Monday, July 29, 2013

Army seize 5th NPA camp in Northern Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29): Army seize 5th NPA camp in Northern Samar

The 34th Infantry Battalion, 803rd Brigade, 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) has seized five camps of the New People's Army and encountered 22 armed engagements initiated by government troops in the province of Northern Samar from January 2013 to date. 

This was reported by Capt. Gene Orense, public affairs officer of 803rd Brigade.

Last July 27 at 6:10 a.m., the 803rd Brigade seized its 5th NPA camp in a 45-minute firefight between 30 NPA rebels allegedly led by Renato Rebay at Barangay Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar.

Recovered from the camp were two M-16 rifles, two landmines, four military type backpacks, including two civilian bags and a number of subversive documents, Orense reported.

Orense said one NPA died and one was captured during the exchange of fires while some were wounded from the enemy side, evidenced by bloodstains found in the enemy's withdrawal route.

The dead NPA was later identified as the squad leader of Platoon 1, Silvino Pajares Command, Northern Samar Provincial Party Committee. The one captured will be subjected to proper legal action or inquest proceeding before the public prosecutor, Orense added.

Lt. Col. Rodrigo Illustrisimo, commanding officer of 34th Infantry Brigade, said the discovery and seizure of the NPA camp at Brgy. Rombang, Laoang was made possible by the reports from residents in the barangay who were extorted and intimidated by NPAs.

Illustrisimo said the recovery of two landmines in the rebel camp is a clear evidence of NPA’s complete disregard of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHIHL.

Meanwhile, Orense said the 803rd Brigade will continue to patrol every nook and cranny of the province and protect communities from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA’s terror and deception.

BIFF shoots 1, carts farm animals in latest NCotabato attacks

From the Philippine Star (Jul 29): BIFF shoots 1, carts farm animals in latest NCotabato attacks

Members of the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gunned down a farmer and carted away more than a dozen water buffaloes in separate attacks on two farming districts in Midsayap at dawn Monday, police said.

The bandits first raided farming enclaves in Barangay Baliki at the southwestern part of Midsayap, located in the first district of North Cotabato, and shot houses with assault rifles, provoking a running firefight with armed villagers and civilian volunteers.

The clash ended when the bandits scampered away after sensing that responding soldiers from nearby detachments of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion were approaching.

The fleeing bandits collected farm animals of villagers as they repositioned to nearby Barangay Palomugin, also in Midsayap, where they also took more than a dozen villagers they used as  shields to forestall any police and military pursuit.

The bandits shot dead a farmer, initially identified only as Reynaldo, apparently to intimidate and force their captives into joining them while fleeing to the marshy border of Midsayap and Datu Piang town in Maguindanao.

The gunmen eventually set their hostages free as they reached a swampy area that connects to river that straddles the border of the two provinces.

The Midsayap municipal police said all villagers that were taken by the bandits have been accounted for and that these villagers have returned home.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said all of soldiers are still in pursuit of the BIFF bandits, last seen fleeing toward a portion of the Liguasan Delta in the second district of Maguindanao.

U.S. surveillance planes conduct patrols in South China Sea

From ABS-CBN (Jul 29): U.S. surveillance planes conduct patrols in South China Sea

A classified government document seen by Kyodo News on Friday confirmed that U.S. Navy surveillance planes conduct routine maritime patrol to monitor activities in the disputed South China Sea.

"(There were) confirmed flights of U.S. P3C Orion aircraft over the South China Sea especially (in the contested Spratly Islands)," according to the document.

Last year, Philippine President Benigno Aquino revealed that Manila was seeking U.S. deployment of P3C Orion spy planes over the disputed sea since the Philippines lacks the capability to monitor its territorial and maritime claims in the sea.

"We can only do (the) best (with) what we have," the document says. "The military is aware of its limitations as regards equipment, naval and air assets, facilities and funding to support our efforts" in the South China Sea.

It says the military "needs another perspective of intelligence from higher headquarters and agencies that are relevant to our efforts".

Military experts describe the P3C Orion, a land-based maritime surveillance and antisubmarine aircraft that can intercept communications, as one of the most sensitive planes in the U.S. fleet.

Its reconnaissance flights are focused on Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged shoal 128 nautical miles (237 kilometers) off the Philippine island province of Palawan.

Since February, the Philippine military says, China has sent frigates and maritime surveillance vessels to the vicinity of the disputed shoal to maintain a presence, setting off alarm bells in Manila.

The territory, which is known to the Philippines as Ayungin Reef and to China as Ren'ai Reef, is part of a group of islets, shoals, reefs and cays known together as the Spratly Islands, which are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Philippines has garrisoned the shoal plus eight other features it claims in the South China Sea.

China, which claims almost all of the South China Sea, wants the Philippines to remove a wrecked and rusty World War II-vintage landing ship which the Philippine military grounded in 1999 and which currently serves as its outpost there.

The military is closely monitoring the movements of Chinese ships in the shoal because of its proximity to Mischief Reef, a submerged bank about 129 nautical miles off Palawan that China occupied in early 1995. It is now Chinese navy's "most active base" in the South China Sea, according to the document.

Last year, China took control of Scarborough Shoal north of the Spratly chain, 124 nautical miles west of the Philippine main island of Luzon. So far, the document said, the Chinese navy has not "made any major changes" in Scarborough. "They're just maintaining their presence."

The P3C Orion has in the past taken part in joint maritime surveillance drills conducted by American and Philippine troops.

This year, for instance, the spy plane participated in the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, a bilateral naval exercise between the U.S. Navy, U.S.
Marines and the armed forces of nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia.

Last year, the aircraft took part in a drill to test the operability of the coast watch system, a Philippine project funded by the United States and Australia that involves developing a string of radar platforms to help counter potential maritime threats in southern Philippines. The drill included patrols, surveillance, tracking and monitoring of a target vessel.

A hangar in Clark air base, once U.S. Air Force's fixed base in Angeles City, Pampanga, north of Manila, houses the Orion planes when in the Philippines.

The cash-strapped and ill-equipped Philippine military relies on the United States, its only treaty ally, for its territorial defense capability. Washington provided Manila $421.5 million in military aid between 2002 and 2011, according to figures from the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia recently told a forum in Manila that U.S. aid provided to the Philippines under the Foreign Military Financing program, which makes available grants for the acquisition of U.S. defense equipment, services and training, more than doubled from less than $12 million in 2011 to $27 million in 2012. Additional U.S. military aid is provided under the anti-terrorism and military education and training programs.

