Friday, August 9, 2013

Bombings make gov't resolve to complete peace deal stronger

From Rappler (Aug 9): Bombings make gov't resolve to complete peace deal stronger

The peace talks cannot be sacrificed.
The government on Friday, August 9, reiterated that the recent bombing incidents in Cagayan de Oro City and Cotabato City would not derail the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is now in its final stages.
"If anything, this makes the determination even stronger," Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles told reporters. "The resolve to address all this – all the security concerns – becomes stronger."
Deles said, without a doubt, the peace process toward the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro political entity remains on track.
The government and the MILF only need to finish negotiations on two more annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012 before the final peace pact can be signed.
These annexes pertain to power-sharing arrangements between the central government and the Bangsamoro, and the process of normalization, which includes the issues of policing and decommissioning of arms.
In July, both sides signed a crucial wealth-sharing agreement that will give the future Bangsamoro political entity 75% of revenues from taxes and metallic minerals collected within its jurisdiction. The last round of talks was conducted against a backdrop of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an MILF breakaway group.
Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission – the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law – has already conducted 4 meetings as of July.
After at least 15 years of negotiations, the parties aim to sign a final peace pact within the year.
Rewards for suspects being readied
President Benigno Aquino III earlier said the government is eyeing 3 groups behind the series of attacks who have joined together to sabotage the peace process in Mindanao.
But the government is also looking at a combination of other motives, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said.
For example, police are exploring the angle that Cotabato City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Saudi was the possible target.
Amid all this, Deles noted how the MILF strongly condemned the attacks, especially as they were conducted during the holy month of Ramadan.
Shortly after the Cotabato City bombing attack, MILF Secretariat chair Muhammad Ameen said in a statement posted on their official website “Whoever did this deserved the wrath of Allah."
The government will soon reveal the monetary rewards to be offered to those who will provide information that can solve the recent bombings in Cagayan de Oro City and Cotabato City.
Several details are still being finalized, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, and some discussions on national security could not be revealed to the publlic.

Four wounded in explosion in Kabacan, Cotabato

From GMA News (Aug 9): Four wounded in explosion in Kabacan, Cotabato

At least four persons were injured in a suspected grenade blast near the national highway in Kabacan, Cotabato in Mindanao on Friday at around 9:30 p.m.
GMA News' State of the Nation reported that this latest explosion in Mindanao took place in a residential area near the national highway.
The injured were rushed to the polymedic hospital in the area.

Initial field reports indicate that the explosive device may have come from a M203 grenade launcher.
Friday night's blast is the sixth such incident since July 26 when a powerful explosion ripped through a packed restaurant just outside a mall in Cagan de Oro City.  

MILF to deploy BIAF to secure highways in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (Aug 8): MILF to deploy BIAF to secure highways in Maguindanao

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is concerned over the clashes between the government and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that have caused fear, displacement and animosity in Maguindanao.

The recent attack of the BIFF two weeks ago, wherein an oil tanker truck was flagged down and fired upon by the rebels, caused panic among the civilians.

MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said being an ideological, mass-based organization, the MILF is concerned about the welfare of the Bangsamoro people.

They are now ready to deploy its forces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), in Barangay Bagan and Macasampen in Guindulungan town to help government secure the main roads.

But the officials made it clear that this will still be a subject of discussion between the government ceasefire committee.

The decision was made by the MILF central committee following the requests of Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu and other Bangsamoro leaders in Central Mindanao.

New al-Qaeda-inspired group eyed in Mindanao blasts—terror expert

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 9): New al-Qaeda-inspired group eyed in Mindanao blasts—terror expert
A young jihadist group inspired by the al-Qaeda could be behind the spate of bombings in Mindanao, an expert on terrorism told Radyo Inquirer on Friday.

Khilafa Islamiya, a jihadist group based in Lanao del Sur with links to the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), is the probable suspect in a spate of bombings in Mindanao, according to Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Banlaoi said his group received information that the Khilafa Islamiyah and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters recently held a joint training on bomb-making with the help of JI-linked individuals.

Banlaoi said they are led to believe that the series of blasts in Mindanao are part of the groups’ “after-training missions.”

“Based on our experience, when trainings are held by militants, they later embark on test missions to see if the students learned anything,” he explained.

On July 26, six people were killed in an explosion in Cagayan de Oro City. It was followed by the Cotabato City blast on August 5 which claimed eight lives. Like the first two incidents, the August 7 explosion in North Cotabato has yet to be claimed by any group.

Meanwhile, the BIFF claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing in Maguindanao which injured seven soldiers.

Asked why the Khilafa Islamiyah did not admit responsibility for the bombings, Banlaoi said, “Maybe they still do not want to the public to know about the new group so law enforcement authorities won’t focus on them.”

