Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Death toll in Zamboanga City crisis now at 140

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Death toll in Zamboanga City crisis now at 140
With the stand-off between military and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari fighters now on its 16th day, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday announced that the death toll has now climbed to 140.

In its 6 p.m. update, AFP deputy public affairs chief Major Angelo Guzman said the figures can be broken down into the following:

-AFP: 13 killed, 148 wounded in action

-PNP: 5 killed, 14 wounded

-Civilians: 12 killed, 51 wounded

MNLF: 110 killed, Captured 93, surrendered 45.

Guzman said the number of hostages rescued is now at 182 with the number of high-powered firearms recovered at 78 and low-powered firearms at 15.

Clearing operations are still ongoing as of this posting.


Maguindanao governor, Army, MNLF members build Madrasah school

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 24): Maguindanao governor, Army, MNLF members build Madrasah school

A group of farmers who fought the government for more than 30 years under the banner of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are calmly constructing, alongside Army carpenters, a school building in a remote barangay in Maguindanao, no intention of joining their comrades in fighting government forces in Zamboanga City.

The two-classroom building for the Arabic school Madrasan Tarbiyah Al-Islamiya in Barangay Kulasi in Gen. Pendatun town in Maguindanao was jointly launched Saturday by Muslim villagers, some of them supporters of Nur Misuari, Army Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz of the 6th Infantry Division, and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu.

The participation of Gapuz and Mangudadatu in the launching of the project shows that the government’s “convergence approach” in addressing security concerns is, by far, the easiest way to hasten in bringing prosperity to underdeveloped Moro communities.

Villagers and soldiers have began digging 30-inch deep trenches for the concrete foundation of the building. The office of the governor has initially allocated P400,000 for the project.

The event, witnessed by Col. Edmund Pangilinan of the 604th Brigade, was capped with the distribution of sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets to Moro villagers, who also availed of free dental and medical services provided by Army medics and a team from the provincial government.

A former MNLF guerrilla named Sidik, 79, was among the more than 500 villagers who received the non-food relief supplies.

Sidik told reporters he has been wishing, if only he can have a way, to tell followers of Misuari fighting soldiers on the streets of Zamboanga City to go home to their families.

“I’m old and I’m not influential. I’m just a poor man, but maybe I can help make them realize that war can never be a good option in any advocacy meant to improve the life of Moro people,” the old former MNLF combatant said in the local dialect.

Gapuz, who addressed residents of Barangay Kulasi, had emphasized the importance of peaceful dialogues in resolving domestic peace and security issues.

Gapuz lauded Mangudadatu and Gen. Pendatun’s incumbent mayor, Shajid Khan Pendatun, for reaching out to residents of the barangay, where there are also hundreds of supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mangudadatu said the school building to be built at the center of Barangay Kulasi will be a good venue for teaching children of local farmers “peace education” based on Islamic principles of fraternalism, tolerance and unity in religious diversity.

Lynette Estandarte, chief budget officer of the governor’s office, said they still have more programmed socio-economic projects for far-flung areas whose people were made poor by armed conflicts in the province.

Estandarte and her staff had distributed more than 20 boxes of medicines for common ailments, antibiotics and multi-vitamins to residents of Barangay Kulasi.

Mangudadatu and Gapuz both said they are grateful to Maguindanao’s community leaders, the local officials in its 36 towns, the central committee of the MILF and groups identified with Misuari for their continuing effort to prevent any spill over to the province of the hostilities in Zamboanga City.

There are more than ten groups of Misuari’s followers in Maguindanao, but all have just been standing down amid the armed conflict raging in Zamboanga City. Their leaders have promised Gapuz, through the intercession of the provincial peace and order council, not to embark on anything that can create trouble in any of the 36 towns in the province.


Yakan MNLFs forced by Malik to join firefight; 2 killed for not obeying order

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 24): Yakan MNLFs forced by Malik to join firefight; 2 killed for not obeying order

Surrendered Yakan members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) told police investigators during tactical interrogations that they are innocent and unaware of the plan of Ustadz Habier Malik in carrying out violent atrocities in the city on the day the standoff broke out on September 9.

A press statement issued by Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Juanito Vaño which was released by Police Regional Information Officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca disclosed that during interrogations,  the Yakan MNLF members, specifically coming from Basilan, consistently maintain that they came here for a “peace rally”, and they were promised P10,000 each by Malik after the rally.

The press statement said the Yakan MNLFs agreed to travel with Commander Malik to Zamboanga City and to the extent sold almost all their belongings in order to have money to defray their expenses.

But the Yakan MNLF members told the police that they were surprised to what has actually happened when they arrived here, shocked with their senses, for instead of a “peace Rally”, they were issued high-powered firearms.

Confused of their predicament and being caught in the middle,  the Basilan based MNLFs also fought the government forces as they felt that they have no more choice and joined what was clearly now, an attack on Zamboanga City, the PRO9 press statement said.

However, as they were firing their guns, a realization of the consequences of the attack and its futility as well as the deception employed by Malik have come upon them.

“They have decided to stop the fight and cease firing, unfortunately, repeated attempts by the Yakan group, to contact the government and state their opposition to Malik’s action, had failed, as the fighting in many fronts advanced rapidly,” a police official said.

Given no choice, they (Yakan MNLFs) decided to escape, as they believe that it was the only option left for them, to break away from the real attackers, according to the police.

Their insistence to return to Basilan and refusal to obey orders from Malik to continue the fight ignited his anger, the Yakan MNLFs said..

The Yakan group, greatly dismayed of the situation and of their having been deceived, tried to escape , but they were prevented by men of Malik and their attempt to escape failed .

Police said that at this point, Malik subsequently ordered his men to disarm the Yakan group and two of them were shot and killed amid the gunfight with government troops.

“The extent of destruction, to both human lives and properties may not be conclusive at this time, but we are confident of victory as we await the last nail in the coffin,” Vaño said.

“We do not desire a recurrence in the future, so we beg the general public to be extra vigilant in their surroundings and to report to the proper authorities of any unusual or suspicious activities in their areas or wherever they may be, to prevent a repeat of the recent events and contribute to the peace and order of Zamboanga City,” Vaño appealed.


Troops, MNLF fighters in close quarter battle: OBJECTIVE: RESCUE HOSTAGES

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 24): Troops, MNLF fighters in close quarter battle: OBJECTIVE: RESCUE HOSTAGES

Areas where MNLF Misuari loyalists are boxed have shrunk as government troops are inching in and encircling the group that is still holding some hostages in the second week of the Zamboanga City crisis.

Intermittent firing took place yesterday as troops closed in and poised to engage the rebels in close quarter battle with the objective of rescuing the hostages.

