Thursday, May 9, 2013

Standoff: MILF rebs won’t leave MNLF area

From the Manila Standard Today (May 9): Standoff: MILF rebs won’t leave MNLF area

Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front forces remained locked in a standoff in Barangay Marbel, Matalam, North Cotabato on Wednesday, triggering fears of a bloody clash which could seriously affect the holding of the mid-term elections in the area.

Military reports said that 4,000 MNLF fighters had surrounded the position of hundreds of the MILF rebels in Barangay Marbel.

The MILF rebels had refused to vacate the MNLF territory since Tuesday despite being told by MNLF rebels to vacate the area.

The incident had already left one person dead in the ensuing firefight and had displaced nearly 3,000 residents in the area.

Commission on Elections officials in North Cotabato is reportedly coordinating with Philippine National Police and military officials on the possible relocation of polling precincts in the area in anticipation of a possible clash between the two Muslim groups.

“Should the MILF forces refuse to withdraw from the MNLF controlled area, fighting could erupt as they are now fully surrounded by heavily armed MNLF fighters,” said MNLF Peace Panel Member Absalom Cerveza.

The MILF forces, together with some government peace advocates entered Brgy. Marbel early morning Tuesday to conduct a peace dialogue among residents in the area as part of a peace caravan for the framework agreement between the government and the MILF.

But the residents, most of whom support the MNLF, ignored the presence of the peace caravan and instead left their homes for fear of harassment.

Fighting between the MILF forces led by commander Hadji Ali Mashur and Datu Demat Pedtamanan and the MNLF group led by Datu Dima Ambel erupted after the MNLF accused the MILF of “pressuring” the residents to join the peace caravan.

Police forces have already been mobilized in Brgy Marbel and parts of Matalam town to secure the residents and prevent the violence from escalating.

Amy 6th Infantry Division Spokesman Colonel Dixon Hermoso said army troopers were also deployed at the outskirts of Brgy Marbel but added that their troops would not interfere in the stand-off.

North Cotabato provincial Police Director Supt. Danilo Peralta said the lack of proper coordination by the MILF and peace advocates had triggered the fighting.

Cerveza said Brgy Marbel town has been turned into a no-man’s land since the residents had already left their homes.

Meanwhile, Cerveza noted that that MNLF Commander Datu Dima Ambel is a tested fighter who was originally a member of the group of 90 also known as “black shirts” who figured in the Mindanao rebellion in the 70s.

Ambel was also a part of the Mindanao Independent Movement under the command of Untog Matalam, together with former MNLF commanders Jerry Salapuddin, Alonto and several others, Cerveza added.

Datu Dima Ambel belongs to the council of 15 under self proclaimed MNLF chieftain Muslimin Sema, but he also has good relations with MNLF commanders,” he said.

Army, rebels clash in Gingoog

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (May 9): Army, rebels clash in Gingoog

MARINES securing the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines encountered members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Samay in Gingoog City on Thursday morning.

Major Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division (4th IB) of the Philippine Army, said the marines encountered the NPA rebels while they were on foot patrol coming in from behind the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) for Barangay Samay.

Bongosia said the NPA withdrew after the encounter, but it left one marine wounded.
Bongosia said the marines are now securing the perimeter of the polling centers in the hinterland barangays of Gingoog City, while another troops are pursuing the fleeing rebels.

Bongosia added the 500 marines coming from the Marine Landing Battalion 3 have secured remote barangays in Misamis Oriental, Gingoog City, and Agusan provinces.

Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8th IB) also encountered rebels in Barangay Sigundanon in Kitaotao town on Thursday morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Romualdo Landingan, commanding officer of the 8th IB, said the army was securing the route for the BEIs leading toward Sigundahon when they soldiers clashed with the NPA rebels.

Landingan said the rebels were spotted by the army and an encounter ensued. The firefight lasted for several minutes before the rebels withdrew.

Landingan added that at the time of the encounter, the BEIs, PCOS machines and election paraphernalia were still on their way for distribution to the polling centers in the areas.

“The soldiers were able to clear the area and the BEIs passed safely,” Landingan said.
Landingan added the soldiers are there to ensure the security and protection of the BEIs in polling centers and to guarantee peaceful and fair elections, “where our people are unhampered to exercise their right to vote,” Landingan said.

In Barangay Pagan in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, soldiers who were patrolling in the area clashed with about 20 rebels. The firefight lasted for five minutes, but there was no casualty or injured from both sides in the encounter, Bongosia told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.

