Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kidnapped Philippine researcher released by Abu Sayyaf gunmen

From the Global Times (Jul 31): Kidnapped Philippine researcher released by Abu Sayyaf gunmen

Abu Sayyaf rebels freed unharmed its male captive in Sulu province of southern Philippines on Wednesday dawn, following alleged payment of ransom, police said.

The 56-year-old Alrashid Maha Rojas, a clerk of the Islamic Study Center in Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), was released by the Abu Sayyaf members led by Hatib Susukan at 3 a.m. Wednesday in the downtown of Jolo.

The victim was abducted on June 22 in his residence in Campo Islam village in Zamboanga and later was brought to Sulu.

Police authorities who were alerted of the presence of the Rojas immediately recovered the victim and brought him to the police camp for debriefing and provided with medical check-up.

The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf group (ASG), founded in the early 1990s, is a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in southern Philippines. The ASG engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, beheadings, assassinations, and extortion.


Navy to open bidding for brand new warships

From the Philippine Star (Jul 31): Navy to open bidding for brand new warships

Despite having acquired two second-hand warships from the United States, the Philippine Navy is still keen on purchasing brand new frigates.

Philippine Navy flag officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said the new acquisitions are still part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' bid for modernization.

"(The frigates are still) part of the modernization program. (We are) now in the process of coming up with the final documents for the bidding," Alano said.

He added that five countries have so far expressed interest in joining the bidding namely the US, Israel, Croatia, Australia and South Korea.

DND bought two Hamilton-class cutters BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) the past year. While the Del Pilar has started its service under the Navy, the Alcaraz is set to arrive in Philippines on August 3 and will be commissioned by September.

Alano, however, said that once the bidding process has concluded, the Department of National Defense will determine the start of the new frigate project seen to boost maritime security.

DND had announced that the upcoming new warships will cost the government P18 billion, higher than the earlier P11-billion budget.

President Benigno Aquino III said in his fourth State of the Nation Address the primary necessities in education, health and jobs creation  will be the administration's priority.

However, Aquino assured the troops that the plans to beef up the armed services will continue.

"To those who have doubts, let me stress that we will continue to strengthen the armed forces through honest and reasonable means. And I myself will do this as soon as possible," he said.


Obama nominates intelligence expert as ambassador to Phl

From the Philippine Star (Jul 31): Obama nominates intelligence expert as ambassador to Phl

President Barack Obama recently nominated senior diplomat Philip Goldberg (right) to become the next Ambassador to the Philippines. AP PHOTOS/SUSAN WALSH

American President Barack Obama nominated a State Department official specializing in intelligence to become the next US Ambassador to the Philippines, the White House announced.

Once confirmed by the US Senate, assistant secretary for intelligence and research Philip Goldberg will succeed Ambassador Harry Thomas at the helm of the embassy in Manila.

Goldberg, a senior American diplomat, has headed the State Department's arm involved in harnessing intelligence to guide the US' diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and national security since 2010.

His bureau is among the 17-member coalition under Obama forming the powerful US intelligence community that collects information on international terrorist and narcotic activities, other hostile activities of nations, groups and individuals as well as foreign intelligence activities.

Goldberg served as ambassador to Bolivia from 2006 to 2008, when he was asked to leave the country by the Bolivian government following accusations that the US has been funding opposition leaders against Bolivian President Evo Morales.

In an interview with Newsweek on his ouster, Goldberg said that his expulsion was partly due to Bolivian leaders' attempt to distract the public from other political matters in the country.

"The situation in Bolivia had deteriorated to the point of confrontation. And I think it became very easy to blame the United States for that. Secondly, I think there were external factors at work," Goldberg said.


Bayanihan Peace Mural in EDSA inaugurated

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 30): Bayanihan Peace Mural in EDSA inaugurated

People from government and private sector gathered Saturday, July 27 at the People Power Monument for the inauguration of the “Bayanihan Peace Mural” also known as the “Lakbay Para sa Kapayapaan sa EDSA”

The peace mural is a a collaboration of the various sectors and stakeholders of society that have worked together to paint the almost four-kilometer wall (Bonny Serrano Avenue-White Plains Avenue) of Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and make a collage of images inspired by the themes Bayanihan (Solidarity with the People), Pagmamahal sa Bayan (Love for Country), and Kapayapaan (Peace).

The event was highlighted by a symbolic painting of the Bayanihan Peace Mural along White Plains Avenue and the unveiling of marker (beside Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Gate) led by Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, Country Director of Asia America Initiative (AAI) along with Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Chief of Staff of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); Asec. Jennifer Oreta of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); Gen. Manager Corazon Jimenez of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA); AG Saño, Founder of Dolphins Love Freedom Movement (DLFM); and other representatives from different private companies and organizations. 

Bai Usman said that the AAI will be organizing the so-called “EduPeace Tours” so more people would get to know the wonderful stories behind the making of the longest peace mural and promote understanding between different religion, culture and history in the country.

“Sometimes people are just looking for a chance, a chance to share what they have… May the peace murals serve as a reminder that as members of the society we have our own share in making the world a better place,” Usman said.

Usman added that people from all walks of life, from different faiths, "they became our strength, our pillars, our voices and our positive forces that made a strong foundation for us to be able to finish the Philippines’ big portrait of peace."

MMDA general manager Corazon Jimenez, who delivered the solidarity message in behalf of Chairman Francis Tolentino said that the peace mural bespeaks of hope, “ hope that as long as we join hands and work together, there is no limit to positive results we can achieve.”

AFP Chief of Staff, gen. Emmanuel Bautista for his solidarity message said, “What we achieved here opened the reality that we need to be united, that we are the solution to our problems… the solution lies on the spirit of Filipinos, the spirit of bayanihan… and that’s what we need to do as one nation, as a Filipino.”

The painting of Peace Mural started last May 26, 2013 with over 3000 Filipino volunteers and artists, lending a hand to complete what is considered the longest peace mural in the world.


Military fire mortars at Matalam rebel camp

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 30): Military fire mortars at Matalam rebel camp

At least 15 mortars landed on a rebel camp located in a village in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 10 p.m. Monday, a top commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said.

Despite the heavy mortar shelling, no one was hurt among the villagers and members of the MILF positioned in Barangay Manubuan, said MILF Commander Noa Sabel of the 108th Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The camp under attack is led by a certain MILF Commander Oscar Matiyagal.

