Saturday, March 23, 2013

Protest permanent presence of US military forces in the Philippines--CPP

From the CPP Website (Mar 23): Protest permanent presence of US military forces in the Philippines--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today urged the Filipino people to raise their voices in protest against the increasing frequency of US warship dockings in the Philippines that have resulted in the permanent presence of US military forces in the country in total disregard of Philippine sovereignty.

The CPP issued the call following the simultaneous docking yesterday of three US warships in Manila, Subic and Cebu which it described as “a triple slap on the face of Philippine sovereignty.” The USS Decatur naval destroyer docked at Manila Bay, while the USS Ohio submarine docked at Subic and the USS Frank Cable submarine tender at Cebu.

“The simultaneous dockings of these US military vessels clearly demonstrate that the US government and military treat the Philippines as nothing more than their naval outpost in the Asia-Pacific and that Benigno Aquino III acts like an American governor at the beck and call of his masters.”

Just a few days ago, the USS Emory S. Land, another submarine tender also docked at Subic. It was the source of toxic waste dumped off the coast of Subic by a US defense contractor last October 15.
These American military naval vessels came at a time when the grounding last January of the USS Guardian and the widespread damage it has caused to the corals and wildlife at the Tubbataha Reefs protected area remain unresolved, pointed out the CPP.

The Philippine government has miserably failed the Filipino people in its refusal to make the the USS Guardian personnel and the entire US military accountable for violations of Philippine laws,” added the CPP. “Worse, the US acted high-handedly in announcing the other day that it was seeking the cooperation of the Philippine government in the investigation that it would be carrying out on the grounding of the USS Guardian.”

“In the first place, it is the Philippine government that is supposed to carry out such an investigation. The American military officers and personnel of the grounded USS Guardian should have been remanded to the custody of Philippine authorities pending the investigation of their culpability,” said the CPP.

The CPP said the increasing frequency of the US military naval dockings in the Philippines is exacerbated by the permanent stationing of 700 US combat soldiers under the US Pacific Command’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P). The JSOTF-P is based in an exclusive area within Camp Navarro, the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The CPP reiterated the need to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Defense Treaty and other unequal military agreements between the Philippine and US governments.

Nur Misuari: Islamic Awakening Poster: The Bangsamoro Liberation War

Posted to the Facebook page of Nur Misuari:  Islamic Awakening Poster: The Bangsamoro Liberation War

The Bangsamoro Liberation War

Very few Muslims talk about Bangsamoro, which is not surprising as very few Muslims even know where it is or what it is. Whilst Palestine, Syria or Iraq are spoken about on the minbars and the Ummah rallies to support the Muslims in those lands, the Muslims of Bangsamoro continue their struggle with little support. The Ban...gsamoro Liberation War stands out among all conflicts in the Ummah if not solely because of its length, the Muslims of Bangsamoro have been engaged in a conflict that has lasted for 490 years, which makes it all the more shameful that most of us have never heard of it.

Bangsamoro is located south of the Philippines and to the East of Malaysia and Brunei. It is comprised of 4 main areas, the island of Mindanao, the islands of Sulu, the island of Palawan and Sabah which is part of the island of Borneo. When all of the smaller islands are counted the total number of islands in Bangsamoro exceeds 7,000. However, the bulk of the land is made up of the island of Mindanao which is the largest island of Bangsamoro.

The name Bangsamoro is derived from the word 'bangsa' which means 'land/nation' and 'Moro' which is the name that the Muslims of the region use to refer to themselves, though the term is ultimately derived from the era of Al-Andalus when the Muslims would be called 'Moros'. Therefore Bangsamoro translates as 'Land/Nation of the Muslims' which is why it earns itself the title of Bangsamoro Darul Islam.

The Muslims of Bangsamoro ruled over all of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, Sabah and also the cities of Mactan and Manila (the current capital of the Philippines) until Spanish and Portuguese Crusaders came and fought them, wanting to conquer their lands. The Spanish were led by Ferdinand Magellan, the infamous explorer who was killed by the Muslims in the Battle of Mactan. The leader of the Muslims who fought the Crusaders was Khalifa Lapu (known colloquially as Lapu-Lapu) who is a hero of the Bangsamoro nation.

The Spanish managed to take Manila and Mactan and much of Palawan, however they could never defeat the Muslims of Mindanao or Sulu. For centuries the Muslims remained independent, despite constant attacks by the Spanish. Eventually the British inherited many Spanish lands and became involved, however they too could not defeat the Muslims. Later the Japanese invaded during World War II and were similarly unable to conquer the Muslim populations of Mindanao or Sulu. The next army to come were the Americans who despite being barbaric in their attacks were also unable to subdue the Muslims. Since the Americans entered, the Filipino nation was born, and they, hand in hand with the Americans have fought the Muslims of Bangsamoro, still unable to defeat the Mujahideen.

