Wednesday, September 11, 2013

IESB: Abu Sayyaf (Al-Harakat Al-Islamia) Logo (Reference ASG attacks on Lamitan and Colonia)

Posted to the Islamic Emirate of Sulu-Basilan (IESB) Facebook page (Sep 11): Abu Sayyaf (Al-Harakat Al-Islamia) Logo

assalamu alaikum mga gagandilan sin islam yaun na simbag in ALHARAKATUL ISLAMIYYAH ABU SAYYAF yaun ha lamitan colonia!

Yaun sila bihaun nag bubunuh

Duwa'a mga kataimanghuran ayaw natu sila kalupahan ha duwa'a natuh bihaun.

Allahu Akbar!
allahumman suril mujahideen fi basilan wafi zambonga city wafi kulli makan.

Philippine violence continues, rebels raid another city

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Sep 12): Philippine violence continues, rebels raid another city

An old woman carries her belongings, a soldier sits by a bullet-riddled store and civilians flee Santa Catalina village in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines where security forces are battling Moro National Liberation Front rebels who are holding over 100 people hostage. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

One civilian was killed as fighting erupted on Thursday between suspected Moro National Liberation Front rebels and security forces in Lamitan City in Basilan province in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay said the skirmishes erupted in the village of Colonia. “One civilian was killed and another is wounded in the attack. We appeal to residents to stay vigilant,” he said.

Residents have fled the village as siren reverberated in Lamitan, warning villagers that rebels have entered the city and that fighting had began. There were reports that Abu Sayyaf rebels, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, joined the raid.

Prior to the raid, MNLF and Abu Sayyaf rebels also attacked a military detachment in the village of Magcawa in Tipo-Tipo town, according to Capt. Jeffercon Somera, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

"We were able to repulsed the attack and we still don't know if there were casualties on the enemy side," he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The clashes in Lamitan and Tipo-Tipo town occurred as security forces also battle rebels who occupied several villages in Zamboanga City since September 9. 

Sporadic fighting continued in Zamboanga for 4 straight days where thousands of soldiers and policemen, backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles, and battling about a thousand rebels occupying at least 4 villagers – Rio Hondo, Mampang, Santa Catalina and Santa Barbara.

The clashes were so near downtown Zamboanga that the area has virtually became a garrison due to the presence of troops.

More than 13,000 people had fled their homes fearing they would be caught in the cross-fire or taken hostage by heavily-armed rebels who are still holding more than 100 people, including a Catholic priest and his family, in Zamboanga. But the presence of MNLF snipers and the captives have made it more difficult for troops to go near the gunmen and rescue the hostages.

Rebel snipers were also firing on helicopters hovering above the villages. US troops helping the military fighting terrorism in southern Philippines also deployed a spy plane in Zamboanga City and had been flying low every night since the crisis erupted.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said the government is negotiating with the MNLF in an effort to end the crisis that had already killed and wounded three dozen people.

MNLF rebels under Nur Misuari said they are fighting for independence of Mindanao and has renamed the troubled region as Bangsamoro Republik, referring to Muslim homeland.

The region had been part of the vast Muslim rule until 18th century, but Mindanao is now largely home to about 18 million Christians with only about 4 million Muslim population and ethnic tribes.

MILF: BDA hosts Donors’ Forum for “Bangsamoro Development Plan” formulation

From the MILF Website (Sep 11): BDA hosts Donors’ Forum for “Bangsamoro Development Plan” formulation

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) conducted a Donors’ Forum for the formulation of comprehensive Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) at the Conference Center of Asian Institute of Management in Makati City on September 3, 2013.
The activity was aimed at discussing the Concept Note on the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) and explore areas for collaboration and partnerships with various development partners.

International agencies present were the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), European Union (EU), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), United States Agency for International Aid (USAID), Embassy of Japan, The World Bank, a team from United Nations-Philippines and other institutions.

Present at the forum from the BDA Team were Chairman of the Board of Directors (BoD) Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan, BoD Member Abdulkadir Abdullah, Executive Director Sheikh Mohamad S. Yacob and Engr. Windel Diangcalan, Program Head of BDP Project.

In his opening remarks, Dipatuan said, “The formulation of a Bangsamoro Comprehensive Development Plan has been a top priority of BDA, as MILF’s development arm, since it was created in 2002 as a product of the GPH-MILF Peace process.”

He added that the creation of BDP has the blessing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim who directed BDA to coordinate with donor and funding partners, to conduct needs assessment in the Bangsamoro immediately, and to expedite the completion of the formulation of the BDP.

Dipatuan related that BDA held series of meetings and worked with eager partners to prepare concept note.

He cited the important inputs contributed by the Members of the BDP Project Steering Committee, BDA Technical Advisers and BDA nominated members of the Advisory Council for the production of Concept Note.

Diangcalan, explained, “Given the gaps in development plans, there is a need for a comprehensive development plan which will provide short term to long-term vision and strategy in the recovery and development of the Bangsamoro areas.”

In a press statement initially released by BDA, the agency said,” The primary thrust of BDP is Peace and Institution Building to create citizens security, social justice and jobs for “Sustainable Human Development (SHD).”

Unlike the usual traditional planning based on concerns by different sectors, BDP will be different, given the conflict situation that has been affecting the Bangsamoro communities.

The formulation of the Plan is guided by the BDA framework of Sustainable Human Development and Peacebuilding, which is a framework anchored on the Right to Self Determination context of the Bangsamoro area.

Moreover, the said framework espouses the BDA Core Values as an important ethic in building a new culture and mindset of development among the Bangsamoro communities.

BDA’s role in the formulation of the Bangsamoro Development Plan is in accordance with the signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012 which states that creation of Transition Commission (TC) will coordinate “development programs in the Bangsamoro communities in conjunction with the MILF Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the Bangsamoro Leadership Management Institute (BLMI) and other agencies” (Section VII, 4c of the FAB).

DIpatuan also enjoined the Moro National Liberation Front and other stakeholders in the plan formulation.

The donor agencies lauded BDA’s initiative for an inclusive process of BDP formulation and expressed their willingness to share information and lessons gained in their engagement from development works in Southern Philippines.

The development partners signified willingness for continuing dialogue with BDA for the BDP Project and urged the agency to “define areas of collaboration.”

As an immediate output of the activity, the BDA will meet with UN agencies, ADB and other partners who showed interest to be part in the BDP formulation.

The BDP will focus on thematic areas such as: Economy, Social, Politics, Religion, Culture, Environment and Natural Resources, Security and as well as Gender and Children.

The forum participants suggested the inclusion of other important sub-themes that include youth participation, climate change, adult literacy, nutrition among others.

