Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Soldier, Cafgu member shot dead while attending Sorsogon fiesta

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 18): Soldier, Cafgu member shot dead while attending Sorsogon fiesta
NAGA CITY, Philippines — A soldier and a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit in Bicol were shot dead by suspected members of the New People’s Army in the house of a barangay (village) official in Irosin, Sorsogon on Monday afternoon.

Lieutenant Colonel Medel M. Aguilar, acting spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in Pili, Camarines Sur, said Staff Sergeant Arnold Porcalla and Cafgu member Oliver Delloson were shot dead inside the home of Barangay Captain Bernardo Lerio in Barangay Patag, Irosin at 3 p.m. Monday.

Aguilar said Lerio had invited Porcalla and Dellosa to join the celebration of the barangay fiesta but he believed Lerio did not know of the presence of the armed men.

“Otherwise, the barangay captain and maybe other people would warn our personnel,” he said.

The two victims sustained injuries from high powered firearms of still undetermined caliber, he added.

Porcalla was the commander of the Army’s Mapaso detachment under the 22nd Infantry Battalion, a Cafgu unit in Sorsogon.

Aguilar said they have already solicited help from Sorsogon police in the investigation of the incident.


Lahad Datu: Esscom dismisses claims of clashes with 400 Sulu gunmen

From the Star Online (Jun 18): Lahad Datu: Esscom dismisses claims of clashes with 400 Sulu gunmen

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia has dismissed claims by Philippines media of clashes between security forces and some 400 Sulu gunmen in the east coast Lahad Datu district.

Eastern Sabah Security Command director (Esscom) director Datuk Mohamad Mantek told The Star Tuesday that claims of clashes were "absurd."

"No such thing happened," he said, adding that an incident of such magnitude would not have gone unnoticed.

"There were no intrusions and neither were there movements of people. Nothing at all," he said.

Such claims were mischievous and meant to cause unease, he added.

Mohamad said the public should check with the nearest police station or Esscom should they come across such claims.

He also said police were continuing their investigations into a claim by a 14-year-old Lahad Datu girl that she had been taken by a group of masked men to a plantation on Monday afternoon before they disappeared.

Philippines media reported that some 400 Sulu gunmen were in firefight with Malaysian security forces at a village in Tungk near Lahad Datu Monday afternoon.

Abraham Idjirani, a spokesman of the self-styled Sulu sultanate, claimed in the Philippines media that the clashes were reported to him by Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram.

Abraham claimed they were moving about in the Tungku at about 1pm when they encountered the Malaysian troops. He claimed the Sulu gunmen were then forced to retreat to their "base" in Lahad Datu.

Idjirani added that the clash in Tungku was also confirmed by Hajib Mujaha Hashim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front's Islamic Command Council.


Fresh fighting in Sabah

From Tempo (Jun 19): Fresh fighting in Sabah

Fighting broke out anew Monday in Lahad Datu, Sabah, between the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo and patrolling Malaysian security forces.

The sultanate’s spokesman, engineer Abraham J. Idjirani, relayed this yesterday.

“There was a new fighting in Dangan Tunko, Lahad Datu, at about 1 p.m. Monday,” he said.

Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and some 510 of his men encountered an undetermined number of patrolling Malaysian forces, triggering the firefight, said Idjirani.

“Rajah muda phoned me at about 7 p.m. on Monday and informed the sultanate about the fresh fighting,“ Idjirani, the sultanate’s secretary-general and a brother-in-law of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said.

It was a “big encounter,“ he quoted rajah muda, involving 166 Royal Security Force (RSF) members aided by 350 volunteers from Sulu Peninsula and the Malaysian forces.

The fighting erupted within a palm oil plantation in Dangan Tunko, he said.

He said rajah muda did not say if there were fatalities, or wounded from either side.

Idjirani said the rajah muda only gave sketchy details in his few min utes of call to avoid detection by the government of Malaysia.

It could be recalled that rajah muda and 235 RSF men sailed to Sabah in Febuary this year to press the sultanate’s historical claim over the oil-rich territory.

The heirs of the Sulu sultanate today said they still owns Sabah, the former North Borneo, which their forbears ceded to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.

Idjirani said the incident, supposed to be a heavy fighting, because most of rajah muda’s fighters were armed, stopped when the Malaysians reportedly “pulled out.”


CPLA eyes candidates for integration into AFP

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jun 17): CPLA eyes candidates for integration into AFP

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The integration of the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will soon be realized.

CPLA chairman Arsenio Humiding announced that the final validation of members of the CPLA is set and a masterlist of candidates for AFP integration has been submitted making way for the final stage; inclusion to the Philippine Army as recognized soldiers of the government army. “Ito na ang bunga ng ating proyekto, ang integration sa AFP.”

The CPLA has 80 candidates who passed a rigorous five-month physical and medical screening comprised of CPLA members and their next of kin 36 years old and below.

Humiding said the age group has been deliberated on for many months and was thought best to be applied if only to give CPLA integrees a chance to enjoy full benefits of being a government soldier. “At the age group we have chosen, they will enjoy full benefits of pension and separation pay from the AFP.”

The 168 chosen CPLA entries to the AFP are seen to complete Administrative Order 18 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the integration of 48 CPLA members into the AFP with provisions of livelihood projects to the CPLA while the other 120 entries are results of the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between government and CPLA, bringing all legitimate members into the government fold.

Humiding said the process started for the CPLA on January 4 and took roughly five months to complete.

Those chosen will move on to undergo a three-month AFP training before graduating to become members of the government army, a dream the CPLA has had 25 years ago in the historic Mt. Data 1986 Sipat agreement under the presidency of Corazon Aquino.

The original members of the CPLA was composed of the Lumbaya command of the New People’s Army, the first company in the country made up of purely Indigenous Peoples.

The group has since severed its ties with the NPA sometime in the mid ‘80s and has entered into a peace agreement with the government in 1986.

The CPLA signed a pact with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Oppap) which dictates a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of CPLA members into the mainstream of society, paving the way for the transformation of the CBA-CPLA into a socio-economic organization.

The CPLA received P242 million to fund various projects all over the region as part of the Pamana program to fund various projects for development in the region.

Humiding said the AFP, the Philippine Army, and the 5th Infantry Battalion (5IB) as well as the Opapp were key players into seeing the integration takes place. “We would like to thank them for their support.”

On June 26 at the 5th IB headquarters, the integration process will start; the AFP will then start its own screening process and train the CPLA candidates.

Humiding said that although the program is special for the CPLA, AFP rules and regulations will have to apply for all candidates and stressed, “We cannot bend the AFP.”

Admittedly, Humiding said there have been head-on collisions on processes at hand but assured all have been discussed. “We are sure we will be able to talk further on this if needed.”

CPLA members who will not be part of the AFP integration will be assigned to work as forest guards for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or be part of livelihood projects distributed all over the region, divided into the 1,200 recognized  CPLA members.


Commentary: Peace talks deadlock is good!

Commentary from MindaNews (Jun 19): Peace talks deadlock is good! by Jesus G. Dureza

The on-going media blast coming from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) saying some of its ground commanders and armed followers are now “frustrated and angry” at what is taking place in the peace negotiations, should not be a surprise to all.


