Friday, October 11, 2013

On assignment in Zambo with Marine snipers

From GMA News (Oct 10): On assignment in Zambo with Marine snipers

They are feared in battle zones for their pinpoint accuracy. They live by the dictum "one shot, one kill." They possess an almost god-like power: a gentle squeeze of the trigger could spell the difference between someone's life and death.

In the fight against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels in Zamboanga City, Marine snipers owned the night — thus the call sign "Night Hawks."

Equipped with night vision scopes, three sniper teams from the Philippine Marine Corps were deployed in the coastal village of Kasanyangan at the height of the three-week conflict in Zamboanga City. Kasanyangan was one of the villages occupied by the rebels loyal to founding MNLF chairman Nur Misuari.

Perched on rooftops of burned houses, snipers watched over a wide expanse of mangrove areas and fishponds where rebels waded to elude pursuing government forces. Marine sharpshooters are equipped with 5.56mm and 7.62mm M40A1 sniper rifles with day and night scopes.

From their concealed positions, they carefully picked their targets. The mere echo of the distinct sound of sniper fire can stop dozens in their tracks.

) covering the three-week siege of Z

The author (center) covering the three-week siege of Zamboanga City by MNLF fighters
y by MNLF fighters
Receiving end of sniper fire
I became familiar with that terrifying sound when I was embedded with the Marines six years ago. In July 2007 in Basilan, during a Marine search-and-rescue operation for a kidnapped Italian priest, my team and I experienced what it's like to be at the receiving end of sniper fire.

Entering enemy territory in the remote town of Al-Barka, we were pinned down for hours as snipers believed to be from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels shot at the Marines, us included. Fourteen Marines were killed in that encounter, 10 of them beheaded, some after being wounded and captured.

I was lying on the side of an unpaved road with my head down when a bullet hit a twig just inches from my position. Even up to this day, I still remember the words uttered by a Marine soldier next to me: "Sir, ikaw na pinuputukan."

Up to now, the memory of that particular incident still sends shivers down my spine, as it was by far my closest — and hopefully my last — brush with death.

But then again, in war coverage, anything can happen. Expect the unexpected. That's why I always say a little prayer before doing stories in conflict areas even though I'm not the religious type.

But back to the Zamboanga crisis.

In the 20-day campaign against MNLF fighters, the three sniper teams of Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 accounted for 24 confirmed kills, and all of them headshots.

In one of our sorties to the frontlines of Barangay Kasanyangan, I was introduced to an officer who happened to be one of the finest Marine snipers deployed in the area.

With a firm grip he shook my hand and said, "Jun, nag-meet na tayo dati. Ikaw yung gumawa ng feature sa aming mga Marine snipers sa Fort Bonifacio."

I answered in the affirmative. Years ago we did do a story on an elite group of Marine snipers. Many of the details already escape my memory, except one: the "confidence firing" they displayed in front of the camera.

One shot, one kill: Sniper fire has become a dreaded sound in the battle zone.

A sniper team usually consists of a shooter and a spotter. In order to develop confidence between the two, at the final stage of their gruelling training, they will undergo "confidence firing."

My team and I watched in awe the hair-raising display of markmanship.

A shooter was lying on his stomach with his sniper rifle on two sacks of sand. And from about 50 meters away, his spotter was standing and holding a balloon by his side. No scopes, just iron sights, the shooter carefully aims for the balloon... the spotter closes his eyes. Everyone in the shooting range was holding their breath. The shooter pressed the trigger... bang! The balloon burst. Perfect hit.

Same procedure was repeated, with the roles reversed. The spotter became the shooter. A Marine instructor told us for a sniper team to be efficient there has to be full trust between the shooter and the spotter.

After our encounter at the firing range, we met again, only this time the sniping was for real: the targets weren't balloons but human beings.

The sniper I met was the highest-ranking officer on the three Marine sniper teams of MBLT3. For security reasons, we will not reveal his true identity, as well as the others who will be mentioned in this story.

With him was a young lieutenant. According to his comrades, the junior officer was responsible for a big number of sniper kills in the campaign against MNLF rebels. Armed with his night vision scope, he stalked his prey deep in the night.

Concealed in an elevated spot, he surveyed the field for movement by escaping rebels trying to reach mangrove areas.

"Silhouette lang ng mga kalaban ang nakikita namin sa ilalim ng liwanag ng buwan," he said.

His thick northern accent became even more evident as we talked about his exploits.

"Actually parang nag-aagawan kami. Tatlong teams kami, paunahan, parang pag tinamaan panalo ako. Uyyy score ko isa," he said.

The senior sniper was not as callous: "Para sa bayan ang ginagawa namin, kesa naman sa mga kasama pa namin sila maka-inflict ng damage. Hindi ito payabangan."

Good thing sniping operations were done during the night, one sniper said. "At least sa gabi hindi namin nakikita kung ano itsura kapag tinatamaan sila."

On the night of September 26, 2013, at around 8:30, the members of Night Hawks were monitoring a fishpond between Brgy Kasanyangan and Brgy Rio Hondo when they saw a group of about 15 men swimming across the pond.

They relayed a message through radio. Then after getting the go-signal to engage, the teams picked their targets, five for each of them. When the shooting started, one by one the MNLF rebels fell.

Come daybreak, the bodies were all over the place. As a matter of procedure, personal belongings like wallets were secured from the bodies. But one stood out from the rest because identification cards of MNLF commander Habier Malik—the man who led 400 or so MNLF fighters in the Zamboanga siege—were found on him.

The man was shot in the head, making facial identification impossible. Days later, the Philippine National Police, which conducted the forensic examination, declared that the man was not Malik. The conflict's most valuable target had eluded the Marine snipers, but many others had not.

