Monday, June 24, 2013

Army official sacked

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 25): Army official sacked

The death of five Army soldiers in an encounter with suspected New People’s Army rebels last month in Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, led to the relief of an Army commander in southern Negros, a military report said yesterday.

Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez was replaced by Lt. Col. Ariel Reyes as head of the command of 47th Infantry Battalion.

Deocadez is now assigned with the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations of the 3rd Infantry Division in Jamindan, Capiz, Maj. Rey Tiongson, local Army spokesman, said yesterday.

The NPA rebels had taken four M-16 assault rifles, an M-14 rifle and a K3 Squad Automatic Weapon light machine gun from the slain soldiers, military records also showed.

A night before the encounter, rebels had burned two bunk houses of Philex Mining Corporation, a Kubota tractor with drilling machine and one generator set, a computer set, ICOM radio and personal belongings on May 5 in Sitio Umas, Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City.

The soldiers were responding to the arson incident when the encounter took place.
The destruction of Philex mining properties by suspected communist rebels has been taking place since 2008, military said. This prompted the mining company to suspend its exploration activities.

Rochele Hilario, Philex marketing and communications officer, said in an interview with the Philippine National Agency, that only exploration and drilling activities were temporarily suspended, while work on environmental care and maintenance will continue.

Sipalay Mayor Oscar Montilla had earlier expressed concern about unemployment because of the temporary mine closure.

Hilario said they were concerned over the safety of their geologists after the NPA rebels attacked the Bulog mine site last May 3.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines recently condemned the recent NPA atrocities against the Philex Mining project in Sipalay and in other mine sites.

Witnesses bare events leading to kidnapping of filmmaking sisters

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 25): Witnesses bare events leading to kidnapping of filmmaking sisters

A day before they were abducted in Patikul, Sulu, the Bansil sisters spent the night in the village of Sinumaan, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.

Senior Inspector Conrad Gutierrez, the police chief of Patikul town, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that independent film makers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, along with 19 other locals, left Jolo on June 20 and went to the village of Danag in Patikul.

“Then, they stayed overnight in (Barangay) Sinumaan,” a known lair of the bandit group, he said.

“In fact, security forces don’t go there without ample security,” Gutierrez said.

On their way back to Jolo on Saturday, the Bansils were abducted in the village of Liang, also in Patikul, Gutierrez said.

Although the sisters were with 19 other companions, Gutierrez said

“During the abduction, only the Bansil sisters were taken.”

He said the Bansil sisters stayed in the house of “Sultan Mauzidin Bantilan” in Jolo.

“They were doing some kind of a documentary report about the Sultanate of Sulu,” he said.

Gutierrez said they have talked to Sultan Bantilan, who had asked the local government, the police and military “to maintain distance first while they are trying to negotiate for safe release of the two ladies.

AFP Chief leads WESMINCOM inauguration of 3 infra projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 24): AFP Chief leads WESMINCOM inauguration of 3 infra projects

The Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) has recently inaugurated three new and rehabilitated infrastructure inside its headquarters.

Colonel Rodrigo T. Gregorio, Command Public Information Officer said in a press statement that the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Emmanuel T Bautista arrived at the headquarters last June 20 to visit field units and to lead the inauguration and blessing of three projects inside Camp Navarro this city.

Under the leadership of Lt.Gen. Rey c Ardo, WESMINCOM undertook the major renovation and rehabilitation of the Flamingo, a multi-purpose hall, the La Solidaridad, a function area with swimming pool, and the construction of the Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista Lounge, a function room intended as reception hall for VIP guests.

Col. Gregorio said that among the three newly renovated and constructed facilities, the Flamingo is probably the most significant and most memorable to most retired and senior officers who are still in the active service.

“Flamingo has in one way or another become part of their lives and career. No less our honoree, the present Chief of Staff, AFP, Gen BAUTISTA and Cmdr, WestMinCom LtGen Ardo were once billeted in this facility 32 years ago when they reported here in Mindanao for their first assignment as new 2nd Lieutenants in 1981,” Gregorio said.

He added that Flamingo is derived from latin word flamma which means flame. The original Flamingo Officers’ clubhouse traces its root in the 1970s during the height of the Muslim rebellion in western Mindanao. The then ‘flamboyant’ Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army BGen Alfonso Alcoseba was responsible in conceiving the construction of the said facility and named it Flamingo, accordingly after the famous Flamingo in Las Vegas in order to serve as venue for unwinding and relaxation of the Officers from the stress and fatigue of the intense fighting in Mindanao during that time.

Since then, Flamingo has evolved to serve for other purposes and functions to include: as an EP Clubhouse in the 1990s and as Female Officers Quarters renaming it to Patio de la Mujeres in 2000s.

Today, Flamingo is still situated in its original location and retains most of its original architectural designs after undergoing another major renovation in the hope to bringing back its former glory, fame and memories.

Letter-to-the-Editor: Second-class officers’ in the Philippine military

Letter-to-the-Editor in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 24): ‘Second-class officers’ in the Philippine military

This is a reaction to Ramon J. Farolan’s column titled “The ROTC program and a citizen army” (Opinion, 6/17/13).

Farolan bewails the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the young to join the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program as an entry point into the officer corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, thus eroding the leadership base of the military establishment, which is essential in the event of mobilization.

A reason he did not mention is the fact that an ROTC graduate who enters the military today becomes a second-class citizen in his own country’s Armed Forces. While 75 percent of the AFP officer corps are non-Philippine Military Academy graduates, all the instruments of national security in the country are controlled by PMAers, oftentimes from a single class. Thus, there is monopoly of power which by itself is a security problem.

Gone are the days when there existed professional competition, if not check and balance, among officers of different sources of commission. Because the playing field was even, there was friendly competition and we saw the rise of non-PMA graduates to high positions in the national security apparatus of the country. This will not happen again. Why?

If we take two college graduates, one from the PMA and the other from a local university, the PMA graduate is commissioned immediately as a regular officer, whereas the other will have to undergo military training for a period of one to two years before he is commissioned. Chances are, they were of the same age when they graduated from college and so they will retire at the same time at age 56. In other words, the PMA graduate would already be one or two years ahead of the university graduate in the seniority roster. Thus, under normal circumstances, the ROTC graduate will always be junior to the PMAer until both retire. This explains why an ROTC graduate will never rise to a high position under the present system, and it could be one reason why the military profession is not looked upon favorably by college graduates.

Should the retirement law be amended so that retirement is based on years of commissioned service rather than age, then there is a chance that the non-PMAer will reach the top position. This will give an incentive to bright university graduates to join the military and make it a career as they will know that they have a chance to reach the top.
There is another remedy, if we aspire to achieve a broader military leadership base: Let’s pass a law creating the Philippine Air Force Academy. Senators Edgardo Angara and Panfilo Lacson conducted a public hearing for this purpose in the last Congress. To a man, the whole hierarchy of the defense establishment was cool to the idea.
With all those sophisticated weapons systems that are being procured for the modernization of the AFP, we need the best of our people to be trained in a specialized way so they can manage and employ these costly, state-of-the-art weapons effectively.
retired lieutenant general, AFP,

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Army, rebels clash anew in Samar town

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 25): Army, rebels clash anew in Samar town

Elements of the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion have encountered members of the New People’s Army in a Samar town last Friday morning.