Sabel blamed a number of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government’s peacekeeping forces stationed at barangays Manubuan and West Patadon for the series of atrocities in Matalam.

But residents of Barangay Manubuan are telling different stories.

Sammy Matuguel, 36, farmer, and a native of Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan said it was the MILF forces, together with some Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), that attacked them while they were on their way to their farming village to harvest their produce.

Matuguel has five hectares of land at sitio Leonard planted to corn and fruit trees.

Village councilman Daud Tigkanan of Manubuan said some 30 armed Moro rebels positioned along the road to Sitio Leonard fired shots towards them when they were about to return homes last week.

The attack led barangay officials from Manubuan to request for additional troops from the Special Forces and members of the 602nd Brigade to secure them from the MILF and BIFF.

Captain Antonio Bulao, chief civil military operations officer and spokesman for the 602nd brigade, said they received last week several requests for military intervention from the village officials.

"It's already a month since the fighting broke out in Manubuan. The school in Manubuan has been used as temporary shelter of the evacuees. Pupils have not gone to school for at least a month because of the ongoing fighting," Bulao said.

Classes at the Manubuan Elementary School located along the highway in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam are still suspended as of this posting Tuesday night. At least 67 families from Sitio Leonard are housed in school.

On Monday, their troops, while patrolling along Manubuan highway, were harassed by armed lawless group.

"Our soldiers were attacked by M203 grenade launcher. Our detachment in Manubuan was also fired at using barrette. That was a clear harassment. So we have to discipline these groups," Bulao said.

Bulao admitted that on Monday night they fired mortars towards the direction of a base located just a few kilometers away from the detachment of the Special Forces and the Task Force Cotabato.

"We don't know who those people were staying there. But they already dug fox holes and they’ve been harassing commuters, farmers, and those using the barangay and national highway. We can’t allow this group of people to control the highway so we have to send them away, that's why we fired mortars towards their directions," Bulao said.

Magdalo seeking hike in combat pay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 30): Magdalo seeking hike in combat  pay

Ten years after staging the Oakwood mutiny on July 27, 2003, Magdalo leaders, now Reps. Gary Alejano of Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, and Ashley Acedillo of Cebu, made good on their promise to stand up for the rights of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the retirees.

Alejano and Acedillo, who ran under the Magdalo party-list group, have filed six legislative measures, including one for the increase of the combat pay of AFP officers and enlisted personnel from a minimum of five percent to a maximum of 25 percent of the base pay of a private.

This measure, if enacted into law, will increase the pay of soldiers in the frontlines of the wars government chose to fight, Alejano, said in a statement he issued.

Alejano, who used to be a Marine captain, during the short-lived military, which was participated in by almost 300 junior officers, also said, “While it is still my belief that the courage and valor our soldiers display on the battlefield cannot be measured by any monetary standard, an increase in compensation would help in boosting their morale.”

Negrense Army Capt. Milo Maestrecampo was among the Oakwood leaders, granted amnesty by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Alejano, was granted amnesty by President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

The two Magdalo representatives also filed separate bills, among them, those for the establishment of Philippine Veterans Authority, increase of the group term insurance of AFP and PNP members, and Anti-Private Army law, which seeks to dismantle private armies and other armed groups not recognized by duly constituted authorities.

Another Magdalo leader, then Navy LTSG Antonio Trillanes, was also reelected as Senator.

“We have a strong ally in Senator Trillanes. We are confident that, working together, we will see these measures enacted into law,” Alejano said.

On July 27, 2003, Trillanes, Alejando Maestrecampo and about 300 soldiers occupied the Oakwood Hotel in Manila, placed bombs around it, and demanded the resignation of then President Arroyo, former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes , then PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane, and other top military officials for alleged corruption, including the sale of arms and ammunition to rebels.

They were charged with the non-bailable crime of coup d’etat and detained for several years. In November 2007, they staged another protest at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.
In an interview, Alejano was quoted as saying , “Clearly, what we are now, and what we are doing now, are results of our desire for change for the better in our country 10 years ago when we staged a protest at the Oakwood hotel in Makati.”


Taiwan to build pier for warships in Spratlys

From ABS-CBN (Jul 31): Taiwan to build pier for warships in Spratlys

Taiwan has earmarked $110 million for the construction of a pier on Spratlys' Taiping Island, which the Philippines has also laid claims, set to be completed by 2015.

The new project can hold frigates, radar-evading corvettes and Taiwanese Navy's Kuang Hua VI-class missile boats, according to reports by Taiwanese media on Monday.

Taiping, largest among the Spratlys Islands in the disputed South China Sea, is the only territory that has fresh water. It has been administered by the Taiwanese government officially since the 1970s.

Taiwan has long used the potentially oil-rich island as an arsenal with an airport managed by Taiwan Air Force in the middle of the sprawling sea--the area of contention between the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Taipei officials have begun inspecting the island to draw plans for the new wharf's construction which may begin even without an environmental impact assessment, the reports said.

Future plans for the island include the further development of the airport to extend from 1,150 meters to 1,500 meters "to enhance safety of landing and takeoff of (Taiwan's) military aircrafts."

China, meanwhile, claims virtually the entire South China Sea, which the Philippines contests. Manila says that part of the South China Sea is within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


US helping Philippines in sea patrols, DFA says

From ABS-CBN (Jul 31): US helping Philippines in sea patrols, DFA says

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Tuesday that unmanned US Navy surveillance planes conduct patrols to help monitor activities in Philippine waters, particularly in the South China Sea.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said US drones fly over Philippine waters during joint military exercises with the United States.

Hernandez said the joint exercises involve the use of P3C Orion aircraft and are aimed at upgrading the skills of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Every now and then, we have military exercises that involve US aircraft. One of the primary purposes is to upgrade the skills of the military in terms of maritime domain awareness as well as search and rescue,” Hernandez said.

“We need to tap every resource available to know what is going on in our seas,” he added.

A classified government document seen by Kyodo News on Friday confirmed that US Navy surveillance planes conduct routine maritime patrol in the South China Sea, particularly in the contested Spratly Islands.

President Aquino had earlier disclosed that Manila was seeking US deployment of P3C Orion spy planes over the disputed sea.

The P3C Orion, a land-based maritime surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft that can intercept communications, is described as one of the most sensitive planes in the US fleet.