He said that while the BIFF is pushing for an independent Islamic state in the Philippines, the Khilafa Islamiyah is inspired by the al-Qaeda.

“Their regional agenda is to be part of the Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia which is also being pursued by the Jemaah Islamiyah. It is also part of their agenda to be part of the global caliphate that al-Qaeda wants to establish,” Banlaoi said.

He said there are reports that the BIFF and the Khilafa Islamiyah were trained by JI personalities such as the Singaporean Abdullah Ali, alias Mauwiya, and Malaysian operative Maruwan. The two groups are supposedly working together because of a “convergence of interests on the Islamic cause.”

According to state authorities, the BIFF, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, wants to derail the peace process.

“It is difficult to achieve peace. This is a huge challenge for the Bangsamoro government that will be established, how they will address these groups that are coordinating to spread chaos and terror in Mindanao,” Banlaoi said, referring to the ongoing peace process between the MILF and the Philippine government.

He said they have known about the group since last year. He said their research group had long been sharing information with the authorities and private security firms.

Khilafah in Islam means caliphate which refers to an Islamic state representing political unity for the entire Muslim community.

101st Infantry Brigade to conduct qualifying test

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): 101st Infantry Brigade to conduct qualifying test

The 101st Infantry Brigade, a field unit of the 1st Infantry Division, will conduct a Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery (PAATB) for men and women interested in joining the military.

This will be held this coming Aug. 17 at 8:00-5:00 p.m at the Sindangan Agricultural National High School and on Aug. 18 at the Andres Bonifacio College in Dipolog City, Zamboanga Del Norte.

The activity will give opportunity to qualified applicant, particularly in far-flung municipalities in the province of Zamboanga Del Norte to include the northern parts of Misamis Occidental and adjacent municipalities.

The PAATB is one of the requirements in entering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Army, Navy and Air Force).

Following are the requirements for taking the examination:

For enlisted personnel:

-NSO authenticated birth certificate;

-High school diploma or 72 units college transcript of records;

-Valid ID; and

-One "2x2” picture with white background.

For officer applicants:

-NSO authenticated birth certificate;

-Transcript of records and college diploma;

-Valid ID; and

-One "2x2” picture with white background.

3 rebels killed in Bulacan encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): 3 rebels killed in Bulacan encounter

Three suspected rebels were killed following an encounter with troopers of the 48th Infantry Battalion in Kabayunan, Dona Remedios Trinidad town, Bulacan Friday early morning.

Col. Henry Sabarre, 703rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the encounter took place around 6 a.m.

He added that his men from the 48th Infantry Battalion were conducting security patrols when fired upon by 12 New People's Army (NPA) fighters.

Sabarre said that his men immediately returned fire and succeeded killing three of the rebels in a 10-minute firefight.

He added that they also recovered a M-16 automatic rifle in the encounter scene.

Sabarre said his men were patrolling the area in wake of repeated rebel sightings in the area.

The 703rd Infantry Brigade commander revealed that the rebels were on recruitment mission when the engagement took place.

2 NPA rebels bagged in Quezon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): 2 NPA rebels bagged in Quezon

Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating at the tip of Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon, were arrested by military and police operatives during joint operation last Aug. 6

Belated reports from Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo, Southern Luzon Command head, said Juanito Dela Peña alias "Jacko", a member of the NPA cadre in San Francisco, Quezon was arrested noon of Aug. 6 by virtue of warrant of arrest for attempted murder issued by Regional Trial Court, Branch 62 in Gumaca, Quezon.

In 2011, Dela Peña was wounded on his right leg in a clash with the Philippine Army forces at Barangay Pagsangahan, San Francisco.

A day after the arrest of Dela Peña, the 74th Infantry Battalion and San Andres, Quezon police again apprehended Joel Peros alias "Reyman", 35, a member of the NPA unit operating in San Andres Quezon.

Peros is facing a criminal charge for attempted murder at RTC in Gumaca Quezon.

Peros is said to be involved in the ambush of San Andres police officers at Barangay Talisay, San Andres, Quezon in 2010.

“We cannot allow these criminals to terrorize our communities, sabotage our growing economy and hamper our daily lives. We must put a stop to the criminal activities of the NPA,” Ordoyo said.

Cotabato PNP, Marines apply stricter safety measures following car bomb attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): Cotabato PNP, Marines apply stricter safety measures following car bomb attack

To avoid deadly car bomb attacks in the future, the Cotabato City police and the Philippine Marines had started imposing security measures Thursday night here.

If the use of crash helmets is mandatory to all motorcycle drivers in most cities around the country, starting Thursday night, motorcycle drivers here have been banned from using closed crash helmets.