The region of Sabah was claimed by the British who had conquered Malaysia, however the Muslims of Mindanao never accepted this, and when Malaysia became independent, the new nation made a claim to Sabah, despite the fact that it was not their land, rather it belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu.

The Muslims of Bangsamoro have been fighting for centuries, with very little support from the Muslim Ummah, yet they have never given up. Most recently the Moro Uprising began when the Filipino terrorist army slaughtered 200 innocent Muslims in the Jabidah Massacre, and led by Nur Misuari, the Muslims of Bangsamoro once again laid siege to the invaders to finally liberate the land of Bangsamoro. The struggle continues until today, and the Muslims have formed many groups to fight for their liberation, the MNLF, the MILF, Abu Sayyaf, BIFF and many others, however they are all united in the struggle for the liberation of Bangsamoro.

In the last week, a group of Muslims loyal to Jamulul Kiram III, a claimant to the Sultanate of Sulu entered into Sabah which is occupied by the Malaysian government and a large Christian population who are known for their oppression against Moros residing there. The Malaysian government sent in their Army who attacked the group killing 10 of them, as well as sending in planes to bomb the area of Lahad Datu where they set up base. The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) has said that as many as 10,000 of their fighters may be making their way to Sabah to protect Jamalul Kiram and his men.

It must be noted, that the MNLF, led by Nur Misuari have been consistent in their claim since their founding that Bangsamoro must be ruled by the Shari'ah and that the land will be an Islamic state, as it was in the past. The family of Misuari are devout and pious Muslims, his sons studied in Al-Azhar and taught at Islamic centres in the UAE, and his daughters wear the niqab and are covered head to toe. His closest advisors are all Islamically educated, the leader of the MNLF Mujahideen and advisor to Misuari is Ustadz Khabir Malik, a graduate of Madinah University and a scholar as well as a Mujahid.

The Malaysian government on the other hand is an apostate government who does not rule by Shari'ah nor has any desire to do so. Other than PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) there is no effort from any political group to implement Islam, and therefore the re-conquest of Sabah by the Mujahideen and implementation of the Shari'ah must be a goal that is welcomed by all Muslims, as well as the entire re-conquest of all Bangsamoro lands.

ARTICLE TAKEN FROM: Shaykh Musa Cerantonio Hafidhahullah

NEVER EVER FORGET THEM IN YOUR DUA... Share & Spread to Increase Awareness!!!!/photo.php?fbid=355855661186696&set=a.315173421921587.62830.315168201922109&type=1&theater

Bangsamoro Youth Holds Assembly

From the MILF Website (Mar 23): Bangsamoro Youth Holds Assembly

The Bangsamoro Youth Organizations from different schools, barangays and municipalities from eastern part of Maguindanao; Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato held a one-day Bangsamoro Youth Assembly with a theme “ Youth of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow” last March 19, 2013 at Datu Paglas National High School Covered Court, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

The theme symbolizes and categorizes the youth as the hope of the nation; and effective partners in sustaining and promoting the development of communities towards peace and order, social, economic, cultural, political and educational development.

Moreover, Sheikh Khalifa Nando, MILF Supreme Court Justice; and guest of honor stressed the essence and the role of the youth in nation building.

He said “The youth is the mainstream of the community in resolving issues or problems that may arise in the future; defending the nation; and leading advocacies for peace and development, unity and attaining harmonious relationship among sectors of society”.

“It is the basic responsibilities of the youth to correct the injustices committed in the past against its people; promote traditional and cultural practices that are not in conflict with the Islam; and to protect their identity as a nation”. “Through Islamic guidance, good upbringing; proper training and relevant education, the youth shall eventually become good leaders and managers in business and commercial companies; institutions and organizations; and possibly in the government. But the Moro youth shall in all their undertakings be guided by the Holy Qur’an and the tradition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”, Shiekh Nando further elaborated.

Thinker says “Let us combine the Vigor of the Youth and the Wisdom of the Elders”. This saying implies that the youth should be molded in their early age to become efficient, effective and productive individuals in the future. The youth is therefore, the power and light of a nation.

The assembly was attended by more or less one thousand participants from different youth organizations; local leaders and representatives from the MILF Central Committee.

Malaysia captures 2 key leaders of Sulu sultan in Sabah

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog site (Mar 23): Malaysia captures 2 key leaders of Sulu sultan in Sabah

Malaysian authorities have captured two important members of the Sultanate of Sulu in separate operations in Lahad Datu town in Sabah where security forces are pursuing the group.

Police said local villagers have tipped off authorities about the two men – one a logistic officer and the other a military strategist – who were part of a 200 loyal followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram.