Bongosia said the encounter resulted to the delay in the delivery of PCOS machines intended for three villages in Pagan, Kulaman, and Sigundanon.

The army advised the police of delay of the delivery of the machines until the areas were secured and no single NPA member is sighted.

Bongosia said the encounter could possibly be considered as election-related violence since the army has received reports that the rebels intend to disturb the delivery of the PCOS machines.

“This could be considered as election-related since the NPAs would want to create trouble to disrupt the upcoming elections,” he said.

NPAs clash with Marines escorting teachers carrying PCOS machines in Gingoog

From MindaNews (May 9): NPAs clash with Marines escorting teachers carrying PCOS machines in Gingoog

Suspected communist rebels clashed today with a team of Philippine Marines escorting a group of teachers carrying precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in a hinterland village just two kilometers away from where Mayor Ruthie Guingona was ambushed recently in Gingoog City, the military said.

Meanwhile, in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, an Army team that went ahead of the teachers carrying several PCOS machines engaged suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a 15-minute firefight in Barangay Pagan also Thursday morning.

Maj. Leo Bongosia, public information officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the two incidents came as the 4ID prepares for providing the security of teachers who will be manning the polling places on election day on Monday.

“Our troops were doing their election duties in bringing the BEIs (board of election inspectors) and PCOS machines to their respective polling places when these incidents happened,” he said.

Bongosia said the Gingoog clash took place in Barangay Samay. “The rebels just allowed the BEIs and teachers to pass before they engaged the Marines, who were right behind,” Bongosia said.
Barangay Samay is located just two kilometers from Barangay Capitulangan, where Mayor Guingona’s party was ambushed last April 20. Two of her aides died in the ambush.

The ambush of the mayor, wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, prompted President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to deploy a battalion of the elite Philippine Marines in Gingoog to run after the NPA rebels.

In the Kitaotao clash, Bongosia said no one was hurt but because of the incident, the PCOS machines were not delivered to Barangay Pagan.

Military said ‘abducted’ rural worker is a ranking NPA

From Malaya (May 10): Military said ‘abducted’ rural worker is a ranking NPA
THE commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Mindanao yesterday denied claims by Karapatan that 60-year-old Estelita Tacalan, a community organizer and health worker, was abducted by government forces.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya criticized Karapatan for blaming him and the military.
“There is no truth to pronouncements that she was abducted and that I was the one who ordered the abduction…They (Karapatan) should not just make an accusation, they have to find out first (the circumstances), they can always ask the PNP,” he said.

Visaya said Tacalan alias “Elsa Rentong” and “Nanay Neneng,” is the second deputy secretary of the communist movement’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

“She was actually arrested (by) combined military and PNP forces,” said Visaya.

The 4th ID commander said Tacalan was apprehended in Cogon, Cagayan de Oro City by virtue of arrest warrants for murder, frustrated murder and arson.

Karapatan officials said Tacalan, a widow with three children, is a community organizer and health worker of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis party list in Northern Mindanao.

Fr. Christopher Ablon, Karapatan secretary general in the region, said Tacalan was snatched by suspected state agents around 9 a.m. last April 27 in Cagayan de Oro City while on her way to Misamis Oriental.

Karapatan had denounced the appointment of Visaya saying he is a protégé of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has been tagged as a human rights violator, and is now a fugitive.

NDF orders release of Comval Gov's police escort, 71st IB soldier

Posted to the CPP Website (May 9): NDF orders release of Comval Gov's police escort, 71st IB soldier

Rubi Del Mundo
NDFP Southern Mindanao Chapter

The National Democratic Front Southern Mindanao has ordered the Comval-Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command New People’s Army to undertake the release of its two Prisoners of War (POWs) in response to the humanitarian appeal by the prisoners’ families, representatives from the local GPH units, and peace advocates.

To expedite the implementation of this release order of POWs 71st Infantry Battalion member Private First Class Jesus Tomas and Senior Police Officer 2 Allan Mariquit Pansoy, the 10th ID-AFP must reciprocate by immediately effecting a suspension of all offensive military and police operations in Maco, Mabini, Nabunturan, Mawab and Pantukan towns that are being considered by the NPA custodial unit as possible release site.

A SOMO and a SOPO are requisites to ensure the safe and orderly process of the release of the POWs to the ICRC and concerned members of GPH provincial officials and church leaders who shall then turn over the POWs to their respective families.
The NDF reiterates that the NPA will remain in active defense to protect itself from treacherous military operations, as in the case of the NPA’s killing of two soldiers in Kitaotao, Bukidnon yesterday May 8 that attempted to disrupt the release of Prisoner of War Arakan policeman PO3 Maula Tato Ali in North Cotabato.