"The pace and substance of dialogue have also intensified significantly," he said, adding, "The strategic imperative to engage with Asia has underscored the important role of the Philippines as a key U.S. ally in the region."

Cuisia said the Philippines and the United States " have clearly congruent interests" in the Asia-Pacific region. "Both countries recognize that economic stability needs to be premised on a secure and predictable security environment."

He said his government seeks to build "a minimum credible defense posture, to serve as deterrent to any aggressive action that may be taken against the Philippines."

After the Philippine Senate in 1991 forced the closure of U.S. fixed bases in the Philippines, it in 1999 ratified a Visiting Forces Agreement to allow access by U.S. forces to Philippine shores and joint Philippine-U.S. military operations in the country.
Government sources said Manila is now in a hurry to forge an expanded access arrangement with the United States.

"What we are talking about is joint use of certain facilities here in the Philippines. It may be Subic, it may be other facilities," Cuisia said.

He said the two sides are also discussing how to strengthen radar communications, which would enable the United States "to have a better grasp of what's going on in the region."

"We need to recognize that we need to strengthen our capability, particularly our security and maritime domain awareness," Cuisia said.

US commander: China's aggression leads to US, allies' closer ties

From the Philippine Star (Jul 30): US commander: China's aggression leads to US, allies' closer ties

United States Air Force General Herbert "The Hawk" Carlisle. US ARMED FORCES PHOTO

United States Pacific Air Forces Commander Herbert Carlisle said China's behavior in the South China Sea has led to stronger ties between the US and its Asian allies which include the Philippines.

"Some of (China's) fairly assertive, aggressive behavior has in fact brought our friends (closer) and they're relying on us to be there and to be present," Carlisle said.

The general added that countries threatened by China's claim have bought defense equipment from different sources to boost their military and expressed a fresh welcome to US presence.

The US has lately shifted its military and diplomatic focus on the Asia Pacific partly due to Beijing's claims, with Vice President Joe Biden saying that the "core" of such strategy are alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

Related: Biden: Alliance with Phl at the 'core' of US strategy

Carlisle also weighed in on China's military buildup, saying it runs the risk of having unintended consequences sooner or later.

"Being fairly aggressive runs the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation ... That's something we think about every day," he said.

Carlisle warned that such aggression may result in an unprecedented response from the different countries that Beijing does not anticipate.

"It's a complex, changing environment. Every action has unintended consequences and second and third order effects," Carlisle said.

The American general also gave an overview of the Pacific Command's positioning in the region, saying that the Air Force's F-22 fighter jets are present there.

Global Hawks unmanned spy planes as well as a new F-35 fighter plane will be sent to the area where there is increasing tension.

BIFF bandits ambush oil tanker, Army detachment in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jul 30): BIFF bandits ambush oil tanker, Army detachment in Maguindanao

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) ambushed a 10-wheeler lorry carrying 50,000 liters of petroleum fuel and harassed Army detachments in separate attacks in the province Tuesday.

The latest BIFF rampage came a day after militiamen killed a ranking henchman of BIFF founder Ameril Omrah Kato in an encounter in North Cotabato.

The tanker, which was enroute to Cotabato City from South Cotabato, was ambushed in Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan.

Local officials said the ambush was an apparent retaliation for the group’s losses in a series of encounters Monday with armed villagers and government forces in the neighboring Pikit and Midsayap municipalities in North Cotabato.

Army officials declined to provide information, meantime, on the plight of the lorry's driver and a helper.

The incident in Guindulungan prompted the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to close for several hours the portion of the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway traversing the municipality.

Just as responding soldiers began clearing the surroundings of the ambush scene, another group of bandits raided a roadside detachment of the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion in Datu Piang town.

Another group also opened fire on houses of farmers in Maitum-a-ig area at the border of Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay towns, provoking hostilities with armed villagers and soldiers positioned in detachments nearby.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said that the Cotabato-Gen.Santos Highway had to be temporarily closed to traffic as BIFF bandits may attempt to abduct motorists and commuters to divert the attention of pursuing soldiers.

BIFF bandits on Monday killed a farmer during an attack in two villages in Midsayap, located in the first district of North Cotabato.

The incident preceded the encounter between patrolling militiamen and BIFF bandits, which resulted to the death of Ebrahim Talenxa, a known henchman of the Kato. Soldiers recovered beside his cadaver an M-14 assault rifle.

Hermoso said villagers reported seeing heavy stains of blood on the escape route of the bandits, last seen scampering towards the direction of Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Kato, a cleric trained in Saudi Arabia, formed the BIFF in 2011 after he was booted out of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front a year before due to insubordination and other heinous offenses.

Captured top NPA leader to be treated well

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul  30): Captured top NPA leader to be treated well

THE military assured on Monday it will treat well a ranking leader of the New People's Army (NPA) while under their custody and will be accorded fair trial.

This, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed the capture of Maria Loyda Tuzo Magpatoc, alias Gwen, 52, said to be the front secretary of the Far South Mindanao Regional (FSMR) Committee of the NPA, by the authorities in a joint operation at the old terminal in Digos City on Sunday.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the Eastmincom, said the 39th Infantry Battalion under 1002nd Brigade, 10th ID is providing the requirements of Magpatoc while the Davao del Sur Police Provincial Office through its Children and Women's desk is assisting her needs while under custody.

Cruz said the Digos City Police Office is also preparing the documents for the filing of formal charges against her.

"This is how our justice system works. Magpatoc as the alleged over-all leader of FSMR and previously with NEMRC (North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee) could be held liable under RA (Republic Act) 9851 or Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other crimes against humanity under provisions on the Responsibility of the Superior of a non-state insurgent organization on all the atrocities/violations committed," Cruz said.

Magpatoc carries a bounty of P500,000 for her arrest based on the posters sent to police stations, and government checkpoints on wanted persons nationwide.

Captain Severino David, deputy commander and spokesperson for the AFP in Eastern Mindanao, said Magpatoc is implicated in a series of criminal activities like murder, extortion and kidnapping in the areas of Soccskasargen region and parts of the provinces of Davao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

David said Magpatoc was arrested by virtue of the several arrest warrants for cases ranging from murder, robbery, homicide and damage to property.