Indonesian military chief starts 3-day Manila visit

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 10): Indonesian military chief starts 3-day Manila visit

Indonesia’s military chief General Moeldoko pays a courtesy call to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Emmanuel Bautista on Thursday at the General Headquarters Camp Aguinaldo. He is on a “goodwill visit” to the country from October 9 to 11. Photo from AFP Public Affairs

Indonesia’s military chief is in the Philippines for a three-day visit.

General Moeldoko, commander-in-chief of Tentara Nacional Indonesia (Indonesian Defense Forces), paid a courtesy call to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines General Emmanuel Bautista on Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said his visit was part of a tradition of military chiefs among Asean counterparts.
He will be in the country from October 9 to 11.

Reds say Oplan Bayanihan results in wrongful arrests, including that of scientist Gargar

From Bulatlat (Oct 9): Reds say Oplan Bayanihan results in wrongful arrests, including that of scientist Gargar

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) added its voice to demands of human rights groups, youth groups, teachers and scientists calling for the release of UP professor Kim Gargar [2], who is presently being detained in the Davao Oriental Provincial Jail in Mati town. In a statement emailed to media Tuesday, the CCP denounced the arrest, imprisonment and “false charges” levelled against Gargar.

Professor Gargar’s detention underscores the grave injustice in Philippine society where the big plunderers of the environment and the people’s money enjoy their high-style living while those who choose to serve the people and defend their land and resources are made to rot in jail,” the CPP said.

 Professor Gargar was taken into custody last October 1 by soldiers of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Cateel, Davao Oriental, near an area where they encountered a unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) several hours earlier. The military claims Gargar was arrested with an M-16 rifle, “landmines” and so-called subversive documents.

The UP professor denied all charges against him by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In interviews, he asserted that he has been in Compostela Valley since late June to carry out a six-month resource mapping to develop a reforestation program with the aim of rehabilitating the areas devastated by typhoon Pablo in December 2012. Gargar said his research effort is in coordination with the Panalipdan environmental group and the Balsa Mindanao disaster relief network.

Professor Gargar is the Networking Officer of the Center for Environmental Concerns–Philippines and a PhD candidate in Chronobiology in the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in The Netherlands. He finished his masteral education in Physics at the University of the Philippines, and BS in Physics, magna cum laude, at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology in 2000.

Aside from supporting calls for the release of Professor Gargar, the CPP also urged for the return of all his scientific notes, digital files, research and personal materials. It echoed the complaint of Filipino environmentalists that for as long as Gargar remains in detention, he is prevented from conducting his research work for the people of Compostela Valley, and that, in turn, “only serves the big mining companies that do not want to be bothered by demands for reforestration and rehabilitation.”

Growing number of false arrests under Aquino

“The arrest and detention of Professor Gargar reminds us of the growing number of cases of wrongful arrests and killings by the reactionary armed forces victimizing civilians which the Armed Forces of the Philippines have accused as being members of the NPA,” said the CPP.

Recently, the AFP was compelled to release Rolly Panesa [3], a security guard employed by the Megaforce Security. Panesa was arrested by the AFP in October 5, 2012 and accused of being “Benjamin Mendoza” whom the AFP claimed to be a leader of the CPP in the Southern Tagalog region. He was severely tortured and detained for nine months and was released only last September.

In November 15, 2010, troops of the 19th IB shot at the team of distinguished botanist Leonardo Co [4] killing Co and his two companions Ronino Gibe and Policarpio Batute. In February 16, 2012, elements of the 1st Special Forces Battalion, 1st Infantry Battalion and the 59th Infantry Battalion fired at forest hunters in Magdalena, Laguna killing two residents and wounding three. In October 18, 2012, soldiers of the 27th IB killed pregnant mother Jovy Capion [5]and her two sons age 13 and 8.

“In these and numerous other cases of killing or arresting ordinary civilians, the AFP invariably claims that they encountered members of the New People’s Army,” said the CPP. “They make grand declarations that those arrested or killed are leaders of the CPP or NPA as if these justify their fascist crimes.”

The revolutionary group warned that because of the all-out support extended by Aquino to the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression, these “fascist soldiers are emboldened to wage all-out war in the countryside with complete disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law.”

Davao region peace council assures all-out support to JPSCC

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 11): Davao region peace council assures all-out support to JPSCC 

The Regional Peace and Order Council 11 expressed full support for the creation of a Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center (JPSCC) between the military and the police in Davao region.

RPOC-XI chair Governor Rodolfo del Rosario assured the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that the council welcomes the JPSCC, which intends to unify all efforts of the military and the police in addressing peace and security, as well as, disaster response concerns in Eastern Mindanao.

He said the document is highly called for, especially with the volatile peace and order situation in Mindanao today.

The joint efforts of the military and the police, according to him, are crucial in securing the initiatives of local government units (LGUs) in localizing the peace process, through the provision of sustained welfare program to critical communities.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, EastMinCom Commander MGen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, PNP Chief Police Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima and DIPO-EM Dir. PCSupt. Manuel Barcena signed Wednesday three joint letter directives that formed the JPSCC.

Sr. Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, Public Information Officer of the PNP, said the JPSCC would facilitate the enhancement of capability and inter-operability of military and police units to ensure that “local stakeholders attain a safer place to live, work and do business,” among others.

3 more die as Maguindanao clan war continues

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 12): 3 more die as Maguindanao clan war continues
Three more persons were killed, two others wounded including minors, as infighting between followers of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued Friday, authorities said.

Two of the three civilians killed were identified as Ali Nords and Salanggao Andi, both residents of Poblacion Talitay. The third fatality has yet to be identified.

Elements of 68th Infantry Battalion have been deployed to the area to prevent the escalation of armed hostilities involving armed followers of Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal and Commander Haron Buisan of the 105th base command of the MILF.

The conflict started Thursday with the ambush and killing of three unarmed security personnel of Mayor Sabal in a road leading to Poblacion Talitay.

Sabal was not with the group as he was on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Talitay Vice Mayor Allan Sabal blamed the group of Buisan in the ambush that also left two other Sabal's bodyguards wounded.