Dipatuan concluded the affair with his remark, “We are at the beginning of an exciting new journey together. History is being made yet once again as we embark on the preparations of the very first Plan for the Bangsamoro.

Undersecretary Jose “Yusof” Lorena from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) graced the affair. Lorena is in-charge on Bangsamoro Peace and Development program.

BDA determines, leads, and manages, relief, rehabilitation and development projects in conflict affected areas of Mindanao as agreed upon by the Government of the Philippines and MILF in their peace talks in 2002.’-forum-for-“bangsamoro-development-plan”-formulation

Suspected MNLF men engage soldiers in Basilan firefight

From GMA News (Sep 12): Suspected MNLF men engage soldiers in Basilan firefight

Suspected members of the Moro National Liberation Front engaged government troops in a firefight in Lamitan City in Basilan province Thursday morning, police said.

The Philippine National Police cited sketchy initial reports showing the incident occurred after 9 a.m., radio dzBB's Glen Juego reported.

But the report said there was little information because of problems with communication lines from Lamitan City.

A separate dzBB report quoted a local Lamitan official as saying the exchange of fire was ongoing as of 9:45 a.m.

In a separate report from the Army, the firefight occurred in Valentine Detachment at Barangay Magcawa, Tipo-Tipo town when around 50 armed men believed to be members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group and MNLF fighters harassed government forces.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division also said soldiers stationed at Sitio Camalig, Bohe Paho, Ungkaya-Pukan town provided support to the Army detachment at Tipo-Tipo at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday evening.

It was not immediately clear if the suspected MNLF members in Basilan are allied with those now engaging government forces in a standoff in Zamboanga City since Monday.

The standoff in Zamboanga City entered its fourth day Thursday, with the situation still tense and police and soldiers maintaining strict checkpoint operations, dzBB's Benjie Liwanag Jr. reported.

Disgruntled forces surface, say ‘crucial decision’ made

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 12): Disgruntled forces surface, say ‘crucial decision’ made


Signs of unrest have again manifested in the military ranks as a group which called itself the Reformist Officers United (ROU) issued a manifesto yesterday declaring a stand to “save the country from further ruin and continue the unfinished revolution of our forefathers, the true nationalists of the 1896 Philippine Revolution.”

The manifesto, called an “Article of Faith,” carried the signatures of representatives from all the military commands, the Philippine Army, the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Marines and the Presidential Security Guard, and civilian security agencies Philippine National Police, Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation. The names in the manifesto, however, are all likely pseudonyms.

The ROU said it reached a “crucial decision,” which it did not state clearly, after many of its supposed members attended the recent rally at the Luneta Park or the Million People March on Aug. 26.

The decision was arrived at “after much contemplation of the political, social, economic and national security situations that turned from bad to worse, after we have vetted our organization, purged its ranks of opportunists and fake nationalists and after we have consulted some of our elders in the military, legal profession, farmers and those from the business, church, academe, labor and civil society groups.”

“Rest assured, together we will win this battle if possible with less bloodshed,” the ROU said in the manifesto.

“We are very much aware of the colonial and neo-colonial circumstances which have denied us the chance to discover our national self and to establish our identity and discover how much our dignity is really worth,” it stated.

The group added that the government and many of the country’s leaders have been “weak, corrupt, venal, insensitive and self-serving.”

As a result, foreign powers in the name of friendship and business partnership have interfered in our affairs with impunity, manipulating us, playing with our lives, our country and our destiny, the ROU added.

The group was clearly critical of the administration of President Aquino saying that his government “is no different from his mother’s regime, characterized by callous shamelessness propped up by endless popularity surveys.”

It added that the Aquino administration stages spurious public shows of piety and compassion.

“It goes through the motions of apologizing for numerous blunders in public yet committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy to shield its depravity,” the group said.

It described the Aquino administration as being in the shameful tradition of the Makabebes, who betrayed the Philippine Revolution of 1896, and the even more notorious Makapilis who sent many Filipinos to their death (in World War II).

“Pnoy’s government has repeatedly frustrated the honest aspirations of our people by offering its fanciful and deceitful brand of democracy, economy and political lifestyle to unscrupulous foreigners and appealing directly for their intervention to save it from the wrath of long-suffering populace with legitimate grievances,” the ROU added.

The group added Aquino has been deceiving the armed forces into “fighting its battles of self-aggrandizement while undermining the military at every turn. It tells its armed service to fight terrorism without credible laws to protect them and the people.”

“Many of our men have already died of loss of blood fighting a war they do not even understand,” the group added.

It said occasionally, Aquino throws the military a bone to chew on, like guard dogs to be placated from hunger and reject.

“More than 70,000 of our men in uniform are living as squatters in the urban centers as well as in the countryside,” it added.

The Aquino administration has reduced the once-proud military and police organization into a private security force, dedicated to perpetuate its status quo.

The group added that a Gestapo-like counter intelligence organization is being maintained by the government “not to spy on the real enemies of the State but to spy endlessly on the office corps, rank-and-file, their families and other innocent targets.”

“From the first day, Pnoy, using useless advocacy of Matuwid na Daan, has actually steered by one direction alone, that of private gains and mindless arrogance,” the ROU added.

For more than three long, unhappy years (Aquino) has drifted with neither will nor ability to govern, muddling through all our national crises, setting a record of corruptions and plunder, incompetence and clumsiness, it said.

The solutions offered “have been short-sighted, meaningless palliatives and rhetorics that leave the people more frustrated than ever.”

The ROU said the Aquino administration excelled in only two things: the enrichment of its clique and self-congratulations.

“What is more unconscionable is that (Aquino) even lionized Janet Lim-Napoles, who stole public funds and enriched herself and unscrupulous politicians. She cannot deny this because there are witnesses and highly incriminating pieces of evidence that will send them to jail the rest of their lives. This is not the right time to read a bill of particular. That will come later,” it added.

The group said that only a few days ago while the political crisis was evolving, (Aquino) apologized to the nation and appealed to the public to support his presidency and the rule of law.

“His conscience has become so compartmentalized he does not realize that the very men and women he asked for help were the same men and women victimized by his government’s corruption, plunder, arrogance and incompetence,” it said.

Daily, the public “contend with (Aquino’s) mismanagement, extravagance, arrogance and sexual escapades, it claimed.

“They suffer the high prices and the low wages. They suffer the scarcity of jobs. They suffer the absence of transportation, water shortage and high fuel prices. They suffer the breakdown of law and order, moral decay and endless salvaging,” it added.

The group also lamented that the Aquino regime has the gall to ask for help from the very people they continued to deprive of their rights and their dignity.