I have some POSITIVE readings on this latest media BROUHAHA.

ONE: the public will again be reminded that peace negotiations are not easy and a walk in the park. Let’s not forget: a generational issue, like the Bangsamoro right to self-determination, is being tackled and there are no magic wands to solve them that quick and easy. The “annexes” are still being worked out. Remember what I said before: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL”.

TWO: a good reminder too that peace making and peace-building are a CONTINUING PROCESS. The fact that peace talks spanned several presidents is proof of this.

Getting it done before 2016 is the best-case scenario. But if not done, the next administration can build on the building blocks already in place. RE-INVENTING it every time a new administration comes is NOT the way to go.

THREE: it’s a reality check that government cannot just easily impose its existing legal and constitutional framework on the rebel group that took up arms precisely because they cannot get concessions within the existing regime of rules. I repeat my earlier incantation: we have to open up the Philippine constitution for this.

FOUR, the MILF to also accept the reality that government, although keen on giving concessions, must also strike a happy balance with the other sectors of the country. Other non-rebel stakeholders also expect equitable attention.

FIVE, the MILF may just be doing a “pressure tactic” short of resorting to violence, which is well and good. Also, this may serve as an opportunity for the MILF to re-solidify and re-group its splintered ranks that the recent elections caused.


It gives occasion for public discussions and debate and brings up to speed the stakeholders of both sides to an early exposure and understanding of what may be contained in the final peace agreement. This is the best advocacy opportunity so the public will not be taken for a surprise when the terms of the peace package is made public. Consequently, acceptance later of the comprehensive peace package may come as a matter of course. Remember, Congress will still have to approve this and this is not easy given that the proposed law will expectedly erode or undermine the traditional political power base of those in power. Then, a “yes” vote in a plebiscite is still needed to finally entrench it.

Media is helping. But it must avoid the usual temptation to sensationalize. Peace issues must be handled with great sensitivity. We also know that negotiating publicly in the media is not the way to go. Somehow the formal talks and negotiations will have to return back to deliberative quietude behind closed doors.

So, let’s all relax, pipe down, and patiently wait for some new breakthroughs. IF BOTH SIDES ARE SINCERE IN FORGING PEACE, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY. This is what peace negotiation is all about!

 (Lawyer Jesus G. Dureza is the former Chairman of the government panel in talks with the MILF and former Presidential Peace Adviser. He is the new President-Chairman of the Philippine Press Institute, an umbrella group for provincial and national newspapers in the country.)


Army in Isabela assures readiness to respond to calamities

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 18): Army in Isabela assures readiness to respond to calamities

The 5th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Gamu town assured its readiness and quick response of rescue units in times of calamities in its area of operations.

The PA’s 5th ID area of operations covers the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordillera.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, 5th ID, PA Civil Military Operations Battalion commander, said that his men are on standby mode to respond to emergencies especially in times of calamities.

Last week, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has declared the official entry of rainy season in the country prompting the army rescue unit to be on standby for any eventualities.

When rainy season occurs in the province, northern Isabela towns are prone to floods as this province is considered as catch basin of rain waters from the provinces of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Ifugao through river tributaries going to the Cagayan river.

Magundayao said that this is why the northern Isabela towns are the concentration of rescue operations of rescue units of the army and other rescue units of the province.

The towns that are prone to floods are Gamu, Naguilian, Ilagan, Tumauini, Santo Thomas, Santa Maria, Cabagan, and San Pablo.

Magundayao said that before the declaration of rainy season by PAGASA, his men have prepared themselves to become quick in responding to victims of calamities.

The soldiers of 5th ID, PA, particularly from the Civil Military Operations Battalion have been engaged before in rescue operations in calamity-affected local government units in its area of operations.


NPAs kill pastor, 4 others in Agusan del Sur attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 19): NPAs kill pastor, 4 others in Agusan del Sur attack

The 4th Infantry Division on Wednesday vowed to bring to justice the New People's Army (NPA) rebels who raided a "agro-forestry" corporation in Sitio Kamarangan, Barangay Milagros, Esperanza town, Agusan Del Sur, killing five people Tuesday morning.

Lt. Col. Leo Bongosia, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said that one of the five victims is a pastor.

“This heinous incident describes another leftist NPA rebel’s barbaric, anti-development and anti-people terroristic acts," 4th Infantry Division officer-in-charge Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said.

“We will not allow incidents like this hinder peace and development in our area, collaboration between local government units, government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders is the best resolution to these unproductive and inhumane atrocities by the New People’s Army rebels...communities should realize by now that they should end supporting this rebel groups," he added.

Shennalyne Corporation is a non-government organization and private venture that grows Acacial-Mangium tress, a project that greatly benefited at least two hundred Higaonons in the area.

The firm was raided by two truckloads of rebels around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. They put ablaze at least five heavy machinery, including two tractors.

According to sources, the firm in its five years of existence has developed the area through construction of roads and predominantly giving employment to the people and communities around the firm.


MILF rebels urged to withdraw from occupied areas in Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 19): MILF rebels urged to withdraw from occupied areas in Cotabato town

Mayor Lani Candolada of Tulunan, North Cotabato has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to withdraw their forces now positioned in several areas that used to be thickly populated and respect ceasefire and other agreements relative to the ongoing armed fighting that affected three towns along the tri-boundary of the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Maguindanao.

Candolada, in an interview over dxND, said that there seems to be a ‘breakdown’ of agreements made earlier by three local government units from Tulunan in North Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao, when MILF forces continued to occupy puroks and sitios of Barangays Maybula and New Bunawan.

Citing basis the statements made by some residents of Sitio Tuburan of Barangay New Bunawan, the mayor said MILF rebels seized some properties and belongings of the B’laans when they occupied the place last Monday.

The rebels are already positioned in Purok Malipayon, site of several projects funded by international non-government organizations.

The peacekeeping forces, after the negotiations, withdrew from Purok Malipayon, she said.

“There are no more government forces there. But we just found out later, the area is now being occupied by the MILF. Despite the agreements, there are also isolated firing, which come mostly from the MILF rebels,” said Candolada.

Abner Maniba, spokesman for the 109th base command of the MILF, confirmed earlier reports that it was their forces that now occupy some of the areas in the tri-boundary.

“We don’t deny that it is our forces that are positioned in the area. But we are always on a defensive position,” Maniba said in an interview over dxND.

He denied the accusation that they violated internal agreements. He said it was not their troops that started the attack last Sunday.

“We were first attacked by unknown elements. And we just defended our position that’s why we fought back,” he stressed.

The armed fighting, which started after series of cattle rustling in Purok Malipayon, Tulunan last May, has now spread to adjoining sitios, puroks, and barangays in three towns.

The encounter last Sunday killed Dondon Palomo, member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) from Barangay Maybula in Tulunan. Two MILF members were wounded during the exchange of fires, according to Maniba.

In Tulunan town, the displaced families already reached 200, Candolada said.

Evacuees are housed temporarily in multi-purpose halls of Barangays Maybula and New Bunawan and municipal gym at the Poblacion, data from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said.