He said based on gathered information that Magpatoc also became the Front Secretary of NEMRC early 2000, onwards which also covers the areas of Surigao and Agusan.

David said Magpatoc is also allegedly a member Executive Committee of Komisyon Mindanao or Mindanao Commission, the main party organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Mindanao.

"The arrest of Magpatoc is the result not only of the continuous intelligence operations from the various law enforcement agencies but also from the reports of the communities to the 10th Infantry Division’s Peace and Development Teams under Major General Ariel B Bernardo," he said.

Kalahi gets US award

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 29): Kalahi gets US award

The Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services was awarded at the second Development Impact Honors Awards of the United States Treasury at the Main Treasury Building in North Washington, USA, recently.

Kalahi-CIDSS was commended as an “especially high-impact and noteworthy development intervention”, with around 5,876 small-scale community projects catering to about 1,345,767 households in the 42 poorest provinces of the Philippines.

It was also cited for having improved community participation rates in project activities that made the delivery of services of local government units more participatory, inclusive and transparent. Kalahi-CIDSS also improved household income per capita consumption of beneficiary communities by five percent, based on studies made by the World Bank in its Impact Evaluation Report in 2012.

In the Central Visayas, the National Community Driven Development Program of Kalahi-CIDSS will cover 104 towns whose poverty incidence rates are greater than the national average of 26.5 percent, according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board. These towns will undergo an enrolment process this year.

Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said, “We are honored to have the Kalahi-CIDSS chosen as one of the awardees by the U.S. Treasury. We are optimistic that, with NCDDP, we will be able to help more families and communities rise from poverty”.

Regional Director Mercedita Jabagat of DSWD in Region 7 said Central Visayas is the third region with the most number of towns covered by the NCDDP.

China boosts presence near Ayungin reef

From ABS-CBN (Jul 29): China boosts presence near Ayungin reef

China is enhancing its presence in the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef to pressure the Philippines to remove its grounded ship in nearby Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, a defense expert said Monday.

Rommel Banlaoi, of the Philippine Association of Chinese Studies, confirmed that Panganiban Reef off Palawan has been transformed by China into an active naval detachment and military garrison.

China has recently increased their naval presence in the Mischief Reef because the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy wants the Philippines to remove our grounded ship in the Ayungin Shoal,” Banlaoi told The STAR.

“China’s increased maritime activities in Mischief Reef can pressure the Philippines but they do not provide a compelling reason for the Philippines to remove the grounded ship in Ayungin Shoal. In fact, it even encourages the Philippines to level up our defenses there,” he added.

Banlaoi said China could not compel the Philippines to remove its grounded ship unless ordered by the international court or mutually agreed upon by both countries.

The BRP Sierra Madre, which was intentionally grounded in 1999, serves as a Navy outpost and symbolizes the country’s ownership of Ayungin Shoal, which is being claimed by China.

Banlaoi stressed the increased military activities in the West Philippine Sea would not help settle territorial disputes.

“They will just escalate the tensions and complicate the security situation in the disputed waters. Demilitarization is still the best option to deescalate the complex nature of conflicts in the South China Sea,” he said.

Located about 70 nautical miles from Palawan, Panganiban Reef has been occupied by China since 1995.

China initially built modest structures on stilts at the reef, supposedly to provide shelter for fishermen, but these were later transformed into a military garrison with powerful radars.

Among the structures reportedly built on the reef were a windmill, solar panels, a concrete platform suitable for helipad and a basketball court.

“All structures and facilities in all features currently occupied by claimants are considered naval detachments or a ‘mini naval base’ in a loose sense,” Banlaoi said.

China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea and South China Sea while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

Last May, China expressed concern that the Philippines might put up additional structures in Ayungin Shoal, an area within Manila’s continental shelf.

The Philippine government, however, said it has no plan to do so and that it was just sending ships in the shoal to replenish the supplies of soldiers securing the area.

China also has presence in Subi Reef, where it has put up a three-story facility with gun emplacements, a helicopter landing pad, a radar dome, and lighthouse, and in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales where it is conducting illegal patrols.

The Philippines has filed a case against China’s “excessive” and “exaggerated” territorial claims before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

China asserts that virtually all of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is its historical territory, even the waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries.

The Philippines and Vietnam, on the other hand, will hold its 7th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on Thursday in Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will lead the Philippine delegation while Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh will head the Vietnamese delegation.

Among the issues to be discussed by the Philippines and Vietnam, both claimants in the South China Sea, are cooperative initiatives in defense and security, maritime and ocean cooperation, trade and investments, and agriculture.

The meeting will also review the implementation of the Philippines-Vietnam Action Plan, a framework document which lists the initiatives to be implemented by both countries for the period 2011-2016.

The last round of the JCBC meeting was hosted by Vietnam in 2011.

The JCBC is a regular consultation mechanism between the foreign ministries of the two countries to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern.

Police find 'meaningful leads' in CDO blast

From ABS-CBN (Jul 29): Police find 'meaningful leads' in CDO blast

The police have gathered more “meaningful leads” in the Cagayan de Oro explosion that has claimed the lives of eight persons.

“There are meaningful leads, but the police are very careful. In the next few days, the results would be more comprehensive by then,” Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno told ANC.

He refused to divulge what those leads are, noting the police will embargo the release of all details until there are definite developments.

This morning, the police finally released the facial composites of at least three men allegedly behind the explosion at the Limketkai Center late Friday.

Fear continues to blanket the relatively peaceful city, even as security authorities – from local to government – have already been tapped to get to the bottom of the crime.

“To address [these fears], we have to solve this as soon as possible and solve it thoroughly,” Moreno said.

The recreation of the crime scene also continues as directed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas. He gave the police a mouthful on Saturday after the crime scene was cleared immediately.

Roxas told radio dzMM that the injuries of some of the wounded did not come from a shrapnel of the explosive device, but from pieces of furniture that flew all over the place.

“We have to [recreate] the pressure wave so that we can trace back to the explosive used, who has the capacity to do it," he said.

He said they are also currently collecting the “bio-profiles” of all those present in the crime scene.

“We have to determine if this was politically-motivated, or plain squabble stemming from business or land or relationship issues," Roxas said.

“One thing is clear, this is an act of a coward."

Meanwhile, some of the injured have already been sent home after getting treated.
Around 13 are still at a hospital in Cagayan de Oro.