Parked vehicles without its drivers along Sinsuat Avenue will be towed by the traffic enforcers, according to authorities.

These are some of the measures implemented by the Cotabato City Police and the Philippine Marines to prevent similar attacks in the future, according to Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director.

Balquin said the five-kilometer stretch Sinsuat Avenue, the main highway here, has been declared “no parking area” for any four-wheel vehicle without its driver.

“This is to protect commuters and avoid similar car bomb attack in the future,” Balquin said after meeting with government law enforcers and local officials in the aftermath of August 5 car bomb attack.

He said traffic enforcers will tow vehicles parked along Sinsuat Avenue if remained unattended.

Motorcycle drivers are strictly prohibited to use closed crash helmet while moving around town, especially at night. Balquin explained that most crime against life in the city had been carried out by suspects riding tandem on motorbikes with crash helmets.

Residents who fire their guns indiscriminately or firing of firecrackers will be arrested, Balquin said.

He explained that all of these are meant to ensure the safety of city residents who have been shaken by the powerful car bomb attack Monday afternoon that authorities said targeted the vehicle of Cotabato City administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi.

Balquin reiterated calls for public support by reporting to authorities any suspicious cars, motorcycles or individuals in the city.

Three groups are eyed in the car bomb attack and the series of improvised explosive devices explosions in Cotabato City, Maguindanao and North Cotabato the past week.

These are the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway rebel group turned into banditry, Abu Sayaff Group and local terrorists with links to regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Following the incidents, local government executives and the police provincial offices have instituted measures to ensure safety of citizens.

In Midsayap, North Cotabato, curfew starting nine in the evening until 5 in the morning had been implemented after a powerful IED went off in front of a pawnshop in Wednesday morning.

In Kabacan, North Cotabato, another North Cotabato town target for bombing according to Army and police intelligence operatives, more policemen were deployed around the town center.

Kabacan had been subjected to several IED bomb attacks.

Policemen and soldiers are also on heightened alert in Kidapawan City and in Tacurong City, another areas where suspected lawless elements are reportedly planning to sow terror.

Troops commended for the arrest of KFRG leader in Zambo Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): Troops commended for the arrest of KFRG leader in Zambo Sibugay

Col. Ignacio Obligacion, commander of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade, has commended his men and other personnel for a job well-done that led to the arrest of a kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG) leader in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Sehar Muloc alias Commander Red Eye, an alleged KFRG leader, was arrested by combined military and police operatives Wednesday in downtown Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Muloc has standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

“The apprehension of Muloc will open the door for their victims to achieve justice. Soon, his cohorts will also be apprehended and we will end their criminal acts. We will also acknowledge our people for giving timely information that is vital in the success of the operation,” Obligacion said.

Muloc has been implicated in the kidnappings of businessmen Reynaldo Drapeza and Joel Endino in the boundary of Kabasalan and Payao towns, Zamboanga Sibugay on November 9, 2010; Randel Talania on March 9, 2011 in Barangay Namnama, Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay; and, Mayor Jeffrey Lim on April 2, 2012 of Salug, Zamboanga del Norte.

He is placed under further investigation to determine why he was at downtown Ipil, which is the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Army, police in Neg Occ jointly initiate measures vs. possible atrocities

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): Army, police in Neg Occ jointly initiate measures vs. possible atrocities

The Philippine Army and Philippine National Police in Negros Occidental discussed precautionary measures against possible atrocities by rebel groups following bombings in Mindanao.

During a conference Thursday, security efforts were outlined by the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center composed of the 303rd Infantry Brigade headed by Col. Jon Aying and the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office led by Sr. Supt. Milko Lirazan.

The Army said although there is no confirmed report of any bombing plan in the province, the JPSCC was convened to prepare for any eventuality.

Combined teams of the Army and the police have increased their level of visibility operations in Negros Occidental to protect vital installations.

The military is also urging community participation by calling the following hotline numbers of both the 303rd IB and the NOPPO in case of untoward incidents – Globe: (0916) 6617110 and Smart: (0998)2513936.

Lirazan, acting provincial police director, said the police in Negros Occidental is strengthening its intelligence monitoring against the possible penetration of the terror groups.

He also urged Negrenses to be vigilant against the presence of suspicious-looking people who may cause violent activities.

In Bacolod, Sr. Supt. Edgardo Ordaniel, city police officer-in-charge, said he has issued orders to all the 10 station chiefs here to maintain police visibility in public places such as transport terminals and commercial establishments.

Most of the policemen will be assigned in the field, he said.

Marines team supports medical mission in Misamis Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 9): Marines team supports medical mission in Misamis Oriental

As part of the celebrations for their 40th Activation Day, the Marine Battalion Landing Team – 3 based in Medina, Misamis Oriental, supported the medical mission on Friday of 1st District Rep. Peter M. Unabia and Provincial Board member Bebeng Dumadag.