The GPH SOMO and SOPO in selected areas in Compostela Valley should include the AFP’s combat support and special operations bearing the facade of “peace and development” operations.

If and when the GPH orders a SOMO/SOPO, the POWs custodial unit shall undertake the release procedures after it has verified the AFP and the PNP’s compliance on the ground.

The impending release of the POWs is an act of political authority and gesture of goodwill in direct contrast to the GPH’s recent obstinate and arrogant repudiation of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.

It is idiotic for Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles to say that the NDF, NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines “should have a clear agenda for ending violence and bringing peace to the people.”

The arrest of POW Police officer Pansoy in an NPA checkpoint, April 28, reflected the NPA’s consistent compliance to the people’s defense guidelines banning armed politicians and campaigners in revolutionary territories. On the other hand, the arrest of POW Army soldier Tomas, April 24, demonstrated the NPA’s commitment in exacting revolutionary justice against a fascist AFP unit responsible for killing and wounding of children under the pretext of “legitimate encounter” with the NPA. The NDF had also suspended criminal proceedings against Tomas even as it remains committed to pursue revolutionary justice for slain peasant child Roque Antivo.

Both arrests of the POW and now with the forthcoming unconditional release of these two members of the AFP/PNP are acts that were clearly committed in the interest of civilians, forge peace and order in guerrilla bases and guerrilla zones, and tackle the issue of justice and retribution.

For Deles to say that the peace process requires the cessation of hostilities is merely to echo the rotten line peddled by her predecessors and the GPH itself. The NPA’s punitive actions, tactical offensives and special operations bring justice in a society ruled with injustice. These acts address the roots of the armed conflict and reflect the NDF’s application of the principles and laws of human rights and international humanitarian law in the course of the country’s long-running civil war.

It is Deles who is in a “disconnect” to the very issues that the peace process seek to address to. By “advising” to abandon negotiations at the national level and by absurdly campaigning for a “new approach” through “localized peace process,” Deles has shown that indeed, she is very much disconnected with the aspirations of ordinary Filipinos: an escape from the clutches of fascism, exploitation and oppression of the ruling system.

2 NPAs apprehended in Magallanes encounter

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9): 2 NPAs apprehended in Magallanes encounter

Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were captured recently following an encounter on May 1 at Barangay Siuton, Magallanes town this province.

Colonel Teody T. Toribio, commanding officer of the 31st Infantry Battalion, said that his soldiers under Captain Christopher Santander encountered 10 NPAs while on combat patrol in the forested area of the same place.

“The 10-minutes firefight did not bring any harm to our soldiers while we recovered three M16 rifles, a landmine, and subversive documents,” said Col. Toribio.

Toribio disclosed that they received reports from concerned citizens that NPA groups will be conducting extortion to some political candidates in Magallanes prompting them to conduct combat operation.

Santander, meanwhile, narrated that during the firefight, they have heard voices shouting for surrender, and that he immediately ordered his men for ceasefire.

“They were laying face down on the ground with their firearms by their side when they were captured”, described Santander.

The two captured rebels were identified as Judy Torres a.k.a. Ka Rolly, 33 years old, a resident of Brgy Dolos, Bulan, Sorsogon; and Jomar Gracilla, 19 years old, resident of Brgy Pili, Magallanes, Sorsogon. The two belong to the NPA's Front Committee 80 in Sorsogon. “Both of them were not hurt and were treated well at the headquarters of the 31IB in Brgy Rangas in Juban, Sorsogon,” said Santander. 

Colonel Joselito Kakilala, Commander of 903rd Brigade, lauded the quick response of the soldiers to the reports of the civilians. He also praised the soldiers involved in the operation for their professional conduct in the observance of the Rules of Engagement and Human Rights.

The encounter was the second to happen within the span of three days in Bicol. On April 29, 2013, soldiers of the 83IB in Catanduanes have also encountered 10 NPA rebels in San Andres town that yielded an M16 rifle and leaving one soldier wounded.

1 Cafgu killed, 2 soldiers wounded by rebels while on election duty in CamSur

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9): 1 Cafgu killed, 2 soldiers wounded by rebels while on election duty in CamSur

A militiaman was killed and two soldiers were wounded when 20 suspected New People’s Army rebels attacked their group at around 4:15 a.m. Thursday in the remote village of Agao-ao in Ragay, Camarines Sur.

