Tuesday, September 10, 2013

DENR to hire RPA men as

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 10): DENR to hire RPA men as
forest guards: OPAPP

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will hire members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade as “forest guards” as part of the closure peace agreement, Undersecretary Ma.Cleofe Sandoval of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, said yesterday.

Ninety- five of the 105 RPA-ABB members who will be trained as forest guards, attended the orientation and training program initiated by DENR and OPPAP at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City yesterday, Sandoval said.

OPPAP also led the groundbreaking of P37 million farm to market road in Brgy. Locotan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, last week.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. had expressed his dismay over the delay in the signing of closure agreement between the RPA-ABB and the government. The peace agreement was signed in year 2000 .

Sandoval said they were informed that the draft of the closure agreement is now at the desk of President Benigno Aquino III, had been reviewed by OPPAP and several offices at the Office of the President.

She added that OPPAP and the President want to ensure that the provisions stipulated in the closure agreement can be implemented.

Since the administration of then Gov. Joseph Maranon, the RPA-ABB, which is now known as Kapatiran sa Progresong Panlipunan (KPP) has been an active partner of Task Force Ilahas, an environmental enforcement unit of the provincial government, in the fight against timber poaching activities at the Northern Negros Natural Park, especially in Don Salvador Benedicto town.


ZAMBO CITY UNDER SIEGE: No clear solution to end MNLF hostage situation; 200 folks made human shield

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 10): ZAMBO CITY UNDER SIEGE: No clear solution to end MNLF hostage situation; 200 folks made human shield

Tension ran high at nightfall yesterday as no clear solution was ready and available to end the hostage situation in Kasanyangan and Sta. Barbara where more than 200 civilians were made human shields by some 300 heavily armed MNLF forces loyal to Nur Misuari.
Government troops and the MNLF forces holding the civilians hostage were at standoff in the two areas after engaging in clashes that killed six and wounded 24 others.
The hostages told reporters that they needed food and water.
Early in the afternoon, the MNLF commanders told radio reporters that they came here for a peaceful march to voice out their demands.
Mayor Beng Climaco said the MNLF group wants to march to City Hall to raise their flag there and declare independence from the government.
“We’re trying to contain them in Talon Talon,” said an army spokesman. “Our ultimate goal is the safety of the civilians,” he added.
Climaco said the MNLF forces were holding 200 hostage in Kasanyangan and 20 in Sta. Catalina.
Climaco lamented that the hostage victims were being used as “human shields” by the MNLF forces who arrived in the city as early as Sunday evening.
“Their main quest is to declare independence in Zamboanga. This is a non-ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) territory. We are calling a crisis committee in a while.,” Climaco told newsmen.
“The police and military in the city’s stand is, if ever there are men in uniform, they have to be apprehended because we only recognize one Philippine Army and Philippine National Police.”
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma told dzXL radio that the government’s priority is to ensure the safety of civilians.
The siege in this city started when some 300 fully armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Asamin Hussin under Haber Malik landed in Mariki from Basilan at dawn yesterday. They clashed with Philippine Navy commandos, killing one commando and wounding six others.
Other MNLF forces surfaced in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina where firefight broke with Task Force Zamboanga soldiers and police troopers, killing PO3 Murphy Abilani. He was hit by an MNLF sniper.
Tension gripped Talon-Talon, Mampang and Arena Blanco where other MNLF forces spread out and seized civilians as human shield.
An MNLF commander claimed in an interview with a radio reporter that they have 2,000 armed followers in this city.
Some of the mortar shells and rocket grenades fired by the MNLF forces landed in the periphery the Zamboanga City Medical Center where soldiers made their temporary camp as they cordoned the areas going to City Hall, Fort Pilar, Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo and Talon-Talon.
Twenty four other people, including soldiers, policemen and civilians were wounded in yesterday’s siege. Some of the MNLF forces were also wounded.
At 7.a.m., Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar suspended all classes at all levels — private and public. All offices, private and public, likewise declared no work yesterday, making Zamboanga City a virtual ghost town as all stores, malls and offices downtown remained closed.
The president of the Bankers Association declared no transactions in all local banks. Boat trips to nearby provinces and flights of all airlines were cancelled as well.
Around 8 p.m. on Sunday, six members of the MNLF were arrested in a house in Rio Hondo. Five others were also nabbed yesterday. Confiscated from their possession were two .45 caliber pistols and MNLF identification cards.
The arrested MNLFs told newsmen that they went to Zamboanga City to “update” the ongoing peace talks with the government.
They emphasized that they fully support MNLF founder anc chairman Nur Misuari who is now in Jolo, Sulu.
Among those wounded in the Sta. Barbara clash were Sr. Insp. Rey Tolosa, Jr., Arnel Sumampong, Henry Sebastian, Hamid Jarpan, Jahura Bahari, Cpl. Mihadul Ajarin and Norma Marinay.
Thousands of residents of Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo, Mariki, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon and Mampang evacuated and many of them were given temporary shelter at the Enriquez Sports Complex in Baliwasan. The rest are at the Tetuan Central School, Tetuan Parish Church and Talon-Talon National High School.
The MNLF attack came on the day that both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are scheduled to resume the final leg of their peace talks.
For months now, Misuari has been making noise about the supposed failure of the peace agreement that he signed with former President Fidel Ramos in 1996. His faction wants the Aquino government to enter into another round of talks with them, a demand that is seen as an attempt to dilute the peace process between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


CDO blast suspects not in MILF camps – Army

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 10): CDO blast suspects not in MILF camps – Army

BALINDONG, Lanao del Sur (MindaNews/10 September) – Army personnel found no terror suspects in two Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps in this town earlier alleged to have served as training ground of those believed responsible for the July 26 bombing at a resto-bar in Cagayan de Oro City.

FRIENDS. MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar, aka Kumander Bravo (center), and Col. Glen Macasero, commanding officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade (left) during a press conference inside the rebel Camp Watu in Barangay Barit, Balindong town in Lanao del Sur Monday, Sept. 9. The MILF has allowed the Philippine Army to search their camps in Lanao del Sur following allegations that they were harboring terror groups responsible for the series of bombings in Cagayan de Oro City and other parts of Mindanao. No terror suspects were found in the camps.  Mindanews Photo

FRIENDS. MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar, aka Kumander Bravo (center), and Col. Glen Macasero, commanding officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade (left) during a press conference inside the rebel Camp Watu in Barangay Barit, Balindong town in Lanao del Sur Monday, Sept. 9. The MILF has allowed the Philippine Army to search their camps in Lanao del Sur following allegations that they were harboring terror groups responsible for the series of bombings in Cagayan de Oro City and other parts of Mindanao. No terror suspects were found in the camps. Mindanews Photo

MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar, aka Kumander Bravo opened the front’s camps in Barangay Barit and Bualan Monday to the Army inspection team led by Col. Glen Macasero, commanding officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade.

Macasero said they chose to search the camps of Bravo because one or two of them seemed to resemble those in the photos supplied by their intelligence about the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, an obscure group said to be behind the blast.

“But we were mistaken. We did not find anything in the camps of Bravo and it was very different from the pictures when we inspected them closely,” he said.

The Army official said they inspected eight structures at one of the camps of Bravo but found nothing suspicious. The same thing happened in the nearby camp in Barangay Bualan.

The camps are located on Mt. Gurain (1700 masl) overlooking Balindong.

“We welcome this opportunity to show the world that the MILF is not harboring any terrorist groups. We will help search for the suspects,” MILF’s James Macaraya said.