Sabal's followers retaliated and engaged the suspects in in a sporadic firefight that sent hundreds of civilians fleeing.

The three civilian fatalities were on board a multi-cab vehicle along with their valuables as they flee for fear of getting caught in a crossfire.

As they approached the borders of Talitay and Datu Anggal towns, they were ambushed by armed men on Friday morning.

Chief Inspector Freddie Solar, Talitay police chief, identified the two wounded victims as Dagadas Salanggao and Kinao Ali Pasawilan.

Solar said both the Sabal and Buisan families are locked in a long standing family feud due to politics. They are both affiliated with the MILF.

Von Al Haq, speaking for the MILF's military arm, said efforts have been underway to "disengage" the warring clans and ensure the security of civilians.

He also appealed to the military not to intervene as the issue is being looked into by the government and MILF ceasefire committee.

As a result of the armed conflict, aspirants for the upcoming barangay elections failed to file their certificates of candidacy with the Commission on Elections office Friday, the first day of filing.

Mary Ann Mangudadatu, Talitay election officer, and her staff were prevented by the police from proceeding to the town proper Friday as the warring clans were still trading bullets.

Comelec personnel tried but failed to proceed to Talitay proper Saturday as fighting was still on going.

Government hopes to reach agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on power sharing annex

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 11): Government hopes to reach agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on power sharing annex

The Aquino administration expressed optimism that both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels can finish the power sharing annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), a Palace official said.

"Both sides are extremely optimistic that... they both expressed their optimism as well as their commitment to have something done by this round," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang Palace on Friday.

Valte said the government peace negotiators are optimistic to reach an agreement with the MILF, at least on the power-sharing annex, following the resumption of the 41st formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia early this week.

Both parties stressed the need to ensure just and acceptable solutions to address the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

During the opening ceremonies for the 41st formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur this week, the government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer reiterated the importance of due diligence in coming up with viable solutions to the Bangsamoro problem.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in his opening statement, proposed to “finish the two remaining annexes especially on power sharing.”

The wealth-sharing annex was signed by both parties after concluding the 38th series of exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last July.

The Parties believe that the annex on wealth sharing will provide sufficient guidance for the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s provisions on wealth sharing and revenue generation for the Bangsamoro as envisioned by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Villagers flee as MILF units clash in wake of deadly ambush in Maguindanao town

From InterAksyon (Oct 11): Villagers flee as MILF units clash in wake of deadly ambush in Maguindanao town

Residents of four villages in Talitay, Maguindanao fled their homes Friday after an ambush that left three bodyguards of Mayor Montasser Sabal were killed and two others wounded triggered fighting between two units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Reports traced the incident to a feud between rival clans.

As of this posting, intermittent skirmishes were still being reported in Talitay despite military and police reinforcements deployed to the town in the wake of the ambush.

Sabal is in Mecca to perform the Hajj.

Talitay Vice Mayor accused fighters under MILF 105th Base Commander Hadji Karon Buisan of staging the ambush and said politics could have been the motive for the attack.

On the other hand, the victims have relatives in the MILF’s 106th Base Command.

Talitay chief of police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar said Sabal’s bodyguards were on their way to Cotabato City when they were attacked in Barangay Poblacion around 7:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, in the town of Kabacan, North Cotabato, a village councilman was shot dead while a student was wounded by a stray bullet Thursday evening.

Ronald Casimina, of Barangay Bangilan, was declared dead on arrival at a hospital after he was gunned down along Abellera St., Barangay Poblacion.

The 21-year old student of the University of Southern Mindanao was hit in the body and is recuperating.

Police have yet to say if the incident had to do with the October 28 barangay elections.

Military now says physicist a 'civilian used by NPA' in violation of rights pact

From InterAksyon (Oct 11): Military now says physicist a 'civilian used by NPA' in violation of rights pact

Kim Gargar

After initially tagging a former University of the Philippine professor a member of the New People’s Army, the military is now accusing communist rebels of violating a human rights agreement with government by “allowing the participation of civilian or civilian officials in military field operations and campaigns.”

Earlier, the Eastern Mindanao Command claimed physicist Kim Gargar, 34, was among the rebels who clashed with Army troops in Cateel, Davao Oriental on October 1.

However, human rights and environmental groups, who visited Gargar while he was confined at a hospital, belied the military claims and said the scientist, a doctoral student of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands and staff member of the Center for Environmental Concerns, was conducting studies for rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by typhoon “Pablo” and was injured when he fell from a waterfalls as he tried to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

“If indeed Gargar is a civilian as claimed by the NPAs and Karapatan, he was therefore exploited by the NPAs which is a clear violation of his rights” and of Part 4, Article 4, Section 9 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law," Eastmincom public affairs chief Captain Alberto Caber said in a statement Friday.

The CARHRHIHL was signed by the government and National Democratic Front.

Caber said Gargar, in a video statement recorded by the military, “revealed that that he was given M16 rifle by the NPAs and was among those who fired against the soldiers during the said clash. He further revealed informations (sic) about the NPAs platoon Front 25 (to) which he belongs.”

The military also claimed to have seized a rifle and improvised explosive devices from Gargar, for which he has been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, attempted and frustrated murder, and violating the election gun ban.

However, in an interview with the independent media outfit Mindanews, Gargar denied having the weapon and explosives in his possession.

As for the video, he told Mindanews, “lahat ng sinabi ko, ginawa ko mula nung dinakip nila ako is to please them kasi I don’t want to antagonize so kung ano ‘yung gusto nilang marinig sa tingin ko, ‘yun ‘yung aking sasabihin (everything I said and did since they arrested me is to please them because I don’t want to antagonize so whatever I thought they wanted to hear, that’s what I would say).”

