Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two of 4 seized men freed in southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 16): Two of 4 seized men freed in southern Philippines

Police forces have recovered before dawn Wednesday two of four people seized by gunmen in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.

Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, police chief of Sulu province, said the victims – Bernal Joe and Absuwal Sasapan – were recovered by policemen in Tagbak village in Indanan town. The remaining hostages - Dr Salladin Teo and Wilfred Ngo – are still being held captive.

He said the four men were seized in Siasi, an island-town off Sulu province late Tuesday and that since then police forces were tracking down the gunmen until Joe and Sasapan were recovered in Indanan town.

“Two of the victims – Bernal Joe and Absuwal Sasapan – have been recovered by combined elements of the Siasi municipal and provincial police forces. We are still searching for the remaining captives. The victims were all seized from Dr Teo’s house in Siasi and the gunmen dragged them to a waiting speedboat and escaped. There was a pursuit operation shortly after the abduction and one report claimed the victims landed in (the village of) Luuk Tulay in Pata town where our forces are now deployed,” Orbita told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said the two freed men were immediately brought to hospital for medical examination and later to the police headquarters in Jolo town for debriefing. “The motive of the abduction is still unknown,” he said.

No group claimed responsibility for the abductions, but Abu Sayyaf rebels have been largely blamed for many ransom kidnappings in the province.

Trader, 3 others seized in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Oct 17): Trader, 3 others seized in Sulu

Armed men clad in fatigue uniforms seized a businessman and three others in an island municipality in Sulu Tuesday night, authorities said.

Hours of police and military pursuit operations led to the recovery of Abswan Hawan and Nal Joe in Barangay Tagbak, Indanan town.

Still being held captive are Saladin Teo, who operates various shops and a pharmacy in Siasi town, and Qurliang Ngo, said Col. Jose Joriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and Task Force Sulu.

Cenabre said the four victims were seized at gunpoint by 20 men at Teo’s house in Barangay North Laud, Siasi town.

Gunmen seize four hostages in Sulu; two released later

From the Manila Times (Oct 16): Gunmen seize four hostages in Sulu; two released later

UNKNOWN armed men wearing military uniforms snatched on Tuesday evening four persons inside their homes in a remote village in Siasi, an island town of Sulu province, police reports said Wednesday.

Reports at the Philippine National Police operations center in Camp Crame identified the four-kidnap victims as Bernal Joe, Saladin Teo, Qurliang Ngo and Abswan Hawan.

The reports said the abduction took place at around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the house of Teo in Barangay North Laud of the island town.

Initial investigation by the police revealed that the victims were talking inside the house when the gunmen barged inside, dragged and pushed the victims into a waiting speed boat, the reports said. The reports said the gunmen and their captives were monitored to have landed along the shoreline of Barangay Luuk Tulay in the nearby island town of Pata also in Sulu province.

At around 1 a.m., the men together with two victims, Hawan and Joe left on a speedboat heading towards an eastern direction and were monitored to have landed in Barangay Luuk Tulay, Pata, Sulu, reports said.

The reports said Hawan and Joe were then left by the armed men at Sitio Panglimama, Barangay Tagbak in Indanan, Sulu and were turned over to the custody of the Sulu Provincial Police Office.

MILF: GPH, MILF reach substantial progress in annexes, confident to forge peace deal soon

From the MILF Website (Oct 16): GPH, MILF reach substantial progress in annexes, confident to forge peace deal soon

The 41st Exploratory Talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held at the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur from October 8-13, 2013 reached substantial progress in the FAB’s two remaining annexes on power-sharing and normalization.

According to a report by the Mindanao Examiner on October 14, the panels exhausted 18 hours of continuous work that started on Saturday, October 12 hoping to sign one of the annexes but failed. A joint statement was released at 4:00 a.m. Sunday, officially ending the five-day session of the 41st exploratory talks. The statement described the panels' “exhaustive, honest discussions in order to identify the best formulations for an agreement that would respond to the aspirations of both Parties.”