Authorities said only 50 of the original members of the rag-tag army are being pursued by troops because many of them had been either killed or captured in fierce clashes in Sabah, an island being claimed both by Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu.

Malaysia said it killed more than 60 of the sultan’s men and captured over 300 people who were either supporting or aiding the group of Sultan Jamalul, who sent his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin to Sabah in February to lead the group.

Police said many of those killed in the Malaysian offensive were found carrying amulets or talisman; others had mystic words tattooed on their body believing it would save them from death or give them invincibility and supernatural powers.

But police said many of the sultan’s fighters were not saved by their belief in the supernatural and died from mortar explosions and gunshot wounds.

Mysticism is considered taboo in Malaysia, but in the Muslim provinces in the southern Philippines, many believed in talisman and amulets that supposedly give them supernatural power or ability to be invisible to enemies, among other folktales.

Authorities said Raja Muda Agbimuddin managed to escape the assault in Sabah and has fled to the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.

Filipino family of freed Aussie man pays P4 million ransom

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog site (Mar 23): Filipino family of freed Aussie man pays P4 million ransom

Basilan deputy governor Al Rashid Sakalahul, who played a key role in the safe release of kidnapped Australian man Warren Rodwell, speaking to the Mindanao Examiner.

The Filipino family of freed Australian man Warren Rodwell has paid P4 million ransom to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for his safe release.

Al Rashid Sakalahul, the deputy governor of the Muslim province of Basilan, who helped in the negotiations for Rodwell’s freedom, said the money was used to buy the foreigner’s freedom.

“It was Rodwell’s wife who really worked hard for this negotiation to succeed and they paid four million pesos to the kidnappers,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner late on Saturday.

Sakalahul said he did not know where the money was sourced, but the kidnappers initially wanted P7 million and lowered this to P6.5 million and eventually agreeing to only P4 million.

“It was really a tough negotiation, but in the end, with God’s help we managed to secure the release of Rodwell,” he said.

He said he made the admission to douse speculations that he benefitted from the ransom payment made by Rodwell’s wife Miraflor Gutang and her brother Roger.

“I don’t want to be accused by anyone that I benefited from this negotiation that’s why I came with this admission. My only mission is to save the life of Rodwell by getting him out from the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

Sakalahul said the Philippines or Australian authorities can investigate his claim or even ask Rodwell’s wife about the ransom payment.

“I am clean. My conscience is clean and I swear to God that I never benefited any single centavo from this negotiation, and even in the past where I also negotiated for the safe release of other kidnapped victims, I never got any money for my own. I cannot stomach dirty money and use this to feed my family and God is my witness,” he said.

The Philippines and Australia both have a strict no-ransom policy.

Kiram men crippled with arrest of 'commander' — Malaysian police

From GMA News (Mar 23): Kiram men crippled with arrest of 'commander' — Malaysian police

Malaysian security forces on Saturday claimed to have dealt followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah a major blow with the arrest of one of their "military commanders" early on Saturday morning.

A report on Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency said the Kiram commander was captured along with his wife in a swampy area in Semporna at 1:30 a.m.

Police Deputy Inspector General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar did not name the commander but described him as in his 40s.

"With the capture of the commander and a local stooge of the terrorists, I am confident the terrorist group is now crippled," Khalid said, adding residents tipped off the authorities to the commander and his wife.

He also said a supposed "coordinator" of the Kiram followers was arrested by security forces Friday night.

A separate report on The Star Online said the coordinator was arrested along with his wife.

Khalid described the "coordinator" as a local in his 40s, who provided for the needs of the Kiram followers such as "food, drinks, accommodation, transportation and medicine."

The coordinator was caught at 10 p.m. Friday in Kampung Tanduo, and is now being held under the Immigration Act, Khalid said.

"The local coordinator has been identified as the individual who made arrangements for food and drinks, accommodation, transportation and medicine for the terrorists since the early part of the intrusion," he said.

Kiram forces crippled?

Khalid said the capture of the commander and the coordinator will likely weaken and limit the remnants of the Kiram followers, who he said will now be "directionless."

But he said the offensives in Sabah that began March 5 will continue.

He said at least 408 people have so far been detained for offenses, while the number of Kiram followers shot dead remained at 63.

So far, he said 38 bodies of Kiram followers were retrieved from the operation area, including eight which were taken out of Kampung Tanjung Batu Friday.

The bodies were now undergoing postmortems at the Lahad Datu Hospital, he said.

Get your act together

In Manila, a Malacañang official on Saturday urged Kiram's camp to get their act together on the nationality of eight supporters who had been charged before a Malaysian court for their “intrusion” into Sabah.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte maintained that as far as Malacañang is concerned, the eight are Filipinos who will be given the needed assistance.