“Pnoy even asked the men in uniform to die for his government and his brand of illiberal democracy. But will they, these people on whose tongues linger the acrid tastes of disillusion, betrayal and greed?,” it added

The ROU said it has “allies in the civilian sectors” and will offer the country, “not the tarnished version of EDSA 1986, cheapened and exploited beyond recognition, but the revolutionary spirit of 1896 and its noble dream, a dream filled with a fierce yearning for change: true independence, a sovereign nation, a just and wise government, genuine nationalism, respect for the rule of law, freedom in its best sense and reconciliation.”

“In short, genuine democracy as the Filipino revolutionaries of 1896 installed but only fleetingly enjoyed before decades of subjugation, tyranny and pretense that saw our resources exploited and our values warped and perverted,” the group said.

It called on “friends and guests from foreign lands” who the group said it gives respects to their “sovereignty, culture, individuality and business interests.”

“We implore you in the name of our country not to interfere anymore with our internal affairs,” it said.

It also appealed to media “to be fair and responsible in your reporting.”

“We will not hesitate to fight fire with fire those who will stand in our way and undermine our determination to protect the State and to create a just, wise, efficient and stable society throughout the land,” the group warned.

It said that its members will remain anonymous, for the meantime, “but in time we will get to know with one another as some of our forces are still busy garhering intelligence information, infiltrating centers of power of the Aquino Government and carefully assessing its loyal forces on the basis of their morale, command system, fighting capability, intelligence and materiel supplies.”

It said that since the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the Filipino masses “still huddled in their hovels, exploited, hungry and dispossessed. Our bureaucracy is corrupt and inefficient.”

“There is systems failure everywhere. The entire country is deregulated in favor of the elite and their crook foreign partners. Prices of basic commodities keep on rising while workers’ wages remain the same,” it added.

The group also said there is no peace and order. “The simplest public services cannot be delivered. Our military is demoralized and shot through with politics. Our judicial system does not work. The guilty go free; the innocent are framed.”

The ROU said the country’s strength is vitiated by corruption, plunder and ignorance in high places. “When we protest, the government responds with arrogance and brutality. Our elections are farces, contests of force and money, or sleight-of-hand spewed by computers and automated machines,” it added.

Palace: Military only for ‘containment’

From the Business Mirror (Sep 11): Palace: Military only for ‘containment’

In Photo: Villagers arrive by boats to flee the current standoff between government troops and Muslim rebels belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the southern port city of Zamboanga on Wednesday. The MNLF rebels, holding scores of hostages, are demanding international mediation, an official said, as fresh rounds of gunfire broke out between the soldiers and the guerrillas on the third day of the standoff. The rebels, enraged by a broken peace deal with the government, are holding the civilian hostages as human shields. Troops have surrounded the MNLF guerrillas and their hostages in four coastal villages. (AP)

MALACAÑANG clarified on Wednesday that it is looking for a peaceful end to the three-day-old Zamboanga City siege by gunmen loyal to former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Nur Misuari, adding that the “overwhelming” deployment of additional troops, including elite forces, were only “for containment and protection of civilians.”

“So [that] if there are actions that endanger civilians, certainly, our military is there and the police,” Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said.
President Aquino earlier confirmed that an “overwhelming number” of soldiers and policemen were airlifted to augment government forces tasked to go after Misuari’s armed followers, who killed at least six persons, wounded scores of residents and seized civilian hostages in at least five barangays when they were prevented from marching to Zamboanga City Hall on Monday.
In a media briefing at Malacañang on Wednesday, Deles explained that “the volume of military there is to make sure that it [incident] is contained.” “You know, if the government’s position was a military position, then we wouldn’t have seen that yesterday [Tuesday]. Our government is very conscious of the civilians that are going to be affected,” she added.
But when asked if a military operation to end the siege was not an option, Deles replied: “It is an offensive option. It is an option definitely for containment.”
She pointed out that President Aquino, in fact, dispatched three ranking members of his Cabinet to Zamboanga City to oversee government operations and make sure civilians are not caught in the crossfire.
Villagers going hungry
RESIDENTS trapped in one of the barangays that was among those earlier attacked and occupied by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters are going hungry, a group monitoring the standoff in Zamboanga City reported on Wednesday.
The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) said it has received telephone calls from the residents of barangay Rio Hondo, scene of the initial fighting between government forces and the Moro gunmen, that food supplies in the village are running low.
“At around 9:45 a.m. [on Wednesday], residents of Rio Hondo called us  to say that they are going hungry but cannot leave their area for fear of getting caught in the crossfire,” said the group.
“To reach the evacuation camps in the downtown area, they would need to cross the frontline,” it added.
MinHRAC said the standoff was being broken from time to time by bursts of gunfire, especially in Barangay Santa Barbara, where soldiers have cordoned off a public school where the gunmen have holed up.
The group said a heavy exchange of gunfire occurred at around 9:40 a.m. on Wednesday at the vicinity of the Zamboanga Lawn Tennis Club at the Masjid in Barangay Santa Barbara, which is several hundred meters away from the Zamboanga City Hall.
“At around 11 a.m., a 40mm grenade reportedly exploded on Martha Drive, Santa Catalina,” it also said.
Situation still critical
THE group cautioned the government against “issuing statements that tend to downplay the situation in the city by giving impressions that the security has begun or is beginning to improve.”
“Witnesses on the ground are questioning an announcement that things are under control in the downtown area. They are concerned that this might give a false sense of security and thus, endanger lives of people who will move around thinking it is already back to normal,” it said.
“MinHRAC is reiterating that the humanitarian situation has not stabilized, that there are, in fact, civilians who are still trapped inside the affected barangays, who wish to make it to the evacuation camps but cannot do so because of lack of guarantees about their security on the road,” it added.
 “The frontline in the resumption of heavy exchange of gunfire is approximately 500 meters only to the east of the Zamboanga City Hall, i.e. vicinity of the Zamboanga Lawn Tennis Club and Grand Masjid in Santa Barbara,” it also said.
MinHRAC said despite the massing of MNLF members in the outskirts of Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, and Jolo, Sulu, there had been no reported encounter with government troops.
Sporadic gunfire
THE military blamed the gunmen for the sporadic gunfires, saying it was the MNLF fighters who were firing at the soldiers who were forced to respond.
“It is the Misuari group that is directing the fire, and we are just answering them,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces Public Information Office chief, said.
 “They are just trying to harass the troops and we just answered,” he added.
Marines intercepted a group of gunmen later in the day at Barangay San Roque and killed one of them.
On Tuesday the military ordered its troops to stand down in order to possibly give way to the negotiations for the release of the hostages held by the MNLF, which is being worked out by Crisis Management Committee, headed by Mayor Isabelle Climaco Salazar.
Cabinet members sent to Zamboanga
“THERE is a team on the ground. Right now, there are three secretaries on the ground. [Defense] Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, [Interior] Secretary Mar Roxas and [Social Welfare] Secretary Dinky Soliman just flew there this morning to look precisely at this… to take care. The primary concern of government is the protection of the civilians,” Deles told reporters.
She confirmed that the government was “very concerned about those residents who seem to not have the freedom of movement to leave their places” because they were reportedly being held as hostages by Misuari’s followers scattered in five barangays.
“There is a continuing search for those who may be able to serve as a bridge [between the government and Misuari’s group]. I understand that messages have been sent and we have been receiving them,” she said, but added that the Zamboanga City command there has, so far, not received “any proposals from the other side for actions that can be taken to end this stalemate.”
At the same time, Deles disclosed that the administration has “people on the ground—there are several—who have been trying to reach different leaders that are known to be associated to Misuari to find something that shows that they have some idea of how this would end.”
Deles indicated that Indonesia, which serves as third-party facilitator between the government and Misuari’s MNLF, could also be tapped to help resolve the standoff.
DOJ building case vs Nur followers
THE Department of Justice has created a fact-finding investigation to look into the possible criminal liabilities of MNLF fighters involved in the ongoing siege in Zamboanga City.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said five prosecutors would compose the panel that will conduct the investigation and determine the charges to be filed against the gunmen.
In Department Order 636, de Lima named the members of the panel as Assistant State Prosecutors Niven Canlapan and Aristotle Reyes, Prosecution Attorney Cesar Angelo Chavez III, Assistant Regional Prosecutor Ivy Damayo-Elvinas and Assistant City Prosecutor Edwinlino Custodio.
De Lima said the panel will be involved in the “case build-up, determination of proper charges to be filed, if any, and evaluation of evidence prior to the filing of cases, if any, against those who may be found liable for the said incident.”
She added that the team will coordinate with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the National Police in performing its duties.
The panel, de Lima said, has started gathering evidence since Monday in connection with the siege.  “Among the crimes being studied is rebellion. The function of the team is to make sure the proper charges are based on facts and evidence because it would be hard to file rebellion or sedition, for example, without supporting facts and evidence,” she said.
2 MNLF fighters killed
THE military said two MNLF fighters were killed in a fresh gun battle on Wednesday afternoon in two barangays in Zamboanga City.
Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, Armed Forces spokesman, said another rebel was also wounded during the firefight.
However, Tutaan said military authorities in Zamboanga also received reports that the rebels took hostage between 30 to 37 residents at Barangay Santa Catalina, in addition to the 180 villagers that the gunmen were already holding.
Tutaan said the fresh fighting, which began at past 3 p.m., occurred at barangays Santa Barbara and Canelar.

