle dress uniforms; an improvised explosive device; one icon charger; one unlicensed motorcycle; 19 lunchboxes; ammunitions and six backpacks containing propaganda materials.

The rebels, believed to be belonging to Guerilla Front 4-A, were reportedly planning wide-scale atrocity based from information gathered by soldiers from the encounter site, the army official said.

Osias added that government troops are still in pursuit of the rebels that have fled in different directions.

4 militiamen injured in Davao del Sur shooting

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 16): 4 militiamen injured in Davao del Sur shooting

DIGOS CITY, Philippines—Two members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit under the 72nd Infantry Battalion were injured when four men fired on them in Kiblawan town, a report reaching the Davao del Sur police office said Saturday.

The incident happened around 6:30 p.m. at Sitio Alyong in Barangay Kimlawis, the report said. It identified the wounded militiamen as Mar John Laurel and Randy Empinado.

Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur police director, said in a report he received from the military that the two militiamen were fetching water near their detachment when four men armed with automatic rifles fired at them.

He said the militiamen were safe and sustained minor injuries only.

KL flip-flops, now says Agbimuddin may be in Sabah

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 16): KL flip-flops, now says Agbimuddin may be in Sabah

LAHAD DATU, Malaysia—Malaysian authorities are flip-flopping on the whereabouts of the elusive Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, leader of a group of armed members of the so-called “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu who occupied a coastal village in Lahad Datu last month were subsequently dislodged by Malaysian security forces backed by aerial and artillery bombardment.

“We believe he’s in the Philippines but he could be here,” Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib said in a press conference late Saturday afternoon, after Malaysian officials said Kiram had slipped out of Sabah and was back in the Philippines.

Hamza said he did not have to inform his Philippine counterparts on the developments regarding Agbimuddin Kiram’s whereabouts, saying that if he were caught in the Philippines, then he would be dealt with by Philippine law.

Earlier Saturday, Hamza said only 50 followers of Agbimuddin were left in Lahad Datu after their leader and some of his men slipped out of the east Malaysian state.

The “Operasi Daulat” or “Operation Sovereignty” against Agbimuddin and his men will continue, with the operations of Malaysian security forces now focused on Tanjung Batu, a village within Felda Sahabat.

A month ago, Agbimuddin and his Royal Army arrived in the village of Tanduo, near Tanjung Batu, in Felda Sahabat to revive the Sulu sultanate’s long-dormant claim to Sabah, surprising both Philippine and Malaysian officials.

Agbimuddin’s group engaged Malaysian security forces in a two-week-long standoff before fighting erupted on March 1, leading to the ongoing “Operation Sovereignty.”

Malaysia’s top security officials announced late Friday that the leader of the so-called Royal Army of Sulu had slipped out of Sabah and was back in the southern Philippines.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said Friday that Agbimuddin, along with a number of his men, had “fled” back to the southern Philippines.

“Azzimudie has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland,” Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said at a joint media conference with Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar in Kota Kinabalu Friday night, according to a report posted on The Star Malaysia website.

Zulkifeli said the information was based on feedback from his commanders on the ground. The reports indicated that Agbimuddin was no longer with his men in Sabah, he said.

The military chief did not provide any details on when and how, and from where, Agbimuddin slipped out.

When asked for these details on Saturday, Sabah police commissioner Hamza Naib was evasive. “We are in a war situation. We don’t deal with theories,” he said.

But Philippine Daily Inquirer sources in the Philippines’ defense establishment said that there was no information about Agbimuddin being in the Philippines.

“Malaysia must have some basis for saying that the Raja Muda has left Sabah. But as long as we have no information that validates his presence here (Philipines), he’s there (Sabah),” one of the Inquirer sources in Manila said in a phone interview.

Another source said in a separate interview that Manila was continuing to gather information about Agbimuddin’s whereabouts.

The sources spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, laughed off Malaysia’s announcement that Agbimuddin had left Sabah.

