Monday, May 27, 2013

PHL neglected its territories in West PHL sea - national security analyst

From GMA News (May 28): PHL neglected its territories in West PHL sea - national security analyst

Vietnam has surpassed the Philippines in the number of structures built on islands in the West Philippine Sea, where the Philippines has territorial disputes with neighboring countries, according to a national security analyst.

The “structure gap” supports the assertion made by Rommel Banlaoi, head of think tank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research's Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies, that the country has neglected its territories in the West Philippine Sea.

"While others have fortified their facilities, we remained modest in our facility development. We also have to develop our same type of deterrent capability," he said in a GMA 7 "24 Oras" report by Maki Pulido.

Vietnam has the most number of establishments in the area with 21 buildings, followed by the Philippines with nine, China with seven, Malaysia with five and Taiwan with one.
Vietnam has no less than three buildings in Pugad Island, while it has built wind mills and solar panels in Namyit Island, which is part of the disputed Spratlys Islands, Banlaoi said. The Vietnamese have also built three-story buildings in Collin Reef, Petley Reef and West London Reef, while it has a satellite dish in Pigeon Reef.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has a concrete runway in Itu Aba Island, while Malaysia has built a helipad in Ardashia Reef.

An earlier report by Pulido said that the Philippines only has huts in the disputed area, where the Navy takes shelter.

"Nung panahon ni Marcos, walang ginawa ang navy natin kundi magpasabog ng magpasabog ng mga structures 'dun. After 1986... naging abala tayo sa ating internal politics... nakalimutan natin 'yan," Banlaoi added in the report.

Lt. Commander Gregory Pavic of the Philippine Navy refused to comment, saying that it was the Department of Foreign Affairs which has a say on the matter.

DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez meanwhile said they would issue a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said Banlaoi is entitled to his opinion.

He, however, countered that the AFP has not neglected the area. "His opinion is not what we're doing... We have monitored the developments there, that's why there's a protest filed before the United Nations body, so we can have a peaceful ending to this issue," Tutaan told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

NPA rebel surrenders due to lack of food

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (May 26): NPA rebel surrenders due to lack of food

HUNGER and lack of communication with his family prompted a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) to lay down his arms and yield to the government on Saturday.

Major Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) based at Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, said Celestino Cadavido Jr., 20, single, a resident of Rosario, Agusan del Sur, has given himself up to the government due to grave reasons.

“Mi-ambak siya (Cadavido) for reasons of lack of food and lack of communication with his family. He was even deprived of cash...and was tired of running away from authorities,” Bongosia said.

Bongosia said some rebels have sensed “impossible leadership” of the communist group and have “sensed na nag-binotbot ug nag-binakak sa ila ang kalihukan (they sensed they were being deceived and lied to by the movement).”

Bongosia even said no military officers or other groups encouraged Cadavido to yield but it was his own decision.

“No one incited him to surrender. But his decision to end his misery prompted him to lay down his arms and struggle. In short, mi-ambak sa iyang kaugalingong kabubuot-on (He left the movement at his own will),” he added.

30 rebel returnees

Bongosia said the number of NPA members who yielded has reached 30 for 2013 alone. Cadavido is the 30th NPA rebel to lay down his arms.

“Government initiatives are on process. They opted to live with their families than live a life that is on the run,” he said when asked on what help the government can offer to former rebels.

The 4ID belied claims of the NPA that there are 27 soldiers killed from May 3 to 11 in separate clashes in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

As of April 26, the army tallied eight high-powered and eight low-powered firearms recovered from 26 government-initiated encounters.

In two separate encounters in Surigao del Norte and Bukidnon, two government forces died, four NPA rebels were killed, and four former rebels in Agusan del Sur surrendered with firearms.

Together with the firearms recovered are ammunitions such as 825 rounds for M16; 670 rounds for M14; 1,531 rounds for AK47; 90 rounds for Carbine; 15 rounds for Cal. 45, and 10 hand grenades, Bongosia said.

But since January this year, Bongosia added, the 4ID listed 20 high-powered firearms and 22 low-powered-firearms recovered, 11 NPA rebels killed, and 29 insurgents have surrendered.

He said the armed forces owed this success to the soldiers of 4ID and the relentless combat operations in maintaining peace and security in the region especially in the recently concluded May elections.

With “Oplan Bayanihan” (the counterinsurgency program of President Benigno Aquino III), the 4ID has its door opened for those who want to surrender their arms, leave the struggle, and live peacefully with their families and friends without fear and intimidation, Bongosia added.

The 4ID, he said, vows to maintain its security operations for the rest of the election period until June 13.

OPAPP signs MOA with Cordillera civil society groups for transparency in projects implementation in CAR

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 27): OPAPP signs MOA with Cordillera civil society groups for transparency in projects implementation in CAR

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with civil society groups here on May 24 to improve governance and monitoring of government’s peace and development projects and programs in the Cordillera.