Gov't, MILF extend talks for power-sharing deal

From Rappler (Oct 11): Gov't, MILF extend talks for power-sharing deal

OBSERVER. Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon attends the 41st round of peace talks between the government and the MILF. With him in the photo are MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. Photo by OPAPP

OBSERVER. Muntinlupa Rep Rodolfo Biazon attends the 41st round of peace talks between the government and the MILF. With him in the photo are MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. Photo by OPAPP

Peace panels from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) extended their talks for another day as they inch closer towards agreeing on how power will be shared between the proposed Bangsamoro political entity and the national government.
"We just finished; we'll continue tomorrow," government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a text message at 9 pm on Friday, October 11. "We're still aiming to finish 1 annex so let's hope for the best."
Sources said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Teresita Deles, arrived in Kuala Lumpur Friday afternoon. Her arrival had been scheduled early on.
Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed almost a year ago, the envisioned political entity being discussed at the government-MILF peace table will take a ministerial form of government.
The FAB has identified most of the powers reserved for the central government, including defense, foreign policy, global trade, monetary policy, citizenship and naturalization, and postal service.
What is being negotiated are the types of powers exclusive to the envisioned Bangsamoro government, and concurrent or shared powers between the central government and the Bangsamoro.
Sources from both sides earlier said the most contentious issue in the power-sharing annex is the item on "territorial waters" around the proposed Bangsamoro area.
It is difficult because it involves a plethora of factors on power, wealth-sharing, communication, transportation, and security, MILF chief negotiator earlier Iqbal earlier said.
The talks are down to the final aspects of the final peace pact.
Aside from the power-sharing annex, both sides are also negotiating details on the most sensitive issue of the talks: the process of normalization from conflict to peace, which involves decommissioning of arms and disposition of armed forces.
In his opening speech, Iqbal asked both parties to resolve and finish the remaining annexes at the soonest possible time.
He said the delay is impeding the working timeline of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body tasked to draft the Basic Law. Iqbal also heads the commission.
Lawmakers said it would be ideal for the Transition Commission to finish drafting the law by the first quarter of 2014 to give Congress ample time to discuss and pass the measure.
Once the Basic Law is passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be deemed abolished. The MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority will take over until the election of Bangsamoro officials in 2016.
The current talks are being held after the siege of Zamboanga by forces from a faction of the MILF's rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front, which left at least 139 dead and thousands displaced from their homes.
The MNLF under its founding chairman Nur Misuari signed a peace deal with the government in 1996. They staged the Zamboanga siege after feeling left out of the present peace talks.
As both panels try to hammer out an agreement in Kuala Lumpur, the MILF also complained about alleged ceasefire violations by the military in Basilan.
Despite the setbacks, both the government and the MILF hope the current peace talks will end the 40-year Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.

How to arrest a rebel like Nur Misuari

From Rappler (Oct 11): How to arrest a rebel like Nur Misuari

REBELLION: Arrest warrant out for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari. Photo by Jedwin Llobrera

REBELLION: Arrest warrant out for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari. Photo by Jedwin Llobrera

The first time Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari faced rebellion charges was in 2001. He was believed to be the mastermind of an attack against a military camp in Sulu that killed more than 100 people.

Misuari fled to Sabah, where he was arrested and deported for illegal entry. In the Philippines, he was first jailed at Fort Sto Domingo in Laguna, the same place that now serves as the jail for alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles.

Misuari would be allowed house arrest and was later released on bail until the charges were eventually dismissed in 2009. The prosecution failed to link him to the attack.

Misuari is now 71 years old. He is again facing rebellion charges for masterminding the 20-day siege of Zamboanga City in September. President Benigno Aquino III says the government has an airtight case against him.

(READ: Arrest warrants out vs Misuari, Malik, 2 others)

Where is he?

The arrest warrant is out, but how will the Philippine National Police (PNP) serve it to a man like Misuari?

"Mahirap talaga (It's really difficult)," Deputy Director-General Felipe Rojas Jr, PNP deputy chief for operations, told Rappler.

"But we will find him to give justice to those who were killed and those whose houses were burned in Zamboanga City," he said.

Misuari's arrest, he said, will help the Zamboangeños put closure to the 20-day crisis that shut down the city, killed 12 civilians and 18 soldiers, and damaged over 10,000 houses.

First, the question: Where is Misuari?

Rojas says Misuari was last seen two weeks ago in Talipao town in his home province of Sulu. He says there are "bits and pieces" of information coming from intelligence, but he did not elaborate. They are also getting information from detained MNLF fighters.

Island provinces

The PNP has deployed 5 tracker teams to search for Misuari in some parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula and the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi. Misuari is known to have relatives or supporters in these areas.

ISLAND PROVINCES: Government troops are looking for Nur Misuari in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Screenshot of Google Maps

ISLAND PROVINCES: Government troops are looking for Nur Misuari in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Screenshot of Google Maps
Citing the government's close coordination with Malaysian and Indonesian immigration officials, Rojas is confident Misuari won't try to leave the country again.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is assisting the PNP, especially in areas where the military has more assets than the police.
"Units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are on the ground in areas where he may possibly be – not necessarily in Sulu but all areas of concern. Let's allow our units on the ground to do their job. We will update you later on," said AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.
Zagala says they recognize that Misuari is no ordinary person. "The AFP is organized in a way that all areas of operation are covered. We have the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine Navy – all tasked to do separate things in these various areas of concern," Zagala added.