Army and police intelligence reports said the bombers underwent training in explosives handling in the two MILF camps here last year.

Rommel Banlaoi, chair of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said it was in Lanao del Sur that members of the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao were trained in explosives handling.

Banlaoi said he has several pictures showing members of the group holding training in Lanao del Sur and elsewhere in Mindanao.

One of the pictures shown by Banlaoi to reporters is a smiling Reneer Lou Dongon, alias Rolly Unting raising an M16 rifle with alleged terror leader Ustadz Usman Abdul Najid. The photo was supposedly taken somewhere in Lanao del Sur.

“Najid is the real leader. He is the one calling the shots for this group,” Banlaoi said.

Police arrested Dongon in Marawi City last May 11 but he was released several days later. During his arrest police allegedly found a sizable cache of bomb-making materials in his possession.

Police in Cagayan de Oro have filed multiple murder charges against a certain Usman Hapids and five others including a woman for the bombing at Kyla’s Bar at the Limketkai Rosario Arcade in Cagayan de Oro.

Eight persons including two doctors died while 46 others were injured in the bombing incident.

Members of the International Monitoring Team, the MILF-GPH Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group and the local monitoring teams accompanied the Army inspection team.

The MILF did not allow the reporters to accompany the Army soldiers inspecting the two camps.

“Baka may makita kayo na iba,” (You might see something else) an MILF official told the reporters.

Bravo in his brief talk with the reporters said he will not allow terrorists to use any of his camps.

“Ako na ang huhuli sa kanila,” (I’ll arrest them myself) the MILF leader said.

Macasero said he is satisfied with the search saying he admired the way the MILF granted their request to search their camps.

“This is a very momentous event. The MILF and us have proven that the peace mechanisms are working. We need not go to battle over anything,” he said.


MILF: Gov't, MILF peace panels condemn violence in Zamboanga City

From the MILF Website (Sep 11): Gov't, MILF peace panels condemn violence in Zamboanga City

The peace negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), during the opening of their 10-day marathon session in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, issued a strongly worded joint press statement yesterday condemning the violence initiated by elements of the MNLF under Mr. Nur Misuari.
The five-paragraph press statement was issued at the closing of the first day of session. It was initialled by all members of both peace panels, in the presence of the Malaysian Facilitator and other foreign observers who graced this round of talks between the parties.

The statement, among others, called for the stop of the violence and asked that the perpetrators be held accountable for their acts.

They described the current violence in Mindanao as act of people who do not want the peace process between the GPH and MILF to succeed.

The peace panels also vowed to finish the peace process without delay and sign the comprehensive peace agreement.

They also extended their heartfelt sympathy to and solidarity with the people of Zamboanga City and other areas affected by such violence.

As this developed, Misuari’s men were reportedly still holding at least 180 residents in two coastal villages here on Tuesday, using them as human shields to prevent government troops from attacking them.

Misuari’s men landed by boat from nearby Sulu and Basilan provinces and poured into the fishing villages on Monday, causing panic in the city of nearly one million people.

Misuari had earlier declared “independence” on the eve of another round of peace negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government in Kuala Lumpur.

He has criticized a preliminary peace deal signed last year by the government and the MILF, claiming that it marginalized the MNLF and a peace agreement signed in 1996.

A Scout Ranger Battalion (SRB) based in Negros Island and over 100 policemen from Cebu were deployed to Zamboanga on Tuesday to augment government troops there.

The initial attack killed four people and left 14 injured, Luwaran reporter said via cell phone short message system (SMS).

Nearly 5,,000 families, the report added,  have fled their homes and are now staying at the city grandstand, Tetuan Church, Tetuan Elementary School, Mampang Elementary School, Talon-Talon National High School and the Department of Public Works and Highways compound.
It was not, however, whether Commander Haber Malik, is personally leading the siege in Zamboanga City.

Report also said that Malik was demanding for the intervention of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a demand met coldly by authorities in Manila, report added.


CPP/NDF: Aquino government must release Magpatoc and other NDFP Consultants

From the CPP Website (Sep 10): Aquino government must release Magpatoc and other NDFP Consultants

The NDFP Negotiating Panel strongly condemns the Aquino government’s refusal to release NDFP Consultant Ma. Loida Magpatoc, 52, in compliance with its solemn obligation under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
Magpatoc’s NDFP Document of Identification No. ND978254 carries her photo with data on her identifying features. Together with the Letter of Acknowledgment issued and signed by then Panel Chairperson of the government of the Republic of the Philippines Silvestre H. Bello III, this entitles her to safe passage and immunity from arrest, detention, surveillance and other punitive actions.

The Aquino government’s Negotiating Panel claims that there is no proof that Ms. Magpatoc and Ms. Puri Feleo, mentioned in Secretary Bello’s Letter of Acknowledgment and the NDFP Document of Identification, are one and the same. The photo and the identifying characteristics in her Document of Identification however, are concrete proof that this claim is wrong.

By obstinately refusing to honor binding peace agreements, the Aquino government insults the word of honor and binding authority of GRP officials — former President Fidel V. Ramos, Ambassador Howard Dee, former GRP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Silvestre H. Bello, and then Congressman Jose Yap, the emissary of President Ramos who negotiated and signed The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.
It was also under then President Ramos, with Ambassador Dee, Secretary Bello, Congressman Yap and former Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, as GRP Negotiating Panel Chair and Members respectively, that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was signed in 1998. This was subsequently approved by then President Joseph Estrada.

In accordance with the CARHRIHL, the 430 political prisoners ought to be released including the more than a dozen NDFDP Consultants and JASIG-protected NDFP personnel.

Peace advocates all over the country and abroad are clamoring for the resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace talks. GPH President Aquino ought to listen to them. He must take the responsibility for honoring agreements the GRP/GPH has entered into. He should release all political prisoners, including all Consultants of the NDFP.

NDFP International Information Office
email: ndf@casema.nl


Gov't's primary mission is to free all hostages in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Gov't's primary mission is to free all hostages in Zamboanga City

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Tuesday stressed that the primary mission of the government in Zamboanga City is to secure the safe release of hostages who are being used as “human shield” of armed men believed to be rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Roxas, in a statement, said that initial efforts by the government have so far resulted in the release on Tuesday of five hostages, including four children.

As of press time, Roxas said that 180 hostages are still being held by the MNLF.

The DILG chief said the government forces have already contained the MNLF forces in five areas in Zamboanga.

“Malinaw ang pangunahing misyon ng pamahalaan ngayon: gawin ang lahat ng paraan para hikayatin ang armadong grupo ng MNLF na palayain ang lahat ng mga residenteng bihag nila at ginagawang ‘human shield’ laban sa operasyon ng militar at pulis,” Roxas said.

“Hindi titigil ang operasyon ng pamahalaan hangga’t may natitirang residente na hawak ng armadong grupong ito,” he added.

The DILG secretary disclosed that the local crisis management committee has received feelers from several individuals offering help in negotiating for the release of the hostages.

“Maraming natatanggap na feelers ang ating local crisis management committee at sinabi naman ng ating mga opisyal na bukas sila sa pakikipag-usap. Ang kailangan lang alamin, may kontak ba talaga ang mga feelers na ito sa mga lider ng armadong grupo at may authority ba sila para makipag-usap?” he said.

Roxas maintained that the government would demand the unconditional release of all hostages in case the leaders of the armed group pushes agree to talk with the local crisis management committee.

“Malinaw ang posisyon ng pamahalaan: gusto nating palayain ang lahat ng mga bihag at mailigtas sa kapahamakan ang mamamayan ng Zamboanga City,” he pointed out.