The MOA signing initiated the setting-up of Monitoring, Evaluation and Transparency (MET) mechanism by the OPAPP, represented by Undersecretary Marie Cleofe Gettie Sandoval, and partner civil society groups Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Governance, Peoples Organization for Social Transformation Development Network, Inc. of Apayao, Philippine Association of Social Workers, Inc. of Ifugao, International Association for Transformation of Kalinga; and CSO Ebgan, Inc. of Mountain Province.

The signing was witnessed by Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) President Marcelina Bahatan, Police Regional Office Cordillera Regional Director Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Regional Director Jonathan Leusen, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Regional Director Sancho Boquing.

Sandoval said in a statement that the MET mechanism shows the commitment of both the government and the CBA - Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) to the principles of transparency and accountability in implementing the peace process MOA they forged in 2011.

“The MET will utilize collaborative approaches and engage the public in promoting an atmosphere of constructive and productive dialogue and mutual cooperation in the monitoring and implementation of the peace and development projects and program under the 2011 GPH-CBA-CPLA MOA,” Sandoval said.

With the said MOA now on its second year of implementation, Sandoval said that peace and development projects and programs are on track, in line with the transformation of the CBA-CPLA into a potent socio-economic organization.

Sandoval also said that program and project implementations are done through the different regional line agencies such as infrastructure projects through the DILG, livelihood programs through DSWD, scholarships through the Commission on Higher Education, farm-to-market roads through the DA, Philhealth for health insurance coverage, among others.

Sandoval added that by the end of this year they are optimistic that all programs and projects are already in place.

OPAPP is set to present their accomplishment report by July for the second year anniversary of the MOA.

NPA rebels seize 6 persons involved in logging for not paying 'taxes'

From InterAksyon (May 27): NPA rebels seize 6 persons involved in logging for not paying 'taxes'

New People’s Army rebels abducted six people involved in the logging business in Purok 8, Barangay Naboc, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, for not paying them the so-called “revolutionary tax” 

Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, the provincial police director, said the victims--Lino Armada, 62; his wife Frescielita, and their companions Joel Lingaya, 30; Raymund Gumpan, 21; a certain Beninido, 43, and one Jason Arata, all of Barangay Poblacion, Monkayo—were taken “at around 1 p.m. on May 24 at an NPA checkpoint. The victims were on board a Delica van when blocked by armed rebels.”

The rebels, however, released Frescielita after two hours, and she relayed the incident to the police.

Cascolan said the Armada couple was involved in falcata lumber buying.

He quoted Frescielita as saying “the rebels want them to pay monthly taxes considering they are involved in the logging business.”

He said negotiations for the release of the five captives are ongoing.

The incident, said officials, has also exposed the logging activities in the province despite President Bengino Aquino III’s Executive Order 23, which imposes a total log ban in the country.

Ex-NPA rebel rewarded for returning firearms in Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): Ex-NPA rebel rewarded for returning firearms in Negros

A former squad leader and political instructor of the New People’s Army’s Southwest Front Committee in Negros Occidental got rewards for returning four loose firearms to Philippine Army on Monday.

303rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Jon Aying handed over P110,000 remuneration to 39-year-old rebel returnee Elizaldy Martisano during the turning-over ceremony held at the Social Hall of Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol.

Martisano, also known as “Ka Nonoy or Bong”, formally surrendered last April 9 at 8:30 pm to army troops stationed at Sitio Payab-on, Barangay Asia, Hinoba-an town in Negros Occidental.

The surrender materialized only after a series of thorough negotiations.

Martisano, who served the notorious NPA group for seven years, returned with him four Colt M16 rifle with one short magazine loaded with 18 rounds of live ammunition and three Mossberg 12-gauge shotguns with 23 rounds of live ammunition.

The firearms remuneration he got was part of Armed Forces of the Philippines’ “Guns for Peace Program” aimed at encouraging NPA rebels to peacefully return to the fold of the law and laid down their arms.

During his speech, Martisano thanked the 303rd Infantry Brigade for helping him and his family.

He also recalled the days when his wife and children suffered from hunger while he was in the mountain embracing the communist’s idealism.

But his struggle ended in 2010 when he realized that the group he was with could only bring him in peril.

“I’m very disappointed of the fact that NPAs could bring genuine land reform in reality. All were just empty promises (sic),” he said in Hiligaynon.

His decision to surrender was also strengthened when he realized that their high ranking leaders only cared for themselves and not to the group’s real “cause”.

The AFP’s “Guns for Peace Program” has served as the gateway for NPA rebels to surrender and live a normal live.

Meanwhile, Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. thanked Martisano as well as other rebel returnees for their brave and wise decision to return to the mainstream society.

To date, Marañon disclosed that there were 89 rebel returnees who benefited from the AFP’s program.

As re-elected governor, Marañon assured to help the ex-rebel’s family prosper through the province’s livelihood and education scholarship programs.

“I assure you that your children and your children’s children will be educated and employed so you will no longer live in poverty,” Marañon told Martisano.

Marañon also urged other NPA rebels to surrender since armed struggle was no longer relevant today. If there is war we should win, that is war against poverty, according to the governor.

