Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We shall return

Posted to the pro-MNLF Moro Muslim Defenders Facebook page (Oct 2): We shall return

Allahu akbar!
Mga Gagandilan!

We shall return..!
— with Adrian-dellatip Omar and Merhana Ismali.

Clearing operation continues in Zamboanga, more bodies recovered

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 3): Clearing operation continues in Zamboanga, more bodies recovered

Photos released by the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center show bodies line up outside a funeral house in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. 

Police on Wednesday said at least 30 mostly decomposing bodies of separatist rebels slain in fierce clashes with troops have been recovered in the past three days in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines.

Police and military said more than 100 rebels have been killed in the fighting and that 134 cadavers had been processed by forensic experts and that eight of the bodies belonged to civilians.

Aside from cadavers, police and military teams clearing the villages of Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina also recovered 165 mostly unexploded grenades.

“The second phase of the clearing operation which started Sunday is going and so far we have recovered 165 hand grenades and also 40mm grenades and 30 cadavers, many are decomposing or in the state of decomposition,” Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner regional newspaper.

He said security forces under Task Force Suyud have so far cleared at least 130 structures and establishments in those areas. “Civilians are not allowed to return to the villages until clearing operations are completed. It’s for the safety of the civilians and everybody,” he said.

Fighting erupted after Moro National Liberation Front rebels led by Ustadz Khabir Malik assaulted several villages and took over 200 people hostage and used then as shield.

Authorities said most of the hostages have been freed by rebels or rescued by troops since the violence began in September 9 when rebels arrived by boats from Basilan and Sulu provinces without being detected by the police and military.

The clashes displaced more than 100,000 people. The number of refugees had resulted in a humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga and seriously affected the economy of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Rebel chieftain Nur Misuari, who signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996, accused the Aquino government of reneging on the peal deal and launched a new rebellion, the second in more than a decade. In 2001, loyal forces of Misuari also attacked military bases in Zamboanga City and Jolo town in Sulu province and the clashes killed over 100 people.

Misuari is still in hiding, but police are considering putting up a bounty for his capture.

PNP files case vs. BIFF over Midsayap attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): PNP files case vs. BIFF over Midsayap attack
The Philippine National Police (PNP) in North Cotabato has formally filed a case against the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom fighter (BIFF) who recently attacked two villages in Midsayap town that resulted to the death of one soldier and two civilians.

Sr. Supt. Danilo Peralta, provincial PNP director, said Task Group Malingao, the special body created to investigate the Midsayap attack, filed the case Wednesday before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office here.

Peralta said the BIFF is being charged in violation of RA 9851 "Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity", alongside four BIFF commanders who led the Sept. 23 attacks in the villages of Malingao and Polomuguen in Midsayap.

He briefly identified two respondents in the case only as Commanders DM and Abas Kudanding, both field lieutenants of BIFF leader Ameril Umbra Kato.

Peralta said they have a strong case against the BIFF based on the testimonies of the civilians trapped during the encounter that included the widow of Ricarte Junio, 31, a farmer beheaded by the rebels and his companion Erwin Viloan, 22, who was shot execution style in the head and body.

On Sept. 23, the BIFF rebels attacked Malingao and Polomuguen and hostaged 13 teachers of the Malingao Elementary School following an encounter with military forces.

The rebels freed the mentors, who were used as human shields, later.

The clash resulted to the death of two rebels and one Cpl. Robert Baling, 26, of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion.

Also, some 2,000 families from the villages of Malingao, Polomuguen, Salunayan, Agriculture, Bual Norte, Ned, Tugal, Nabalawag and Rangaban evacuated to safer grounds due to the atrocities.

More rebels return under Solcom’s 'Balik Pamayanan Program'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): More rebels return under Solcom’s 'Balik Pamayanan Program'
More rebels continue to return to the fold of law under the Southern Luzon Command’s (Solcom) “Balik Pamayanan Program,” according to Solcom Commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo on Thursday.

Ordoyo disclosed the rebel returnee program gained positive results as the command recently received two more rebel returnees Michael Carabio alias “Rey” and Jovencio Banayad alias “Libis,” both members of New People’s Army.

Ordoyo said the two communist insurgents have voluntary surrendered without firearms to the elements of the 74th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Bagupaye, Mulanay, Quezon through negotiations conducted by the counter-intelligence operatives of the COLT, 74IB.