At past 3 p.m. yesterday, firefight broke out at the Layag-Layag coast in Talon-Talon where MNLF fighters tried to slip out of the cordoned areas in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo. Naval gunboats shelled the rebels along the Talon-Talon coastline with loud explosions causing many Talon-Talon residents to flee their homes.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the “constricting strategy” being implemented by the military against the remaining MNLF fighters is being carried out to safeguard the lives of the hostages.

“The area of constriction is now smaller and the forces of Commander Habier Malik only have a little area to move on,” he explained.

AFP operations are focused in Barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina and Rio Hondo.

“That’s the reason why our men are fighting in close-quarters and why we have a lot of men getting wounded,” he told newsmen.

“Our goal really is to close in as much as we can so that we can eventually rescue the hostages and neutralize the (remaining) MNLF Misuari faction,” he pointed out.

The death toll in the standoff climbed to 125 as of Sunday noon.

The breakdown:

— AFP: 11 killed, 133 wounded in action

— PNP: 3 killed, 13 wounded

— Civilians: 12 killed, 49 wounded.

— MNLF: 99 killed, 72 captured and 45 surrendered.

Guzman said the number of hostages rescued is now 174 (out of the 183 taken earlier).

Captured high-powered firearms is 64 and 13 low-powered ones.

President Aquino on Sunday left for Manila after staying here in Zamboanga City for 12 days in direct command of the military operation.

The president said the immediate response of the government forces demonstrated the capability and resolve to stop atrocities similar to the attempt of the MNLF rebels in this city.

Aquino said the rebels failed in their mission since the troops immediately intercepted and engaged them in a firefight before they could penetrate the inner parts of the the city.

“Na-demonstrate ng pamahalaan, ng sandatahang lakas at kapulisan na kayang rumisponde anywhere,” President Aquino citing additional troops arrived to reinforce the soldiers and policemen already stationed in this city.

“Yong kanilang pwersa na dumating dito hindi nakabuo nagwatak-watak agad,” President Aquino added.

As the smoke began to clear,  it appears that the bulk of the MNLF forces that came to Zamboanga City is composed of two — the MNLF faction from Basilan, most of whom were deceived by Misuari to join a so-called peace caravan and march and without any intention to engage in firefights with soldiers, and the Sulu group led by militant Habier Malik that has apparently brought in stockpiles of ammunition and firearms and have prepared for armed confrontation. — See separate story)

President Aquino said the group of Misuari has lost mass-based support due to the standoff that is now on its second week.

“Yong gustong umunawa at kumalinga sa kanila ay tila napalayo pa,” the President said in a press briefing before returning to Manila.

“I believe this will wind down within the day,” he said.

Aquino also vowed to bring criminal charges against MNLF founder Nur Misuari, accused of being behind the rebel incursion.

Zagala said the armed forces backed their commander-in-chief Aquino’s latest pronouncement.

“The armed forces support the president’s statement that this is almost over,” Zagala told Agence FrancePresse. “We will work hard to finish this soonest.”

He said about 4,500 soldiers remained in the city to clear it of MNLF gunmen after two weeks of deadly battles that left hundreds dead or injured.

More than 10,000 houses were set on fire and 111,000 civilian residents fled the areas of conflict.

The military said there are now just several dozen MNLF fighters left, holding at least 20 hostages.


US envoy denies conspiracy theories

From the Sun Star (Sep 24): US envoy denies conspiracy theories

UNITED States Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. on Tuesday debunked what he tagged as a "conspiracy theory" that Washington's recent activities and the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama are influencing the current situation in Mindanao.

The envoy said he was "surprised" that conspiracy theories are spreading about the US' supposed role in the current conflict in Mindanao between government forces and the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) allegedly led by Nur Misuari.

"The Partnership For Growth was launched by then Secretary [Hilary] Clinton and [Foreign Affairs] Secretary [Albert] del Rosario to fight corruption and enhance economic opportunities. It has nothing to do with the ongoing violence in Mindanao," Thomas said during the 4th Kapihan sa Embahada held at Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.

"I don't understand why that would happen," he added.

Thomas said the US embassy, on behalf of Washington, has condemned the clashes in Mindanao perpetrated by the MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Also, the envoy stressed that Obama's two-day visit to the Philippines "has nothing to do" with the tensions in Mindanao, which has been continuing for at least three decades.

He admitted though that members of the American military are training and advising the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Special Forces "so they can take charge of all of these."

"But we train and advise only. These [Mindanao conflict] are the things the Philippine government can only [handle by themselves]," Thomas said.

Since the clashes in Zamboanga City started in September 9, 12 civilians and 14 soldiers were killed while 13 policemen, 138 soldiers and 69 civilians were wounded.
A total of 103 members of the MNLF were killed while 118 either surrendered or were captured.

President Benigno Aquino III, who just came back to Manila after spending 10 days in Zamboanga City to oversee the military operations there, promised to give justice to those who perished and were affected by the violence.


Army has P132M worth of old ammo in storage, COA finds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 24): Army has P132M worth of old ammo in storage, COA finds

The Philippine Army (PA) still has 137,264 rounds of decades-old high explosives valued at P131.77 million which are too old and unstable for use in the field by soldiers and are dangerous to keep, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In its 2012 audit report on one of the three service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the COA said that many pieces of the ammunition were released to field units in the 1980s but were turned over only recently to the command’s custody.

Members of the audit team inspected 11 warehouses holding the cache of explosives from a distance and noted that many were contained in open boxes while others were just lying on the floor.

“We were not able to validate the accuracy of the quantity of the reported unserviceable ammunition since we were advised by the PA personnel present that any wrong movement/dropping could trigger an explosion or cause an accident due to the abnormality of their condition,” the COA report said.

It noted that termites had invaded the storage bins for 7.62mm rifle ammunitions, more commonly known as “.30-caliber” based on the Imperial unit equivalent.

It quoted the head of the Army Chief Ordnance and Chemical Service as saying that the protective packages of the ammunition were easily penetrated and infested by termites because these were made of ordinary wood and were placed against a wall.

The termite infestation was discovered only lately because it could not be detected through visual observation, the COA said.

An inventory submitted to the COA by the service command’s Property Office indicated that the ammunition cache included 38,899 rounds of 60mm high explosive lightweight mortar shells; 56,295 rounds of 40mm M406 rifle-grenades; and 31,548 rounds of 81mm M1 muzzle-loaded artillery shells.

The collection included thousands of rounds of 105mm, 81mm and 76mm white phosphorus mortars; tear gas; flares; smoke grenades; fragmentation grenades; and 90mm high explosive antitank rockets.

The COA recommended a speedy evaluation of the old ammunition to determine if these could still be used or should be disposed of in accordance with AFP regulations.