“They have to clarify their position. Isang araw, that particular side had condemned the filing of charges against eight people, they expressed concern (the) offense may carry (the) death penalty. Today they are singing a different tune, hindi ito (they are not) Filipinos but Malaysians,” she said on government-run dzRB radio.

Asked if the Palace considers the eight as Filipinos, she said that is the Philippine government’s “initial information,” adding, “We have not heard any contrary reports.”

Earlier Saturday, a report on dzBB radio said Kiram’s camp claimed the eight who were charged before a Malaysian court were Malaysians and not Filipinos.

While the eight were charged before a Malaysian court for engaging in terrorist activities, two of the eight face the death penalty after being slapped added charges of waging war against the King.

Valte also said the Philippine government had been granted access to the detained Kiram supporters, and will now focus on providing assistance to them.

“We will be taking the necessary steps to (giving) assistance that is needed,” she said.

Commander of Sulu gunmen detained: Malaysia

From ABS-CBN (Mar 23): Commander of Sulu gunmen detained: Malaysia

Malaysian security forces have crippled the movements of Filipino gunmen from Sulu after capturing their commander in Semporna, Malaysia's state news agency Bernama reported Saturday.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the man, who is believed to be in his 40s, and his wife, were caught at around 10 p.m. Friday in Kampung Tanduo and is now being held under the Immigration Act, the agency said.

The commander's name was not revealed.

A local resident who provided the gunmen's needs since last month was also detained by Malaysian security forces, Malaysian authorities said.

"The local coordinator has been identified as the individual who made arrangements for food and drinks, accommodation, transportation and medicine for the terrorists since the early part of the intrusion. With the capture of the commander and a local stooge of the terrorists, I am confident the terrorist group is now crippled," Khalid said.

Meanwhile, many residents in the area of the conflict are still reluctant to return to their homes but authorities say they are taking steps to make sure the area is safe.

Khalil said that to date, 408 people have been detained for numerous offenses, and 63 members of the Sulu royal army have been killed.

Magdalo soldiers to appeal guilty verdict

From ABS-CBN (Mar 23): Magdalo soldiers to appeal guilty verdict

First Lieutenants Rex Bolo and Lawrence San Juan, who were found guilty of committing coup d' etat for their participation in the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, will appeal their cases.
"Definitely we will appeal, kasi alam namin hindi dapat [guilty]," said Atty. Analyn Clarence, lawyer for San Juan and Bolo.

San Juan and Bolo were sentenced to 6 to 12 years imprisonment. They have been in the custody of the military since 2007.

The Oakwood mutiny, led by officers of the Philippine Navy, including now Sen. Antonio Trillanes, protested alleged corruption in the military under then President Gloria Arroyo.

In 2010, President Noynoy Aquino granted amnesty to members of the so-called Magdalo group, including Trillanes, on condition they would no longer return to the armed forces.

San Juan and Bolo opted not to avail of the offer since they wanted to go back to military service. They chose to fight it out in court.

Their lawyer had insisted the takeover of the Oakwood hotel in Makati City's commercial center could not be considered a coup since it occurred inside a private property.

Marines Improve School, Strenthen International Realationships During Pacific Angel

Posted to the US Pacific Command Website (Mar 22): Marines Improve School, Strenthen International Realationships During Pacific Angel

Sgt. William L. Bain, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, poses with children at an elementary school in Dumaguete, Philippines, while participating in Pacific Angel, March 3, 2013. Bain, 27, from Portland Ore., helped rebuild a dilapidated school during the 10-day project.

DUMAGUETE, Philippines - One can have no better friend and no worse enemy than a United States Marine. For many in Dumaguete, Philippines, they understand the benefits of such a friendship, thanks to the efforts of the service members who participated in Pacific Angel 2013, an annual joint humanitarian assistance mission.

Pacific Angel had two main efforts: medical and engineering. While medical professionals helped heal Filipino civilians, military engineers repaired and renovated three schools.

The medical portion of the operation was held in a Dumaguete stadium. Doctors with the Army, Navy, and Air Force treated more than 1,000 patients.

Engineers with the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Filipino Army worked together and shared their knowledge of construction projects.

This team included two engineers from 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.“We went out to three different job sites,” said Cpl. Cameron T. Grant, a combat engineer with Bravo Company, 7th ESB, 1st MLG.

“Each [site] had a number of different branches in it. We had a good opportunity to not just learn about the militaries of other countries but the other services as well.”

The schools repaired were in dire need of renovation. They had no walls, electricity or windows, and the concrete fences around the campuses had dangerous rebar sticking out, according to the Marines.

“Before [the work began] there were no walls,” said Sgt. William L. Bain, a combat engineer with 7th ESB. “After, it had electricity, walls with fresh paint, fans and windows. It was a complete 180.”