Brand-new frigates still part of PN modernization

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Brand-new frigates still part of PN modernization

Despite the impending arrival of BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) to the country this coming August, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it is still looking to acquire brand-new frigates to further boost its maritime awareness capabilities.

"(The frigates is still) part of the modernization program. (We are) now in the process of coming up with the final documents for the bidding," PN flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said.

This includes the listing of the operational requirements wanted by the PN for its prospective frigates.

Alano clarified that once this process is completed, it would be up to the Department of National Defense (DND) to start up the country's frigate project.

Arrival of the Hamilton-class cutters in PN service is expected to boost up the maritime domain awareness capability of the Philippines.

The DND earlier announced that the budget for the two missile-firing frigates has been increased to P18 billion.

This is P7 billion higher than the P11 billion earlier allocated.

Five countries have expressed their intention to sell the Philippines modern frigates and offshore patrol vessels which will help the country protect its vast maritime territories.

These offers came from the United States, Israel, Croatia, South Korea and Australia.

All vessels being offered by these nations are brand new.

Offers of the above-mentioned countries started coming during the last quarter of 2012.

The DND attributed the sudden influx of would-be-suppliers to the fact the Philippine is now seriously upgrading its military forces.

The Philippines is in the market for two modern and powerful frigates in order to enhance its maritime domain awareness and protection capabilities.

BIFF bomb threat forces closure of Maguindanao highway

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): BIFF bomb threat forces closure of Maguindanao highway

A threat by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along a portion of the highway connecting Maguindanao to General Santos City and Cotabato has forced the closure of the said roadway Tuesday morning.

Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police commander, said the closure stranded travelers.

He added IED clearing operations are ongoing.

Before the closure, government forces and BIFF fighters engaged in a firefight at Guindulungan in Maguindanao.

The BIFF is founded by Ameril Umbra Kato who led attacks in Mindanao in 2008 after the Supreme Court thumbed down a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Quezonian air force officer named among PHL outstanding soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Quezonian air force officer named among PHL outstanding soldiers

Lt. Col. Moises L. Micor, who hails from Lucena City here, is named among the 10 winners in the 2013 Search for The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) commissioned officers category.

Lt. Col. Micor of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and his fellow soldier winners will each receive a trophy and cash prize of P300,000 in simultaneous awarding ceremonies now dubbed as the Search for the Outstanding Filipinos on Sept. 5, 2013.

The simultaneous awards rites include this year's Search for the Country's Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS) and the Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT).

Lt. Col. Micor emerged as one of the winners in the annual search due to his extraordinary feats and competence throughout his 20-year military career as an officer and ace pilot.

He was cited for introducing innovations and revisions to the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Wing on Safety, development of a Management Information System to monitor aircraft requirements and spares, as well as the formulation and implementation of a program that would prevent Tool Foreign Object Damage, among other accomplishments.

Aside from gaining the military's various recognitions for leading his squadron such as the CG, PAF Streamer Award for the Best Support Group of the Year 2010 and CG, PAF Streamer Award for Best Tactical Squadron 2005, Lt. Col. Micor is also recipient of the Gold Cross Medal for Gallantry, distinguishing his service as a pilot during an attack by the MNLF at Camp Budato on Nov. 19, 2001.

He was also pinned four Bronze Cross Medals for acts of heroism involving risks of life as a pilot on four separate occasions and the Distinguished Aviation Cross Medal together with his aircrew for troop insertion and extrication, air evacuation, aerial recon, re-supply mission and combat support during a military offensive by the Philippine Army on Nov. 11-12, 2001.

TOPS which recognizes and pays tribute to outstanding members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is sponsored by the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. and Rotary Club of Makati Metro.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna, Chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy, chaired the TOPS panel of judges.

Army Recruitment Office in Mindanao sets officer’s exam in Pagadian City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Army Recruitment Office in Mindanao sets officer’s exam in Pagadian City

The Army Recruitment Office in Mindanao is conducting an examination for those interested to join the Philippine Army Officer Corps on Wednesday in Pagadian City, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur.

Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade information officer Capt. Randy Veracion said the examination, which will be held in Pagadian Capitol Colleges, is for Officer Candidate Course and Officer Preparatory Course.

The qualifications for OCC are the following: Must have completed at least one term in military service; not more than 29 years old before/on the start of the training; baccalaureate degree holder; single or unmarried; five feet in height; physically and mentally, and, a Filipino.

For OPC, the qualifications are as follows: at least one term in the service; 21-31 years old; must be a graduate of POTC with a reserve rank of Second Lieutenant; baccalaureate degree holder; single or unmarried; must have completed at least one term in military service; five feet in height; physically and mentally fit; and a Filipino.

The qualifications for civilian applying for OCC are as follows: 21–24 years old; graduate of any four–year college course; single; minimum height is five feet; Filipino; and, physically and mentally fit.

The qualification for OPC for a civilian applicant are: 21-31 years old; MS43 graduate (Advance ROTC graduate); graduate of any four-year college course; single; Filipino; minimum height is five feet; and, physically and mentally fit.

Veracion said the requirements (original documents) to take the Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery (PAATB) are National Statistics Office-issued birth certificate; transcript of records and diploma; valid identification card (ID); and, one 2x2 picture.

Those qualified and interested to take the examination may call the contact person, Corporal Michael Asistin at +639177165230, according to Veracion.

BIFF rebels attack 2 villages in North Cotabato, kills farmer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): BIFF rebels attack 2 villages in North Cotabato, kills farmer
More government forces were sent here Monday by the Army's 6th Infantry Division after renegade Moro rebels stormed two villages, shot dead a farmer, and used civilians as human shields as they fled from pursuing government forces.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion which has jurisdiction over Midsayap, North Cotabato, were sent to the villages of Baliki and Polomoguin where Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) harassed on Monday dawn.

Reports here said that at around 1:00 a.m., BIFF rebels attacked the village of Baliki, a community in Midsayap, North Cotabato situated near Datu Piang where the BIFF operates.

Armed Civilian Volunteer organizations (CVOs) engaged the attackers in an hour-long firefight until the renegade Moro rebel group fled towards Datu Piang when elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion reinforced the militiamen.

As the 40th IB elements started to close in Barangay Baliki, the BIFF forces numbering about 50 persons, fled toward Datu Piang in Maguindanao. But as they passed by Sitio Mirasol, Barangay Polomoguin, also in Midsayap, the bandits took away work animals and personal belongings of civilians.

