Thursday, September 26, 2013

Come Home Alive: Paradise Lost (docu on 2001 Dos Palmas Kidnapping) airs on GMA News TV

From GMA News (Sep 25): Come Home Alive: Paradise Lost (docu on 2001 Dos Palmas Kidnapping) airs on GMA News TV

On May 27, 2001, a breathtaking island hideaway in Palawan was visited by a nightmare.  Gunmen from the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf stormed the beach of the Dos Palmas Island Resort and rounded up 16 tourists and four of the staff.

Among them were Americans Martin and Gracia Burnham, who were there to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. After looting the hotel, the Abu Sayyaf escaped via speedboat across the Sulu Sea to Basilan, taking along their captives.

Over the course of a year, some hostages escaped, some were killed, and some were released. But the Burnhams, along with captive Deborah Yap were held for 376 days … until Scout Rangers located the terrorist group and opened fire. Only Gracia would survive.

GMA News TV airs the History Channel documentary “Come Home Alive: Paradise Lost” that offers a firsthand account by survivor Gracia Burnham and expert analysis on the crisis and the bloody fire fight that ended it.

From the moment the attackers emerged from the jungle to the bloody culmination of the year-long saga, “Come Home Alive: Paradise Lost” tracks the ordeal that cost the lives of several hostages and attracted worldwide attention to the Muslim separatist movement in the Philippines. At the center of this harrowing tale are Martin and Gracia Burnham, American missionaries who had served poor Filipinos since 1986.

The historical documentary “Come Home Alive: Paradise Lost” airs on GMA News TV Channel 11 on September 29, Sunday at 11PM.

Misuari aide accuses govt of ‘oust Nur’ bid

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 26): Misuari aide accuses govt of ‘oust Nur’ bid

The Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation on Wednesday accused the government of using a ‘divide and rule tactic’ in its bid to unseat Misuari from the rebel movement.

Misuari spokesman Absalom Cerveza said the tactic emerged following the formation of a new  MNLF cluster that would act as representative to the peace negotiations with its rebel faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The sole purpose of this is to eventually unseat Misuari as chairman of the MNLF because he is facing a case,” Cerveza said.

He disclosed that the new MNLF cluster would be headed by Jimmy Labawan, the former vice chairman under Misuari, who actively took part in previous peace negotiations with the government during the 70s.

Cerveza said the group also include Randy Karon and Pendie Colano and a few others reportedly as MNLF representatives to the peace negotiations with the government in local and international engagement.

“The government planned this because they think Misuari will not be in the position to negotiate because of the case that he would be facing, that’s why they formed a new group,” Cerveza said.

“The new cluster will be coming up with a resolution asking the government that they would be the ones who would represent the MNLF in the Jakarta meeting if there would be talks,” he added.

But Cerveza claimed that the  MNLF group would have no international bearing to the peace talks since it is Misuari who is the duly-recognized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jakarta, and was the one who brokered the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF culminating in 1976.

“Misuari is the legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people and the MNLF under Misuari as the permanent observer member to the OIC,” he explained.

Cerveza said that the new MNLF council had been formed by Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles and an unidentified ranking military official.

“What is important is that a military official is involved.” In other words, this is a divide and rule tactics by the military,” he said, referring to the MNLF council of 15 of former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema formed thru a government initiative aimed at unseating Misuari.

“Di ko makuha ibig sabihin ni brothers Jimmy Labawan, Randy Karon, Pendie Colano and others initiating a move “to save MNLF on the dwindling status.” They’re having a meeting in Davao now,” a text message sent to Cerveza yesterday apparently by Misuari trusted followers.

With a new set of MNLF officials, Labawan could take over Misuari’s position as chairman of the organization.

“This is another government bullying attempt to create a confusing scenario in the midst of the Zambonga City impasse,” Cerveza said.

Meanwhile, Ener Misuari, a commander and nephew of Nur Misuari, led 36 MNLF rebels who  surrendered before noon Wednesday at the boundary of Barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara in Zamboanga City.

Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II confirmed the surrender of Misuari and his men who he said are now under police custody.

Acting Armed Forces Public Affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said Misuari and his men  brought with them 23 high-powered firearms.

Cabunoc said the MNLF ground commander Habier Malik, together with his two buddies “refused” to surrender and had remained holed out in the “constriction” area.
Before the “clearing” operations ensued, the military said Ener Misuari’s group was holding at least 87 hostages.

On Tuesday, Salip Idjal and his remaining seven men surrendered in Sta. Catalina.
Meanwhile, the military and the police have yet to issue official confirmation on reports about the death of Tadsna Ismael whose group held 36 hostages.

Other  commanders who had joined Malik in the siege are Commander Usong Uggong and his men who reportedly held 20 hostages and the group of Commander Asamin Hussin, who is holding an undetermined number of hostages.

In a related development, 1Lt. Ian Paquit of the Light Reaction Company (LRC) is already in stable condition in a hospital after he was hit by a bullet in neck during rescue operations Tuesday evening in Sta. Catalina.

Cabunoc said Paquit’s team rescued American James West and his wife, Lucy, both in their 60s, at around 6 p.m.

The military also reported Wednesday, the 17th day of the standoff, four more MNLF fighters were killed while 36 surrendered to military forces conducting clearing operations in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina Wednesday morning.

One soldier was killed while another was reported wounded in the firefight.

Troopers responsible for these successful operation are the AFP’s Light Reaction Battalion, Special Forces, 44th Infantry Battalion and the PNP-Special Action Force.
Cabunoc placed the number of remaining MNLF fighters at “five to 10” with MNLF commander Habier Malik included.

He added that the number of reels at the constriction area is now very small.
“They (remaining MNLF fighters) could be in just one building in the constriction area,” he said.

He urged the remaining to peacefully surrender adding that the government will treat them fairly.

AFP braces for more BIFF attacks; vigilante group to fight rebels

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 26): AFP braces for more BIFF attacks; vigilante group to fight rebels

MalacaƱang on Wednesday warned the Ilaga and other vigilante groups in Mindanao not to take the law into their hands after the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front attacks in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, even as the military said that it is bracing for more attack and has deployed more troops in areas believed to be the next targets of “terrorism activities” by the BIFF.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said there was no encounter since Tuesday night but troops continue to conduct pursuit operations on specific targets.

“We’re not letting up on our pursuit operations. We received intelligence reports about their next move and we’re on active mode to ensure the safety of communities, civilians, roads, bridges, and vital installations,” Hermoso said.

MalacaƱang, meanwhile, made the warning against the Ilaga amid reports that members of the vigilante group – a dreaded group of armed Christian settlers in the 1970s, had been massing up to fight the BIFF.