Video: UN should step in, Misuari's spokesman insists

From ABS-CBN (Sep 12): Video: UN should step in, Misuari's spokesman insists

Either the United Nations or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation should step in to stop the fighting in Zamboanga City between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front rebels loyal to Nur Misuari, his spokesman says.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla tells ANC that Misuari's group won't hold any bilateral talks with the government. - ANC, Prime Time, September 11, 2013

Video: Fresh gunfire on fourth day of Zamboanga siege

From ABS-CBN (Sep 12) Video: Fresh gunfire on fourth day of Zamboanga siege


Fresh gunfire on fourth day of Zamboanga siege    

Gunfire was heard in a village in Zamboanga City as the standoff between government forces and the rebels from the Nur Misuari-led faction of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) entered its fourth day on Thursday.

A report from the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center said gunfire was heard at around 5:30 a.m. today along Martha Drive in Sta. Catalina village.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan said government forces were trying to move closer to the MNLF-controlled areas to restrict the movement of the rebels, but containing them has proven to be hard because of the presence of several MNLF snipers.

At least 13,000 people have already fled their homes as the fighting continues.

The siege began four weeks after MNLF founder Nur Misuari declared "independence" for the Muslim regions of the mainly Catholic nation and urged his followers to besiege government installations.

The MNLF ended a 25-year rebellion with a 1996 peace treaty, but Misuari's faction laid a similar deadly siege on Zamboanga in 2001 that led to his imprisonment until 2008, when all charges against him were dropped.

Misuari has since been protesting against a proposed government peace deal with rival rebel faction the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that he said would marginalize the MNLF and violate the terms of the 1996 peace deal.

The latest attack on Zamboanga is led by a top Misuari lieutenant, Habier Malik, and has left 12 people dead and 21 others injured

Video: Bakbakan sa Zamboanga, lalong uminit sa ikatlong araw (Heavy fighting in Zamboanga enters third day)

From ABS-CBN (Sep 11): Video: Bakbakan sa Zamboanga, lalong uminit sa ikatlong araw (Heavy fighting in Zamboanga enters third day)

Armed Forces ot the Philippines (AFP) soldier in a firefight

Bakbakan sa Zamboanga, lalong uminit sa ikatlong araw

Lalong umigting ang tensyon sa pagitan ng mga sundalo at ng MNLF sa Zamboanga City. Ito'y matapos makausad ang militar at mapaliit ang lugar na ginagalawan ng mga MNLF. Live mula sa Zamboanga City, nagpa-Patrol si Jorge Cariño. TV Patrol, Setyembre 11, 2013, Miyerkules

MNLF Davao commander denies sending troops to Zambo

From ABS-CBN (Sep 12): MNLF Davao commander denies sending troops to Zambo

A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Davao City denied reports that the group will send troops to Zamboanga City to augment the forces of the Nur Misuari-led faction currently involved in a standoff with government forces.

A text message has been circulating saying MNLF members from various areas in Mindanao will be sent to Zamboanga City to serve as reinforcements for the Misuari-led rebels who have seized control over some parts of Zamboanga City.

"Reportedly yesterday, MNLF members from Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao City, Davao del Sur and Sarangani province will allegedly converge in Lumatil, Palembang, Sarangani today. These are the Tausug Muslims of Jolo loyal to Misuari. A certain Hadz Ismael of Malita, Davao del Sur will lead the reinforcement. The estimated reinforcement of 1,250 pax will use pumpboats, trucks and or vans," the text message read.

MNLF Davao City chair Rolando Olamit denied the report and said they do not support the cause of Misuari and his men.

"Ginagawa na kasi nilang monster ang MNLF eh baka totohanin na pero kami gusto namin ng kapayapaan," Olamit said.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, said the military is meeting with MNLF leaders in Davao region to ensure that there will be no spillover of violence in other parts of Mindanao.