The Marines, under Lt. Col. Elpidio T. Factor, conducted an "Operation Tuli (circumcision)" for boys and bloodletting for adults, as well as offered free haircuts and repair of shoes and umbrellas.

They previously marked their activation day on August 4, but this year had to move it to August 17 because of an operational commitment.

2Lt. Cherie B. Regalario said the celebrations included a coastal cleanup at Gingoog City, mangrove planting in Medina, fun games, and sports.

The activities focused on the anniversary theme of “Mandirigmang Marino: Kasama Mo, Kasangga Nila, Kabalikat ng Lahat.”

The marines’ areas of responsibility in Misamis Oriental were the towns of Medina and Magsaysay and the city of Gingoog.

According to Dumadag, the medical mission was in response to the call of the residents of Barangay Maanas in Medina who needed medical assistance.

The marines would conduct the same medical mission in the municipal town of Magsaysay and the Gingoog City, too.

Aside from the medical mission, the staff of Congressman Unabia also extended a milk feeding for children and porridge feeding for adults. They also distributed medicines, and provided free dental checkups.

Balingasag municipal councilor Nannette A. Grant acknowledged the assistance given to the poor of the province.

Grant said Congressman Unabia and Board member Dumadag have been providing livelihood projects to the barangays.

She said these projects have benefited the women who are now into soap making, perfume production and jewelry making.

BIFF has new commander, says spokesman

From Rappler (Aug 9): BIFF has new commander, says spokesman

 The breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has a new military commander, Sheik Mohidin Animbang.

This was disclosed by BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama in a recent Rappler interview. Mama said that BIFF's founding leader, Ameril Umra Kato, is no longer directly in charge of BIFF operations. Kato suffered a stroke last year. He is reportedly bedridden. Some say he's comatose.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over serious disagreements on the MILF's peace talks with the Aquino administration, among other reasons.

This week, bombs exploded in 3 different areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, where BIFF forces operate. The BIFF claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb in Maguindanao on August 7 that wounded 7 Army soldiers.

Mama said the BIFF attacked the soldiers, but vehemently denied responsibility for the bombings that hit civilians. (Watch the interview below)

READ: Aquino says 3 groups behind attacks

A translation of the interview will be available here shortly.

2 suspected NPA rebels arrested in Quezon

From InterAksyon (Aug 9): 2 suspected NPA rebels arrested in Quezon

Two suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) have separately been arrested in Quezon province, the military said on Friday.

Lt. Col. Neil Anthony Estrella, spokesman of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), identified the arrested rebel suspects as Juanito dela Peña and Joel Peros.

Estrella said Dela Peña was arrested on August 6 on the strength of an arrest warrant for attempted murder issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, in Gumaca, Quezon.

On August 7, Peros who also has criminal charges for attempted murder pending in the same court was arrested in San Andres, Quezon.

"Peros is said to have been involved in the ambush of San Andres police officers at Barangay Talisay, San Andres, Quezon in 2010," Estrella said.

PH solons buck plans to allow in more US troops amid China bullying

From InterAksyon (Aug 9): PH solons buck plans to allow in more US troops amid China bullying

Senior lawmakers on Friday resisted government plans to allow more American troops in the country amid China's increasing aggression in territories in the South China Sea that are being claimed by the Philippines.

Reports said Friday that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario have written the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, stressing that the US troops' "increased rotational presence" will help the country attain a "minimum credible defense" to guard its territory as it boosts its own military.

"The Philippines will shortly enter into consultations and negotiations with the United States on a possible framework agreement that would implement our agreed policy of increased rotational presence," Gazmin and del Rosario were quoted as saying in the report.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said they have yet to read the letter.

But asked about his views on the possibility of having more US troops in the country, Aggabao said he does not believe the Americans will go to war for the Filipinos.

"Unless we garrison the American troops in the disputed shoals, ready to do violence in our behalf, their presence in the country will only have marginal benefit to us. Let's face it, the Americans will not go to war for us," he said.

"Perhaps, we need to revisit first the Mutual Defense [Treaty] to make very certain that an aggression against us would automatically trigger a retaliation from the US," Aggabao added.
Akbayan partylist Representative Walden Bello said that if the letter were true, then Del Rosario and Gazmin are making a "reckless move that will make us a frontline state like Afghanistan."

"This is balance of power politics that won't do anything except bring us closer to conflict with China, like the 19th century balance of power politics in Europe that led to World War 1," Bello said.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said the plan was not necessary. He said requests for help against China should be addressed to multilateral bodies, not the US.