The latest skirmish between the government troops and the rebels took place in Barangay Bugho in Pinabacdao town which resulted to the recovery of several firearms from the rebels, Lt. Col.Cerilo Balaoro, commanding officer of 87th IB, said.

The soldiers learned on the presence of about 10 rebels in the area based on the information provided by some residents of the village, Balaoro added.

The soldiers, led by Capt. Taguinay Agoy, went to the area which resulted to a firefight with the rebels who later withdrew after engaging them to a 15 minutes exchange of fire.

No casualty was reported in either side although the government troops were able to recover one M-16 armalite rifle; one M653 baby armalite rifle, among others and NPA documents.

It was learned the NPA rebels belonged to the Section Committee-Southern Samar I of the Samar Provincial Party Committee.

Major General Gerardo Layug, commanding general of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, congratulated the troops who conducted the successful combat operation and for risking their lives in doing their mandate to protect the people from the NPAs.

“I assure the people that we will continue in clearing the interior barangays in the region from NPA influence so that LGUs can implement their programs and be able to provide basic services for the people,” Layug said in a statement.

This time, no flip-flopping on MILF deal, Palace vows

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 24): This time, no flip-flopping on MILF deal, Palace vows

After being accused by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of flip-flopping on the issue of wealth-sharing, Malacañang has promised that this time, the draft annex submitted to the MILF will no longer be modified by the government.
“The details (on the wealth-sharing annex) coming from the government side have already been ironed out,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.”We are ready, and we are optimistic.”

The government’s decision to revise its draft annex on wealth-sharing caused formal talks with the MILF to hit a snag.

The MILF insisted that it would only agree to the formula contained in the original draft which was initialed by chief negotiators Miriam Ferrer for the government and Mohagher Iqbal for the Moros in February.

“It (draft wealth-sharing annex) was already initialed. Why change it? It has gone through discussions already,” MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said.

A well-placed source in the peace process noted that the “initaled” draft provided for a 75-25 wealth-sharing formula in favor of the Bangsamoro.

After the initialed draft was presented to the Palace, however, the government negotiating panel had to ask the MILF to reconsider the formula and pushed for a 50-50 “compromise” instead.

Ferrer submitted the government’s final wealth-sharing annex draft to Iqbal last week when they met informally at a forum in Norway.

The government negotiator disclosed that formal talks will resume next month, but she did not give any indication if a comprehensive peace agreement can be signed before the President delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 22.

Ferrer said the government panel only wanted to exercise prudence on the wealth-sharing annex.

“The President is committed to delivering an agreement that will allow the Bangsamoro to enjoy effective and meaningful fiscal autonomy but also take into account the legal, political, and administrative constraints of the central government,” she said.

“These are the considerations as to why government wishes to introduce some changes to the draft annex, particularly with regard some aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms, and revenue sharing,” Ferrer added.

On power-sharing, she said both panels are trying to arrive at a language that will make the annex “legally defensible and doable.”

President  Aquino  earlier said he wanted the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro to be enacted by 2015, with an interim authority in place a year before the 2016 national elections.

“We need the organic act enacted into law by 2015. This will be passed through Congress and approved in a plebiscite and we hope to install the new government with a mandate after 2016 elections. There will be an interim authority from 2015 to 2016,” Aquino said.

NPA, Army clash anew in Iloilo

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 24): NPA, Army clash anew in Iloilo

The Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion (82IB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) once again clashed in Leon, Iloilo.

 Lieutenant Colonel Aldwine Almase, 82IB commander, said the encounter took place around 5:30AM of June 24 at Sitio Mangkupa, Baragngay Manampunay.

 Government troops led by 1st Lieutenant Marvin Quilang engaged in a firefight with seven communist rebels for 10 minutes.

 It was likely believed that there were casualties from rebels’ side after a path of bloodstains were found.

Recovered from the site were empty shells of M16 rifles and a medical pouch.
Almase lauded the efforts of townsfolk for giving the army reliable information on the movement of the communist rebels.

The hierarchy of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) is reiterating the call to the NPA to stop the violence and choose to lay down their arms.

“The army and the local governments are continuously calling and encouraging the rebels to abandon armed struggle, return to the folds of the law and live a normal and peaceful life together with their families,” said Brigadier General Jonas Sumagaysay, 3ID acting commander.

Meanwhile, 82IB troops are conducting hot pursuit operation against the fleeing communist rebels.,_Army_clash_anew_in_Iloilo#.UckKOI7D9jo

PNP trains more policemen on anti-insurgency tack

From the Manila Times (Jun 24): PNP trains more policemen on anti-insurgency tack

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is now training some of its personnel in Central Mindanao on anti-insurgency operations following intensified armed activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

At least some 90 police officers from Central Mindanao region are now undergoing Special Counter Insurgency Operations Unit Training (Scout) at the police regional headquarters in General Santos City.

Deputy regional director, Sr. Supt. Manolito Labador said that the 90 police officers in the 45-day long Scout are expected to enhance their skills in responding to counter insurgency incidence.

“It is better to sweat in training than bleed in battle,” said Labador who graced the opening of the Scout training for the 90 police officers.

The police official said that Scout is a mandatory training for all police personnel to be equipped with skills in dealing with armed men and threat groups in the country, particularly in the regions of Mindanao.

The police official said the training will focus on First Aid, Rope Courses, Immediate Action Drills, Water/Seaborne Tactics, Terrain Modeling, Close Quarter Battle, Survival, Field Training Exercises and Community Immersion.

“Likewise, the trainees will also be trained to be physically and mentally fit in any situations required,” Labador said.

The police official said the training specifically aims to defend, protect, and serve the land and the community particularly from the rural areas that are prone to the threat groups.

The training was conducted as the NPA intensified its activities in Mindanao regions the latest of which were the killing of two government troops in an encounter over the weekend in Agusan del Sur.

Military court set to decide fate of ex-Special Forces leader

From the Philippine Star (Jun 24): Military court set to decide fate of ex-Special Forces leader

A military tribunal will meet this week to decide on the fate of an Army officer being tried over the Al Barka clash in 2011 that left 19 soldiers dead.

Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., one of the members of the court martial, said they would soon issue a ruling on the case of Lt. Col. Leo Peña, the former chief of the 4th Special Forces Battalion.

“We will meet for the executive session. We will conduct a deliberation and we will meet this week and from there we will vote accordingly,” Tutaan said.

“We are done with the oral arguments. It’s now for the court (to decide) so we will now discuss them and we will make our verdict,” he added.

Peña and three other officers have been accused of violating Articles of War No. 97 or conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman in conjunction with Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code for acts of negligence; Article no. 97 or disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and Article no. 84 or willful or negligent loss, damage or wrongful disposition.

Two of the officers namely former Special Operations Task Force Basilan chief Col. Alexander Macario and Special Forces Regiment Training School commandant Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin have been cleared of the charges due to insufficient evidence.