“That’s only propaganda by Malaysia. They’re saying that so as not to disturb their elections. I don’t have to explain that. It is a counter-strategy,” Idjirani said in a phone interview late Friday night.

Idjirani said he last spoke to Agbimuddin at 2 p.m. Friday and that the leader of the Royal Army remained in Sabah.

Told about the sultanate’s denial that Agbimuddin was no longer in Sabah, Hamza said: “I can tell you from day one, I never trusted Jamalul Kiram. He can say anything. As I mentioned just now, if Agbimuddin is there (Mindanao), there is no problem for us. There are investigation papers and we will deal with it according to our laws.”

Hamza said Kuala Lumpur would use diplomatic channels to have Agbimuddin extradited to Malaysia to face the charges against him if the Sulu leader were caught in the Philippines.

NTC website hacked

From Rappler (Mar 16): NTC website hacked

"Anonymous Philippines" hackers struck again amid tension over unsettled issues in Sabah and calls for policy changes in state universities.

On Saturday, March 16, they, along with "PrivateX" defaced the web site of the National Telecommunications Commission, posting an open letter that held President Benigno Aquino III accountable for his promise to lead the country down the straight path.

"Greetings, President Aquino! You told us the Filipino peoples are your 'Boss' and you will bring us on the right way, but what happened now?" they asked.

The hackers also took a swipe on the government over a host of issues: lack of education, lack of opportunity, lack of cyber security, and failure to stop corruption.

"And now you are on the side of Malaysian government, many people knew that Sabah is part of the Philippines," the hackers said, suggesting that the government failed to resolve the standoff in the disputed territory.

The hackers also said, "We're not encouraging the PH gov to declare a war on Malaysia but Philippines must defend its sovereignty. Invading our territory by foreign country is unacceptable...It seems you are a Pro-Malaysian."

They likewise warned about the need for security in cyberspace. "PH must be aware on National Security also in CyberSpace because in the past few years no security was done in many sites."

Military lauds DPWH for ongoing Burauen-Albuera road project

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 16): Military lauds DPWH for ongoing Burauen-Albuera road project

An official of the civic military operations (CMO) of the Philippine Army cited the Department of Public Works and Highways Second Leyte Engineering District for the ongoing road concreting of Burauen-Albuera road as it provides them easy access to rebel-infested areas.

Captain Ian Fabillon, Philippine Army 78th Infantry Battalion CMO officer tagged the infrastructure project as road for peace that will be instrumental in significantly minimizing the influence of New People’s Army in upland villages of Burauen and Albuera.

The army official was in Barangay Villa Corazon in Burauen recently to deliver government services when Leyte 2nd district Rep. Sergio Apostol, Burauen Mayor Fe Renomeron, and District Engineer Margarita Junia inspected the road projects and met the villagers.

“This road will serve as a road for peace. This is also a big boost to economic activities as raw materials from the mountain area can easily be brought to the town center,” Fabillon said.

The Philippine Army has been strengthening its civic military operations in 15 remote villages of Leyte which are known as “affected by New People’s Army presence.”

District Engr. Junia appreciated military’s assistance in the road section especially the provision of security to contractors and their workers. She said that NPA has never distracted project implementation in the area.

The DPWH 2nd LED is currently implementing P150 million worth of projects in 16-kilometer sections of Burauen side to include road opening, concreting, and bridge construction from both 2012 and 2013 allotment.

Of the 16 kilometers, only two are up for opening and concreting to connect it with Albuera side in western Leyte.

“Although this is not yet declared as a national road, the government has been funding the road opening as part of its effort to address bottlenecks. We would like to thank Congressman Apostol for making this road project a priority,” Junia said.

The road project started in 2008. It traverses some rebel-infested villages in the borders of northern and western Leyte. It will provide alternate road between northern, central and Southwestern part of Leyte. It is also expected to shorten travel time between Ormoc City and Tacloban City.