The Solcom commanding general remarked the surrender is the result of the command’s efforts on intensifying its “Balik Pamayanan Program.”

The community-based and people-centered programs for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) –National Democratic Front (NDF) – New People’s Army (NPA) or CNN-affected barangays have been regaining the trust and confidence of the people, according to Ordoyo.

He said government programs have been successful to win back members of the communist parties to abandon armed struggle after realizing the futility of engaging in armed violence and terroristic acts.

“Patuloy ang pagsuko ng mga rebelde at ito ay patunay na unti-unti nang nabubuwag. Humihina ang organisayon ng mga komunistang terorista dahil na rin sa pagnanais ng mga miyembro nito na mamuhay ng tama at mapayapa,” Ordoyo said.

Based on the initial debriefing, alias “Rey” was involved in the raid of the Municipal Police Station of San Narciso in December 2009.

It was learned that “Rey” was also one of the NPA members who ambushed the PNP troops in San Andres, Quezon while “Libis” figured in the Atimonan shooting and was wounded during the incident last January 6.

Following separate encounters between Solcom Army troops of the 9th Infantry Division and communist rebels in Barangays San Isidro and Sta. Barbara in Bulan, Sorsogon lately, Ordoyo assured focused and sustained joints operations are enforced.

He said the command’s sustained counter-insurgency operations are aimed at degrading the armed capability of the communist rebels and break their will to fight and compel them to abandon their armed struggle.

27 bodies, 165 unexploded bombs recovered in Zamboanga clearing ops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 2): 27 bodies, 165 unexploded bombs recovered in Zamboanga clearing ops

Philippine soldiers, wearing gas masks, look at bodies believed to be Muslim rebels next to destroyed houses,at the site of heavy fighting during the stand-off between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels in Santa Catalina area of Zamboanga City, on southern island of Mindanao. AFP FILE PHOTO
At least 27 bodies and 165 various unexploded ordnances have been recovered during clearing operations in Zamboanga City since Sunday, the military said.

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told reporters Wednesday that the recovered bodies and firearms from the three-week gunbattle between the government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front were processed for investigation.

He could not say whether the bodies were from the MNLF or were civilians.

The recovered firearms, meanwhile, were from the remnants of the MNLF.

The Philippine National Police had taken over the lead in the law enforcement operations in the city with the military offering support. Even so, Zagala said their troops would remain there.

“This is a continuing process as we render the area safe,” he said.

“We are prioritizing the [the clearing operations in] areas that are near government installations so we can return government services back. Like yesterday the Zamboanga City Medical Center was turned over, the Southern City Colleges was also turned over. Areas that are near government buildings are also being examined,” he said.

He also said that he could not categorically say that the city was already peaceful, as the area was wide and there were a lot of areas that the MNLF stragglers could hide.

There are three brigade size of soldiers, or 4,000 soldiers deployed in the war-torn city.

On Wednesday afternoon, over 200 troops from the Joint Special Operations Group, the military’s main effort to engage the MNLF, that were deployed in Zamboanga returned to Manila. A reserve unit of the same size replaced them there.

DND opens bidding for 2 frigates

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 2): DND opens bidding for 2 frigates

The Department of National Defense has finally opened the bidding for two frigates worth P18 billion aimed to boost military modernization.

“The DND/Armed Forces of the Philippines now invites bids for the acquisition of two units new construction frigates with ammunition for the Philippine Navy,” DND Undersecretary for Bids and Awards Committee Fernando Manalo said in the invitation to bid.

The bidding will also be conducted through a two-stage competitive bidding procedures using a non-discretionary “pass/fail” criterion as specified in the Republic Act 9184 or otherwise known as the government procurement reform act.

Bidding documents may be purchased starting Thursday worth P75,000. The pre-bid conference will be on October 11 at 10 a.m. at the DND BAC Conference Room, Right Wing Basement of the DND Building at Camp Aguinaldo.

The frigates must be delivered within a period of 1,460 calendar days from the opening letter of credit.

The bidders must have completed within the last 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project, the invite said.

The acquisition of the two frigates is part of the 24 projects that the DND plans to acquire through the AFP modernization funds worth P75 billion.

The decision to pursue the brand new frigates came after plans to forego the acquisition of refurbished Maestrale-class frigates from Italy.