“We would like to call on all these groups to let the military do its job. Let the law enforcement authorities do their job,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

In a radio interview, Ilaga commander Mike Santiago said his group has chosen to remain silent in the past to show support to the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

But Santiago said they could not allow the beheading of the farmer to go unpunished.

The Ilaga group was formed to counter the problem of Muslim insurgency in Mindanao. The group’s horrifying trademark included mutilating their victims.

Lacierda said the government has yet to determine if the attacks in North Cotabato and Maguindanao were related to the 17-day hostage standoff in Zamboanga City between state forces and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Zamboanga City, meanwhile, is slowly returning to normal, with the resumption of commercial shipping to Tawi-Tawi and the opening of 149 elementary and secondary schools as well as the city’s biggest mall, Lacierda said.

He also chided the camp of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari for daring the government to arrest the rebel leader and file rebellion charges against him.

“We will use government resources to do the right thing. And our Department of Justice prosecutors are on the ground. They will come up with an airtight case against those responsible,” he added.

The standoff has claimed more than 100 lives since hundreds of MNLF rebels invaded the key trading center of Zamboanga.

The government is preparing to release at least P3.89 billion to rehabilitate Zamboanga City, which will be sourced from the P6.1 billion contingency fund.

The rehabilitation fund would cover relief assistance, the construction of temporary bunk houses, shelter and livelihood assistance, educational assistance, cash-for-work program, and supplementary feeding program for the affected residents.

At least 118,000 people have fled their homes because of the heavy fighting between troops and MNLF rebels, prompting the government to call their plight a “humanitarian crisis.”

The standoff has claimed more than 100 lives since hundreds of MNLF rebels invaded the key trading center of Zamboanga.

Hermoso, meanwhile, said the last firefight between government troops and BIFF elements happened past 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Bgy. Mapagkaya Paidu Pulangi in Pikit, North Cotabato where a blocking force of soldiers engaged more than 50 BIFF fighters.

No casualty from both sides was reported.

The military said it continues to monitor the reported movement of some 50 BIFF rebels in the Reina Regente Complex in Barangay Dasawao, Sharif Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Albay hosts joint US-PH civic action

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 27): Albay hosts joint US-PH civic action

The joint US-Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex 2013) ten-day humanitarian and civic action activities in Albay are now underway.

Phiblex has chosen Albay again for this mission, actually its fourth time having been visited by the USS Peleliu in 2007, the RP-US Balikatan in 2009, and  US Pacific Angel in 2010.

The mission started September 25  and will last until October 10. The mission’s engagements 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.

Gov. 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 reasons the United Nations has made it its global model in these fields.

The Phiblex 2013 team consists of 36 members of the US Marine Corps led by Major Grace Janosek whose USMarine Corps C-130 transport aircraft landed here from Okinawa, Japan, and an equal number of personnel from the Naval Forces Southern Luzon (Navforsol) based in this city. Beneficiary villages include Barangays 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.

$24M US grant facility set for rollout

From MindaNews (Sep 27): $24M US grant facility set for rollout

A United States-funded grant facility worth $24 million is set to be rolled out to strengthen initiatives in five key development areas, including promoting entrepreneurship, in the country.

US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said the project is in line with the Partnership for Growth (PFG), a bilateral engagement “that seeks to assist the Philippines achieve the goal of moving from a low growth path to a higher, sustained and more inclusive growth trajectory in line with other high-performing emerging economies.”

“We want to see the Philippines become an economic tiger. We also want to see the Philippines improve its economic standing in ASEAN,” he said Tuesday at the Kapihan sa Embahada here.

The PFG, which was signed by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, is a P40-billion US assistance package intended to enhance economic opportunities and other development initiatives in the country, he said.

Thomas said the US government remains committed to helping the Philippines achieve economic growth.

The US government considers the strategic importance of the Philippines as a staunch ally in the Asia Pacific region, a PFG briefer said.

In line with the PFG initiatives, the soon-to-be launched project is called the Philippine-American (Phil-Am) Fund.

The Phil-Am Fund acts as a grant-making facility in the areas of enterprise development and entrepreneurship, governance and transparency, human trafficking, education and environment.

The Gerry Roxas Foundation won the contract to implement the Phil-Am Fund. The other project partner is SyCip Gorres Velayo and Co.

Ma. Rosamund Parado, the foundation’s executive director, said on Tuesday the Phil-Am Fund will be launched in Manila on September 30 and on October 2 in Cebu.
The launching for Mindanao has yet to be set, she added.

Parado urged groups to grab the opportunity by submitting proposals anchored on the five focus areas.

Besides providing seed grants, the Phil-Am Fund will also build the capacity of grantees by providing training in project and financial management, a project briefer said.

The fund is open to local private for-profit and non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, universities, research organization, professional associations, faith-based and community organizations and other special interest groups.

In some cases and pre-determined caps, proposals from US organizations may also be accepted, the briefer said.

Parado said that for local groups, there’s “no funding cap for project proposals.”

2 killed in Lanao Sur clash

From MindaNews (Sep 27): 2 killed in Lanao Sur clash

A soldier and an unidentified gunman were killed following an encounter at an Army checkpoint in Madalum town, Lanao del Sur at around 6:45 a.m. Friday, a military official said.

Col. Glen Macasero, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said the slain gunman was part of a group of armed men on board a multi-cab and a pick-up truck that passed by the Army checkpoint.

“This checkpoint is fixed and sometimes not manned by soldiers. Maybe the gunmen thought that way and was surprised when they saw there were soldiers manning the checkpoint,” Macasero said.

Apparently caught by surprise, Macasero said the gunmen sprayed the outpost with gunfire, killing a soldier, whose name was not released pending notification to his family, on the spot.

Macasero said the soldiers fired back and killed one of the passengers of the multi-cab, which the armed men abandoned.

He added the other gunmen fled to the mountains of nearby Ganassi town using the pickup vehicle, bringing with them another supposed fatality.

Macasero said the soldiers recovered from the multi-cab an M16 rifle, an M1 carbine and a Caliber .45 pistol.

He said the gunmen were believed to be members of a criminal group and not fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Bodies of slain MNLF fighters rot in Zamboanga City battlefield

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 26): Bodies of slain MNLF fighters rot in Zamboanga City battlefield

Volunteers bury the bodies of Muslim rebels killed in the 12-day standoff in a common grave at the outskirts of Zamboanga city in southern Philippines Friday Sept. 20, 2013. AP
Death, literally, is in the air in Barangay (village) Santa Catalina, Santa Barbara and Rio Hondo here.