There are also evacuees from Barangay El Bebe in Datu Paglas and Barangay Polomolok in Columbio, Candolada said.


Duterte tells NPA: Release kidnapped soldiers

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 18): Duterte tells NPA: Release kidnapped soldiers

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio asked the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Tuesday to immediately release the five soldiers they kidnapped in Paquibato District last Monday afternoon.

"It doesn't have any positive contribution to the city. It only adds to their (rebels') notoriety," Duterte said. "Gahatag lang sila kaguol sa families of those abducted."

Captain Raul Villegas of the Army's 10th Infantry Division said that members of the Peace and Development Team composed of six soldiers of 69th Infantry Battalion were held at gunpoint by the rebels at the vicinity of sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato Proper around 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The five abducted soldiers were identified as Corporal Emmanuel A Quezon, Private First Class (Pfc.) Ronald Gura, Pfc. Bernie Padilla, Pfc. Donato Estandia, and Private Marteniano Pasiagas Jr.

First Lieutenant Neven Canitan, who was part of the team, managed to escape.

According to Villegas, the soldiers were in civilian attire without any firearms because they were headed to the market to produce food supplies and coordinate with a non-government organization for the scheduled feeding program for the benefits of the community when they were kidnapped.

"It is very unfortunate that the NPA rebels took advantage of the situation to achieve their barbarity," he said.

He said the NPA rebels were dressed in military camouflage uniform and performed a barricade in the area, and acted like they were military personnel to deceive commuters.

However, he said Canitan noticed unusual demeanor and following his instinct, he immediately jumped from the motorcycle to escape.

Initial investigation conducted by Paquibato police revealed that the group of rebels was led by one Ryan Pitao, son of Leoncio Pitao, commander of the 1st Pulang Bagani Command (PBC1) of the NPA.

"The incident is in relation to the ongoing Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in the area where the influence of the NPA is waning. The incident can also be construed as their [NPA] means to sow terror among the populace to stop the cooperation of civilians with our PDTs," Lieutenant Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, 69th IB commander, told Sun.Star Davao.

Pasaporte assured that the NPA atrocities will not penetrate the metropolis as the rebels usually operate in the hinterlands of Davao City with attempts to disrupt PDOP operations of the military.

"We only need the cooperation and the bayanihan efforts of the community and the local government units to bring about change in Paquibato," he said.

Troopers from the 69th IB along with Paquibato police are now conducting pursuit operation to rescue the abducted soldiers.

Duterte-Carpio said the families of the victims have yet to seek help from the local government for the release of their abducted family members.

"Gibuhat for a statement," the mayor said when asked what could have been the reason of the rebels to abduct the soldiers.


Military slams rebel atrocities

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 18): Military slams rebel atrocities

The military yesterday slammed the New People’s Army for its continued atrocities in Negros Occidental.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who expressed dismay over the continued atrocities committed by the NPA while talking peace with the government, said the latter need not always succumb to the demands of the rebel group.

“We are the ones in the position of force,” Aying said, adding that the New People’s Army, that has been waging the armed struggle for more than 40 years, will not win against the government.

“I don’t think talking to them will enhance government capacity or accelerate development, especially to those who need social protection”, he added.

If the NPA want to talk peace, let them come to the government on bended knees, Aying also said.

In his strongly-worded statement, Aying also said “We are dealing with plain criminals who blatantly violate human rights of individuals”.

Should the peace talks continue, it should be in the Philippines, with the involvement of various stakeholders, he added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to seek peaceful means to end all armed conflicts despite declarations of the National Democratic Front that it would rather wait for the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term before continuing peace negotiations.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, however, said the AFP will focus on combat operations against the NPA that has vowed to step up its armed revolution nationwide.

Zagala, however, also said “We will continue our focused military operations against (the communist rebels) because they continue to do a lot of atrocities not only to the (AFP) but to the people themselves.”

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles had said earlier that the killings of 27 civilians, including those in an ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental early this year, were among the cruel and senseless acts of violence inflicted by the NPA on non-combatants, that have made it difficult to resume the peace talks.

Following another destruction of its properties by suspected communist rebels, the Philex Gold Mining Corporation temporarily suspended its exploration activities in the hinterlands of Sipalay City last month.


Militiaman runs amok, kills soldier, another Cafgu member

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 19): Militiaman runs amok, kills soldier, another Cafgu member

A soldier and a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) were killed when a Cafgu member ran amuck inside their detachment in a Leyte town Monday afternoon.

Killed were Sergeant Renato Cabarse, assistant commander of Philippine Army’s 78th Infantry Brigade operational control detachment based in Burauen, Leyte, and Cafgu member Alexander Estrella with the assailant identified as 55-year old Cesar Manidlagan who also died during the incident, Police Inspector Federico Sanchez, police chief of Burauen town, said.

Another Cafgu member, Abner Tolibas, was hit and wounded at his right shoulder due to the incident.

“The whole incident happened only for less than three minutes,” Sanchez, in a phone interview, said.

Manidlagan was shot and killed by another Cafgu member, Genes Cabidog.

The incident took place around 4:45 pm Monday inside a Cafgu detachment located in Barangay Anonang.

Estrella died on the spot while Cabarse died while he was being treated at the Burauen District Hospital. Tolibas was brought to a hospital in Tacloban for medical treatment and was said to be in stable condition.

All the victims were on duty and stationed at their respective posts at the time of the incident, Sanchez said.

“We are still conducting our investigation though we can declare the case as solved as the suspect is already dead. What we are doing right now is to establish the motive of the suspect,” the town police chief said.

But based on their initial investigation, Manidlagan attended a birthday celebration of a relative and was under the influence of liquor when he entered their detachment, 10.6 kms. away from town center.

He was said to have immediately proceeded to his barracks and get his service firearm, a Garand rifle, and shot his victims.

First to be hit was Estrella who died on the spot, followed by Cabarse and Tolibas, who was inside a foxhole.

Estrella and Cabarse, who was then the acting chief of the Cafgu unit, were stationed in post number 1.
Sensing that he would be the next victim of Manidlagan, Cabidog shot and eventually killed the suspect. Cabidog was stationed at post number 2.

The victims and the suspect belong to the 78th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Abuyogon, six kms away from the crime scene.

Captain Dranreb Canto, spokesperson of the 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Ormoc City, declined to comment on the incident saying they would conduct their own investigation.

“But this is an unfortunate incident,” Canto, reached on his mobile phone, said.

Felipe Gerona, a Cafgu member, recounted in a mobile phone interview that Manidlangan got drunk from attending a birthday party in the village. He went to his barracks and grabbed a tip bolo and attempted to hack Cabarse but Estrella, who was on duty, pacified him.

“After Manidlangan was pacified, he went back to his barracks and grabbed a M1 Garand rifle and shoot Estrella. Cabarse who was approaching the camp was also shot to death by the suspect,” Gerona narrated.


8ID Press Corps reorganized

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 19): 8ID Press Corps reorganized

Recognizing the role of media as a very important partner in information dissemination, the 8th Infantry Division Philippine Army reorganized anew the 8ID Press Corps on June 15 with at least 50 media men in attendance from different media organizations in Eastern Visayas.