The victims were part of a group of seven soldiers and five members of the Citizens Auxiliary Forces Geographical Units (Cafgu) under the 49th Infantry Battalion (49IB) that were on election duty in the village.

Lt. Col. Michael Buhat, 49IB commanding officer, believed that the rebel side also suffered casualties as bloodstains were scattered at the enemies’ position and withdrawal route.

“The soldiers were dispatched to Barangay Agao-ao Elementary School to provide security for the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines that arrived in the area,” Buhat said.

The casualties were still in the area as of press time and combat medics were attending to the wounded.

Buhat said the two soldiers are now in stable condition.

“A Humvee field ambulance is on its way for casualty evacuation while the Philippine Air Force has been alerted for possible air evacuation if needed,” he said.

“At present, we are giving priority to the well-being of our wounded soldiers and to the bereaved family of the dead Cafgu,” he added.

Buhat did not identify the victims as their respective families have yet to be informed.

He said additional troops were sent in the area for pursuit and clearing operation.

Col. Richard Q Lagrana, commander of the 902nd Infantry Brigade, meanwhile said, “In the wake of the incident, we will continue to provide security to ensure that the people could freely and safely exercise their right to vote and deter the rebels from conducting atrocities as elections near.

Two army soldiers killed, six seriously wounded in Kalinga ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9): Two army soldiers killed, six seriously wounded in Kalinga ambush

The Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) based here confirmed late afternoon Thursday the death of two soldiers and critical wounding of six others in a 9:30 a.m. ambush staged by a band of armed men in Sitio Patiking, Barangay Bagumbayan, Tabuk City in Kalinga Province.

PROCOR public information officer Police Senior Superintendent Dave Limmong identified the killed soldiers as Corporal Wilfredo Bacacao, a native of Lubuagan, Kalinga, and Corporal Allen Pattaguan, a native of Cagayan Province.

The ambushed soldiers belong to the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army serving the province of Kalinga.

The six soldiers wounded were identified as: TSGT Herminigildo Vergara, Tsgt Constante Alupante, Tsgt Rico Delacuesta, SSgt. Michael Adducul, Sgt. Wayne Aguinaldo and Pfc. Delfin Goyagoy.

They remain at a hospital in that province for medical treatment, but doctors said that one of them in critical condition might be airlifted to Cauayan, Isabela any time from now.

They were escorting the "Air 21", a company contracted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to deliver 28 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to Lubuagan, Kalinga which will be used in the May 13 mid-term elections.

Army colonel Roger Salvador, commanding officer of the ambushed soldiers, said Bacacao and Pattaguan were critically wounded in the ambush, and together with their comrades in arms exchanged fires with the armed band believed to belong to the New People's Army (NPA) if only to protect the Air 21 personnel.

Kalinga provincial election supervisor Dexter Cawis said the Comelec is now studying whether to place the 3,119.7-square kilometer Kalinga Province under Comelec control due to the presence of communist insurgents in the area.

PN denies involvement in shooting of Taiwanese fisherman

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): PN denies involvement in shooting of Taiwanese fisherman

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Friday announced that it has no involvement in the incident wherein a Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed off the West Philippine Sea (WPS) last Thursday.

"The PN denies any involvement in, much as it were saddened by, the news about an incident where a Taiwanese fisherman was reportedly shot and the wound led to his death," Navy spokesperson for the WPS issues Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

He added that all vessels assigned to Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL), which has jurisdiction over the WPS, are in port or in Subic, Zambales or Sual, Pangasinan at the time of the alleged shooting.

(Per the daily operational report of NFNL chief Commodore Nodolfo Tejada) On 10: 30 p.m. May 9, all Navy vessels under his command are in port or in Subic, Zambales or Sual, Pangasinan," Arevalo stressed.

He added that the PN is now conducting its own verification of the incident.

Taiwan on Thursday demanded an apology from the Philippine government as it condemned the shooting of a Taiwanese fishing boat by a Philippine vessel that killed at least one fisherman in disputed waters.

The slain fisherman was identified as Hung Shih-cheng, 65.

The Taiwanese boat "Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28" was some 170 nautical miles off the southern coast of Taiwan at the time, and was seriously damaged.

Aside from an apology, Taiwan demanded that the Philippine government identify those responsible and make compensation for the losses.

Three dead in rebel attack ahead of vote

From Business World (May 9): Three dead in rebel attack ahead of vote

COMMUNIST GUERRILLAS killed three members of security forces yesterday and wounded eight others in attacks ahead of final preparations for next week’s elections, officials said.

The ambushes brought to 60 the number of people dead in violence linked to the May 13 vote, where politicians are contesting more than 300 seats in parliament and thousands of local executive posts.

