Sunday, September 29, 2013

Armed conflict maybe over, but not the crisis

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 29): Armed conflict maybe over, but not the crisis

The armed conflict maybe be over, but a larger crisis looms in the horizon as the government faces a gargantuan task of rehabilitating more than 100,000 displaced people and rebuilding their homes in six villages.
Experts say that it will take two or three years for government agencies to put things in order in Zamboanga City. This means rebuilding homes in Sta. Barbara, Lustre, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki and Talon-Talon or relocating those who have lost their homes and are not keen on returning to the devastated areas. But before the actual rehabilitation works, so many other tasks are to be carried out like profiling, double checking and the bureaucratic paper works that will ensue along the way.
In addition, several schools, the Enriquez Sports Complex and the R.T. Lim Boulevard badly need general clean up when the evacuees will eventually be relocated to other sites. In this case, classes in the said schools are expected to be normalized only after several weeks and consequently the students are already deprived of a big part of the learning process
Along side is the problem of the business sector wherein stores and other establishments do not expect the same number of clients and customers to come to them in the next few months as they were coming before September 9, the start of the bloody siege.
The Department of Trade and Industry had earlier said that the local business sector had already suffered more than P700 million in unconsummated sales in the second week of the standoff.
Zamboangueños, still tense from the 20-day siege, have to cope with reported terror threats or retaliation plots coming from the MNLF Misuari faction and its sympathizers.
This developed as sporadic fighting took place yesterday in Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Sumatra, Talon-Talon where troops are hunting down for MNLF leader Habier Malik and his few remaining followers.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the Philippine National Police troops on the ground have tightened blocking positions at the MNLF’s expected “exit and withdrawal points.”
It said the fighting had affected 23,794 families or 118,819 people from 14 villages in Zamboanga City and one village in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Of these, 18,292 families or 101,272 people are staying in 35 evacuation centers.
Troops on Friday rescued the last six hostages held by the rebels after nearly three weeks of fighting.
At least 24 bodies were recovered in the combat zone in Sta Catalina Thursday where soldiers were still conducting mopping operations.
Police were checking if Malik is one of them, after text messages circulate about a supposed last stand by Malik on Friday. Government troops were finally able to enter the remaining houses in Sta Catalina.
Early Thursday, 45 MNLF fighters were turned over to the police. The previous day, another batch of 38 fighters was captured. The recent arrests of big batches of MNLF fighters indicated government’s confusion over the number of fighters still holed up in the battle zone. As of Thursday, military numbers show a total of 128 MNLF members  captured, 146 surrendered, and 126 were killed — for a total of 400 MNLF fighters. The police numbers are different: 185 captured, 24 surrendered, and 107 killed — for a total of 316. The military says the urban setting is making operations more complex than it appears.
About 200 people, including 166 rebels, have been killed in the three-week armed conflict.
Fifteen MNLF fighters  were killed in Thursday night clash, an army spokesman said.
“We have secured the last six hostages,” the spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala, told a new conference in Zamboanga.
“We were told these were the last group of people held by the rebels. We now have accounted for 195 hostages.”
About 300 of the gunmen had surrendered or been captured, Zagala said.
There was sporadic gunfire on Friday and two powerful explosions were heard in areas where U.S.-trained commandos were doing house-to-house searches, Zagala said.

Navy earmarks P2.5B for new amphibious vehicles

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 30): Navy earmarks P2.5B for new amphibious vehicles

As part of efforts to modernize the Philippine Navy (PN), the Department of National Defense (DND) is acquiring eight brand-new amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) with an approved contract budget of P2.5 billion.

A pre-bid conference for the eight AAVs with integrated logistics support (ILS) is set on Oct. 10 at the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) conference room in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

An invitation to bid sent out by the DND BAC headed by Defense Assistant Secretary Efren Q. Fernandez said delivery of the eight AAVs with ILS is required within 850 days upon opening of the Letter of Credit.

Likewise, the DND said “bidders should have completed within 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.”

It said bidding will be conducted through open competitive procedures using a non-discretionary “pass/fail” criterion as specified in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Acts (RA) 9184, otherwise known as the “Government Procurement Reform Act.”

Bidding is open to all interested bidders, whether local or foreign, subject to the conditions for eligibility provided in the IRR of RA 9184.

Bids must be delivered to the DND BAC on or before 10 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2013.
“All bids must be accompanied by a bid security in any of the acceptable forms and in the amount stated in ITB clause 18,” said Fernandez.

Bid opening shall be on Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. when bids will be opened in the presence of the bidders representatives.

The DND BAC chair stressed, “Late bids shall no be accepted.”

AT ZAMBO BATTLE ZONE -- Rangers retrieve 42 bodies

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 28): AT ZAMBO BATTLE ZONE -- Rangers retrieve 42 bodies

Elite troopers of the Negros-based 1st Scout Ranger Battalion of the Army have finally taken control of the remaining houses used as strongholds by the Moro National Liberation Front in Brgy. Santa Catalina, Zamboanga City.

This was after more than two weeks of intense fighting, where 42 bodies had been accounted for, its commander, Lt. Col. Oriel Pangcog, said yesterday.

The 1st SRB and the United States–trained Light Reaction Company of the Special Operations Command, spearheaded the clearing of Brgy. Santa Catalina, that used to be occupied by about 400 MNLF- Nur Misuari faction fighters headed by Habier Malik.

Pangcog said yesterday that they hoisted the Philippine flag on the highest building there on Thursday, while clearing the area of MNLF fighters.

“As of yesterday, we have accounted for 42 bodies, some of them already in an advanced state of decomposition,” he told the DAILY STAR.

Pangcog, however, said they have yet to account for Malik.

With so many decomposing bodies, he said, he has requested gas masks for his troops, who are still in clearing operations. Not a single shot, had been heard in the area since Thursday night, Pangcog added.

On Wednesday, 31 MNLF fighters, including two commanders, surrendered to the 1st SRB.

In more than two weeks of fighting, Pangcog said they recovered more than 70 high-powered firearms, including an 81mm artillery mortar that fires high-explosive projectiles.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines reported that 166 MNLF fighters had been killed, including those whose bodies littered the battle zone.

The Negros-based elite Scout Rangers are supported by the 44th and 32nd Infantry Battalions of the 1st Infantry Division, Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 9th Regional Public Safety Battalion, Philippine Navy and Air Force units, among others.

About 120 men of the 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion from Negros Occidental have also been dispatched by the Police Regional Office 6 to Zamboanga City.

The gunbattles being fought day and night by the elite Scout Ranger troopers from Negros, have cost them the lives of two colleagues and injuries to 42 others.