The Army report said there were an additional 89,301 rounds of similar ordnance that had likewise been declared unserviceable but were awaiting assessment as to their value.

The COA also advised service officials to request for funds from the Department of Budget and Management for the construction of better storage facilities to separate unserviceable ammunition from newly purchased ones and avoid further losses in case of an accident.

It also recommended that extensive training be given to Army personnel  in terms of proper handling and disposal of old explosives and ammunition to prevent accidents and a waste of public funds.


MNLF: Questions & Answers: (A) Few Burning Questions on the Zambo Siege

Posted to the MNLF Website (Sep 22): Questions & Answers: (A) Few Burning Questions on the Zambo Siege
Questions on the MNLF-AFP War in Zamboanga City raised by Ms. Christine F. Herrera, columnist of the newspaper Manila Standard Today and answered by Reynaldo Rayhan Reyes, Guest Editor of mnlfnet.com.
Dear Rey,
I am Christine F. Herrera of the Manila Standard Today. I was referred to you by Professor @ifhraim because I have lots of questions that he said only you could authoritatively answer. I am working on the "inconsistent" pronouncements and claims of Mar Roxas, the President and the military.  I hope you would allow me to quote you. Just few questions.
1) Is it true that the MNLF set the houses on fire and that they barred the firemen from putting out the fire because of MNLF snipers? I heard claims on the contrary.
2) Is it true that the MNLF has high-powered firearms that include 90 RR? Mar says these, aside from mortars, were among those recovered by military troops during clearing ops. May financial backers daw ang MNLF that provided the logistics to wage the uprising?
3) How true is the gov't's claim that MNLF used civilians as human shields? Was there ever rescue ops done?
4) What happened to the talks that the gov't claims they did since day1 of Zambo siege?
5) Would you say the motive of government in inventing these stories is to paint the MNLF as monsters or terrorists?
6) Where is Nur Misuari?
Thanks, Rey.  Please text me your number so I could call you. I am hoping to write the story today to come out tomorrow. Sunday for Monday. Thank you very much!!!
Christine Herrera
Manila Standard Today

Dear Madam Christine F Herrera,
Thanks for communicating with the Bangsamoro Freedom Solidarity (BFS) to solicit the side of the MNLF freedom fighters!
Firstly, the media will always expect "inconsistencies" coming from SecMar Roxas, P-Noy and AFP because they're not on the side of the truth, but only to deceive people and humanity, including dividing the Bangsamoro people and the MNLF and MILF freedom fighters.
Q-1) It is never the strategy of the MNLF freedom fighters to set sacred homes (houses) on fire and even cut trees from the beginning because this is forbidden by Islam religion. On the practical side, any edifice or houses, especially cemented or concrete, can be used for cover shield. It is only the colonial AFP

occupation soldiers, who will benefit burning houses for clearing ops. In the 1974 Jolo war/burning, the AFP burned almost the entire town of Jolo to drive away the MNLF freedom fighters from the town area, resulting in the mass murder of more than 20,000 Muslim, Christian and Chinese civilians. This was reported then by DISPATCH. Just like today's Aquino regime, the Marcos Dictatorship propagandized that the burning was done by the MNLF, but this backfired on its ugly face when international media, including Dispatch, reported that the heinous burning crime was perpetrated by the AFP forces.

Q-2) The MNLF freedom fighters from the beginning of the freedom struggle launched in the late 1960s were just equipped with the same weapons used by the AFP soldiers, who have the habit of selling them or being divested from them after getting killed in a war. The MNLF freedom struggle has always been supported by the Bangsamoro masses, who voluntarily provide the necessary logistics, and also from outside Muslim countries because it is ordained by Islam religion to help the oppressed people, particularly the Mujahidin (freedom fighters). On 90 RR and mortars recovered, although SecMarRoxas is a good liar, it's only a cheap propaganda of the AFP to show that they have the upper hand in the Zambonga City war as anywhere else in the Mindanao war theater. Ask this from SecMarRoxas or any AFP spokesman, if it is true (info revealed to the MNLF by friendly mole insider), as of the 10th day war, AFP Camp Aguinaldo has listed, "503 dead, 741 wounded and 63 'war shock' (awl/deserter) AFP soldiers," minus 1st Lt Rama and two others killed by MNLF sniper on the 11th day. They will always deny this for propaganda effect. On the other hand, they will always highlight MNLF minor casualties, MNLF surrendering, including the 23 Basilan paid followers, disguised as MNLF freedom fighters, of ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman. The 23 Hataman followers led by a 'tsinelas'-wearing 'commander' were just picked up by OIC Chief Police Chiquito Malayo from Mampang. He was only on AFP mission, and was never seized, abducted or kidnapped as media reported. But the kidnap and surrender incident was only concocted by AFP in connivance with the ARMM governor to deceive media and people. Nonetheless, it provided relief laughter to the people, particularly the Facebook and Twitter networkers, after finding out the truth of the AFP propaganda.

Q-3) The MNLF Mujahidin never use human civilians as human shields. Unlike AFP officers/soldiers, who are only after salary, promotion and rank, the most precious thing to a MNLF freedom fighter, like Ustaj Khabir Malik, now known to Bangsamoro Muslims worldwide as 'Puddang Sin Kamaaldikaan' (Sword of Freedom), is martyrdom. Thus, MNLF freedom fighters do not use any shield but only their faith in the Jihad Fi-Sabilillah (Struggle in the way of Allah) and are willing to face martyrdom (death) anytime during any war with oppressors and invaders, like the Spanish, American, Japanese and Filipino colonsers. Unlike the AFP soldiers during the 1974 Jolo war/burning, when the reinforcement soldiers arrived in Maubu beach , they conducted house-to-houses searches in Bus-Bus area and rounded up all civilians -aged men, women, children- to use them as hostage shields marching to the AFP 5th Brigade Camp near the town airport that was over run by the MNLF forces after decimating the PA and PAF soldiers in Jolo town. They conducted mass withdrawal together with the mass civilians, including Catholic priests and nuns as well as Chinese monks, when the town was set ablaze by aerial and sea AFP bombardments.

Q-4) The Aquino government (P-Noy and SecRoxas) never did initiate any peace talks with the MNLF to end the Zambonga City war since day 1 up to this writing. When the AFP-MNLF war, with human casualties and business losses mounting, reached the 5th day, it was good for Vice-President Jejomar Binay to contact MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari (they being once classmates in UP) and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and all together agreed to a ceasefire of AFP-MNLF hostilities. But, apparently, the peace initiative was torpedoed by either P-Noy or SecRoxas or both. Maybe for political reason since both the President and the Vice-President are not one in the same political camp. However, had the Aquino government supported the ceasefire talks initiative, the Zamboanga City could not have lasted this long now.