At present, Roxas said government officials are working with local executives and community leaders to ensure the evacuation to safer grounds of city residents who are caught in the crossfire between security forces and MNLF rebels.

“Nagtulong-tulong ang lahat sa komunidad para mailikas sa ligtas na lugar ang maraming bilang ng mamamayan na direktang apektado ng paglusob ng armadong grupo ng MNLF,” he pointed out.

City officials, he said, are in close coordination with field personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Health (DOH) to make sure that the evacuated residents are protected and well taken care of.

“Binibigyan natin sila (evacuees) ng lugar na matutulugan, sapat na pagkain, at gamot para sa mga may karamdaman. Tiniyak din ng pamahalaan na may sapat na puwersa para pangalagaan ang kanilang seguridad laban sa anumang banta ng karahasan,” the DILG chief said.

Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin are still in Zamboanga City to monitor the city government’s response to the ongoing crisis.

Roxas explained that government forces are now focusing on “saving as many lives as possible” after they successfully thwarted the attempt of MNLF rebels to take over vital installations in Zamboanga City.

“Matagumpay na nanindigan ang puwersa ng pamahalaan para ipagtanggol ang Zamboanga City laban sa armadong grupo ng MNLF na nagtangkang sakupin ang sentro ng pamamahala sa lungsod (City Hall) at maghasik ng karahasan sa mamamayan,” the DILG chief pointed out.

“Maagap ring umaksiyon ang lokal na pamahalaan, katulong ang AFP at PNP, para pigilan ang paglusob ng MNLF sa sentro ng kalakalan sa siyudad. Dahil dito, napigilan ang masamang balak ng MNLF na ipailalim sa kanilang kontrol ang mahahalagang instalasyon ng pamahalaan at komersiyo sa loob ng Zamboanga City,” he added.

Roxas noted that the military and police are working hand-in-hand to flush out the remaining armed groups who are still sowing terror in four of the 98 barangays in Zamboanga City.

“Sisiguruhin ng militar at pulis na mapapaalis ang mga armadong grupo sa natitirang apat na barangay na ginagalawan nila. Aarestuhin ang sinumang armado na maghahasik ng takot sa mga lugar na ito. Hahalughugin ang bawat bahay at titiyakin na ligtas sa kapahamakan ang bawat pamilyang nakatira rito,” he stressed.

Roxas said the government would also see to it that all those responsible for the foiled siege on Zamboanga would be meted punishment in accordance with the law.


Navy deploys 7 fast crafts, elite personnel off Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Navy deploys 7 fast crafts, elite personnel off Zamboanga City

Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic on Tuesday said that seven fast boats and elite troopers were deployed to Zamboanga City to help the military in its cordoning operation against rogue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members who attacked several barangays and held hostage around 168 people there Monday.

The PN's deployment to Zamboanga City consisted of two patrol gunboats (PGs), two multi-purpose assault craft (MPAC), a diesel fastcraft (DF), four teams of NAVSOU special boat teams, two sniper teams, one explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team and around 100 Philippine Marine Corps personnel.

"These (assets) will be deployed in naval blockade and negation operations," Fabic stated.

Five of these ships are the BRP Emilio Liwanag (PG-118), BRP Leovigildo Gantioque (PG-384) and MPACs BA-486, BA-487 and DF-336.

The fast crafts will be deployed off Zamboanga City coastline to prevent additional rogue MNLF elements from slipping in and reinforcing their comrades who are holed in Barangays Talon-Talon, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara and Kasanyangan.

"They will be further augmented by two more MPACs and around 200 Marines," he added.

These units will be under the Western Mindanao Command.


4 rogue MNLF leaders spotted in Zamboanga City stand-off

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): 4 rogue MNLF leaders spotted in Zamboanga City stand-off

With the military and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front in the second day of its stand-off, the military said they have spotted and identified four leaders of the group in Zamboanga City.

These men are Commander Ugong, Commander Ustadz Asamin Hussein, Commander Habier Malik and Commander Ismael Dasta.

Ugong is pocketed in Barangay Talon-Talon with 30 MNLF fighters and 20 hostages.

While Hussein is holed in Sitio Salinas with 18 men.

And Malik and unknown leader, is in Barangay Sta. Barbara, is believed to be with 80 to 90 MNLF fighters and 20 hostages.

While his companion is with 30 fighters and 87 hostages.

And Dasta is with 80 MNLF fighters and 36 hostages in Barangay Sta. Catalina.

And with the stand-off still ongoing, the Office of Civil Defense Region 9 announced that around 2,172 families or around 10,736 individuals were evacuated due to Zamboanga City crisis.


Soldiers conduct demo and simulation exercises on disaster preparedness

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Soldiers conduct demo and simulation exercises on disaster preparedness

Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) soldiers will conduct “Disaster Preparedness Capability Demonstration Exercises” on September 12 (Thursday) from noontime until 4 p.m. at city’s Dalahican Port here.

SOLCOM Commander Lieutenant General Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo said that the exercises would demonstrate the principles of “Incident Command System.”

Ordoyo said the concept has since been adapted by several countries that successfully utilized the system in rescue operation which will be applied locally in these exercises to synchronize the movement and measures during the operations.

He added that the exercises will enhance the readiness and responsiveness of disaster responders who will be deployed in case of disasters, calamities and crisis situations.

“This is a proactive move to confront future disasters and challenges that might come. Ito po ay ginagawa ng inyong local government unit (LGU) at Armed Services para makasigurado tayo na meron po tayong matibay at konkretong paghahanda sa anumang krisis at kalamidad (the LGU and armed services conduct these exercises to ensure reliability and preparedness during a crisis or calamity),” Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said.

The SOLCOM commander added that these demonstrations will measure current capability and test the skills of the local disaster and crisis teams.

The event will also highlight scenarios on hostage taking, terrorist attack, ship collision and massive evacuation due to fire and explosions.

Participants in the joint exercises are from the military, police, local government units, coastguard and other special units trained for disaster response.


P6-M worth of heavy equipments burned in Surigao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): P6-M worth of heavy equipments burned in Surigao del Sur

Some 30 heavily armed persons believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) burned heavy equipments worth P6 million in a town of Surigao del Sur Monday morning.

Reports from Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office said that a dump truck and a pay loader used in the construction of Tago River Bridge in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur were burned by fully armed persons around 10:45 a.m. Monday. The equipments were used to quarry sand and gravel along Tago River at the vicinity of Sitio Sta. Cruz, Brgy. Sagbayan of San Miguel town for the bridge construction.

According to the police report, the raiders suddenly surfaced and ordered the driver of the dump truck and the pay loader operator to disembark from their manned heavy equipments.

The unnamed driver and operator of both equipments hastily fled the area when the rebels fired their guns indiscriminately, the police report said. The armed men then set both equipments on fire.

The report said the suspects hastily fled the area as the heavy equipment units were still burning when the responding lawmen arrived.

Arthur Ong-oh of CBBI Construction based in Cabadbaran City, who owned the dump truck, and Wulfranie Montenegro Pascua, a businessman from Tandag City, owner of the pay loader declared to the police investigators that their losses due to the incident amounted to P6 million.

Police investigators from San Miguel Police Station recovered a spent cartridge of an M14 rifle and 13 spent cartridges of AK 47 Rifle at the crime scene.

The military and the police troopers are already in hot pursuit against the perpetrators.


13 rebel returnees receive livelihood assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): 13 rebel returnees receive livelihood assistance

The Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) recently released livelihood assistance to 13 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) as part of the activities to highlight the Peace Month celebration.