Video: Zamboanga evacuees need food, aid

From ABS-CBN/Bandila (Sep 12): Video: Zamboanga evacuees need food, aid

Evacuee receives relief goods

Video: Zamboanga areas become 'ghost towns'

From ABS-CBN/Bandila (Sep 12): Video: Zamboanga areas become 'ghost towns'

AFP's armored personnel carrier (APC)

Muling nagkapalitan ng putok ang militar at MNLF sa Zamboanga City. Natakot ang ilang residente, lalo't nakapasok ang grupo sa sentro ng lungsod. Live mula sa Zamboanga City, magba-Bandila si Paul Palacio. Bandila, Setyembre 11, 2013, Miyerkules

No ceasefire with rogue MNLF members - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): No ceasefire with rogue MNLF members - AFP

With the third day of the stand-off between the military and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front, the Armed Forces (MNLF) of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday announced there is no ceasefire with the MNLF despite orders to its troops to stand down in order allow the civilian negotiating team to resolve the crisis peacefully.

"AFP (is) standing down to allow crisis management committee to make necessary moves to resolve/negotiate peacefully," AFP public information office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He also belied reports that a formal ceasefire has been declared with the MNLF.

"There is no formal ceasefire contrary to some reports," Zagala said.

As to the MNLF's call for a military pullout from Zamboanga City, he said it is the latter that should leave first.

"They were the ones who attacked," he said.

Troops in Jolo on alert amid reports Misuari is in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Troops in Jolo on alert amid reports Misuari is in Sulu

Police and military forces have been placed on alert in the municipality of Jolo, the capital town of Sulu amid reports that Nur Misuari is in the province and to thwart any possible diversionary attacks by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.

This was disclosed Wednesday by Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin, who said over RMN-DXRZ-Zamboanga that there is a need to secure the town to avoid a repeat of the February 1974 incident where the MNLFs attacked and burned down Jolo.

However, Amin said he doesn't have any information on the exact location of Misuari in the province of Sulu, which is comprised of 19 municipalities.

Amin also said there is a need to secure Jolo since it is the center of trade and commerce aside from being the capital of the province.

This despite information from MNLF commanders that there is no plan to attack the town of Jolo, according to Amin.

The mayor disclosed that he received information the MNLF’s movement is focused in Zamboanga City.

He disclosed that there is massing up of MNLF forces in the municipalities of Indanan and Talipao. There are also a lot of MNLF members in Talipao town.

2 MNLF 'bomb maker' detained at Cebu City jail not a security threat, exec says

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): 2 MNLF 'bomb maker' detained at Cebu City jail not a security threat, exec says

The two suspected "bomb makers" of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who are currently detained at the Cebu City Jail do not pose a security threat to the city, an official said.

Jail warden Superintendent Johnson Calub made the assurance to the Police Coordinating and Advisory Council (PCAC), PCAC presiding officer Eugene Elizalde said.

Calub, he said, made the assurance after MNLF rebels mounted an attack in Zamboanga City.

At least 130 members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) 7 were flown in to Zamboanga City to augment government forces who are fighting against the Muslim rebels.

Elizalde said authorities do not think there is a possibility of a rescue operation by the colleagues of the jailed Muslim rebels and that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology is not asking for security assistance.

"Cebuanos need not worry especially since our Muslim brothers based here assured as that they are doing their best to help in preventing terror attacks from Muslim rebels," he said.

It was not clear whether the inmates belong to the Nur Misuari-led MNLF group or to the faction of Muslimin Sema.

Their names, Calub said, have been withheld.

Elizalde described the two inmates as "bomb makers" who are from Jolo where they were initially jailed but had asked the court for a transfer citing security concerns.

NPA extortion eyed in burning of heavy equipment in Sarangani town

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): NPA extortion eyed in burning of heavy equipment in Sarangani town

Police authorities in Sarangani Province are eyeing extortion as behind the burning on Tuesday by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels of two heavy equipment assigned to an ongoing road project in Alabel town.

Chief Insp. Reynaldo Denila, Alabel municipal police station chief, said Wednesday around 50 heavily-armed rebels stormed a road construction site in Barangay Bagacay in Alabel town at about noon and torched a grader and backhoe owned by private firm Vicente Lao Construction.

He said the construction company was sub-contracted by the Department of Public Works and Highways to implement the concreting of a road connecting the town proper of Alabel to the outskirt village of Paraiso.

Denila said the firm’s workers were working on a portion of the road project in the area when the rebels came and immediately ordered them at gunpoint to stop their activities.

The workers were then directed to lay face down on the ground as the rebels proceeded to pour gasoline on the two heavy equipment and later set them on fire, he said.

He said the rebels, who were reportedly led by a certain Kumander Yoyong of the NPA’s Guerilla Front Committee 75, then fired several shots before fleeing towards the mountainous portions of the area.

Citing results of their initial investigation, he said the construction firm had reportedly received numerous threats from the rebels prior to the attack.

Denila said company workers admitted that the NPA has long been trying to collect revolutionary taxes from their owner.

“Based on the information we received, the company has repeatedly refused to give in to their (NPA) demands,” he said.

As a result of the attack, the company has temporarily suspended the implementation of the road project to ensure the security and safety of their workers.

Troops from the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade have been deployed on Wednesday to secure the area and launch pursuit operations against the rebels.

3 soldiers were hurt in separate encounters with armed group

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): 3 soldiers were hurt in separate encounters with armed group

Three soldiers were hurt in separate encounter between the Army and armed group believed to be members of the New People's Army here in the region on Tuesday.

Reports from Butuan City Police Office mentioned that an encounter between the Army troopers belonging to the Bravo Company of the 29th Infantry Battalion led by 2Lt. Belano encountered a fully armed group at Sitio Lamosing, Brgy. Tungao, Butuan City, 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.

An ensuing firefight which had lasted for 15 minutes which resulted to the wounding of an Army personnel whose name is still withheld as of press time. The armed group fled to unknown direction and were now pursued by the government troopers.

Police in the city as well as the adjacent police stations were alerted and were instructed to conduct checkpoints to negate further movements and atrocities of the fleeing rebels.

Meanwhile, 2 soldiers were also hurt in a separate encounter between Army troopers and the NPA rebels 4:00 p.m. Tuesday in Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur.

Report from Surigao del Sur Police mentioned that the government soldiers from the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company of the 36 Infantry Battalion, PA led by 1Lt. Adajar, encountered about 30 fully armed men believed to be NPA rebels in the aforementioned area. A firefight ensued which lasted for an hour and thirty minutes which resulted to the wounding of two soldiers identified as PFC Rhime D. Detado who sustained gunshot wounds on his two legs and PFC Michael Herdiles who was wounded on the arm.