Just as basically had the Aquino government respected the September 2, 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Jakarta Peace Agreement forged during the time of President Fidel V Ramos there could be no cause for the MNLF to revert back to the original objective of struggling for total freedom and  independence of the Bangsamoro homeland of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan (MINSUPALA). This is because the MNLF, committed to the same peace process, respect so much the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and will agree to any comprehensive peaceful settlement to the Philippines-Bangsamoro war in Mindanao. But by totally ignoring the 1996 peace agreement and the deceptive move to abrogate the GRP-OIC-MNLF peace process subterfuge by just terminating the MNLF-OIC-GRP Ministerial Review Committee without any tangible commitment to completely and correctly the 1996 peace agreement, this has only given the MNLF the opportunity to draft a revolutionary government constitution and the proclamation of independent United Federated States of Bangsamoro Republik (UFSBR), which the Bangsamoro youth and Davao City immediately supported.

Just as also the AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City could not have actually happened if the city government only followed the wisdom of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable."

The truth is, had the government did not block the supposedly peace rally conducted by the MNLF members and mass supporters, who actually have the right to peaceful assembly as demonstrated previously in Jolo town and Davao City, there would be no war now in Zamboanga City. Worse, the MNLF members and mass supporters coming from everywhere in Mindanao were not only forbidden to to hold a peace rally in support of Mindanao independence declaration, but they were harassed and some were arrested and jailed. Thus, the active MNLF freedom fighters and militant gaosbaogbog (mass solid supporters) had to enter the city to come to their aid and rescue, resulting to the on-going war now in the city. And this war may just escalate if the Aquino government think of adopting military solution to solve Bangsamoro Question similar to the Middle Eastern Palestine Question.

Q-5) From the inception of the Bangsamoro freedom struggle launched by the MNLF in late 1960s up to now, Philippine colonialism under the Marcos regime attempted vigorously to demonise Chairman Nur Misuari and to deride the Bangsa freedom fighters as "outlaws", "bandits" and even, surprisingly, as 'maoists" linking them to the Filipino communists or nationalists under CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison. But the black propaganda of the Manila government never did work because it is based on total falsehood. Now that 'terrorism' has become a fad since this is used by western powers to stain the image of a Muslim as adherent of peace because it is required by Islam religion, Philippine colonialism from the Arroyo regime up to the present Aquino watch have copied the same strategy of branding organisations or movements that are against the government as monstrous 'terrorists'. The MNLF 'maoists' and MILF 'terrorists' before have become instant 'peace partners' once they decided to end war and to take the walk to talk peace with the government. But the Manila government don't realise until now that to the Bangsamoro people of Filipino-colonised Mindanao, particularly to the Bangsamoro freedom fighters, the real 'terrorists' are the barong-tagalog wearing political animals in Malacanang and the colonial Armed Forces of 'Pabaon' (AFP) generals and foot soldiers in Mindanao creating havoc and terrorising endlessly the Muslim and Animist Lumad natives whose only crime is to regain their freedom from Philippine colonialism. Simply put, this is naked Philippine state terrorism. On this end, the Bangsamoro people and MNLF freedom fighters, who are now again on the crucial course of regaining independence and national self-determination only hope that some of the Filipino colonisers of Luzon will see the light of freedom for the oppressed Bangsamoro people as the only solution to achieving 'just and lasting' peace in Mindanao.

Q-6) MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari is still inside the Bangsamoro homeland, but his exact whereabouts cannot be disclosed for security reasons. He is closely monitoring the war events now happening in Zamboanga City, but is always receptive to any peace talk with the powers-that-be in government being a noted global UNESCO laureate peacemaker like former President Fidel V. Ramos, who has today categorically blamed the Aquino government for the cause of the AFP-MNLF war in Zambonga City. Thus when FVR commented that the Aquino government is 'divided' and have to 'put house in order' and not to 'play with the lives of people', he is only wisely talking from experience being a military general and a globally noted peacemaker president that the present war-mood Aquino government can't lightly dismiss.


PS. Madam Christine, please extend my deepest regards to Sir Teddy Boy Locsin. I am happy that he has read the discourses of Prof. Edward Said aside from Joseph Conrad's. I am personally happy to note that the Manila Standard Today wants to make a difference, particularly on the aspect of objectivity and truth. On this note, the Bangsamoro youth of Mindanao wish the editorial board, staff and crew of Manila Standard Today greater strength and the respected newspaper more circulation in the Philippines and worldwide.


MILF: BDA and CFSI sign Agreement for Sajahatra Bangsamoro

From the MILF Website (Sep 24): BDA and CFSI sign Agreement for Sajahatra Bangsamoro

After waiting for more than seven months, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the Community and Family Services International (CFSI) finally signed a Program Partnership Agreement (PPA) in aid to the operational support of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro programs. The signing took place at Pinnacle Hotel, Davao City on September 19, 2013.
Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF), through its continuous support in financing programs aimed for the development and reconstruction of conflict affected communities in Mindanao since 2006, now ensures its full support to the Sajahartra Bangsamoro’s financial operation. The program would be technically supported by the BDA under the Mindanao Trust Fund – Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP), with the assistance of CFSI as Trust Fund Recipient.

The agreement would now assure the steadiness of the program in uplifting the Bangsamoro communities and conflict affected areas in Mindanao. Its unique feature of program’s inclusiveness among the communities is envisaged to help attending a progressive life and sustainable peace and development. Under the Term of Reference (TOR), the program is for a quick gestation, high impact and a social protection type.

“Sajahatra Bangsamoro was created pursuant to the spirit of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) signed last 15th of October 2012 to jumpstart the initial dividends of peace. It was launched by President Benigno C. Aquino III on February 11, 2013 at Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institution (BLMI) Compound, Simuay Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao,” said BDA Executive Director Mohammad Yacob, also concurrently Co-Chairman of the MILF Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program is focusing on health, education and livelihood services to Moro communities and target individual beneficiaries. Program recipients are now enjoying educational scholarships through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); Health Insurance Services through the PhilHealth; and training and skills development programs provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

In his message, Dr. Safrullah M. Dipatuan, Chairperson of BDA, avowing a positive notes…“We hope to realize the perspective and objective of  President Benigno Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for high impact of the program on social protection and development”…

More BIFF members spotted in North Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Sep 25): More BIFF members spotted in North Cotabato

Government troops from the 7th Infantry Battalion encountered around 50 fully-armed men suspected to be members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) at around 7 p.m. Tuesday at the riverbanks of North Cotabato.