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

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Manila referred to the Philippine government queries on the report about US drones patrolling the disputed South China Sea.

“I would refer you to the Philippine government for any questions,” said US embassy spokesperson Bettina Malone in a text message to The STAR.

The Chinese embassy, on the other hand, could not be reached for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, sees nothing wrong with the US move to deploy its Navy spy drones in the disputed sea.

Enrile noted that the US, being a superpower, could be allowed to patrol the area.
“The US is an international power, they can operate anywhere,” he said.

 ‘Aggressive China moves risky’

 Aggressive moves by China to assert territorial claims run the risk of “miscalculations” but are also helping Washington strengthen ties with other countries in the region, the general who oversees US air forces in the Pacific said Monday.

“Being fairly aggressive runs the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation,” Air Force General Herbert Carlisle told defense reporters in Washington. “That’s something we think about every day.”

 The US is shifting its military and diplomatic focus to the Asia Pacific region partly because of a buildup by Beijing. China has been involved in territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over islands in the South China Sea and with Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku islands.

Carlisle said he was concerned that some of China’s actions could trigger a larger response. “It’s a complex, changing environment,” he said. “Every action has unintended consequences and second and third order effects.”

Carlisle said at the same time China’s moves were helping Washington expand its own ties in the region, as seen in a recent announcement that Washington and Manila had expanded talks on military cooperation.

“Some of their fairly assertive, aggressive behavior has in fact brought our friends (closer) and they’re relying on us to be there and to be present,” he said.

 In some cases, those allies could ultimately wind up buying defense equipment from non-US suppliers. But they wanted an increased US presence as a counterweight to China, he said.

‘No place for coercion, bullying’

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said there is no place for “coercion and bullying” in the region’s seas.

Russel told a Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last month that he would do everything in his power to “lower the temperature” in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and push claimants, including China, toward diplomacy.

He said it was “unacceptable” for China to demand only bilateral negotiations with the other claimants.

He also voiced strong US support for efforts by Southeast Asia to negotiate as a bloc and frame a “code of conduct” to manage the disputes – an issue to be taken up at regional security talks in Brunei later this month.

The Philippines resorted to the rule of law by initiating arbitral proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to clarify the country’s maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.

China lays claim to nearly the entire South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had emphasized that the Philippines undertook many efforts to peacefully engage China and settle these disputes, but these were unsuccessful.

The Philippines had exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China, Del Rosario said.

He noted that the rules-based resolution and management of disputes in the South China Sea contains two elements: the third-party arbitration of maritime claims in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, specifically UNCLOS; and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.

Despite several invitations, China declined to join the Philippines in this peaceful endeavor.


Six suspected NPA rebels killed in Tarlac clash — military

From GMA News (Jul 31): Six suspected NPA rebels killed in Tarlac clash — military

Six suspected communist rebels, including a female fighter, were killed following a firefight that started Tuesday evening and lasted until early Wednesday, a regional military commander said.

Col. Henry Sabarre, commander of the Army's 703rd Brigade, said the encounter between elements of the 3rd Mechanized Brigade and local police and about nine New People's Army rebels started 10 p.m. Tuesday and lasted until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The clash occurred in Barangay Bubong II in Camiling town in Tarlac, Sabare said.

The operating troops recovered seven high-powered firearms, he added.

Earlier, Sabarre placed the number of rebel fatalities at seven, but was later informed that a backpack buried in the ricefield was mistaken for a body of a slain insurgent. 

In a radio dzBB interview, Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command public affairs officer Capt. Gina Daet said pursuit operations are still ongoing, even as no government casualties have been reported so far.
Daet cited initial information indicating the female fatality was a "front secretary" and a "leader" of the rebel group.
She added that the NolCom was tipped off by local residents to the presence of the suspected NPAs in the area Tuesday night.
Peace talks
In April, the Philippine government announced that it will no longer return to the negotiating table with the National Democratic Front, saying that the talks were "going nowhere" after a 22-month impasse.
NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, for his part, said that it was the Aquino administration, not the communist-led group, which "dimmed" the prospects of peace due to the government's supposed refusal to hold its end up on agreements signed by both parties decades ago.
The armed struggle being pursued by the Communist Party of the Philippines, through its armed wing, the NPA, is one of Asia's longest running insurgencies, spanning more than four decades.
The Philippine government is currently studying a "new approach" to the peace process with communist insurgents, but details on this approach has yet to be finalized.

Army Brigade violates government, MILF ceasefire

From the MILF Website (Jul 30): Army Brigade violates government, MILF ceasefire

The 602nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army blatantly violated the ceasefire accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it fired mortar rounds last night  to MILF forces at Sitio Manubuan, West Patadon in Matalam, Cotabato.
“Just few minutes after the MILF forces under the 108th Base Command broke their Ramadhan Fasting, at around 6:14pm, the Philippine Army troops fired mortars which only stopped at around 10pm,” report from the field said.

While the government soldiers were bombarding the MILF forces the troops of the MNLF started their ground attacks against the said MILF forces.

But the MILF forces did not retaliate. Their ground commander said, in a text message, “we are fully committed to the ceasefire accord between the government and MILF forces.”

Scores of attacks by combined forces of the MNLF and 602nd Brigade had been conducted against the MILF since May this year.

Efforts to resolve the problem in Matalam from many sectors and most especially by the provincial government of Matalam have been continuing but the 602nd Brigade and the MNLF had not been cooperating so that these efforts will easily succeed.

The MILF Ceasefire Committee had repeatedly asked its counterpart with the government to stop the involvement of the 602nd Brigade as they have been blatantly violating the ceasefire accord.

In many instances, high ranking government officials that include no less than the Philippine President His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III had been saying that the MILF that includes its forces is now a partner of the government. Unfortunately, this is not the position of the 602nd Brigade Commander Gen Tomaro.

“While we are strongly supporting the government through the established ceasefire especially in delivering the gains and promises of peace in view of the breakthroughs on the GPH – MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the strong pronouncements of President Aquino during the last State of the Nation Address, the government forces are attacking the MILF forces in Matalam,” the MILF CCCH said.

Instead of attacking the MILF forces, the 602nd Brigade should help in the efforts to resolve the problem in Matalam, said the MILF CCCH, adding “this is the best thing to do for us being partners.”   