Motorists coming from the regional capital have to pass through eight towns to get to Ormoc City. Passing through the new road, travelers will reach Ormoc from Tacloban by passing through only five towns.

PNoy to grace PMA graduation rites

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 17): PNoy to grace PMA graduation rites

President Benigno S. Aquino III will be the guest of honor and speaker during the Philippine Military Academy’s 108th commencement exercises, March 17 at the Borromeo Field at Fort del Pilar, here.

The President is expected to arrive at PMA at around 9 a.m. and will welcomed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Immanuel Bautista and PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino. He will then be given the traditional arrival honors.

The President will award the Presidential Saber to Cadet First Class Jestony Arman Lanaja of Hagonoy, Davao Del Sur for being the top graduate of the 124- strong Pudang Kalis or Puso’t Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa Class of 2013.

He will also present the diplomas of the graduates composed of 105 males and 19 females.

The President as the Commander- in Chief will deliver his commencement address to the graduates of which 67 are joining the Philippine Army, 24 to the Philippine Air Force and 33 to the Philippine Navy.

PNoy will be hosting a “merienda cena” or afternoon snacks for the graduates together with their parents and other military officials at the Mansion House.

The President is also expected to have a meeting with local leaders and the community at 4:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the authorities are advising visitors and residents alike to expect heavy traffic in the city on Sunday.

Ilocano runner receives PMA Athletic Saber

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 16): Ilocano runner receives PMA Athletic Saber

A seasoned Ilocano runner is this year’s Athletic Saber awardee of the Philippine Military Academy(PMA).

Cadet First Class Mark Rolly Bacani bested the 123 other graduating cadets of PMA Puso’t Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa or Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 to receive the athletic saber award.

On Thursday, prior to the graduation ceremonies, Bacani received the Athletic Saber from Mayor Mauricio Domogan during the Athletic Parade Honors at the Borromeo Field at Fort del Pilar, here.

The 22-year old runner from San Fernando City in La Union has consistently been running in long distance races since his entry to PMA.

He has joined numerous national running events like the annual Milo Marathon and the Subic International Marathon where he excelled.

During his freshman year, Bacani bagged a bronze medal in the 5,000 run event of the Baguio–Benguet Educational Athletic League and won the Philippine National Police Academy – PMA Dual Meet 10 kilometer cross country run.

Aside from running, Bacani also plays arnis, chess and volleyball.

Bacani will be among the 124- strong Pudang Kalis Class of 2013 who will be receiving their diplomas from President Benigno Aquino III during their graduation rites on Sunday, March 17.

Last year, female cadet Zaporah Gabino Dalang of Tinoc, Ifugao was the Athletic Saber awardee from among the 187-strong BAGWIS or Bagong Kawal na may Iisang Lakas Class of 2012 composed of 168 males and 19 females.

Dalang was the third woman to receive the athletic saber award after the country’s premiere school started accepting women cadets in 1997. The others were also Cordillerans, Jessie Rose Bucalen of Bulanao, Tabuk in 2002 and Janice Matbagan of Baguio City in 2011.

3 NPA members surrender

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 16): 3 NPA members surrender

Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the Mountain Province and Kalinga areas laid down their arms before the government, recently.

The Army identified the three as alias Ka Mena, alias Ka Abe/Max and alias Ka Junjun. They were presented, Wednesday, before the Army’s 5th Infantry Division Headquarters in Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

Ka Mena and Ka Abe who were from Mt. Province, surrendered two M16 rifles while Ka Junjun from Kalinga, surrendered two M16 rifles, one Cal. 30 Springfield rifle, one Cal. 5.56 home made rifle and one Cal. 38 revolver.

The three voluntary surrendered to the government after close negotiations have been made by the Army assigned in the area.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, Jr of the Army 5th Infantry Division said the three are products of the government’s Transitional Integration Program that invites communist rebels to be integrated to society’s mainstream.