A farmer identified only as Reynald was shot dead after he refused to release his work animal.

Before escaping toward the Rio Grande de Mindanao, the BIFF took some civilians and used them as human shields when the Army conducted pursuit operations.

The civilians were released unharmed about an hour later.

The BIFF harassment in Midsayap came after the bandits attempted but failed to blow up a bridge in Barangay Magaslong, Maguindanao Sunday morning.

A breakaway of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BIFF gained notoriety when they simultaneously attacked Army and militia bases in Maguindanao in an apparent futile attempt to stop the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro last year.

The BIFF vowed to push for a separate state for Mindanao.

Transfer to Subic part of AFP modernization

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Transfer to Subic part of AFP modernization

Defense Dept. spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez Said Monday the proposed transfer of some units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, namely naval and air units, to Subic Bay, Zambales is part of the military's modernization program.

The DND earlier announced that upgrades of some military installations is included in its modernization package.

He added this proposal is very timely considering that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is poised to take over Sangley Point in Cavite while Clark Field in Pampanga will undergo an expansion in order to handle much larger commercial air traffic.

The latter projects are part of the efforts to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Sangley Point is the main base of the Philippine Navy while Clark Field hosts most of the air assets of the Air Force.

"The best alternative for us (should this projects go full speed) is Subic Bay as it has it deep water port for our two Hamilton-class cutters, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) and aerodrome facilities for our Air Force units. At the same time the location is very strategic," Galvez added.

He stressed this proposal is very timely considering that the Navy and Air Force will getting additional equipment within the coming years.

Subic Bay is only 200 to 300 kms away from the West Philippine Sea, an area that Chinese maritime ships are known to intrude into heavily.

The DND spokesperson added they are now studying the possible timeline for the transfer.

He declined to comment on how much it will cost the government to effect the transfer.

Give Bangsamoro framework a chance, Palace tells MNLF leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Give Bangsamoro framework a chance, Palace tells MNLF leader

Saying the Bangsamoro framework agreement would benefit the entire Bangsamoro community, Malacañang urged Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari to give the framework a chance to bring peace and development in Mindanao.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was reacting to reports that the Moro leader threatened to declare an independent Bangsamoro Republic with its own Constitution.

Last week, Misuari accused Malacañang of pushing for the closure of the GRP-MNLF 1996 final peace accord to accommodate the Framework Agreement for Bangsamoro (FAB) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"The Bangsamoro framework will benefit the entire Bangsamoro. Kasama po kayo sa makikinabang dito, take a look at this major framework. What we will come up with would wind down ultimately to peace and development in Muslim Mindanao," Lacierda told a media briefing.

"I ask for them to seriously look into this agreement not as an MNLF but as a Bangsamoro and it includes everyone -- MILF, MNLF and the lumads," he added.

Misuari warned that pursuing the closure of the MNLF peace accord will give them the option to declare independence of the Bangsamoro.

Lacierda said Sec. Teresita "Ging" Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process went to Indonesia--the facilitator of the GRP-MNLF talks--and met with the Indonesian foreign minister to discuss the closure of the tripartite review mechanism brokered by the Organization of Islamic Conference.

He said Deles already clarified that the government had proposed the completion of the review and not the closure of the peace process or abrogation of the 1996 final peace accord.

"It's very clear with the facilitator on that point that they support the completion," Lacierda said.

The government aims to sign the peace treaty with the MILF to end the decades-old separatist insurgency in Mindanao.

Bomb explodes in state-run university

From Rappler (Jul 29): Bomb explodes in state-run university

A homemade bomb exploded Sunday night, July 28, in a state-run university in North Cotabato but there were no reported casualties, police said Monday, July 29.

Unidentified men detonated around 8:15 pm an improvised explosive device they planted outside the administration building of the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan town, according to town police commander Chief Insp Jordine Maribojo.

He said the bomb was fashioned from 81-millimeter mortar based on the fragments recovered by military and police bomb experts. “We are investigating the incident. There were no casualties in the attack but the glass windows of the building were damaged,” Maribojo said.

The attack occurred barely two days after a deadly bombing in Cagayan de Oro City that left at least 8 people dead.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

3 suspects so far in Cagayan de Oro blast

From Rappler (Jul 29): 3 suspects so far in Cagayan de Oro blast

COMPOSITE SKETCHES. Witnesses provide descriptions of 3 suspects to the deadly Cagayan de Oro blast. Photos courtesy of PNP-PIO

COMPOSITE SKETCHES. Witnesses provide descriptions of 3 suspects to the deadly Cagayan de Oro blast. Photos courtesy of PNP-PIO

Three days since the deadly explosion in Cagayan de Oro City that killed 8 and injured 48 others, the Philippine National Police (PNP) released composite sketches of 3 male suspects.

The sketches were created from witnesses' testimonies, PNP Chief Alan Purisima told reporters on Monday, July 29.

But he declined to give more details, admitting they do not have sufficient evidence and that the drawings are only of "probable" suspects.

"The case is being investigated. We want to complete our data first so once its completed we will discuss details of the incident," he said.

All 3 suspects are unidentified and described by witnesses as medium-built and fair-skinned.
The first suspect is believed to be 26-30 years old, 5'5 to 5'6 ft tall, wearing a brown T-shirt and pants at the time of the explosion. The second suspect is about the same height as the first, but older, estimated to be at least 40 years old. He too was wearing a brown shirt and long pants. The third suspect is said to be about 36-40 years old, wearing a gray T-shirt and a cap, and is 5'4 to 5'5 ft tall.
Cagayan De Oro City was rocked by an explosion late Friday night, at around 11:10 pm, July 26. No angle or motive has been determined. Most of the victims were doctors and pharmaceutical salesmen who had just attended a national convention of lung-disease specialists at the nearby the Grand Caprice Hotel.

Obstruction of justice

Purisima gave assurances an exhaustive probe is ongoing. He admitted the "PNP [is] again being put to the test with the bomb attack," and condemned the explosion.

"I have already directed all police commanders… to intensify their intelligence and target hardening efforts," he said.

Purisima said they are also looking at lapses of first responders and police officers, especially in relation to the immediate clean-up of the crime scene, which hindered police investigation.