IEP: Ummah Updates (Jul 30)

From the Islamic Emirate of  the Philippines (IEP) Facebook page (Jul 30): Ummah Updates

7-30-2013 (11:00am)

Gun battles between BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and members of the government troops are ongoing in Maguindanao province and the BIFF have closed the national highway linking Cotabato and General Santos cities.

... BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) have blocked the highway in Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan town in Maguindanao with a water tanker and another truck.

The clashes broke out this morning around 4:30a.m. when BIFF
(Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) harrassed an Army detachment in Barangay Buayan in Datu Piang town. This was followed by the harassment of another detachment in Barangay Bagan,Guindulungan Municipality at around 5:05am. BIFF also cut trees to block the highway, stranding dozens of motorists.


We will be updating the UMMAH for more Fresh and Accurate news. Insha'ALLAH

Please make Du'a for our Honorable Mujahideen and don't forget to give everything that you can give in support to The Honorable Defenders of our DEEN.

Don't forget to take part in spreading the NEWS Of the UMMAH.

 Hit Like and Share, Let the Muslim know the reality of the UMMAH Today, because the Infedels are hiding the TRUTH!


PHL attack choppers to be equipped with 'night fighting systems'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): PHL attack choppers to be equipped with 'night fighting systems'

In an effort to make the eight attack helicopters more capable especially during nighttime operations, the Dept. of National Defense bidding and awards committee announced these aircraft will be fitted with "night fighting systems."

The latter equipment, either electro-optical or infra red system, are used by air crews in detecting or spotting targets at night time.

The DND also added that these attack helicopters must be capable of flying at speeds of 120 knots (around 138 miles per hour) while carrying a 2,000 payload.

It must be able to cruise for two and half hours and should be multi-engine in type.

Earlier, four international helicopter manufacturers have participated in the pre-bid conference of the DND's attack helicopter program.

These firms are the Boeing Company, Eurocopter Group,AgustaWestland NV and MD Helicopters, Inc.

All four aerospace companies have acquired the required bidding documents.

The DND attack helicopter program has a budget of P3,441,460,000 and will be sourced from the General Appropriations Act and the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.

The helicopters must have full night operation capability and complete weapon systems aside from integrated logistics support package.

"These helicopters shall be capable of performing close air support during day and night, and navigate safely during inadvertent instrument meteorological condition. Furthermore, they shall be equipped with armaments and avionics system highly suitable for said flying operation conditions. The guiding principles for this project shall be based on affordability and sustainability while conforming to the requirements of our Air Force in furtherance of accomplishing its mission," documents obtained by the PNA disclosed.

Bidders should have completed, within 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project

"Delivery of the goods is required within a period of 540 calendar days from the opening of the letter of credit. Bidders should have completed, within 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project," the documents stated.


Malacanang open to holding talks with several Muslim groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Malacanang open to holding talks with several Muslim groups

Malacañang is open to hold talks with several Moro groups that have expressed dismay over the ongoing peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

"Kahit bago pa pirmahan ang framework agreement, bukas tayo sa sentimiyento ng stakeholders natin. We're open to all stakeholders on this kasi lahat tayo may taya dito. Bukas tayo sa pakikinig lalo pagdating dito," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told a media briefing.

The Palace reiterated its appeal for the Moro groups to give the framework agreement a chance which, it said, would benefit the entire Bangsamoro community.

"Ang apila natin sa kanila, give the Bangsamoro Framework a chance. Tignan natin ano nilalaman at aspirations ng framework agreement," Valte said.

On Tuesday, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters waylaid a 10-wheeler fuel tanker along the highway in Guindolongan, Maguindanao, prompting military authorities to temporarily close the passage for the safety of the motorists.

The fuel tanker was on its way to Cotabato City from South Cotabato when ambushed along Barangay Bagan, Guindolongan.

Valte said the Palace is hopeful this latest incident would not affect the ongoing peace talks.

"Sana hindi naman. Ngayon ang concern natin... at sabi ng AFP, commuters have been asked to avoid that particular highway," she said.

"Ina-assure natin ang mga tao dun that operations are continuing to make it passable at the soonest possible time," she added.

The government is in the homestretch in striking a peace deal with the MILF which is expected to result in a Bangsamoro Political Entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The BIFF is apparently hell-bent in derailing the peace talks by launching attacks against authorities and civilians.

Aside from the BIFF, the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front also expressed dismay over the framework agreement.

Last week, Misuari threatened that they would declare Bangsamoro independence if the government abrogates the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

Rebels simultaneously harassed an Army detachment in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao and fired upon houses in Maitum-a-ig bordering the municipalities of Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay towns, triggering gunbattles with military forces in the area.

On Monday, government militiamen killed in an encounter Ebrahim Talenxa, a close aide of BIFF chieftain Ameril Umbra Kato who bolted out from the MILF last year to form the BIFF due to ideological differences.

Angered by the incident, the rebels bent their ire on two farming villages in Midsayap, North Cotabato, and killed a farmer before launching their attacks in Maguindanao.


Army pursuit operation kills three suspected BIFF members

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Army pursuit operation kills three suspected BIFF members
Three suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members were killed in the pursuit operations by the 45th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Pendililang, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao Tuesday morning.

Those slain are believed to be part of the BIFF group, numbering 100, which took part in a series of harassment attacks against military outposts in Maguindanao.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the soldiers also recovered a 5.56mm M-653 automatic rifle.

Prior to this, BIFF members strafed an oil tanker in Barangay Bagan, Guindolongan, Maguindanao around 5:20 a.m.

This prompted Alpha Company of the 6th Infantry Division to chase the perpetrators, triggering an intense firefight.

Immediately, the 6th Infantry Division temporarily closed the Macasampen-Salbo route in order to safeguard the commuting public.

Around 10:00 a.m. troopers from the 2Mechanized Infantry Battalion and explosive ordnance disposal team headed by Lt. Col. Sidney Atega defused an improvised explosive device along a highway 300 meters away from the Sawmill Detachment in Barangay Macasampen.


4 NPA rebels killed in Tarlac encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): 4 NPA rebels killed in Tarlac encounter

Troopers from 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion killed four New People's Army (NPA) rebels following an encounter in Camiling, Tarlac Tuesday evening.

The firefight took place around 8:45 p.m..

This took place after the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion together with the Tarlac City Provincial Public Safety Company conducted an operation to verify the presence of rebel fighters in Barangay Bobon, Caarosipan, Camiling, Tarlac.