Bodies of slain Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces have started to rot in the battlefield, according to Army troops fighting the MNLF.

Colonel Ignacio Obligacion, commander of Task Force Igsoon, said he has been requesting the Crisis Management Committee, through the village officials, to send something to cover the smell.

“Yung amoy ilang araw na yan pero ang ikinakabahala ko ay ang possible spread ng disease (The stench has been there for several days but I’m worried about the possible spread of disease),” Oligacion said.

One officer, who asked not to be named, said they had to end the fighting as soon as possible because the stench has become unbearable.

In Santa Catalina, a group of policemen huddling and taking cover in a wall said they saw dead bodies in the interior part of the village. But recovering the bodies, they said, would be too risky because of rebel snipers in the area.

Almost all houses and structures are razed while debris and trash are scattered in the streets. The structures that withstood the gunbattle are riddled with bullets.

The streets are deserted, except for the presence of government troops and military trucks.

But fighting continued on Thursday, the 18th day of the standoff.

At dawn, successive loud explosions, believed to be delivered by artillery rounds from the Philippine Navy on Talon-talon, were heard.

The military said a total of 40 MNLF forces surrendered Wednesday night and Thursday dawn.

On Wednesday, two MNLF commanders and their 32 followers also surrendered.

“Nagtataka ako kung bakit marami yung sumusuko. Ibig sabihin marami sila sa loob since the start of this attack (I wonder why so many are surrendering.  This means that many joined the MNLF since the start of this attack),” Obligacion said.

Six hostages, mostly students, were also rescued.

But Obligacion said four soldiers were killed in the fighting Wednesday night and Thursday dawn.

Captain Arvin Lawrence Llenaresas, commander of the 7th Scout Ranger Company, confirmed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer the surrender.

“May mga sumurender sa amin na may mga dalang armas (There were those who surrendered with arms),” he said.  “We are happy because we see the end soon,” he added.

The MNLF members were brought to the Zamboanga City Police Station for registration and interrogation.

Early Thursday morning, two fires broke in Barangay Rio Hondo and Sumatra Island, which is part of the village of Talon-Talon.

The Philippine Navy also recovered a wooden hull that could accommodate 40 to 50 people and a motorlaunch that can carry about a hundred people.

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said a total of 162 MNLF forces have been captured and 138 killed.

Zagala said they have accounted for four MNLF commanders. Of the four, two Usong Ugong and Salip Idjal, are alive. Two others — a certain Kumander Haider of Sibugay and Ustadz Ismael Dasta of Basilan — were killed during the fighting.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said Haider was known as one of the chief commanders of Misuari.

Huesca also corrected reports that Ener Misuari, who surrendered on Wednesday, was “just a follower, and not a commander.

But the government also suffered losses.

Zagala said 19 soldiers and five policemen were killed and a total of 180 were wounded in the fighting.

Of those killed, four were officers—Inspector Jay Oyoyan, 1st Lieutenant John Kristopher Rama, 1st Lieutenant Francis Damian and 2nd Lieutenant Florencio Mikael Meneses.

“We are dealing with a different terrain here. It’s called military operation urban terrain,” Zagala said.

“That is the reason why we incur a lot of injuries,” he added.

MNLF last stand: ‘Enemies will to fight waning’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 27): MNLF last stand: ‘Enemies will to fight waning’
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Habier Malik remained with his men, making a last stand even after nearly 200 of his fighters had been captured or had surrendered, and 138 had been killed.

“To be able to capture him is a big factor. The enemies’ will to fight is waning and they [are low on] ammunition,” Zagala said.

Two of the Marine soldiers who were killed belonged to the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3. They encountered MNLF rebels coming from the fishpond of Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology in the village of Rio Hondo at around 4:25 a.m. Thursday.

A firefight broke out, which lasted for 20 minutes.

Three MNLF rebels were killed in the fighting.

The conflict has claimed the lives of 23 security forces with 180 wounded.

Twelve civilians have died in the fighting in the past two weeks.

Rebel strength

In an earlier interview, Zagala said the military was trying to determine whether the rebels were still holding hostages, as the rescue of the six residents indicated that all those reported taken have been recovered.

Zagala explained that the security forces want to ensure that there won’t be any civilians caught in the crossfire as they press on to get Malik and the remnants of his group.

The 18-day conflict was a rescue mission for the estimated 200 hostages taken by Nur Misuari’s followers since they attempted to take over Zamboanga City Hall, hoist their flag and declare an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

President Aquino, who stayed in Zamboanga for more than a week to oversee the operations, ordered a surgical and deliberate military action to prevent the loss of civilian lives.

Zagala said the military was reassessing the information it earlier received on the strength of the MNLF band.

He said the military initially estimated that there were 300 to 400 fighters in the coastal areas of the city but the figure was later reduced to 180, the number of rebels who landed in the coastal villages on the morning of Sept. 9.

“Let me emphasize that [the figure] we earlier came out with [on the MNLF strength] was an estimate. There was not a lot of information yet,” he said.

The released hostages and the captured rebels have given the security forces more information that could be considered as the security forces press on to find Malik, Zagala said.

Rebs kill 1 soldier in ComVal clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 27): Rebs kill 1 soldier in ComVal clash

A soldier was killed when government troops clashed with communist rebels in Mawab, Compostela Valley on Friday, police said.

The fatality was identified by Compostela Valley police chief Senior Superintendent  Camilo Cascolan as Cpl. Wahid Saijili, a member of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion.

Cascolan said the clash occurred while a squad of soldiers led by S/Sgt. Edilberto Grumo was patrolling the vicinity of the village of Tanawan around 8:10 a.m.

“The soldiers encountered an undetermined number of New People’s Army rebels, sparking a firefight that killed one soldier,” Cascolan told the Inquirer in a text message.

He said government forces were pursuing the rebels.

BIFF claims beheaded farmer in Midsayap a cop

ABS-CBN (Sep 26): BIFF claims beheaded farmer in Midsayap a cop

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) spokesperson Abu Missry Mama on Thursday admitted that they were responsible for beheading farmer Ricarte Dionio in Midsayap, North Cotabato, but claimed that Dionio was not actually a farmer but a member of Philippine National Police's Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

"Oo kami yun pero hindi lang siya ordinaryong magsasaka, isa siyang member ng PNP-SAF. Nakita namin ang ID niya at meron din siyang baril. Sila ang nagdadala ng warrant of arrest namin at lahat ng kakampi ng gubyerno ay kalaban namin kahit Muslim pa yan," Mama said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is in peace talks with the Philippine government.

Mama also claimed responsibility for the series of attacks in other towns in North Cotabato, but denied involvement in the twin blast in Parang, Maguindanao on Tuesday which injured a 54-year-old woman.