Misuari's followers are being blamed for the crisis in Zamboanga when they engaged government in a stand-off on Sept. 9 by taking civilians hostage.

Filipino troops kill 7 rebels after hostage crisis

From the Philippine Star (Sep 29): Filipino troops kill 7 rebels after hostage crisis

The Philippine military says army troops and police have killed seven more Muslim rebels in clashes in the outskirts of a southern city they were clearing of bodies, bombs and weapons following a three-week standoff with hundreds of insurgents.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala says that in a brief firefight Sunday, government forces killed six Moro National Liberation Front rebels who were hiding in a house in Zamboanga city and refused to surrender. A rebel was also slain by troops in a clash Saturday in a nearby community.

Philippine officials declared the standoff over Saturday after 195 people held hostage by the rebels regained their freedom and troops killed or captured most of the nearly 500 rebels who occupied five communities.

More than 200 people died in the standoff.

Leyte town police chief, 2 cops killed in ambush

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): Leyte town police chief, 2 cops killed in ambush
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — A town police chief and two of his men were killed in an ambush allegedly perpetrated by communist rebels in Arteche town, Samar on Saturday night.

Inspector Alberto Ayad, Arteche police chief, and Police Officer 1 July Juliata were killed on the spot after they were shot in the head and in different parts of their bodies.

PO3 Glorioso Nebril died while being treated at a hospital in Tacloban on Sunday morning.

Ayad and his two policemen were on board their service vehicle to patrol the area about 9 p.m. when they were fired upon by armed men who were in the dark portion of Arteche Central Elementary School.

After 10 minutes, the alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) ran toward the back of the school and escaped into the mountain, said Municipal Councilor Roland Boey Evardone.

It was not known if the policemen were able to fire back during the ambush, which took place at the start of the election gun ban for the barangay (village) elections on Oct. 28.

“We are shocked by this attack. (And in) behalf of the municipal government, we express our deepest condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families of the slain policemen,” Evardone told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

Evardone said the municipal government would provide financial assistance to the families of the victims. The councilor’s father, Roland Evardone, is mayor of Arteche.

Ayad, who is from the neighboring town of Dolores, assumed his post as Arteche police chief only in August. Nebril and Juliata were from Arteche, more than 200 kilometers from the capital city of Borongan.

Eighteen police officers man the police station of Arteche, which has a population of more than 17,000 spread in 20 villages. Security forces in Eastern Visayas have reported the presence of communist rebels in Arteche.

Inspector Romuel Nacar, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police in Eastern Visayas, condemned the “treacherous” killings of the three policemen.

‘It ain’t over in Zamboanga’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): ‘It ain’t over in Zamboanga’

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—It ain’t over.

After almost three weeks of fighting, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Saturday clarified the government had accomplished its mission to free all the hostages of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) but the “work is not yet over.”

In a press briefing here on Saturday, Gazmin said the government had accounted for all the hostages but had yet to complete house-to-house clearing operations 20 days after the rebels assaulted the third largest city in the Philippines and took an estimated 195 hostages.

The fighting that ensued left about 218 dead, wounded hundreds more, and sent more than 100,000 residents fleeing to evacuation centers.

The rebel assault, apparently aimed at thwarting a government peace plan with another Muslim separatist group, ground this city of more than a million residents virtually to a halt, razed 10,000 homes and reduced 30 to 40 hectares of once thriving communities to rubble.

It was one of the bloodiest and longest-running attacks by an Islamic separatist group in the south, the scene of a centuries-long Muslim rebellion for self-rule in this largely Catholic country.

Military spokesperson Ramon Zagala declared the threat to Zamboanga “over” while Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas were televised visiting Martha Street, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting. But after Gazmin and Roxas left the area, several gunshots were heard. A fire broke out in Rio Hondo.

Leaders evade capture

Neither MNLF founder Nur Misuari nor his top commander, Habier Malik, were captured.

One report said Malik had escaped the military dragnet and had retreated to the Sulu archipelago.

“We have accounted for all the hostages,” Gazmin said, referring to this as “Phase 1” of the operation.

He said the government would now proceed to “Phase 2.” which involves the house-to-house clearing to remove possible booby traps and firearms left behind by the rebels. This could take up to two weeks, military officers said.

“The enemy is reduced to about two or three remaining stragglers,” Gazmin said.

The military would be turning over much of the city’s protection functions to the police.  He added: “We will not abandon the police forces here. The AFP will continue to support the police and other local government forces,” he said in Filipino.

On Malik, Gazmin could not say if he was dead or had managed to escape. “We are searching for him among the dead,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the AFP.

“We are still identifying the bodies through all the tests required to confirm if Malik is one of them,” he said. He said there were 100 bodies taken from the area.

 ‘Bangsamoro Republik’

The MNLF forces arrived in the city on Sept. 9. They claimed they were there to march and hold a rally at Plaza Pershing, which is in front of City Hall. Fully armed, the MNLF fighters’ presence caused panic among residents, which led to skirmishes with government forces.

The MNLF forces declared a “Bangsamoro Republik” after claiming that the government had failed to fully implement the peace agreement it signed in 1996.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, in an interview, said it may be over for the military, “but for us civilians it’s not yet over.”

Climaco-Salazar said it will take about a week or two before areas can be declared safe.

“In fact, we are seeking guidance and clearance so we can go back to city hall and work,” the mayor told the Inquirer.

Salazar also asked: “Where is Malik? I have been questioning them on where is Malik.”

The mayor also urged the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to do its job “and ensure no more of this kind of crisis will happen in Zamboanga.”

On Friday night, Climaco lambasted the OPAPP for supposedly not acting on the problem that led to what was happening in her city.

Continuous dialogue

“There should be continuous negotiations and dialogue and it should never end. Sad to note, there is no presence of the OPAPP. They should be here to openly dialogue and they should continue even beyond this crisis,” the mayor said.

In an earlier interview, Climaco-Salazar told the Inquirer that OPAPP did not heed calls to go to Sulu to meet with Misuari who had long been complaining about the government reneging on the peace agreement.

Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of the police in Western Mindanao, said that as of noon Saturday, their records showed that a total of 18 soldiers and five policemen had been killed in the fighting.

Over 183 rebels and 12 civilians were also reported killed.

Huesca said 167 soldiers and 14 policemen were wounded. Among civilians, 72 were reported wounded, police said.

Police have also processed a total of 184 former hostages, Huesca said.

On the MNLF side, Huesca said, a total of 167 fighters were killed while 247 were captured.

He added that only 24 MNLF forces were considered surrenderers—those who gave up to Senior Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo, the city police director, on Sept. 17.

Abigail Valte, a President Aquino spokesperson said government aid agencies would now focus on preparing residents to return to their communities after the police pull out.