The encounter took place when the government blocking force engaged the withdrawing rebel fighters in the area.

Four rebels, one of them female, were killed while no losses were sustained by government troopers.

The bodies were recovered by Army troopers.

Also recovered were one machine gun, one M-14 carbine, a M-653 automatic rifle, three M-16 rifles and assorted rebel documents.

Brig. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri, 7th Infantry Division commander, was elated with the result of the operation and congratulated the soldiers responsible for the successful operation.

The encounter was a result of text information from concerned civilian in the said area who is sick and tired of the extortion activity by the said armed group,” he added.


Military reopens critical section of Maguindanao highway

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Military reopens critical section of Maguindanao highway

Military reopened on Tuesday noon the section of the Maguindanao highway earlier closed due to fresh attacks launched by elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in at least four towns of the province.

However, nighttime travel by motorists along the highway is being discouraged, said Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso.

Initially, six BIFF elements were confirmed killed in separate gunbattles, which occurred along the highway of Guindulungan municipality and interiors of Datu Piang, Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay towns.

The slain rebels were identified as BIFF sub-commander Dhats Amsajarie; Iskak Koto, Kidsel Manedsal, Saddam Samama, Kamad Arok and a certain Bembalan.

Earlier Tuesday, the rebels had waylaid a fuel delivery truck along the highway in Guindulungan and harassed an Army detachment in Datu Piang.

Then, the rebels strafed houses at Barangay Maitum-a-ig along the border of Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns that prompted villagers to flee. .

Additional military troops backed by battle tanks were deployed along the critical areas to further secure civilian communities.


Number of BIFF members killed in Army pursuit operations climbs to 8

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Number of BIFF members killed in Army pursuit operations climbs to 8

The number of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) killed in the ongoing pursuit operation in Maguindanao has climbed to eight with five of the brigands reported wounded, 6th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz said on Tuesday.

He added that this information is based from civilians who witnessed the fighting in Macasampen and Guindulungan, both in Maguindanao.

Gapuz said government forces also recovered two firearms and one radio in the encounter.

He stressed that the situation has now normalized.

Around 100 BIFF members were reportedly responsible for attacking troopers from the 68th Infantry Battalion which was fired upon around 5:20 a.m. while conducting routine security operations in Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan; the 45th Infantry Battalion, which was attacked by suspected BIFF members led by one "Abunastria" around 7 a.m. while conducting clearing operations along Shariff Aguak Highway and Datu Saudi Ampatuan town; and the 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters at Salbo, Datu Saudi which was sniped at.


MNLF holds off independence declaration in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jul 30): MNLF holds off independence declaration in Southern Philippines

A video grab of Nur Misuari while speaking in front of supporters in Indanan town in Sulu province on July 29, 2013. (Mindanao Examiner)

Libyan firebrand Nur Misuari, who heads the Moro National Liberation Front, backed off from his plan to declare independence in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, but hundreds of his followers, many of them armed, showed up to support their ageing leader.

And the military did nothing and failed to prevent the daring public display of weapons and forces, fearing any attempt to stop them would trigger a fierce battle.

Misuari, who met with his commanders in the town of Indanan on July 29, almost declared independence, but changed his mind, saying he still needs to consult with his senior leaders before making the announcement in the right time.

Surrounded by his most trusted leaders and loyal lieutenants – Ustadz Habier Malik and Khaid Ajibun – Misuari was many times interrupted by the huge crowd of MNLF members chanting “Allahu Akbar” and raising their weapons in the air as a show of support to his cause.

“We are going to find the right time to for the formal declaration (of independence. I still need to communicate with the OIC so we still have to discuss this with among us leaders,” he said in the local Tausug dialect.

OIC refers to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which helped broker the peace talks between the MNLF and the Philippines that led to the eventual signing of the agreement in September 1996.

Misuari said it has been three decades now since the OIC mediated in the peace talks, but Manila has failed to comply with the provisions in the accord.

“It is more than 30 years now since the OIC mediated in the peace talks and up to now nothing has been achieved. And that’s why we need to carefully plan on what steps to take. Let us wait, we cannot just jump into something which will not bring good to us,” he said.

Misuari said Filipino government officials scrambled to meet with Indonesian leaders in Jakarta to ask them to intercede and stop him from declaring independence.

“I tell you Indonesia and the Philippines will again talk to us and try to stop our determination and this is to declare independence, complete, pure independence of our nation,” he said.

Misuari has accused Manila of trying to abrogate the peace accord it forged with the MNLF. He also 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, saying it violated the MNLF-Philippines agreement.

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.

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 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.

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.


Hundreds flee Agusan Sur villages as military ‘arrest’ suspects in village chief’s death

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): Hundreds flee Agusan Sur villages as military ‘arrest’ suspects in village chief’s death

More than 500 residents from four villages in Loreto town in Agusan del Sur walked for at least three hours carrying with them some of their belongings as they left their homes after military troops arrived in their communities.

Juanita Loreto, spokesperson of the local group Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan, said they decided to leave their homes in the villages of Kausawagan, Sabud, Mansanitas and San Mariano last Saturday after the soldiers conducted house searches, arrests and harassment in their area.

The government soldiers trooped to Barangay (village) Kauswagan after village chief Ramon Diaganonon was killed by suspected members of the New People’s Army last July 20.

Two days after, four boys, including a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, were accosted by the military along the highway in the same village, Loreto said.

The minors are now under the custody of the Loreto Social Welfare Department.

Major Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the military’s 4th Infantry Division, said the minors were arrested for their alleged participation in an ambush staged by communist guerrillas.

The target of the ambush is a military unit deployed to secure the family and the remains of Diaganonon.

“The family requested for security but the unit tasked to protect the family was ambushed,” Bongosia said.

Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao lambasted the arrest, saying that the minors were on their way to the voter’s registration to participate in the upcoming Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

The human rights group also accused the military of torturing the arrested minors.

“They were not in any way tortured. What will we get from torturing them? The military has a different approach now. We do not practice this anymore. The injuries they got were from the relatives of Diaganonon who rushed and mauled them because of their anger,” Bongosia said.

But Rolang Sanglind, one of the companions of the minors, said they were walking along the highway when the soldiers and members of a local paramilitary unit known as Bagani Force arrived.