Major General Gerardo Layug, commanding officer of the 8th ID, who inducted the newly elected press corps officers, said in his short speech that media has a very important role in molding people through public information. Every information that the media releases to the public, especially regarding the government programs for the rebels when they return to the folds of the law, is very vital- and this is one of the reason why members of the New People’s Army are continuously going down to surrender.

Rommel Rutor, Leyte Samar Daily Express correspondent for Samar, who was reelected as 8ID Press Corps president, made mentioned that about 5 years ago the same press corps was organized, but for some reason it became inactive. With this reorganization, the press corps is expected to be active as partners of the community and the Philippine Army in public information.

The newly elected 8ID Press Corps are the following;

President : Rommel Rutor; Vice President for Samar: Gene Navelon of the DyOG Radyong ng Bayan, Calbayog City; Vice President for Northern Samar: Ahmir Ortego of Power FM Catarman, N. Samar; Vice President for Leyte: Fred Padernos of Leyte Samar Daily Express and DyBR Tacloban; Vice President for So. Leyte : Josie Sercenia; Secretaries: Rachel Arnaiz of Philippine Daily Inquirer and Melanie Pasia of Bombo Radyo Tacloban; Treasurer: Archie Globio of DyBR Tacloban; Business Managers: Jean Dalmacion and Elmer Siervo.


MNLF leader urges Malaysia, Sultanate to end Sabah stand-off

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 18): MNLF leader urges Malaysia, Sultanate to end Sabah stand-off

Confirms new round of fighting

A senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Tuesday appealed to Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo to settle the Sabah conflict peacefully without further loss of life in the light of new round of fighting.

Habib Mujahab "Bogs" Hashim, chairman of the Islamic Command Council (ICC), one of the factions of the MNLF, made the call as he confirmed new rounds of fighting in Kampung Dengan Tunko, site of a palm oil plantation in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Hashim said he received a call from a Moro settler in Sabah, who live near the site of the new violence.

"The informant did not give any more details, other than saying the Malaysia government has sent reinforcements such as new war tanks and ground forces to Lahad Datu," he said.

"If this doesn’t stop, new fighting could be bigger because the RSF has about 1,000 volunteers joining them," said Hashim.

He renewed his call to the government of Malaysia and the Sultanate under Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to settle the Sabah conflict peacefully.

"It is very sad to see the two sides have lost lives and shed blood, which shouldn’t  be particularly because they are both Muslims," said Hashim, chairman of the Council of Sharifs, whose members have the royal sultanate blood.


AFP to intensify campaign vs Reds

From Malaya (Jun 18): AFP to intensify campaign vs Reds

THE Armed Forces yesterday said it would continue its “focused” combat operations against the New People’s Army following the communist movement’s declaration it would wait for the next administration before returning to the negotiating table.

“They left the negotiating table so we will continue our focused military operations against them...We are going after the armed elements of the New People’s Army,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, chief of the AFP public affairs office.

Last week, the chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Luis Jalandoni, was quoted as saying prospects for peace negotiations under the Aquino administration have dimmed “because of the rhetoric of the Philippine government stating that they are ending the peace negotiations and putting the blame on the NDFP.”

The NDFP, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, made a similar declaration in February 2010, or months before the Aquino government assumed power. It said it was abandoning the idea of forging peace with the “lameduck regime” of the Arroyo administration.

The Armed Forces has been trying to address the insurgency problem for over 40 years, in the absence of a long-term ceasefire between the two sides. Military estimates placed the NPA strength at over 4,000 men.

The military establishment has not declared a full-scale offensive against the NPA because of the peace negotiations.

Zagala said with or without Jalandoni’s statement, the military would continue operations against the NPA, “as long as they are there, conducting offensive actions against the government and the people.”

“We cannot allow them to continue terrorizing the countryside. Our focus is to provide peace and stability in areas when needed. If they (rebels) are there, there is no peace and stability. If there is peace and stability, there is no economic growth and development,” he said.


Major reshuffle of senior officers in military set

From the Business Mirror (Jun 17): Major reshuffle of senior officers in military set

SENIOR military officers are set to be reshuffled to key positions owing to mandatory retirements and other circumstances.
Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Armed Forces chief of staff, has convened the Board of Generals (BOG) to draw the list of candidates for designation to higher positions.
The other members of the BOG are the Armed Forces vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Alan Luga; the deputy chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Macapagal; the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes; the Navy flag officer in command, Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano; and the Air Force chief, Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz.
The Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division based in Sulu is now headed by an officer in charge, following the death of its commander, the late Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, who died in a diving activity in Zamboanga.
The top position in the 3rd Infantry “Spearhead” Division based in Western Visayas is also due for replacement because its commander, Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on June 20.
In addition, the top position in the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division based in Cagfayan de Oro City remains vacant as it is now led in acting capacity by Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
The Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2), based at the Armed Forces General Headquarters in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City, also needs a regular head as it is now being run in an acting capacity by Brig. Gen. Virgilio Hernandez.
Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, Northern Luzon Command chief, is also due for retirement on July 6. The command is based at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City.
Alcantara is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Matapat” Class of 1979. Reports said that he would be replaced by Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (PMA “Dimalupig” Class ’81), current commander of the 7th Infantry “Kaugnay” Division based at Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
Reportedly eyed for the “highly contested” 1st Infantry Division’s top position is Brig. Gen. Felecito Virgilio Trinidad Jr., (PMA “Sandigan” Class ’82). Trinidad assumed commander in acting capacity for the division following the death of Lucero.

Noynoy revives talks with MNLF’s Misuari

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 18): Noynoy revives talks with MNLF’s Misuari


As if the current impasse with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the negotiations for the setting up of the Bangsamoro substate was not enough, the Aquino administration appears to have revived negotiations with the MILF’s rival rebel faction Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), according to an MILF leader.

The MILF stressed it will not accept changes in the initialed annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), apparently rejecting the government’s move to introduce revisions in the draft.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the MILF Central Committee will study the issue on the delay of the negotiations and decide on the matter within days.

“The Central Committee might not accept these things (changes in the annexes), most probably the Central Committee will not accept,” Jaafar said.

A disgruntled senior MILF leader also accused the government’s Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) in initiating new talks with the MNLF.

Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, has demanded the Aquino administration to explain the revival of talks with the MNLF, which are talks Musa said had long been ended.

“Why now it is called negotiation when the government especially Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles merely referred to it as conversation,” Musa said. Deles could not be reached by The Tribune for comment.

Even the spokesmen of President Aquino were allegedly busy and had no time to conduct the regular press briefings as they all are deep into the preparation of the speech of Aquino for the coming state of the nation address (Sona) in July.

Musa added that the MNLF being involved on the wealth-sharing annex of the FAB will lead to “pressure on the MILF to accept a lesser bargain.”

“This is a form of driving a wedge between Moro groups,” he said.

Earlier, government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chairman Prof. Miriam Ferrer said the government intends to introduce changes to the draft annex under FAB particularly on aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms and revenue sharing.