Army renews call for NPAs to return to folds of law

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): Army renews call for NPAs to return to folds of law

The Philippine Army on Monday appealed anew to members of New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental to end its four decades of continuing armed struggle.

303rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Jon Aying, said they will be very happy to welcome and help the rebels live a decent life through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “Gun for Peace Program.”

The program provides avenues for the peaceful return of armed rebels to the mainstream society.

It also provides firearms remuneration to rebel returnees. The general valuation cost of turned-in firearms are about P2,000 for "paltik" (home-made) revolver, P10,000 for vintage firearm, P50,000 for rifle, and as much as P150,000 for sub-machine guns.

In general, Aying said the Gun for Peace Program will recover loose firearms in the hands of lawless elements.

“We aim to recall all these guns responsible for the lawlessness, misery and sufferings of those many people affected by the violent behaviors of the bearers of these loose guns. Thus, the AFP promotes the recovery of these instruments of violence through the ‘Guns for Peace’ program,” he said.

To truly win the peace in the province, Aying said they will secure communities from lawlessness and disasters, and mainstream affected communities towards nation-building.”

The brigade’s lawyer, Leon Moya, disclosed they are eyeing to forge an alliance with the Philippine National Bank (PNB) to come up with livelihood programs and disperse land for rebel returnees.

For his part, Romeo Baldevarona of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Bacolod City condemned the violence, especially those that were created in the course of internal armed conflict.

“We always want peace for we already experienced the worst form of violence in the province in the past (sic),” Baldevarona said referring to numerous cases of suspected extra-judicial killings in northern Negros.

Acting Police Provincial Director, Senior Supt. Ricardo de la Paz, also assured of their full support in achieving the goals of its “Gun for Peace Program”.

Army, NCIP link up to prevent recruitment of IPs by NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): Army, NCIP link up to prevent recruitment of IPs by NPA

The Philippine Army (PA) is now linking up with the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) to prevent the New People’s Army (NPA) from exploiting the Indigenous Peoples (IP) situated in the hinterlands of central Leyte.

Col. Rafael C. Valencia, commander of the 802nd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) said that around three-fourths of the strength of NPA in Leyte, mostly in far-flung areas of Albuera and Burauen, are IPs.

Valencia said that their linking up with the NCIP is still part of their "bayanihan", although it needs more efforts because the agency has no regional office in Eastern Visayas.

Last January, the NCIP had facilitated the surrender of an IP tribe member-turned-rebel with the help of the Provincial Social Welfare Office (PSWDO).

Today, Monday, another IP received the final tranche of the P50,000 payment relative to the firearms remuneration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under its Guns for Peace program.

Meanwhile, Valencia disclosed that the strength of the NPA has already dwindled since the declaration of Leyte as a conflict-manageable area and the local integration program of the province has been implemented.

He added that with their efforts now, they look forward to “bringing down the level of threat” in Leyte before the end of the year.

He said that they also continue to work together with other national government agencies (NGAs) to refute the claim of the rebel organizers that they are being deprived of government services.

“As we all know, the government has plenty of programs and projects for our less fortunate brothers,” Valencia declared.

AFP releases last tranche of firearms remuneration to 2 rebel returnees in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): AFP releases last tranche of firearms remuneration to 2 rebel returnees in Leyte

BURAUEN, Leyte - Two rebel returnees from Leyte Monday received their last tranche of the P50,000 firearms remuneration under the Guns for Peace program of the Armed Forces.

The two, whose names were withheld for security reasons, surrendered one M16 rifle each.

Each received P30,000 and family gift packs in Monday's ceremony at the headquarters of the 78th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Abuyogan this town.

Col. Rafael C. Valencia, commander of the 802nd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said that an initial P20, 000 was already released to each of the two ex-rebels upon their surrender.

They are also entitled to a P35, 000 assistance each from the provincial government of Leyte.

The province allots P10,000 for basic immediate assistance and P25,000 for firearms surrendered that returnees could use to start a livelihood project.

Valencia added that they are now processing the P50,000 livelihood assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Valencia, meantime, urged the returnees to encourage their other comrades to give up their arm struggle without necessarily giving up their cause.

He added that they could still talk peacefully in order to respond to any concerns that they would like to be addressed.

On the other hand, Gwendolyn Malate of the Leyte provincial social welfare and development office expressed hope that the intention of returnees for returning into the fold of law is not just to avail of the assistance.

She stressed that the government “is sincere in helping former rebels.”

Malate explained that aside from the assistance provided to them by the AFP, OPAPP and the provincial government, they could still avail of other poverty alleviation programs of the government depending on their needed.

Among others she mentioned of counseling and even scholarship program from the national government for those who would like to continue with their studies.

She likewise lauded the provincial government for being supportive of the PSWDO, especially when it comes to provision of assistance to former rebels.

US gov't to launch projects in support of Mindanao’s peace and stability

From the Philippine News Agency (May 27): US gov't to launch projects in support of Mindanao’s peace and stability

US Ambassador Harry Thomas and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Gloria Steele are launching three new USAID projects here in Mindanao.