“We have allotted money for shelter assistance for the families whose homes have been totally destroyed or totally burned down,” she said.

‘Mopping-up’ targets Malik, other stragglers

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 30): ‘Mopping-up’ targets Malik, other stragglers

THE National Police on Sunday assumed responsibility for the clearing operations in the sections liberated from the MNLF rebels during their incursions in at least six areas in Zamboanga City that started on Sept. 9, and a day after the military accomplished its mission there.

The PNP Special Action Force and Special Weapons and Tactics group were ordered to conduct” mopping-up” operations or house-to-house searches for the remaining stragglers including MNLF Commander Haber Malik, who was reported one of those killed in the fighting with the military on Sunday.

“An ID belonging to Malik [was] found in one killed Nur fighter in Zamboanga [but it] is not a guarantee that he is Malik, though they have similarities,” Maj. Angelo Guzman, deputy head of the Armed Forces’ Public Affairs Office, posted on his Twitter account.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza rejected the insinuations that Malik had been killed.

“Malik is alive,” he said.

Malacañang said only a few stragglers remained in Zamboanga City even as the Justice Department prepared to file charges against rebel leader Nur Misuari “in the coming days or weeks.”

“There is still an ongoing clearing operation so the situation in Zamboanga City is not yet back to completely normal. There are still a few stragglers left,” Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said.

“It is not completely over yet, but on the whole, the MNLF has lost control of the areas that they had previously invaded in Zamboanga.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the military accomplished its mission of containing the MNLF rebellion after 21 days of fierce fighting in which 189 of the rebels were killed, 223 were captured and 52 surrendered.

Nineteen soldiers and five policemen were killed, while nine civilians were slain and 110 others displaced by the fighting.

A total of 177 troops, 14 policemen and 57 civilians were wounded.

Meanwhile, the MNLF on Sunday rejected the military’s claim that the MNLF had been defeated in three weeks of fighting that left Zamboanga City in ruins after 10,000 houses went in flames.

“The MNLF has not been defeated. They have just withdrawn to another safe place,” Cerveza said.

He said the  fighting in Zamboanga City was not over yet, and that fresh fighting could erupt someplace else until Mindanao’s independence was attained, Cerveza said.

Meanwhile, the Zamboanga City Government said Sunday it will seek the transfer of all detained MNLF rebels to Manila from the San Ramon Penal Colony, which is 25 kilometers west of the city proper.

Saying Zambo conflict over mere ‘press release’ — MNLF

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 30): Saying Zambo conflict over mere ‘press release’ — MNLF

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which laid siege to Zamboanga City merely laughed off the government’s declaration of “mission accomplished” marking the end of the 20-day conflict.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman of the MNLF faction of the rebel group’s chairman Nur Misuari, said MNLF fighters are still in Zamboanga City as he branded the declaration made by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as a press release.

“That’s a lie. Pogi (Brownie) points,” said Fontanilla.

“The MNLF repositioned in peripheral barangays and the government stopped attacking, hence the lull in the conflict,” added Fontanilla.

He claimed the MNLF fighters, led by Ustadz Habier Malik, can still put up a fight if the government attacks.

Fontanilla also dismissed claims of “mission accomplished” by the government in Zamboanga City. He particularly cited the government’s uncertainty on Malik and the huge destruction in the city as a result of the 20-day confict. He accused government troops of perpetrating the fire incidents in the affected barangays.

“AFP’s target mission is to get Habier Malik, if they fail, the mission is not accomplished,” Fontanilla added.

Fontanilla stressed that Malik is very much alive. “He is safe,” he said.

“Over 200 men against three battalions of government troops with fresh reinforcement, supply and combined PNP, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army –were able to inflict over a battalion-sized KIA (killed in action) and collateral damage requiring P3.9 billion to rehabilitate Zamboanga, where is victory there?,” he added.

More than 200 followers of Misuari attempted to raise the MNLF flag at the Zamboanga City Hall last September 9 but were prevented by government security forces, sparking the siege of at least five barangays.

The MNLF fighters took around 200 civilians as hostages and used them as human shields in fighting with government forces.

The 20-day conflict resulted in the killing of 189 MNLF fighters, 18 soldiers, including three junior officers, five policemen and 12 civilians.

More than 10,000 residential structures went up in smoke, displacing more than 100,000 residents.

The government’s claim also appeared premature without the arrest of Misuari and uncertainty on what happened to Malik, who led the siege.

Roxas, in a statement, declared Zamboanga City liberated from the hands of about 300 MNLF followers of Misuari, led by Ustadz Habier Malik despite initially the government reported that it had contained the just 100 MNLF fighters that marched into the city on Sept. 9.

“We can say for certain: The siege of Zamboanga is over. Zamboanga is again free,” declared Roxas.

The DILG chief cited the combined efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in engaging about 300 fully-armed followers of Misuari in 20-day sporadic clashes in the heart of Zamboanga City.

“The mission is a success. The fighting is over in Zamboanga,” Roxas said.

Roxas said a total of 195 hostages were safely rescued by government security forces during 20-day calibrated response against the MNLF followers of Misuari.

The Zamboanga City conflict started last Sept. 9 when followers of Misuari occupied at least six barangays and took about 200 civilians as hostages.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, echoed Roxas pronouncements, saying efforts in Zamboanga City are now law enforcement and clearing operation with the PNP as lead.

However, Zagala stressed that the military troops will remain in the area in support to the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF).

“The PNP is the lead to clear and there is some legal aspects to it. We are in the war fighting but since there is no more war, we are just in support to them (PNP). It becomes a law enforcement problem but the full force of the AFP is still there,” Zagala said.

Zagala said that government security forces were given two weeks to complete the clearing of the affected barangays Sta. Barabara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mariki, Rio Hondo and Mampang.

Focus of the ongoing operation are stragglers and unexploded ordnances, like grenades and mortar shells.

According to Zagala, the military’s primary mission of rescuing the hostages and removing the threat posed by MNLF fighters were completed.

“It is safe to say that AFP has already completed its mission,” said Zagala.

However, Zagala admitted that authorities are still uncertain about what happened to Malik but expressed belief that the MNLF leader is still in Zamboanga City.

Zagala said they are not discounting the possibility that Malik was killed during the conflict or has escaped.

“You have to consider all avenues. But right now he has no more command and control, majority of his fighters are already dead or captured…, he vowed to die here.

Let’s say he escaped, he made a pronouncement that he vowed to die here, so why didn’t he die here if he escaped,” said Zagala.

“We believe that he is still here because first he vowed that he will die here and…actually we are looking at some possibilities but I cannot reveal at the moment…we believe that he never left,” Zagala said.