Authorities said they were conducting blocking operations at Mapagkaya Paidu Pulangi in Pikit when they encountered the rebel group.

The BIFF members are positioned at Reina Regente Complex, Brgy. Dasawao, Sharif Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines under the 6th Infantry Division has tightened security in the area after the recent series of attacks by the BIFF.


2000 families flee from military-BIFF clashes in Cotabato

From GMA News (Sep 25): 2000 families flee from military-BIFF clashes in Cotabato

Around 2,000 families fled their homes as security forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have been fighting in Midsayap, Cotabato since Monday morning.

Homes in Barangay Malingaw testified to the ferocity of  the fighting, GMA 7 news program “24 Oras” reported on Tuesday. A house was riddled with shrapnel holes, and even a mosque was not spared from the gunfire.

The evacuees, meanwhile, were packed into emergency evacuation centers, with some forced to sleep under the open sky as the centers were filled up.

The fighting has left 12 dead, with one fatality, farmer Ricarte Dionio Jr., decapitated by fleeing BIFF fighters.

Erwin Viloan, another fatality, was found in another area of Midsayap, shot in the head.

“Nagsuot ng battle dress attire ng pantaas [si Dionio]. Napagkamalan siya,” said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, the unit which confronted the BIFF in Midsayap. “Pero ganun naman dito, eh. 'Yung mga farmers natin, (sinusuot nila ito) dahil magandang gamitin habang nagti-till sila ng farmland nila.”

“Pinatay siya ng BIFF, pinugutan ng ulo kahapon. Galit ako sa mga rebelde, pinatay nila ang anak ko,” said Virginia Dionio, Ricarte's mother, half in tears and half in anger.

Meanwhile, the BIFF were reported to have taken hostages, nine of whom were released early Tuesday morning. The hostages, teachers and barangay officials had been held at the Liwasan marsh.

“Mabait sila sa 'min. Pinasakay lang kami ng pump boat, pinakain, pinatulog,” said released hostage and teacher Josephine Galvez of the BIFF gunmen.

However, a fellow teacher, who was captured with her daughter and who escaped Monday night, understandably found the experience harrowing.

Earlier, 15 other civilians used as human shields were released.

Meanwhile, GMA News was able to contact BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, who said the teachers were released for their safety.

He added that all BIFF fighters have retreated from Midsayap, and, also, his group claimed responsibility for an attack in Tulunan, Cotabato.

Mama said that these attacks are part of the BIFF's efforts to establish a Bangsamoro Islamic State.

However, Hermoso countered that the group's attack was an effort to derail peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Evacuees seek refuge in Mlang

Meanwhile, at least 18 Maguindanoan families left their respectives homes in Barangay Malingao in Midsayap and sought refuge in the town of Mlang following the Monday clashes.

Hernan Dapudong, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) assistant, disclosed that at least 130 individuals, mostly children, are temporarily staying outside the mosque in Purok 7, Barangay Lepaga, Mlang, Cotabato.

Dapudong said the evacuees are relatives of village chair Abdullah Panangulon. 

But because the mosque cannot accommodate the evacuees, some of them built improvised makeshift shelters that serve as their temporary homes especially during nighttime.

Dapudong said because of the cold weather during the nighttime, some children are now suffering from colds, cough and fever.

The local government unit of Mlang has immediately provided food items and tarpaulins for shelter for the evacuees.

Mayor Joselito Pinol also ordered the town's health officials to conduct a medical outreach to attend to the health conditions of the children and the elderly.

"Even if they are not our constituents, it is our moral obligations to give them medical attention since they chose to stay in our town for their safety," Mayor Pinol said.

MNLF denies suggestion that pork barrel scam suspects funded Zamboanga attack

From GMA News (Sep 24): MNLF denies suggestion that pork barrel scam suspects funded Zamboanga attack

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) denied any truth to speculations made by two Magdalo party-list lawmakers that suspects in the pork barrel scam could have funded the Zamboanga City siege as a diversion.

"That is a lie. We can never accept funds from a corrupt source," MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla told GMA News Online in a text message.

He added that the government "has the interest to destroy [us because] we are winning the war in all aspects."

On Monday, Magdalo party-list representatives Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo alleged that at least P40 million was given to the MNLF for the Zamboanga siege, and speculated that the donors might have been involved in the pork barrel funds scam.

"We can say that the financier might come from the people involved in the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] scam,” Alejano said.

Both lawmakers figured in the November 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.

Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told GMA News Online that they have not received reports that the MNLF rebels who attacked Zamboanga City were funded by the scam suspects.

"I don't know where they got that," he said in a phone interview.

Zagala refused to elaborate, saying he doesn't want to get involved in these lawmakers' "politics."

"I can only react based on the data that we have. So far, wala kaming ganun," he said.

The MNLF first entered Zamboanga City on Sept. 9 to stake an independence bid there as they accused the government of sidelining a peace agreement it forged with the group in 1996.


Military braces for more BIFF attacks, deploys more troops to Central Mindanao

From InterAksyon (Sep 25): Military braces for more BIFF attacks, deploys more troops to Central Mindanao

The military said Wednesday it has deployed more troops to areas in Central Mindanao that could be the next targets of “terrorism activities” by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said there had been no skirmishes with the BIFF since Tuesday night but added that troops continue to conduct pursuit operations against the rebels who engaged security forces in clashes that began Sunday night in Midsayap town, North Cotabato.

The hostilities claimed the lives of at least three soldiers, four rebels and two farmers, one of whom was allegedly beheaded by the rebels.

More than 2,000 families from the Midsayap barangays of Nes, Patindigin, Polongoguen, Malingao, Nabalawag, Ranagaban, Tugal, Tumbras, and Agriculture.

“Our pursuit operations are (not letting up). We’ve intelligence reports about their next moves and we’re on active mode to ensure the safety of communities, civilians, roads, bridges, and vital installations,” Hermoso said.

The last firefight between government troops and BIFF gunmen happened past 7 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Mapagkaya Paidu Pulangi, Pikit, North Cotabato in which a blocking force of soldiers engaged more than 50 rebels.

No casualty was reported in the incident.

But in an indication that the violence had spilled over to neighboring areas, the military said it was monitoring the reported movement of 50 BIFF fighters in the Reina Regente complex in Barangay Dasawao, Sharif Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao.

“There is no significant incident in North Cotabato and Maguindanao as of now. The situation in Midsayap, North Cotabato is back to normal,” Hermoso said.

At the height of the fighting, the rebels allegedly seized more than 20 teachers, students and village officials from the elementary school in Barangay Malingao, Midsayap, using them as “human shields” to ward of pursuing government forces.
The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.