He said they were loaded to a military truck where three of his companions, including the minors were kicked and punched repeatedly.

Sanglind said he was not hurt because he was recognized by one of the para-militarymen, a neighbor.

While they were being taken away, Sanglid said, they heard shots being fired from the place where they were arrested.

“It is very clear that the military is lying about the ambush. And the testimony of Sanglid is proof that they tortured the children,” Karapatan said.

Aside from the arrest, Loreto said the residents feared for their lives after a company of government soldiers arrived and conducted house-to-house visits.

The soldiers were looking for residents whose names were included in an order of battle list, Loreto said.

She added that the soldiers were also taking profile shots of the residents.

Bongosia brushed off the claims explaining that the soldiers were deployed for peace and development efforts under the Oplan Bayanihan program of President Aquino.

“The house-to-house visits were for the needs assessment to identify the social services needed in the communities. The results of the assessment will then be forwarded to the concerned government agencies so that they will be able to deliver the services demanded. And the pictures taken by the soldiers are purely for documentation purposes,” Bongosia said.

Bongosia said the evacuation has been orchestrated by Karapatan to discredit the government and the military.

“The people must not fear the military. They must get rid of the negative perception about the military because we have undertaken reforms. We do not do torture. We are here to look into the problems of the communities and to facilitate various agencies in bringing in services,” Bongosia commented.

But Loreto said the military has been daydreaming about security reforms in the country.

“What needs assessment? They were listing our names and their questions go around and around about the NPA. They keep on asking us if we know NPA members and if we know their locations. The reality in the communities is that we fear for our lives, there are mauling, intimidation and illegal arrests,” Loreto said.

Presently, the residents are taking temporary shelter at a public school in Barangay Kauswagan and are firm that they will only return to their villages once the military has pulled out from the area.

“We are appealing to the government to pull out the military. Our livelihoods and the schooling of the children were stalled but we are doing this for our security. Our food supplies are running low but we will stay here until the military will get out from our communities,” asserted Loreto.


Part of Cotabato road closed as soldiers, BIFF clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): Part of Cotabato road closed as soldiers, BIFF clash

The military has closed portions of the Cotabato-General Santos highway after suspected members the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters fired at a passing oil tanker in Guindulunag town in Maguindanao at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoro, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division, said nobody was hurt in the road attack in Barangay (village) Bagan.

About 30 BIFF were sighted massing up a few meters away from the highway, but Hermoso said government troops were in the area.

“We are clearing the highway,” he said.

The incident in Bagan happened after BIFF men attacked villages in Midsayap, North Cotabato, at daybreak Monday.

A farmer was reportedly killed in the attacks.

Few families living along the highway in the villages of Macasampen and Bagan have fled to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Elements of 68th Infantry Battalion, backed by armored personnel carriers, are clearing the road network from possible improvised explosives left by the BIFF rebels, Hermoso said.


8 Moro rebels killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): 8 Moro rebels killed in Maguindanao clash

Deaths of suspected members from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters rose to eight in a firefight that ensued between the rebels and the military in Maguindanao early Tuesday.

The eight were killed during pursuit operations by the Army’s 45th Infantry Batallion, which led to the recovery of a 5.56mm calibre M653 rifle, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col Dickson Hermoso said.

Five of the rebels were also injured.

The clash erupted after an oil tanker was strafed by the rebels in Bagan village in Guindolongan at 5:20 a.m.

A report from the Office of Civil Defense in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the driver of the oil tanker sustained gunshot wounds.

The incident prompted the military to close the Macasampen-Salbo route.

Troops from the 2nd Mechanized Infnatry Brigade diffused an improvised explosive device along the highway, or 300 meters away from a militia detachment.

At about 11:30 a.m., troops from the Army’s 68th Infantry Batallion and 62nd Division Reconaissance Company cleared the Bagan-Macasampen stretch of the highway and also diffused an IED on the road.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing, Hermoso said.

The incident prompted troops from the 45th Infantry Batallion to close a portion of the Cotabato-Isulan road for cleaning and security operations. It was re-opened at 12 noon.


1 hurt in Army-BIFF clashes in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): 1 hurt in Army-BIFF clashes in Maguindanao

One was hurt in clashes between the military and suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao early Tuesday, the Office of Civil Defense in Autonomous Region and Muslim Mindanao said.

The rebels led by a certain Commander Abunasria strafed an oil tanker in Bagan village past 5 a.m., injuring the driver. Prior to the attack, they harassed an Army detachment in Bagan village, the military said.

Troops were able to recover two forward trucks held by the rebels along the stretch of Macasampen-Bagan highway at Guindulungan.

An ordnance team diffused and checked on the improvised explosive device planted within the vicinity.

The incident prompted troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion to close a portion of the Cotabato-Isulan road for cleaning and security operations. It is still not passable as of latest.


AFP wraps up probe on general accused of using soldiers to build his house

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): AFP wraps up probe on general accused of using soldiers to build his house
The military is wrapping up its investigation on an Army general accused of using soldiers for the construction of his house in Taguig City.

“The investigation has been ongoing for the past two weeks or three weeks, or maybe more than a month, and we are just awaiting for the completion of the report and the submission to [Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista],” military spokesman Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan told reporters Tuesday.

He added the accused, Brigadier General Dante Costes, chief of the Communications Electronics and Information Systems Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CEISSAFP) at Camp Aguinaldo, has taken a leave of absence over the conduct of investigation.

Tutaan said the investigation turns out to be “adverse,” there is a possibility that Costes will be relieved from his post.

The deputy chief of staff for CEIS (J6) Major General Crisologo Naybe is currently taking over Costes’ post while he is on leave.

Costes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1980, is facing a complaint of using up to 30 soldiers to construct his three-storey house at AFP Officers Village Inc (AFPOVAI).

The AFP Chief ordered the investigation on the written complaint filed by an individual who identified himself as a “concerned citizen.”


‘CDO blast suspect calm and cool, spoke few words’

From MindaNews (Jul 29): ‘CDO blast suspect calm and cool, spoke few words’

The man suspected to have acted alone in the blast that has so far claimed eight lives appeared calm and cool when he walked into Kyla’s Bistro at the LimKetKai Rosario Arcade, picked a table and ordered a bottle of San Miguel Light from a waiter last Friday night, police said.