Asked why the MILF is not inclined to accept the changes, Jaafar replied “those were already signed, these were initialed. Why the changes, they already went through discussion?”

Jaafar said the MILF Central Committee will be meeting anytime soon after a delegation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) holds courtesy call to the MILF today to discuss the issue.

He said he will be presiding over the MILF Central Committee in the absence of Chairman Al Haj Murad.

“It will be presided (over) by me because Brother Murad is indisposed,” said Jaafar.
Pressed why is Murad indisposed, Jaafar said “that is internal to us.”

Ferrer has said the negotiations on the stalled FAB wealth-sharing annex will resume soon in Malaysia.

Ferrer said the negotiation had reached the point of the most crucial issues of the FAB “it is to be expected that finding agreement on details (of the FAB annexes) has been more difficult and complex,” she said.

She said on the power-sharing annex, three classes of sharing of powers were identified between the central government and the Bangsamoro regional government which are “reserved” powers or matters over which competencies are fully retained by the central government; “concurrent” powers or aspects of jurisdiction subject to the shared or joint authorities of the central and regional governments; and “exclusive” powers or competencies that are to be devolved to the Bangsamoro.”

Ferrer said some of the reserved powers were already identified which are defense and external security; foreign policy; common market and global trade provided that the power to enter into economic agreements already allowed under Republic Act 9054 shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro; coinage and monetary policy; citizenship and naturalization, and postal service.

Musa lambasted the government for talking with MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, who he described as already part of the government, and whose clout, he said, as a leader is very much suspect.

Musa described the meeting as similar to a cat playing with its own tail.

Misuari ran for the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the last May 13 elections and landed a poor third place behind Mujib Hataman and Datu Pax Mangudadatu.

This is the third time Misuari ran and lost the elections in the ARMM, Musa said.
Being hand-picked by Aquino, Hataman won over his rivals handily.

Musa said the meeting between the MNLF and government representatives is supposed to take place at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila on June 17 to 19.

“But source close to the government disclosed that it is postponed indefinitely,” Musa said.

There was no reason given for the delay, except that it was attributed to lack of material time to prepare everything for the meeting.

Musa claimed that they were informed Misuari will lead the MNLF team while OPAPP Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles will be representing the GPH.

“Their focus of discussion would be the implementing rules and guidelines on the provisions of the Final Peace Agreement, signed on September 2, 1996,” Musa said.

For years the MNLF has protested the failure of the government, since the time of President Cory Aquino, to fully implement the FPA.

“Only the P-Noy government has promised to completely carry out the terms of the agreement, in consideration of preserving and enhancing its relations with the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, specifically the oil-rich states led by Saudi Arabia,” Musa said.

Also, the pioneer batch of Indonesian contingent composed of 10 military and five civilian officers with the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will end its tour of duty by June 24, 2013.

This was learned from the headquarters of the IMT here in Cotabato City during the farewell dinner tendered for two outgoing Malaysian IMT officers, Lt Col Rashidin and Mr Agus, a couple of days ago.

The IMT Chief of Staff the replacements for the Indonesian and Malaysian IMT will be coming soon following the commitment given by the two governments to continue deploying contingents for the IMT.

Col Khairully Head the Indonesian Contingent First Batch that started its tour of duty last June 24, 2012 and leading the IMT Team Site 5 based in Davao City.

A farewell program is already organized at Camp Darapanan by the MILF Central Committee for the outgoing Indonesian IMT officers, said Muhammad Ameen, the Chief Secretariat of the MILF Central Committee.

Ameen conveyed the endless gratitude and commendation of Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF Central Committee and the Bansgamoro people for the invaluable commitment and support of the Indonesian Government to the GPH – MILF Peace Process, particularly with the IMT.

“We can never compensate the contributions of Col Khairully and his men but surely Allah will reward them and their families for their noble efforts and services to the Bangsamoro aspiration for peace and justice.

“We hope the Indonesian will stay with the IMT for as long as necessary,” he stressed.
IMT monitors on the ground the implementation of the security, humanitarian - development, socio-economic, and civilian protection aspects of the GPH - MILF Peace Process,” Ameen said.

The IMT is composed of Malaysia, as Head of Mission, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Norway and the European Union and being supported by the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), and the Moslem Organization of Government Officials and Professionals (MOGOP).

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, expressed optimism that the “frustrations” of ground commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not lead to renewed violence in Mindanao areas, stressing that the ceasefire agreement is holding.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the AFP-Public Affairs Office (PAO), said that both AFP and MILF in the field are following the existing mechanisms of the ceasefire between the government and the Moro group.

Zagala said that the “frustrations” now being aired by the MILF leadership are still within the ongoing peace negotiations.

“Their statements do not equate to violence…they might be getting frustrated in the process but the process is ongoing, there is no closure in the peace talks,” said Zagala.
“All can be discussed during the negotiations but their frustration does not equate to renewed violence or offensive actions,” added Zagala.

MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar earlier said that MILF ground commanders are getting impatient and angry over what they perceived as “deliberate” delay in the peace negotiations.

Jaafar said that MILF leaders cannot wait forever for the comprehensive compact agreement and blamed the government peace panel for the delay.

“When there are pronouncements, these are part of the negotiations. It does not equate that there will be violence…we should not equate these (pronouncements) immediately to war, that’s why there is peace talks,” said Zagala.

In fact, Zagala said that there has been no report lately of any conflict between the military and the MILF, stressing that both parties are following the mechanisms of the peace process.

“It is manifested on the ground…the AFP and the MILF are abiding by the peace process. We both support the peace process,” said Zagala.

“The ceasefire between the Armed Forces and the MILF is holding,” he added.


NPA rebels abduct 5 troops in Davao

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 18): NPA rebels abduct 5 troops in Davao

Communist insurgents wearing military uniforms abducted five soldiers in Davao City, in the latest of a series of violent acts following the collapse of peace talks, authorities yesterday said.

The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels set up a checkpoint in Sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato Proper around 4:30 p.m. Monday and seized the five soldiers as they were passing through on motorcycles, Capt. Raul Villegas, deputy public affairs officer of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID), said.

Seized were Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfcs. Ronald Gura, Bernie Padilla, Donato Estandia and Pvt. Marteniano Pasiagas Jr.

One of the troops, apparently the team leader, Lt. Neven Canitan, managed to escape.
“(The) troops were in civilian attire without any firearm because they were going to the market to procure food supplies and coordinate with an NGO (non-government organization) for the scheduled feeding program in the community,” Villegas said.

“It is very unfortunate that the NPA bandits took advantage of the situation to achieve their barbarity,” he added.

The NPA rebels performed a barricade in the area and acted like they were military personnel to deceive commuters, Villegas said.

He added Canitan escaped after jumping off from the motorcycle and throwing himself in a ravine after sensing unusual demeanor along their route.

“Following his instinct, he immediately jumped from the motorcycle and threw himself in a ravine to escape,” Villegas said of Canitan.

Police reports tagged the group of NPA commander Leoncio Pitao, alias Parago, as behind the abduction.

Military troops were deployed to conduct hot pursuit operation.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. condemned the latest NPA act.

