Monday, September 30, 2013

87 former rebels in Negros Occidental take oath of non-violence

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): 87 former rebels in Negros Occidental take oath of non-violence

Eighty-seven former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) took an oath of adherence to the Code of Conduct of Non-Violence and Declaration of Peace Community as part of the National Peace Consciousness Month celebration in the province.

During the closing program Monday, rebel returnee Erol Biñas said they are grateful for the chance given to them by the government to return to their normal lives after they left the rebel movement.

He added that they have big hopes for their future.

Negrense peace advocate Delia Locsin administered the oath-taking to the 87 rebel returnees.

These rebels surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental from 2011 to present, military records show.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said the surrender of the 87 rebels shows that the call for peace of the provincial government is being answered.

“We are waging an all-out effort for peace. I am calling on them to return to the folds of government because their life in the revolutionary movement is difficult,” the governor said.

Marañon also informed the families of the 87 rebel returnees that they will be covered by the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Care Program aside from the livelihood and educational assistance they received from the provincial government.

During the program, a rebel amazon who surrendered two high-powered firearms to the 11th Infantry Battalion received P90,500 from the “Guns for Peace” program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, was assisted by Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio and Col. Jon Aying, commanders of the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades, respectively, in awarding the cash grant to the female rebel returnee.

Marañon and Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson also turned over P9,000 in educational assistance, including tuition and allowances for one semester, to Bhemverly Complesa, Genesis Tamayor and Cyrus Canja, whose parents were killed in an ambush staged by the NPA in La Castellana town in January this year.

Malik alive, to show self, says Misuari spokesman

From InterAksyon (Sep 30): Malik alive, to show self, says Misuari spokesman

A spokesman of Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari said Monday Habier Malik, who led rebels in the bloody standoff with government troops in Zamboanga City, is alive and will eventually surface.

Lalabas (siya) sa bandang huli (In the end, he will show himself),” lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla said in an interview with radio station dzMM.

Although government on Saturday declared an “end” to the standoff in Zamboanga, uncertainty remains about the fate of Malik, one of Misuari’s most trusted lieutenants.

There have been persistent reports he has managed to escape and return to Sulu but the military insists he remains trapped within one of the “constriction areas” where troops have surrounded rebel holdouts.

Over the weekend, Armed Forces public affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala claimed soldiers had recovered Malik’s body from the body believed to be that of a slain MNLF fighter.

During the interview, Fontanilla claimed around 100 MNLF fighters managed to leave Zamboanga.

Nagpapasalamat kami at nakaalis ang aming mga kapatid doon sa (We are thankful our brothers managed to leave) ground zero,” he said, as he disputed government figures on slain and captured rebels.

Kay dali-daling kumuha ng tao at sabihing MNLF. Ito ay hindi rin natin ma-confirm dahil pamahalaan ang kumikilos, media ng pamahalaan ang lumalabas (It is easy to get people and say they are MNLF. We cannot also confirm this because it is the government moving, the media of government bringing out the news),” Fontanilla said.

He said claims of MNLF casualties can only be confirmed through an investigation by a third party.

But Zagala scoffed at Fontanilla who, he said, “is not on the ground, I was there. Maybe one or two or ten can escape but hundreds cannot go through the monitoring we have.”

“Like they (MNLF) said, they will die there, so it runs contrary to what Atty. Fontanila is saying (that) a hundred escaped,” he added.

However, there have been no accurate figures about the number of MNLF fighters who joined the foray into Zamboanga, with government initially saying there were around 200 of them.

However, the government says it has killed 168 rebels and captured 252 more, with another 24 surrendering, far more than the original estimates.

Since fighting started on September 9, 18 soldiers and five policemen have been killed and 179 soldiers and 15 policemen wounded.

There have also been 12 civilians killed and 72 wounded.

DAY 23 | Soldier, rebel slain in Zamboanga clearing operation

From InterAksyon (Oct 1): DAY 23 | Soldier, rebel slain in Zamboanga clearing operation

AFP chief of staff Gen Emmanuel Bautista (left), Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II (center) and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (right) talk to soldiers during a visit to Martha Street, scene of some of the heaviest fighting in Zamboanga, on Saturday, the day the two secretaries declared the crisis in the port city 'over.' (AFP)

Three days after the government declared the crisis “over” in Zamboanga City, a soldier and a Moro National Liberation Front fighter were killed as operations continued to clear rebel holdouts in what the military has called “constriction areas.”

Although Camp Aguinaldo has yet to issue a confirmation, reports said Corporal Hakim Jaafar of the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion was leading a team clearing houses in Barangay Sta. Barbara when he was shot at close range by a rebel hiding in one of the houses Monday afternoon.

An MNLF fighter was also killed.

The soldiers also seized an M4 and M14 rifle from the rebels.

Asked for comment, Major Angelo Guzman, Armed Forces deputy public affairs chief, said: “Wala (Nothing) …The last casualties were six Marines last September 28.”

Jaafar would be the 18th soldier slain since hostilities were sparked by the MNLF’s foray into Zamboanga on September 9. He was reportedly scheduled to visit his family later this week.

Soon after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II declared the Zamboanga crisis over, sporadic fighting resumed and fresh fires broke out in already devastated communities as the military warned that the although worst of the violence, clearing operations remained dangerous and were likely to continue for two weeks more.

Thus far, the government cannot say what has happened to Habier Malik, the trusted lieutenant of MNLF founder Nur Misuari who led the foray into Zamboanga.

Gazmin said a dead rebel on whose body troops found an identification card of Malik was not the MNLF commander.

There have also been reports that Malik had escaped and returned to Sulu and on Monday, a spokesman for Misuari, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, said the rebel commander would eventually surface.

Interesting, although Malik’s face has long been shown in media, Gazmin said, “hindi pa natin matiyak kung kasama si Malik sa namatay o kasama (siya) dun sa mga na-capture or nakawala (We still aren’t sure if Malik is among the dead or among the captured or among those who escaped) …”

But, he added, “Ngayon, kung nakawala si Malik I’m sure hindi na siya uulit (Now, if Malik escaped, I’m sure he won’t do it again). It will take a long, long time before he can launch another offensive like that. Nakita nila ‘yung pwersa ng gobyerno kung paano ipagtanggol ang ating mga kababayan (They have seen the government forces, how we defend our people).”

More than 200 persons -- including at least 12 civilians -- have died and roughly the same number have been wounded in the fighting.

Another 252 rebels have been captured and 24 others surrendered, while 194 civilians held hostage by the MNLF either escaped or were rescued, the government said.

More than 100,000 persons displaced by the fighting remain in 34 evacuation centers.

Army commander says MILF report on Basilan deaths a 'lie' but admits 4 troops hurt in ambush

From InterAksyon (Oct 1): Army commander says MILF report on Basilan deaths a 'lie' but admits 4 troops hurt in ambush

An Army brigade commander dismissed as a “complete lie” a Moro Islamic Liberation Front claim that 30 soldiers were killed in Basilan province over the weekend, but acknowledged that an ambush had left four troops wounded.