In a statement Monday, the USAID-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) said the projects are designed to strengthen local government units, improve youth access to education, and enhance the delivery of vital health services across conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

The three new projects are scheduled to be launched by the two officials on Wednesday.

The projects to be launched as the following: Enhancing Governance, Accountability and Engagement (ENGAGE); Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDev); and, Integrated Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition/Family Planning Regional Project in Mindanao (MindanaoHealth).

ENGAGE is a five-year project that seeks to address governance challenges that lead to continued social and economic instabilities and marginalization, and to promote community empowerment as a foundation for inclusive local governance.

MYDev is a five-year project that seeks to strengthen the capacity of local government units, communities, and stakeholders to deliver education and training services to out-of-school youth.

The MYDev project hopes to increase youth access to education through the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Alternative Learning System (ALS), and enhance out-of-school youth (OSY) employability by providing equitable access to relevant education and skills training.

MindanaoHealth is also five-year project that aims to strengthen the delivery of health services in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

It will support the Department of Health-led scale up of high-impact services and patient-centered information to improve maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition outcomes, and to reduce the unmet need for family planning methods, especially among the lowest wealth quintiles.

Mindanao Health will work in 19 provinces, two cities, and 366 municipalities to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

High-ranking Philippine government officials, international development institutions, non-government organizations, the academe and the private sector are expected to participate in the launching of the three projects.

Military probes deadly Sulu clash for 'operational miscalculation'

From GMA News (May 27): Military probes deadly Sulu clash for 'operational miscalculation'

The deaths of seven Marines including an officer in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu over the weekend may have been a result of “operational miscalculation,” prompting the military to conduct an internal investigation.

"We are trying to find out what went wrong," Armed Forces public affairs office chief Maj. Ramon Zagala told GMA News Online by phone Monday. "There may have been operational miscalculation."

He said "a marine operation officer has been sent to investigate the incident."

Last Saturday's clash in Patikul town dealt a severe blow to the government campaign against the Abu Sayyaf, a loosely organized group of Islamic fundamentalists that the military said has significantly weakened following the deaths and arrests of some of its top leaders.

Zagala said the recent clash was a "chance meeting encounter" and not an ambush. Reports said seven bandits were also killed, although only two bodies were recovered.

The fatalities were part of a Marine Force Reconnaissance unit that was on a test mission as part of a “specialized combat course,” Zagala said.

Without elaborating, he said the troops were on a “security and stability operation” against the recent kidnapping incidents — the victims of which included a soldier's wife — in the province when the clash occurred.

"Our goal is to curb the ability of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu," Zabala said. "We are trying to make Sulu peaceful."

The Abu Sayyaf, notorious for a number of high-profile kidnappings in the past including of foreign nationals, has been known to operate in the hinterlands of Sulu and Basilan provinces where they blend in with the largely Muslim population.

The group is also blamed for the country's worst bombing attacks, including in Metro Manila.

The military claimed to have reduced the number of active Abu Sayyaf members from over 1,000 in 2000 to more or less 300.

MILF joins hunt for Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From Rappler (May 27): MILF joins hunt for Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has mobilized its forces in Sulu to help soldiers run after the Abu Sayyaf Group and hold them accountable for the death of 7 Marines over the weekend.
“We have undertaking on the ground right now. Our men are gathering vital information as to the exact location of the Abu Sayyaf,” MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said in a phone interview.
Iqbal said this move is a normal task under the adhoc joint action group, a team created by the government and MILF to go after criminals and terrorist groups.
Von Al Haq, spokesman of the MILF, said they will reposition their men in some areas of Sulu to prevent a misencounter with government troops.
Early morning on Saturday, May 25, members of the 2nd Marine Brigade encountered members of Abu Sayyaf in the village of Tugay, Patikul town. The hour-long firefight that started at 6:30 am left 7 Marines, including a lieutenant, and 4 Abu Sayyaf members dead. Nine Marines and 10 Abu Sayyaf members were wounded.
Iqbal said the Marines encountered a group led by Jul-Aswan Sawadjaan, which is a faction within the Abu Sayyaf that he said has gone out of control. “This group is also big and they are capable. They are not getting orders anymore from their leader Radulan Sahiron,” Iqbal said.
There are varying accounts of why the government troops were in the area. According to the MILF, the government troops were deployed to rescue the wife of a colleague seized by the Abu Sayyaf. A Philippine Daily Inquirer report, however, quoted former Marine Col Ariel Querubin as saying that the Marines were there on a test mission and that most of them are students.
Initial reports said the Marines conducted a rescue mission on May 18 to recover Casilda Viollarasa, 41, a medical technologist by profession, who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.
Villarasa was with her daughter on the way to the Integrated Provincial Health Office in the village of Asturias, Jolo, Sulu, when the bandits seized her. Villarasa’s daughter, Valeria, 9, managed to run away and escape.
The MILF said the Marines were lured into a trap, which explains the heavy toll on them.
The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the country's worst terror attacks, including the firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay and kidnappings of foreign tourists.
Latest military estimate placed the strength of the Abu Sayyaf at about 300, mostly based in the southern Mindanao provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

Marines asked to secure village in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (May 27): Marines asked to secure village in Maguindanao

Hundreds of villagers displaced by the attack on Saturday by  armed supporters of defeated candidates of a barangay in Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao have asked the Philippine Marine Corps to put up a detachment in the area to prevent a repeat of the incident.