“We strongly condemn this act of abducting soldiers who are not in combat mission. The troops were in civilian attire and without firearms when they went to the market for a peace and development mission with an NGO that would benefit the community,” he said.

The communist has been waging a 44-year-old armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives. The military estimates the NPA has about 4,000 fighters.

The government had been hoping to sign a pact to end the rebellion before President Aquino ended his six-year term in 2016. But the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed.

Davao, the biggest city in Mindanao, has long been a hotbed of communist insurgency.
Three soldiers were killed last June 4 in another part of Mindanao when they stumbled into a communist guerrilla jungle training camp and walked on a landmine.

Eight members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) died last month when communist rebels ambushed them in Cagayan province.

Meanwhile in Agusan del Sur, five civilians were killed while millions worth of heavy equipment were burned down after NPA rebels attacked a private corporation in the province.

Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), said undetermined number of NPA rebels swooped down at the compound of Sienna Lyn Corporation in Barangay Remedios, Esperanza town around 9:30 a.m.

“Accordingly, they (NPAs) burned down five heavy equipment to include tractors and then the NPAs left five dead in the area,” he added.

Bongosia said the fatalities were believed to be workers of the private company involved in the agro-industrial business.

The Army official, quoting initial information, said some of the victims were elderly.
The identities of the fatalities were not immediately available.

Bongosia said that fatalities were gunned down.

He said the attacking NPA rebels were aboard two trucks.

The military expressed belief that the attack was motivated by the communist group’s extortion activities.

“We are seeing extortion here…they (NPA rebels) were not heeded,” Bongosia said.


MILF: Disagreements loom over FAB’s Wealth-sharing Annex

From the MILF Website (Jun 18): Disagreements loom over FAB’s Wealth-sharing Annex


Will the peace process prosper or doom to fail? Stakeholders in Mindanao, observers on the peace process and Moro combatants are asking these questions.

On its issue dated June 14, 2014, MindaNews reported that an impasse on wealth-sharing annex stalls GPH-MILF talks.
It further said, “Eight months after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and four months after President Benigno Simeon Aquino III said peace was “abot-kamay” (within reach), notes on how to resolve the contentious issues on the three remaining annexes have been exchanged but no date has been set for the resumption of the talks as the panels have yet to break an impasse on the wealth-sharing annex.

The other week, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed came to  Maguindanao to deliver “notes” from the GPH with regards to the positions of the government on wealth-sharing and to iron out differences between the two panels but parties remain as far apart as or even farther apart than it was in the last talks in April.

Last April 11, the panels in a Joint Statement at the end of their talks in Kuala Lumpur said they would “meet again after the May 13 Philippine elections” and affirmed their commitment to “finally settle these issues soon so that all three annexes may be signed without undue delay.” So far, no date has been set for the resumption of the talks.

To be able to complete the comprehensive peace pact that would pave the way for the creation of the  “Bangsamoro Region” four annexes are supposed to be completed and  signed but so far the transitional arrangements and modalities annex was signed by both parties last February 27. It had been eight months since the inking of the FAB and the two panels failed to complete the annexes supposedly completed by end of 2012.

Even before the year end, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator stressed the importance and urgency of the peace talks and urged its counterparts to finish it before the 2013 mid-term election but it has been two months since the April talks and a month after the elections and no agreement on the three annexes have been signed.

Today June 17, eight months had passed since the October 15, 2012 signing in Malacaňang of the FAB, leaving the Aquino administration only 36.3 months to set up what has been touted as its legacy project; the establishment of Bangsamoro new political entity that will replace the ARMM.

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews on June 9 that the facilitator “arrived on Friday (June 7) and we have exchanged notes and messages on the issues related to the wealth and power sharing annexes.” “All avenues to hasten the resolution of the difficult issues are being tapped before the full panel formal talks,” she said. Earlier, Ferrer told MindaNews the date of the next talks would be set only “after exchange of notes and most issues are resolved.” In published news article at Luwaran.com, MILF official website, an MILF Peace Panel member who requested anonymity commented that, “Initialed by two regular members of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panels, the latter (MILF) has no plan to abandon that document, saying backtracking by any of the two parties is a serious drawback to the peace process”.

“The peace negotiation is an exercise in futility if there is no stop to this changing of positions by the government negotiating team.”  “We are not renegotiating the initialed document,” he said, adding, however, that he believes the talks will only prosper if the two parties follow sincerely the matuwid na daan (straight path) policy, which is also the cornerstone of President Aquino administration.

GPH Chief Negotiator Ferrer told MindaNews that “wealth-sharing matters initialed at TWG level (were) based on common understanding (that they) shall be subject to review by principals.”

But only Ferrer appears optimistic the talks would resume “very soon.”  Iqbal remains firm the MILF will not re-negotiate the initialed Annex on Wealth-Sharing.

On April 11, Ferrer told MindaNews that there were only two remaining key issues in the Annex on Power-sharing: “the allocation of the powers across the different items pertaining to transportation and communications and the concept of regional waters.”

The report also said that in the April talks, Iqbal said that “except for those that are in harmony with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), we don’t accept the changes introduced by government on wealth-sharing.”

“Two changes of positions in a row within the span of two months is alarming,” Luwaran quoted Iqbal as saying. Given these stance of both panels where either side is not “giving an inch” to resolved the percentage of sharing on the region’s wealth, the peace process is deemed stalled. The government is to blame for backtracking from its original position where the annex on wealth-sharing was signed at the TWG level.

In one of his statements President Aquino likened the stage of the peace process then to the “Heartbreak Hill” of the Boston Marathon. Four months after, the peace process stuck at the “heartbreak Hill”.

 Earlier, members of civil society groups asked President Aquino to evaluate the members of the GPH Peace Panel but even then they left to the president the final say on the matter.

Many observers are now assessing the situation. The international community particularly the International Contact Group (ICG) should enter into the scene and see what they can do to fast track the negotiation. An impasse or too much delay in forging a comprehensive compact agreement will make people on the ground doubt the sincerity of the government. A deadlock at this point in time is disastrous to the peace process and the government side is to blame. The peace process should not be likened to a meticulously crafted “castle made of sand” that easily crumbled when slightly hit by a wind. 

5 killed in NPA attack

From Rappler (Jun 18): 5 killed in NPA attack

Suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels attacked and killed 5 workers and burned heavy equipment of an agro-forest corporation in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, Tuesday morning.

Maj Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said the rebels, who came on board two trucks, attacked the Sienna Lyn Corp in Barangay Remedios at around 9:30 am Tuesday, burning 5 heavy equipment such as tractors.

The rebels also shot and killed 5 male workers, Bongosia said.

The Army has yet to identify the victims since investigators are still in the area as of posting. Bongosia described the place as isolated.

"They were shot and killed. We also received information that the victims were elderly, senior citizens, but we are still confirming this," Bongosia added.


Abducted Maguindanao rice trader freed

From Rappler (Jun 18): Abducted Maguindanao rice trader freed

A rice trader kidnapped more than a month ago was freed by his captors in Maguindanao, a military official said Tuesday, June 18.