Zagala also stressed that Malik is only one of the five MNLF commanders that led the siege – four of them neutralized except for Malik.

MNLF commanders Esmael Dasta and a certain Haider were killed during the conflict, while Enir Misuari, a nephew of Misuari, was captured and one commander Ugong surrendered.

Palace: Gov’t not rushing talks on increased US presence

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 30): Palace: Gov’t not rushing talks on increased US presence

The government is not rushing the negotiations for the framework agreement on the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit in the Philippines this October, a Malacañang official yesterday said.

“I don’t think we can say that they are being rushed. These discussions have been going on for several months — if I’m not mistaken, over a year now. We are making slow but steady progress on the rotational presence,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Rick Carandang stressed.

Obama is set to visit the country on Oct. 11 to 12.

“Whether or not we will sign something during the Obama visit is not something I can answer at this point. What I can assure our countrymen is that these discussions with the US will lead to enhanced security for the Philippines and that’s why we’re entering into these discussions,” he added.

Carandang said the issue of South China Sea affecting the tension between China and the Philippines would not be set aside on the possible discussions with Obama and President Aquino.

“I think this cannot be avoided to be discussed with because that is a part of the context of our action to enhance our maritime security. It’s not just about the territorial disputes with China,” he added.

The Philippines has said it wants the deal concluded before the end of the year.
Manila had hosted tens of thousands of US soldiers at two bases north of Manila, but they were forced to leave in 1992 after the Senate voted to end their lease contracts amid strong anti-American sentiment.

A new agreement that went into force in 1999 allowed US troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises involving several thousand members of the US military every year.

US special forces have also been rotating through the southern Philippines since 2002 to help Filipino soldiers against Islamic militants, with the maximum number there at any one time believed to be about 600.

The envisaged deal would see many more exercises, although the Philippines has insisted it will not allow a permanent US presence. This would require a change to the Constitution.

The Philippines has accused China of building its military presence in the South China Sea in recent years.

China claims most of the sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbors such as the Philippines.

While the United States has insisted it does not take sides in the dispute, it has been seeking to rebuild its military footprint in the Philippines as part of President Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia.

The battle for Zamboanga: What went wrong (Pt. 3 of 3)

From GMA News (Sep 29): The battle for Zamboanga: What went wrong (Pt. 3 of 3)

Last in a 3-part series

(Editor's note: In this concluding essay, journalist Criselda Yabes examines the mistakes that were made during the attack in Zamboanga City, which she visited as the conflict entered its third week. On Saturday, the military announced that the siege was over.)

The siege in Zamboanga City has shown that Mindanao has ceased to be grasped as a whole, as a single issue for the Muslims. For every peace paper signed, another one will have to follow with a breakaway group, and then another if we keep failing to understand the pieces that have broken over the years, centuries even if you’d like to go that far back.

Misuari was one piece of that process. He cannot be removed from the picture, to be viewed under the range of a strategy if President Benigno Aquino wants peace so badly for Mindanao.

Aquino may also want to have a better choice of generals. Zamboanga, for one thing, is the headquarters of the Western Mindanao command, which could have called on its forces to cut off Malik’s entry into the city. It had five Marine battalions in Sulu, six Army battalions in Basilan, elite units thereabouts of the Scout Rangers and Light Reaction Company, and an Army division north of the peninsula.

Yet, quick decisions made in this ‘war’ dissolved into a level of tactics, according to accounts from troops on the ground. The military had to wing it as the days wore on; the last thing it needed was having a commander-in-chief send in his buddy, the Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, wasting time on PowerPoint presentations on the situation.

The President chose a military solution when he arrived on the fifth day of the crisis, and there was no turning back from that. Otherwise his weakness of buckling down and that of his military could have opened a wider catastrophe. At his beckoning, forces were brought in from other parts of the country, from northern Mindanao, from Luzon, from Bicol and the Visayas whereas in the critical early days, the military had to grope, pulling in a platoon here, getting drivers and cooks and retired soldiers there. Forces in Sulu and Basilan had to stay put, in case of a swelling of the tide in favor of the rebels.

If he knew his mettle, a three-star general running the Western Mindanao Command should have known what to do, either preemptively or nipping it in the bud. As much as I could indulge in hindsight, the other face of this is removing Misuari from his piece of Mindanao, destroying his armory, and seeing him for what he is. But that would have to come at a price, here in Zamboanga. That means another generation of children of war, a renewed cycle of anger, as Musa the Muslim teacher in the evacuation camp pointed out.

How long will it take for Zamboanga to heal? Will my friends find the courage to leave their homes after the military proclaimed that the siege was over, fearful and traumatized and paranoid of every conspiratorial rumor they hear? Will the face of a Muslim, such as Musa’s, suffer a backlash?  And will the Tausugs too see that they have been victims of their own people?

“Remember our schoolmates?” Mayor Beng asked me when I went to see her in her temporary office by refugee center. She was in my younger sister’s high school batch in Pilar College, a girls’ school right by the seaside boulevard into which the refugees have spilled out from the evacuation camp, given tents to set up by the shore. “We grew up with them in the ‘70s, they’re professionals now” – and I know what she meant by this: the Muslims, they can’t all be the same.

“Zamboanga is your home,” she spoke to the rebels as an imaginary audience. “Your children grew up here, you built your house here, don’t make this city a staging ground for your warfare.’ Right then I had a sad suspicion that Zamboanga will put up a wall. This has gone too far. It has pushed them to the brink.

We grew up trying to be normal from the spillover of the war in Sulu in the ‘70s, the common occurrences of violence, kidnappings, killings, bomb explosions in bazaars and movie houses. Trying so hard we danced to disco music, made out with our boyfriends, hung out at the Pasonanca Park.

Mayor Beng’s mother was our neighbor in Santa Maria near the Air Force base, where signs of daily routine were picking up as the siege entered its third week. Sari-sari stories were open, traffic was moving in this part of town regarded as the suburb. I remember she had the most vibrant collection of orchids in her garden and others had followed. Zamboanga, our City of Flowers.

There had to be an end. Did it have to happen, like a boil waiting to burst?

Two of my high school classmates managed to sneak out and meet me in my hotel, whose German chef I’m told had told catered meals to the President during his nine-day stay at the military headquarters. The people of Zamboanga didn’t want Aquino to leave, not until they were sure it was done and they could carry on again. In the early days when no action was taken, they were cursing him. On the balcony we smoked to relieve tension and talked about the inanities of a soap opera they’ve been watching to get their minds off the sound of firing in the distance, but just the same they rushed home five hours before the curfew at 8 p.m.