The gunmen fired at houses and beat an 18-year-old son of a village leader, Norodin Solaiman, who campaigned for re-elected Datu Blah Sinsuat Mayor Marcial Sinsuat.
Sinsuat won a second term during the May 13 polls, defeating a cousin, Datu Manawut, who hails from Barangay Resa in the same coastal municipality.

The displaced villagers are considering to draft a manifesto urging the Marines to immediately install a security detachment in the area to deter more attacks by the same group.

The evacuees are now  staying at a school building and houses of relatives in Lower Tambak, which are accessible to the police and combatants of the 1st Marine Battalion Landing Team.

Police investigators are also looking into reports by evacuees that three sons of their former barangay chairwoman, whose family supported opposition candidates during the May 13 local polls, provided “guides” that led the gunmen to the houses they sprayed with bullets.

The suspects also arbitrarily held a villager they used as guide in their escape towards a nearby hinterland after the shooting frenzy.

Sinsuat said villagers have urged him to convince the First Marine Brigade, based in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat, and its component battalion, the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, to immediately put up a detachment in Barangay Tambak.

Sinsuat said he will convene this week the inter-agency, multi-sectoral municipal peace and order council to discuss solutions to the security problems  in Barangay Tambak.

Troops kills Abu Sayyaf bandit in Jolo

From the Philippine Star (May 27): Troops kills Abu Sayyaf bandit in Jolo

Government security forces killed a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and captured another during an operation Saturday in downtown Jolo, Sulu province, a security official said Monday.

Col. Jose Joriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said security forces from the Jolo Internal Defense Force (JIDF) caught the two suspects in the act of extorting money from a restaurant at around 2:15 p.m.

Cenabre said that the bandits fired at the approaching security forces which resulted in a firefight.

Authorities have yet to identify the slain and captured bandits.

Cenabre said that the captured suspect, wounded in the firefight, was given medical treatment before being turned over to the Jolo Municipal Police Station for detention.

Negotiations ongoing to free 6 NPA captives in ComVal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 27): Negotiations ongoing to free 6 NPA captives in ComVal

Police on Monday said alleged communist rebels have kidnapped six civilians in Monkayo, Compostela Valley and that negotiations were ongoing to secure their release.

Two of the alleged victims have already been freed hours after Friday’s abduction in Naboc village, but four others are still in the hands of the abductors, believed to be members of the New People’s Army, according to Superintendent Cydric Earl Tamayo, Monkayo town police chief.

At least 10 armed men blocked the Delica van carrying Lino Armada, 62; his wife Frescielita, and their companions Joel Lingaya, 30; Raymund Gumpan, 21; a certain Beninido, 43, and one Jason Arata, all of Poblacion, Monkayo, at the vicinity of Purok 8, Naboc past 1 p.m., Tamayo said.

“The couple is into falcata lumber buying and they were there to scout and canvas for available lumber,” Tamayo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone.

The gunmen ordered them out of the vehicle and brought them to the mountainous portion of the village for supposed negotiations, he said.

Armada’s wife Frescielita, who was released at 3 p.m. on Friday told police the armed men “demanded that the couple pay up the so-called revolutionary tax considering they are involved in logging business,” said Tamayo.

The police official said the suspects had ordered the trader’s wife not to give interviews and negotiation between the suspects and her family was in progress.

“No amount was mentioned [as to the alleged revolutionary tax],”Tamayo said, adding police are now conducting an investigation into the incident.

“We are on standby, waiting for further developments. We cannot move against the suspects yet as it might endanger the lives of the remaining four hostages.”

Tamayo, however, did not identify the other freed victim but police sources said Lino was among the four victims still being held by the kidnappers.

Taiwan has new terms

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26): Taiwan has new terms

The government of Taiwan on Saturday imposed new conditions that would further delay the Philippines’ investigation of the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coast guards three weeks ago.

Amadeo R. Perez, chair of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), the Philippines’ de facto embassy in Taiwan, said previous problems had been solved and eight agents of the National Bureau of Investigation had been issued visas by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) in Manila.

“But this morning, we received new conditions, which we forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for decision,” Perez told the Inquirer by phone.
He declined to disclose the new conditions.

“We referred them to the DOJ. They alone have the authority to reveal the new conditions,” he said.

According to Perez, the justice department had approved Taiwan’s request for access to a video of an encounter between a Philippine coastal patrol vessel and a Taiwanese fishing boat off Balintang Island in northern Philippines on May 9.

Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-chen was shot dead by Filipino coast guards in that incident, sparking public anger in Taiwan and new tensions between the two countries.

Taiwan rejected an apology from President Benigno Aquino III and took retaliatory measures against the Philippines, including freezing new jobs in Taiwan for Filipino migrant workers.