“[The Filipinos] were very excited and thankful that we were there. The locals were very helpful,” said Grant, 22, from Denver. “[Pacific Angel] was pretty heartwarming. It wasn’t so much the work we were doing but the time we spent with the people is what made it such a great experience.”

The Marines used their experience as combat engineers to repair the dilapidated school. Because of their integration into the other services, it was both a chance for them to learn and to teach their methodology of engineering.

“Instead of going out and doing something for training purposes, I was actually out there using my expertise,” said Grant. “I was taking what I learned from the military and using it to help out a community.”

Each team of about 20 engineers took about 10 days working on a school. In that time, the locals treated the service members like family.

“It was a short amount of time, but the biggest thing for me was getting to know the people there,” said Bain, 27, from Portland, Ore. “You got a chance to talk to them and learn from them.”

For the two 7th ESB Marines on Pacific Angel, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a truly rewarding experience.“I loved it,” said Bain. “I wish I could do it again because it was so rewarding helping those little kids out. When we left, the kids were crying, because they didn’t want us to leave.”

Retired cop gunned down in Samar

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Mar 23): Retired cop gunned down in Samar

CATARMAN, Northern Samar – A former intelligence officer of the Samar PNP was gunned down last Tuesday by two unidentified suspects near the provincial capitol building in Catbalogan City.
The police identified the victim as Police Senior Inspector Severino Solis, 60, a retired police officer and resident of said city. The crime occurred at around 7:15 Tuesday.
Police Inspector Romuel Nacar, media relations officer at Police Regional Office 8 (PRO8), said that based on reports reaching their office, Solis was about to leave after playing at the tennis court located just behind the Samar provincial capitol building when two unidentified men approached and shot the victim.
The gunmen were in their mid 20’s and could be members of the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the New People’s Army (NPA), the police official said.
Police Regional Director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria immediately sent directives to the Samar PNP to conduct a thorough investigation on the incident.
According to Nacar, police investigators are looking on several angles to find the motive behind this latest killing in Samar that victimized a retired police officer.
“He (Solis) has neutralized several private goons and illegal drugs pushers in Samar during his time as intelligence officer. Some of those groups may still be holding grudges against him,” Nacar said.
The police are also looking at the motive of business competition, as it was learned that Solis has entered into the contracting business when he retired in 2009.

NEGOR SP SAYS Army in-charge of CAFGU funds

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 23): NEGOR SP SAYS Army in-charge of CAFGU funds

The Negros Oriental Sangguniang Panlalawigan has approved the release of the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary budget directly to the 3 rd Division of the Philippine Army, and not through the town and city mayors as some SP members had earlier insisted.

Board Member Fritzy Lumjod-Zanoria sponsored the request from the Office of the Governor to change the nomenclature in the approved budget for SCAA-Peace and Order Program worth P600,000, and subsidy for peacekeeping activities at P1.5 million to “maintenance of the SCAA for subsistence allowance thru the 3 rd Division of the PA”.

The total budget of P2.1 million will now be directly coursed through the 3 rd PA Division.

BM Melliemoore Saycon said that, at the recent Peace and Order Council meeting, the town and city mayors were asking for the budget for the SCAA operating in their areas, claiming the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit members have been asking for their daily sustenance and uniforms.

Board Member Arnie Teves said it would be neutral to course through the budget to the Philippine Army because it is an apolitical organization and subject to the rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit.

The SCAA men are the force multipliers of the Army in maintaining peace and order in the mountain barangays of the province.

Abu Sayyaf frees Australian captive

From Rappler (Mar 23): Abu Sayyaf frees Australian captive

U.S. forces assisted in transporting Rodwell from Pagadian City to Zamboanga City

U.S. forces assisted in transporting Rodwell from Pagadian City to Zamboanga City

PAGADIAN, Philippines (5th UPDATE) - The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has released Australian Warren Rodwell, 15 months after kidnapping him from his home in Zamboanga Sibugay, the military said on Saturday, March 23.

As of posting, Rodwell, 56, is at the Camp Navarro hospital inside the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

From the hospital, he will be turned over to his family and officials of the Australian embassy, Westmincom spokesman Rodrigo Gregorio said in a statement.

The ASG released Rodwell at the port area in Pagadian City. He was rescued around 1:30 a.m. in a joint operation by the provincial police and the 1st Infantry Division of the AFP.

Pagadian is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Ipil, the southern Philippine town where Rodwell had been living with his Filipina wife before he was kidnapped on Dec 5, 2011.

From Pagadian City, Rodwell was airlifted by a helicopter and brought to the Westmincom.
Rodwell was taken from his residence in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay by 6 unindentified men using 3 motorcycles. Before his release, he was transferred to different locations in Basilan and Sulu.