"We should defend our territory against China's bullying, but we ask help from multilateral bodies and the international community rather than the US, who has practically occupied the countries it supposedly helped like Iraq and Afghanistan," Colmenares said.

"The Department of National Defense has been given more than P40 billion for modernization on top of its huge regular budget but [has been hounded by allegations of] corrupt practices like "pasalubong and pabaon."  The DND is an embarrassment to the country," he added.

The Philippines is said to have one of the weakest militaries in Asia.

Under the 1951 MDT, the Philippines and the United States are bound to help defend each other's territory in case of external attacks.

The Philippines and the US are also signatories to the Visiting Forces
Agreement that allows visits by American forces for joint military exercises and trainings with Philippine forces and are intended to strengthen the bilateral defense partnership under the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

It was concurred in by the Philippine Senate on May 27, 1999, giving it
the force of a treaty, but is considered a mere executive agreement by
the US.

Parts of bombs used in CDO, Cotabato openly sold in Mindanao, says Poe

From InterAksyon (Aug 7): Parts of bombs used in CDO, Cotabato openly sold in Mindanao, says Poe

Bombs and other explosive devices and materials, such as those believed used in recent bombings that killed 16 people in Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato cities, are openly sold in some parts of Mindanao, the Senate public order panel chair said Wednesday.

In an interview after the first public hearing on the bombings conducted by her committee, Senator Grace Poe also said one of the victims had told her that in the Cotabato bombing last Monday (August 5), the remote control was bought from a computer gadgets store in the city.

"She (the victim) told me that she thinks that it was directed at her. It's not necessarily a group, it could be personal, but what she expressed was her concern that in certain parts of Mindanao it was very easy to obtain controlled substances (mortar and bombs)," Poe said.

Quoting the unnamed victim, Poe said that “actually, the problem is that in some areas in Mindanao, bomb materials are sold openly.”

Poe declined to cite the particular area that the unnamed victim pointed out to her, but then asked Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima on the veracity of such information.

"My question is, is there truth to this---that it (controlled substance) is easily obtained in certain parts of Mindanao? I don't want to pinpoint a particular area mentioned to me by the victim but apparently from this area it is transported to CDO and to other places. If you don't want to answer this, Sen. (Ralph) Recto has already suggested that we call for an executive session,” Poe said.

Purisima replied by saying “controlled substances are openly available in the market without license or permits.”

"This is really scary. I mean, when you say there's a tiangge [flea market] for shabu, individuals are affected. But this one---we cannot afford to have something like this. I mean, it can't be that they're arrested today and then they return to their ols ways later.  Let's deploy people in those places,” Poe said.

Trillanes, Binay weigh in

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former soldier, confirmed that bombs and other explosive devices smuggled into the country were being sold in the black market in Mindanao.

"Hindi (regulated yan) illegal yan, galing yan sa black market, hindi naman yan over the counter goods from legitimate sources.  Maraming pinaggagalingan yan, ipinupuslit from the outside of the border, sa tinatawag natin na backdoor.  Puwedeng ginagawa nila from what seems to be benign material, and when you mix it, it will become an explosive,” Trillanes, a former navy officer, said.

Meanwhile, Trillanes said the only thing the Senate can do to avoid the rash of bombings is to increase the intelligence funds of both the military and police agencies so they can better track terrorist groups.

Deeper probe

Senator Nancy Binay confirmed the allegation that bomb materials and components are openly sold in some parts of Jolo, Sulu like hotcakes in a market.

Binay urged Poe to make a deeper inquiry into the sources of explosive devices and other components for a proposed measure to regulate the buying and selling of these products--including devices and other materials used in bombings.

Also, Poe asked the PNP to submit to the committee the Rules of Procedures in conducting an investigation for study and analysis of the Senate.

"Hindi kuntento ang taumbayan sa paliwanag ng SOCO na natapos na nila ang kanilang trabaho kaya nalinis ang crime scene. So, hiniling natin na they should submit their Rules of Procedures dahil bukod sa hindi tayo pamilyar dito, gusto din natin makita kung tama, baka naman hindi na tayo nagiging masyadong maingat eh,” Poe said.

Military foils ASG-JI terror plot with attack on IED-making unit in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Aug 9): Military foils ASG-JI terror plot with attack on IED-making unit in Basilan

An alleged plan of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to carry out bombings in parts of Mindanao was foiled with a six-hour military offensive on a unit that was in charge of making improvised explosive devices (IED), a Basilan-based military official said.

The foiled plot would have come on the heels of a rash of bombings in Mindanao, which killed 16 people in just two of the incidents, in Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato City, and prompted a meeting of the Cabinet security cluster and a Senate hearing on failure of intelligence by State security forces.

According to Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade, “We received reports that they (ASG-JI) were making improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Our main objective was to find and get them especially the IEDs.”