The court martial, however, found Col. Aminkadra Undug, the former chief of the Army’s Special Forces Regiment, guilty of violating Articles of War no. 97.

Owing to  the conviction, Undug was barred from holding any command or duty position for at least six months. The verdict also lowered Undug’s ranking in the lineal list which is a basis in granting promotions.

Nineteen soldiers were killed and 14 others were injured after Army troops clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members at sitio Baisung, barangay Cambug in Al Barka, Basilan on Oct. 18, 2011.

Soldiers who figured in the clash were supposed to serve a warrant of arrest on MILF commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, who was tagged in the killing of 14 Marines in Basilan in 2007, lawless element Long Malat and Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama.

3 soldiers wounded in bomb blast in Compostela

From the Philippine Star (Jun 24): 3 soldiers wounded in bomb blast in Compostela

Three soldiers were wounded following an encounter with leftist rebels in the southern Philippines early today, the military said.

Troops from the army's 66th Infantry Battalion were conducting combat operations in San Isidro village, Mawab town, in Compostela Valley province at 7 a.m. today, when they clashed with an undetermined number of New People's Army rebels, said Michael Logico, a local army commander.

"An improvised explosive was set off by the insurgents, wounding three soldiers. Our troops fought back, sparking a brief firefight," Logico told Xinhua, adding combat operations were launched after villagers alerted the army about the presence of NPA guerrillas in their community.

54 NPA members surrender in Northern Samar - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 54 NPA members surrender in Northern Samar - AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday announced that 54 New People's Army (NPA) fighters have surrendered to troopers of the 20th Infantry Battalion in Bobon, Northern Samar last Sunday.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said the rebels were led by Antonio Fabia and Teria Besconia.

All of the rebels voluntarily surrendered to 20th Infantry Battalion commanding officer Lt. Col. Noel A. Vestuir, the AFP said.

Zagala said that the surrendered rebels are now undergoing documentation and custodial debriefing by the 20th Infantry Battalion.

The surrender is a clear victory for the people of Samar who yearned for peace.

Zagala said the rebel band opted to surrender due to their desire to live peacefully and lawfully.

"The AFP calls on the immediate end to the armed struggle that has caused misery and suffering to civilians and hampered the growth and development of far-flung communities and the country as a whole," the AFP public affairs office chief said.

Search teams recover a lot of OV-10 debris

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Search teams recover a lot of OV-10 debris

Search and rescue teams of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command on Tuesday said they have recovered a lot of debris belonging to the crashed OV-10 "Bronco" light attack aircraft.

1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog, Western Command spokesperson, said that as of Monday afternoon, search-and-rescue teams of the Navy and Coast Guard have already retrieved a possible cargo bay door, nose wheel and life raft.

She added that these debris were immediately turned over to the Philippine Air Force contingent in Puerto Princesa, Palawan for identification.

Tindog said they are hoping the plane's two pilots will be found safe and alive.

"We are hopeful that search-and-rescue operations will generate positive results and we are praying that our pilots are safe," she said.

The downed plane, with tail number 630, belongs to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The aircraft and another one with tail number 139 took off around 6:37 p.m. Sunday for a night flying proficiency.

However, only the aircraft with tail number 139 safely landed back after 53 minutes.

The missing aircraft lost contact with the Palawan tower around 7:30 p.m. and failed to return.

MILF-MNLF fighting erupts in North Cotabato despite local truce

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): MILF-MNLF fighting erupts in North Cotabato despite local truce

Despite the existence of a localized truce signed by two Moro rebel groups in North Cotabato that was witnessed by Malaysian-led International MOnitoring Team,and police and military, skirmishes continued in remote villages here.

The protagonist, according to the Army's 6th Infantry Division, was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is talking peace with national government.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division, said armed elements of 108th Base Command of the MILF under a certain Tamano Naig attacked the residence of Datu Dima Ambel, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Barangay Kilada, North Cotabato on Sunday.

The rebels also attacked the truck yard of the Cotabato Sugar Central Corporation (COSUCECO) in the same incident.

Hermoso said the attack was triggered by the desire of the MILF to get back at the MNLF after they suffered fatalities since the conflict began last May 5.

On May 5, hostilities erupted between feuding MNLF and MILF in Barangays Kilada and Barangay, Matalam, site of a peace zone created after the 1996 signing of the GPH-MNLF peace agreement.

The conflict led the series of armed violence that resulted in the killing of several combatants from both sides and civilians caught in the crossfire. About 6,000 villagers were also forced to flee to safer grounds.

A local truce brokered by North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza last May 23 has ceased the skirmishes.

But fighting erupted again on Sunday when a band of MILF elements belonging to the 108th Base Command under Tamano Naig attacked the residence of Datu Dima Ambel and the truck yard of COSUCECO Sugar Mill all located in Barangay Kilada, Matalam, Cotabato.

The fighting lasted for about 15 minutes with no reported casualty on both sides. The MILF attackers withdrew towards Sitio Mateo, Barangay West Patadon of the same municipality.

Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Infantry Brigade chief, said that the motive of the MILF attack was to get even with the MNLF due to the series of setbacks it incurred in the past resulting to the deaths of some of its members and intent to dislodge and replace the MNLF in its security service contract with COSUCECO Sugar Mill.

The 602nd Infantry Brigade is now coordinating with traditional and non-traditional leaders, local government units and the GPH-MILF Ceasefire Mechanisms to find solutions in resolving the MILF-MNLF feud in Matalam, Cotabato province.

So far, no evacuation was reported.

Troops capture renegade Muslim rebel camp

From Rappler (Jun 25): Troops capture renegade Muslim rebel camp

Government security forces overran a camp of renegade Muslim rebels after days of fighting on the border between Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, a military official said Tuesday, June 25.

Army Col. Edmundo Pangilinan, head of the military’s 601st Brigade, said soldiers captured the encampment of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on the border between President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun town in Maguindanao.

He said the camp with bunkers and running trenches, maintained by guerrillas under Sukarno Sepal, one of the field commanders of BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato, can accommodate more than 200 fighters.

“We used 105 howitzer cannons to drive away the rebels. We have been mounting offensive against them since last Saturday (June 22),” the military commander said.
The military’s operation against the rebels was carried out following series of attacks perpetrated by the Kato’s men.

On Sunday, June 23, the rebels separately raided two military detachments in remote villages of Midsayap, North Cotabato. A civilian was wounded in the attacks.

Two days before that incident, members of BIFF also attack a camp of militiamen in the village of Bagumbayan, President Querino town, killing a state militiaman and another civilian.

“Our clearing operation in the area on-going. Civilians who were displaced by the hostilities can now return to their respective villages,” Pangilinan said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said around 300 families were affected by the fighting.

“We provided relief goods to displaced people,” DSWD regional director Zorahayda Taha said.

Kato, the BIFF’s leader, used to be the commander of the MILF 105th Base Command. He was figured in several attacks on Christian communities, including in 2008 following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and MILF peace panels.