Colonel Carlito Galvez, commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, said in a phone interview that a member of the International Monitoring Team, which oversees a truce between the government and the MILF, informed him “about that story that came out in Luwaran,” the MILF website, and asking him for confirmation.

The Luwaran article claimed government troops attempted to assault a Moro National Liberation Front position in Barangay Ettub-Ettub, Sumisip town Saturday evening but lost 30 dead and “scores wounded.”

Saturday was the same day Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared the bloody standoff in Zamboanga City “over.”

The MILF also claimed the military bombarded the site of the battle, sending civilians fleeing their homes.

But Galvez described the report as “preposterous” and a “complete lie”.

“Our soldiers did not attack the MNLF, they were ambushed. The firefight left four soldiers wounded. On the enemy side, there was one (dead), four of them wounded and one still missing …” Galvez retorted.

The MILF, which broke away from the MNLF in the early 1980s, is engaged in peace talks with government, with both sides saying they are closing to forging a final agreement.

However, the MNLF has rejected the current negotiations, which it claims voids a 1996 peace agreement it sealed with the government.

3 firms join pre-bid for 3 PAF planes worth P5.3B

From InterAksyon (Oct 1): 3 firms join pre-bid for 3 PAF planes worth P5.3B

Three firms joined the pre-bid conference held Monday by the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of National Defense for the acquisition of three brand new medium-lift fixed-wing aircraft worth P5.3 billion.

According to an official document obtained Tuesday by, the firms that bought bid documents were Alenia Aermacchi, which may offer its C28J model, EADS Casa Air Bus Military, C295 model, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia/Indonesian Aerospace (IAe/Persero), C235 model.

The BAC is chaired by Fernando Manalo, undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel, with Patrick Velez, assistant secretary for Acquisition, Installations and Logistics as vice-chairman.

Sources who attended the conference said discussions centered on questions from the participating bidders on the Procurement Law, bid documents and specifications of the units to be procured.

Interestingly, PT Dirgantara’s presence in the pre-bid conference raised the eyebrows of some observers.

Last week, the DND-BAC declared the Indonesian firm the “lone qualified bidder” for a contract to supply two brand new light-lift fixed-wing aircrafts more than P800 million although it lacked a “local credit line.”

PT Dirgantara offered a bid price of P812,550,000 for its NC-212-400 Aviocar.

“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,” a source privy to the bidding said. “What it presented only is an ongoing transmittal transaction. Therefore, 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 document Dirgantara lacks would be “subject for post qualification” process.

“I find this very, very irregular,” he said.

Mindanao soldiers get promotion

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Sep 30): Mindanao soldiers get promotion

Deputy Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command Navy Captain Severino Vicente T. David presides over the pinning of rank insignia to newly promoted soldiers during Monday’s flag raising ceremony in Davao City. He is assisted by Chief of Unified Command Staff Colonel Cristobal N. Zaragoza.

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2013) – Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander Captain Severino Vicente David on Monday presided the pinning of rank insignia to newly promoted soldiers in Davao City in southern Philippines.

David pinned the rank insignia during the flag raising ceremony at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao parade ground, according Captain. Alberto Caber, the command’s chief information officer.

He said the newly promoted soldiers were TSg. Domingo T. Lapitan; TSg. Ramil C. Azarez; TSg Pedro S. Brac; SSg. Donato S. Bello SSg. Edgar D. Lancheta; SSg. Angel T. Barrieta; SSg. Merce T. Jasmin; Sgt. Renato T. Gamos; Sgt. Mary Ann M. Tan; Sgt. Emily L. Ebrona and Cpl. Jhoan S. Gualberto.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, congratulated the newly promoted enlisted personnel “who have proven themselves worthy of their rank.”

“The rank you have earned is the fruit of your efforts in the accomplishment of our mission. Wear your rank with pride and be worthy of the responsibilities that come with it,” Cruz said.

Cruz also urged troops to continue to pursue peace programs to achieve lasting peace and development in the region.

Soldier killed, woman wounded in Zamboanga Norte ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Sep 30): Soldier killed, woman wounded in Zamboanga Norte ambush

Unidentified gunmen killed a government soldier and wounded his companion in an ambush in the southern Filipino province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said Monday.

Police said the gunmen attacked Sergeant Marlon Bacalares, of the 10th Infantry Battalion, who was travelling on a motorcycle with Irish Plindingue, 22; and Jenny Flores, 26, in the village of Limbonga in Godod town.

The soldier, assigned at a detachment in the village, was instantly killed whole Plindigue was wounded in the ambush, while Flores escaped unscathed.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the ambush and police are still investigating the motive of attack.

SWS: Pinoys not quite as hopeful on peace with MILF in 2nd quarter

From GMA News (Sep 30): SWS: Pinoys not quite as hopeful on peace with MILF in 2nd quarter

Filipinos are not quite as hopeful about peace efforts between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to a new survey by pollster Social Weather Stations.

The SWS' June 28-30 survey showed that while seven out of 10 Filipinos remain hopeful government and the MILF can forge a deal, this was a drop from 79 percent in March 2013, and 83 percent in June 2011.

Results of the survey were posted Monday on SWS' media partner BusinessWorld.

Negotiators of the government and MILF have yet to reach a final agreement on power sharing and normalization, nearly a year after signing a framework agreement that promises to have a Bangsamoro political entity replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide, with error margins of +/-3% for national and +/-6% for area percentages applying to the survey.

Very hopeful, somewhat hopeful

The SWS survey showed the percentage of those "very hopeful" and "somewhat hopeful" that the government and MILF will reach an agreement was at 70 percent as of end-June, this was below the 79 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

It said this percentage had fallen to 71 percent in September 2011, and was between 58 and 64 percent from December 2011 to August 2012.

However, the SWS said this gained to 79 percent in March 2013 but fell to 70 percent in June 2013.

Of the 70 percent who believed a peace deal can be reached, 28 percent were “very hopeful” - lower than 41 percent in March; while 42 percent who were “somewhat hopeful” compared to 38 percent in March.

Those “somewhat not hopeful” about a peace pact rose to 14 percent from 10 percent in March, while those “not hopeful” increased to 16 percent from 11 percent.

Of those "not hopeful at all" about a peace pact, their ranks rose to 16 percent from 11 percent in March, the survey showed.

Mindanao remained the most optimistic with 34 percent "very hopeful" of a peace agreement, along with 30 percent in the Visayas, 27 percent in Metro Manila, and 24 percent in Balance Luzon.

* 35% believe peace pact can be forged during pnoy's term

The survey also showed fewer Filipinos - 35 percent compared to 49 percent in March - believe a peace agreement can be reached during the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

Those who believe a peace deal can "not ever" be signed rose to 34 percent from 22 percent in March, while those who believe a deal can be signed in 2013 dipped from 11 percent in March to 10 percent in June.