Operating troopers are now conducting pursuit operations.

NPA rebels harass 2 Army detachments

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): NPA rebels harass 2 Army detachments

New People's Army (NPA) rebels harassed on separate occasions two detachments of the Philippine Army very early Wednesday morning, an Army report reaching the PNA said.

Harassed at about past midnight this morning was a detachment of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) under the 49th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Baga, Ragay town, Camarines Sur.

Communist dissidents also attacked the Citizens Auxiliary Unit of the Delta Company of the 22nd IB in Purok 5, Barangay San Felipe, Basud, Camarines Norte, at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The rebels reportedly hurled an IED (improvised explosive device) at the Cafgu detachment of the 49th IB but no soldier was reportedly hurt.

In the second incident, the communist guerrillas reportedly fired at the troopers of the 22IB in Basud, Camarines Norte.

The Army soldiers fired back at the rebels, resulting in a 10-minute exchange of gunfire from both sides.

After each harassment, the rebels immediately retreated -- a move seen by the Philippine Army as a tactic against government troopers.

The Army men were still at hot pursuit operations as of press time.

CPLA surrenders some 400 firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): CPLA surrenders some 400 firearms

The Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) headed by Arsenio Humiding has surrendered more than 400 firearms to the Police Regional Office Cordilleras (PROCOR) as part of the on-going cooperation between the group and the government to pursue various infrastructure and livelihood projects.

Police Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, regional director of the PROCOR said the surrendered firearms came from the city of Baguio and the provinces of Benguet, Abra, Kalinga and other parts of the region.

Two years ago, the CPLA inked an agreement whereby the government provides the needed funds for various construction of roads and bridges as well as local medium scale industries in areas which were ravaged by insurgency wars in the 1970's when the New People's Army (NPA) had that strength to wage wanton armed conflicts against government forces in the region.

The CPLA in that agreement served as the administrator of what projects to be pursued and how they are implemented in order that these would alleviate poverty in concerned areas especially in the provinces of Abra and Kalinga where economic growth was stunted during two decades of insurgency.

Historically, CPLA was a breakaway faction of the NPA in the Cordilleras through the late renegade priest Conrado Balweg who fought earlier with the NPA guerillas against the perceived undue exploitation of natural resources in Abra and environs, and the alleged abuses of the government forces against the natives.

Balweg's determination to break ties with the communist NPA, however, was aggravated when nine of his trusted lieutenants were ambushed and killed by their former comrades in 1985 in Baay-Licuan, Abra, some 30 kilometers northeast of the capital town of Bangued.

After the EDSA revolt in 1986, Balweg's overture of peace in the region was positively entertained by the late President Corazon C. Aquino, who gladly welcomed the CPLA's offer as partner of the government in the counter-insurgency in the Cordilleras as well as in the development efforts in alleviating poverty in the area.

Some of the CPLA guerillas were absorbed as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) since then but the remnants chose to stay with their families to lead new lives within the mainstream society.

These former guerillas were the ones who surrendered their firearms lately as they pursue various development projects in the region which were agreed on since l986 through the wisdom and vision of two great leaders in the country –the late President Cory Aquino and renegade priest Conrado Balweg.

Palawan military, police continue to look for suspects in ambush of Marines

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Palawan military, police continue to look for suspects in ambush of Marines

Military and police authorities in Palawan are determined on finding the whereabouts of unnamed members of the New People’s Army (NPA) responsible for the ambush of the convoy of Lt. Col. Vince Blanco in Taytay earlier this month.

Western Command (Wescom) spokesperson Lt. Cheryl Tindog said since the roadside ambush on the commander of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT 4) on August 26 at Sitio Ibangley, Barangay Alimanguan, Taytay, the military and the police are still pursuing the armed members of the NPA in the mountainous areas of Taytay and the adjoining town of San Vicente.

She said they are also confirming if how many from the NPA group had been wounded from the firefight that ensued after it failed to incapacitate the Marines.

After the incident, the Wescom called on the members of the leftist movement to “get down and surrender,” and have their wounds be treated in the hospital. No one replied to the call.

“Our search for the suspects is ongoing. They are also Filipinos and they’re just lost in who or what to believe. Part of looking for them is also to correct their wrong beliefs against the government. If they are wounded, they should come down and allow us to help them in their wounds,” she said.

Tindog said despite the ambush, they are still willing to accept anyone from the NPA who will lay down his arm, surrender, and return to the fold.

The ambush of the two-vehicle convoy of MBLT 4 resulted to the wounding of Sgt. Renato Soler, Lt. Rodelito Ramos, and Pvt. Marvin Montibon. Blanco, on the other hand, was unscathed in the ambush.

NPA female leader with P2.05-M reward , two others arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): NPA female leader with P2.05-M reward , two others arrested

A top female leader of the New People's Army (NPA) with P2.05 million reward on her head, together with her two companions, were arrested Tuesday by the joint military and police operations in Barangay Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by Major Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, commander of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) who identified the arrested NPA member as Lolita Loquibis.

Loquibis is currently the finance and logistic officer of Kilusang Larangan Guirrilla (KLG) MARCO in Mountain Province with six warrants of arrest for murder.

Catapang said the police and military troops also recovered subversive documents, electronic devices and P200,000 cash.

He said the identities of the arrested two others are still being verified as well as their relationship with Loquibis.

“By continuous cooperation and joint efforts of our PNP (Philippine National Police), military troops and other government agency, we can achieve the lasting peace in the region, "Catapang said.

Likewise, he said that peace, progress and prosperity can be attained through the collaboration of concerned elected government official.

The arrested NPA leader and her two companions were turned over to the PNP-Mountain Province.

Rebels gun down suspected government informer

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Rebels gun down suspected government informer

New People's Army (NPA) rebels gunned down a suspected military and police informer in front of his wife in Barangay Palale, Bulan, Sorsogon, at about 5 p.m., Tuesday, a police official based here said in report today.

Inspector Malou Calubaquid, Bicol regional police spokesperson, identified the victim as Ronald G. Golimlim, 44, a resident of the place.

Golimlim died on the way to the Pantaleon Gotladera Hospital in Bulan.

Calubaquid said Golilim was having a snack with his wife, Susana, at the veranda of their house when the teenage-looking suspects suddenly appeared behind him and shot him with their .45-caliber pistols at his head and body.

Top military officials ensure safety and welfare of civilians in Caraga region

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Top military officials ensure safety and welfare of civilians in Caraga region

Top military leaders here in Caraga region have ensured the safety and welfare of the civilian population following the attack of a rogue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group in Zamboanga City.