Elite AFP forces who defended Zambo City vs MNLF fĂȘted as they prepare to leave

From GMA News (Oct 3): Elite AFP forces who defended Zambo City vs MNLF fĂȘted as they prepare to leave

The elite Armed Forces of the Philippines troops that defended Zamboanga City from the followers of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari last month are leaving after doing their job, but not before getting thanks from city mayor Isabelle Climaco.

A post on the mayor's Facebook page Thursday said the mayor expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the AFP Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG), at a send-off ceremony at the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) Wednesday.

“We in Zamboanga City desire for peace, and as you prepare to go back to where you came from, we want to show to you our deepest gratitude, especially to those who risked their lives in defending the rights of the people, especially the children,” the mayor said.

WesMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo congratulated the JSOG forces for a job well done, and cited their "critical contributions to the operations in Zamboanga."

Ardo said the MNLF "never thought that we have such a force that is not only professional but equipped and suitable for this type of operational setting that no one ever thought of.”

Gold Cross Medals were given to the elite troopers from the Light Reaction Units that make up the JSOG for their gallantry.

For his part, WesMinCom spokesman Maj. Franco Rafael Alano said the JSOG had already accomplished their mission in Zamboanga, and are thus no longer needed in the city.

He said the JSOG forces "have to be sent back to barracks for re-training."

"We do not need them anymore for the clearing operations because their expertise is purely direct assaults on the enemies,” he said.

The JSOG forces were involved in assaults on MNLF fighters that allowed the government to take back MNLF-occupied areas of the city last September.

MNLF forces occupied several areas of the city Sept. 9, engaging government troops in a standoff after having taken civilians hostage.

PNoy: Govt studying bounty for Misuari

From GMA News (Oct 3): PNoy: Govt studying bounty for Misuari

The government is studying the possibility of offering a bounty for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari for his alleged involvement in the attack on Zamboanga, President Benigno Aquino III said.

"My legal counsels are studying the matter clearly para sure tayo na we are not violating any law," Aquino told reporters during an interview on Wednesday.

He explained that one of the things they are considering is that no case has yet to be filed against Misuari in connection with the Zamboanga attack so there is no warrant of arrest yet.

But he said Justice Secretary Leila De Lima will be going to Zamboanga City to check on the work of state prosecutors, who are now interviewing all the hostages and witnesses.

"It is still an ongoing work.  Their statements are being collated; the evidence is being collected and at the end of the day, we hope to file a very strong case against all of these people involved," he said.

As for the situation in the city, Aquino said that government forces are still "ferreting out some stragglers."

"But the AFP has already turned over to the PNP ‘yung actual clearing, ‘yun bang checking of the communities para siguradong walang booby traps, walang munitions na nandoon; make sure that it is safe for the residents to be able to come back there," he said.

However, the President said they are "not ready yet to make a positive statement" regarding the status of MNLF Commander Habier Malik.

"There are tests that are being conducted, amongst them ‘yung DNA testing, to determine precisely his status. But, the Secretary of National Defense yesterday emphasized whether he is alive or not, whether he has escaped or not, ‘yung the force that he managed to lead in Zamboanga City is a force that no longer exists," he said.

Aside from this, he said they are moving the captured MNLF rebels to another detention facility to "enhance the feeling of order or security in Zamboanga City."

JSOG-AFP personnel feted for job well done in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): JSOG-AFP personnel feted for job well done in Zamboanga City

The Armed Forces Wednesday extended a so-called "Heroes Welcome" to members of the AFP Special Operations Group for their successful operations in the 20-day Zamboanga City stand-off.

This was held at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The JSOG-AFP personnel are composed of the Light Reaction Battalion of the Philippine Army, Special Operations Command, Navy Special Operations Unit-8 of the Philippine Navy Special Operations Group, and the 721st Special Operations Squadron of the Philippine Air Force Special Operations Wing.

These personnel left Zamboanga City for Villamor Air Base, Pasay City via C-130 cargo aircraft around 12: 30 p.m.

The troops were formally sent off by Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Rey C. Ardo and Zamboanga City officials headed by Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar.

A Command Plaque will be presented to all AFP-JSOG personnel.

The AFP for its part salutes the soldiers for a job well done.

“Your Armed Forces has defeated the enemy. We freed Zamboanga from this threat and rescued 195 hostages through a calibrated military response. On behalf of the AFP, the soldiers would like to extend their gratitude to the people for their unwavering support,” AFP public affairs office chief, Lt. Col. Ramon P. Zagala said.