"Oo kami yung nakasagupa ng AFP sa Midsayap, Tulunan, sa Pikit at sa Mlang. Pero hindi kami yung sa Buldon at yung nambomba sa Parang. Sinabi ko naman sayo na wala kaming kakayahang gumawa ng bomba," he said.

He said the BIFF stands firm on what they want. He added they will not stop attacking unless government troops step out of Mindanao.

"Yan lang ang gusto naming mangyari, umalis na sila sa Mindanao para wala na kaming mabaril. Yun ay [kung] gusto talaga nila ng peace sa Mindanao."

Mama also said they don't have plans of getting back to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because the BIFF has a different perspective.

"Kung sila ang sasali sa amin, titingnan namin kung papasa sila, pero kung kami, no way! Iba ang pananaw nila, hindi Jihad yang ginagawa nila kasi nahahaluan na ng pulitika," he explained.

He also said the BIFF will never run out of resources in terms of firearms and ammunition. He said they have enough forces to fight until they attain independence.

"Paano kami mauubusan ng bala at baril eh diyan din kami bumibili at kumukuha sa mga sundalo."

"Hindi kami nananakit ng sibilyan pero hiling namin sa mga nakatira malapit sa mga detachment ng sundalo na umalis na sila para hindi na sila madamay pa at hindi kami matawag na mga terorista," Mama said.

6 more Misuari followers in custody, firefight resumes on 19th day of Zambo crisis

From GMA News (Sep 27): 6 more Misuari followers in custody, firefight resumes on 19th day of Zambo crisis

Some MNLF gunmen remain defiant even in captivity

Even at the last minute, a captured MNLF gunman shows defiance as government forces bring them to a police station in Zamboanga City to be processed on Thursday, September 26. About 17 more suspected MNLF members were taken into custody in Barangay Sta. Barbara. This brings to more than 200 the number of Misuari followers arrested as of 7 p.m. Thursday, according to the Zamboanga City police. As of Wednesday evening, the military said at least 125 MNLF members, 15 soldiers, five police officers and 13 civilians were killed in the conflict.

At least six more followers of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari were taken into custody Friday even as fighting resumed on the 19th day of clashes between government and MNLF forces in Zamboanga City.
The fighting in Sta. Barbara village in the city broke a 12-hour silence, radio dzBB's Benjie Liwanag Jr. reported.
The report said the MNLF members were brought to the city police office where medical personnel attended to their wounds.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Friday that 45 Misuari followers under female commander Misba Baladji said surrendered due to injuries and hunger.

45 Misuari fighters under female commander Misba Baladji yesterday said they were forced to surrender because of injuries and hunger.
It added Baladji, 69, had taken over her dead husband's role.
The AFP quoted Baladji as saying she was promised P15,000 by a "trusted deputy" of Misuari to join a so-called peace march.
For its part, the Philippine National Police said many of the MNLF fighters who surrendered Thursday also claimed they had been similarly "deceived."
"May mga nagsabi they were deceived," PNP deputy for operations Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr. said in an interview on dzBB radio Friday.
Misuari's followers started the crisis Sept. 9 when they engaged government in a standoff by taking civilians hostage.
The government has since retaken most of the MNLF-controlled areas.

MILF: NICEF conducts Tahderiyyah Teachers Assessment Workshop on the 313 sites expansion

From the MILF Website (Sep 27): BDA, UNICEF conducts Tahderiyyah Teachers Assessment Workshop on the 313 sites expansion

(In) a bid to strengthen the implementation of Tahderiyyah (pre-school) Program, an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) services and Basic Education in conflict affected areas in Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted “Tahderiyyah Teachers Assessment Workshop.”
The activity was held simultaneously on September 23 to 25, 2013 in six regions namely: Central Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Ranaw, Zamboanga Peninsula, Zamboanga and Basilan, and Davao Region Psyche Vetta G. Olayvar, Education Specialist from UNICEF Philippine Country Office said the assessment is very important so that they will know how to strengthen the implementation of the program in 313 private Madaris (plural for Madrasa or Islamic school).

Started in 2009, Tahderiyyah Program is a joint effort of BDA and UNICEF. The program developed the Tahderiyyah Curriculum which blends Universal Values and the principles/science of ECCD, supports the advocacy and mandates of the Education for All (EFA) and the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Olayvar said, “It is important that we draw issues and concerns faced by Tahderriyah teachers as basis to improve the second phase of program implementation.”

The education specialist also cited the important role being played by Development Catalysts, volunteers which handles social mobilization and supervision of Tahderiyyah sites.

She added that the workshop result will be presented to BDA, UNICEF and Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID) as bases for the planning in moving forward.

The Tahderiyyah Teachers from six regions were invited to provide inputs to the workshop.

The participants aired their recommendations on how to strengthen collaboration with the local stakeholders in order to sustain the Madaris operations.

They also noted that kids under Tahderiyyah program learn proper dress code, being courteous, and memorize verses from the Holy Qur’an.

The teachers are confident that the preschoolers will grow as “productive and responsible citizens of the country.”

Aside from developing the curriculum, Tahderiyyah program includes teaching enhancement training for the teachers, training for administering schools for the Mudir (school administrator), feeding, and provision of teaching materials.

Tahderriyah Curriculum was already recognized by DepEd, thus preschoolers who graduated from Madaris which adopt such curriculum are admissible to elementary.

Surrender of 37 MNLF fighters elates ZC folks

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 26): Surrender of 37 MNLF fighters elates ZC folks