Sulu: Misuari's sanctuary
It won't be easy looking for him in Sulu alone, says retired Brigadier General Muhammad Nur Askalani, who grew up in Sulu and is familiar with Misuari's influence in his home province. Askalani also used to be with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
"The guy is moving. Nobody is exactly sureof his whereabouts," said Askalani.
Despite PNP pronouncements that angry relatives of MNLF fighters killed in Zamboanga City are also hunting down Misuari, Askalani believes the rebel leader remains to have "a lot" of followers.
"He has enough sanctuary. In Sulu alone, he has enough mobility. He can move from place to place using land, the jungle, and the sea," Askalani said.
No timeline
Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade, said: "Walang address 'yan dito (He doesn't have an address here)."
Cenabre told Rappler they met with the Sulu-PNP on Thursday, October 10, to discuss "rules of engagement." He did not elaborate.
TEN DAYS: Court orders the Philippine National Police to arrest MNLF founder Nur Misuari within 10 days. Screenshot of the arrest warrant

TEN DAYS: Court orders the Philippine National Police to arrest MNLF founder Nur Misuari within 10 days. Screenshot of the arrest warrant

The PNP has a Special Action Force (SAF) unit in Sulu. However, Rojas says, the PNP has "limited" assets there compared to the AFP, which deals with rogue MNLF members and the Abu Sayyaf based in the province.
"We cannot predict [a timeline]. We are following the Crisis Management Committee [in Zamboanga City]," Cenabre said.

The court order specifies that the police should be able to serve the warrant within 10 days. The arrest warrant was issued on October 8.

Slain MNLF fighter found in Barangay Rio Hondo clearing operations

From the Manila Times (Oct 12): Slain MNLF fighter found in Barangay Rio Hondo clearing operations

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday announced that ground units conducting clearing operations have found a body of another Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighter in Barangay Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City Friday.

AFP deputy public affairs office chief Major Angelo Guzman, in his Twitter account, said that government forces also recovered an M-14 rifle.

He did not immediately identify the slain MNLF fighter.

Military forces and followers of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari had engaged in at least 20 days of fighting last September.

Misuari’s followers tried to occupy parts of the city and took civilians as hostages, but government forces retook the MNLF-controlled areas.

New frigates on order, most heavily-armed ships of PH Navy

From the Manila Times (Oct 12):  New frigates on order, most heavily-armed ships of PH Navy

Should the Department of National Defense (DND)’s P18-billion frigate program come into a successful conclusion, the two ships will be the most heavily armed vessels in Philippine Navy (PN) service.

Technical specifications obtained by MaxDefense: Philippines, a blogsite for Philippine defense related matters, revealed that the ships, at minimum, will be armed with:

-76mm gun at forward section with target tracking radar and/or electro-optical target acquisition and fire control computer;

-one stabilized secondary gun;

-four . 50-caliber machine guns;

-primary and secondary guns shall be integrated to combat management system;

-four surface-to-surface missile launchers, minimum 50km range, active homing seeker and ECCM capability;

-surface-to-air missile launching system, minimum quadruple launcher, minimum 6km range, IR or semi-active homing seeker, with ECCM and/or IR CCM capability;

-anti-submarine torpedoes, minimum range 2km, minimum depth 500m, with acoustic countermeasures capability, two triple launchers (one on each side).

With these armaments, the ships will be capable of engaging any aerial, surface and sub-surface threats that may intrude in Philippine territory.

At present, the most potent weapon system in PN service is the 76mm Oto Melara main gun and Mark 38 Model 2 25 mm “Bushmaster” auto-cannon fitted in the Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates and Emilio Jacinto class patrol vessels.

Earlier, PN Patrol Force head Commodore Jose Renan C. Suarez said that the two frigates will be the most capable yet in Philippine service due to its capability to detect and engage airborne, surface and underwater threats simultaneously.

Suarez said that these ships are part of the PN’s “Navy Frigate Program” which has a timeline of 2013 to 2017.

He added that these ships are designed with numerous upgrades cycle to ensure that they will remain relevant and competitive against new vessels coming in line.

Suarez said that these ships will greatly enhance PN’s capabilities to defend the country’s vast maritime territories.

Sulu sultanate troops reject Nur Misuari

From the Manila Times (Oct 10): Sulu sultanate troops reject Nur Misuari

THE Sultanate’s Royal Security Forces (RSF) still keeping position at Lahad Datu in Sabah, will never coddle Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in case he escapes to the disputed territory.

This was assured on Thursday by Sultanate of Sulu spokesman Abraham Idjirani amid reports that Misuari could possibly seek refuge to Malaysia to evade arrest by the authorities.

Misuari, along with his officials, has been the subject of the manhunt operations by government security forces after the bloody 20-day Zamboanga siege staged by his men.

Reports indicated that Misuari could escape to Sabah since this is the nearest territory from Sulu, where he was staying during the siege.

Some Misuari’s men had gone to Sabah to voluntarily join the RSF, headed by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd, in the fight to regain the territory from Malaysia.

Idjirani, however, said they will not shelter Misuari if he escapes to Sabah because they don’t want their fight to be tinged with political color.

“We will not coddle him [Mi-suari] because we don’t want our struggle for the repos-session of Sabah to be asso-ciated with political ideolo-gies,” he said.

Besides, Idjirani added, the MNLF members who reinforced RSF as ‘volunteers’ already de-tached themselves from Mi-suari’s leadership.

He also said it will be hard for Misuari to seek refuge to Sabah since he is also claiming the territory and included it in the areas covered by his own-declared Bangsa Moro Republik.

Idjirani likewise expressed fear that Misuari’s experience in 2001 might just be repeated if he escapes to Malayia.

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

He then escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported back to the Philippines.

Misuari’s group is facing rebellion and a string of criminal charges, including violation of the Republic Act 9851 or the Philippines Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other crimes against humanity in connection with the Zamboanga siege.

The Philippine Navy has already deployed several gun-boats to prevent Misuari’s escape, possibly to Malaysia, if he is still in the province of Sulu.

Professor-turned-rebel faces stack of charges

From the Manila Times (Oct 11): Professor-turned-rebel faces stack of charges

A university professor, who was captured and accused by the military as a communist rebel, is facing criminal charges after authorities filed multiple cases of illegal possession of weapons and explosives, and frustrated murders against him, an army spokesman said Friday.

Troops captured Professor Kim Gargar who was wounded in a recent clash in Davao Oriental’s Cateel town. An automatic rifle was also recovered from him in the village of Aliwagwag where troops also killed a rebel leader of the New People’s Army.