Supt. Michael John Deloso of the city police said the medium-built bombing suspect, estimated to be between 36 and 40 years old and 5’4” to 5’5” in height did not stay long.

Deloso said that less than five minutes after the suspect left Kyla’s Bistro, the bomb exploded killing three persons on the spot and injuring over 40 others. The five other fatalities died in the hospital.

“Our witnesses described him as very cool. The suspect never spoke in a complete sentence. ‘Sige, San Mig Light’ were the only words the suspect spoke,” the police official said.

Police released Monday two cartographic sketches in Cagayan de Oro and three in Manila based on the testimonies of witnesses and the images of the suspect caught in five CCTV cameras at the LimKetKai Rosario Arcade.

Police also did a reenactment and a reconstruction of the crime scene after Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas scolded them for allowing the restaurant owners to clean the blast site less than 24 hours after the incident.

Deloso said that based on the witnesses’ accounts and CCTV images, the suspected lone bomber who was wearing a grey t-shirt and dark-colored short pants, arrived at Kyla’s Bistro before 11pm Friday.

He said the suspect, who was wearing a bull cap, picked a spot at Kyla’s and ordered beer from a waiter.

At the time, the street party along the row of upscale restaurants at the LimKetKai Rosario Arcade was in full swing. Most of the partygoers were doctors and medical representatives who were in the city to attend the national midyear convention of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians.

During the reenactment last Sunday, witnesses told police probers the suspect placed a black bag on the table as a waiter came to ask for his order.

Deloso said the suspect stood up and went to the comfort room inside Kyla’s as soon as the waiter left to get his order of beer.

When the suspect came back, the witnesses saw him transfer the black bag from the table to a chair and left, he said.

“The suspect did not even wait for his beer. He left abruptly. Less than five minutes later the bomb exploded,” Deloso said, adding the suspect’s departure from Kyla’s was recorded by a CCTV camera in one of the restaurants.

The police official said a total of five CCTV cameras were working at the time of incident.

The number of computer drawings presented by the police (three in Manila and two in Cagayan de Oro) created confusion as to the number of suspects in the blast.

“There is really one suspect only. There are many sketches because these are the general descriptions of witnesses who were able to see the suspect with or without the bull cap and pair of eyeglasses,” Deloso said.


8 Moro insurgents dead after clash in Maguindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 30): 8 Moro insurgents dead after clash in Maguindanao

Eight rogue Moro insurgents were killed and five were wounded during clashes with government forces as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched a new series of attacks in Maguindanao early Tuesday morning, the military said.

6th Infantry Division (6ID) commander, Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz confirmed this, saying that aside from the eight slain from the enemy side, troops also recovered two firearms, two improvised explosive device (IED), and one radio.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office (PAO) Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala earlier said the first attack occurred around 4:10 when some 100 BIFF men harassed an Army detachment in Datu Piang town.

Zagala said government troops immediately retaliated. As the soldiers pursued the enemy, authorities temporarily closed the National Road in the area to prevent civilians from getting caught in the crossfire.

6th Infantry Division (6ID) spokesman, Col. Dickson Hermoso, on the other hand, said that at around 5:20 a.m. another group of BIFF men strafed a passing oil tanker at Barangay Bagan in Guindolongan town.

The driver and crew of the oil tanker managed to seek refuge at a CAFGU detachment while soldiers from the 45IB launched pursuit operations against the rogue Moro insurgents all the way to Barangay Pendililang in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

As pursuit operation was on-going, soldiers from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion and EOD Team diffused an improvised bomb along the highway just about 300 meters away from a CAFGU detachment in Barangay Macasampen around 10:00 a.m.

Hermoso said at about 11:30 a.m., the Bagan-Macasampen stretch of the highway was finally cleared of IEDs laid down by the rogue Moro insurgents.

As of press time, Gapuz said the situation in the province has normalized and the National Road already open to traffic.

Zagala, for his part, said: "We cannot let this harassment go unanswered, we have to show the firm resolve of the AFP by conducting combat operations against the perpetrators."

He added the latest atrocities by the rogue Moro rebels is a clear indication that threat groups in the area are trying to derail the government's peace initiative with the MILF.

"They will continue such actions to further disrupt the peace talks," he further stated.


More attacks in Mindanao feared; security stepped up

From the Manila Standard  Today (Jul 30): More attacks in Mindanao feared; security stepped up

Following a series of bombings in Cagayan de Oro, North Cotabato and Maguindanao over the weekend, the Palace on Monday ordered intelligence officials to work double time to thwart future attacks.

“The intelligence (community) is doing their work,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, without providing further details.

On Friday evening, a bomb rocked a popular restaurant in Cagayan de Oro that left eight people dead and wounded more than 40 others.

Computerized facial sketch of three bomb suspects
Computerized facial sketch of three bomb suspects

National police chief Gen. Alan Purisima said Monday they had three suspects in the bombing, and showed journalists computer-generated composites of the three based on witness accounts and images captured on closed-circuit TV cameras.

Purisima said it was unclear what the motive was, but Lacierda said they could not rule out that the blast was related to other attacks in Mindanao.

On Saturday, the Lintukan Bridge connecting Maguindanao and Cotabato City was bombed for the second time this month.

The military said it suspects the attack was carried out by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an armed group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In North Cotabato, an improvised bomb also rocked the administration building of the University of Southern Mindanao Sunday evening.

Military and police bomb experts recovered fragments of the bomb, which they said may have been fashioned from an 81 mm mortar.

At his press conference, Purisima said police on the island were ordered to step up security, particularly in populated areas.

Purisima also said they would look into possible lapses in intelligence that allowed the attacks to occur.

A week before the blast, the United States, Australia and Canada issued travel advisories to their citizens against travel to Mindanao because of persistent threats of terrorism.

Purisima said they also wanted to know if such warnings were taken seriously by local police.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who comes from Cagayan de Oro, urged the police to arrest those responsible for the blast.

Another Mindanao senator, Teofisto Guingona III, said he was alarmed by the deteriorating peace and order situation on the island.

Both Pimentel and Guingona are administration senators.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte had earlier said there had been speculations that the Cagayan de Oro attack was aimed at derailing the government’s peace talks with the MILF.


UN, OIC rein in Misuari

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 30): UN, OIC rein in Misuari

Told to hold secession plan at MNLF meeting

The United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries, through their representatives, stepped into the brewing conflict between the government and the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front on Monday by advising Misuari to hold off his plan to declare independence for Mindanao.