At least 25 percent believe a deal can be reached between 2014 and 2016, while 28 percent believe it can be reached between 2016 and 2020.

Mindanao optimistic

The survey showed Mindanao respondents expect a peace deal to be achieved this year, with 23 percent expecting it to happen in 2013, along with 9 percent in Balance Luzon, 4 percent in Metro Manila, and 3 percent in the Visayas.

Those who believe a peace pact is possible in the final three years of the Aquino administration included 28 percent in the Visayas, 27 percent in Mindanao, 25 percent in Metro Manila (25%), and 22 percent in Balance Luzon.

As for those who believe a deal would never happen, they include 43 percent in the Visayas, 35 percent in Balance Luzon, 34 percent in Metro Manila, and 24 percent in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, those who believe the next administration in 2016 to 2022 will approach a peace deal include 34 percent in Metro Manila, 29 percent in Balance Luzon, and 24 percent each in Visayas and Mindanao.

Muslims and Christians

The survey showed Muslims were most hopeful for a peace agreement with 59 percent saying they were "very hopeful," along with 29 percent of non-Catholic Christians and 27 percent of Catholics.

Also, the survey showed 43 percent of Muslims expect a deal to be signed this year, along with 10 percent of Catholics and 8 percent non-Catholic Christians.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of Muslims, 36 percent of Catholics and 22 percent of non-Catholic Christians expect a deal to be signed before the Aquino administration ends.

DVIDS: Photo -- Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

From DVIDS (Sep 26): Photo: Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

Philippine Air Force Airman 1st Class Aimond Eryan Hernandez and U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Channing Urber carry U.S. Marine Cpl. Abraham Bernado out of an F/A-18 Hornet during aircraft rescue and firefighting training at Clark Air Field, Pampanga, Republic of the Philippines, Sept. 26 part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014. The day of training familiarized the Armed Forces of Philippine members with egress procedures should an aircraft mishap incident occur. The Philippine and U.S. militaries often engage in bilateral training in the common interest of regional security. Hernandez is an air rescue fire fighter with the 600th Air Base Wing, Urber is an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force and Bernado is a power line mechanic with MWSS-172.

DVIDS: Photo -- 3d MEB assists community in cleanup of flood-damaged schools

From DVIDS (Sep 29): Photo: 3d MEB assists community in cleanup of flood-damaged schools
3d MEB assists community in cleanup of flood-damaged schools

Filipino police officers, community members and soldiers as well as U.S. Marines toss potato sacks filled with mud as part of a community relations event Sept. 29 at Olongapo City, Zambales, Republic of the Philippines during the Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014. The team helped clean three flood-affected schools. Bilateral Philippine-U.S. Marine Corps training during PHIBLEX sustains and reinforces the foundation and framework for a bilateral force to respond rapidly and effectively to regional humanitarian crises. The Filipino soldiers are with the Army Reserve Command. The Marines are with 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose D. Lujano/ Released)

DVIDS: Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

From DVIDS (Sep 26): Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

 Philippine Armed Forces members, Marines train for emergencies

U.S. Marine Sgt. Devon McIntyre explains the fundamentals of aircraft rescue and firefighting training at Clark Air Field, Pampanga, Republic of the Philippines, Sept. 26 during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014. The day of training familiarized the Armed Forces of the Philippine members with egress procedures should an aircraft mishap incident occur. PHIBLEX 14 is an annual, bilateral training exercise focused on enhancing security and stability within the region. McIntyre is the ARFF training noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
PAMPANGA, Republic of the Philippines - Armed Forces of the Philippines members and U.S. Marines conducted bilateral aircraft rescue and firefighting training during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014 Sept. 26 at Clark Air Field, Pampanga, Republic of the Philippines.

PHIBLEX 14 is an annual, bilateral training exercise focused on enhancing security and stability within the region.

The day of training, which involved U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, increased the already high level of interoperability between Philippine and U.S. forces.

“Today we are going to be conducting some bilateral training with our Filipino counterparts involving the F/A-18 Hornet,” said Sgt. Devon McIntyre, the aircraft rescue and firefighting training non-commissioned officer-in-charge with MWSS-172.
The day of training started out with a familiarization class consisting of emergency procedures on how to extract a pilot or shut a plane down, according to McIntyre.

“We will be covering all the major areas of emergencies, so they will understand the complexity of this should it really happen,” said McIntyre.

“The whole point of today is to ensure that our Filipino counterparts fully understand the rescue procedures that we have,” said Cpl. Heriberto Alonso, an aircraft rescue firefighter with the unit. “Therefore, if there is an emergency situation, we can effectively help each other to overcome the problem in order for no miscommunication to take place along the way.”

Upon completion of the classes, the participants conducted a pilot extraction drill, consisting of a mock pilot being evacuated from an F/A-18. The members of both forces evacuated the pilot and conducted a mental evaluation, creating a realistic training experience.

“Upon extraction, we want to test the pilot’s mental psyche in order to ensure he has no serious head trauma caused by the mishap,” said McIntyre. “The entire assessment process could take up to 30 minutes.”

The day of training left the participants from both nations confident in the training they received, according to Philippine Air Force Airman 2nd Class Kennard I. Gomez, an air rescue firefighter with the 600th Air Base Wing.

“This training is highly beneficial for the Philippine forces and gives us a huge advantage should a mishap take place,” said Gomez. “I feel that both of our countries can benefit from what we are doing here.”

Working cooperatively and being interoperable with the Armed Forces of the Philippines is highly important, according to McIntyre.

“I feel that because of this training, the Philippine forces will be fully confident and capable of carrying out the extraction of a pilot who is in an emergency situation,” said McIntyre. “It is important for us to spread the knowledge we have as well as to pick up new things from them as well. We are always very happy to train with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Troops to remain in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Troops to remain in Zamboanga City

A Government trooper rests amidst the ruins at the site of a three-week intense fighting between Government forces and Muslim rebels who have taken nearly 200 people hostages and used them as human shields in Zamboanga city, southern Philippines. AP

Although the siege in Zamboanga City has been declared over, the military will still maintain its forces in the strife-torn city.

The military said Monday that mopping-up operations, the supposed second phase of the three-week conflict between government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas, have been launched.

“During this two-week period [of clearing operations], we will help. We will pull out a unit so they could take a rest but another reserve [unit] will be coming,” Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told reporters in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.

He said the Philippine National Police has taken the lead in the clearing operations.

Thousands of troops had been deployed to battle in Zamboanga but the military did not give the exact number for operational reasons. Over 200 had been killed and at least 100,000 persons were displaced because of the fighting.

“The fighting has been fierce, long and hard for our soldiers so it’s important that they recover. And one way to recover is to pull them out and deploy fresh troops,” he added.

Zagala said the government troops were still engaging with the remnants of the MNLF.