“Gargar is now charged with illegal possession of explosives and firearms, violation of COMELEC gun ban and multiple frustrated murders,” said Captain Alberto Caber, of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

He said the criminal charges against Gargar, who belongs to the NPA Platoon Front 25, have been filed in court in Mati town in Davao Oriental province.

Caber said Gargar told military interrogators that he joined the NPA last year, but previously helped Sison in the production of several books aimed at exploiting villagers in the countryside.

Gargar was a Physics professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City and also worked at the Don Mariano University in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province and in Polytechnic University and Mapua University, both in Manila. He was also doctorate scholar in University of Groningen in The Netherlands, according to Caber.

But the human rights group Karapatan has branded Gargar’s arrest and detention as illegal, saying the he was wrongfully accused by the military.

“To throw Professor Kim Gargar in jail on trumped up charges because he wanted to help the [Typhoon] Pablo victims in rehabilitating and developing their communities is not only violating his rights but is also injustice to the communities he is assisting. Professor Gargar should be immediately released,” said Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general.

Army bares gains in peace drive

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 12): Army bares gains in peace drive

Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday that their operations have recovered 10 high-powered firearms, including M-16, M-14 and AK 47 assault rifles, .45 caliber pistols, on top of three shotguns, a .22 caliber pistol and numerous homemade guns, in Negros Occidental.

Last week, eight members of the NPA Yunit Militia gave themselves up to the military and surrendered 13 guns, to avail of the AFP Guns for Peace Program, military records show

Seven M-16 assault rifles and two M-14 rifles were also surrendered by former NPA members in northern and southern Negros, Aying also said.

The surrender of so many firearms and series of encounters, Aying said, greatly affected the will of the NPA to fight and organize.

Because of their sustained military operations, in tandem with the Philippine National Police, he said they were also able to pre-empt terror attacks planned by the NPA.

Since 2011, the military has reported that 87 rebels have surrendered to the 303 rd Infantry Brigade, and availed of financial and livelihood assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

“I am optimistic that we are on the right path to peace,” Aying said. He also expressed elation that more Negrenses and civic organizations supporting them in the quest for just and lasting peace.

He said several non-government and civil society organizations, as well as private citizens from the business, academe and urban poor have converged to form peace and development groups to assist the provincial government of Negros Occidental in the planning, development, implementation and monitoring of peace and development efforts in the province.

Army: We'll respect ruling on ‘NPA leader'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 12): Army: We'll respect ruling on ‘NPA leader'

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, said yesterday that they will respect the decision of the court, on the charges filed against New People's Army leader Nilda Bertulano.

Bertulano, who was arrested Tuesday at a checkpoint in Bais City, Negros Oriental, has pending arrest warrants for murder and rebellion, on top of arson charges for which she was able to post bail, after her arrest in La Carlota City, several years ago.

Militant organizations in Negros, however, described the filing of criminal complaints by the military and police against Bertulano as trumped-up up to silence leaders of progressive organizations from criticizing the government.

Baladad said the long arm of the law has reached Bertulano, and they have done their job of bringing her to the court of law.

“The Philippine Army and the AFP will follow legal proceedings and respect judicial processes,” he said.

Several rebel leaders, previously arrested by the police and military, including NPA regional commander Romeo Nanta, managed to post bail for charges filed against them.

However, upon their release from jail, they rejoined their comrades in the mountains, military records show.

The military had linked Bertulano to the death of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, who was killed in an encounter with suspected New People's Army rebels in Sitio Aluyan, Brgy. Caduhaan. Cadiz City, a few years ago.

Christian Tuayon of Bayan-Negros, however, said in an interview with MBC Aksyon Radyo, that Bertulano, who was arrested in 2009, was still in jail when Polenzo died the next year.

The arrest of Bertulano in Bais City, yielded an NPA flag, subversive documents with high intelligence value, and personal belongings, the military said.

BIFF not immune from police, AFP actions — GPH peace panel

From the Daily Zambaonga Times (Oct 11): BIFF not immune from police, AFP actions — GPH peace panel

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer broke her silence the other day on the escalating brigandage by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, warning the group it is not immune to law enforcement activities of Philippine security authorities.
Ferrer, chair of the GPH panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said in a statement emailed to Zamboanga Times that the BIFF do not even have a single security agreement with government that will prevent the police and military to fight off its persistent harassment of communities in Central Mindanaoo.
Ferrer made the pronouncement just as the 41st   government-MILF exploratory talks were to start in Malaysia.
Ferrer said civilians suffer most from the brunt of the atrocities committed by the group.
The GPH peace panel had recorded 48 BIFF attacks in Central Mindanao from July to September this year alone.
Thousands of villagers, about 90 percent of them ethnic Maguindanaon Muslims, were affected by the attacks the BIFF perpetrated during the period.
Ferrer said the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police both have the discretion on how to deal with the BIFF, but in close coordination with the MILF’s ceasefire committee.
Ferrer said the BIFF is not protected by any of the preliminary security agreements between the government and the MILF that are meant to prevent undue hostilities between rebel and government forces while the peace talks are underway.
Brig. Gen. Ademar Tomaro, commanding officer of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, and North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, had both acknowledged, during a security conference at the capitol in Kidapawan City last week, that the BIFF is now the most serious threat to the safety of local communities in Central Mindanao.
The provincial government and the Army’s 602nd Brigade agreed to strengthen their cooperation against the BIFF.
Tomaro told Daily Zamboanga Times via mobile phone that among the focus of the security cooperation between them and the office of North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza is the safety of power relay installations and strategic stretches of highways straddling through the province.
Tomaro said the governor committed to provide the brigade with periodic updates on security situation in potential flashpoint areas based on validated information from local government units in North Cotabato’s 17 towns and in Kidapawan City, the provincial capital.
“We’re glad Gov. Mendoza assured to help us in detecting unusual movements of armed groups present in our AOR (area of responsibility). We in the military will hardly succeed in pre-empting their (lawless elements’) hostile actions without the help of LGUs,” Tomaro said.
Tomaro, however, said the continuing cooperation between the 602nd Brigade and the PPOC can help forestall attacks by the BIFF.
Tomaro cited as example how local officials and the military helped each other drive away the bandits that simultaneously attacked two weeks ago five farming enclaves in Midsayap town and how soldiers prevented them from getting close to a stretch of a highway connecting the municipalities of Mlang and Matalam three days later.
“Gov. Mendoza’s instruction is for us to coordinate all of our security efforts with the ceasefire committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in keeping with the government’s ceasefire accord with the MILF,” Tomaro said.
Ferrer said the ceasefire between the government and the MILF is still holding with increasing cooperation from both sides to prevent any conflict.
Ferrer announced during Tuesday’s start of the formal talks in Malaysia that the government and MILF ceasefire committees continued to cooperate in preventing untoward incidents and in containing criminal activities.