Taipei demanded, among other things, a sincere apology from the Philippine government, compensation for Hung’s family, the arrest and punishment of the coast guards involved, and a joint investigation of the incident.


But as the Philippines’ one-China policy does not allow a joint investigation, the two countries agreed to give each other’s investigators access to evidence and witnesses in separate probes aimed at determining the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Hung.

The NBI wants to examine Hung’s boat, the Guang Ta Hsin 28, which Taiwanese investigators said had taken 45 hits, 24 of them on the cabin.

The NBI also wants to interview the fishing boat’s crew and do a new autopsy to determine how Hung died.

Video access OKd

Taiwan requested round-the-clock protection for its investigators during their stay in Manila, which the Philippine government immediately approved.

But the DOJ initially rejected Taiwan’s request for access to the Philippine Coast Guard video of the incident that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had described as “very revealing.”

Its request for a copy of the video denied, Taiwan on Wednesday “declined for the time being” the Philippine request for legal assistance.

The DOJ relented on Friday and approved the sharing of the video with the Taiwanese investigators, which was all that Teco was waiting for to release the visas for the members of the NBI’s investigative team.

But the new conditions came down on Saturday, delaying the NBI team’s departure for Taiwan.

“Unless the new terms are immediately acted upon, the departure of the NBI will again be delayed,” Perez said.

Calming down

Perez reported an improvement in the security situation of Filipino workers in Taiwan.
“The situation has improved and new new attacks on Filipinos have been reported,” he said.

“But for their security, we advise Filipino workers here not to go out unless necessary,” he added.

Borcia Talal, a Filipino woman married to a Taiwanese who lives in Taichung City, which has a large concentration of Filipino migrant workers, said the Taiwanese there had “calmed down.”

“Their anger has eased, but we are still a bit afraid. We hope this will be resolved soon,” Talal said.

The Filipino community here is planning a “vigil” at St. Christopher Church on Chungshan North Road for a speedy resolution of the crisis.

Warship from US here next month

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26): Warship from US here next month

Amid aggressive external threats to its sovereignty, the Philippines’ defense capabilities will get a boost with the arrival next month of its latest naval asset acquired from the United States.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter which the Philippines acquired a year ago, has completed sea trials in preparation for its trip to its new home port in the Philippines, the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Alcaraz would form part of the country’s naval forces buildup amid tense maritime disputes, particularly with China, in the West Philippine Sea.

“The acquisition of the Alcaraz is part of the Philippines’ effort at building a minimum credible defense posture, especially in upholding our maritime security, search and rescue activities, and disaster response,” said DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez.

The 115-meter ship, a Hamilton-class cutter that served as the US Coast Guard’s USCGC Dallas for more than 40 years, underwent sea trials from May 20 to 23, the Philippine Embassy  said.

The ship was refurbished and refitted at a cost of $15.5 million (P620 million) after the Philippines acquired it in May last year while its 14 officers and 74 crew underwent training.

The ship was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a navy officer who commanded a patrol boat that shot down three Japanese aircraft during World War II.

Slain soldiers in Sulu were on test mission

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (May 27): Slain soldiers in Sulu were on test mission

Querubin: They were not there to engage Abus

STUDENTS The bodies of Philippine Marines killed during a clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu are loaded into a military truck for transport to Manila. At least seven soldiers and four bandits were killed. AP
We still haven’t learned our lessons,” retired Col. Ariel Querubin, a former superintendent of the Philippine Marine Corps Training Center, said of the killings of seven Marines in a clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu, on Saturday.

“They were on a test mission, these were students, they may be the best considering they were with the Recon (reconnaissance team), they belonged to the Marines’ elite team but the doctrine of the Recon is basically just to go out there to gather data and they are not there to engage their enemies,” Querubin said Sunday in a phone interview.

Around 20 soldiers on two teams of the Force Reconnaissance Battalion were sent to Tugas, a hilly jungle in Patikul, for the purported test mission that led to the incident in which seven Abu Sayyaf bandits were also killed.

The soldiers, led by 2nd Lt. Alfredo Lorin VI, were on a mission to track down the kidnappers of Casilda Villarasa, wife of Sgt. Faustino Villarasa.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and head of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the soldiers had a “chance meeting-encounter” with about 50 men in Tugas at around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday.

But Senior Insp. Conrad William Gutierrez, chief of the Patikul police, said the soldiers were on their way to their detachment when “they were ambushed.” Five Marines were killed on the spot and nine others were wounded, he said.

Cenabre, however, denied that what happened was an ambush, insisting that it was a chance encounter.

“Our troops were not able to reposition and retaliate because the engagement was within the civilian area, which is adjacent to a mosque. The attackers took advantage of the civilians, thus making it more difficult for our troops to fire back,” he said.

Before sundown on Saturday, the Marine toll of lives had climbed to seven with the deaths of those wounded. The fatalities included Lorin, 26, a 2011 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, and Privates First Class Rene Gare, Andres Bogwana, Jay Alasain, Jayson Durante, Roxas Pizarro and Dominador Sabijon Jr.