“We know that a lot of them are still hiding and trying to evade capture and want to escape. We know that they have a few ammunitions left for last defense. We will not stop. Both the AFP and PNP will continue to find them,” he said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared over the weekend that the Zamboanga siege has ended after all the hostages taken by the MNLF were all accounted for.

Clearing operations will be part of the post-conflict stage, Zagala said, and “to render the area safe,” they will have “to remove all unexploded ordnances like grenades, rifle grenades, ammunition, mortars and the like.”

They were given two weeks to do the task.

“After this period of two weeks we are to turn over the area to local government unit for the eventual return of the residents and we can go to phase three, which is rehabilitation,” he said.

As for Habier Malik, MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari’s top lieutenant who led the attacks in the city, Gazmin said they have yet to verify if he was among those killed in the fighting.

“If he escaped I’m sure he will not repeat [the attack]. It will take a while before he could launch a new attack. They saw the force of our government troops, that we can defend our fellowmen,” he told reporters.

8ID Change of Command (w/ photo)

Recently posted to the Samar News (Sep 13): 8ID Change of Command (w/ photo)


8ID Change of Command

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityA Testimonial Review in honor of Major General Gerardo T Layug AFP and Change of Command ceremony was held yesterday at the Headquarters of the 8th Infantry Division. Brigadier General Jet B Velarmino AFP took over the Command of the Division from Major General Gerardo T Layug AFP who officially retired yesterday after serving the Armed Forces of the Philippines for 37 years. Major General Samuel L Narbuada AFP, Inspector General, Philippine Army represented Lieutenant General Noel A Coballes AFP, the Commanding General, Philippine Army as the Guest of Honor and Presiding Officer.

Distinguished guests and awardees from the public and the private sectors namely: Hon. Jose L Ong, Governor of Northern Samar; Hon. Conrado B Nicart Jr, Governor of Eastern Samar; Hon. Emil Ong, Representative 2nd District, Northern Samar Hon. Harlin Abayon, Representative 1st District Northern Samar; Most Reverends Isabelo C Abarquez, Bishop Diocese of Calbayog and Emmanuel Trance, Bishop of the Diocese of Catarman.

Other awardees sent their respective representatives to receive the awards are the following: Hon Sharee Ann Tan, Governor of Samar represented by Ms Hannia Tan, Tourism Officer; Hon Ben Evardone, Representative Lone District, Eastern Samar represented by Hon Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal; and Hon Mel Senen S Sarmiento Representative, 1st District, Samar represented by Hon Charlie Cońejos, Board Member 1st District of Samar.

And likewise the invited guests that also sent their representatives were; Hon Leopoldo L Petilla, Governor of Leyte represented by Hon Mesias Arevalo, Board Member 4th District of Leyte; Director Manolito D Ragub, Regional Executive Director DENR, RO8 represented by Marciano Talavera, Technical Director for Forestry; Director Jose Nick Mendros, Regional Director COMELEC, RO8 represented by Atty Ma. Corazon Montallana; Director Rolando A Asis, Regional Director, DPWH, RO8 represented by Engineer Efren Padilla; Director Rey M Gozon, Acting Regional Director, OCD8 represented by Bhenlie Linde; Director Edgar A Catarongan, MPA, Regional Director, LTO, RO8 represented by Mr Ruben Mancol, OIC, LTO Catbalogan and Stephany Uy Tan the City Mayor of Catbalogan represented by Hon Bembot Bermejo City Councilor.

In his farewell speech, Major General Layug acknowledged the professionalism and commitment of the soldiers of the 8th Infantry Division and the support and cooperation of the public and the private sector partners who have worked with him to make Region 8 a better place to live-in and made 8ID as one of the best Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army for Calendar Year 2012.

The newly designated 8ID Commander, Brigadier General Jet B Velarmino called on the personnel of the Division and the partners in the civilian sector to continue pursuing effort with the local officials and community leaders as well as the citizenry . “I envision that under my charge, the soldiers of 8ID will give the genuine spirit of “Bayanihan” alive. I will definitely work by defining the framework of the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan and the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR).

CentCom chief: Soldiers want peace most

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): CentCom chief: Soldiers want peace most

The top military brass in the Visayas said the biggest beneficiary of peace are soldiers themselves.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is organized for war, but why are we talking about peace?”

Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda of the AFP Central Command (CentCom) made this statement as he addressed Saturday afternoon’s candle-lighting ceremony to close the National Peace Consciousness Month at Camp Lapu-Lapu. Soldiers, families and representatives from different government agencies attended the event in support for the cause of peace. In his speech, Deveraturda said everybody should work hand in hand to achieve harmony.

“If we address the root causes of violence, we can attain peace,” said Deveraturda.

The candle-lighting activity was a simultaneous event to underscore peace efforts in all camps of the AFP under the CentCom in regions 6 and 8. “At times of war, peril and danger, we soldiers always advocate peace because it is our duty to fight for the security of the nation. And with that, these soldiers are the first casualties,” he said noting the soldiers who died in Zamboanga crisis.

September of every year has been declared as peace month by the Office of the President.

P85 B needed for AFP modernization

From the Philippine Star (Sep 30): P85 B needed for AFP modernization

More than P85 billion is needed for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the next four years.

Data from the Department of National Defense (DND) showed that P85.29 billion will cover a total of 24 projects in line with the new Armed Forces Modernization Law.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said no fund releases will be made for the program this year.

However, he is hopeful that the modernization efforts will be realized due to the support from the administration, he added.

The bulk of the funds for the upgrade program will come from general appropriations.

It will receive P15 billion per year from the national budget until 2017 for a total of P75 billion.

Another funding source is President Aquino’s commitment to provide P632.18 million to the program annually until 2015.

The President’s commitment will contribute P1.896-billion to the modernization program.

Another P4.78 billion will come from the proceeds of the Malampaya natural gas project.

About P1.215 billion will also be sourced from the Malampaya funds for the acquisition of a third all-weather, high-endurance cutter.

Remittances from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) are expected to hit P2.39 billion.

The Armed Forces modernization program gets about 35 percent of the proceeds.

Of the 24 projects to be implemented, 10 will benefit the Air Force, six the Navy, five the Army and three the general headquarters and Armed Forces Wide Support and Separate Unit.

To be acquired are 12 fighter jets, ammunition, rocket launchers, handheld radios, long range patrol aircraft, amphibious assault vehicles, frigates, anti-submarine helicopter, aerial radars, base support logistics and engineering equipment.

100 MNLF men didn't escape Zambo - military

From ABS-CBN (Sep 30): 100 MNLF men didn't escape Zambo - military

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday brushed off claims that about a hundred members of the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) safely made their way out of Zamboanga City.

AFP Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said their mission in Zamboanga Ccity was a success, owing to the superior number of government troops.