The Army has recommended social and economic assistance to the the rebel-surrenderees after completing the integration process required.

Bomb experts defuse powerful explosive device in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Bomb experts defuse powerful explosive device in Sultan Kudarat

Bomb experts rendered safe a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) they recovered from a tricycle plying the Poblacion route in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, around 11:55 a.m.(Friday), police official said.

Supt. Roel Sermese, chief of the Isulan municipal police station, said elements of the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from Sultan Kudarat province used an explosive disruptor to render safe the IED.

The IED, placed inside a baggage of vegetables, was left by a still unidentified passenger in a blue tricycle with plate number 3797 MV and driven by a certain Jokarno Galamban Abas, reports said.

Abas told police he was ordered by the suspect to deliver the baggage to a department store located along the national highway.  He said he waited for the suspect to arrive at the store for about 30 minutes.

“But when nobody arrived at the store that was the time the driver sought police assistance. When we checked the baggage, we found out an IED was placed at the bottom part,” said Sermese.

The explosive used a mobile phone as a triggering device and its main charge was a two 60-mm mortar round.  Authorities hinted extortion as a possible motive for the foiled try to plant the bomb in the department store.

Meanwhile, Supt. Rex dela Rosa, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said Abas deserves recognition for his prudence to inform the police of the presence of a suspicious pack in his tricycle.

1 NPA killed, 4 others hurt in N. Cotabato clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): 1 NPA killed, 4 others hurt in N. Cotabato clashes

A New People's Army (NPA) rebel was killed and four of his companions were hurt in two successive clashes between communist insurgents and the military in the hinterland district of Makilala town in North Cotabato.

The first clash occurred after soldiers responded to calls by civilians about the alleged extortion activities by the rebels in the area.

1Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the rebels have been mulcting banana farmers in the village of Luayon.

The soldiers were fired upon by about 40 armed NPA guerillas as they approached the village which triggered a 30-minute firefight. No casualty was reported on government side.

As clearing operations were ongoing, soldiers put up blocking force outside the village and clashed with the fleeing rebels anew leaving four guerillas wounded, Sema said.

Sema said the rebels belonged to NPA Guerilla Front 72 with camps in the tri-boundaries of Makilala, Magpet and Arakan, all in North Cotabato.

"We pity the banana plantation owners and workers who have been the subject of atrocities by communist rebels," Col. Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said.

Hermoso lauded the civilians for alerting the military about the presence of communist rebels in their communities even as he urged civilians to continue cooperating with the government.

Gov’t troopers, NPA clash in Agusan del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Gov’t troopers, NPA clash in Agusan del Norte

Government troopers and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) clashed in a 20-minute running gun battle in Carmen, Agusan del Norte Friday afternoon.

Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, IV, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said the army made a surpise attack on the rebel’s lair in Sitio Kabayawa, Barangay Poblacion, Carmen based on information from the public.

He said government soldiers recovered various subversive materials in the encounter site that include 20 pairs of Battle Dress Uniform (BDU), one improvised explosive device (20-litre can with detonating cord, blasting cap and triggering device), one ICOM charger, one motorcycle without plate number, 100 rounds of 7.62-mm ammunition, six backpacks containing propaganda materials and other subversive documents, 19 lunchboxes, and a terrain model laid on the ground.

The rebels are believed from the Guerrilla Front 4A who were reportedly planning wide-scale atrocity based on information gathered in the encounter site and recovered materials, Osias added.

He said government troopers are now pursuing the rebels who fled deeper toward the mountainous terrain in the borders of Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental.

Osias said there were no reports of injury nor casualty on the government side.

Operatives nab ASG suspect in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Operatives nab ASG suspect in Zamboanga City

A suspected member of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the third suspect nabbed this month, was collared in Zamboanga City Friday morning, a report reaching here said Saturday.

Maj. Edgardo Amores, spokesperson of the army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, identified the suspect as Jailani Basirul.