Soldiers attacked the ASG-JI team of around 70 armed men in Barangay Makalang, Albarka, Basilan, and a firefight ensued from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday, which resulted in the death of one soldier and the wounding of three others.

Authorities are verifying reports that there were 7 fatalities on the ASG-JI side.

Galvez said they received information that "at least three known ASG commanders were in the target place. They are Isnilon Hapilon, Puruji Indama, and Kair Mundos.

Their group was there manufacturing IEDs because immediately after ‘Ariraya’ Ramadan, they will launch attacks either in Tipo-Tipo or Unkaya Pukan or conduct bombings in Isabela City or Zamboanga City." The bombing attacks were to have been carried out 8am Friday, per information received by authorities earlier.

Last Wednesday, Abu Sayyaf bandits attacked a military detachment in Albark, but no casualty was reported on either side.

In all, five bombings have occurred in Mindanao, starting with the July 26 blast in Cagayan de Oro City that killed 8 people and injured a dozen others. A deadly car bombing last Monday in Cotabato City killed 8 more people, including two boys and a police officer, and injured 3 others. The city mayor earlier told police he suspected organized crime syndicates to have put out a contract onhim and his sister, the city administrator, for their campaign on crime groups.  The police probers, however, are not ruling out other angles, including terrorism.

Last Wednesday, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked a government unit and injured 7 soldiers in Shariff Saydona, followed by the bombing of a bridge in Datu Piang, both in Maguindanao. An IED also exploded near a radio station and a Lhuillier pawnshop in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

CPP: US ups military aid to push Aquino to sign access agreement—CPP

From the CPP Website (Aug 9): US ups military aid to push Aquino to sign access agreement—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today said plans by the Obama government to increase US military aid to the Philippines is clearly aimed at further pushing the puppet Aquino regime to forge an agreement with the US allowing greater US military access to Philippine port facilities, especially in Subic and other former US military bases. The US government has announced that it would raise US military assistance to the Philippines from $30 million to $50 million in 2014.

The CPP issued this statement as Aquino’s foreign affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario yesterday announced that the Aquino regime is set to start talks with the US government to forge the access agreement.

“Heightened US military aid to the Philippines, which mostly takes the form of providing decommissioned war materiél, is also Obama’s reward to Aquino who has exhibited unquestioning servility to the US,” added the CPP.

The CPP charged that this would only further strengthen the US’ foothold in the Philippines. “Even without the planned agreement, the Philippines has already been serving as a vast US military base, with American warships, jet fighters, drones and combat troops maintaining a permanent presence in Philippine territory.”

The CPP further pointed out that the US military has been maintaining an exclusive military base within the AFP Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. Even Filipino officers are banned from the area reserved for the 700-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP).

“Under the Aquino regime, Philippine sovereignty has depreciated severalfold,” said the CPP. “The Aquino regime has blindly allowed the US military to make use of the Philippines as a base of its operations in its declared aim of deploying more than half of its overseas military strength into the Asia-Pacific region.”

“The permanent and increasing presence of the US military in the Philippines has provoked China to become more aggressive and has worsened diplomatic tensions among the various claimants of disputed territory in the South China Sea.”

“Violations of Philippine sovereingty are bound to worsen with the new access agreement effectively granting the US basing rights in the Philippines.”

“Increased military aid to the Philippines will also result in worsening violations of human rights abuses committed by the reactionary armed forces in the conduct of its US-designed Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression,” pointed out the CPP.

Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division Joins Islamic World in Eid'l Fitr Celebration

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog (Aug 8): Philippine Army 1st Infantry Division Joins Islamic World in Eid'l Fitr Celebration

The Philippine Army has joined in the celebration of Eid'l Fitri - the culmination of the holy month of Ramadan - at its mosque in the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division in Labangan town in Zamboanga del Sur province.

Maj. Adzramien T. Sahisa, an Imam and the Command Chaplain, said some 2,000 Muslim soldiers assigned with the 1st Infantry Division, celebrated the important event.

Majority of the soldiers are assigned in the different units who are conducting internal peace and security operations. "Our brothers in the field celebrated the Eid’l Fitri in the community where they are now and away from their families," he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad, the division commander, praised the soldiers for their faith and dedication to their country as members of the Philippine Army.

Trinidad said: "I commend our Muslim brothers, because today is the end of Ramadan, a holy activity, yet most of our brothers are out there safeguarding our people and making our Muslim communities peaceful and allow them enjoy the celebration of Eid’l Fitri. I salute every one of you. Happy Hari Raya Eidil Fitri Almubarak.”