I left my city on a C-130 cargo plane. Across the Air Force base is a bungalow where we used to live when I was little. We would hear the repetitive roar of the planes and helicopters, getting used to the pace of the city which, during those tumultuous years in the ‘70s, suddenly had a wave of refugees seeking shelter. Muslims of that generation had seen the burning of Jolo, an event censored by the Martial Law press; it took me well into my years as a journalist to find out what really happened.

This time around, I know what happened in Zamboanga. The bugles mourned at the military honors for an Army officer and two policemen whose caskets stood on the tarmac for a send-off. One by one they were lifted into the cavern of the plane, each one draped with the Philippine flag. I didn’t expect to be on a flight with dead soldiers, their steel coffins beside me by a borderline of bags and boxes.

I have struggled to write this piece despite what I have learned of Mindanao as a result of my childhood, and why I kept coming back to it. Believing in a far-fetched promise of hope, all these things came down to the sight of the caskets in the dark as the plane’s giant door closed: senselessness. – YA, GMA News

Part 1 - In the shadow of Fort Pilar, anger and pain in Rio Hondo

Part 2 - Misuari's journey: From the burning of Jolo to the siege in Zamboanga

Raised in Zamboanga City, CRISELDA YABES is the author of the novel 'Below the Crying Mountain,' on the rebellion in the south in the 1970s. Published by the University of the Philippines Press, it was nominated for the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize. Her latest book, 'Peace Warriors,' which followed the military in Mindanao, won the National Book Award last year.

House to probe procurement of AFP helmets

From ABS-CBN (Sep 29): House to probe procurement of AFP helmets

The House of Representatives will look into the procurement of combat helmets by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The investigation was prompted by a resolution filed by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III and other members of the minority bloc led by Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora.

Albano yesterday said he drafted the resolution after the father of Army Lt. Francis Damian, one of three young officers killed in action in Zamboanga City, complained to him that his son died when a sniper’s bullet pierced through his helmet.

“Considering the circumstances surrounding the death of Lt. Damian, one cannot help but conclude that the combat helmet used by the valiant soldier was defective and did not conform with standard military specifications,” he said.

“Our soldiers who fight with bravery and dedication deserve our utmost support. Remedial legislation must be taken to improve the fighting capability and protect the welfare of our soldiers,” he said.

The three officers died while leading their men in battling a group of Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Zamboanga City.

Is Zambo crisis really over? Palace says yes, but...

From ABS-CBN (Sep 29): Is Zambo crisis really over? Palace says yes, but...

Malacanang admitted the Zamboanga City crisis is not completely over.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) chief Ricky Carandang admitted that "there are still clearing operations ongoing and it’s not really back to normal.”

“It’s not completely over yet. [But] what we’ve done here is that we’ve degraded the ability of [the Moro National Liberation Front faction led by Nur Misuari] to create these kinds of situation,” Carandang said In an interview with radio dzRB.

He insisted that the government and the forces on the ground have dealt the Misuari situation with a heavy blow.

The crisis began when the faction of Misuari laid siege in Zamboanga City last September 9.

On Saturday, Malacanang announced via deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte that the crisis is over.

"Our task from Day 1 is to ensure the safety of the hostages that were well as to get civilians out of harm's way and that has already been accomplished," she said.

The government has yet to pinpoint the whereabouts of Habier Malik, Misuari’s top aide.

Carandang took note, however, that the government has already filed rebellion charges against him and the others. The Department of Justice is also set to file the same against Misuari.

2 NPA regulars to receive livelihood, cash assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): 2 NPA regulars to receive livelihood, cash assistance

CATARMAN, Northern Samar--After proper documentation and custodial debriefing, two New People’s Army (NPA)regulars are about to receive livelihood and financial assistance from the government after they have decided to return to folds of law on Wednesday morning.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, chief of the division public affairs office said the two rebels identified as Jayson Francisco Lucban, alias Bunso/Jay and Rosemarie Moreno Cadajas, alias LJ/Aira/Ai-ai, squad leader and member, respectively of the NPA Regional Strike Force operating in the province of Northern Samar voluntarily submitted themselves to the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Magsaysay, Lope de Vega, this province.

Lt. Colonel Rey Anthony M. Tumaliun, commander of the 20IB, who personally interviewed the two, said they were “teased” by the good livelihood packages being offered by the military and various government agencies.

“They (NPAs) decided to renounce their membership as NPAs because of the current government programs intended for former rebels,” Lt. Col. Tumaliun said.

The Army captain said that under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Peace Process (OPAPP), the two surrendered rebels will receive P50,000.00 livelihood assistance and additional P15,000.00 immediate assistance.

“They will also receive another cash reward in exchange for whatever firearm they will surrender under the AFP Guns for Peace in addition to more livelihood packages from LGUs where they reside,” Gutierrez said.

Sec. Coloma recommends appropriate recognition for Eastern Samar’s Balangiga encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Sec. Coloma recommends appropriate recognition for Eastern Samar’s Balangiga encounter
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio E. Coloma Jr. will recommend for an “appropriate recognition” to the historic Balangiga encounter as it marked its 112th anniversary over the weekend.

Sec. Coloma, who was the guest of honor during the commemorative program, said that he would endorse to the National Historical Institute (NHI) to consider Balangiga town as one possible host for the Independence Day celebration before the term of President Benigno S. Aquino ends.

He pointed out the significance of the event in 1901 as he explained that the Philippines was only three years old as a Republic and Emilio Aguinaldo, its first President was also captured by the American forces.

But the Balangigan-on showed their bravery by not allowing the abusive American soldiers to exploit them.

Coloma said that indeed the Balangiga encounter is not just for the locales to celebrate nor for Eastern Samar but for the entire Filipino nation.

He added that Filipinos thought all the while that the first People Power happened only in 1986 at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). Instead, he urged Balangigan-ons to declare that what transpired 112 years ago was already a strong showcase of people power.

Similar to the EDSA People Power the Balangia encounter also hold on to their faith in winning their struggles. In fact the Balangiga church bells served as signal to start the struggle.

The incident he said deserved a chapter in the country’s history books and not just few paragraphs or sentences to proclaim the heroism and bravery of the Balangigan-ons.

Further, he urged everyone to always remember the people of Balangiga each time they sing the phrase “sa manlulupig di ka pasisiil.”

Moreover, the bell that played a significant role during the encounter should be part of the design of the Philippine National Police (PNP) badge if not of the Philippine Army to also symbolize the heroism of the Balangigan-on.

The Balangiga encounter that happened in the morning of Sept. 28, 1901 was dubbed as the “worst single defeat” by the United States military in the Philippines, according to an article written by Prof. Rolando O. Borrinaga of the School of Health Sciences, of the University of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas.