In a communication sent by 1Lt. Joe Patrick A. Martinez, Commanding Officer of the 42nd Civil Military Operations Company Wednesday afternoon to the media outlets here, mentioned that Col. Ferdinand F. Quidilla, Brigade Commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade together with his three battalion commanders LTC Vincent Iringan, CO, 30th Infantry Battalion, LTC Virgilio Luna, CO, 29th Infantry Battalion and LTC Freddie Dela Cruz, CO, 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, said that the brigade will be more vigilant in the area.

The communication also said that Col. Quidilla recently coordinated with the regional director with the Office of the Muslim Affairs (OMA) and the regional director of the police here in the region and discussed matters pertaining to the peace and security here.

The three military leaders accordingly emphasized the rule of law in any eventualities which might occur as far as the MNLF movement is concerned.

Engr. Yusoph Dianalan, OMA regional director, assured that the Muslim population including those who are affiliated with the MNLF cooperatives here "have learned to be peace-loving as the Caraganons." However, he also reminded his constituents not to participate in any activity which may undermine peace, according to Martinez.

During the meeting, the military through Col. Quidilla and the police through PCSupt. Getulio Napenas brought up the matter on civilians wearing and assuming titles belonging to the government armed services.

The three top leaders have agreed that "in order to avoid confusion among the people, any civilian are not allowed to wear military uniforms or carry firearms."

Both Quidilla and Napenas pointed out during their coordination meeting the strict observance of Republic Act 493 which prohibits the use or conferring of military or naval grades or titles by or upon persons not connected in the services of the AFP.

Also, Art. 177 of the Revised Penal Code is strict against usurping, representing, performing or assuming of unauthorized persons any act or official functions of persons in authority.

Scout Rangers pulled out; anti-insurgency campaign continues in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Scout Rangers pulled out; anti-insurgency campaign continues in Negros Oriental

The government’s anti-insurgency campaign in Negros Oriental continues without let up despite the unexpected pull out of the elite Scout Ranger troops for deployment to war-torn Zamboanga City.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, led the send off ceremony of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, comprising three companies one of which was assigned in Negros Oriental, Tuesday at the Bacolod-Silay airport in Negros Occidental.

The Army commander assured there will be no vacuum left with the departure of the Scout Rangers to Zamboanga City as there are enough ground forces to continue the military’s campaign against the rebel New People’s Army in Negros.

He admitted, though, that there will be a slowdown in their timeline in reducing the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental and the 5th district of Negros Occidental – the coverage area of the 302nd brigade – by December of this year.

The Scout Rangers were in the midst of clearing operations since last week following an encounter between government troops and suspected NPA members in Guihulngan City when the announcement for their pull out was made.

The pull out of the Scout Rangers was dictated by higher priorities, said Brig. Gen. Patrimonio.

“We will do our best with resources available,” said the Army general, referring to the anti-insurgency operations in Negros Oriental.

He pointed out that even before the Scout Rangers deployment in Negros, regular troops of the Philippine Army were doing well in carrying out the government’s operation plan to wipe out the insurgency in the island.

Deles asks "What will make Misuari happy?"

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Deles asks "What will make Misuari happy?"

"What will make Nur Misuari happy?"

This was the question posed by Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Teresita "Ging" Deles on the Moro National Liberation Front's founding leader who criticized the ongoing peace talks .

For several years that the peace process is being discussed, she said the government has exhausted all efforts to accommodate Misuari's demands.

"Throughout the three years, when we come out with a formula and an acceptable language, he would go out and say 'No, we could not sign it,'" she said.

"I hope this pattern on the table would be looked at...What will make Misuari happy? What does he want?" she added.

Deles also denied that the government has ignored the Moro leader in the peace talks process.

Deles said they have invited Misuari and his fellow MNLF leader Muslimin Sema to submit a nomination for the transition commission in relation to the Framework Agreement but both of them declined.

"I deny that we've not given full recognition of Nur Misuari and the MNLF," she said.

"What's being put forward that we've ignored MNLF is a willful misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what's the reality. A lot of work had been done even before this administration came in and we continue to work with this process," Deles said, as she cited several instances when Misuari turned down proposals that his own representatives have laid down on the table.

He had threatened that the MNLF would seek independence should the 1996 MNLF peace accord with the Philippines is abrogated but Malacañang had repeatedly denied this.

Deles also clarified that the government has not abrogated the 1996 MNLF peace accord.

"We're proposing the completion of the review process... that the government is committed to engage with the MNLF to settle the problems... We were saying it's time to complete the six-year review process. We want this to be done by the parties together that's why there's a meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia next week," she said.

Tripartite talks brokered by the Organization of Islamic Conference between the government, the MNLF and third party facilitator Indonesia would be held next week aimed at reviewing the provisions of the accord.

When asked if Misuari would attend the meet, Deles said she had received reports that the Moro leader's camp requested for facilitation of his travel papers to Indonesia.

Last Monday, a Misuari-led faction group of the MNLF stormed five coastal barangays in Zamboanga City Monday morning and took hostage at least 200 persons.

The attack, prompted by Misuari's allegations that the government ignored him, led to the death of four persons and wounded 24 others.

Deles said these incidences should be expected as the government and the MILF reach the homestretch of finally signing the Framework Agreement.

"We should not be surprised of incidences like these at the end of the peace process. These are agreements that introduce changes and some people would not like that," she said.

Deles stood firm that the peace process would push through and nothing could hinder its completion even with the recent attack in Zamboanga City.

"What's important is how we stand up to it. We stand by the peace process and we will complete the peace process for the Philippines," she said.

AFP doing everything to contain Zambo violence from spilling over to other areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): AFP doing everything to contain Zambo violence from spilling over to other areas

With the stand-off between the military and rogue Moro National Liberation Front members in Zamboanga City now on its third day, military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, Jr. on Wednesday said the military is doing everything it can to prevent the violence from spilling over to Metro Manila and other parts the country.

"That's a concern. We don’t want to have this spilling over to other areas most especially in whole of Mindanao, Luzon, and Visayas. All our units in the AFP are always looking into this to prevent it," he added.

Tutaan also revealed that a sporadic firefight broke out between AFP units and rogue MNLF fighters in Barangay Sta. Catalina around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

"As we speak firefight is ongoing but not yet that much. It's in the position where the MNLF breakaway group is staying," he stressed.

Tutaan said that security forces on the ground are making calibrated response to contain the situation.

"There is ongoing fire in a school in Sta. Barbara. It started about an hour ago (around 4 p.m.) and it is also within the vicinity of Barangay Sta. Barbara mosque previously occupied by the breakaway force of the MNLF," the AFP spokesperson disclosed.

Tutaan also said that there was a reported firefight in Barangay Canelar which resulted in the death of two MNLF fighters and wounding of another.