Each of the former rebels (FRs) received not less than P50,000 during the distribution held at San Pedro village of Leyte’s Albuera town. The fund can be utilized to start a livelihood project for them to support their family.

Gwendalynn Malate, focal person of Leyte Comprehensive Local Integration program (Leyte-CLIP), said that the awarding of livelihood and basic assistance to former rebels was already its fifth since it started during the time of former president Corazon Aquino.

The former rebel-recipients came back to the folds of the law before January of 2013 and passed meticulous verification of their papers, Malate said. But some of these FRs already received their immediate assistance before, she added.

Col. Rafael C. Valencia, Commander of 802 Brigade, 8 Infantry Battalion of Philippine Army, said that the activity is a continuous program of OPAPP and the provincial government of Leyte.

He appealed to the FRs to encourage their friends and relatives who are active rebels to lay down their arms and continue their aspiration without using arms.

A female former rebel (name withheld) who represented the FRs affirmed to support the programs of the PA. She said if given a chance to lead and convince their former comrades, she will explain and show them the sincerity of the government.

It was learned that the female former leader held various position in the CPP/NPA in Leyte. She was in the group for 10 years, got married and raised kids in the mountain. She then realized that her primary responsibility as a mother was neglected so she decided to surrender. She is now serving as a barangay secretary in their community.

The former red fighter expressed her gratitude to the Philippine Army who gave another chance to start a new life.

For his part, Leyte Vice-Governor Carlo Loreto said that peace can be achieved if everybody participates, cooperates and unite.

Lyra Dela Cerna sent the message of gratitude of Mayor Ramon Dela Cerna to OPAPP and the Philippine Army in making such activity to ensure peace in their municipality.

The program concluded with a peace covenant signing with the OPAPP, provincial government of Leyte, municipal government of Albuera, military, former rebels, Brgy. San Pedro officials and the technical working group from different communities under the area of responsibilities of the 19th IB headed by LTC. Nedy C. Espulgar and 78th IB headed by Col. Adonis R. Bajao.


AFP Central Comand in Cebu on alert for MNLF rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): AFP Central Comand in Cebu on alert for MNLF rebels

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command (Centcom) based in Camp Lapu-Lapu, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, is on alert following the Monday predawn clash between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members in Zamboanga City.

The clash killed at least six people and wounded 24 others so far.

Lt. Jim Alagao, Centcom spokesman, said they are intensifying their intelligence-gathering to prevent the same attack from happening in the Visayas.

He said they are monitoring coastal barangays in Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

Alagao said Centcom Commander Roy Deveraturda hasn’t raised the alert level yet, but the military units are ready.

“We are also willing to send troops if there’s a request for it,” he said.

Centcom has operational control of all military units in the Army, Navy and Air Force in the Visayas.

Alagao also urged the public to report suspicious individuals in their neighborhood to authorities.

But he said they haven’t received intelligence information that MNLF will attack Cebu.


Nolcom chief assures fair probe on human rights 'abuses' by soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Nolcom chief assures fair probe on human rights 'abuses' by soldiers

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Major General Gregorio Catapang has assured tribal folks in mining covered villages in three towns here that a fair and proper investigation will be done to establish whether or not the soldiers who were under security operation in the said areas have committed human rights abuses.

“I have caused their relief from their deployment in strategic areas in towns of Dupax del Norte and Kasibu and they are now in the barracks awaiting the result of the investigation,” Catapang said Monday after paying a courtesy call on Governor Ruth Padilla.

He also proceeded to the areas where the alleged human rights abuses took place in order to know more of the situation in Barangays Yabbi, Binuangan and Belance in Dupax del Norte town and Barangays Pao, Pacquet and Kakiduguen in Kasibu towns.

Catapang who also admitted that there were violations committed by soldiers deployed in the upland barangays. He, however, vowed to enforce punishment and penalty for their alleged abuses.

“If ever there will be violations, we will punish them but they might have been misinterpreted for their actions. Their penalty depends… they can be discharged from the service,” he said.

Catapang said the soldiers swooped down on the mining –covered areas based on the request of the officials of Royalco Resource Ltd., asking security against the anti-mining villagers who have set up barricades along the access road to prevent the entry of equipments of the mining firm.

He added that the soldiers were also conducting military operations in the area as remnants of the New People’s Army (NPA) with 15 to 20 armed members seen frequenting the said areas.

“Our soldiers were after the NPA guerillas who were sighted near the mining-areas. They were there to engage them once they have identified their location,” Catapang said.

The Army chief made his statement after Representative Carlos Padilla, also one of the deputy house speakers in a privilege speech last August 27, assailed soldiers deployed earlier in the mining-areas of causing panic and alleged human rights abuses against several villagers who are mostly members of the Bugkalot and other tribal groups.

He said the establishment of barricades by anti-mining villagers proved to be the most effective device to prevent the equipments of the mining firm in entering their ancestral lands.

But soldiers implicated in the human rights violations denied the allegations, saying they were just following proper procedure in paying a courtesy call to the village officials, further dismissed reports of looting from the villagers’ properties.


Wescom maintains intensified monitoring of MNLF group in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Wescom maintains intensified monitoring of MNLF group in Palawan

The Western Command here says it remains to maintain its intensified monitoring of the activities of the Moro National Liberation Front since its leader Nur Misuari declared “independence” anew and following heavy fighting in Zamboanga City between the Moro fighters and the military.

Wescom spokesperson Lt. Cheryl Tindog told the Philippines News Agency Tuesday that “since the beginning,” they have “been on alert and monitoring the development of the security situation in the province involving the MNLF.”

“We are constantly in communication with the MNLF leadership in Palawan to ensure that we are on the same ground towards peace. So far, the MNLF had already made a statement that they shall uphold the peace covenant and that Palawan shall remain a peace zone,” Tindog said.

She added that Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Wescom, is happy that the MNLF group in the province has chosen to side with those who seek a peaceful solution rather than join those who are currently in Zamboanga City holding residents as hostages to gain their goals.

“But still all our units are on alert to guarantee the security in Palawan. We are also calling on our locals to remain vigilant and continue supporting the military in guarding the peace and the situation in the whole of Palawan,” she added.

Tindog said there are more or less 80 members of the MNLF living in Palawan, and some of their sub-leaders had been invited to proceed also to Davao for a conference-meeting but they were unable to leave due to lack of financial support.

Meanwhile, senior MNLF Palawan leader Estino Jairi Ayyobie said majority of their members in the province are for the continuance of the peace talk with the national government.

Ayyobie, in an interview with a local radio station, said no top MNLF leader in Palawan is in the clash in Zamboanga, and that there is no need for violence to resolve the problem between the government and the Moros.

“We cannot resolve the problem if we will not sit together to talk about it. Each side needs to reach out to be able to see peace happening, and not use force to achieve it,” he said.

Ayyobie reiterated that Palawan will remain a “Zone of Peace” unless a directive from their leadership or Misuari changes this.


Imposition of curfew in Zamboanga continues amid standoff

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Imposition of curfew in Zamboanga continues amid standoff

The Crisis Management Committee (CMC) announced the imposition of curfew in this city will continue Tuesday starting at 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, who chairs the CMC, at the same time, said the suspension of classes in all levels, both public and private, will also continue and all schools will remain closed Wednesday.

However, Salazar said that city government operations will resume Wednesday and heads of national agencies are also encouraged to evaluate the possibility of resumption of work.

Salazar said operation of banking institutions will be upon discretion of management in coordination with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“We urge business establishments to be opened starting tomorrow (Wednesday) except those in affected areas which will be upon the discretion of the owners/operators,” Salazar said.