Confirmation of ISAFP chief endorsed amid objections of Jonas Burgos' mother

From InterAksyon (Sep 25): Confirmation of ISAFP chief endorsed amid objections of Jonas Burgos' mother

The subcommittee on national defense of the Committee on Appointments endorsed on Wednesday the confirmation of Brigadier General Eduardo Ano as chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The endorsement to the CA plenary to confirm Ano's appointment was made after the subcommittee set aside the continuing objections of Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos and widow of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr.

Ano is among the military officers the Burgos family believes ordered the abduction and subsequent disappearance of Jonas, who was snatched from a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007.

Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas moved for the endorsement of Ano's confirmation, to which there were no objections.

Farinas and other members of the committee explained they could no longer bar Ano's confirmation because the Department of Justice cleared him on September 3 of any complicity in the abduction of Jonas, pinning the blame only on Army Major Harry Baliaga, who led the unit that snatched the activist.

After the defense subcommittee hearing, the chairman, Capiz Representative Antonio del Rosario, counseled Ano to do everything he can to find Jonas, if only to prove his sincerity.

Several members of the subcommittee approached Ms. Burgos to tell her they sympathized with her but had no choice but to vote for the endorsement.

Although she acknowledged the endorsement of Ano's confirmation as a setback, Ms. Burgos said this would not stop her from continuing her quest for justice and for her son.


PAF choppers keeping constant watch on remaining MNLF

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): PAF choppers keeping constant watch on remaining MNLF

In a bid to prevent the remaining Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters from breaking through the military cordon in Barangay Sta. Barbara and Catalina, Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopters were deployed to conduct aerial reconnaissance Tuesday.

And once these helicopters spot a significant threat coming from the MNLF camp, the pilots can radio ground forces to deal with the latter.

"All our airborne choppers are conducting aerial reconnaissance," 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jefferson Somera said.

PAF combat support helicopters are constantly flying over the battlefield with MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopters being called from time to time to fire upon known MNLF positions.


Troops deployed in Zamboanga City mangrove areas to prevent MNLF fighters from escaping

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Troops deployed in Zamboanga City mangrove areas to prevent MNLF fighters from escaping

To prevent the surviving Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters from using the coasts in their escape, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Tuesday said that military units are now deployed to keep watch on Zamboanga City's mangrove areas.

He made this statement after noting that some cornered MNLF fighters tried to elude pursuing government troopers by running in the locality's mangrove forests.

However, the AFP managed to "neutralize" the MNLF group before they could gain cover.

With this, Zagala said that military units in Zamboanga City are now also patrolling the mangrove areas to ensure that no MNLF pockets can take cover there and escape.

The AFP public affairs office chief earlier said that six hostages were rescued during military clearing operations.

Cordoning and clearing operations are still ongoing in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

Zagala declined to comment on the exact size of the "constriction area" in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Catalina but said that units in the ground are resorting to "house-to-house" searches to ensure that no MNLF fighter will escape.

Earlier, the AFP reported rescuing 174 hostages out of the 183 taken captive by the MNLF last Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, troopers from the 1st Infantry Division's 44th Infantry Battalion and PNP-Special Action Force have successfully captured eight MNLF fighters during clearing operations in Barangay Sta. Barbara, Zamboanga City Tuesday morning.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that the encounter with government forces and the MNLF fighters took place around 8 a.m.

Units involved in the clearing operation are "A" Company and Scout Platoon of the 44th Infantry Battalion and the PNP-SAF.

Somera said that government units were conducting clearing operations in the above-mentioned area when they encountered an undetermined number of MNLF fighters of which they captured eight.


Military kills 4 rebels in anti-insurgency drive in NorMin

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): Military kills 4 rebels in anti-insurgency drive in NorMin

The military has killed four rebels and recovered 15 assorted firearms, including one improvised explosive device, in six separate encounters with the communist rebels in Northern Mindanao in September alone,

Capt. Christian Uy of the Army’s Public Affairs Office, said the intensified anti-insurgency operations also resulted in the surrender of eight New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who also turned over a total of 11 assorted firearms comprising Armalite rifles, carbines, and AK-47 assault rifles.

Uy said that the encounters with the NPA rebels took place in Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Bukidnon province from Sept. 10 to Sept. 22, 2013.

He said that the military has issued details of the encounters with the communist rebels in Northern Mindanao to inform the public of the rebel’s employment of atrocities and terror in the region.

The military engaged the NPA rebels during routine patrols and in response to reports of alleged NPA harassments among innocent civilians in areas where the armed skirmishes took place, Uy added.

Uy said the NPAs' attacked on an army patrol base in the farming village of Lantad, Kibanban in Misamis Oriental last Sunday morning where an Army sergeant and four other militiamen were killed.

The four killed militiamen in the Lantad firefight will each receive P90,000 financial assistance from the military, he said.

The communist rebels were employing harassments and indiscriminate attacks on civilian populated areas in their desperate attempt to regain lost ground in Northern Mindanao, Uy added.

He said that the NPA rebels would not succeed anymore since the civilians who were before deceived into believing a utopian ideology has lost faith in the communist doctrine of terror.


Misamis Oriental village cleared of landmines

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 25): Misamis Oriental village cleared of landmines
The military has cleared the farming village of Lantad of landmines, the former rebel stronghold in Misamis Oriental, the provincial Capitol announced on Wednesday.

Edmundo Pacamalan, Jr. the provincial administrative officer, said that combined forces of the military and police had successfully cleared the village of landmines planted by retreating communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The NPA on Sunday dawn overran an army detachment put up by the military to secure the village, killing an army sergeant and four other volunteer militiamen and left five others wounded.

At least 37 families, mostly members of the Higa-onon tribal groups, were evacuated to safer grounds near the highways in the coastal town of Balingasag as the military mounted clearing and pursuit operations in Lantad since Monday.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vicente Emano has mobilized the province social welfare development in coordination with other line agencies to assist the evacuees, Pacamalan said.

He said the province’s social welfare department would conduct stress debriefing on the victims, especially children, who were displaced in the Lantad siege.

Emano has also ordered the province’s planning department to submit a comprehensive development plan for Lantad and the rehabilitation of the all purpose weather road network left unattended by the previous administration.

He said his administration will work to meet the needs of the tribal communities in Lantad as the provincial government embarks on a mission to develop the area into a potential tourist destination.


Philippine Army: Lakbay Aral Para sa Kabataan successful

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Philippine Army: Lakbay Aral Para sa Kabataan successful

The 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion and the 302nd Infantry (Achiever) Brigade of the Philippine Army, in close partnership with the Negros Oriental Children Advocacy Network (ONCAN), the Department of Education, the Dumaguete City Tourism Office and the local government units had once again successfully conducted the “Bayanihan Para sa Kabataan” or the so-called “Lakbay Aral” over the weekend.