CRIME SCENE. Outside Kyla's Bistro at an arcade in Cagayan de Oro City, right after the explosion. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa

CRIME SCENE. Outside Kyla's Bistro at an arcade in Cagayan de Oro City, right after the explosion. Photo EPA/Bobby Lagsa

Purisima said it appears the area "had been tampered with," and part of the investigation is who ordered the clean-up and what led to it. But Purisima said they were also speaking to the police on the scene.

"Why did it happen that the area was cleaned? What is the specific work [the police] did in order for them to justify why they could not prevent the cleaning of the crime scene?," he said. "The cleaning of a crime scene is obstruction of justice."

Because of this added challenge, and the "wide area" of the crime scene, Purisima said they could not yet jump to conclusions. He refused to say whether the police thought the attack was a terrorist act, but he assured the public, "we have leads."

Intelligence officers are also looking at possible police lapses before the incident – whether the cops could have prevented it in the first place.

Search for motive

A special unit is concentrating on the composite sketches and studying the motives of the bomber, said Purisima.

PROBABLE SUSPECTS. Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima shows media composite sketches of suspects in Cagayan de Oro City blast based on witnesses' testimonies. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler

PROBABLE SUSPECTS. Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima shows media composite sketches of suspects in Cagayan de Oro City blast based on witnesses' testimonies. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler

Among the motives they are considering include whether the blast targeted a specific individual or was meant to sow chaos, or whether it was done to prevent visitors from coming to CDO or derail the government's peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"All the victims are being studied on why they were there, what their status in life is, what they were doing there. Was there a reason why they should be victims in the blast?," said Purisima.

'Telcos must register prepaid SIM cards'

Sen Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who hails from Cagayan de Oro, delivered a privilege speech in the Senate denouncing the attack and calling for justice for the victims.

“The masterminds must be identified, prosecuted and penalized now, soon. The two Boston bombers were identified in a matter of days. The killer of innocent students in Norway was tried and convicted in only a couple of months. I don’t have Norwegian blood but I expect police in Cagayan de Oro to do their work with dispatch,” Pimentel said.

“Otherwise [this crime] will go down in history as one of the most dastardly offenses committed in the country without anyone held accountable. I urge the PNP to get the mastermind. I don’t want it said the offense was solved but only the small fry was sanctioned,” he added.

Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that the bombing highlights the need for the long-running proposal to ask telecommunication companies to register prepaid SIM cards.

“The Makati bomb blast and other blasts done not only in Philippines were always
triggered by a cellphone. If you check on the telco, they won’t be able to trace it, why?

We’ve time and again called on telcos to register prepaid SIM cards. It’s used for kidnapping, blackmail and it’s not traceable,” Sotto said during the session.
Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, who also hails from Mindanao, backed Sotto’s proposal, and also condemned the bombing.

“It’s like you bombed Eastwood or Greenbelt. That’s the equivalent of Limketkai Center. This is not the first incident that’s been happening in Northern Mindanao. A lot of incidents have been happening. I would like to voice my concern over the deteriorating peace and order over the whole Northern Mindanao,” Guingona said.

He added, “How many bombings do we have to wait [for] to register SIM cards?”

Pimentel also called on public and private establishments to install CCTV to help law enforcement officials.

Why DND plans to move Air Force, Navy to Subic

From Rappler (Jul 29): Why DND plans to move Air Force, Navy to Subic

While acknowledging that maritime dispute with China triggered the plans to move the Air Force and Navy camps to Subic, the defense department said other “events” also became a factor.

An Associated Press report earlier quoted Defense Sec Voltaire Gazmin as saying the move to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), a former American naval base in Zambales, would be “for the protection of the West Philippine Sea.”

The plan was reportedly hatched "late last year" as the Philippines was caught in a row with Beijing over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

READ: PH warns China against Ayungin. It is ours and PH wants to give US, Japan access to bases

Citing a confidential government report, the AP said it will cost at least P5.1 billion.

Aside from the situation in the West Philippine Sea, "there are events that triggered all these," Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Peter Galvez told reporters on Monday, July 29.

The plan to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was among the triggers.

"Sangley Point will be controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) – the runway and the facilities. I believe private aircraft will be transferred there from NAIA," Galvez said.

Galvez said there is "no definitely timeline yet" but Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Sec Joseph Emilio Abaya said "we're looking at roughly two years" to implement the plan for CAAP to take over Sangley Point.

READ: No more private planes in NAIA by 2015

Galvez also noted the proposed commercial expansion in Clark.

Subic is the "best alternative," said Galvez because it has existing facilities that can accommodate the country's warships and additional helicopters due to arrive.

"With all those things, the best alternative that we saw was Subic because of its existing facilities. It has a deepwater port for our two Weather High Endurance Class Cutters from the US," he said.

"We also have in the pipeline aircraft that will be arriving. There's also an existing runway in Subic. We don't have to replicate those. This is savings for our armed forces," Galvez said.

READ: Navy warship arrives in August, helicopters in December

The DND is studying where it can source the funding for its plan to relocate the Air Force and Navy camps to Subic.

Galvez said they are studying if the funding should be sourced from the P75-billion fresh modernization plan. "It has specific items already in there so we'll look into it — if it will be there or it will be outside. That will part of the study," Galvez said.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to begin in August deliberations on the 2014 budget.

He said it is also cost-efficient to move air force and navy camps to Subic because of the existing facilities.

"It's a very strategic location to address whatever issue there may be in the west side of our country," Galvez said.

"We can ensure maritime domain awareness in those areas. It's a strategic location in terms of transit considerations and for operational considerations for ships and aircraft," he added.

Abu Sayyaf leader – on vacation from Saudi – nabbed

From Rappler (Jul 29): Abu Sayyaf leader – on vacation from Saudi – nabbed

CAPTURED. The police captured Sali Taib, a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, after Taib evaded authorities for 12 years. Photo from PNP-PIO

CAPTURED. The police captured Sali Taib, a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, after Taib evaded authorities for 12 years. Photo from PNP-PIO

He looked like any common citizen bringing his son to school.

But Sali Basal Taib, who was captured by the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday, July 25, was far from being an ordinary Filipino.

The 45-year-old, a member of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), has been wanted for his part in the 2001 kidnappings of workers at the Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan, Basilan, and the abduction of nurses from the Doctor Torres Hospital in Lamitan City, also in Basilan.