"His release was made possible through the collective efforts of Rodwell's family, the Australian embassy, the LGUs, AFP, PNP, and other government agencies," said Gregorio.

A photo and short video taken by a journalist at the police station early Saturday showed a gaunt but smiling Warren Rodwell, sitting alongside two policemen.

In the video, Rodwell takes off a blue T-shirt and stands up to show off his body, smiling as he points to his ribs and says: "lose weight."

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “Our primary concern was to ascertain that Mr Rodwell would receive immediate medical attention. Presently his medical condition is being assessed and as soon as the doctors give clearance, we hope that he will be reunited with his family at the soonest possible time.”

Australia reacts

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Saturday welcomed the release of Rodwell, congratulating the Philippines on its handling of the case.

"The Philippines government had the lead role in this case and deserve congratulations for their tireless efforts on Mr Rodwell's behalf," Carr said in a statement after the Abu Sayyaf released Rodwell.

"I'm advised Mr Rodwell is now in the company of Philippines authorities, our deputy ambassador Andrew Byrne and a representative of the Australian Defense Force and will be moved to a safe location," Carr said.

Carr said all Australians would be wishing Rodwell well as he recovers from his 15 months in captivity.

"This is great news for Mr Rodwell and his family," Carr said.

"The Rodwell family has shown enormous courage throughout this ordeal. The focus now is on Mr Rodwell's speedy recovery."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilliard also told a press conference she welcomed the release of Rodwell. "Our thoughts are with Warren Rodwell on this day of his release, and with his family. I know that his family is keen to ensure that their privacy is respected at this time, and I am sure that our friends from the media will do that. But I think all Australians will be very pleased to hear this news and delighted on behalf of the Rodwell family."

Gilliard also said Rodwell's family has shown a "great deal of courage and stoicism in what has been a tremendously difficult situation."

The Abu Sayyaf previously released a series of video clips of Rodwell as proof he was still in their custody.

In one of the videos, Rodwell said his captors were demanding US$2 million in ransom. It was unclear Saturday if any ransom money was indeed paid for his release.


It was in late December 2012, that a proof of life video was released by the Abu Sayyaf. At the time, they had already demanded a P1-million ransom but raised it to $2 million by early 2012.

Also in December 2012, a Facebook account shared the same video with this message: “Attention!!!! … Warren Rodwell Australian kidnapped victim.” It provided a mobile number saying, “He is in need of help.”

It marked the first time that kidnappers used social media for ransom payments.

Confirmed release

Al Rasheed Sakkalahul, the vice governor of the southern island of Basilan who negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for Rodwell's release, told AFP the militants called him up to confirm the hostage was freed in Pagadian.

"Thank God that our problem has been solved. I did what I had to do. I've done my part, my duty and my responsibility as an elected official in Basilan," he said.

Sakkalahul would not say if ransom money was paid, insisting he merely acted as an intermediary.
"Rodwell's family directly negotiated with the kidnappers and I do not know if they paid ransom... my role was to get Rodwell out safely," he said.

Abu Sayyaf

The Abu Sayyaf is one of many armed Islamist groups operating in the southern Philippines, which has been home to a deadly Muslim separatist insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives since the 1970s.

It is believed to have only a few hundred militants but has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in recent Philippine history, and has a long history of kidnapping foreigners, Christians and local business people for ransom.

Rodwell settled in Ipil with his Filipina wife, Miraflor Gutang, in 2011, according to local authorities. The former soldier had worked as a teacher in China before marrying Gutang, whom he met on the Internet.

Many foreign governments warn their citizens to avoid the violence-plagued parts of the southern Philippines, including Ipil, because of the high risk of kidnappings.

The Abu Sayyaf was set up in the troubled region in the early 1990s with funding from the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden and was initially led by a Filipino militant who fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

About 600 US Special Forces troops have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2002, assigned to train Filipino counter-terrorism troops and in how to quash groups like Abu Sayyaf.
However the US forces are not allowed to engage in combat, unless in self-defense when attacked.

The inside story: Ransom and Rodwell

From Rappler (Mar 23): The inside story: Ransom and Rodwell

RELEASED. Kidnapped Australian national Warren Rodwell (L) sits next to Philippine police superintendent Jilius Munez (R) at the police station in Pagadian City, in southern island of Mindanao early March 23, 2013, shortly after his release. The Abu Sayyaf released Australian Warren Rodwell, more than 14 months after kidnapping him from his home in Zamboanga, the military said on March 23. AFP PHOTO / Jong Cadion

RELEASED. Kidnapped Australian national Warren Rodwell (L) sits next to Philippine police superintendent Jilius Munez (R) at the police station in Pagadian City, in southern island of Mindanao early March 23, 2013, shortly after his release. The Abu Sayyaf released Australian Warren Rodwell, more than 14 months after kidnapping him from his home in Zamboanga, the military said on March 23. AFP PHOTO / Jong Cadion

Although kidnappers of 54-year-old Australian Warren Richard Rodwell had agreed to release him Thursday, March 21, it was not until early Saturday morning that he was actually freed.