“We likewise appeal to business establishments to ensure that prices of commodities remain stable. The buying public is also advised not to resort to panic buying but purchase provisions enough for the day to prevent shortage of supplies,” she added.

She said the main public market will remain closed but the Sta. Cruz Commercial Complex and the Bagsakan center will be opened starting Wednesday.

At least 15 evacuation centers have been set up to temporarily house evacuees from the barangays of Rio Hondo, Sta. Barabara, Sta. Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-Talon and Tetuan.

The biggest evacuation center is the Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr. Memorial Sports Complex in Barangay San Jose-Cawa-Cawa.

“To ensure continuous supply for the mounting number of evacuees, we encouraged donation of cooked meals or foods that can easily be cooked such as rice, noodles, sardines and water as well as milk, clothing, blankets and mats, sanitary pads and underwear. Please course all your donations to the command center under the supervision of City Administrator Antonio Orendain Jr. at the City Council or the designated drop off centers such as Ateneo de Zamboanga and Claret School,” Salazar said.

For emergencies and other concerns please contact our hotline numbers: (062)992-23-85 or (062)992-31-37 for the command center, 117 or 166 and +639063680749 for the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO).


Military deploys Marines to Zambo, army in control in Nor Min

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Military deploys Marines to Zambo, army in control in Nor Min

Battle-tested Marines were deployed to Zamboanga on Monday evening as the Moro National Liberation Front continued to lay siege to that capital city in southwestern Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said on Tuesday that the 500 Marines belonged to the 2nd Marine Landing Battalion formerly assigned in Misamis Oriental during the midterm elections last May.

Bongosia said that the Marines would augment some 800 government troops now securing Zamboanga City as sporadic fighting in and around the city’s outskirts between government troopers and MNLF combatants continued.

Bongosia, however, did not give figures on deaths but unconfirmed reports had it that, at least, six people were killed since the armed conflict started Monday when government troopers tried to prevent the armed MNLF fighters to march to the City Hall there.

MNLFs loyal to Nur Misuari, founder and chairman of the MNLF, reportedly planned to raise the MNLF flag at the City Hall in Zamboanga City on Monday to reportedly declare “Mindanao Independence.”

The military blocked the MNLF fighters while on their to the City Hall which resulted in a running gun battled in the city’s central district resulting to armed skirmishes that sent the “city of flowers” folding its knees in panic and chaos.

Bongosia said that the army’s 4th ID has declared a red alert in Northern Mindanao in anticipation of a possible escalation of conflict in the region.

“The military in Northern Mindanao has been on its toes since the bombing incident in Cagayan de Oro that marred the otherwise peaceful port capital of more than 800,000 people here last July,” Bongosia added.

He said the military has also received reports of the movements of known MNLF members toward the southwestern Mindanao since the conflict erupted in Zamboanga City last Monday.

“The MNLF in Northern Mindanao were not armed although the reported exodus to the Zamboanga Peninsula could be suspicious,” Bongosia told the PNA.

Bongosia allayed fears that the MNLF would sow terror in Northern Mindanao and assured that the military in the region is on top of the situation.


Scout Rangers from Negros Island augment gov’t troops in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Scout Rangers from Negros Island augment gov’t troops in Zamboanga City

Troopers of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion (SRB) of the Philippine Army in Negros Island were deployed Tuesday to Zamboanga City where tensions between government troops and armed men from the Moro National Liberation Front have escalated.

About 250 Scout Rangers were pulled out from Negros following an order issued Monday directing them “to consolidate for movement to Zamboanga (City).”

“So here we are,” said Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commanding officer of the 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, who led the send-off ceremony at the Bacolod-Silay Airport Tuesday afternoon.

Patrimonio was joined by Col. Rey Bañares, deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade headquartered in Murcia, Negros Occidental.

The 1st SRB, assigned in Negros in 2008, is headed by Lt. Col. Oriel Pangcog.

Patrimonio said that troopers of the 1st SRB have been assigned to various anti-insurgency assignments in Negros as part of the campaign to dismantle the operations of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Last September 6, the Scout Rangers under Staff Sgt. Rehum Magno encountered about 20 NPA rebels in Sitio Hinobaan, Barangay Plagatasanon, in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. The firefight led to the capture of four NPA rebels.

“This was their latest score. They were able to capture four (rebels), and recover an M-14 (rifle). They re-supplied and were ready for another jump-off when we received a warning order (for movement to Zamboanga),” Patrimonio said in a radio interview.


Marines, Army, PNP secure ARMM compound following Zamboanga MNLF seige

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Marines, Army, PNP secure ARMM compound following Zamboanga MNLF seige

Army, police and Marines are now securing the 10-hectare Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as part of measures to prevent entry of renegade Moro National Liberation Front similar to Zamboanga City attacks.

While MNLF members belonging to other factions have expressed they will not sympathize with their comrades in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, ARMM officials said the steps were meant to prevent "sympathy attacks."

Abdulrashid Ladayo, chief security officer of the Office of the Regional Governor, said the presence of Philippine Marines contingent, Army and Police was part of the preventive measures taken by the government while the Zamboanga City siege remained unsolved.

MNLF forces in mainland Mindanao and under the leadership of Chairman Muslimin Sema have publicly declared they still support and respect the 1996 final peace agreement.

Ladayo said the ARMM was, in fact, appeased with the assurance by the group of Sema, the largest and most politically active MNLF faction, that its forces in mainland Mindanao will not participate in the activities in Zamboanga City of Nur Misuari’s followers.

“However, we’re not taking chances because any `third party’ can just do something to either embarrass our local security forces, or put the `Sema group’ in bad light,” Ladayo told reporters.

About 100 government forces have encircled the ARMM compound here which also houses about 50 government regional and provincial offices.

The Marines are backed by three V-300 combat vehicles securing the entry and exit points of the ARMM compound.

Ladayo explained that security preparations are being closely coordinated by the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman with the Cotabato City police and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th ID, which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao, where the most of the MNLF members under Sema live and maintained duly-recognized camps called “peace zones,” said spill over of the Zamboanga incident is far but just the same the Army is placed on alert for a worst case scenario.


Standoff in Zambo City

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 10): Standoff in Zambo City

Misuari force, AFP hold fort; curfew imposed by mayor

A spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front said on Tuesday that they are sending more troops to reinforce the guerillas occupying at least five barangays in Zamboanga City, which was placed under curfew as government troops and MNLF rebels remained locked in a standoff.

In the photo above taken on Aug. 12, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses his armed followers in one of their camps in Indanan, Sulu, following his declaration that he was breaking away from the government because he believed it was sidelining his group.
In the photo above taken on Aug. 12, MNLF leader Nur Misuari addresses his armed followers in one of their camps in Indanan, Sulu, following his declaration that he was breaking away from the government because he believed it was sidelining his group. AFP

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said that an additional 10,000 guerillas will be sent to barangays Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Talon-Talon, Talabaan and Riondo where the rebels escaped after a brief attack at the Zamboanga City Hall.

Cervez claimed that the MNLF actually has 25,000 guerillas under the command of Haber Malik spread over the peninsula ready to capture vital facilities in its aim to press its bid for independence for Mindanao.

“Our primary objective is to gain control of all government installations, but we will spare civilians,” Cerveza said. He admitted that dozens of Moro fighters were injured in the operations, particularly in Barangay Rio Hondo where Navy troops intercepted MNLF forces around 1:45 a.m. Monday.

Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, meanwhile, declared a city-wide curfew, which would take effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Salazar said classes at all levels and work for all city officials and employees had been suspended until today [Tuesday].

The MNLF under its founder Nur Misuari stormed the Zamboanga City Hall early Monday, and held hostage 200 to 300 people as they fled.

The standoff left two government troopers dead and nine others injured.

The military said that at least 400 guerillas participated in the attack.

Cerveza, meanwhile, admitted that dozens of Moro fighters were injured in the operations, particularly in Barangay Rio Hondo where Navy troops intercepted MNLF forces around 1:45 a.m. Monday.

In Malacanang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda denounced the deadly attack.
“The authorities are responding to the situation in a manner that will reduce the risk to innocent civilians and restore peace and order to Zamboanga City at the soonest possible time,” Lacierda said in a statement.

City shuts down.
City shuts down. Combat police forces check their comrade who was hit by MNLF sniper fire in downtown Zamboanga City on Sept. 9 after a group of 100 heavily armed MNLF fighters opposed to peace talks launched a major attack that shut down the city. AFP

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is holding peace talks with the government, branded the attacks in Zamboanga City as “unnecessary.”

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the attack “only complicates the situation instead of helping solve the problems of the Moro people.” He added that any involvement of the MILF will be limited to securing innocent civilians.

The MNLF guerillas arrived at Zamboanga City on board eight vessels, called kumpit, and a basnig fishing vessel in what the military described as “a well coordinated attack.”

Heavy firefight ensued when government scrambled to turn back the attack.
Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the guerillas were unarmed as of Saturday, but were monitored to be armed on Sunday, prompting the AFP to act.

He said that on Sunday night, the Philippine Navy Special Operations Group interdicted the group in Rio Hondo, “resulting in a firefight.”

Task Force Zamboanga commander Col. Andreilino Colina said they are on top of the situation and will ask for augmentation from higher headquarters in the situation warrants.

“We have to prevent bloodshed. About 35 to 40 MNLF armed men were in Barangay Sta. Catalina,” he said.

About 800 soldiers were mobilized to track down the location of the rebels.
At least 1,000 families in the five neighboring  barangays in the city were forced to evacuate to government shelters and public schools to escape the fighting.

But while Cerveza confirmed that MNLF rebels were out to take control of the city, another MNLF spokesman, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, MNLF members were in the city as “advanced party” of Misuari who is scheduled to visit the city to hold a “peaceful campaign” for his call for “independence”.

Salazar, however, dismissed Fotanilla’s claim that Misuari’s followers were there to conduct peaceful protest.

“We’re not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  and we don’t want to be part of ARMM. It looks like they want to stage their protest here in Zamboanga. They want to hoist their flag and declare independence from government,” she said.

Fontanilla said there were about less than 100 followers who arrived at around 2 a.m. Monday in the coastal Barangay Sta. Catalina.

He added that Misuari plans to go around Mindanao to “consult people about the declaration of independence.”

He added that seven, not five as reported by Cerveza, are now under the rebels’ control.

Salazar said the “the situation is not a city-wide undertaking. Crisis is confined in 5 barangays. Zamboanga City has 98 barangays.”

In Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said soldiers on the ground were trying everything to prevent the escalation of the firefight.

“The situation is contained. We are coordinating our actions with the mayor to prevent further casualties.

Meanwhile, Abdul “Kong” Sahrin, MNLF secretary-general of the Muslimin Sema faction, has urged the Misuari side to stop the violence.

“They should stop this violence. We don’t want this incident to happen, maraming sibilyan at mga kababaihan ang nadadamay. Walang development tayong makukuha rito. We appeal for sobriety,” Sahrin said.


MNLF faction slams hostage-taking

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 10): MNLF faction slams hostage-taking

A FACTION of the Moro National Liberation Front  on Monday condemned the group’s founder, Nur Misuari, for launching attacks in Zamboanga City and using civilians as human shields.

“We are against attacks on civilian areas. Zamboanga City is a civilian area and it is against our guidelines to take hostages,” said Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF Islamic Command Council.

The council, which operates under the faction led by MNLF chairman Muslimin Sema, urged their erstwhile comrades to release their hostages, who had nothing to do with Misuari’s conflict with the government.

Hashim also urged the hostage takers not to cast a shadow on the tripartite conference to review the MNLF’s 1996 peace agreement with the government set for Sept. 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the attacks on Zamboanga City were “unnecessary.”

“It only complicates the situation instead of helping solve the problems of the Moro people,” Jaafar said.

Jaafar said the MILF would act only to secure innocent civilians.

The local government of Zamboanga City said about 220 civilians were held hostage by the armed men under Misuari’s command, but it was not clear if they were merely stranded in the barangays that were overrun by the rebels.

“He (Misuari) is responsible for the action of his men, the MNLF under him… We oppose [this attack]. I wanted to get in touch with for days, but he couldn’t be reach. It seems like he is hiding. I don’t know if he is in the country or abroad,” Hashim added.

Hashim said they too were surprised why Misuari had chosen Zamboanga City to bring his armed followers.

“I think it is connected to his declaration of independence last Aug. 12 in Sulu. What is shocking is that Zamboanga City is a peaceful area and isn’t even part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Hashim said.

He added that Misuari might have chosen the city for its impact.

Hashim said they had monitored the movements of Misuari’s followers over the last several days.

“There were reports of troop movements but we could not confirm them. We were caught by surprise by their attack on Zamboanga City,” he said.

In Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the military said they had monitored the movements of Misuari’s men in the last three days.

“We received [word] from Task Force Zamboanga and the Western Mindanao Command [that] MNLF forces had gone into Zamboanga City unarmed,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, public affairs head of the military.

Zagala, however, did not say where the rebels got their high-powered firearms.

Zagala said the rebels came from Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur and perhaps from Sulu as well.

“So last night troops [were] deployed all over Zamboanga City most specifically in the [barangays of] Riohondo area, Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon and Marique upon information that a group of armed MNLF would be arriving,” he said.

Members of the Naval Special Operations Group were deployed in Riohondo, where they encountered MNLF fighters at about 1:45 a.m. Monday.

The firefight at sea lasted about 10 minutes. “Unfortunately, one member of the Special Operations Group [was killed] and six [others] were wounded,” he said.

At about 4 a.m., Zagala said soldiers from Task Force Zamboanga led by Col. Andreilino Colina had already cordoned off the area of Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon and Riohondo, resulting in a standoff.

Zagala said troops on the ground were verifying reports that two civilians were killed by the MNLF rebels in Barangay Sta. Catalina.

The Sulu Sultanate on Monday called on the tripartite committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to intervene in the ongoing conflict to protect civilians caught in the crossfire.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said the OIC-Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines chaired by Indonesia should come in to prevent any more bloodshed.

He also urged the OIC to call on the MNLF faction led by Misuari and the Philippine government to declare a ceasefire to prevent a spillover of the conflict to other areas in Mindanao.

Idjirani added that the Aquino administration should realize that the MNLF felt left out by a peace agreement that it is forging with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which started as a breakaway group from the MNLF.

The sultanate, which launched its own attacks to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia, said it did not support Misuari’s use of violence in Zamboanga City.

Monday’s attack was not the first launched by the Misuari faction of the MNLF.
In 2001, Misuari led 600 rebels in attacking a military camp in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu that resulted in the death of more than 100 people.

Misuari, then the governor of the ARMM, said the attack was meant to stop the elections there because the government had not consulted him on the process.

In the aftermath of the attack, Misuari fled to Malaysia to avoid arrest after the government filed criminal charges against him.