MNLF Peace Panel member Rev. Abasalom Cerveza said the UN and OIC intervention “temporarily” terminated the assembly called by Misuari to discuss the group’s next move following the reported abrogation of the peace accord that it forged with the government in 1996.

The UN was represented by Daniel Xavier and Van Dhel Sink. Cerveza did not name the OIC representative.

The meeting was attended by more than 2,000 MNLF regulars and supporters who arrived in Jolo aboard at least 50 pump boats to participate in the assembly held in Sitio Tampaki.

A military source said the MNLF rebels were unarmed and clothed in civilian attires.

The same source claimed that during the assembly,  Misuari expressed his support to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-Manila Islamic Liberation Front  (GRP-MILF) agreement and debunked all allegations of the MNLF declaring independence for the region and was planning to commit atrocities in Mindanao.

Last week, Misuari received a notification letter from the Organization of Islamic Countries abrogating the 1996 peace accord, which sources said prompted the MNLF leader to call for the assembly.

As this developed, Malacanang has expressed doubts that the entire MNLF will support Misuari if he declares independence for Mindanao.

“I am not sure if it is the entire MNLF which is supporting secession,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Lacierda was referring to the MNLF split in 2001, with the Council of 15 led by former Cotabato Vice Governor Muslimin Sema ousting Misuari as chairman.

Sema led a delegation of the MNLF that attended the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October last year.

Lacierda what the government seeks is the termination of the tripartite review mechanism which is being brokered by the Organization of Islamic Conference and not the 1996 final peace agreement.

The OIC recognizes both the Sema and Misuari factions of the MNLF.

Misuari had warned that the MNLF will declare an independent republic if the government abrogates the FPA.

Lacierda said the future peace pact with MILF will benefit all Bangsamoro people, including the MNLF.

“The framework agreement will benefit all Bangsamoro. We ask all people, all Bangsamoro to take a look at the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement. This is a major improvement over the organic act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and will redound ultimately to peace and development in Muslim Mindanao,” Lacierda said.

During the signing of the framework accord late last year, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim appealed to the MNLF to support the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

“We appeal to our MNLF breathren to support the framework agreement and take this historic journey with us. This is not the time for recrimination but the time for unity,” the MILF chief said.

Meanwhile, a civilian was killed as clashes between army troopers and Bangamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters forces rage on in Cotabato province.

The military said that their troops fought back after the rebels attacked army posts in two remote outposts in North Cotabato  and Maguindanao past midnight Monday.

Killed was a certain Mr. Aruro, allegedly a nephew of an BIFF commander.

The military did not provide more details on the fighting, but a source said the firefight took place at the boundary of Midsayap, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao at around 1 a.m.

The source said that the BIFF attacked an outpost of the Civilian Volunteers Organization in Brgy Baliki, Midsayap but were repulsed by army troopers of the 40th Infantry Battalion who immediately responded to radio calls from the militiamen.

As the firefight broke out in Brgy Baliki, a separate BIFF force swooped down at Sitio Mirasol, in Bgy. Polomoguin in Midsayap town and started ransacking the homes of the residents in the area, ncluding their livestock.

Informed of another attack,  the army troopers responded to the scene, triggering another clash that lasted for about two hours.

The rebels retreated but took some civilians with them to a motor boat to shield them from the attacking soldiers, and fled towards Rio Grande de Mindanao.
The hostages were released hours later.

In a related incident, a home-made bomb exploded Sunday inside the campus of the state-owned University of Southern Mindanao.

North Cotabato PNP provincial director S/Supt Danilo Peralta said the blast happened at 9 p.m. at the back of the university administration building. No one was hurt in the explosion.

Elements of the 63rd army’s Explosive and Ordnance Division  are still conducting a probe to determine the type of explosive used.  The explosion damaged the glass window of the building.

At least 10 explosions have been reported in Kabacan, North Cotabato since January.


‘Confluence of events’ led RP to put bases near contested sea — DND

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 30): ‘Confluence of events’ led RP to put bases near contested sea — DND

A “confluence of events,” including threats aired against the country’s territorial waters in the South China Sea, prompted the planned transfer of some Air Force and Navy unites in Subic Bay, Zambales province, the Department of Defense (DND) yesterday said.

DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the plan came out after efforts for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to take over Sangle Point in Cavite, and the programmed commercial expansion at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

He added the DND considers Subic Bay, a former naval base of the United States, as the best alternative for Air Force and Navy units that would be displaced by the CAAP’s takeover of Sangley Point and Clark expansion.

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

According to Galvez, Subic is “very strategic” in terms of location, and its deep water port is suitable for huge ships like the Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar and up-coming BRP Ramon Alcaraz, both weather high endurance cutters (WHECs).

“It just so happens that there was a confluence of events…the best alternative was Subic having a deep water port for our two WHECs…and then we also have the existing runway, airport facilities for the Air Force units…there is not much to be done so there is cost savings,” he stressed.

“At the same time, location is very strategic, it has intrinsic features that make it a perfect area for the Air Force and Navy,” Galvez added.

Currently, Sangley Point serves as headquarters of the Navy’s Philippine Fleet, while the Air Force has its 1st Air Division and Air Logistics Center, among other major units, stationed in Clark Air Base.

Galvez, however, stressed the transfer move is still in the “discussion stage.”

The issue on the disputed South China Sea, where China has maintained presence in Philippine-owned areas like Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in Zambales and Second Thomas (Ayungin Shoal), an area in the Spratlys, was only a co-incident, he said.

“Apparently, it was coincidental that those came about…but it has always been looked into as very good area for us to address issues…of course, there are maritime issues, protection of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), monitoring of our maritime domain…so confluence of all these factors,” Galvez stressed.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has earlier said the government plans to transfer air and naval forces to Subic Bay as soon as relocation funds are available amid negotiations with the United States on a proposal to position US military equipment and rotate military forces in the country while avoiding the contentious issue of re-establishing permanent bases.

The country has a small navy and air force and relies heavily on support from the US, a close ally, to modernize its military and upgrade its capabilities. Part of this relationship has involved regular short-term visits by American military forces for joint training, humanitarian work and disaster response.

Gazmin said the plan to reactivate Subic as a military base is meant for “the protection of the West Philippine Sea” which is how the government calls the South China Sea.