Residents heaved a sigh of relief yesterday after a report broke out that 37 MNLF fighters, who endured the series of heavy fighting with government troops since Sept. 9, have surrendered with their firearms in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.
But a military spokesman in Manila said that Habier Malik, the militant leader of the MNLF group from Sulu, refused to yield and remained holed up together with a handful of followers in the Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo area.
Philippine Army 7th Civil Relations Group commander Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the 37, which included an alleged aide of Habier Malik, yielded 23 high-powered firearms.
The surrender was preceded by another heavy exchange of fire early yesterday morning, the 17th day of the crisis.
The strategy of the military that is to let the MNLF fighters become weary and hungry appeared to have produced good result with the surrender of the 37. Air and sea strikes might have also shocked and demoralized the surrenderers, except for Malik and hardcore followers.
Residents of Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Mariki were however reminded not to return to their homes yet as it is still not safe to do so.
The city government issued the reminder after residents in one of the villages tried to return to their homes but were blocked yesterday morning.
“Barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Mariki are unsafe for its residents to go back to. Clearing operations still ongoing,”  a City Hall advisory said.
Earlier in the day, residents of Rio Hondo village tried to return to their homes to get their belongings.
he residents, who were not allowed to enter the village, said they were told they had two hours to retrieve their belongings.
Sources said that it was an MNLF “spotter” who spread the word that residents of Rio Hondo can already go back to their homes, apparently a deception move to cover a planned escape of Malik and company.
Children were among the Rio Hondo residents who walked as far as 4.5 kilometers from the the Enriquez Sports Complex evacuation center to try to get to their homes.
President Aquino instructed Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio “Butch” Abad to set aside P3.89 billion for relief and rehabilitation activities in Zamboanga City, particularly for communities affected by the standoff between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
According to the preliminary estimates of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the total requirement of P3.89 billion will effectively fund continuing relief operations alongside education, shelter and livelihood assistance in the aftermath of the Zamboanga siege.
“President Aquino has personally attended to the situation in Zamboanga to ensure that peace and security are immediately restored in the city. The Administration’s efforts to bring back order in Zamboanga include the provision of relief aid for displaced or affected families, as well as the implementation of rehabilitation activities that will help the communities recover from the recent conflict,” Abad said.
The budget chief added that the financial assistance will be sourced from the 2013 Contingency and Calamity Funds, which have remaining current balances of P1.2 billion and P4.9 billion, respectively.
“By their very design, the Contingency and Calamity funds should support relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction activities, and other services in connection with situations that require urgent action. In Zamboanga’s case, we’re seeing a crisis resulting from armed conflict, so it’s even more crucial for us to tap these funds and deliver assistance to the communities as swiftly as possible,”Abad said.
DBM said that the  P3.89-billion allocation will be broken down into the following major relief and rehabilitation priorities:
1. Continuing relief assistance for 23,794 families  -  P 178,455,000.00
2. “Balik probinsya,” which includes transport fees and incidentals for 2,125 displaced families    -  P10,625,000.00
3. Educational assistance which includes supplies and allowances for 21,387 teenage/college students    -  P106,935,000.00
4. Supplementary feeding program for 120 days for 15,446 families    - P24,095,760.00
5. Cash for work for 23,794 families    - P149,902,200.00
6. Construction of bunkhouses/transitional shelter for 21,252 affected families    — P797,250,000.00
7. Shelter assistance for P21,252 affected families    — P2,125,200,000.00
8. Livelihood assistance for seed capital for 21,252 families    — P 212,520,000.00
9. Operational and project management requirements    — P 285,017,040.00
The details and figures are as of September 18, 2013, according to the budget department.

Misuari: Reports from "reliable sources"

Posted the Facebook page of Nur Misuari (Sep 26): Reports from "reliable sources"


1. AFP used some sort of "GAS" that led to the capture of the group of "Enir Misuari". Their intention was that Allah bless them with shahada, unfortunately the AFP is using unconventional warfare techniques that led them to their "arrest". They were only 5 of them... captured. The AFP will add civilians just to increase the numbers.

2. Enir Misuari who is from Sibugay is not related to Chairman Nur P. Misuari , the AFP is using him as propaganda and keeping in WESMINCOM and trying to fool the media that he is related to the Chairman which is not true. The AFP will lie to their teeth to fan their propaganda. The AFP probably know the truth by now, that he is not related to the chairman but the AFP will keep it hidden until their Media Puppets will get to his real identity.

3. Karawan MNLF Forces, MNLF-Integrees combined, Zambo Mainland MNLF Forces plus other "unknown" forces are on stand-by for the after salatul-jumuah "gatherings of shuhada" tomorrow, Friday, Insha Allah -- [Allahu Akbar]
4. Please do not ignore text messages, keep away from military targets.

5. Please make increase your dua'a, make dua qunoot and keep your self busy in Zikr, remembrance of Allah as per advise from the the group of Ulama Jamaat now positioned to join the "gathering of shuhada" tomorrow, insha Allah.

6. The mujahidin forces esp. the Ulama in the battle zone are worried about the state of affairs of Muslims in the grandstand where they being slowly injected with non-islamic activities and beliefs.

Please share this status ! And may Allah (SWT) keeps us safe, Ameen!

- Combined admin reports gathered from reliable source

Troops suffer casualties in clashes with Nur’s MNLF

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 27): Troops suffer casualties in clashes with Nur’s MNLF

Scores of casualties were inflicted on government forces in separate clashes with followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in Zamboanga City yesterday, the 18th day of the armed conflict.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Public Affairs Office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said three soldiers were killed during the continuous clearing operations while six hostages were rescued.

“Since last night up to this morning, we were able to capture 45 MNLF Misuari faction members and we were able to rescue the six hostages but, unfortunately, in the course of the action, we have three killed and six wounded in action,” he added.

In Rio Hondo, which is among the five barangays occupied by the MNLF fighters since Sept. 9, two soldiers and three Misuari followers were reported killed during a clash around 4:25 a.m. yesterday.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, AFP-PAO assistant chief, said elements of the 33rd Marine Company were conducting blocking operations along the vicinity of Zamboanga State College of Marine Science & Technology in Barangay Rio Hondo when they clashed with the MNLF fighters.

Two Marine soldiers were killed and five others were wounded during the 20-minute firefight.

Government troops also recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle.

Guzman said the encountered MNLF fighters were not reinforcements but they have been in Barangay Rio Hondo since Day One.

Aside from barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, where the focus of military operations are ongoing, and Rio Hondo, the MNLF fighters also occupied barangays Talon-Talon, Mariki and Mampang where sporadic clashes have been erupting.

But the military pressed on with efforts to end the standoff against the remnants of the MNLF force who are hiding out in homes of devastated neighborhoods.

“The terrain is urban, there is a lot of rubble, a lot of houses to hide in,” Zagala said.
“It’s very difficult for troops to operate in. The enemy can hide in areas where they can shoot from a high position.”

Twenty-three security forces and 12 civilians have died in the conflict, according to Zagala.

He said 138 MNLF troops had also been killed, while another 218 had been captured or surrendered.

After giving a daily commentary on how many MNLF rebels were still hiding out — figures that have since appeared to be underestimates — Zagala declined yesterday to say how many the military were still pursuing.

According to him, authorities are now assessing the counter-checking with the rescued hostages and those who were captured or surrendered as to the exact number of MNLF fighters and hostages.

On Wednesday, the military claimed that only around five to 10 MNLF fighters, led by Ustadz Habier Malik, are being hunted in the vicinity of barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

President Aquino meanwhile visited yesterday the wake of three soldiers killed in the standoff between government forces and MNLF fighters in Zamboanga City.