In August 2011, Kato’s men staged simultaneous attacks against government military detachments in the region, occupied a national highway for almost a week and harassed civilian communities.

NPA front in Paquibato ‘dismantled’

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 24): NPA front in Paquibato ‘dismantled’

THE 1003rd Brigade and the 69th Infantry Battalion (69th IB) of the Philippine Army claimed the elimination of Front Committee 52 of the New People's Army (NPA) in the area of Paquibato District, Davao City.

Deputy Commander of the 1003rd Brigade Colonel Ricado Nepumoceno, in his presentation during the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) meeting at the Grand Men Seng Hotel on Monday, said the dismantling of the Front Committee 52 can be attributed to the ongoing Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP).

"Our PDOP in the area has strengthened as we have continually coordinated with the different stakeholders of PDOP. We conducted a seminar for two indigenous people leaders to identify and resolve issues being used by the NPA in recruiting and coercing our indigenous people," Nepumoceno said.

He also said they have been giving out the Comprehensive Local Integration Program, which provides livelihood programs and financial assistance to the rebel returnees.

"More rebels are surrendering in the area as they having a difficult time countering the PDOP of the army in the area. Most of them would resort to committing atrocities to sow fear to the community and discredit the success of PDOP," Nepumoceno said.

Lieutenant Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, commander of the 69th IB, in an interview at the sidelines of the CPOC, said: "The dismantling of Front Committee 52 was based on the result of the parameter check for downgrading. Before we were in the area of Paquibato, they were still around. But after we intensified our operations in the area, we have confirmed that there are no members of Front Committee 52 operating in the area anymore."

Pasaporte added that members of the committee may have been absorbed by the 1st Pulang Bagani Command, which operates in Paquibato District, but they are yet to confirm it.

‘Books for Peace’ program launched

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 24): ‘Books for Peace’ program launched

The “Books for Peace” program of the Rotary Club of Loyola Heights and the 79th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, based in Siaton, Negros Oriental, was launched in two public elementary schools in Sta. Catalina and Pamplona recently, a press release from the military said.

In Brgy. Nagbinlod, Sta. Catalina, the Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Marion Sison presented 67 assorted books and a computer set to students and teachers of the Tubod Primary School. The Abante Elementary School in Brgy. Abante, Pamplona, Negros Oriental also received 67 assorted books and a computer set from the 79th IB Friday, the press release also said.

Sison said the program aims to win the peace in Negros Oriental through the convergence of the stakeholders, and activities that benefit the communities, especially those affected by insurgency.

Tubod teacher-in-charge Angelina Zamora and Pamplona Vice Mayor Edgardo Retes thanked the donors for the books and computers, and the military for helping provide human security needs through education, the press release added.

Chamber of Mines slams NPA attack

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 24): Chamber of Mines slams NPA attack

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines called on the government to protect mining investments in the countryside, citing the recent New People’s Army attacks against Philex Mining Bulawan gold project in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, among others.

Suspected communist rebels recently raided the mining exploration site of Philex in Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, and burned a bunk house and a generator set. They also killed five Army soldiers, who had responded to the incident.

The COMP strongly condemned the recent attacks on members Philex Mining Corp. and Lepanto Mining Corp., in a statement published on its website. It said these terrorists encounters also endanger the lives, not only of mining employees, but also of residents of mining communities and the government troops.

The Philex exploration site is located in Sitio Umas of Barangay Camindangan in Sipalay. The area of the attack is 30 kilometers away from the company’s Bulawan gold project, which is now under a care-and-maintenance phase through its subsidiary, Philex Gold Philippines Inc.

The Philex has been raided thrice by the NPA since 2008, a fate also suffered by the Maricalum Mining Co. whose company guards were disarmed in previous years.

Although its members reinforce security measures around their mine sites, COMP said the government must take the lead in protecting businesses and key investments, especially in the countryside, from such wanton acts, not only against mining operations but on other investments.

Philex chairman Manny Pangilinan had earlier said that they temporarily stopped their mining operations in Sipalay City, and will resume only once the peace and order in the area has been stabilized.

"We cannot afford to continue our operations (in Sipalay) knowing that the lives of our employees there are at risk because of NPA atrocities", Pangilinan said.

COMP, meanwhile, said “Once again, insurgents do not want to see large-scale responsible mining, as practiced by Philex, Lepanto and other members of the Chamber, succeed.”

“Despite such attacks, these terrorists have failed to fleece these companies through ‘revolutionary taxes’ with continuing to do the same to small-scale miners who have no means to protect themselves.”

While the NPA rebellion thrives on poverty to swell its numbers, COMP said poverty is the very issue being addressed by responsible mining companies, that provide jobs and livelihood opportunities to Filipinos in remote places where they are often out of reach of basic government services.

Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the NPA South West Front, had claimed responsibility for the previous raids and destruction of mining firm properties, that she accused of inflicting damage to the environment, the lives, livelihood, health of the people in the area.

In a statement they issued, Guerrero also alleged that Philex dumped toxic wastes in Mantuboy Creek, Bacuyangan and Sipalay River, which she claimed, resulted in fishkill in the shorelines of Sipalay, and loss of water source for irrigation to peasants and farmers.

The military dismissed the rebel claims as plain and simple propaganda, and said the NPA intention was to punish the mining firm for not paying revolutionary taxes to them.

Army fights dengue, too

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 24): Army fights dengue, too

Two Army units have joined the fight against dengue in northern Negros, with the onset of rainy season.

1Lt. Gizelle Lim, 3rd Civil Military Operations Battalion Public Affairs Officer, said they have joined the local health officials in the information dissimination program to combat dengue, where Escalante City ranks number one in Negros Occidental with the most number of cases, as reported by Councilor Angelina Encarquez, Health committee chairperson of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Lim said the launching of Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue on June 21 in Brgy. Alimango, Escalante City, was spearheaded by city officials, local government agencies, and by the 3rd CMO Battalion and 62nd Infantry Battalion troopers.

Escalante City Local Government officer Cherry Lacida also reminded barangay officials of their responsibility to conduct a massive clean-up drive and information dissimination campaign among their constituents to make them aware of the deadly dengue threat.

Provincial Dengue Coordinator Josephine Nonato also urged everyone to adopt the 4’o clock habit and practice the “4S”; or Search and destroy breeding grounds of dengue, Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation when symptoms of dengue are observed and Say no to indiscriminate fogging.

Lim said Lt. Col. Patrick Cinco, 3rd CMOB commander, also assured that he will utilize the Army Broadcasting System in information dissemination on air.

'Tubbataha: SC recognizes limits in jurisdiction over US'

From ABS-CBN (Jun 25): 'Tubbataha: SC recognizes limits in jurisdiction over US'

The Supreme Court (SC) recognizes limits in its powers to act on a bid of multisectoral groups for higher penalties and criminal prosecution of US Navy officers and crew of the USS Guardian, which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last January.

A member of the high court revealed to The STAR yesterday that there was a discussion on the issue of jurisdiction of the SC over respondents Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, and Mark Rice, commanding officer of the Guardian, when the justices decided to seek comments from the US government.