The victim, Kenneth Cabrera, 25, was fetched by his family and local officials near a state-owned university in Datu Odin Sinsuat town at around 5 pm on Monday, June 17.

Cabrera is the son of a former village official in the town of Ampatuan, also in Maguindanao.

Regional military spokesman Col Dickson Hermoso said the victim was released without ransom money.

He said Moro rebels engaged in peace talks with the government, local leaders, and Muslim religious leaders intervened on Cabrera’s behalf.

On May 14, Cabrera was tending to the family’s rice and corn trading shop in Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan when armed men seized him.

The perpetrators dragged the victim to a getaway car parked a few meters away from the store.

Authorities blamed the kidnapping on members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group denied it had a hand in the abduction.


Mabus visit highlights U.S. commitment to PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Mabus visit highlights U.S. commitment to PHL 

US Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, on Tuesday said that the three-day visit of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to the country highlights their continuing commitment to the country.

Thomas made this statement during a chance interview at the Department of National Defense (DND) building in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The US ambassador escorted Mabus during the latter's meeting with DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other ranking military officials Tuesday morning.

The US official arrived Monday in the Philippines.

He added that Mabus' visit is to show the United States Navy and Marine Corps' continuing commitment to the Philippines.

"This is his second visit to the Philippines," Thomas stressed.

This commitment is highlighted by the fact the US Navy ships made over 70 port calls last year.

Thomas said that this commitment is further boosted by the decision of the US Navy to have some of its ships repaired at the shipyards operating in Subic Bay, Zambales.

"That's a multi-million dollar injection into the Philippine economy," he added.

"As we rebalance to the Pacific, our alliance with the Philippines has never been more important than it is today," Mabus earlier stated.

"I look forward to exploring opportunities to work with the Philippine armed forces to build greater maritime capacity and increase security and stability in the region," he emphasized.

The US Secretary of the Navy conducts all business matters for the two uniformed services that make up the Department of the Navy.

These are Navy and the Marine Corps.

This involves implementing policies and programs to support the national security objectives established by US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Additionally, Mabus oversees the construction and repair of naval ships, aircraft, and facilities.

He is responsible for an annual budget in excess of U.S.0 billion and provides leadership for almost 900,000 people.


NPAs abduct 5 unarmed soldiers in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): NPAs abduct 5 unarmed soldiers in Davao City

Army units are now conducting tracking and pursuit operations against members of the New People's Army (NPA) who abducted five unarmed members of the peace and development team (PDT) of 60th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato, Davao City Monday afternoon.

Capt. Raul Villegas, deputy spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, the mother unit of the 60th Infantry Battalion, said the incident took place around 4:30 p.m.

He added that the PDT was composed of five troopers headed by 1st Lt. Neven Canitan.

He identified the abducted soldiers as Cpl. Emmanuel A. Quezon, Pfc. Ronald C. Gura, Pfc. Bernie L. Padilla, Pfc. Donato F. Estandia and Pvt. Marteniano B Pasiagas, Jr.,

Villegas said the troopers were on their way to a nearby market to procure some food supplies and were supposed to coordinate with a non-government organization for a feeding program.

He added that the troopers were unarmed and clad in civilian clothes when captured by the rebels who acted a members of military checkpoint.

"The NPA bandits dressed in military camouflage uniform and performed a barricade in the area and acted like they were military personnel to deceive commuters. However, Lt. Canitan noticed unusual demeanor. Following his instinct he immediately leaped from the motorcycle and threw himself in a ravine to escape," Villegas stated.

Pursuit and rescue operations are now ongoing.


West Philippine Sea also tackled during Mabus visit - US Ambassador

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): West Philippine Sea also tackled during Mabus visit - US Ambassador

US Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, on Tuesday said that West Philippine Sea was also discussed during the visit of US Navy Secretary Mabus at the Department of National Defense headquarters in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"As (US Secretary of State) Secretary Hillary Clinton said before we want to ensure that this freedom of navigation, no economic coercion, and that these sea lanes are open," he added.

Keeping the sea lanes open is vital for everyone concerned.

"We need to adhere to the code of conduct, we discussed these things on the table," Thomas stressed.

The US ambassador escorted Mabus during the latter's meeting with DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other ranking military officials Tuesday morning.

The US official arrived Monday in the Philippines.

He added that Mabus' visit is to show the United States Navy and Marine Corps' continuing commitment to the Philippines.


5 killed as rebels attacked 'agro-forestry' company in Agusan Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): 5 killed as rebels attacked 'agro-forestry' company in Agusan Del Sur

Five persons were killed after New People's Army (NPA) rebels attacked an "agro-forestry" company in Barangay Remedios, Esperanza town, Agusan Del Sur Tuesday morning.

Lt. Col. Leo Bongosia, 4th Infantry Division commander, said that pursuit operations are now being conducted by their 26th Infantry Battalion.

The attack, which also resulted in the gutting of five heavy machinery, including two tractors, transpired around 9:30 a.m.

Bongosia identified the raided establishment as the Sienna Lyn Corporation, a company engaged in paper and "agro-forestry" products manufacture.

He added that two truck loads of rebels stormed the establishment

Bongosia stated that they are still determining why the rebels shot and killed five workers of the company.

"Some of the victims are old men. We are still looking why they (NPAs) gunned these individuals," Bongosia stressed.

He added that the NPA attack is very counter-productive considering that the raided firm is a huge employer in the area.


Farmer killed, another hurt in Lanao Sur clan war

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Farmer killed, another hurt in Lanao Sur clan war

Police and military forces have been deployed in a barangay in Malabang, Lanao del Sur after a missing animal triggered a clan war which left a Maranao villager dead and another wounded on Monday, police said Tuesday.

The armed conflict erupted when heavily armed members of the Montaner family, led by a certain Asraf Montaner and Lumna Bilao, raided the farm of Rakih Ali of the Ali clan, searching for a missing cow in Barangay Diamaru, Malabang town.

The Ali family considered the entry of Montaner's armed followers as a direct accusation that they were responsible for the missing animal.

A heated argument between the two group leading to gunfight. Killed in a shootout was Baksah Silongan, 32, who was hit by stray bullets. A certain Bomboyan Montaner, 28, was also wounded.

Police Inspector Romnick Lintangan, chief of the Malabang police, said even before the latest shooting incident, the Montaners and Ali clans have been at odds that developed into a "rido" (clan war).

Fighting erupted at about 4:00 a.m. and stopped about noon, police said. Insp. Lintangan said Ali has about 50 armed followers while Bilao had about 70 armed men when they clashed.

The conflict between the warring families started in 2004 as a result of cattle rustling.

Several members of families of the warring clans have fled to safer grounds as local government officials have started dialogues to settle the family feud.

Lintangan said police investigators are still determining whether the clans belonged to any Moro rebel organizations.


Air Force receives P2.7-M projects from city government of Zambo

From the Philippine News Agency  (Jun 18): Air Force receives P2.7-M projects from city government of Zambo

The city government of Zamboanga will construct a P2.7 million multi-purpose building at the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) in Barangay Sta. Maria, north of this city.