Zagala said the Misuari group no longer poses a threat to the city and that any attempt by the rebels to leave during the 20-day standoff was always met by force. 
"We defeated them. They are no longer a force that can wreak havoc in Zamboanga City. [MNLF Spokesperson] Attorney Emmanuel Fontanilla is not on the ground. I was there. I saw the deployment of thousands of troops. Maybe one or 2 can escape but hundreds cannot go through the monitoring we have," Zagala said in an ANC interview.

As clearing operations continue in Zamboanga City especially at vital installations in six barangays of conflict, Zagala said their task now is to remove an estimated 20 MNLF stragglers who may be trying to escape.

"Right now what's important is we remove these stragglers. Beside the stragglers, there is a lot of buried MNLF fighters there," he said.

Zagala said the government is trying to determine who sent the MNLF troops headed by five commanders to Zamboanga City.

He added they continue to trace the whereabouts of Habier Malik, one of the trusted commanders of Misuari, and verify reports of his possible death as well as those of two other rebel commanders Haider and Dasta.

Video: 100 MNLF men left Zamboanga: Nur spokesman

From ABS-CBN/ANC (Sep 30): Video: 100 MNLF men left Zamboanga: Nur spokesman

[Video: Telephone interview with MNLF spokesperson, Attorney Emmanuel Fontanilla]

MANILA - Attorney Emmanuel Fontanilla, the spokesperson of the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, claimed about a hundred MNLF members have already left Zamboanga City.

In an interview with DZMM, Fontanilla denounced the government's move to use military action, saying a third impartial party could have peacefully ended the conflict.

Fontanilla reiterated the government should have opted for a political solution.

"Kami po ay wala kaming balak na sakupin ang Zamboanga, kasi kung sasakupin namin di ganun kadami ang pinadala namin at nandun naman ang katotohanang lumalabas na ang MNLF ay pumunta dun para sa isang rally at isang caravan.

 Napakasakit lang ang naririnig palagi ng mamamayan ay ang mga punto ng pamahalaan. So kami'y nagpapasalamat talaga at binigyang pagkakataon at nakaalis yung mga kapatid doon sa area," he said.

"Aabutin po siguro ng mga isangdaan din ang nakaalis."

ANC, September 30, 2013

MILF: AFP soldiers attack in Basilan; 30 soldiers die, scores wounded

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 29): AFP soldiers attack in Basilan; 30 soldiers die, scores wounded

Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on a military operation against members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari’s faction attacked early morning of September 28 a rebel stronghold in Barangay Ettub-Ettub, Sumisip, Basilan that left 30 soldiers killed and scores wounded.
In a news dispatch from our information officer in Basilan at 8:44pm of September 28, it said that the government soldiers were after members of MNLF-Misuari faction in the island of Basilan when they attacked barangay Ettub-Ettub, a bastion of Moro rebels in Sumisip which resulted to the death of the soldiers. The rebels engaged the aggressors in a fierce battle that also resulted to the death of Jasim Hasimin, a civilian who was caught in the crossfire.
The dead soldiers were still in Sitio Datag pending retrieval by the military.

After the heavy skirmishes the military pounded the area with heavy artillery until 3:00am forcing the civilians to flee. They are now sheltered in evacuation centers. According to a latest report, one rebel was wounded. Mobile phone signal was cut-off as of press time with no means of communicating with the evacuees by relatives.

The attacked in Basilan came after the military contained the Zamboanga siege by hundreds of MNLF-Misuari faction members that started on September 9 and ended on September 28. The military is still searching among the dead rebels, Habier Malik, the right-hand man of Misuari who was reportedly killed, wounded or escape on a speedboat towards unknown destination. The report on the condition of Malik or his whereabouts cannot be confirmed by the military.

Latest figure on the Zamboanga violence shows that 167 MNLF killed and 247 captured/surrendered. 18 killed and a hundred more wounded on AFP side. Five members of the Philippine National Police were also killed and 14 wounded. Death toll on civilians was 12 and 74 wounded. The number of hostages freed was 184 and 15 wounded.

Funds raised via RMN for reward on Malik

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 30): Funds raised via RMN for reward on Malik

Indignant Zamboangueños and listeners of Tatak RMN Zamboanga yesterday joined a fund raising campaign called “piso-piso” to come up with a reward for the capture of MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik.
DXRZ 900 Tatak RMN listeners voiced their anger on Malik who remains at large and nowhere to be found as government officials could not say on his real status as exchange of gunfire continued between the MNLF group and government troops.
The fund raising was initiated by one of RMN’s listeners who proposed that people should contribute any amount for reward to fasttrack the neutralization of Malik.
In just few seconds, another listener expressed support to the proposal and several other listeners and televiewers, including those working abroad, pledged to give some amount of money.
Some of the listeners and viewers made pledges, while others personally went to the RMN radio station at Pilar Street to give their contribution.
It turned out that many Zamboangueños are angry and eager to see Malik behind bars for his atrocities that have brought deaths, destruction of properties and displacement of more than 100,000 people.
The management of RMN-Zamboanga disclosed that they will turn over the collected money to the government as reward to anybody or group who will neutralize Malik.

Troops chase retreating MNLF rebs in Talon-Talon mangroves : Malik's identification card found

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 30): Troops chase retreating MNLF rebs in Talon-Talon mangroves : MALIK’S IDENTIFICATION CARD FOUND

The fight continued yesterday as government troops hunt down for defiant MNLF rebels led by Habier Malik who have refused to surrender and have retreated to the vast magroves in Talon-Talon.
Troops recovered six bodies of MNLF rebels after a heavy gunfight at the Talon-Talon mangroves.
Some 100 houses were gutted down by fire that broke out during a firefight yesterday at Puerto Princesa, Talon-Talon at dawn yesterday.
The blaze was believed to have started by fleeing MNLF rebels to divert the attention of the pursuing government forces.
As this developed,  the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday that an identification (ID) card belonging to Malik has been found in one of the slain Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters.
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.
“ID belonging to Malik found in one killed MNLF fighter in Zamboanga (but) is not a guarantee that he is Malik, though they have similarities,” Guzman said.
But AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Malik is just one of the five commanders of the MNLF forces who 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.
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.
Despite announcements that the Zamboanga City stand-off is over, the military is still keeping a tight lookout for (MNLF stragglers, according to Zagala.
But he said that these MNLF men are already defeated and are just focusing to escape.
“We believe they are already defeated). (There are) just a few members of them, stragglers, maybe hiding and evading arrest,” Zagala stressed.
He added that government forces are now checking the city for remnants of MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari’s followers aside from improvised explosives the remnants may have left behind.
Earlier, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the crisis is over.
He made the assessment after there was no firefight Friday night.
Gazmin also said that Malik was still uncaptured.
Meanwhile, the AFP announced that the death toll in the 20-day fighting has now reached the 208 mark.
AFP deputy public affairs office chief Major Angelo Guzman said that this update is as of 4 p.m. Saturday.
He breaks this down to the following:
-AFP: 18 killed, 169 wounded in action
-PNP: 5 killed, 14 wounded
-Civilians: 12 killed, 72 wounded
-MNLF: 183 killed (100 now unidentified), captured/surrendered 292
Hostages rescued numbered 195 while high-powered firearms seized totaled to 116 and low-powered ones at 15.