Zamboanga City stand-off largest 'urban warfare' scenario participated yet by AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Zamboanga City stand-off largest 'urban warfare' scenario participated yet by AFP

The Zamboanga City stand-off where the military and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters squared off for 20-days is so far the largest "urban warfare" scenario where units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) participated to date.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, made this statement after noting that the three services, Army, Navy and Air Force, fully cooperated and deployed assorted units to neutralize the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) threat.

While noting that this is not the first time the AFP has responded to "urban warfare" scenarios, Zagala said that this is the first time that the military has deployed "thousands of troops" to deal with such threats.

The AFP has its first taste of such combats during the 1995 Ipil siege and Lamitan in 2001.

Zagala also stressed that preparing the "after battle report" of the Zamboanga stand-off will take time as various staffs of the units involved in the action will prepare and consolidate their summaries on the conflict.

He declined to comment on specific topics which will highlighted in the report, adding that such matters are confidential in nature.

4 BIFF killed in military artillery strike in Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): 4 BIFF killed in military artillery strike in Cotabato

Artillery fire from the military have killed four Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)in M'lang, North Cotabato Wednesday, military sources said.

Operations against the BIFF started around 9:30 Sitio Pedtad, Barangay Gaunan and ended around 1 p.m.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, 602nd Infantry Brigade civil-military operations officer, said they have used "sufficient artillery fire" against about 140 rebels in the locality which lies beside the Liguasan Marsh.

He added they used artillery fire as the area being held by the BIFF is surrounded by marshes and difficult to enter.

Bulao said that brigands retreated towards S.K. Pendatun town of Maguindanao and Tulunan, North Cotabato, aboard 11 boats, taking with them their dead and wounded comrades.

27 bodies, unexploded ordnance recovered since start of Zambo clearing operations

From InterAksyon (Oct 2): 27 bodies, unexploded ordnance recovered since start of Zambo clearing operations

Security forces have recovered 27 more bodies and several pieces of unexploded ordnance since they began clearing areas of Zamboanga City retaken from the Moro National Liberation Front, the military said Wednesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said the 165 explosives recovered consisted mostly of unexploded hand and rifle-launched grenades.

No improvised explosive devices or bombs, usually crafted from mortar shells, has been found.

The cadavers, he added, “are now being processed for investigation and to be turned over to the local government unit.”

However, he declined to speak of Habier Malik, the trusted lieutenant of MNLF founder Nur Misuari who commanded the rebels who forayed into Zamboanga on September 9, sparking the three-week bloody standoff that has so far claimed more than 200 lives, left many more injured and displaced more than 100,000 persons.

Until recently, authorities continued to maintain that Malik is trapped within a “constriction area,” even as persistent reports said the MNLF commander managed to slip away and return to Sulu.

An identification card in Malik’s name was also recovered from the body of a dead rebel.

Zagala acknowledged that the size of the area that needs to be cleared was “quite big” but said soldiers and policemen are determined to finish the job, including the arrest or elimination of rebel holdouts.

Earlier, he said the clearing operations might take at least two weeks.

He also cautioned that the absence of new skirmishes did not necessarily mean there are no more rebels.

“There are lots of places that we have to look into,” he said. “What’s important is to ensure that all these areas, all these barangays would be rendered safe for the eventual return of civilians to their residences.”

The Western Mindanao Command, which is headquartered in Zamboanga, has not lowered the red alert it raised on September 9.

4 rebels killed, 7 wounded as soldiers drive BIFF from North Cotabato community

From InterAksyon (Oct 2): 4 rebels killed, 7 wounded as soldiers drive BIFF from North Cotabato community

The military claimed to have killed at least four rebels and wounded seven others as troops bombarded and then assaulted positions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in a North Cotabato village.

However, Captain Antonio Bulato, civil-military operations chief of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said in a phone interview that the soldiers failed to recover any of the rebel casualties, who were taken along by their comrades as they boarded pump boats to escape into the Liguasan Marsh.

The soldiers from the 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company, 10th Special Forces Company and 40th Infantry Battalion suffered no casualties.

He said the clash broke out midmorning and lasted until 12:30 p.m.

“Based on our intelligence reports, there were more or less 130 BIFF elements in the area but only some 60 of them engaged our soldiers during the firefight. We used artillery fire on their positions, (it was a) marshy area, it was an open area,” Bulao said.

He said the site of the clash is near a plantation of food conglomerate Del Monte that the BIFF had earlier attacked.

Bulao said they already received reported sightings of BIFF movements in the area as early as September 27.