Aquino went to Norzagaray and Pulilan towns in Bulacan to visit the wake of 1st Lt. John Kristopher Rama, 30, and 2nd Lt. Florencio Mikael Meneses, 27.

Aquino also visited the wake of 1st Lt. Francis Damian at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Rama was killed by an MNLF sniper while both Meneses and Damian died while being treated at the hospital in Zamboanga City after being wounded in the firefight.

Meanwhile, government security forces on Wednesday night caught up with elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) responsible in the atrocities in Central Mindanao early this week, sparking a firefight along Liguasan Marsh.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said the clash erupted along the boundary of Barangay Paidu Polangi, Pikit, North Cotabato and Barangay Dasawao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao around 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Elements of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, under Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, are still pursuing the encountered BIFF band, believed to be responsible in the hostage-taking in Midsayap, North Cotabato, last Monday and subsequent killing of two civilians, one of them beheaded.

Hermoso said at around 5:30 a.m. yesterday Army forces encountered another group of BIFF along Barangay Tibao, Mlang, North Cotabato near Liguasan Marsh.
There was no reported casualty during the clashes.

3 government troopers killed, 6 wounded as 45 MNLF fighters captured in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): 3 government troopers killed, 6 wounded as 45 MNLF fighters captured in Zamboanga City

Three more government troopers were killed while another six wounded as military units conducting clearing operations in Zamboanga City captured 45 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during operations that started Wednesday night and lasted until before dawn Thursday.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said that the captured MNLF fighters were from the "constriction zone" in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

He added that operations against them MNLF men started 11:00 p.m. Wednesday and lasted until 2:00 a.m. Thursday.

This resulted in the rescue of six hostages, Zagala added.

With this development, the number of MNLF dead is now placed at 138 with 215 captured or surrendered.

He declined to comment on the number of MNLF or if there are remaining hostages in the cordoned areas.

Number of military and police killed in the almost three-week stand-off is placed at 22 and those wounded at 166.

U.S. provides assistance to monsoon victims in Central Luzon

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): U.S. provides assistance to monsoon victims in Central Luzon

The U.S. government is providing $ 100,000 or about P4.3 million to assist in the Philippine government’s relief efforts for victims of flooding and landslides in Zambales and Bataan, which suffered massive damage due to the southwest monsoon intensified by typhoon "Odette" early this week.

“On behalf of the U.S. government and the American people, we extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected,” U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas said in a statement on Thursday.

Through United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the assistance will provide for immediate relief items including hygiene kits and water purification supplies for up to 10,000 displaced and other affected people.

The onslaught of Odette has affected more than 70,000 in Central and Northern Luzon, Bicol and Western Visayas and killed 27 from landslides.

“I would like to commend the ‘bayanihan’ spirit demonstrated by the communities in helping those in need.

We will work with our Philippine Government counterparts to boost their relief efforts and help the victims overcome this tragedy,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that over the past five years, the U.S. has provided P3.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to help the Philippines cope with the effects of disasters through mechanisms to adapt, respond to, and prepare for these incidents.

3 MNLF, 2 Marines killed in Rio Hondo encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): 3 MNLF, 2 Marines killed in Rio Hondo encounter

Three Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters were killed alongside with two troopers from Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT)-3 following an encounter in Barangay Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City Thursday morning.

Five Marines were also wounded.

Major Angelo Guzman, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy public affairs office chief, said the incident took place around 4:25 a.m.

He added MBLT-3 was conducting blocking operations when it engaged heavily armed MNLF members coming from the fishpond at the extension of Zamboanga State College of Marine Science & Technology in Barangay Rio Hondo.

A 20-minute firefight ensued which resulted in the death of three MNLF members and two Marines and wounding of five others.

Recovered from the slain MNLF men was an M-16 automatic rifle.

Guzman clarified that the MNLF elements encountered by the Marines this morning are not "reinforcements but had been in the area since day one.”

2 BIFF members killed in North Cotabato clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): 2 BIFF members killed in North Cotabato clash

The Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade on Thursday announced that it has killed two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during a two-hour clash in M'lang, North Cotabato Thursday early morning.

It added that five members of the BIFF were wounded with no losses to the government side.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, 602nd Infantry Brigade civil-military operations officer, said that the encounter took place around 5 a.m. when their troopers encountered 40 BIFF members in Barangay Tibao.

The latter infiltrated the area using boats, he added.

This triggered a firefight which lasted until 7 a.m.

The BIFF men were led by a certain "Gani Saligan" and "Bigcog".

Bulao said that government troopers were unable to recover the BIFF casualties as the rebels carried them on withdrawal.

The clash erupted just hours after members of the 7th Infantry Battalion also figured in skirmishes with BIFF members along the Pulangi River between Pikit, North Cotabato, and Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Those skirmishes against about 60 to 70 BIFF members started 7 p.m. Wednesday and lulled for a while, before starting again around 10 p.m. and lasting until 12 a.m.

President Aquino visits wake of an army officer in Pulilan, Bulacan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): President Aquino visits wake of an army officer in Pulilan, Bulacan

President Benigno S. Aquino III visited on Thursday the wake of an Army officer who died in an encounter between the government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front Misuari faction in Zamboaga City last September 23.

The Chief Executive paid his last respects and condoled with the family of 27-year-old 1st Lt Florencio Mikael Esguerra Meneses, an officer of the 7th Scout Ranger Company and member of the Philippine Military Academy Laon-Alab Class of 2011.

Accompanied by Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, President Aquino arrived at the wake on Cueto Street, Barangay Tibag, Pulilan, Bulacan at 11:30 a.m.

President Aquino handed financial assistance to the slain officer's parents Regina and Alberto Meneses. He also expressed his condolences to the officer's siblings, namely Elizabeth Peralta, Janina Reyes and Gracia Chen.

The parents of Lt Meneses expressed gratitude to the President for visiting the wake of their only son who died in Zamboanga City standoff.

During the visit that lasted for 30 minutes, the President told Regina that he directed the Department of National Defense (DND) and other concerned government agencies to further conduct a review of the military systems and procedures with the aim of preventing unnecessary loss of lives during combat.

The President told the family that he acknowledged the bravery of Meneses who gave his own life to serve the country and the Filipino people.

Habier Malik still trapped in military 'area of operations'

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): Habier Malik still trapped in military 'area of operations'

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik is still trapped within the military "area of operations" in Zamboanga City.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said they are still verifying various pieces of information they gained as they continue their clearing operations in Zamboanga City.

"We believe Malik is still in the area of operations," he stated.

Zagala maintained the government is on top of the situation in Mindanao, even as it "continuously assesses" information on how many hostages are still with the MNLF.