The insider, who refused to be named because the case is still pending, said this was the reason why the high court opted to send the respondents through the US embassy a letter instead of an order.

“The rule provides that the court issues an order to file comment on a petition to respondents that are covered by the court’s jurisdiction. In that case, filing an answer is mandatory,” the source said in explaining the difference.

Another member of the court earlier confirmed to The STAR the letter had been sent to the US embassy in Manila.

The source said the US government’s response would serve as “a test case if the US will even pay attention to it or invoke international treaties or laws.”

Apart from the US embassy, the SC also sought comments from Malacañang, Cabinet members and officials of the military to the petition for writ of Kalikasan filed by two Catholic bishops, environmentalists, activists and lawyers.

Futile case

But for UP law professor Harry Roque Jr., the bid of the groups for criminal prosecution of respondents from the US Navy may be futile.

He also agreed with the opinion of the SC insider that the high court has no jurisdiction over the US Navy respondents.

“They will only say they have absolute immunity and that’s the end of it,” Roque told The STAR.

He said that the US military troops have “absolute immunity from local jurisdiction under customary public international laws.”

“This immunity can be waived though,” he said.

The petitioners include Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., Bishop-Emeritus of Caloocan; Frances Quimpo and Clemente Bautista Jr. of Kalikasan-Pne; Maria Carolina Araullo and Renato Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan); Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares; Roland Simbulan of Junk VFA Movement; Teresita Perez; Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino; Peter Gonzales of Pamalakaya; Giovanni Tapang, Agham; Elmer Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela; Jose Enrique Africa; Theresa Concepcion; Mary Joan Guan; Nestor Baguinon, and public interest lawyer Edsel Tupaz.

Petitioners are seeking a fine for the US that is 12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government.

The groups also asked the SC to assess the damage caused to the reef by the grounding of the Guardian.

Apart from the issuance of the writ and temporary environmental protection order (TEPO), they also sought a determination of the fine to be imposed on the US Navy and the prosecution of the officers of the Guardian.

Petitioners are also asking the SC to order a stop to US war games and port calls by US ships in the absence of clear guidelines on environmental protection under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Petitioners rejoice

For their part, petitioners led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said they welcome the SC letter to the US Navy respondents.

“We await their comments regarding the Tubbataha case involving the USS Guardian and the US 7th Fleet. It is our hope that the petition will eventually be given due course and resolved in favor of the Filipino people,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes.

“These activities pose a continuing threat to the environment and constitute an assault to our sovereignty,” Reyes said.

PAWB monitoring developments

The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) yesterday said it will continue to monitor developments on Tubbataha Reef.

PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim expressed optimism that the USS Guardian and concerned officials will cooperate as promised.

She said that they appreciate what environmental groups are doing, especially since their actions are aimed at saving natural resources of global importance.

Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said they would want those responsible to pay the fines stipulated by the Tubbataha Management Office.

“We abide by the law, and we must ensure that they pay,” said Gregg Yan of WWF.

‘Heed SC order’

Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez said yesterday the US government must heed the letter of the SC asking for its answer to the petition for higher penalties and criminal prosecution of the officers and crew of the Guardian.

Golez, a former national security adviser and a graduate of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, said all efforts must be exerted to put closure to the incident.

AFP: Rescue ops continue for 2 abducted indie filmmakers in Sulu

From GMA News (Jun 24): AFP: Rescue ops continue for 2 abducted indie filmmakers in Sulu

Rescue operations are ongoing against suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits who reportedly abducted two independent filmmakers in Sulu on Saturday, a Mindanao-based military spokesman said Monday.

In a phone interview, Western Mindanao Command spokesman Col. Rodrigo Gregorio clarified earlier reports that said the two, sisters Nadjoua Bansil and Linda Bansil, are Filipino-Algerians.

"They are Filipino citizens of Moroccan descent," he said.

Last year, the sisters produced the film Bohe, the first ever Badjao film, which was screened in the 2012 Cinemelaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and in the Cebu Documentary International Film Festival.

"This year, Bohe was nominated in the Gawad Urian," said acting national coordinator Ledrolen Manriquez of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network Philippines (PECOJON). The two filmmakers are members of the group.

Daughters of Tausug imam

Gregorio said the sisters were abducted in Sitio Baunuh in Barangay Liang in Patikul town on Saturday morning.

He said they have yet to verify if the two were working in Sulu at the time of the abduction. "Marami kasing posible. Hindi kasi sila nagpaalam sa amin," Gregorio said.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Zamboanga City chapter said the sisters traveled to Sulu to take footage for a film they are working on.

They are daughters of a Tausug imam who grew up in Zamboanga, but presently reside in Metro Manila, PECOJON said in a separate statement.

"They still [go] often [to] Mindanao to visit family, friends and for the work they do in Amnesty International and in film documentary," it added. The sisters were in Sulu to shoot a film and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI), the group said.

"For a long time, Nadj has been banking a story of coffee growers in Mindanao. When the contacts were established, she decided to take her sister Linda with her to shoot the film," Manriquez said.

Citing information from Yasir Rajim of the SSDI, Manriquez said the two, with some members of the local group, were on board a jeepney Saturday morning when the road was blocked by armed men.

"Rajim said that they were not able to stop the kidnappers from taking the sisters. The kidnappers were armed and SSDI were not. He also said that they insisted to be taken as well but the kidnappers only wanted to take the two ladies," she added.

Gregorio said operations by the military and police are ongoing for the rescue of both sisters.

Human rights activists

Manriquez described the sisters, both members of PECOJON, as independent filmmakers and human rights defenders.

"Their films are based on issues on human rights, the Moro culture and extractive industries such as mining," she said. "They are Moro women concerned for the plight and preservation of the culture of the Moro people."

Manriquez added that both women finished their college degree in Ateneo de Zamboanga University "where they have always been active in human rights issues."

PAF denies crashed OV-10 plane was on surveillance mission over Ayungin Shoal

From GMA News (Jun 25): PAF denies crashed OV-10 plane was on surveillance mission over Ayungin Shoal

The Philippine Air Force on Tuesday belied speculations one of its aircraft that crashed off Palawan Sunday night was conducting surveillance over a disputed part of the Spratly Islands.
PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol maintained the OV-10 that went down was conducting a regular night proficiency flight, radio dzBB's Tuesday Niu reported.
Okol said there was no basis for claims that the plane was checking Ayungin Shoal, an area in the Spratlys near mainland Palawan.
Chinese ships had been sighted near Ayungin Shoal earlier this month.
The Philippines and China are two of six claimants to the Spratlys. The other claimants include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Search operations are ongoing for the two pilots of the OV-10 aircraft, one of two that conducted proficiency flights Sunday night. The plane failed to land at Puerto Princesa.
On Monday morning, search crews found a part of the plane but failed to find any sign of the pilots.

Debris from PAF plane that crashed in Palawan found, pilots still missing

From GMA News (Jun 24): Debris from PAF plane that crashed in Palawan found, pilots still missing

The Philippine Air Force has confirmed that the OV-10 Bronco plane reported missing since Sunday night has crashed off Puerto Princesa airport in Palawan province.

PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said search operations are ongoing for the two pilots, after teams from the Navy and Coast Guard found debris including the OV-10's cargo bay door at about 9 a.m. Monday.

"What we can confirm (is that the OV-10) went down already,” Okol said in an interview on dzBB radio. “That is something we know for sure.”

The plane was one of two aircraft — OV-10 #630 and OV-10 #139 —  that went on a night proficiency flying mission Sunday, Okol said.

“At about 7:30PM, OV-1 0 #630 lost contact w/ Palawan Tower and failed to land back while OV-10 #139 landed safely after 53 minutes,” he said in a text message to GMA News Online, citing an official report received by PAF.

Tracking device

In a phone interview on GMA News TV's Balitanghali, Okol said they have identified the aircraft's "last known position" as it was equipped with a tracking device.

"Actually, alam natin kung saan 'yung last known position ng mishap aircraft, kasi ang aircraft natin is equipped with a tracking device so namo-monitor po ng punong himpilan at ng area command," he said.

He said the last known transmission of the plane was when it requested for "final approach" at Runway 27 at the Palawan airport 53 minutes after the first aircraft landed.

He added that though the plane was also equipped with an ejection seat, he has yet to verify if there have been sighting of parachute use in the area.

"What we have right now are the debris and the last known position palang po ang masasabi naminm," Okol said.

Search for missing pilots

In the text message, Okol said “rescue teams from the Philippine Navy of Naval Forces West and PCG Vessel 3503 are already at the vicinity conducting search and rescue (operations).”

The Coast Guard has already deployed frogmen to the site off the eastern coast of Puerto Princesa where the plane was believed to have gone down to help search for the missing pilots, according to PCG Palawan district head Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, in a report from radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate James Viernes

Okol said the recovered debris appeared to have drifted northward.

Naval Forces West head Commodore Joseph Peña said they are concentrating their efforts in an area some 11 nautical miles east of the Puerto Princesa Airport where the two planes took off.

"We're trying to pinpoint the crash site," Peña said in an interview on dzBB.

Local fishermen are also helping in the search for the pilots, Peña said.

Okol said the pilots' relatives had been notified, but added the PAF still cannot make the pilots' names public at this time.

Soldiers and NPA men clashed near 10ID Headquarters in Mawab, ComVal Province

Posted to the anti-communist ANAD Facebook page (Jun 24): Soldiers and NPA men clashed near 10ID Headquarters in Mawab, ComVal Province

A timely and accurate tip off by concerned residents at Barangay Saosao in Mawab town, Compostela Valley Province has led to a 20-minute firefight between army soldiers and some 30 NPA terrorists about 6:40 in the  morning on June 23, 2013 in an area some 13 kilometers away  from the  headquarters of the 10th Infantry Division, PA.

 The government troopers suffered no casualty but it was not determined in the NPA side.

The surprised NPA bandits under an unknown leader reportedly withdrew in different directions apparently when they realized that they would be routed by the soldiers from a Division Recon Company (DRC) who caught them up at Sitio Mahayag in Barangay Saosao.
The soldiers reportedly pursued the retreating NPA men.

Earlier, said NPA band passed by near groups of houses in the outskirts of the village.

Some residents who spotted the armed men immediately reported their presence to the 10ID Headquarters in Barangay Tuburan, some 26 kilometers away in road distance.

Elements of a DRC who were patrolling not far from the reported location of the NPA band were immediately directed to check the report, resulting in the clash.

Early morning last May 21, six army personnel including two female soldiers and a military dependent were injured in a roadside IED/landmining incident along the Tagum-Maawab Section of the Maharlika Highway at Brgy Magdum in Tagum City, Davao del Norte – not far from the 10ID Headquarters.

When the 1001st Brigade sent men to respond to the incident and to clear the highway of enemy IEDs/landmines, another roadside blast happened at Barangay Tagmanok, Mawab, followed by a five-minute firefight between government troops and another NPA band.

Two UNYPAD officers attend Workshop in Cambodia

From the MILF Website (Jun 24): Two UNYPAD officers attend Workshop in Cambodia

The two officers of the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) namely; Mr. Mohalidin “Mhodz” Suga, National Staff of Committee on Campaign and Advocacy and Ms. Kathleen Cecile “Knack Knack” Martin of Davao Oriental Provincial Chapter attended the “Tools for Transformation Workshop” organized by the Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) held in Siem Reap, Cambodia last June 9 to 15, 2013.
In 2010 and 2012 respectively, through the endorsement of the UNYPAD national chapter, Mr. Suga and Ms. Martin had attended the School of Peace (SOP’s) community development related advocacy tools coursework in India and become alumni of the SOP.

The two officers of UNYPAD were selected by the organizer based on their skills, talents, and services to the depressed communities in Mindanao. Mr. Suga has knowledge on film making while Ms. Martin is a competent creative writer.

The participants were selected according to the following criteria: first, they must have worked directly with marginalized communities for several years; second, have demonstrated special interest and skill in Photography, Film Making and Creative Writing; and third, have the potential to serve as resource persons in their fields in future ICF programs and activities.

There were fourteen participants who were qualified in the workshop. The Indonesia has four participants, two from the Philippines, one from Timor Leste, five in Cambodia, one from Laos PDR, and one from Thailand-Burma border.

The resource persons and mentors are from International community and have diverse backgrounds on their field of specialization.

Among of them are: Mr. Michael Bade of Active Video for Film Making group, who made several advocacy videos for different entities, living and working in Cambodia with MCC; Ms. Victoria Rue for Creative Writing, who is a professional writer from the United States; and Mr. Max Ediger for Photography group who is an experienced photographer whose photos and works during US-Vietnam war were published in various multimedia forms.

According to the organizer, the goals of the workshop are the following: 1) To help select a group of SOP alumni to strengthen their special talents in Photography, Film Making and Creative Writing as an effective tools for helping marginalized communities to build a strong movement for interfaith just-peace; 2) To help select a group of SOP alumni to develop their ability to serve as resource persons in future ICF programs.

As explained in the ICF website, “the Interfaith Cooperation Forum was formed to facilitate the examination of different religious perspectives on the root causes of some of the threats and conflicts we experience in community today such as poverty, consumptive lifestyles, and unjust distribution of land.”

ICF aims and objectives are: To support a regional inter-religious Asian movement for justice and transformation that focuses on marginalized communities; To confront the roots of violence; and To promotes justice in the economic, political, and social spheres.