On Nov. 24, 2001, Malaysian police arrested Misuari and six followers in Sabah in an area that was suspected of being an MNLF training camp.


Rebels ready to dig in

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 11): Rebels ready to dig in

MNLF claims getting reinforcements; firefight resumes

Surrounded by government forces, an estimated 100 Moro National Liberation Front rebels holed up in five barangays in Zamboanga City declared on Tuesday that they were ready to dig in and would fight “until the last man.”

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla and MNLF Peace Panel Head Absalom Cerveza, both claiming to be speaking in behalf of the Nur Misuari-led MNLF faction, said the rebels, led by Commander Kaber Malik, were prepared to hold their ground against government troops led by an elite military force of 1,500.

Stalemate in Zamboanga. From top clockwise: Soldiers walk beside an armored personnel carrier as they take positions during their standoff with MNLF gunmen in Zamboanga City; soldiers get to position near an area where MNLF fighters are holding out and using residents as human shields; an injured soldier is shown after being hit by shrapnel near an MNLF position. AFP
Stalemate in Zamboanga. From top clockwise: Soldiers walk beside an armored personnel carrier as they take positions during their standoff with MNLF gunmen in Zamboanga City; soldiers get to position near an area where MNLF fighters are holding out and using residents as human shields; an injured soldier is shown after being hit by shrapnel near an MNLF position. AFP

“Our forces will stay where they are. They are on a defensive posture,” said Fontanilla, who added that Misuari’s instruction to his men was to “maintain defensive posture.”
“They are decided to die,” Fontanilla added.

Cerveza, for his part, said Malik told him in a message that they do not intend to surrender. “No surrender. They will stay put and ready to die for a cause,” Cerveza said.

“They are warriors, when they go to war, they expect to become martyrs,” he added.

Armed with high-powered weapons, including a B-50 anti-tank, M-60 machineguns, Russian AK-47, and Belgian armalite rifles, the rebels had occupied barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mariqui and Rio Hondo since Monday after a failed attempt to take over Zamboanga’s City Hall.

On early Tuesaday, the rebels traded gunfires with government troops while using 180 residents from the five barangays as “human shields.”

But Interior and Local Government Secretary that as of late Tuesday, government troops have ‘stabilized’ the situation.

“The security forces… have stabilized the situation. It has been contained and isolated and won’t spread to other areas,” Roxas told reporters in a joint press briefing with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,  Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar.

Reyes, Gazmin and Bautista are in the city to help local officials and military commanders resolve the ongoing crisis.

Roxas and Salazar said that they were willing to negotiate with the rebels for the release of all the hostages.

Roxas said trained hostage negotiators from the Philippine National Police were already assigned with the Crisis Management Committee led by Salazar.

This was confirmed by Salazar, who added that she had asked the MNLF rebels for the unconditional safe release of all the hostages after reports reached the CMC indicated that some of the rebels expressed their desire to negotiate.

“Locally, there are various talks being held. We are seeking to validate bona fides of those presenting themselves as mediators,” Roxas said.

While the residents in the five barangays were described as “hostages” Roxas said it appeared that they could be free to leave if they wished.

“It appears that what happened is not hostage-taking but more of them being turned into human shields by the MNLF forces who entered their communities. People are free to get in and out of there, they are not bound, they are not detained,” he said.
“Whether they are hostages or not is still being validated.”

The rebels landed by boat and poured into the fishing villages on Monday before mounting an assault on Zamboanga City, causing panic in the city of nearly one million people.

Zamboanga City is also home to the main headquarters of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) where hundreds of American servicemen were currently deployed.

Misuari, who could not be reached by AFP nor by government negotiators, had earlier declared “independence” for Mindanao and called on his followers to take over government installations.

Roxas said Misuari was last seen moving between Sulu and Basilan, but did not indicate the day of the sighting.

President Benigno Aquino, speaking to reporters in Manila, refused to set a deadline for resolving the crisis.

“We can’t be giving deadlines when what we want to ensure is that no more civilians are affected, hurt or killed,” he said.

The attack on Monday killed four people and left 14 injured, Roxas and Salazar said, contrary to a report from the Mayor’s office that there were six dead and 24 wounded.
About 1,500 elite troops backed by a smaller number of police have surrounded the area to hold the gunmen in place and prevent the arrival of potential rebel reinforcements, he told AFP.

On Monday, Cerveza claimed that 10,000 rebels would travel to Zamboanga to reinforce Malik’s group.  He went on to claim Tuesday that the reinforcements are already in Zamboanga and that a large group of MNLF rebels are now massing up in Barangays Calarian and Malaguta where the WesCom is located.

But Gazmin said government forces “were able to intercept” other MNLF forces who had been on their way to Zamboanga.  He gave no details.

The fighting has displaced about 1,500 residents of the mainly Muslim communities in the city.

Misuari has criticized a preliminary peace deal signed last year by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which split from the MNLF in 1978.

He said the agreement marginalized his group and a peace treaty that it signed in 1996.
The gunmen launched their attack as the government prepared to resume peace talks with the MILF, aimed at ending a 42-year-old rebellion that has claimed 150,000 lives.

Meanwhile, Australia and United States have issued travel advisory to their citizens advising them to suspend travel to the Zamboanga region in the light of the ongoing clashes between government forces and the MNLF.


Blasts jolt Zambo; more flights suspended

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 11): Blasts jolt Zambo; more flights suspended

Gunfire and  explosions rocked the Zamboanga City pier on Tuesday on the second day of the standoff between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari faction that caused the death of six people and the wounding of 24 others.

At least 180 people were held hostage by MNLF forces while 1,500 fled their homes, according to government estimates. Classes were again suspended and businesses shuttered for the second day.

Two mortar rounds  exploded at sea  some 100 meters from the pier, prompting the Coast Guard, which has a station nearby, to order ships to transfer berth, said Commander Leo Laroya.

The Coast Guard suspended all maritime voyages in Zamboanga City while the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines retained its notice to airman (NOTAM), suspending flights to and from the city.

The NOTAM, approved by CAAP Director General William K. Hotckiss lll,  cancelled twenty four commercial flights.

PAL EXPRESS; 2P 993/994 Mla/Zamboanga/Mla, 2P 241/242  Mactan/Zamboanga/Mactan, 2P243/244 Tawi Tawi/ Zamboanga/Tawi Tawi, 2P245/246 Jolo/Zamboanga/Jolo, 2P 272/273 Davao/Zamboanga/Davao, 2P 995/996 Manila/Zamboanga/Manila and 2P 997/998 Manila/Zamboanga/Manila.
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific cancelled  eight flights: 5J 859/860 Manila/Zamboanga/Manila, 5J 851 852 Manila/Zamboanga/Manila, 5J 839/840 Zamboanga/Tawi Tawi/Zamboanga, 5J 203/204 Cebu/Cagayan de Oro/Cebu and 5J 845/844 Cagayan de Oro-Zamboanga-Cagayan de Oro.

Cebu Pacific management urged  passengers affected by the cancellations they may rebook their flights within 30 days from original departure date with no penalties, or opt for full travel refund.

Cebu pacific said at least 3,000 passengers were displaced by the flight cancellations while  PAL had lost P4 million up to P6 million in foregone service revenues.

The siege of Zamboanga unless resolved soon, might impair the country’s economic growth given that Mindanao accounts for 15% of gross domestic product, according to Bangko Sentral deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo.

The banking industry in Zamboanga City  went on a standstill after the clashes broke out, he said. “Banks are temporarily closed.”