5 soldiers wounded in NPA landmine explosion in Agusan del Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog (Aug 8): 5 soldiers wounded in NPA landmine explosion in Agusan del Sur

Five government soldiers were wounded in a landmine explosion on Thursday in the southern Philippines, army officials said.

Officials said the explosion occurred in the village of Kauswagan in Agusan del Sur’s Loreto town where troops from the 26th Infantry Battalion were patrolling. The soldiers earlier recovered landmines and provisions left behind by communist New People’s Army rebels.

Kauswagan Tribal leader Datu Ronnie Tuga said the trail is a regular passageway of the villagers and school children.

“This is devastating. What if our constituents passed-by that area? They might have been killed, too. Even those that were unexploded would be very harmful to everyone us here,” he said in a statement sent by the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command.

Lt. Col. Jose Leonard Gille, the battalion commander, has condemned the NPA for using landmines in civilian areas.

“The landmines prove that the presence of our peace and development teams are necessary in Loreto contrary to the claims of Karapatan (human rights organizations) other militant groups. Despite the attack, we will continue our peace and development outreach program in the communities and ensure the protection of the community from harassment and intimidation of the NPA,” he said in the same statement.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said at least 16 bomb attacks had been launched by the NPA against military targets since early this year. And dozens of attacks on civilians suspected to aiding the military in the government anti-insurgency campaign in the region.
Cruz also criticized Karapatan for keeping silent with the NPA atrocities while trumpeting alleged military human rights violations.

“Why is Karapatan silent on the recent bombing incidents? Is it because the NPAs are the bombers? It is obvious now that the lawless tolerates fellow lawless. The NPA are the ones who laid these mines and some advocates are the ones supplying them with the components of the explosives in these attacks or they mutually support in the manufacturing,” he said.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA, which has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a separate state in the country.

Philippine troops capture terror camp

From the Mindanao Examiner Blog (Aug 9): Philippine troops capture terror camp

Government forces overran an Abu Sayyaf camp following fierce fighting that killed 7 gunmen and a soldier in Basilan province in the southern Philippines, army commander Carlito Galvez said.

Galvez said troops from the Joint Special Operations Group - 18th Infantry Battalion and 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion - captured the camp in the town of Al-Barka following fierce clashes with around 70 gunmen.

He said troops raided the Abu Sayyaf lair used as springboard for terror attacks in the province and other areas in Mindanao. The camp was being used by terror leaders Nurhassan Jamiri, Isnilon Hapilon, Khair Mundos and Puruji Indama.

Galvez said the operation was aimed at pre-empting an Abu Sayyaf plot to bomb civilian targets in Basilan and Zamboanga. He said troops recovered two improvised explosives and destroyed many bomb components in the Abu Sayyaf camp.

Former MNLF Combatants Wage a Different War in Sta. Maria

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Aug 9): Former MNLF Combatants Wage a Different War in Sta. Maria
Shores of peace and prosperity. Members of the Sta. Maria Fisherfolks Association cast-off on F/B Ruaida. After a year of fishing operations, the fishing vessel continues to generate income for thefishermen who were once members of the MNLF.
 The road to education. Located in the heart of armed rebel territory on the island of Mindanao, Busicong used to have limited access to education. A tapping point, Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative’s (Zamsureco) main line, around 200 meters going up to Imam Nasaron C. Haron Primary School, is being erected to provide electricity in the area, and now, the school buildings.
 The Sta. Maria Fishing Village in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE - It was the worst of times. The decade of the 70s brought the town of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte into a hotbed of strife when it became one of the flashpoints of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao.Then largely inhabited by Muslim Tausugs, the town played host to rebels belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).Its biggest component was holed up in Barangay Sta. Maria – a coastal village located in the western part of the town.
The protracted war between the state and the MNLF forces was sparked in January 1973 when government troops arrived and engaged the MNLF rebels in a firefight that lasted for three months. The battle almost reduced the town to rubble. The fiercest encounter happened in Sta. Maria where the army employed heavy artillery against the infantry of rebels who bravely held their ground. Tan Cailo, a Tausug native of the sub-village of Busicong in Sta.Maria, remembers it well.

“We had no other option but to join the MNLF. For four years, the rebels assimilated themselves into the community and stayed with us. It was a terrifying time for us. Every peace-loving resident was suspected of being a member of the MNLF. We were constantly threatened, subjected to harassment and abuses by the military even if we did not do anything wrong,” Cailo recalled.

“Soon enough, the people in the village turned out to be either combatants or sympathizers of the MNLF,” he added. The Tausugs are Muslims widely known as fearless warriors and bold seafarers.

Only fifteen years old in 1976, Cailo became a full member of the MNLF and figured in skirmishes with the army in the mountains of Sirawai and Baliguian. He started as a second liner in his unit – one who fought without a firearm and looked out for a fallen comrade so he could use his gun and continue the fight. He experienced the unbearable hardships and endless difficulties of waging a war against the government. He soon grew tired and became disillusioned when a relative died in the course of fighting.