Rappler gathered from military intelligence sources that by Thursday night, “negotiations” for his release were over and that he was supposed to be handed over to a local official in Barangay Cabangalan in the municipality of Tipo Tipo, Basilan.

But this did not happen because, according to sources, some local officials and middlemen seemed to have taken part of the ransom.

Days after the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Rodwell from his home in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur on Dec 5, 2011, they set an initial P1-million ransom demand. But By January 2012, they upped this to US$2-M.

On Thursday, March 21, sources told Rappler that Rodwell’s kidnappers had agreed to release him for P5 million. But it seems that when the money reached the kidnappers, it was down to only P1.5 million. This scuttled the agreement to release Rodwell, according to military and police sources.

Whoever paid the ransom agreed to pay more money. This reportedly facilitated Rodwell’s release at past 1:00 am of Saturday, March 23.

Officials have not publicly spoken about ransom payment. At least 6 other foreign hostages are still in the hands of kidnappers in Mindanao -- one Japanese, one Swiss, one Dutch, one Jordanian and 2 Malaysians. A third Malaysian was released by kidnappers this month.

Last Feb 2, 2013, kidnappers released the 2 Filipino TV crew of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network. The ASG released Atyani's cameraman Ramil Vela and audio technician Roland “Buboy” Letrero on Jolo island; but Atyani remains in captivity. The 3 were kidnapped in June 2012.

Kidnap-for-ransom has become a cottage industry for the Abu Sayyaf, a group once funded and supported by al-Qaeda in the early 1990s.

Mindanao CSOs back GPH-MILF peace talks, slam 'spoilers'

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23): Mindanao CSOs back GPH-MILF peace talks, slam 'spoilers'

Mindanao non-government organizations (NGOs)advocating for peace on Friday urged the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)to continue the talks for Mindanao and make it a bit faster.

"We call upon the MILF and the Philippine government to continue the talks for peace in Mindanao,” Dats Magon of the United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc. (UNYPAD) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Societies (CBCS), made the appeal during the Peace Rally in Davao City’s Freedom Park attended by civil society organizations, peace advocates, religious and, youth and women groups as well as uniformed men and women from the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Task Force Davao (TFD).

Magon condemned the efforts of some “spoilers” who want to derail the GPH-MILF peace process for selfish interests and vowed that the Bangsamoro youth will support and defend the gains of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.

He said only during the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino that the Muslims and peace advocates of Mindanao feel the government's sincerity in resolving the decades old conflict that have already claimed thousands of lives.

He also said that there are far more constituency who supports the peace process who feels and sees that the resolution of the problems in Mindanao is the “most immediate concern that needs to be addressed."

"We call on the government and the MILF panels not to pay attention to the few groups who want to destroy the peace talks, we are ready to defend, we are ready to stand and even lay down our lives just to save the talks between the government and the MILF. We are not afraid,” Magon added.

"We are calling on all Bangsamoro, we are being used by some selfish groups. Let’s analyze the issue on Sabah, let’s investigate deeper so that we can uncover the underlying interests of the few," Magon urged.

Pastor Dan Pantoja of the Peacebuilders Community, Inc. and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, an organization of 5,000 churches, also urged for support among its members and other stakeholders for the continued peace negotiation between the GPH and the MILF.

"We should not waste what we have already won, what we already gained. We should move forward to the path of peace," Pantoja said.

"Let’s continue the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, let’s also pray for the peaceful solution of the Sabah crisis and let’s also pray for those affected but the Framework Agreement is separate from the Sabah issue. We already sent relief assistance to those affected by the crisis but let us focus on the FAB," he added.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, Mindanao People’s Caucus secretary general and one of the lead organizers of the Peace Rally in Davao City, pointed out that the gathering of the different stakeholders shows the firm support of the people towards the peace negotiations between the GPH and the MILF.

She also condemned the groups aiming to derail the ongoing peace process by dragging it to the Sabah crisis.

“We have already seen the solution to inside the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and we should already have started the transition towards our road map for peace but now we have seen some groups trying to drag the peace negotiations towards the Sabah issue. They want us to give up on our peace gains and instead focus on Sabah: It’s not fair! It’s not fair that we leave the peace that we have painstakingly worked together here in Mindanao and instead give support to the conflict in Sabah,” Arnado stressed.

Arnado called on the people to go out and show support to the GPH and the MILF peace panels who unquestionably have shown their commitment and sincerity for the completion of the comprehensive agreement and stop the “self-interests of a selfish few who use the Sabah issue to derail the peace process and advance their self interests," she pointed out.