The 51 pupils of Sitio Cantombol Elementary School in Barangay Canggohob, Mabinay town in Negros Oriental were the beneficiaries of this event and are children of Indigenous People (IP), making the activity unique.

They were toured in Dumaguete City’s historical landmarks and major institutions. Much to the children’s amusement was the mall tour at Robinsons Place where they were given free food and free access to the mall’s gaming section.

Also, a lecture was given to them by the Anti-child Labor Council where they learned critical information needed to protect them and their rights from child abuse especially in the form of abusive child labor.

Aia Acabal, the school’s teacher-in-charge, expressed her utmost thanks to the kindness and blessings of the organizers and sponsors for choosing them as the beneficiaries, it is a big help to the pupils to widen their horizon and help create a positive outlook towards life.

This year is the second time that “Lakbay Aral” was conducted by the unit together with other stakeholders.


PNP-Special Action Force cited by Army for its support in anti-insurgency operations in Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): PNP-Special Action Force cited by Army for its support in anti-insurgency operations in Negros 

The 6th Special Action Battalion of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force received a plaque of appreciation from the Philippine Army for its assistance and support in the anti-insurgency operations of the 62nd Infantry Battalion in northern Negros Occidental recently.

Before the troops of the 6th SAB were deployed to Zamboanga City last week, they joined the 62nd IB in pursuing New People’s Army rebels on Sept. 14 that led to arrests and recovery of firearms.

“The recovery of nine firearms and the arrest of NPA members is the product of the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center in the Island of Negros,” said Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, during the Visayas Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center monthly meeting held at Westown Hotel in Iloilo City.

Baladad said the combined forces of the Army and the police who continue to conduct joint operations have strengthened their respective capabilities.

Combined military and police forces figured in a series of encounters with the NPA last Sept. 14 and 15 at the boundary of Barangay Magtuod, Toboso and Barangay Puey, Sagay City.

After the armed engagements, government forces recovered seven high-powered and two low-powered firearms, and captured three NPA members.

They also recovered the body of high-ranking rebel Herjun “Buboy” Llorente, who was killed in action.

Llorente was the squad leader of Squad 3 and vice commander of the Sentro de Grabidad Platoon of the NPA Northern Negros Front operating in Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava area.


New 2nd Air Division chief assures readiness against calamities

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): New 2nd Air Division chief assures readiness against calamities
Major General Romeo Poquis, newly assumed chief of the 2nd Air Division which covers the Visayan island, has assured readiness to respond in times of calamity particularly in Iloilo province.

He said that with the weather condition now where there is southwest monsoon the Philippine Air Force is ready to respond whenever needed.

Poquis, who paid courtesy call Tuesday to Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr., further said that they are ready to support all projects of the provincial government.

He said that they have C130 that is being frequently being used also during combat operations.


Rebels harass Albay countryside development caravan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Rebels harass Albay countryside development caravan

New People's Army rebels Tuesday morning harassed the Albay Countryside Development Caravan being held at Barangay Maninila, Camalig, Albay.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said that at about 9:30 a.m., while Sangguniang Panlalawigan Board Member Herbert Borja was explaining the objectives of the caravan, gunshots were heard -- prompting the residents and personnel of various government agencies to scamper for safety.

Government security forces immediately pursued the rebels who ran towards unknown direction.

The activity was attended by officials of Albay province, Camalig town headed by Mayor Carlos Baldo, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Office of Civil Defense Team Albay and non-government and civic organizations.

Salceda said the program is an initiative of the provincial government based on the "Pledge of an Albayano" to make the province the most livable place in the country.

The caravan being done in Barangay Maninila, the third leg of the program, also services residents of barangays Taloto, Taplacon, Panoypoy and Mabunga – all in Camalig town.

It provides health, social, livelihood, public safety, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and other relevant and necessary services to the villagers.


Army-NPA clash forces 81 families to flee homes in Sorsogon town

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Army-NPA clash forces 81 families to flee homes in Sorsogon town
An encounter between Army troopers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Sunday afternoon in Barangay Upper Maalo, Juban, Sorsogon, forced at least 81 families to scamper for safety, a report reaching the PNA Tuesday morning said.

The report said soldiers belonging to the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and a band of NPA guerrillas clashed at about 3 p.m. on Sunday in the upland village of Upper Maalo, some eight kilometers from the town proper.

As a result, the report added, 81 villagers caught in the crossfire immediately fled to neighboring villages.

Reline Arellano, public information officer of Juban town, said villagers started to evacuate to safer grounds at about 6 p.m. Sunday when the firefight intensified as the military sent two government helicopters to reinforce the men on ground with heavy gunfire at the area where the NPA rebels were sighted.

Arellano said Juban town officials immediately sent foodstuffs, blankets and medicines to the evacuees.

Bernardo Honra, village chief of Barangay Upper Maalo, allowed the 81 families to return home after given clearance by Juban officials when the situation returned to normal on Monday.

Army Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, confirmed that the Army's 31st IB engaged the services of two helicopters from the Philippine Air Force Technical Operations Group 5 in pursuing the NPA rebels.

Aguilar said "it is very unfortunate that civilians were affected during the armed skirmishes that took place on Sunday."

He, however, justified the military operation as move to drive away the armed group that were lording it over unarmed and defenseless civilian communities.

"We are very cautious in the conduct of security operations to ensure the safety of civilians, which is our primary consideration," Aguilar added.

He said several encounters between Army troopers and NPA rebels took place over the weekend in various villages in the towns of Magallanes, Bulan and Juban on Saturday and Sunday.

The first encounter occurred at about 4:50 p.m. on Saturday in Barangay Tula-Tula Sur in Magallanes town where a 45-minute firefight happened, resulting in the recovery of improvised explosive devices and backpacks, Aguilar said.

Another 20-minute engagement took place at the vicinity of Barangay Lapinog, Magallanes, at about 9:30 p.m. where one soldier was wounded during the clash.

In Bulusan town, NPA rebels fired at an Army detachment in Barangay Porog, Bulusan at about 11 a.m. Sunday. No casualty was reported.


Phiblex 2013 goes on humanitarian mission in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Phiblex 2013 goes on humanitarian mission in Albay

The joint Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex 13) has chosen Albay anew for its humanitarian and civic action mission..

The mission’s civic action activities will include repairs of typhoon-damaged school buildings and health services for thousands of indigent villagers. The team has physicians, dentists and nurses and stocks of medical supplies.

The civic and humanitarian mission will last for ten days – from September 25 to October 10. This will be the fourth time Albay will benefit from the same humanitarian mission, having been visited by the USS Peleliu in 2007, the RP-US Balikatan in 2009, and US Pacific Angel in 2010.