Wanting to have an education, he quit after a year in the boondocks and settled back into the village. Although he remained a MNLF sympathizer, the young former combatant could not close his eyes to the worsening conditions suffered by his tribe as a result of the conflict. He realized that his struggle was not about gaining an independent state but achieving freedom from poverty.

After more than two decades of fighting, the MNLF forged a peace agreement with the government and disbanded, its members returning to the fold of law. Peace returned to Siocon and the tranquility that followed led to its progress. Its economy became the most vibrant in the province as there was an abundance of minerals, agricultural and fishing resources.

However, the specter of war still hovered over Sta. Maria – particularly, Busicong. The place did not even inch closer to progress. Its growth was stymied by the stigma of its violent past where it persisted in everyone’s mind as a place inhabited by belligerent warriors. As a result, government support hardly reached its people even with the most basic necessities like potable water, electricity and education.

In fairness, the Tausugs here - former MNLF soldiers – had since lived in peace, trying to forge their existence as small-time fishers of the sea.

Tan Cailo, now a first councilman of the barangay and president of the 76-member Sta.Maria Fisherfolks Association, strengthened his resolve to elevate the hardships of his people.

Meanwhile, deep in the hinterlands of Sitio Canatuan of the same town, TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), has been engaged in mining operations for years. An unwavering advocate of responsible mining, it was passionately committed to social development programs designed to help the communities affected by its operations. As TVIRD shifted its operations from gold and silver to copper and zinc mining in 2009, the wharf of Sta. Maria became the port for shipping its mining products. Once every month, the sleepy village is transformed into a shipping hub, bustling with activity as thousands of tons of copper and zinc concentrates are loaded into the ships for transport to buyers.

This was a golden opportunity for Tan Cailo. When TVIRD management offered to help his community and asked him what kind of sustainable livelihood program suited his people, he boldly ventured that they needed a “kubkoban.”

A kubkoban is a 50-foot, ring-net type, wooden-hulled fishing boat. It is powered by a diesel engine and manned by a crew of 20 to 25. It is capable of reaching as far as the Sulu Seas and carrying tons of fish. It’s true that it costs a small fortune – some Php2.8 million – but the expenses can be recouped in a short time once the boat begins to operate, Tan Cailo reasoned.

“You see, a kubkoban can earn as high as Php100 thousand pesos in just two good days of fishing. What if we go fishing twice a week, won’t we possibly be making Php800 thousand a month?” he pointed out. To show his resolve, Tan Cailo even volunteered to build the boat to save costs.

The company approved, especially given the thought of their dire circumstances. After buying the materials in Dipolog, Zamboanga City and other places, he led his men in building the boat that took them a year to finish. They named it Ruaida and it sailed for the first time on April 9, 2012.

The first time the fishnet was cast into the sea yielded an income of Php33 thousand pesos. And as of June 2013, F/B Ruaida has generated a total gross income of Php1.7 million since its first expedition. Each crew member gets an average of Php2,400 as share per voyage, which happens three to four times a month. On top of these, the Sta. Maria Fisherfolks Association Inc. enjoyed a financial windfall of Php175 thousand in savings in the bank. They said this will be used to buy a 60-ton capacity cargo truck to transport fish products to nearby towns and cities. In times of bad weather when the kubkoban could not sail, income could still be derived from the use of the truck through transport contracts – for lease or rental to others.

Actually, the Kubkoban Project is just one of the good things that happened to Sta. Maria in recent times. There has been collaboration among its people, the government, the company, well-meaning non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private entities to finally usher the progress that has eluded it for decades. In 2010, TVIRD built a public water system. The next year, Imam Nasaron, also an ex-MNLF member, offered his land for free for the construction of an elementary school in Busicong. In early 2012, the Department of Education collaborated with TVIRD, Maple Tree Foundation (MTF), Petron Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity to establish a public elementary school that now sits proudly on a hill overlooking the serene cove and the entire Sta. Maria wharf.

This year, President Aquino moved to provide electricity to Busicong. Soon after, the Maple Tree Foundation returned to distribute computers for the school children. There is also an excellent business prospect awaiting the wives of the fishermen who have been quietly mass-producing home-made bottled sardines – with a potential market in nearby Iloilo.

Tan Cailo and the Tausugs of Sta. Maria have courageously liberated themselves from the oppression of war, no longer hearing the sound of gunfight but the bells of peace and prosperity. They are now fighting a different kind of war against the perennial enemy – poverty. With enough help, they appear to be on the threshold of celebrating victory.

Certainly, they are now anticipating the best of times.