"Let’s prioritize building peace and development here in Mindanao, this is our home, this is where we live, whatever conflict that happens here, we are directly affected,” Arnado said, challenging the “spoilers” to pool in resources for the peace in Mindanao instead of pouring in resources to sow conflict in Sabah and sufferings of innocent people.

Youth and women sector also participated and showed support and solidarity during the peace rally.

Memen Lauzon-Gatmaytan representing the Women Engaged in Action on UNHCR 1325 said that the comprehensive peace agreement between the GPH and the MILF has huge implications on the peace and security not only in Mindanao but the whole country as well.

Lauzon pointed out that during conflicts; it is the women and the children who are the most vulnerable to sufferings, that is why it is important that they (women) must firmly support the completion of the comprehensive agreement between the GPH and the MILF.

Generation Peace Youth Network representative Elize Baderas led the youth in calling for the continuation of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations pointing out that the negotiations should not be dragged into the Sabah issue.

Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. represented by Elizabeth Yang, also expressed support to the call for the GPH and the MILF panels to continue and finish the Annexes on the FAB and also the tasks of the Transition Commission in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law adding that what’s happening in Mindanao also affects the whole country.

Gph and MILF peace panels are expected to meet anew in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to continue discussions on the annexes of the Framework Agreement, specifically on power and wealth sharing.

Abu Sayyaf bandits free Australian hostage

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23): Abu Sayyaf bandits free Australian hostage

The Abu Sayyaf bandits have released before dawn Saturday the Australian national they have kidnapped over a year ago in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay province, officials announced.

Police Regional Office (PRO-9) spokesman Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca said Warren Richard Rodwell was freed around 1:10 a.m. Saturday at the fishing port of Pagadian City, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur.

Huesca said that a civilian, who saw Rodwell walking along the port area of Pagadian City, brought the Australian national to the 903rd Maritime Police Station.

The maritime policemen headed by Supt. Eurem Jay Macasil then turned over Rodwell to Pagadian City police station commander Supt. Julius Muñez for safe keeping and documentation, Huesca said.

“At exactly 1:30 a.m., March 23 I was called by Puruji Indama (saying) that Mr. Warren Rodwell, Australian kidnap victim is being left by his abductor at Pagadian fisheries building, Pagadian City. I immediately called our provincial director Senior Supt. (Mario) Dapillosa and the brigade commander Col. (Charlie) Galvez to contact their counterpart in Pagadian City,” Basilan Vice-Gov. Alrasheed Sakkalahul said.

Sakkalahul’s assistance has been tapped three weeks ago by Rodwell’s Filipino wife, Miraflor Gutang, to help in the efforts to seek the safe release of her husband.

Indama is a Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader.

Both Huesca and Sakkalahul did not say whether or not ransom was paid in exchange for the release of Rodwell.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits have originally demanded US$ 2 million in exchange for Rodwell’s freedom.

Sakkalahul said he could not say whether there was ransom or “board and lodging” payment since it was Rodwell’s family who directly negotiated with the kidnappers.

Rodwell, 54, was seized by gunmen on December 5, 2011 from his home in Ipil, the capital town of Zamboanga Sibugay.

He was airlifted to this city from Pagadian City and was taken to the Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH) for medical check-up.

GPH-MILF resume talks in KL Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23): GPH-MILF resume talks in KL Monday

Efforts to find lasting solution to the Mindanao problem resumes Monday as government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace negotiators meet anew for the 37th exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Mohaqher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, said next week's exploratory talks will dwell more on the annexes on power-wealth sharing and normalization, two of the remaining vital issues.

"I hope we can agree on these issues during our next meeting," Iqbal said in a phone interview.

Iqbal, who heads the Transition Commission created by the President to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, is optimistic next Monday's meeting will not be disturbed by the conflict in Sabah.

Iqbal refused to comment on the matter, claiming silence would be the best MILF could do in the current situation.

During the 36th exploratory talks, also in Malaysia, both the government and MILF peace negotiators signed one of the four annexes, the transitional arrangements and modalities or TAM.

As the Sabah issue intensified last month, government chief negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said she was very optimistic the peace deal will be signed next month.

Iqbal said the power and wealth sharing has been agreed upon but the signing is yet to take place.

After the signing, the Transition Commission is expected to convene immediately to draft the proposed basic law.

The draft will then be forwarded to Congress for approval and once signed by the President it will sent to the people for ratification.

It will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where most of the Bangsamoro people reside.

ARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Simultaneous with the resumption of the peace talks, peace rallies will be spearheaded by the Mindanao peace advocates groups in Cotabato City, Marawi City and Pikit in North Cotabato.