AFP modernization to protect PHL’s territorial integrity

From the Business Mirror (Jun 24): AFP modernization to protect PHL’s territorial integrity

The government should ensure the successful implementation of the revised Armed Forces modernization program in view of the country's territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, a senator said on Monday.
Angara made the statement at the awarding ceremony of the 2013 University of the Philippines President Edgardo J. Angara (UP PEJA) Fellowship to Prof. Herman Joseph Kraft, executive director of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS).
The senator was among those who had shepherded the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act of 1995, or Republic Act 7898 in the 9th Congress.
“The emphasis [of the original modernization act] was boosting the technology, mobility and communications of the Armed Forces. We hope to do it right this time, especially since we are on the verge of losing territory and our natural resources for lack of capability to protect them,” he said.
Angara, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the modernization program would continue with the Revised AFP Modernization Act or Republic Act 10349 signed in December 2012.
Kraft was awarded the UP PEJA fellowship to conduct a policy study on the modernization program of the AFP.   
The UP Board of Regents established the UP PEJA Fellowship in 2008, which aims to recognize high-level research conducted by UP intellectuals and spur academic discussion on the country's development goals and policies.
The areas covered are science and technology; fiscal, budget and financial studies; agriculture and rural development; environment and climate change; and with the awarding to Kraft, national security.
“This topic rings true, especially today. I am happy that there is one who will look at the validity and efficacy of our second round of [Armed Forces] modernization,” Angara said.

Navy intensifies SAR efforts on downed 'Bronco'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): Navy intensifies SAR efforts on downed 'Bronco'

Naval Forces West head Commodore Joseph Pena on Monday said the Navy will focus all its search-and-rescue (SAR) efforts in the area 11 nautical miles east off the runway of Puerto Princesa airport.

This was after search teams found a part of the cargo bay door and life raft belonging to the downed OV-10 "Bronco" aircraft which went down Sunday evening.

"It's not that far and our search planes spotted debris easily," he added.

Pena said that the while some sharks are found in the vicinity, the area is not shark- infested and that water in the area is 1,000 feet deep.

"We are hopeful that we can still recover the two pilots," he added.

Pena said the tracking device of the ill-fated OV-10 "Bronco" attack plane is active and expressed confidence that this will help them eventually locate the airframe.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol earlier said the downed plane, with tail number 630, belongs to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing which is based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

He added that this aircraft and another with tail number 139 took off around 6:37 p.m. for a night flying proficiency.

However, only the aircraft with tail number 139 safely landed back after 53 minutes.

Okol said the missing OV-10 "Bronco" ( tail number 630) lost contact with the Palawan tower around 7:30 p.m. and failed to return.

Army helps police secure NorCot towns after twin blasts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): Army helps police secure NorCot towns after twin blasts

The Army's 602nd Brigade and the Army Special Forces Battalion are now helping police authorities in Mlang and Kabacan, North Cotabato following twin bomb attacks Saturday and Sunday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers are now helping the police in Kabacan and Mlang by deploying plain clothesmen and intelligence operatives.

An improvised explosive device fashioned from 81 mm mortar with mobile phone as trigger mechanism was planted at set off in front of Laira Marketing along national highway, Kabacan, on Saturday night.

Supt. Leo Ajero, Kabacan police chief, said the IED was set off shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday. One passerby was slightly wounded.

Intelligence operatives said the bomb attack could be the handiwork of extortion gangs preying on businessmen and bus firms in Kabacan.

On Sunday night, unidentified men riding tandem on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade in the residential house of Federico Padernal Porras, municipal agriculturist of Mlang.

Police said the grenade was lobbed at the back portion of Porras' house. Nobody was hurt in the incident which happened at past midnight.

The twin incident was not related, police said.

Members of the Region 12 Police Regional Public Safety Company have been deployed in Kabacan's commercial center to help thwart any attempt to disrupt the peace and order situation of the town which serves as the gateway to Bukidnon and Maguindanao from North Cotabato.

Alert up vs possible NPA attacks in South Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): Alert up vs possible NPA attacks in South Cotabato
Police have intensified their security and intelligence operations in South Cotabato province and neighboring areas following reports of fresh attacks allegedly being planned by communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on police stations and military outposts in the area.

Senior Supt. Romeo Ver, South Cotabato police director, said Monday they raised the security alert in all police units in the province due to reported movements by NPA rebels in several parts of the area.

He said the NPA movements were specifically monitored in remote villages of T’boli and Tampakan towns.

“We should remain alert and vigilant as intelligence reports showed that the NPA rebels are again planning some atrocities at the opportune time against police and military units,” he said at the regular flag-raising program of the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office in Koronadal City.

He said the report cited that a group of NPA rebels were able to acquire 500 standard Philippine National Police (PNP) general office attire or GOA type A uniforms and another 500 camouflage field service uniforms in Davao City.

Ver said the rebels might use the police uniforms for possible attacks on local police stations and military outposts.

“They might be planning to stage some attacks by disguising as police or military men,” the official said.

Owing to this, Ver said he issued a memorandum to all police stations and other units within the province’s 10 towns and lone city suspending the unannounced inspections.

“There will be no unannounced inspection of police stations, especially during night time,” he said.

In March, about 20 heavily armed NPA rebels attacked a community police action center or in Barangay Sinolon in T’boli town but were repulsed by local policemen.

The attack resulted to the wounding of a civilian and the killing of two NPA rebels, one of whom was initially rushed to a hospital in Surallah town.

In January 2009, rebels belonging to the NPA’s Valentin Palamine Command headed by Emmanuel Fernandez alias Ka Bobo stormed the municipal hall complex and police station of Tampakan town, carting away some high-powered firearms and ammunition.

1Lt. Bethuel Barber, civil-military operations chief of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), earlier confirmed that they had monitored monitored fresh movements of suspected NPA rebels under the Front 73 in some communities in T’boli and Lake Sebu towns to specifically recruit new members.

The official said the rebels have been reportedly visiting T’boli tribal communities and “dubiously” promising residents of some benefits in exchange for joining their cause.

Prior to the May 13 elections, the 27th IB also monitored movements of NPA units within the boundary areas of the municipalities of Lake Sebu, Tboli and Surallah in South Cotabato; Sarangani and South Cotabato boundary; and, Koronadal City and Columbio, Sultan Kudarat boundary.

Major Gerald Monfort, 27th IB executive officer, said a big group of NPA rebels was confirmed to have been moving towards the boundary of Koronadal City and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

The official said the rebels were allegedly composed of combined units under the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Revolutionary Committee and with “heavily-armed” members coming from as far as Matanao in Davao del Sur.

2 Army soldiers slain in NPA encounter in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): 2 Army soldiers slain in NPA encounter in Agusan del Sur

Two soldiers were killed as Army troopers engaged in a firefight 15 fully-armed men believed to be New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the vicinity of Barangay Maliwanag, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur over the weekend.

Report from Agusan del Sur Police stated that on Saturday afternoon, the government troops were on pursuit operations against NPA rebels who attacked a plantation in Esperanza town in Agusan del Sur, killed five civilians and torched heavy equipment, when they encountered the armed group.

The two slain Army soldiers were identified as Cpl. Albasar J. Ahalil and PFC Rolly I. Julia.

Adjacent police units were directed to conduct checkpoints along the rebels' escape routes and checked clinics and hospitals in the areas for patients with gunshot wounds.

Meanwhile, the military, police, tribal communities, local government unit officials, barangay officials, families of the victims, kin, friends and sympathizers conducted a peace and prayer rally in a tribal house in Esperanza town Monday morning, to denounce the atrocities committed by the NPA against the innocent civilians.