Meanwhile, Smart Communications and Sun Cellular  put up free call stations  at the Western Mindanao State University  gym  where more than 500 patients  of the Zamboanga Medical Center were transferred.


Evidence lacking: No rebellion case vs Nur

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 11): Evidence lacking: No rebellion case vs Nur

President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday the government was not inclined to file rebellion charges against Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari, whom he described as the “voice of the entire MNLF.”

But the Aquino administration is bent on terminating the tripartite review process on the 1996 final peace agreement involving the governments of the Philippines and Indonesia and the MNLF, purportedly the reason why the MNLF staged the Zamboanga City attack that resulted in the death of 6 people and injury to 24 others.

The Chief Executive said there may be no case filed against Misuaru because his involvement was not apparent and that “the elements of inciting to sedition or rebellion are lacking.”

Aquino added that there appears to be efforts on the part of Misuari to ensure that the elements of the crime are not complete so he could not be charged.

“So it is hard to state categorically, at this point in time, that we have cases that we can file against Nur Misuari because the evidence that would prove that he engaged in such an activity is not yet present or at least is not apparent,” he said.

At the same time, Aquino acknowledged that Misuari remained as “the voice of the entire MNLF,” barely a month after Malacanang described Misuari’s faction as a “spent force.”

The President said his assessment was based on his discussion with presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles.

“I asked her (Deles) to take a step back and assess where is the basis to say that Chairman Misuari is still the voice for the entire MNLF. And Secretary Deles replied that all the (MNLF) factions seem to defer to him,” the President said.

Aquino said the assessment was “being studied at this point” but  did not expound on how this would affect the ongoing standoff in Zamboanga City and how it would position Misuari on efforts to abolish the ARMM, which is the product of the 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

The Aquino, government, however, appeared bent on terminating the tripartite review process on the 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

The termination of the review is being cited by the MNLF as reason for massing up in Mindanao, saying it was tantamount to terminating the peace process amid efforts to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Deles said ending the six-year review process will “pave the way for the full implementation of the 1996 FPA.”

“The proposed completion of the Tripartite Review Process was thoroughly discussed and clearly understood by the OIC-PCSP (Organization of Islamic Cooperation – Peace Committee for Southern Philippines),” Deles said.

The OIC-PCSP has scheduled the 5th tripartite review meeting on September 16 in Yogyakarta.

Deles noted that this was why  OIC-PCSP chairman Hassan Kleib of Indonesia, visited the country last week to talk to government representatives in Manila and MNLF groups in Davao City.

The Friday meeting with Kleib was attended by Misuari’s appointed representative, MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla, Deles said.

Manila has earlier secured the support of Indonesia not to agree to the demand of the MNLF to activate the ceasefire mechanism of the OIC to end the standoff.

“This is an internal security matter. This is a domestic matter. Indonesia’s role is clear as facilitator of the tripartite review,” she added.

Aquino, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in Zamboanga City.

“At this time, we do not see any need to declare a state of emergency,” Aquino said.
The President said it was hard to pin down Misuari for the crime of rebellion, including the attacks in Zamboanga City because the MNLF leader has not surfaced yet.

“There was a purported declaration of independence by Nur Misuari. The problem is that only the spokesman of the MNLF has been speaking,” he said.

“If we say that his spokesman have said that Misuari has declared such, that paves the way for the concept of hearsay. How can we say that he said it? If he asks what our evidence is and we quote the persons he talked to, that sort of waters down the case,” the President added.

“As to the Zamboanga City incident, allegedly Misuari is there, but I have to stress allegedly because no one has talked to him yet, and he has not surfaced to declare whatever,” the President said.

But Aquino said the Department of Justice will “take a long, hard look”and investigate if there is a possibility to charge Misuari.

Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas urged the MNLF to attend the tripartite rmeeting on the aborted peace negotiation with the MNLF in Indonesia next week.

Roxas said the meeting with OIC would explain that the government did not abrogate the 1996 peace pact, but merely terminated the review process.

But MNLF peace panel head Absalom Cerveza doubted any positive outcome would be achieved at the resumption of the meeting in Jakarta.

“I doubt that there will be a dramatic solution to MNLF final peace agreement because of the final closure of the tripartite review of the peace negotiations,” Cerveza said.


MNLF rebels 50 meters from Zambo City Hall, reinforced by fresh arrivals

From GMA News (Sep 9): MNLF rebels 50 meters from Zambo City Hall, reinforced by fresh arrivals

Wounded soldier adds to growing casualties in Zambo crisis

An Army soldier who was wounded by shrapnel during clashes with MNLF fighters in Zamboanga City on Monday, September 9, is evacuated to safety by his comrades. Troops are still locked in a standoff with dozens of MNLF rebels in the city center. AFP/PIA

Government troops and Moro National Liberation Front gunmen continued to exchange gunfire in Barangay Sta. Barbara just 50 meters from Zamboanga City Hall.
"'Yung encounter site ngayon which is Brgy. Sta. Barbara, that is more or less 50 to 60 meters away from the seat of government of Zamboanga, which is the city hall," GMA News stringer Jayvee Francisco reported on News to Go on Tuesday morning.

The MNLF forces reportedly intended to hoist their flag at Zamboanga City Hall following MNLF founder Nur Misuari's declaration of independence last August, although MNLF spokesman Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla has denied this
Francisco also said additional MNLF forces landed on the shoreline of Brgy. Mampang early Tuesday, the second day of the crisis.
The augmentation force took around 20 civilians hostage, including women and children, then proceeded to march to Brgy. Kasanyangan to join other MNLF groups.
However, they were blocked at a checkpoint in Brgy. Talon-Talon, where they remain in negotiations with barangay officials, Francisco said.

Firefight at elementary school
According to Francisco, the Tuesday morning firefight was concentrated at Sta. Barbara Elementary School, which has been occupied by MNLF forces who entered the city via the coastal village of Mariki on Monday.

Blasts were heard from rocket-propelled grenades, M203 grenade launchers, as well as shots from MNLF snipers positioned on top of a building.

"In-occupy nila ang isang community ng Sta. Barbara," Franciso said, noting that apart from the snipers, MNLF members were positioned in the elementary school, the barangay hall, and other buildings in Sta. Barbara.

Five military trucks of soldiers in full battle gear were on their way to Sta. Barbara elementary school, the report said.

Fire also broke out in Sta. Barbara in the afternoon, affecting five houses, according to tweets by Zamboanga City government. Responding firefighters were reportedly advised by the military to wait for clearance before conducting any operation.

Stray bullet victim

Meanwhile, a civilian was rushed in an ambulance of the Philippine National Red Cross to the Zamboanga City Medical Center satellite hospital at the Western Mindanao State University Gymnasium.

Citing police information, Francisco said the civilian was hit in the head by an M16 bullet. The civilian was checking on his store near the Sta. Barbara barangay hall, which has also been occupied by the MNLF.

Some civilians were still in the area, although Sta. Barbara residents were evacuated to the Zamboanga City grandstand on Monday. "May mga tindahan sila dito malapit sa lugar, ang rason nila iche-check lang nila kung sinarado nang maayos," Francisco said.

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco has urged people to stay in their homes, and imposed an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew

"Please keep safe by staying in your homes, limit movements outside, as we allow our authorities to do their role in ending the conflict with no damage to lives and properties. Let us all pray for the safety of our people and our beloved Zamboanga City. Vaya con Dios!" Climaco said in a statement.

Casualties so far included four killed and 14 injured. "Authorities are undertaking steps to resolve the crisis but would not divulge details of the operation," Climaco said in a statement posted on the Zamboanga City Government Twitter account.