City Mayor Celso Lobregat led Monday in the groundbreaking rites at the base complex, the main forward unit of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) here in Mindanao.

Lobregat said the structure will serve as the office of Air Force reservists in this city and the region.

Lobregat himself is a reserved lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

The multi-purpose building will cost some P2.7 million to include P1 million from the Countryside Development Fund (CDF) of three termer and outgoing Councilor Rodolfo Lim.

The remaining P1.7 will come from other sources of the city government.

Lobregat also inaugurated a P1.3 worth comfort room at the EAAB, also for use by Air Force Reservists.


2 die, 3 hurt in gov't-MILF clashes in North Cot

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): 2 die, 3 hurt in gov't-MILF clashes in North Cot

An armed civilian and an alleged Moro rebel were killed while three others were wounded after they engaged in a running gun battle at the hinterlands of Barangay Maybula in Tulunan, around 4 a.m., on Sunday, police said Tuesday.

Sr. Insp. Ronnie Cordero, chief of Tulunan PNP, identified one of the fatalities as Dondon Palomo, one of the members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team of Barangay Maybula and an employee of a banana plantation in Barangay Maybula.

Rose Abad, one of the residents of Sitio Saban in Barangay Maybula, said Palomo was one of their ‘war dogs’ or BPAT members who carried firearms to protect and secure their village from the attacks of the MILF.

“Si Palomo at mga BPAT ang pumuprotekta sa amin sa mga armado dun sa lugar. Pero napatay siya sa enkwentro. (It was Palomo and BPAT members that protect us from the armed men in the area. But he was killed during the encounter), said Abad.

Palomo’s body was recovered at Purok Malipayon in Barangay Maybula.

Also killed during the encounter was an MILF member whose body was recovered in nearby Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat, reports said.

Three other MILF members were wounded during the fighting, according to Cordero who used as basis in his statement a report from Columbio PNP.

Based on their initial investigation, Cordero said the skirmishes at Barangay Maybula started when the detachment of the Peacekeeping forces at Purok Malipayon was allegedly attacked by MILF rebels.

Cordero said the MILF fired mortars that landed near the camp of the 57th IB, around 4 a.m., on Sunday.

“Our government troops are on a defensive position. Since it was the MILF that first launched the attack, our soldiers have to defend their position. The soldiers saw the rebels getting nearer the detachment of the Peacekeeping Forces. So they returned fires,” said Cordero.

Palomo’s group, according to Cordero, came to help the soldiers in their fight against the MILF.

“May mga armed civilian ang nagtabang sa mga peacekeeping forces kay ang military gamay na lang, outnumbered sila. (There were armed civilians who helped the peacekeeping forces because our soldiers were already lacking in number),” said Cordero.

Palomo was hit on his stomach and died due to severe blood loss.

"Ang nahitabo, nag-atras ang mga MILF nga nag-harass og naay naigo nga sa mga nag-reinforce. (What happened was, the MILF rebels retreated when they were fired at by BPAT and government soldiers. This was when one of the BPATs was hit),” the police official said.

The renewed fighting between government troops and the MILF resulted to another wave of displacement of residents coming from five sitios near Barko-Barko, a place considered as a strategic military position but the MILF claimed it as part of their ‘perimeter defense’.

Eunice Tadiaque, secretary of Barangay Maybula, said the number of families that again evacuated to the village center reached 157 or 442 individuals, mostly women and children.

Around 10:30 a.m., on Monday, the soldiers positioned at the village center of Maybula rushed to Sitio Tuburan after they received reports that armed rebels are getting nearer the temporary detachment of the 57th IB.

Marivic Saban, one of the war victims, panicked when she saw a number of armed MILF rebels coming down from the mountains waving a red flag.

From 10:30 a.m., until 2 p.m., on Monday, the Army has fired at least five mortars in areas where they sighted the armed men.

In the midst of the fighting, Rose Abad, also one of the evacuees, has called on both warring forces to a ceasefire.

“Gusto na namin ng katahimikan. Ibigay n’yo naman sa amin ‘yan. Kasi hindi makapag-aral ang mga anak namin. Panay bakwit na lang kami. Dalawang beses na kaming nagbakwit. (We want peace. Please give that peace to us. Our children have not gone schools. We always evacuate. This is the second time that we left our homes)”, said Abad.

Last May, hundreds of families fled to the village center in Barangay Maybula after BPAT members and the MILF clashed in Purok Malipayon. The clashes started when armed BPATs allegedly entered ‘Barko-Barko’ after they chased a group of armed men they believed were responsible for series of cattle rustling in the area.


Pursuit operation on vs rebels holding 5 soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Pursuit operation on vs rebels holding 5 soldiers

CAMP MANUEL YAN, Mawab, Compostela Valley -- The military has launched a pursuit operation against rebels who held five soldiers in a roadblock at Sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato Proper, 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Captain Raul Villegas, public affairs officer of the 10th Infantry Division said their primary concern now is the safety of the six soldiers who were held at gunpoint after they failed to notice the roadblock set up by the rebels who were clad in military uniform.

He identified the captives as Corporal Emmanuel Quezon, Privates First Class Ronald Gura, Bernie Padilla, and Donato Estandia and Private Marteniano Pasiagas, Jr., all members of the 60th Infantry Battalion.

Villegas said the members of the peace and development team in civilian attire were going to the market to buy food supplies for their scheduled feeding program when they were held by the rebels who were manning the roadblock.

He said only a certain 1Lt. Canitan, the officer of the group eluded captivity after he jumped off the motorcycle and threw himself in a ravine, when he noticed the unusual behaviour of the armed group manning the barricade.

“It is very unfortunate that the rebels dressed in military camouflage uniform and acted like they were military personnel to deceive commuters,” Villegas said.


Ex-peace panel head urges GPH, MILF to continue talks to resolve contentious issues

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): Ex-peace panel head urges GPH, MILF to continue talks to resolve contentious issues

A former chair of the government peace panel has urged both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to exercise flexibility to move the peace process forward in resolving the contentious issues on wealth and power sharing.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Rodolfo C. Garcia, a former chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF, on Tuesday said there should be “give and take” on both sides to pave the way for the signing of a final peace agreement between the GPH and the MILF.

Garcia made the statement in a telephone interview with this writer in the wake of the new development in the ongoing talks in which the MILF said have reached a “stalemate.”

Garcia said that these contentious issues “can be discussed by both sides” as he urged the government and the MILF not to remain “fixed in their position.”

Garcia was the chairman of the government peace panel during the Arroyo administration and has extensive knowledge on the Mindanao conflict having been assigned in the region for many years during his active service in the military, including as commander of the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Maguindanao.

Earlier, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said that the channels of communications with the MILF are open.

Deles said the government is ready to discuss to resolve the contentious issues on wealth sharing and power sharing.The peace talks with the MILF are on the homestretch as both peace panels are now tackling the most difficult matters.

On the other hand, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has expressed optimism that both parties will try their best to arrive at workable comprises.

“This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the Annexes on Power and Wealth-sharing very soon,” she added.

Malaysia is the third party facilitator in the peace talks between the GPH and the MILF.