He said more than 30 families fled their homes when the rebels came.

“The families were complaining the BIFF had occupied their houses. Religious and community leaders intervened, appealing to the BIFF not to use civilian homes as their garrison, but they would not listen. So, nakapag-decide na magkaroon tayo ng military action kasi mahirap kung makapasok pa sila sa mainland. Doon pa lang sa marshy area in-engage natin sila (So we decided to mount a military action because it would be difficult if we let them reach the mainland. We chose to engage them in the marshy area),” Bulao said.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is engaged in peace talks with government, because its members refuse to give up their goal of establishing an independent homeland.

Since last week, BIFF fighters have been involved in several clashes in North Cotabato towns and parts of Maguindanao.

During the first clash in Midsayap Monday last week, the rebels held elementary school teachers and village officials hostage, and alleged killed at least five civilians, one of whom they supposedly beheaded.

The fighting in Midsayap left three soldiers and 13 rebels dead, the military said.

Zambo Sur police files charges against 4 MNLF officials

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Zambo Sur police files charges against 4 MNLF officials

The Zamboanga del Sur Police Provincial Office (ZDSPO) has filed charges against four officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) based in this province, a top police official disclosed Wednesday.

Charged for violation of Articles 134 (rebellion) and 135 (inciting sedition) of the Revised Penal Code were Fernando Pagasian, Raul Manuales, Efren Vinas all of Lakewood town and Reynaldo Quezon of Bayog municipality, according to ZDSPO director Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre.

Ecaldre said that Pagasian is the Brigade Commander of 2nd Division Mobile Army of MNLF Bangsamoro Armed Forces; Manuales is Deputy Brigade Commander; Vinas and Quezon, both Intelligence Officers.

Ecaldre said the cases were filed against the four respondents last September 25. All of them however are still at large.

Ecaldre said the filing of the case materialized after two MNLF recruits voluntary surrendered in the town of Tigbao for fear of their safety after seeing on national television some of their comrades were captured at the height of the standoff in Zamboanga City.

Ecaldre identified them as Feliciano Canoy and Jimmy Morales, both Barangay Limas, Tigbao municipality.

“The two surrenderees will become our state witnesses against the four respondents of rebellion case,” Ecaldre added.

He said the four respondents have recruited some males in nine towns in this province to join the MNLF forces with the promise they will be paid from P10,000 to 30,000 monthly plus fee education for their children and livelihood for the family based on the testimonies of Canoy and Morales.

He said those recruited are from the towns of Tigbao, Kumalarang, Lakewood, Bayog, Lapuyan, San Miguel, Vincenzo Sagun, Margosatubig and Dinas in this province.

Both witnesses were bringing with them documents to prove that were active members of MNLF when they surrendered, according to Ecaldre.

Ecaldre said the two witnesses said that they and some 30 other MNLF members were told to report to Zamboanga City before September 8 to join a peaceful rally in time for the proclamation of MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari as the president of Mindanao Republic.

Ecaldre said that the four MNLF officials last September 10 have called Canoy and Morales through the mobile phone of Quezon and ordered them to report to Zamboanga City purposely to reinforce their comrades involved in the standoff.

The standoff started last September 9 when hundreds of MNLF rebels infiltrated this city.

Ecaldre said the case they filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office was docketed under IX-09-INV-131-00-462.

Obama cancels PHL visit due to US shutdown

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Obama cancels PHL visit due to US shutdown

US President Barack Obama canceled his first-ever visit to the Philippines scheduled on Oct. 11 to 12 due to the US government shutdown, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

“This morning, United States President Barack Obama conveyed to Pres Benigno S. Aquino III that he regrets that he will not be able to push through with his visit to Manila this month.

President Obama explains that this is because of issues relating to the US government shutdown,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement.

“President Aquino understands the decision of President Obama. Philippines-US relations remain strong and forward looking,” Hernandez said.

The U.S. shutdown of government agencies which was caused by failure to meet a deadline to pass a budget prompted Obama to limit his travel time in Asia to deal with the crisis. Aside from the Philippines, Obama also canceled his visit to Malaysia.

The U.S Embassy in Manila said US Secretary of State John Kerry will replace Obama in Manila and Kuala Lumpur.

Obama will only travel to Bali, Indonesia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and to Brunei for the Association of South East Asian Nations summit with Aquino and other leaders from ASEAN, Japan, China, and Australia, among others.