It was a fruit of the struggle of the natives to break free from the abuses of the US troops that belonged to the company “C” of the 9th US Infantry Regiment stationed at the Balangiga to prevent the entry of supplies that will sustain the Filipino revolutionaries.

Ruben B. Matias, trustee of the Balangiga Historical and Cultural Foundation, Inc, wrote that the encounter resulted in the death of 48 American soldiers and 28 on the part of Filipino forces. Meanwhile, 21 US troops and 22 Filipinos were wounded.

The US forces upon the order allegedly of B/Gen. Jacob H. Smith retaliated by killing all natives capable of bearing arms, specifically all 10 years old and above.

Days later, the three church bells used by the natives to signal the previous encounter were taken by the 11th US Infantry and dubbed them as “war trophies.”

The smallest bell is now on display at the travelling museum of the 9th US Infantry in Korea while the two others are now at the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Coloma said that a diplomatic effort to retrieve these bells continues.

“We are not giving up on those efforts,” he affirmed.

AFP tells civilians not to go home yet while clearing operations are ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): AFP tells civilians not to go home yet while clearing operations are ongoing
Despite the defeat of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Zamboanga City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urged residents of conflict-affected areas not to return to their homes yet while clearing operations are ongoing.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said that there may still be unexploded ordnance as well as a possible health issue stemming from the decomposing bodies of fatalities.

"We are discouraging residents from returning to their homes at this time," Zagala said.

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the crisis is over, following 20 days of fighting between government forces and MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari's followers.

He said the next stage is to clear the conflict-hit areas of possible booby traps and explosives.

Zagala said they expect the process to be "very tedious" because there is much debris.

"We have to look carefully under the rubble, in the houses. We are looking at a 30- to 40-hectare stretch of rubble," he said.

Zagala stressed that they are doing their best to meet the two-week deadline to complete the clearing operations.

He added the Philippine National Police will take the lead in the clearing operations.

"They have to lead not necessarily because this is considered a crime scene," he said.

On the other hand, he said the AFP is not pulling out its forces.

"We are thousands here and we will continue to finish the clearing together," Zagala emphasized.

AFP tells MNLF stragglers just to give themselves up

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): AFP tells MNLF stragglers just to give themselves up

With clearing operations in formerly Moro National LIberation Front occupied areas in Zamboanga City now beginning in earnest, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala is urging MNLF stragglers just to surrender and give themselves up to military authorities rather than attempt to fight back.

"If they will use force, we have no choice but to neutralize them," he added.

Zagala also emphasized that the AFP's goal is to ensure the orderly surrender of these stragglers, stressing that the remaining MNLF fighters will be treated humanely.

As of Sunday, the AFP public affairs officer said that six MNLF stragglers were killed after firing on military units conducting clearing operations in Zamboanga City, even as it clarified that the worse is over in Zamboanga City.

Zagala added that they are looking into the possibility that MNLF commander Habier Malik was killed during the fighting.

The AFP official stated that they are closely looking at every MNLF dead to ascertain this fact.

"There is (a) possibility he was killed also, so we are identifying each body that we find, " Zagala stressed

He also said that the possibility that Malik escaped is very slim as the military cordon is very tight and the latter vowed to die in place with his fighters.

Scattered fighting in Zamboanga

From Rappler (Sep 29): Scattered fighting in Zamboanga

REMNANTS. What is left of Brgy Sta Catalina. Photo by Rappler/Karlos Manlupig

REMNANTS. What is left of Brgy Sta Catalina. Photo by Rappler/Karlos Manlupig

Philippine troops hunted the remnants of a Muslim rebel group in the key southern city of Zamboanga Sunday, September 29, with residents hearing gunfire a day after the military declared an end to its 3-week campaign.

The army announced Saturday that police were taking over from troops to clear sections of the vital regional trading center of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) stragglers.

But just minutes after the military said the threat to Zamboanga was over, soldiers killed 3 MNLF fighters in a clash that also left 6 troops wounded.

"What happened was not organized resistance. These are stragglers trying to escape capture," military spokesperson Lt Col Ramon Zagala told AFP Sunday, adding that only a handful of rebels remained.

"The mission is completed. We have already neutralized the threat to Zamboanga City."

On Sunday morning, another firefight occured between the police and 10 MNLF fighters at Brgy Santa Catalina. At least 6 MNLF fighters were killed.

Authorities recovered 4 M16 rifles, one M14 rifles, one M4 rifle, 3 live ammunitions for 40mm, one handheld radio, 3 wrist watches, one cellphone and 2 ammunition rigs at the site. There was no reported casualty on the government's side.

Fighters swarmed into the city's neighborhoods 20 days ago, taking hostages and triggering weeks of violence as they sought to derail peace talks between the government and MNLF's rival group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

More than 10,000 homes were razed to the ground forcing over 100,000 people – around a tenth of the city's population – to flee.

The latest clash put the toll at 189 MNLF fighters killed, with 292 captured or surrendering, while 23 soldiers and police and 12 civilians had also been slain.

A total of 195 civilian hostages had been rescued with no more believed to still be in the hands of the gunmen, said Zagala.

The military said Nur Misuari, who founded the MNLF in the early 1970s, had sent hundreds of armed followers led by his top lieutenant Habier Malik, to Zamboanga.

READ: Habier Malik: Trapped in the city he seized

Where is Malik?

Malik's identification card had been found on the body of a slain MNLF members, Zagala said, though it was too early to confirm his death and forensic examinations were being carried out.

The conflict area – 30-40 hectares (74-99 acres) of densely packed communities, mangrove swamps and ponds – would take about two weeks to clear of possible MNLF stragglers, unexploded bombs, booby traps and the buried bodies of dead gunmen, he said.

Muslim rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland in the south of the mainly Catholic Philippines. An estimated 150,000 people have died in the conflict.

The MNLF signed a peace treaty in 1996 that granted limited self-rule to the south's Muslim minority.

READ: Misuari, myths and the MNLF; Misuari and the lessons of inclusion

However the group is opposed to a planned final peace deal between the government and the remaining major Muslim rebel group, the 12,000-strong MILF.

The MNLF believes the deal could leave it sidelined.

As of Sunday, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said about 100 MNLF fighters have been charged over the Zamboanga siege. The government is also expected to file rebellion charges against Misuari in the coming days.

30 Negros Occidental barangays named 'areas of concern'

From Rappler (Sep 29): 30 Negros Occidental barangays named 'areas of concern'

Thirty barangays in Negros Occidental have been classified as "areas of concern" in relation to next month's barangay elections.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said that these barangays are said to be penetrated by the New People's Army (NPA). They are located in the 1st, 5th and 6th districts of the province.

He clarified though that these areas are not "hot spots" but only "areas of concern."