Amores said Basirul has several warrants of arrest issued by the judicial courts of Isabela in the province of Basilan on cases of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

He said a combined element of the military and police of Task Force Zamboanga led by Col. Glenn Macasero apprehended Basirul in Valderoza St. Barangay Zone 1 in Zamboanga City Friday afternoon.He was brought to regional PNP headquarters in Camp Battala, Zamboanga City.

Amores said Basirul was the third suspected ASG member nabbed by military and police operatives in Zamboanga City this month.

The two other suspects identified as Sajid Amajad and Abu Edil Amajad who were collared on the strength of arrest warrants issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, of Zamboanga City with murder.

Maj. Gen. Rainier Cruz, commander of the army’s 3rd ID, commended the civilian populace for their cooperation with the military and police that lead to the arrest of the suspects in Zamboanga City.

He said the civilians tipped off law enforcers of the presence of the suspects in their areas.

Cruz acknowledged the important role of the civilians in the fight against criminality and the stability of in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

He said that no amount of military and police operations would succeed without the support of the civilian populace anywhere in the country.

Leader of Sulu gunmen flees Malaysia: police

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 16): Leader of Sulu gunmen flees Malaysia: police

Agbimuddin Kiram, who has led a deadly standoff with Malaysian security forces in Sabah state, is believed to have fled the country, police said Saturday.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said evidence suggested Agbimuddin might have fled sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday and back to southern Philippines, possibly hiding in one of islands off Tawi-Tawi of southern Philippines, less than one hour boat trip to the east coast of Sabah.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said earlier that Agbimuddin had abandoned his men and fled to his native southern Philippines.

Malaysian authorities are gathering evidence to extradite the Agbimuddin to Malaysia to face charges, Hamza said.

Agbimuddin led a group of some 200, including some heavily armed, to Sabah in early Feburary to stake a territorial claim over Sabah on behalf of his brother, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

In the Phillippines, Kiram's family denied that Agbimuddin had fled Malaysia, saying the announcement of Malaysian authorities was a mere "propaganda."

Agbimuddin has been hiding since Malaysian security forces launched an all-out operation on March 5 to flush out the gunmen.

So far, at least 10 security forces personnel and more than 50 gunmen were killed during the month-long standoff.

Both Philippine and Malaysian navy have stepped up patrol in the border waters to intercept Sulu gunmen who either try to flee or get into Sabah.

Hamza told a press conference on Saturday that so far 104 have been arrested under Security Offences Act 2012, a new law used to arrest suspected terrorists, while 232 people are being held under different laws.

The authorities believe that less than 50 terrorists are still in the operation area.

Malaysia, sultanate argue over Raja Muda's whereabouts

From InterAksyon (Mar 16): Malaysia, sultanate argue over Raja Muda's whereabouts

Malaysia and the sultanate of Sulu made conflicting claims on the whereabouts of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led more than 200 followers to Sabah last month to press their claim to the territory.

On Friday, Malaysia’s official Bernama news agency, reported that Agbimuddin, crown prince of the sultanate, had fled Sabah, abandoning his followers, and returned to the Philippines.

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.

But on Saturday, Abraham Idjirani, spokesman and secretary general of the sultanate, dismissed the reports as "propaganda" timed for the approaching Malaysian elections.

Idjirani said he last spoke with Agbimuddin on Friday and was told the crown prince is still in Sabah, where he has continued to evade operations by Malaysian security forces.

There have been indications that Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organization is increasing efforts to link the Sabah crisis to the general elections, with the UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia newspaper claiming that the sojourn of Agbimuddin and his followers was supposed to “take advantage of the election process to throw the country into chaos.”

Bernama also quoted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin of accusing the opposition of wanting to stir disorder to disrupt the elections.

In the Philippines, where mid-term elections are scheduled in May, President Benigno Aquino III has also claimed that a “conspiracy” was behind the Sabah journey of the sultanate’s followers.