Troops capture BIFF base in Sultan Kudarat town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 24): Troops capture BIFF base in Sultan Kudarat town

Government troops overran on Sunday a base of breakaway Moro rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) located at the boundary of President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun town in Maguindanao following a series of offensives in the area.

Col. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said Monday they captured the BIFF stronghold after its estimated 150 to 200 armed members were forced to abandon the area as a result of the intensified military operations since Saturday.

He said the offensives were triggered by separate attacks staged by suspected BIFF elements in Barangay Bagumbayan of President Quirino town last Friday that killed a civilian and a member of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

On Saturday morning, he said troops under the Army 33rd Infantry Battalion launched ground and artillery attacks using 105mm howitzer cannons against the armed group.

“But the situation in the area has started to normalize and no more gunfire was heard since last night after we captured the stronghold of the armed lawless group,” Pangilinan said in radio interview.

As of Monday morning, he said the clearing operations in the area are still ongoing against the armed group, which is reportedly led by alleged local BIFF leader Sukarno Sapal.

Pangilinan said Sapal is a known follower of BIFF founder Ameril Umra Kato, who previously headed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 105th base command in Maguindanao.

He said Sapal’s group had figured in the August 2012 clashes between government troops and the BIFF in Shariff Aguak town.

Prior to the BIFF attacks last Friday, Pangilinan said some farmers and residents of Barangay Bagumbayan reported that they were harassed by the group in several occasions.

“(The harassments) were actually connected to a long-standing land conflict in the area between local residents and a group of (Moro) claimants,” he said.

The official said the land conflict in the area started to heat up in 2007 and 2008 but the local government of President Quirino was able to resolve the situation after holding dialogues with the contending parties.

“But the harassment continued and eventually turned violent with Friday’s attacks,” he said.

Meanwhile, around 300 families or 1,500 individuals have evacuated from Barangay Bagumbayan since Friday as a result of the attacks and the military operations.

Bonifacio Selma, disaster operations head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Region 12, said they are currently monitoring the condition of the evacuees, who have taken temporarily shelter in adjacent villages and communities.

He said the agency has standby relief goods and is ready to deliver them upon the request of the affected local government unit.

Peace worker hurt in Isabela Army camp blast

From Rappler (Jun 24): Peace worker hurt in Isabela Army camp blast

The vice chairman of the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development Inc (CFPDI), a non-governmental organization, was wounded in a grenade explosion inside the Philippine Army headquarters in Isabela province Monday morning, June 24.

Felipe Carino, vice chairman of the CFPDI, was in a van with 7 other passengers, including the driver, when a hand grenade exploded under it.
Carino sustained injuries on his lower body, and was immediately brought to the 5th ID hospital for treatment.
1st Lt Rowena Abayon, public affairs chief of the 5th Infantry Division, said the Mitsubishi van carrying the CFPDI people was parked in the vicinity of the Philippine Army Assistance for Rural Advancement on Literacy (Paaral) building of the Army's 5th ID headqarters in Camp Melchor dela Cruz.
The explosion also shattered the van's windshield and blew out its front tires.
The Philippine Army would not speculate on the motive behind the explosion, but said it was an "isolated incident."
The CFPDI is an NGO organized by the former Cordillera People's Liberation Army.
Several of the NGO's members have been in the 5th ID headquarters since January for processing as part of their integration into the regular force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Abayon said despite the blast, the Army's 5th ID will push through with the scheduled opening of the Candidate Soldier Course Class 346-13 on Wednesday, June 26.

Let us handle it, says family of kidnapped filmmakers

From Rappler (Jun 24): Let us handle it, says family of kidnapped filmmakers

The family of kidnapped Moro sisters and filmmakers Linda and Nadjoua Bansil said on Monday, June 24, they want to be allowed to handle the negotiations for their immediate release.

The appeal was relayed to the non-government Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon), which issued a statement Monday. They said they would rather not divulge further information on the two to ensure their safety.

Linda and Nadjoua Bansil were taken away by armed men last Saturday in Liang, Patikul.

The family said they are worried over initial media reports that described the sisters as Filipino-Algerian. Mohammed Bansil, brother of the kidnapped, requested that her sisters be identified as FIlipinos. After all, their late father was a Filipino, Bansil added. Their mother is Moroccan-Algerian.

Being identified as Fil-Algerian presents "unwarranted impression of wealth" to the prejudice of the sisters, he said.

Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam

The sisters, who are working on a film about coffee growers in Mindanao, were accompanied in Sulu by members of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SDDI).

Len Manriquez, chief of Pecojon, said she immediately dialed Nadjoua's phone number when she heard about the abduction. It was Yasir Rajim of the SSDI who picked up the call, Manriquez said.

“On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI). On Friday morning they went to Sinumaan stayed overnight in the area to take some shots of the sunrise. On Saturday they started to take off to Jolo, at about 10a.m., they were kidnapped in Liang, Patikul. They were on board a jeepney and the road was blocked by armed men," Manriquez quoted Rajim as saying.

Manriquez said Rajim explained that they were not able to stop the kidnappers from taking the sisters and even insisted to be taken as well.

The kidnappers reportedly told the SSDI members they only wanted the Bansil sisters with them.

The SSDI said they were not armed while accompanying the sisters. The group was revived in 2003 to pursue the claim of the Sulu Sultanate over their territory. The Sultanate, led by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose armed men sailed to Sabah in January this year to renew the dormant Sabah claim, is a different claimant and is not affiliated with the SSDI.

Art and activism

Both sisters finished college at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

Linda and Nadjoua have always been advocates of human rights. Pecojon noted that most of their films tackled Moro culture, human rights and mining. "They are Moro women concerned for the plight and preservation of the culture of the Moro people," Pecojon said.

In 2012, the Bansil sisters produced the film "Bohe" (water) which was screened in the 2012 Cinemalaya Philippine independent Film Festival and in the Cebu Documentary International Film Festival.

The film is a story of a group of Badjaos who found home in a tiny patch of land somewhere in Southern Luzon, which they named "Badjawan Island." Bohe was nominated in the Gawad Urian Awards this year.

Nadjoua has been planning to film a story about coffee growers in Mindanao. So when she succeeded in tapping contacts in Sulu, she asked her sister to join her in shooting the film.

Abu Sayyaf

The military confirmed that the kidnapping was perpetrated by members of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG).

"There were armed men who flagged their vehicle down and abducted them and took them to their hideout," said Jolo Marine commander Col Jose Cenabre.

Cenabre said the companions of the sisters positively identified Ninok Sapari, head of a faction of the ASG, as the leader of the kidnappers.

There were no reports of any ransom demand, as of posting.

ASG has gained notoriety for taking away locals and foreigners for ransom.

The group, which is officially labelled by the US government as a terrorist organization, is believed to be established through seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

In March, the group released Australian Warren Rodwell after holding him for 15 months. An undisclosed amount of ransom was paid for his release.

Two European bird watchers are still held captive by other ASG factions.

US troops have been based in Mindanao for more than a decade to help train local troops in hunting down members of the group.