"This does not mean that the entire barangays are affected by the NPA, only some of their sitios," he said.

There are 662 barangays in Negros Occidental.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) expects intense political rivalries among candidates in Negros Occidental during the barangay elections on October 28.

Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director, explained that rivalries at the barangay level are mostly personal since candidates live in the same place.

Lirazan however gave assurance that they have put in place security measures to ensure peaceful elections, and that they may recommend the signing of peace covenants among candidates.

In this year's midterm elections, some local candidates asked Commission on Elections to place the province under its control due to killings prior to the polls, but the military and police didn't support the call.

The May midterm polls in Negros Occidental ended violence-free.

AFP warns Zambo folk of risk from unexploded ordnance; clearing mission under way

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): AFP warns Zambo folk of risk from unexploded ordnance; clearing mission under way

Zamboanga residents whose homes are in the six barangays affected by the MNLF siege that laid to waste some 10,000 homes in the city were advised not to return to their houses without military clearance, owing to the high risk posed by unexploded ordnance.

The advice came from Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Information chief, a day after the military said its mission had been accomplished with the last of the hostages rescued and soldiers doing house-to-house clearing to ferret out stragglers from the followers of Nur Misuari.

Meanwhile, despite the declaration that the Zamboanga City crisis is now over, three more MNLF fighters were killed and six Marines wounded following an encounter in Barangay Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City Saturday morning.

Initial reports said the firefight took place around 11: 25 a.m.

The wounded Marines are all from 1st Marine Battalion Landing Team.

It was not immediately known whether this latest encounter was the result of the military's clearing operations in areas formerly occupied by the rebels. No other details were available as of this posting.

Roxas: Clearing operations begin

Earlier on Saturday, Local Government Sec. Manuel Roxas, II announced the shift to clearing operations to ensure the safe return of civilians to their homes.

Roxas’ statement came after National Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin announced that the standoff, which entered the 20th day Saturday, is over.

Roxas said the clearing operations would last from 10 days to two weeks or more since it will be a room-to-room and a house-to-house search.

Roxas said it will really take time since the houses are closely built to each other and the clearing operation area ranges from 30 to 40 hectares.

“What are sought to be avoided here are booby traps, IED (improvised explosive device); and of course, we also want to retrieve if there are still undiscovered bodies. arms, or munitions that were left behind," Roxas said, speaking partly in Filipino.

Roxas, Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista visited Saturday morning Martha Drive in Barangay Sta. Catalina, one of the sites of fierce gun battle between the troops and MNLF rebels who infiltrated this city.

Gazmin said that the soldiers will remain to assist the police force in undertaking the clearing operations in the “areas of concerns.”

The clearing operation is the second phase of the government action. The first phase is the military operation launched against the hundreds of MNLF rebels who infiltrated the city last September 9.

Roxas said the third phase, which is the reconstruction, will immediately begin once the clearing operation is over.

VIDEO | Malik's ID found among slain MNLF fighters

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): VIDEO | Malik's ID found among slain MNLF fighters

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday announced that identification (ID) card belonging to Commander Habier Malik has been found in one of the slain Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Zamboanga City.

But AFP public affairs office deputy head Maj. Angelo Guzman said it is still being determined if the body is indeed that of the slain MNLF commander.

Guzman said there were "similarities" between the body and their records of Malik, one of the commanders of MNLF forces involved in the clashes for 20 days in Zamboanga City.

"ID belonging to Malik found in one killed Nur fighter in Zamboanga (but) is not a guarantee that he is Malik, though they have similarities," Guzman said in a post on his Twitter account.

But AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Malik is just one of the five commanders of the MNLF forces that had briefly taken over parts of the city.

"We have to consider how many forces, there are five commanders, and Malik is just one of them," Zagala said.

The discovery of the ID gave rise to the possibility that the feared commander, with a reputation of a hothead of sorts, was among those killed by state security forces in the final push to reclaim Zamboanga City. See video here:


Misuari still in Sulu

As for MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari, the AFP public affairs office chief said their information indicates he is still in Sulu but declined to elaborate.

He added that they are constantly monitoring Misuari.

The latter's followers had engaged government forces in a standoff starting September 9, when they took civilians as hostages.

But government forces managed to retake the MNLF-controlled areas on. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had said the crisis was over and Misuari's forces been totally defeated.

Questions hound PAF's P800-M fixed-wing aircraft project bidding; DND mum

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): Questions hound PAF's P800-M fixed-wing aircraft project bidding; DND mum

A C-212 Aviocar plane of the US Air Force is seen in file photo. The C212-Aviocar was designed and built by Spain for civil and military use. The Indonesian version of the Aviocar was offered by PT Dirgantara Indonesia last week as it won the bid for two units in an P800-million project of the Philippine Air Force.

Questions hound last week's bidding for two brand-new units of light-lift (not medium-lift as earlier reported) fixed-wing aircraft worth P812 million for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The project was initially awarded to an Indonesian firm, amid questions the winner was declared lone qualified bidder despite its alleged inability to meet a crucial criterion on credit line. The Department of National Defense (DND) is keeping mum on the matter.

Last Wednesday, the project’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chaired by Undersecretary Patrick Velez declared PT Dirgantara Indonesia/Indonesian Aerospace (IAe), with its bid offer of P812,550,000, as “lone qualified bidder.”

IAe offered its aircraft product of NC-212-400 Aviocar.

Sources privy to the bidding said Dirgantara did not satisfy all the required bid documents under the Procurement Law. A source said that "during the opening of bid documents, Dirgantara was not able to present a Credit Line Certification from a local financial commercial bank in the Philippines. What it presented only is an ongoing transmittal transaction."

Given this, the source said, the BAC "should have declared failed bidding and possibly announced there and then a rebid. We also don’t know why BAC gave the Technical Working Group 7 days to evaluate Dirgantara’s documents, for what?”

A second source said the “lacking document” of Dirgantara will be covered by “a post qualification” process, adding that this is "very very irregular.”

Questions sent by mobile phone to the DND-BAC through Fernando Manalo, undersecretary for Finanace, Munitions, Installations and Materiel went unanswered at posting time.

Earlier, Manalo had said of the bidding. “Wala pa, bid is being evaluated.”
Ironically, Sikorsky Aircraft, one of those that bought bid documents, had earlier raised the question of “credit line”.

Its query:“Is a credit worthy letter from a bank acceptable? If not, what is acceptable? What is the reference to confirmation/authentication?” was officially posted at the DND-BAC website.