In a press briefing on Monday, July 29, the PNP announced it arrested Taib in Payatas, Quezon City. Taib, who has been in hiding since 2005, was tracked through an informant.

Taib, alias Gong-gong Sali or Abu Husni, was an ASG sub-leader within sub-groups. Police offered a P5.3-million reward for his capture. The amount was given to the informant.

Temporary stay

Taib had been living in Saudi Arabia since 2006. He successfully left the Philippines under the passport name Albasher Sali in December 2006.

In Riyadh, he worked as an electrician or lineman.

The informant told police Taib returned to the country in the third week of June. Police found him in the second week of July, at which point they started the build-up of the case against him.

According to PSSupt Bernard Diaz of the PNP Intelligence Group, Taib attended worship at the mosque daily during his vacation here.

Taib only planned to stay in the country temporarily to observe Ramadan, according to police. He planned to return to Saudi Arabia after the annual Islamic observance.

Rebels attack army; highway closed

From Rappler (Jul 29): Rebels attack army; highway closed

COTABATO CITY, Philippines: A breakaway Moro rebel group attacked army detachments in Maguindanao dawn of Tuesday, July 30, forcing the closure of a national highway linking this city and General Santos City.

Trees cut by rebels, water tanker and another truck are reportedly blocking the national highway, particularly in Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao, residents said.

 This prompted government forces to temporarily close the road as of posting time.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), said they launched the attack as a punitive action against soldiers.

"Yes, our fighters attacked several military detachments. They started this, we will finish this. The firefight is still ongoing," Mama said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is holding peace talks with the government. The attacks came weeks after the government and the MILF reached a breakthrough in negotiations on wealth sharing.

READ: Gov't, MILF agree on wealth sharing

Reports said BIFF members harassed an army detachment in Barangay Buayan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao at around 4:30 am Tuesday.

Then they launched another attack in Barangay Bagan in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao.

Mama said there are no reports of casualties from both sides. He said they will continue these attacks until they attain a "genuine Bangsamoro state."

"Even if it will be as small as a barangay as long as it follows the Islamic law. The Philippine Constitution will never be able to accommodate Islamic law," Mama said.

Led by former 105th Base commander Ameril Umra Kato, the BIFF splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after serious disagreements over the conduct of the peace negotiations with the government. They believe the peace process is a form of capitulation on the part of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel movement.

Two days before the July 8 resumption of the talks in Kuala Lumpur, the BIFF ambushed an army truck and attacked an army camp in Maguindanao. The July 6 clashes killed at least 31 BIFF members and 5 soldiers, the military said.

READ: Military, rebels clash ahead of peace talks

The military has yet to issue an official statement on the Tuesday attacks.

Maritime row issues seen on agenda of PH-Vietnam joint commission meeting in August

From InterAksyon (Jul  29): Maritime row issues seen on agenda of PH-Vietnam joint commission meeting in August

The Philippines and Vietnam, two countries that have been feuding with China over maritime territory, will convene the seventh meeting of a joint commission on bilateral cooperation next month, with the implications of Hanoi's recent joint-exploration agreement with Beijing expected to be on the agenda.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Monday that Secretary Albert del Rosario and Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh are to meet on August 1 to discuss the bilateral cooperative initiative. It comes on the heels of Hanoi's and Beijing's agreement to jointly explore and share resources from disputed territories.

The Philippines and Vietnam, along with Taiwan and two other ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea with China, which claims the area in its entirety.

Among the issues to be discussed in the August meeting of Manila and Hanoi are cooperation in defense and security, maritime and ocean cooperation, trade and investments, and agriculture.

Hernandez told reporters “the meeting will also review the implementation of the Philippines-Vietnam Action Plan, a framework document which lists the initiatives to be implemented by both countries for the period of 2011 to 2016.”

It is the seventh meeting of the Philippine-Vietnam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation. The last round was hosted by Vietnam in 2011.

The Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation is a regular consultation mechanism between the foreign ministries of the two countries to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern.

Both Manila and Hanoi have criticized China’s excessive and expansive claims over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The Philippines early this year invited China to bring the maritime territorial dispute before the UN Arbitral Tribunal, as provided for by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing balked at the idea, insisting on bilateral means to resolve issues, but Manila pushed ahead with filing a case, which has since gone under way. Early August, both Manila and Hanoi have deadlines from the five-man panel to submit comments on the draft rules to govern proceedings at the arbitral tribunal.

Vietnam took a different tack. It recently decided to forge an agreement with China to explore and share resources of the disputed territories.

Both countries even set up a hotline that will protect their fishermen from harassment as tensions rise in the Asian seas.

Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 3

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 3

Offenses: Alleged Suspect of Explosion Incident

Name/AKA: Unidentified

Sex: Male

Age: 36-40

Height: 5' 4 to 5' 5

Weight: 60-65 kg

Built: Medium

Complexion: Fair

Other Information: Wearing gray T-shirt

Described by: Jake B Clariño

Requesting Party: CIDG-10, Patag, CDOC

Investigator on Case: CCCI/Interviewer: P02 Cherico Convicto Gamaya

Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 2

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): : Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 2


Offenses: Alleged Suspect of Explosion Incident

Name/AKA: Unidentified

Sex: Male

Age: 40 above

Height: 5'5 to 5'6

Weight: 60-65 kg

Built: Medium

Complexion: Fair

Other Information: Wearing brown T-shirt with long pants

Described by: "Aka Rube"

Requesting Party: CIDG-10, Patag, CDOC

Investigator on Case: CCCI/Interviewer: P02 Cherico Convicto Gamaya

Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 1

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): : Cartographic Sketch: Cagayan de Oro Explosion/ Suspect No. 1


Offenses: Alleged Suspect of Explosion Incident

Name/AKA: Unidentified

Sex: Male

Age: 26-30

Height:   5'5 to 5'6

Weight: 60-65kg

Built: Medium

Complexion: Fair

Other Information: Wearing brown t-shirt with long pants

Described by: Benjamin S. Belmonte

Requesting Party: CIDG-10, Patag, CDOC

Investigator on Case: CCCI/Interviewer:  P02 Cherico Convicto Gamaya

Alleged Abu sub-leader, back from OFW stint in Saudi, held for abductions

From InterAksyon (Jul  29): Alleged Abu sub-leader, back from OFW stint in Saudi, held for abductions

Sali Basal Taib: long arm of law catches up after 12 years.