Wounded were Sgt. Noel Cornelio and Privates First Class Miguel Edwin Maluyo, Roel Aquino, Carlito Sabellita, Cris An Bangalisan, Rajan Gadong, John Ywayan, Joemar Monte and Richard Gomez.

Clash, not ambush

In Manila, Maj. Ramon Zagala, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, confirmed Cenabre’s version of the incident.

“It was an encounter and not ambush, as what the early sketchy reports mentioned,” Zagala said in a mobile phone interview.

“It was part of the operations of the Marines to curb the dominance of the Abu Sayyaf in the area,” he told the Inquirer.

Zagala said two Marine companies, numbering about 100 soldiers, were conducting military operations against the local terrorist group when they clashed with a large group of Abu Sayyaf in Barangay (village) Tugas.

Zagala said the Marines suffered a large number of casualties because the Abu Sayyaf fighters had positioned themselves on higher ground. According to him, Tugas is a hilly area, where Khadaffy Janjalani, the bandit leader, was killed in 2006.

Zagala said the losses in Patikul would not hamper military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which had been crippled over the years with the killings of its leaders.

“The military will continue pursuing the Abu Sayyaf. These are the things that the AFP has to risk in order to have a secure environment. It’s a sad loss but it only shows the resolve the AFP,” he said.

Querubin said in Manila in the telephone interview a test mission was usually given to any specialized elite unit of the military.

“It’s a class which, basically, runs about six months or longer and whatever they learn inside a classroom for that period, they apply it on the ground. Once they have completed the test mission, they automatically graduate and become part of the regular forces of the Recon Battalion,” he said.

Every battalion sends its best soldiers to be part of the Recon team. “They were trained, passed the screening for special skills like scuba diving and more. They are like superheroes, intelligent. These are the chosen ones,” Querubin said.

But unlike the Special Forces and Scout Rangers, the Recon Units are not allowed to engage their enemies, he added.

“They are there to gather data and pass the data to the operating troops. The problem with the senior officers, they always look up to the elite forces as supermen. Definitely these units will never say no because they belong to elite forces,” Querubin said.

The retired Marine colonel, whose son is also a Marine officer based in Sulu, said it was too early to judge claims of lapses in Saturday’s operation.

“They will not experience five killed in action on the spot and many wounded if they were not ambushed. Definitely, it was a surprise attack and the troops later engaged the attackers,” he said.

Querubin cited the “test mission” involving Marines in which five junior officers were killed in Silangkum village, Ungkaya Pukan town, in August 2007.

“After that, when the doctrine on Recon was strictly followed, there were no more casualties when there were test missions,” he said.

Troops hunt bandits

The Associated Press said Sunday troops backed by assault helicopters were hunting down the fleeing bandits, who were believed to be led by Jul-Aswan Sawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf commander accused in the kidnappings of a Jordanian journalist and two European bird watchers who were still being held captive.

One of Sawadjaan’s sons and a minor Abu Sayyaf commander are believed to have been killed in the firefight, Cenabre said.

The firefight was part of a new military offensive that started last week and was aimed at rescuing the three foreign captives, who were abducted last year, along with three Filipinos kidnapped separately by the militants in recent weeks, he said.

Although a large number of Marines and policemen are involved in the offensive, only small units have been deployed to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf in two jungle encampments in Sulu, Cenabre said without providing details. US forces were providing intelligence but were not involved in actual combat, he said.

Security forces, meanwhile, killed one of two gunmen who were trying to extort money on Saturday from a restaurant in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo, Cenabre said.

Armed with pistols, the two men shot it out with government forces. One was shot in the head and died and the other was captured, Cenabre said.

He said investigators were trying to determine whether the two had ties with the Abu Sayyaf, which was also notorious for extortion.—

Military trained bagani tribal warriors – say NBI agent, ex-gov Piñol

MindaNews (May 26): Military trained bagani tribal warriors – say NBI agent, ex-gov Piñol

A lawyer of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) revealed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that the military was the one that trained the baganis (tribal warriors) so they could help in the counter-insurgency campaign.

Even former North Cotabato governor Emmanuel Piñol corroborated the NBI lawyer’s statement, but he stressed that the purpose of the bagani is to defend the territories of the indigenous people.

He admitted that the baganis were trained during his term as governor, from 1998 to 2007.

Wenceslao Galendez, agent of the NBI’s North Eastern Mindanao Office based in Cagayan de Oro City, told the CHR panel that the bagani was led by Roelito Ayupat Gawilan, who is the barangay captain of Barangay Sinoda in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

The CHR, led by chair Loretta Rosales, was in the city on May 22 to 24 for a three-day inquiry on the killing of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio in Arakan, North Cotabato in October 2011.

“In our report, the term bagani, the lumad for warriors, was created, organized by the 73rd Infantry Battalion,” Galendez said.

Citing a report obtained by the CHR, Rosales asked Galendez: “So who organized this group, the military?”