Governor Joey Salceda said Albay has been chosen by the mission in recognition of its effective disaster risk and reduction management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) initiatives, for which reason the United Nations has made it its global model.

The Phiblex 2013 team, composed of 36 members of the US Marine Corps led by Major Grace Janosek, arrived here last Sunday (Sept. 22) on board a US Marine Corps C-130 transport aircraft from its base in Okinawa, Japan.

They will be joined by an equal number of personnel from the Naval Forces Southern Luzon (Navforsol) based in this city, for the civic action activities in the barangays of Taysan, Victory Village and Bigaa in Legazpi City, among others.

Salceda said the humanitarian mission serves to further improve bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and the US, whose military personnel exchange experiences on matters concerning defense concerns and humanitarian services.

As one of the most disaster prone areas in the country, Albay has many success stories to share on DRRM and CCA. It has in fact institutionalized civil-military cooperation in disaster preparedness and response through its disaster response group, Team Albay.

Salceda said the Phiblex 13 humanitarian mission aims to further enhance interoperability, increase readiness, and enhance the ability to respond to natural disasters and related contingencies, aside from helping improve local infrastructure and quality of life.

The joint Philippine-US Marine Corps humanitarian mission will undertake three kinds of activities -- Engineering Civic Action Program (EnCAP), Humanitarian Community Assistance (HCA) and Cooperative Health Engagements (CHE).

Maj. Janosek’s group is a part of a larger U.S. Marines contingent that arrived in Clark, Pampanga recently for the U.S.-Philippines bilateral Phiblex 2013 exercises.


Update: BIFF attacks another town in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Update: BIFF attacks another town in North Cotabato

Moro bandits Tuesday attacked security forces of a banana firm in Tulunan, North Cotabato, the military here said.

The Army had to fire howitzers to drive away about 50 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who attacked the Delinanas Banana Plantation in Barangay Dungus, Tulunan at about 7 a.m.

Tulunan is about 15 kilometers away from Monday's skirmishes between BIFF and government forces.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said about 50 heavily armed BIFF forces led by Commanders Diok, Gani and Rikki fired at security personnel of Delinanas Banana Plantation in Barangay Dungus, Tulunan, North Cotabato.

Joint Army and Tulunan PNP (Philippine National Police) engaged the attackers in a firefight until about 9 a.m. No casualty was reported, according to Senior Inspector Jessie Cordero, Tulunan police chief.

Cordero said policemen and elements of the 57th IB are now deployed in Barangay Dungos which was the last village of Tulunan bordering Maguindanao marshland, the area of operation of the BIFF.

Led by former MILF field Commander Umra Ameril Kato, the BIFF broke away from the MILF following the botched signing of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008.

The military estimates of BIFF forces was about 1,000 fully armed men and responsible for atrocities against government forces in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

About 20 families living near the plantation have fled to safer grounds.


Woman hurt as twin blasts rock Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Woman hurt as twin blasts rock Maguindanao

Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Tuesday set off two improvised explosive devices along a major highway in Maguindanao that left a women slightly wounded, police here said.

Police Senior Inspector Gani Miro, chief of police of Parang town in Maguindanao, said the first explosion occurred from a roadside bomb recorded at 6:30 a.m. along the Secretary Narciso Ramos highway, particularly in Barangay Pinantao, Parang, Maguindanao.

Miro said Erlinda Bolanes, a commuter on board a Nissan Vanette, was slightly wounded when the blast occurred. She was declared out of danger by hospital staff of Camp SK Pendatun hospital.

According to Miro, Bolanes and three other family members from Barangay Sarmiento, Parang, Maguindanao, were heading toward Pagadian City when the improvised bomb went off.

Miro quoted bomb experts as saying that the twin IEDs were fashioned from 60 mm mortars with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

Portions of the Cotabato-Pagadian highway were temporarily shut down for about an hour.

The road also served as the only route toward the headquarters of the 601st Infantry Brigade in Barira, Maguindanao.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.


MNLF spotter killed, another arrested amid Zambo standoff

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): MNLF spotter killed, another arrested amid Zambo standoff

The government security forces have killed a suspected spotter of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels and captured another while conducting patrol in this city on Monday afternoon.

Another one, however, managed to escape on board a motorcycle and is subject of a police manhunt.

The spotters’ presence at a fruit stand along Don Alfaro Street, Barangay Tetuan, east of this city, were tipped off to the patrolling policemen amid the firefight in the “areas of concerns.”

Police Station 6 commander Chief Insp. Elmer Acuña said the policemen were patrolling when they received report around 5 p.m. Monday about the presence of three suspected MNLF spotters riding-tandem on a motorcycle who stopped at a fruit stand.

When accosted, two of the suspects alighted while one remained on the motorcycle.

While a suspect's mobile phone is being checked, Acuña said one of them grabbed the firearm of a policeman prompting other policemen to shoot him dead.

Acuña said the confiscated mobile phone contains vital information about the government forces.

Acuña said the other suspect tried to escape but was cornered by policemen. The one on the motorcycle managed to escape during the commotion.


Fresh fighting between AFP, BIFF breaks anew in Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 24): Fresh fighting between AFP, BIFF breaks anew in Cotabato

Units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) engaged in fresh fighting in Tulunan town, Cotabato Tuesday early morning.

This took place after BIFF released 13 hostages earlier.

AFP deputy public affairs chief Major Angelo Guzman maintained that the safety of civilians will be their priority.

Earlier Tuesday, Philippine Army 7th Civil Relations Group commander Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the BIFF released at least 13 civilians the group abducted in Midsayap in Cotabato on Monday.

For her part, Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said the Midsayap local government and crisis management committee had no recommendation to suspend classes in the town for Tuesday.

"The local government unit of Midsayap and the Crisis Management Committee ha(ve) no recommendation to suspend classes except for barangays directly affected by the recent firefights," she said in a 5:15 a.m. post on her Facebook page.

Cabunoc said the BIFF abducted 16 people during the Midsayap clash, leaving three soldiers dead.

He said the 16 included 13 schoolteachers during the attacks occurred in Polangoguen and Tuwal villages.

"The captors agreed to release all of the trapped residents including four out of 13 school teachers who were held at gunpoint together with four village officials," he said.

Meanwhile, he said the Army headquarters in Camp Siongco has lowered its flag in half-mast to honor the soldiers who died to save the hostages.

Meanwhile, Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said that their troopers have recovered bodies of two civilians in Dimapulot Malinao and Sitio Babonao, Barangay Agriculture, both in Midyasayap town.

He identified the dead victims as Ricardo Dionio and Erwin Badao Viloan.

Both men were shot to death with Dionio having his head decapitated.