CPP: Aquino, AFP “mission accomplished”, show contempt of people

From the CPP Website (Sep 30): Aquino, AFP “mission accomplished”, show contempt of people

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Aquino regime and its armed forces for its “contemptuous declarations of ‘mission accomplished’ after nearly a month of all-out bombing of several baranggays of Zamboanga City, razing tens of thousands of homes to the ground, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents from their communities, causing them grave hardships and subjecting them to rights abuses.”

The CPP dismissed claims by Aquino’s officials over the weekend that the AFP’s “mission to rescue and ensure the safety of the hostages” has been accomplished.
“What ‘safety of hostages’ is the AFP talking about, when it dropped bombs, fired mortars and indiscriminately sprayed bullets even when hundreds of civilians were still inside their communities either as hostages held by the MNLF or ordinary residents caught in the crossfire. What ‘safety of hostages’ when the Aquino regime did not even seek the safe passage of civilians through negotiations.”

“The all-out siege against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that has now lasted more than 20 days, is an unnecessary war which the Aquino regime chose to wage against the option of negotiating with the MNLF in order to secure the safety of the hostages and draw the armed MNLF forces out of the city and civilian communities.”

“Clearly, Aquino and the AFP have nothing but contempt of the people when it declared ‘mission accomplished’ when more than a hundred thousand people continue to languish daily in the evacuation centers and prevented from returning to their land,” said the CPP.

“What ‘mission’ is Aquino claiming to have accomplished? Killing more than 150 MNLF forces by fielding a vastly superior force and spending hundreds of millions of pesos in bombs, bullets and mortars, without having even attempted to negotiate with the MNLF for a peaceful resolution of the armed standoff?,” said the CPP.

“The people of Zamboanga and the Filipino people demand that Aquino and the AFP be made responsible for the violations of international humanitarian law, abuses of human rights and the vast destruction in private and public property in the course of waging the all-out armed siege against the MNLF,” added the CPP.

The CPP supports the people of Zamboanga in their demand for an impartial investigation into Aquino’s nearly one month war against the MNLF.

City gov’t holds flag-raising to honor fallen soldiers at AFP’s WestMinCom

From the Zamboanga Today (Sep 29): City gov’t holds flag-raising to honor fallen soldiers at AFP’s WestMinCom

Government forces and the city’s Crisis Management Committee headed by Mayor Beng Climaco as well as some teachers and boy scouts gathered at Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) headquarters’ ground yesterday to honor soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the defense of Zamboanga City.

In honor of the fallen soldiers, Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin, accompanied by Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and other top military officials, led the flag raising ceremony.

Prayers for the fallen soldiers, including three junior officers, were recited by a Muslim chaplain of the military and a Christian religious leader, respectively. Then later the Philippine flag was raised to a half-mast.

Gazmin on the AFP’s twitter account said the crisis in Zamboanga City where government troops intensely fought members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) loyal to Nur Misuari for 20 days is finally over.

“Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declares Zamboanga standoff over... still searching for Commander Habier Malik...,” the AFP twitter said.

Gazmin told reporters that all hostages have already been accounted for and that their mission has been accomplished. But Gazmin said they will still continue the clearing operations in the city.

Media reported that government forces are now checking on “concerned areas” for remnants of Misuari’s followers and for improvised explosives the rebels may have left behind.

In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed Gazmin’s statament posted in the AFP twitter.

According to Valte, the government’s goal from September 9 was to ensure the safety of hostages and make sure civilians are out of harm’s way, and this has already been accomplished.

Observers said although government forces have swept into the MNLF-held areas in Sta Barbara, Sta Catalina, Rio Hondo, Talon-Talon, Mariki, and other areas, but Malik’s whereabouts is unknown.

They said media reported that there has been word from Reverend Absalom Cerveza, the MNLF spokesman for the Misuari faction, that he received a text message from Malik who had vowed to fight “to the end” saying they are ready for whatever fate awaits them in Zamboanga City.

Quoting Cerveza as saying, the media also reported that Malik’s group is ready for whatever fate awaits them in Zamboanga City.

Cerveza fears more blood will be shed as he said the MNLF rebels in Zamboanga City are the “hardcore” fighters of the group who were willing to fight to the death with no payment.

Meanwhile, Mayor Climaco disclosed that government forces’ clearing operation is still being conducted in declared concern areas.

“We are still on phase 1 and it will take two weeks for phase 2,” she said.

The crisis began when members of the Misuari MNLF faction and his top commander Malik attacked six villages and held hostage dozens of civilians in the city last September 9.

Government forces on Friday had already rescued the last six civilians held hostage by the rebel group, according to AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Zagala said they were told these were the last group of people held by the rebels and have already accounted for 195 hostages. He admitted they are still searching for Malik.

According to him, the AFP is now assessing the testimonies of the MNLF fighters who surrendered or were captured as well as the rescued hostages to locate the whereabouts of Malik.

About 200 people, including 166 rebels, have been killed and more than 100,000 residents of the city  were displaced.

The AFP said 246 rebels have been captured, 7 of whom are females, 6 are minors, while the rest are males.

The fighting between government troops and the MNLF have resulted to the deaths of 12 civilians. Seventy-two more were injured.

The conflict has also left homes in ruin and brought businesses at a standstill.

An estimated P195 million was lost in fires that hit nearly 10,000 buildings, houses, other structures in Zamboanga.

BIFF attacks Datu Piang town; residents flee

From the Philippine Star (Sep 30): BIFF attacks Datu Piang town; residents flee

Soldiers foiled Sunday night another attempt by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to take over an Army outpost in Datu Piang town, forcing some 300 villagers to evacuate to safe areas.

Datu Piang’s municipal peace and order council has confirmed that the attack forced dozens of Moro families from the surroundings of the Army installation in Barangay Magaslong, which BIFF bandits had repeatedly attacked in recent months.

The hostilities erupted when the bandits, armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire 40 MM grenades, attacked past 9 Sunday from two directions the outpost of the Alpha Company of the 45th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Magaslong, about four kilometers southwest of the town center of Datu Piang.

The soldiers manning the outpost traded shots with the bandits until past 3 p.m. Monday.

The firefight waned only after the bandits ran out of ammunition, forcing them to retreat to southwest of Datu Piang bringing with them six wounded companions.

Police investigators and Army intelligence agents have confirmed seeing heavy stains of blood along the bandits’ escape route.

Local officials said the BIFF’s attempt to take over the Army outpost in Barangay Magaslong was an apparent retaliation for its losses in last week’s incursion in North Cotabato’s Midsayap town.