The DND-BAC replied to that query thus: “No, a credit worthy letter is not acceptable. Please refer to the following provisions of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act (RA) 9184 which governs the required Credit Line Certificate, to wit:

a) Section 23 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 9184 enumerates the eligibility requirements for the procurement of goods, among which is the financial document stated in Section 23.1(a) (vi), that is, “The prospective bidder’s computation for its Net Financial Contracting Capacity (NFCC) or a commitment from a Universal or Commercial Bank to extend a credit line in favor of the prospective bidder if awarded the contract to be bid (CLC)”.

b) Section
“If the prospective bidder submits a CLC, the CLC must be at least equal to ten percent (10%) of the ABC to be bid. If the CLC is issued by a foreign Universal or Commercial Bank, it shall be confirmed or authenticated by a Universal or Commercial Bank.

"It is very clear in the above-mentioned provisions of the IRR of RA 9184 that a CLC is a commitment from a Universal or Commercial Bank to extend a credit line in favor of your company should the contract to be bid out be awarded to your company, and if this will be issued by a foreign Universal or Commercial Bank, it is required that the same be confirmed or authenticated by a Universal or Commercial Bank here in the Philippines.”

Rebel leader who led Zamboanga assault missing, slain or escaped?

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Sep 29): Rebel leader who led Zamboanga assault missing, slain or escaped?

Ustadz Khabir Malik's ATM Card. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Following three weeks of intense military operations and the government’s failure to capture of a top rebel commander, who led a simultaneous attack in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, security officials now claimed to have recovered his identification card from one of the slain raiders.

Army Major Angelo Guzman, the military’s deputy public affairs chief, said they are checking whether the cadaver belongs to Ustadz Khabir Malik, a lieutenant of Moro National Liberation Front chieftain Nur Misuari, who led the September 9 assault in villages here.

Public criticisms are mounting after the military failed to capture or kill Malik despite an overpowering assault that resulted in the burning of thousands of houses in the villages of Santa Catalina and Santa Barbara.

One intelligence source has told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that Malik may have already escaped from a military dragnet on the second week of fighting after negotiations for their surrender failed. Malik reportedly escaped on a speedboat with his trusted men and left behind a rag-tag army of fighters to hold off advancing security forces.

It was not immediately known whether Malik - who is facing rebellion charges along with his men - has returned to Sulu province or sought safe refuge in nearby Basilan province. The report cannot be independently confirmed, but security officials, quoting former hostages freed by rebels said Malik is still in Zamboanga.

The rebels launched the attack after Misuari accused the Aquino government of reneging on a peace accord signed 17 years ago. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of Muslim autonomous region. But he and many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living.

They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

Misuari remains in hiding and was last reported to be hiding on the islands surrounding Tongkil town and is reportedly planning to escape to Malaysia or Indonesia and travel to a Muslim country to seek political asylum after Manila included him in rebellion charges along with Malik’s group, according to another intelligence source.

There were also reports that Malik’s relatives have seized Misuari and blamed him for the deaths of many MNLF fighters in Zamboanga City.

In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the autonomous region, Misuari also accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence.

The fighting forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes for fear they would be caught in the crossfire or captured by rebels and use as shield against military forces. More than 400 were killed and wounded in the fighting in Zamboanga.

The military said clearing operations still continue in at least 5 villages where rebels occupied.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said the spates of events that unfolded and continue to unfold in Zamboanga are very heartbreaking and upsetting.  “Homes have been destroyed, lives have been broken and dreams have been lost. Zamboanga City paid a high cost to defend our freedom, independence and sovereignty, and our heart goes out to the residents of Zamboanga, to the families and children who remain in distress and who live in fear for their present and for their future,” she said.

Salazar added: “Our hearts go out to the fallen soldiers and policemen who gave up their lives for this fight, to every wife who lost a husband, to every child who lost a father and to parents who lost a son. Through all this, Zamboanga City remains undaunted and undefeated. As we prepare to take the long road to recovery, we call on every Filipino to help pick up the pieces left in the wake of this tragedy.”

US school used by Filipino troops in Zamboanga to fight rebels is looted

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 29): US school used by Filipino troops in Zamboanga to fight rebels is looted

Two Filipino soldiers ran past a signboard of the American Career Training Institute to avoid sniper fires in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines where troops fought separatist rebels for three weeks. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

A U.S. school used by Filipino soldiers in attacking separatist rebels in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines had been looted, its American and Filipino owners said.

The owners of the American Career Training Institute, who reported the matter to a local radio network dxRZ, said they were shocked to learn about the looting. They said some P300,000 in cash and equipment and even the vault had been broken.

The school, which has about 300 students, is situated in Santa Barbara, scene of three weeks of fierce clashes between troops and Moro National Liberation Front rebels.

The Filipino owner said they reported the matter to the police and military authorities and to Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar, who sought an investigation into the looting.

“I seek justice to what happened to our school,” the Filipino owner said.

The owners had tried, but failed to get a military clearance last week to enter the school because army officials claimed that there is an ongoing clearing operation in the area and only discovered the looting on Saturday morning.

“When we went there this morning thinking there are military in our building we thought we are safe. Unfortunately, they ransacked our office and our assessment center. (It is) impossible (for the) MNLF (rebels to loot the school) because our place has been cordoned (off) by military since our school is the next building before the METRODISCOM (police camp), beside Southern (City Colleges) eh wala naman MNLF in that area,” the Filipino owner said.

Troops managed to enter the school after its security guard allowed them to go at the rooftop where military snipers positioned themselves to take rebel targets.

“Our security guard even allowed the military to get at the roof deck for their tactical operations para maka-snipe. Tapos ninakawan pa kami ng 2 computers, LCD projector, P70,000 in cash, cash vault had been broken. Flat screen TV, very worst talaga,” the owner said.

“We will seek justice. We thought (the) military should be our protectors, but sad to say, with what happened to us, I begin to question and doubt their intentions. I don't want to point fingers, but what the military did to our school was not right.”

There was no immediate statement from the military about the accusations, but Philippine Army has detained 5 soldiers who were accused of looting a house in nearby Santa Catalina village at the height of the fighting.

Military interrogators were investigating the soldiers, who are members of the 9th Infantry Battalion, at the Western Mindanao Command.

They were arrested and disarmed after fellow soldiers reported the looting to their commander. The soldiers allegedly ransacked the house of a local politician. The soldiers took assorted jewelleries and other valuable things and also tried to open a vault left in the house.

An army official, privy to the ongoing investigation, said the soldiers could be expelled from the service if they are proven guilty of all accusations against them, and eventually charge in a civil court.

The soldiers, whose battalion is under the 9th Infantry Division, were sent here from the Bicol region to help augment hundreds of troops fighting Moro National Liberation Front rebels who stormed several villages on September 9.

It was unknown whether the 5 soldiers were also in the American Career Training Institute.