“Yes your honor,” the NBI agent confirmed.

Galendez added that the bagani was organized to assist the military in its counter-insurgency campaign.

Gawilan, who earlier appeared during the public inquiry on May 23, denied the accusation that he is the leader of the bagani group. He insisted he is a datu, not a bagani.

But Gawilan, who is the chair of the Federation of the Matigsalug and Manobo Council of Elders (FEMMATRICS), admitted that there are some members of his tribe who are part of the bagani.

He added that there are bagani members who are on the side of the military and there are those who are on the side of the New People’s Army (NPA). Gawilan said those who are on the side of the NPAs are known as “pulang bagani” (red warrior).

When asked by CHR Commissioner Norberto dela Cruz who is the leader of the bagani, Gawilan responded: “It depends. There are ‘pulang baganis,’ and there are baganis with the military.”

The tribal leader was referring to the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command headed by Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago.

When Dela Cruz further asked what camp Gawilan belongs, the latter answered: “I am the datu of the tribe. The bagani is different from the datu.”

But Gawilan admitted that some baganis were trained to become members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu).

He added that most of the bagani members who are also Cafgu members were the ones whose family members were killed by the NPA.

Bagani doesn’t exist?

Brig. Gen. Cesar Sedillo, former commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the lumad Cafgu members are not bagani.

“If a tribes folk became a member of the Cafgu, some people refer to them as bagani. They’re not,” Sedillo told the CHR panel. “The Cafgu is not associated with the bagani. It’s just incidental,” he added.

Arakan is part of the 602IB’s area of responsibility.

Sedillo further said that there are private armed groups in the remote areas who are pro-NPA and there are those who are against the communist rebel group.

But during a congressional inquiry on Tentorio’s killing in November last year, Sedillo said he was uncertain if bagani exists. He explained that during his term as commander of 602IB, which is based in Carmen, North Cotabato, there was no formal organization such as the bagani.

“But in particular places wherein peace and order situation is affected, these people, indeed, formed certain activities to protect themselves,” he said then.

At the same inquiry, a witness disclosed that he had attended a meeting with Jun Corbala, the alleged bagani leader, at Sitio Kamanagan, Barangay Ganatan in Arakan. The witness said the place is a local camp of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion. It was allegedly in this meeting when the baganis plotted to kill Tentorio.

In his affidavit signed April 12 last year, the witness, whose identity was not revealed for security reasons, said Corbala alias Commander Iring is the known commander of the Bagani Special Force, which the witness said was organized by the elements of the 57IB.

NPA, military as suspects

For Piñol, there are only two groups that could be blamed for the killing of Tentorio because Arakan is controlled by two armed groups – the military and the NPA.

Piñol said it is impossible for the killers to escape without the knowledge of the military or the NPA. He said that if the military says they didn’t notice the killers escape, it means that they have no control over Arakan. And vice versa.

The former governor also chided the military for denying the existence of the bagani.

“What they’re saying that the military doesn’t know the military, is a big lie,” he stressed.

The baganis, Piñol said, were actually trained by the military.

“But the intention was to help the tribal people protect their villages. Whether they were used outside their villages is beyond me,” he said.

Piñol admitted that he used the province’s peace and order funds to help organize the baganis. “We can’t deny this fact; I was there. They were trained in Barangay Saging in Makilala town, inside a Special Froces camp. And I was there during the training,” he revealed.

Escaped death

On October 6, 2003 during one of Tentorio’s visits to the Lumads of Kitaotao in Bukidnon, portions of which are part of the parish of Arakan, the Italian priest narrowly escaped death when armed men believed to be bagani members were reportedly hunting him down.

He left the parish of Arakan at 8 a.m. with four staff members on his way to Kitaotao.
“After two hours of motorcycle and horseback riding, we reached New Kabalantian, Kitaotao, Bukidnon where some people approached me and told me that armed men were waiting for me in Barangay Sagundanon, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, three kilometers ahead where we were supposed to pass. They told me that these men belong to the group called Bagani, that they come from outside the area, and that their intention was to harm me, specifically by throwing hand grenades at me while I am passing by,” Tentorio said in his account of the incident in the website of his congregation, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

“When night came, at around 7:00 o’clock, I went to sleep in a small lumad hut with around 15 people. At about 7:30 p.m. the people spotted few baganis approaching the village, guided by Tata and Abing Gawilan, the sons of the kagawad who told me that there was nothing to worry about. They went straight to the hut that was next to where we were and asked information about Isidro Indao (vice chair of Tikulpa, or the Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa) and his whereabouts,” he wrote.

The armed men also asked where Fr. Tentorio was. The villagers denied he was around and asked the armed men why they were looking for the priest. “Will you kill him?”
One of the bagani members reportedly replied, “No, we will just arrest him and bring him to our superior.”

“Worried of the possible consequences, the people denied to them that I was there. They told me and my companions to stay quiet in the house and hide there because the baganis were looking for me. We decided to listen to their advice because to try to run would have been too dangerous. We did not know how many of them were there, and where they were hiding,” the priest wrote.