For 12 years after he was alleged to have joined two kidnapping operations in Mindanao, a sub-leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) eluded the law, even becoming an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia. But Sali Basal Taib alias Gong-gong Sali/Abu Husni made the mistake of returning to the country recently, and police pounced on the man with a P5.3-million bounty.

Taib was captured in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City, where he had been under surveillance for days, the Philippine National Police said Monday.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said, “He was arrested on July 25 at 11:35 a.m. in Payatas. He is a native of Lantawan, Basilan.”

Police record showed Taib went into hiding in 2005 and then fled to Metro Manila in 2006 to process his overseas work application. He flew to Saudi Arabia on December 15, 2006, carrying the name Albasher Sali (Albasjer baddin Saleh/Albasher Yakub Sali/Alabasheir Sali) with passport number TT0350802.

Court records showed Taib had warrants for two major abductions: first, for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in the abduction of civilian workers of the Golden Harvest Plantation in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan on June 11, 2001, for which a warrant was issued by Judge Judge Leo Jay Principe of the Regional Trial Court Branch 1 of Isabela City, Basilan; and second, the abduction of nurses at the Doctor Torres Hospital in Lamitan City, Basilan on June 2, 2001, for which a warrant was issued by Judge Danilo M. Bucoy of RTC Branch 2, also of Isabela City.

 Taib’s case folder was furnished to the National Intelligence Coordinating Council (NICA) in early April this year.

The police said: "Taib was last sighted at around 2:30 p.m. on May 11, 2013 in King Saud Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia working as electrician/lineman. On the 3rd week of June an informant reported his alleged arrival back in the country. And on the 2nd week of July, an eyeball and the start of case build-up.”

At the time of his arrest, police reports said Taib was “spending vacation in Payatas, actively observing Ramadan, and daily attending worship at the mosque.”

He had planned to spend his Hariraya with his brother and other relatives in Payatas before returning to Saudi Arabia after Ramadan.

Philippine police release composite images of bombers

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 29): Philippine police release composite images of bombers

Kyla's Bistro after the bombing in this photo provided by the Mindanao Daily Newspaper in Cagayan de Oro City. (Mindanao Examiner)
Police have released a composite image of two of three alleged suspects in the bombing of a restaurant in the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro.
Police said the images were based on the description of witnesses, but the identities of the attackers remain unknown.

Eight people had died from the bombing of Kyla’s Bistro in Lim Ket Kai Center on July 26 and no individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police are still investigating the motive of the attack, but Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has also blamed policemen in Cagayan de Oro City for tampering with the crime scene after they allowed bistro workers to clean up the area despite the continuing probe. The local policemen are now being investigated for this.

Police suggest that a mortar bomb was use in the attack that also left over 40 people wounded, but this is not conclusive since no fragments had been recovered in the area.
Kyla’s Bistro is a popular restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City and it was not immediately known whether the owner received any prior warnings or whether the attack was connected to extortion or not.

Is there now a ‘revolutionary government’ in Mindanao?

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 29): Is there now a ‘revolutionary government’ in Mindanao?

Nur Misuari (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

The Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996 has reportedly released a statement and read this to its members in various camps in the southern Philippines.

The statement, which suggested a “United Federate States of Bangsamoro Republik,” said it has established a revolutionary government constitution in the southern region, home to minority Muslim tribes in the largely Catholic region. 


It said: “We, the united people, Lumads, Muslims, and Christians of Bangsamoro Republik, exercising our inherent sovereignty, do hereby establish this constitution. We manifest our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to cherish and sustain the promise of the future.”

“We uphold the diversity of our religions, cultures and traditions. Our differences enrich us. The seas brings us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us; our aspirations and dreams as a nation enlarge us and make us stronger.”

It added: “Our ancestors, who made their homes on these islands, displaced no other people. Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish unity and we seek freedom. We extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity. With this constitution we humbly implore the aid of our Maker and do ordain this constitution.”

Just recently, Libyan firebrand Nur Misuari, who heads the MNLF, expressed his disappointment over Manila’s failure to comply with the provisions in the peace accord and warned of renewed war if the government abrogates the agreement.

Misuari also asked the United Nations to send peace keepers in Mindanao to prevent the possible breakout of war. 

End Tripartite Review

But Teresita Deles, the Presidential peace adviser, denied Misuari’s allegations that Manila wanted to abrogate the peace accord. 

Deles explained that while the government’s position is to bring the tripartite review process to a proper completion, she said the Aquino administration will continue to engage relevant parties of the MNLF, through the existing mechanism, to find a just and comprehensive political solution in the Mindanao conflict.

Deles said after almost six years of tripartite review, a joint review process had already established consensus points and some joint mechanisms and actions particularly between MNLF representatives and the Muslim autonomous regional government.

“From the start, what the government proposed to complete was the review process, not the closure of the peace process or the abrogation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement,” she said.

The review process is being facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, specifically its Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP) which is headed by Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa advised Manila to continue to exercise patience even in the face of provocation as he reiterated Jakarta’s support for the peace process in Mindanao.

Bangsamoro State

Misuari has previously denounced the peace talks between the Aquino government and rival rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front after negotiators signed an accord that would create the Bangsamoro state.

The Muslim homeland would replace the existing Muslim autonomous region which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. And several more areas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato would also be included in the new autonomous region, which Misuari said violated the 1996 peace accord.

Misuari previously said that the Bangsamoro agreement might be a recipe for a crisis which may include war. He and Mujahab Hashim, the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council chairman, have raised strong objections to the government’s signing of the accord with the MILF.

“Because there is no other recourse now for the (MNLF), at least the majority of the senior leaders of the MNLF, we have no other recourse but to go back to the original objective of arms struggle,” Hashim warned.

The MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, previously branded the Muslim autonomous region as a failure. The region has been rocked by corruption scandals and remains as one of the poorest in the country. 

It previously called on the government to amend the Constitution that would allow the creation of a Muslim sub-state in Mindanao. President Benigno Aquino’s allies in Congress are now pushing for the amendment of the Constitution, saying, there is a need to change many provisions in the Charter that would benefit the country’s economy, among others.

After the 1996 peace accord with the MNLF, Misuari became the governor of autonomous region. But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to uplift their standards of living. 

They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence. He was also ousted by Muslimin Sema, the MNLF Secretary-General, but Misuari maintained that he is the true leader of the former rebel group.