2 more MNLF stragglers killed in clearing operation

From the Daily Zambaonga Times (Oct 11): 2 more MNLF stragglers killed in clearing operation

Two more MNLF stragglers were killed in a brief gunfight with government troops in a clearing and retrieval operation at Sitio Buggok, Sta. Catalina yesterday morning.
A police report disclosed that soldiers of the 23rd Marine Company resumed clearing operation yesteday at Sitio Buggok where they spotted two MNLF rebels armed with M14 rifles.
Soldiers tried to convince the two rebels to surrender but the latter opened fire triggering a gunbattle.
The two rebels were hit in the body and died on the spot.
One of the two rebels was identified through his MNLF identification card as Nasser Dawili, 38, of Tulay, Jolo Sulu. The other remained unidentified as of press time.
The bodies were taken to the Villa funeral parlor for post mortem examination.
The two firearms were retrieved by the soldiers and will be turned over to the police.
Meanwhile, soldiers of the 44th Infantry Battalion recovered an M-16 rifle in a drainage canal and an AK-47 in a mangrove area during clearing operations in Barangay Santa Catalina.
Clearing operations have been undertaken since September 30, after the end of the crisis.
The Zamboanga City siege, which started Sept. 9 resulted in the deaths of 208 MNLF fighters. Twenty-four rebels surrendered, while were 270 captured. At least 20 soldiers were killed and 177 were wounded.  A total of195 hostages were rescued, while two were killed and nine wounded.

MILF: Philippine peace panel condemns BIFF violence, aims for success of talks with MILF

From the MILF Website (Oct 12): Philippine peace panel condemns BIFF violence, aims for success of talks with MILF

The GPH Panel, in a press briefing on October 4, 2013, condemned the rise in violent incidents committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). “The BIFF attacks show a total disregard to human life and a willful desire to block the progress towards achieving a peaceful resolution of the armed conflicts in Mindanao,” said GPH Panel Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the Mindanao Examiner reported.
From July-September, the government panel secretariat tallied a total of 48 violent incidents, including shootings, explosions and fire fights in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Basilan. Some of the incidents in Basilan involved alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf group.

“These acts show that the BIFF and their cohorts are bent on disrupting the peaceful option, and have no qualms to use violence against civilians in order to achieve their political objectives,” Coronel-Ferrer added.

The report also said that, the BIFF attacked last week a civilian outposts in barangays Rangeban and Tugal in the town of Midsayap in North Cotabato province. As they withdrew from the area, the BIFF split into groups that led to the spread of fire fights to barangays Malingao, Mirasol and Palongoguen in the same town. In the process, the BIFF abducted a total of 15 civilians including teachers and used them as human shields. Another group killed two other civilians, one of whom was beheaded. The following day they attacked a plantation in the town of Tulunan.

On September 26, the tower of Transmission Line #141 of the National Grid Corporation in Kabacan, North Cotabato was bombed by unidentified men, causing prolonged power shutdowns in parts of Central Mindanao.

“The Government will apply the full force of the law against those who cause violence and havoc on civilian communities, similar to what the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari forces did in Zamboanga City,” former Agriculture Secretary and government negotiator Senen Bacani said.

According to government negotiator and Presidential Adviser on Muslim Concerns Yasmin Busran-Lao, “The peace process in Mindanao aims to isolate those who use violence from those who are ready to take the nonviolent, civilized path to social and political reform.”

She emphasized that, while the negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aims to “strengthen the partnership with the MILF as a peace partner in building effective and responsive autonomous governance” in the Bangsamoro region, it is open to all who wish to participate in non-violent political change.

“The peace agreement will allow for a fresh start of governance institutions in the Bangsamoro. There will be space for all those who wish to participate based on fair rules. We are optimistic that the Bangsamoro will grab this opportunity and will transcend personal, tribal, or organizational interests to bring about good governance for our people,” Busran-Lao added.

Asked about the “exclusion” of the MNLF in this process, the head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Secretary Mehol Sadain clarified that similar tracks are being pursued with the different MNLF groups and personalities who will commit to renounce violence.“

But the government panel member added, “The unity of the MNLF and the MILF cannot be imposed by the government. They need to build the bridges among themselves.” “We will support such initiatives but we cannot force it upon them,” Sadain added.

GPH Panel Consultant Undersecretary Chito Gascon, meanwhile, noted that the government negotiators “realize the tremendous responsibility on their shoulders in ensuring that the peace negotiations with the MILF will bring about processes, mechanisms and institutions that will be appropriate to the complexity of the situation in Mindanao, effective, inclusive and participatory. But it cannot achieve this alone. All of us will have to stand up and condemn political violence, and support peaceful reform.”

According to the report, “On the recently released SWS survey showing a decline in June 2013 in the percentage of people hopeful that a peace agreement with the MILF will be released, panel chair Coronel-Ferrer said that the survey was done during the lull between the signing of the first annex on the road map in February and the second annex.