"There is one wounded in MNLF side who was brought to the hospital by PNP themselves , and two killed also from the MNLF breakaway," he said.

Members of the armed group since Monday are contained in Barangays Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo, and Talon-Talon.

The rebels are still holding around 180 hostages, although there are reports that the breakaway MNLF group seized additional 30-37 hostages in Barangay Catalina Wednesday morning.

Situation in Sulu 'normal' despite Tuesday grenade blast - military commander

From InterAksyon (Sep 11): Situation in Sulu 'normal' despite Tuesday grenade blast - military commander

The military commander in Sulu said the situation in the province remained “normal” as he belied reports a grenade explosion in Jolo town Tuesday afternoon was connected to the fighting between Moro National Liberation Front fighters and government troops in Zamboanga City.

“No, it was just a grenade explosion lobbed by a still unidentified person not in his right mind against a motorcycle,” Colonel Johriel Cenabre said in a phone interview.

Itong mga ganitong insidente dito sa Sulu ay kadalasan normal na pero walang koneksiyon ‘yan sa nangyayari du’n sa (These kinds of incidents in Sulu are considered normal but this had no connection to what is happening in) Zamboanga City.”

Cenabre said the incident happened in the vicinity of the provincial capitol at around 5:30 p.m.

“No one was hurt (in) the explosion. There is no abnormal situation here except … in areas where we (are) continuously conducting intelligence-driven operations against terrorist members of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he said.

Asked to confirm reports that MNLF fighters were gathering to provide support for their companions comrades in Zamboanga City, Cenabre said: “We monitored some movements last night in some areas but there was no further movement that followed.”

“The situation here is very normal. But you know we’re ready as always … (for) any given situation. We might not guard on foot all the coastal areas here in Sulu to prevent possible MNLF supporters (from going) to Zamboanga City but we have our Navy assets here. Besides, our intelligence operations here have been heightened and we will … pinpoint where (rebel) movements are,” he added.

He also said they have enough troops to contain any spillover from Zamboanga.
In Camp Aguinaldo, military officials said MNLF founder Nur Misuari “is still in Sulu.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, head of the military’s public affairs office, said it would be up to the local crisis management committee to decide whether or not to grant the MNLF’s demand to pull out government troops from Zamboanga City.

No govt offensive vs MNLF in Zamboanga City yet - Deles

From InterAksyon (Sep 11): No govt offensive vs MNLF in Zamboanga City yet - Deles

As heavy fighting broke out again for the third day in Zamboanga City, the government on Wednesday has continued to rule out any military offensive against Moro National Liberation Front rebels, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said.

In a briefing aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Deles said the government continues to look for a "bridge" to can help end the standoff.

"The volume of our military in Zamboanga City is meant to contain the situation and ensure the protection and safety of the civilians," Deles said. "We are continuing our search for those who may be able to serve as bridge" with the rebels.

Deles’ statement came after the peace negotiating panels of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front issued a statement from Kuala Lumpur condemning the violence in Zamboanga City and demanding accountability for those responsible.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, speaking at the opening of the 40th round of exploratory talks, also said that MNLF founder Nur Misuari’s “declaration of independence” last month and the attack on Zamoanga had effectively vioded the 1996 peace agreement between the government and MNLF.

AUDIO | No declaration of ceasefire yet - AFP

From InterAksyon (Sep 11): AUDIO | No declaration of ceasefire yet - AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied that a ceasefire has already been declared this morning between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City.

The military also said it is not true that MNLF reinforcements have already arrived in Zamboanga City and that they have contained the rebel group's number to 180 in four barangays. The AFP also said they have also identified where these rebels are located.

Meanwhile, refugees continue to seek shelter in evacuation centers as the fighting enters its third day.

Five hundred civilians, mostly women and children, from Rio Hondo arrived in front of the city hall on foot. They said the military is set to conduct clearing operations against the Nur Misuari faction of the MNLF in their area

The military advised them to leave their homes so that they would not be taken hostage and used as human shields by the Muslim rebels, similar to what happened on Monday.

Fresh fighting in Zamboanga force thousands to flee

From InterAksyon (Sep 11): Fresh fighting in Zamboanga force thousands to flee

Thousands of residents fled as fresh fighting broke out Wednesday between Philippine security forces and Muslim rebels, on the third day of a deadly siege in a key southern city, officials said.

At least 13,000 people crammed into Zamboanga city sports stadium seeking safety as soldiers and rebels fought street battles in deserted coastal neighbourhoods nearby, an AFP photographer on the scene said.

"We're trying our best to provide decent facilities for them," government social worker Beth Dy told AFP, but added the venue only had four portable toilets and no available bedding.

About 5,000 residents from the six communities under siege arrived overnight and some had no choice but to pitch makeshift tents on the grass, she added.

In the settlement of Santa Catalina, three kilometres (1.9 miles) away, Philippine marines exchanged fire Wednesday with gunmen who were using 10 residents on a roadside as apparent human shields, an AFP photographer said.

One of the residents was waving a white cloth tied to a pole, he added.

People began fleeing the siege areas early Monday when about 180 Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas poured into six coastal neighbourhoods of the port city of nearly one million people, triggering firefights with soldiers and police.

The six communities are home to 160,000 mainly Muslim residents, according to local officials, who said about 180 residents were being used as "human shields" by the gunmen.

The siege began four weeks after MNLF founder Nur Misuari declared "independence" for the Muslim regions of the mainly Catholic nation and urged his followers to besiege government installations.

The MNLF ended a 25-year rebellion with a 1996 peace treaty, but Misuari's faction laid a similar deadly siege on Zamboanga in 2001 that led to his imprisonment until 2008, when all charges against him were dropped.

Misuari has since been protesting against a proposed government peace deal with rival rebel faction the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that he said would marginalise the MNLF and violate the terms of the 1996 peace deal.

The latest attack on Zamboanga is led by a top Misuari lieutenant, Habier Malik, and has left 12 people dead and 21 others injured, said military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The latest fatality was an MNLF gunman whose body was recovered in one of the areas where the gunmen are holed up, he said in an interview on ABS-CBN television.

Zamboanga mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar told the station that local officials had been negotiating with Malik to free residents and leave the city, without much success. She said Misuari could not be found.

"Our main priority really is the safety of all the hostages. The military should come in and try to secure the hostages and defend the city from further intrusion," she added.

There has been some confusion over whether the residents are being held against their will and the government Tuesday said it was investigating whether they were hostages.

"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," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said.

Zagala said the troops only had orders to surround the gunmen at this point, ensure the safety of the residents and prevent the crisis from spreading to other areas.