Around 45 MNLF fighters were earlier captured by the AFP in the constriction zones in Barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina early this Thursday at the cost of three soldiers killed and six others wounded.

2 NPA rebels died in Bukidnon encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): 2 NPA rebels died in Bukidnon encounter
Two communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA), one an amazon, were killed in an encounter with government troopers in Bukidnon last Sunday, a belated report reaching here said on Thursday.

Lt. Norman M. Tagros, spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion based in Kalilangan, Bukidnon, said the amazon was identified as Margie Almahan, 18, of Sitio Bendung, Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City while the male fatality remained unidentified.

Tagros said that the armed encounter took place in the vicinity of Pulangi River in Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, when a team of government troopers while o combat patrol Sunday evening encountered five armed suspected NPA rebels.

He said that a 30-minute firefight ensued where the two unidentified NPA rebels were killed. The two dead NPAs were left behind by the remaining rebels who fled to various directions.

Recovered from the encounter scene were two AK-47 rifles, several ammunitions and magazines, personal belongings, and subversive documents.

Tagros said that the military sent a troop to patrol the area after receiving reports of an armed men who were carrying out extortion, coercion, and propaganda activities sowing fears among residents in the area.

Bicolano soldier killed in Zamboanga standoff given honor

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): Bicolano soldier killed in Zamboanga standoff given honor

The composite team of Army, Navy and Air force and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol gave a hero’s welcome and military honors to a fallen soldier in the Zamboanga standoff at the Tactical Operations Group (TOG) 5 in the Legazpi City airport Thursday.

Major Arvin Joel Buan, TOG 5 deputy commander, identified the slain soldier as Corporal Jesi Chris Reyeg, 33, a resident of Barangay Ilaor Norte, Oas, Albay.

Reyeg is a member of the Light Reaction Company (LRC) under the Army's Special Operations Command based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

Direct from Zamboanga City, through a C-130 Air Force plane, the victim's casket was brought to Legazpi City via a one-and-a-half hour flight.

Reyeg's body was brought to his home town in Oas, Albay.

Troops overrun Zambo Island as offensive continues against MNLF rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): Troops overrun Zambo Island as offensive continues against MNLF rebels
The government forces have overran Thursday an island east of this city that served to be among the landing points of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels when they infiltrated this city.

Sumatra Island in Barangay Talon-Talon, five kilometers east of this city, which is covered by thick mangrove, was overran following an air strike followed by ground assault.

Armed Forces’ Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the assault was launched following information that a group of rebels are holed up in Sumatra Island.

Zagala said that the group of rebels in Sumatra Island was part of the main group but was never able to penetrate this city.

“The operation have prevented them from linking with the other group in the mainland,” Zagala said.

Initial reports disclosed that the ground troops have discovered four shallow graves, five watercrafts--a motor launch and four motorboats locally known as "jungkung"--ammunition, MNLF uniforms and foodstuffs.

As this developed, the government forces have safely recovered six hostages, including four students, early Thursday in Sitio Lustre, Barangay Sta. Catalina.

Zagala said they are now validating the number of remaining hostages that are still in the hands of the MNLF rebels.

He said they are also validating the remaining number of MNLF that are still in the “constriction areas.”

Meanwhile, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca said that 185 MNLF rebels were captured and 24 surrendered as of 11 a.m. Thursday.

Huesca said that one of those captured is a former councilor in the municipality of Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Huesca also said that 121 MNLF rebels were killed as of 11 a.m. Thursday since the start of the standoff last September 9.

On the government side, Zagala disclosed that 24 were killed as three soldiers were killed Thursday in a clash Barangay Sta. Catalina.

Zagala said that the number of wounded also increased to 184 since five soldiers were also wounded in the same clash.

CMC urges public to ‘verify circulating text messages and online scare’

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): CMC urges public to ‘verify circulating text messages and online scare’

The Crisis Management Committee (CMC) has advised the public to “verify circulating text messages and online scare” to proper authorities before taking any move that may comprises their safety and security.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, who chairs the CMC, issued the advised following the circulation of text messages saying that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels reinforcements are coming.

The text message started circulating as the government forces continue to press on the remaining MNLF rebels who infiltrated this city.

“Please verify circulating text messages and online scare to our police hotline nos. 117 or 166 and through Westmincom (Western Mindanao Command) at +639177950413,” Salazar said in a public advisory.

“Spreading false information and unverified reports will only cause undue panic and fear,” Salazar added.

She advised the residents to remain calm but vigilant.

“Our land, sea and air assets are alert and in place to maintain peace and order and to thwart any reinforcement from the MNLF force that will try to come in our city,” the mayor added.

149 police officers in Region 1 finish training

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): 149 police officers in Region 1 finish training

A total 149 Police Officer 1 hurdled the rigid training in the Special Counter-Insurgency Operation Unit Training (SCOUT) which ended in a closing ceremony at the parade ground here Thursday.

Police Sr. Supt. Alexander Pumecha, Deputy Regional Director for Operations who represented Chief Supt. Ricardo Marquez, PRO1 director as the guest of honor and speaker during the closing rites.

He said that a policeman does not only fight against criminals in the city or the locality but also against threats to national security and democracy.

“Insurgency is not only a local matter, it is a worldwide concern and as members of the PNP, we cannot be inactive. We have to fight them(lawless elements) to get closer to our mission of lasting peace and sustainable progress,” Pumecha said.

Sr. Supt. Reynaldo Biay, Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 Battalion commander, formally welcomed the troops.

“It is our thrust to make RPSB-1 members 100% SCOUT trained before they may be downloaded to local police stations because we intend to give our men competence, the skills and the confidence to fight the insurgents and criminals,” Biay stressed.

The trainees were originally composed of 154 members. Five members were not able to graduate for medical reasons.

The trainees had their SCOUT insignia pinned in front of senior officers of Police Regional Office 1 (PRO1), RPSB-1, trainers, the graduates’ family members, friends and other visitors

The PNP Modified SCOUT training is a course which aims to enhance the combat readiness and capability of PNP members in counter-insurgency focusing more on counter strategies and operations that include Close Quarter Battle and Immediate Action Drills.

Aside from the SCOUT, the other trainings offered to PNP personnel related to anti-insurgency and anti-criminality are the Scout Ranger, Special Forces, Commando and Special Weapons and Armed Tactics (SWAT), among others.

Army closely monitoring NPA extortion from barangay poll candidates

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26): Army closely monitoring NPA extortion from barangay poll candidates

The Philippine Army in Negros Occidental is closely monitoring the movements of the New People's Army (NPA) in relation to the October 28 barangay elections.

Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said they have received reports that the NPA may extort money from candidates to allow them to campaign in the supposedly rebel-controlled areas.

Aying said he has organized a "Bayanihan Team" tasked to penetrate rebel-influenced areas especially in the hinterland villages.

The Philippine Army had earlier classified 90 barangays located in the first, fifth and sixth districts in Negros Occidental as election hotspots.

Twenty of the barangays are considered "highly affected" by rebels.

“As the election draws near, we will intensify our operations in these areas so that the people will not be fooled by the ‘false promises’ of the rebels,” Aying said.

The Commission on Elections here will conduct a Joint Security Coordinating Council Meeting on Sept. 28 with the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police in preparation for the barangay elections.

Habier Malik all set for final battle?

From Rappler (Sep 26): Habier Malik all set for final battle?
Three days ago, text messages started circulating about a supposed plan by Moro National Liberation Front commander Ustadz Habier Malik, the man leading the Zamboanga City standoff, and his followers to stage a final battle against government troops.
The text messages indicate that Malik will mount his final offensive after prayers on Friday, September 27. The warnings remain unconfirmed. But they're not surprising. After all, Malik has repeatedly said he's ready to die for his cause.

READ: Habier Malik: We're ready to die
The repercussions of these messages were one of the concerns brought up in a roundtable discussion organized by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) Thursday, September 26, as the Zamboanga standoff reached Day 18.
Mindanao civil society and religious leaders warned the government against the deeper backlash of taking on Malik in a final military showdown.
"The worst possible scenario for us is if Ustadz Habier Malik dies a martyr's death," said PCID Director Amina Rasul Bernardo.
Should Malik die in the event of a "final battle," Prof Alih S. Aiyub said his followers could play up his death as a form of martyrdom to garner sympathy from younger, more radical Muslims.
"We want to condition the mind of the people that we don't want this to happen and we have to prevent this because they can re-package the message," said Aiyub, who is also the secretary general of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines.
"In Moro culture, this will give others the inspiration to continue the fight. If this happens, it could escalate into other areas. And we can't discount the fact that other groups, young radical people, could make this their battlecry," Aiyub added.
Despite the negative publicity surrounding the Zamboanga siege, Malik, as well as the Misuari-led MNLF faction, continues to gain a considerable following in parts of Mindanao, according to Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism.
"My point is Habier Malik is now being mystified and his mystification can generate a new type of movement, coming from what happened as a result of the Zamboanga siege," Banlaoi said.
The military also knows this all too well.
On Day 12 of the Zamboanga siege, security forces said Malik's troops were down to about 30 and 40 men.
But instead of launching a full military assault, the government has chosen to reach out to Malik and his followers in areas where they are believed to be hiding by playing Tausug music interspersed with an appeal from an ulama for the fighters to lay down their arms.
Lt Col Harold Cabunoc said the military is not at war with its own people.
"Hindi po namin hangad na talagang patayin si Ustadz Habier Malik. Ika nga, kapatid natin. Bibigyan siya ng pagkakataon na magpaliwanag." (We do not intend to kill Ustadz Habier Malik. As they say, he is our brother, let's give him a chance to explain.)
Safe passage?
Is there time for an alternative approach?
Aiyub said the government must keep its mind open to taking a humanitarian approach even as the military operations in the city draw to a close. One option could be to provide a safe passage to Malik and his troops.
"Release the hostages first so there is good gesture on the part of Malik. Give them a chance for safe passage then let the government file a case against him. The military can then chase him in Sulu, if they wish, but in the mountains where civilians are not affected," Aiyub said.
It was the same mechanism that ended the Cabatangan siege in 2001. Aiyub has been proposing this option to the government since the first week of the Zamboanga standoff.
But Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle "Beng" Climaco's position is clear: Zamboanga does not want a repeat of the Cabatangan siege and the way it ended.
Isn't it too late for a humanitarian intervention?
"From the military point of view, it's too late," Aiyub said. "But when you consider the psychological effect, the repercussions, the backlash, that's something that we should think about."
Banlaoi cites how different the MNLF "peace rallies" in Davao and Zamboanga turned out to be.
"[Davao] Mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte said, 'I don't mind the MNLF proclaiming Davao City as the capital of the Bangsamoro Republik, anyway, it's not yet happening. He said, 'I don't mind them raising the flag of the Bangsamoro Republik. Just place it below the Philippine flag and remove it after 5 o-clock. Thirdly, I don't mind you rallying there as long as you don't display your mortars and RPGs. So the rally was done and ended peacefully without any trouble," Banlaoi said.
"In Zamboanga city, the mindset is different. If it's Nur Misuari, 'I'm threatened by any kind of activity, political, social, we're threatened.' So perception matters," Banlaoi said.
Former Marine General Benjamin Dolorfino, who was also held hostage by Malik's group in 2007, said the government made the mistake of taking the military option right away before exhausting peaceful means to end it.
"If it was a simple hostage situation, the first step in resolving it would be to contain the area so the hostage taker would not be able to escape then negotiation would follow," Dolorfino said. "But the approach in Zamboanga should have been different. There should have been a negotiation first so that there will be a peaceful way out. Hindi yung attack agad, calibrated approach."
'Continue tripartite review'
In a situation where people on the ground are questioning the relevance of the ongoing peace processes of government with the MNLF and its rival group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, lawyer Benedicto Bacani said the government must be open to the idea of expanding the tripartite review with the MNLF beyond just tackling the technicalities of amending the 1996 peace pact.
Expand the tripartite and really look at the welfare of these people," said Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance. "They're saying the Zamboanga siege should not affect the peace process. But people are asking: 'When will the peace process have an effect in my life?"
In an earlier interivew, Undersecretary Joe Lorena of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said the next round of the tripartite review between the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the government and the MNLF is expected to be held in November.
Lorena said the talks will continue because the Misuari faction is only one group in the MNLF, and the government cannot discount the other members.

Blast in North Cotabato tower causes blackout

From Rappler (Sep 26): Blast in North Cotabato tower causes blackout

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) blasted a tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Kabacan, North Cotabato on Thursday evening, September 26.

Captain Antonio Bulao, spokesman of the 602nd Brigade, said a loud explosion was heard within the vicinity of Sitio Malabuaya, Barangay Kayaga at around 7:45 pm, causing a massive power outage in the area, including Cotabato City.

"Initial investigation revealed that IEDs were placed at the post of the NGCP tower which resulted to the destruction of the said tower," Bulao said.

Government forces were immediately deployed to secure the blast site.

On September 1, an NGCP tower in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao was also bombed, causing massive power interruption.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), denied that the rebel group is behind the IED attack.

"We do not use IEDs in our attacks," Mama said.