“People were naturally disappointed by the delay in completing the Annexes and the rise in violence in-between,’ she said. The Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing was eventually signed in July.

“The 70 percent who remained hopeful show that the majority wants the talks to succeed,” Bacani added, “This expressed hope motivates the parties to work harder in order to reach common ground on the remaining issues in the Power Sharing and Normalization Annexes.”

The Power Sharing Annex provides a list of powers that will be devolved to the Bangsamoro Government or exercised jointly or concurrently with the Central Government. The Normalization Annex will address the security concerns such as the decommissioning of IFL weapons and combatants, and measures that will bring about reconciliation and justice, said the Mindanao Examiner in its report.

MILF: Workshops on Political Party Building held anew

From the MILF Website (Oct 11): Workshops on Political Party Building held anew

For the second time in a row, officers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) engaged in another workshop on Political Party Building in preparation for joining the electoral process come 2016 once a comprehensive compact is signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF Peace Panels. If the first phase was attended by male participants, this time female members of the Moro Front also participated.
Last October 2-5, 2013,  the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) a German-based foundation in partnership with Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) jointly conducted the 3 ½ day Seminar Workshops on Political Party Building at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Center, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The workshops were consistent and cognizant with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed last October 15, 2012 at Manila where a ministerial form of government shall be adopted by the Bangsamoro Region once it replaces the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

This batch of trainees was attended by 46 Participants from the different provinces in the proposed Bangsamoro Regions while the first batch was attended by 42 participants held last September 16 – 19, 2013 at the same Venue.

The activities focused on political party formation, political platform and management relevant to a ministerial form of government.
Atty. Benedicto Bacani, IAG - Executive Director and his Staff, Professor Abhoud Shayed Lingga, IBS-Executive Director facilitated the program activities while BLMI staff assisted.

Hon. Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and MILF Peace Panel Chair welcome the participants and expressed his profound gratitude to Dr. Peter Koeppinger, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Country Representative – Philippines; Atty. Bacani and Prof. Lingga for infusing knowledge on political party building and facilitating the program. He stressed the importance of acquiring knowledge by the Bangsamoro so that they can prepare for the birth of the new region.

On day one, Prof. Lingga talked on the Bangsamoro attempts in Political Party Building. He mentioned various political parties established by Muslim Moros but which failed to change the tainted political landscape in the ARMM.

Mr. Ramon Casiple, Executive Director of Institute for Political & Electoral Reforms (IPER), a nationally-known political analyst lectured on the Philippines Party System, political parties, definition, criteria & its rationales. He accentuated his topic comprehensively.

On the second day, Dr. Koeppinger discussed how to craft a political party platform and other related topics on political party formation. Atty. While Atty. Bacani simplified and summarized Dr. Koeppinger’s presentations into layman’s term using the Tagalog (Filipino) dialect to enable the participants to comprehend Dr. Koeppinger’s presentations vividly.

Mr. Aaron de Leon, the Program Manager of Konrad Adenauer Foundation – Philippines presented on the third day the salient aspects of political party communication, finance and administrative elements.
At the end of the activities, the participants expressed their propound gratitude to Dr. Peter Koeppinger, Atty. Benedicto Bacani, Prof. Lingga and to the BLMI for the fruitful undertakings that provided them inspirations and enhanced their knowledge on political party formation, among others.

“Similar training workshops shall be conducted in the near future”, said Prof. Lingga in his closing remarks. Thereafter, awarding of certificates followed. The program ended with new challenges and hopes saddled on the participants in succeeding engagements.

The activities proved that the Moro Front is keen and serious in joining the political exercise by 2016.

‘NPA Leader Victim of Trumped-up Charges’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Oct 11): ‘NPA Leader Victim of Trumped-up Charges’

"The alleged captured New People’s Army (NPA) leader Nilda Bertulano is once more being accused by high-ranking military officers without any basis and with nothing but trumped-up charges".

Thus declared Makabayan-Negros leader Alejandro Deoma, Bayan-Negros Secretary-General Christian Tuayon, and women’s group Gabriela-Negros representative Clarissa Singson in a press conference yesterday morning at the Negros Press Club (NPC) building."

"The trumped-up charges lodged by military officers through the collaborating prosecutor’s office, just like more than a dozen criminal charges against innocent activists, are but results of the military’s counter-insurgency operation to destroy the progressive movement", Tuayon, who himself is facing murder charge allegedly for the killing of an Army lieutenant in an armed encounter in Cadiz City.

The truth is that Bertulano was on her way to Dumaguete City to attend a clergy meeting of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) when she was intercepted in a Police-Special Warfare team when she was arrested.

Military officers tagged her Commanding Officer of the Front Operational Command of the Front Guerilla I which is part of Central Negros.

She had also been involved in various raids on transloading stations and in ambuscades, they averred.

She jumped bail after she posted one in a court case filed against her and several others, said the military officers.

But she had not jumped bail, the three said, because the arson case which necessitated her posting a P150T bail bond had been dismissed, the three said.

The military is instead engaging in red-baiting tactics, its intent to paralyze the legal, national democratic movement, they said.

On the contrary, though, such wanted person as retired Gen. Novito Palparan dubbed as the "butcher" for having murdered members of the cause-oriented groups is being allowed to remain freely by the military, said Tuayon.

The three also lamented the harsh treatment administered upon the political detainees Zarah Alvarez, who is padlocked inside the jail cell of the now BJMP-operated provincial jail in Tabunan Village, Bago City, separated from two others, Eliezer Navas and Tuayon’s uncle Greg detained in the overcrowded jail in Bacolod City.

A highly-reliable source, said Alvarez is forced to sleep with only mats in the bare cement floor of her cell in the provincial jail, subjected to cruel treatment. She has also been classified as a high-risk prisoner, something laughable, her companions say.