Some 300 bandits laid siege on five farming enclaves in Midsayap, held more than 20 civilians hostages, beheaded farmer Ricarte Dionio and executed another before they scampered away as government forces launched a counter-offensive.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said their forces were behind the attacks in Midsayap last October 23 and the harassment of soldiers in Barangay Magaslong Sunday night.

The BIFF’s attack Sunday night forced villagers in the adjoining Barangays Magaslong, Madtalbayog, Glasi, and Gumbay to evacuate to the compound of a mosque and a nearby campus of a Catholic school in the town proper of Datu Piang.

Militiaman wounded in leftist rebel attack at outpost in S. Philippines

From the Global Times (Sep 30): Militiaman wounded in leftist rebel attack at outpost in S. Philippines

One militiaman was wounded in a foiled attempt by leftist rebels to overrun a militia outpost in southern Philippines on Sunday, authorities said on Monday.

The attack happened as 30 New People's Army guerrillas fired at the 2nd Platoon, 9th Civilian Armed Auxiliary (CAA) Company detachment in Linda village, Nabunturan town, in Mindanao's Compostela Valley province around 5:20 a.m., Captain Raul Villegas, spokesperson for the army's 10th Infantry Division, said.

Rolly Aguilar, a militiaman, was hit in the arm and brought to a local hospital for treatment as soldiers and militiamen pursued and engaged the attackers, Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said.

The rebels were reportedly planning to storm the outpost to seize weapons and kidnap the detachment commander, a regular soldier.

The Philippine army oversees the 50,000-strong CAA militia ( formerly Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit), a paramilitary spread in platoon-sized units throughout the country.

Composed of local male residents, the Cafgus perform military duties and assist the army and police in their counterinsurgency operations against leftist rebels and in the southern island of Mindanao, Muslim separatists.

On Friday, a soldier was also killed as the same band of NPA rebels attacked an army patrol in nearby Mawab township.

The 4,000-strong NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting a leftist insurgency in 60 Philippine provinces since 1969.

PNP, AFP: Suspected body of Malik to undergo forensic examination

From GMA News (Sep 30): PNP, AFP: Suspected body of Malik to undergo forensic examination

Authorities have yet to confirm the whereabouts of Moro National Liberation Front Commander Habier Malik after identification cards belonging to him were found on one of the slain followers of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in Zamboanga City over the weekend.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online Monday morning, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said police and military officials have yet to determine Malik's whereabouts.

He said authorities are still double-checking if the body where the IDs where found is indeed that of Malik, a known ally of Misuari.

"Vina-validate pa namin ang body... Specifically ang PNP, sila ang nagha-handle ng post-forensic examination," he said.

For his part, PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said the body is still being investigated at the PNP crime laboratory.

"Wala pang confirmation," he said in a separate phone interview with GMA News Online.

Earlier, AFP information chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said Malik is one of the five commanders of the MNLF forces that had briefly taken control over parts of the city for nearly three weeks.

"We have to consider how many forces. There are five commanders, and Malik is just one of them," Zagala said in an interview on dzBB radio.

As for Misuari, Zagala said their information indicates he is still in Sulu, but declined to elaborate.

He also said they are monitoring Misuari's movements.

Misuari's followers had engaged government forces in armed confrontations starting Sept. 9, when they took civilians as hostages. More than 100 people have been killed in the fighting, which paralyzed the city's businesses and schools.

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the crisis is over, but clearing operations would continue to ensure that no more MNLF rebels would be left in the city.

Did Malik escape to Sulu?

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Did Malik escape to Sulu?

WANTED A wall poster of Habier Abdul Malik is at the main entrance of the central police station in Zamboanga City. EDWIN BACASMAS
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Where is Habier Malik?

The commander of the Moro rebels who attacked this city 20 days ago remained unaccounted for on Sunday as fighting continued between security forces and remnants of his insurgent band two days after the military declared its mission here accomplished.

There were reports on Saturday that Malik, a trusted lieutenant of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari, had been wounded, but the information could not be independently verified.

On Saturday night, the Inquirer received information that Malik had slipped through the military blockade and was already in Kanmindos village in Luuk town, Sulu province, with head and leg wounds.

But former Rep. Munir Arbison said it was impossible that Malik was in Luuk. Arbison’s brother Allayon is the mayor of Luuk.

Arbison dismissed the report of Malik’s presence in Luuk as “malicious and could have something to do with politics.”

He explained that Malik was his and his family’s enemy who supported their opponents and staged an attack in the town during May’s midterm elections.

“Never will we help an enemy who killed many of our followers,” Arbison said.

The military said on Saturday that it was looking for Malik “among the dead.”

Malik’s identification card had been found on the body of a slain rebel, but military spokeman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said it was too early to confirm his death, as forensic examinations were being carried out.

The military announced on Saturday that police were taking over from troops to clear coastal villages here that were seized and occupied by rebels from the MNLF faction led by Misuari.

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

“What happened was not organized resistance. These are stragglers trying to escape capture,” Zagala explained on Sunday, adding that only a handful of rebels remained.

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

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

As fighting went on in some coastal areas of the city on Sunday, fire broke out on Puerto Princesa Drive in Talon-Talon village, angering people who had heard about the clearing operations.

Some residents were so angry they believed the fire had been deliberately set.

“Tell the government to stop this drama. All of us here are suffering and hurt,” village guard Abnasser Ladja told the Inquirer.

Ladja’s two-story house was razed in the fire. His family had provided food for the Special Action Force and Marine troops during the fighting.

“Is this how the government is repaying us?” Ladja asked.

Another fire broke out in Rio Hondo on Sunday afternoon and like Ladja in Talon-Talon, Jasil Isniradji wondered if the government was out to raze the entire coast.

On Sept. 10, Isniradji’s relatives were told to leave their home in Santa Barbara village and fire broke out there.

The family went to leave with Isniradji in Rio Hondo, but on Sept. 17 the whole family was ordered out of the village and fire broke out there.

The whole family moved to Talon-Talon and fire broke out there on Sunday, leaving the Isniradjis nowhere else to go.

“We don’t know why they are doing this to us,” Isniradji said.

Ladja said the government should explain what it meant by “clearing operations.”

“Is this what they mean by it, burning our villages? Have they no pity?” Ladja said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Sunday said 10,160 houses had been destroyed or damaged in fires in five coastal villages here since fighting between government troops and Misuari’s followers began on Sept. 9.

Worst hit is Santa Catalina, where the rebels burned 3,591 houses to slow down the military advance, the council said.

The fighting displaced 118,819 people, who are now sheltered in 35 evacuation centers in the city.

In Malacañang, Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said the crushing defeat of the MNLF in Zamboanga City had degraded Misuari’s ability to launch similar attacks in other parts of the country.