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels ambushed a government convoy that was delivering election equipment to a mountainous area near the northern city of Tabuk, killing two soldiers, their unit commander Col. Roger Salvador told AFP.

"They did not manage to get any of the [voting] machines, but the escorts got hit," Mr. Salvador told AFP, referring to scanners that would be used to tally votes at nearly 37,000 polling precincts.

The ambush also left six other military escorts wounded, said Sr. Supt. Froilan Perez, police chief in Kalinga province of which Tabuk is the capital.

Mr. Perez said the scanners have to be delivered to polling centers for final testing ahead of Monday’s balloting, in which more than 52 million Filipinos are qualified to vote.

None of the civilian election workers in the convoy were hurt, the police official added.

NPA rebels ambushed a second convoy delivering ballot scanners near the eastern town of Ragay at dawn, killing a member of a local militia force trained by the military, said local army commander Lt. Col. Michael Buhat.

Two soldiers who were also part of the security team escorting the convoy were wounded, he added.

The military has said the NPA is using the elections to raise millions of dollars by extorting money from candidates. Those who refuse to pay up are attacked, officials say.

Last week, the government said its peace talks with the communists had collapsed and a target of ending the insurgency by 2016 was impossible to achieve.

Chinese ‘fishermen’ rope off, install metal structures on Ayungin Reef

From the Business Mirror (May 9): Chinese ‘fishermen’ rope off, install metal structures on Ayungin Reef

CREWMEN of Chinese fishing boats that entered the Ayungin Reef on the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in Palawan have allegedly been unloading big ropes and metal structures.
“There are five to eight Chinese fishing boats that entered and are conducting surveys inside our Ayungin Reef. Our latest report is that the Chinese were unloading big ropes and planting metal structures on our reef,” a military officer who spoke in condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter said.
The intrusion was happening as the military leadership was on their second day of a “battle staff” meeting in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., Armed Forces spokesman, did not confirm or deny the intrusion and illegal activities of the Chinese on Ayungin Reef.
The reported activities of the intruders were happening amid calls by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on China not to fish on Philippine waters.
The KIG is composed of the islands of Pagasa, Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag and Panta, and three reefs called Rizal, Balagtas and Ayungin. The islands and reefs have been constituted as the Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.
The center of KIG’s political power is in Pagasa, which has less than 400 civilian inhabitants. The island has a dilapidated airstrip. 
The town is headed by Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon.
Another source said the real intention of the fleet of fishermen sent by China to the Spratly Islands for a “40-day mission” is to fish as there was a “fishing ban” currently imposed by China on the northern part of the South China Sea.
“Since there is a fishing ban on the northern part of the South China Sea they have to go southward, to the Spratly Islands, to fish,” the source said.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants of the Spratly Islands are Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
The intrusion of the reported 40 Chinese fishing boats into the Spratly Islands is the same strategy China was using in its territorial dispute against Japan.
Just recently, the Japan government reported about the intrusion of 100 Chinese fishing boats on one of the disputed islands that overwhelmed the former’s Coast Guard.
China became more aggressive against the Philippines over the Spratly Islands issue after the latter brought the case for arbitration before the United Nations.
On Wednesday Tutaan said the military leadership is closely monitoring the situation as the Western Command (Westcom) and its naval unit, the Naval Forces West Command (Navforwest), have been alerted on the situation.
The Westcom is headed by Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.
“[The command has to] intensify its [patrol] and monitoring to verify the truthfulness of the reports,” he said.
Tutaan refused to give details about what transpired in the meeting, especially on the deployment of air and naval assets.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, Navy spokesman for issues and concerns involving the West Philippine Sea, said the Navy has a “contingency plan” in case the reported flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels will intrude Philippine territorial waters.
“As of now, it’s too early to comment on what to do if they will enter Philippine territory as that remains to be a contingency [plan] as of the moment. The guidance of higher headquarters is clear: to continue to be vigilant, monitor and report any unusual incidents in the area, which includes intrusions and other illegal activities like fishing on our maritime domain. The Navy being a force provider will act as directed by higher headquarters,” said Arevalo.
Last March this newspaper broke the news about some ships with Chinese markings that were monitored to have entered KIG and reportedly dumped construction materials in one of the islands near the oil-rich Recto Bank. Malacañang confirmed the report but said it was a Chinese fishing vessel.
Last month suspected Chinese fighter jets entered Philippine air space in KIG. The incident was confirmed by authorities but said the aircraft were “unidentified.”