In the coming days, Carandang said, the Department of Justice would bring rebellion and other criminal charges against Misuari, Malik and their followers who have been captured in Zamboanga City

Cigarettes and the terrorist link

From the New Straits Times (Sep 30): Cigarettes and the terrorist link

THE next time you light up a contraband cigarette, you may be funding organised crime syndicates or, worse, terrorist organisations.

Investigators have revealed to the New Straits Times that regional terrorist organisation such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah could be getting funding from local organised crime gangs.

The Home Ministry and crime prevention groups have begun drawing links to these organisations and the thriving illicit cigarette business that last year alone cost the government in excess of RM2 billion in lost taxes.

"There is a chance that these terrorist organisations, including global terror groups such as al-Qaeda, are using local organised crime gangs to help them finance their operations.

"It's also possible that they are using Malaysia as a base to fund their activities," said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Crime analyst Kamal Affendi Hashim said illicit tobacco trafficking was the most attractive option for cartels to fund their illegal activities.

"Looking at the billions lost by the government in revenue and the number of smuggled contraband cigarettes, one has to conclude that this is beyond the capacity of a single individual.

"The bigger organisations are involved simply because they need more money to fund their operations.

"You need an international network," Kamal Affendi said, suggesting that cross-cells collaboration may be at work.

Kamal Affendi added that some gangs would "expose" a less profitable vice activity on purpose to law enforcement officers to keep them "busy" while they focus on the main activity, which is cigarette smuggling.

"It's a parallel activity. It's a case of sacrificing the weaker baby so that attention is diverted from the main activity.

"The members have the necessary network, connections and the know-how to move large shipments right under the noses of the authorities. Despite the enforcement coming down hard on the individuals involved, cartels couldn't be bothered as the penalty is almost laughable, compared with the amount of money they can make from this."

He said that crime syndicates and terrorist organisations were increasingly looking at this revenue stream to fund their activities because of the "low risk-huge profits" nature of the business.

Another criminologist cited the Lahad Datu intrusion as an example of how poor enforcement to arrest illicit cigarette smuggling had allowed the market in the east coast of Sabah to thrive.

"In that part of the country, illicit cigarettes have cornered more than 90 per cent of the market.

"The minute the Eastern Sabah Security Command was set up and sea patrols increased, you can hardly find any contraband cigarettes coming in from the Philippines."

Illicit cigarettes (white and kretek) are those on which import duties have not been paid.

"This means that they are available in the market at a considerably lower price. A pack of regular cigarettes costs RM10.50, while contraband packs cost anywhere from RM2.20 to RM4.

"Cigarettes are less 'ominous' by their very nature, as opposed to opium or cocaine, for example. You smoke cigarettes out in the open and they don't come under the same scrutiny as controlled substances would, which makes them easier to move around," said an investigator who specialises in the operations of these syndicates.

The business is so lucrative that organised crime gangs are collaborating to form cartels to manipulate, control and monopolise the sales of illicit tobacco.

Their networking is far-reaching and extends beyond physical, cultural and ideological boundaries, said another insider.

Universiti Sains Malaysia's Professor Dr P. Sundramoorthy said there were tell-tale signs that local gangs were behind the illicit tobacco business.

"It is not surprising as these criminals have been taking advantage of the free trade zones and duty free zones to conduct their business," said the criminologist.


General Operations Force personnel checking seized contraband cigarettes in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan, recently. The contraband cigarette business is so lucrative that organised crime gangs are forming cartels. Pic by Syamsi Suhaimi

Obama visit seen to boost PH-US defense partnership

From the Manila Times (Sep 29): Obama visit seen to boost PH-US defense partnership

Malacañang on Sunday said that it is expecting that the upcoming visit of United States (US) President Barack Obama to the Philippines will be “fruitful.”

Obama is slated for a two-day visit in Manila on October 11 and 12, the first for a US President since his predecessor George W. Bush held a whirlwind nine-hour visit here in October 2003. He will meet President Benigno Aquino 3rd to discuss the wide-ranging relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

”We’re hoping that this visit will be very fruitful in strengthening our relations [with the] United States,” Strategic Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said.

He cited that the discussions between the two leaders would cover not just the strategic partnership in the field of defense but also the economic and trade ties between the two nations.

”They will talk about the defense issues, they will talk about economic and trade issues,” Carandang noted.

The Palace official, however, did not give further details on the schedule and agenda of the bilateral talks.

Obama’s visit comes as both countries negotiate an agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, and give them wider access to the country’s military bases amid tension between the Philippines and China over territory in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Carandang, the territorial dispute with China may be taken up as part of talks to enhance the country’s maritime security.

”I think hindi mo maiiwasan na mapag-uusapan ‘yan kasi bahagi ‘yan ng konteksto ng ating mga kilos [you can’t avoid talking about the territorial dispute because it is part of the context of the move] to enhance our maritime security,” he said.

However, Carandang said that the negotiations for the rotational presence of US troops in the country are not being rushed.

”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. And we are making slow but steady progress on the rotational presence,” he said.

”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 [the] discussions with the US will lead to enhanced security for the Philippines and that’s why we’re entering into these discussions,” he added.

US launched fund under US-PH PFG

From the Manila Times (Sep 30): US launched fund under US-PH PFG

The United States government on Monday launched the Philippine-American (Phil-Am) Fund, a five-year P984-million ($24 million) grant-making facility that aims to help Filipino organizations in implementing innovative solutions that will address the country’s development challenges.

The facility was created under the auspices of the Partnership For Growth, which aims to achieve for the Philippines a broad-based, sustainable and inclusive growth. The country has been chosen by the Obama administration because of President Benigno Aquino’s anti-corruption and good governance drive.

According to the fact sheet posted on the State Department’s website, the Partnership For Growth “aims to address the most significant constraints to growth and to stimulate enhanced, inclusive economic expansion.”

“I am very pleased to be a part of this exciting and innovative project that will help advance our shared vision of broad-based and inclusive growth under the Partnership for Growth Initiative. Under the PFG, our governments are committed to work together to achieve inclusive economic growth in the Philippines,” US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. said in a statement.

The fund will support civil society efforts that complement the targeted technical assistance the US government is providing through other projects under the PFG.
The grants will cover five areas: promotion of new businesses and entrepreneurship, governance, combating trafficking in persons, adult literacy through innovative uses of technology, and biodiversity conservation.

“We are working in partnership with the Philippine government, the private sector and civil society organizations to help put the Philippines on an accelerated growth path that benefits the majority of its population. The Phil-Am Fund will help us reach this goal,” Gloria Steele, the Philippine mission director of the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) said.

The fund was launched through the said agency.

The fund is open to all non-state institutions, which include qualified Philippine private, for-profit, non-profit organizations and nongovernment organizations including universities, research institutions, professional associations, faith-based and community organizations and other relevant groups.

The Phil-Am Fund is one of the projects under the Partnership for Growth, a White House initiative. PFG is a whole-of-government effort emerging from the US Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which focuses on fostering economic growth in countries committed to good governance.