“The remaining challenges and the time constraints demand that the Panels remain focused on completing the annexes following a break for Eid'Ul'Adha,” it added. “Both sides have a full understanding of their clear responsibility as they strive towards a sustainable and inclusive solution for the benefit of all people in the Bangsamoro.”
“Despite the exhausting daily overtime sessions in the last five days, the panels remained upbeat,” said GPH Panel Chair Miriam Colonel-Ferrer who described the meetings as very productive, explaining that “Professionalism and mutual respect prevailed throughout the process.”

At the opening of the negotiations, the parties expressed hopes of completing the power-sharing annex, which outlines the reserved powers of the Central Government, the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government, and the concurrent powers to be shared by both.

“The panels really wanted to sign even one annex, but both share a common understanding that whatever they sign should create real, viable and lasting solutions to the Bangsamoro problem. They chose to exert extra due diligence in their work in the annexes to ensure that solutions are truly acceptable to the Bangsamoro people who will benefit the most," said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles who arrived Friday night to attend the negotiations until it closed on Sunday early morning as an observer.

Muntinlupa lone district Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a member of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, was also present during the first three days the negotiations.

Coronel-Ferrer said that “very good progress has been achieved in the power-sharing annex including on the possible structure of the new Bangsamoro political entity and the intergovernmental mechanism that can be instituted to ensure coordination and cooperation between the Central and Bangsamoro governments in the exercise of various powers.”

She related that the MILF submitted its proposal on the features of the structure of its envisioned Bangsamoro government. “There is understanding now on the level of detail that would go into the Annex on Power Sharing but some disagreements still on specific features,” she added.

The panel chair also mentioned on-going discussions “on the extent of territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity over waters and on the protection of fishing rights of subsistence fisherfolk in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf," as well as progress on the discussions of the GPH and the MILF Technical Working Groups (TWGs) on Normalization.

The TWGs “achieved working consensus on the mechanisms that will address the different security aspects of normalization, such as the private armed groups, and disposition of weapons and combatants, and land conflicts; the provision of socio-economic programs; and reconciliation.”

"We wanted of course to have already completed all the annexes by the time we celebrate the FAB's first year anniversary. But what we can tell our people is that we are nearer than ever in our goal to complete this process. While we've had some setbacks in some of our schedules, we are still on track when it comes to the road map set by the two panels," Secretary Deles explained.

She further added that the people's support and vigilance in accompanying the process is all the more needed now "to ensure that the gains carefully, and with arduous effort, cultivated to bring the process to this point will be sustained and protected from being derailed."

In their joint statement, the two panels thanked Malaysian third party facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed and his secretariat “for burning the midnight oil with us and providing the conducive atmosphere for otherwise intense engagements," and conveyed their gratitude to the members of the International Contact Group who stayed with the panels day and night and “helped sort out some of the difficult issues.”

“The Parties have agreed on a process that will facilitate the settlement of the unsettled issues and will meet again in due time,” said Coronel-Ferrer.

Gunmen shoot soldier

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Oct 16): Gunmen shoot soldier

A MEMBER of the Philippine Army was shot and wounded in a remote village of Zamboanga del Sur, police reported Wednesday.

The Zamboanga del Sur Police Office reported that the incident took place around 8 p.m. Tuesday at Purok 3 in the village of Bag-Ong Oroquieta, Guipos municipality.

Police identified the victims as Private First Class Botz Malalis, who is assigned with the Bravo Company of the 53rd Infantry Battalion.

Investigation showed that the victim was in Purok 3 of Bag-Ong Oroquieta village when two unidentified gunmen appeared and shot the victim, the police said.

The victim sustained two gunshot wounds and was rushed to Zamboanga Del Sur Medical Center for medical treatment.

Responding policemen recovered from the crime scene two empty shells of a .45 caliber pistol.

Investigation continue in a bid to unmask the suspects, the police said.

AFP to protect Pulag reservation

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Oct 15): AFP to protect Pulag reservation

La Trinidad, Benguet -- Soldiers will now be detailed to protect a sacred mountain.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will now set up camp at the perimeters of Mt. Pulag in a bid to thwart encroachment and illegal logging activities in the area.

Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Benguet Province, at 2,924 meters and is a favorite trek for climbers who want experience the sunrise at its highest point, is also considered a sacred mountain and is tagged as the playground of the gods.

AFP support was agreed to be a must during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting last week because of extensive logging and continued garden expansion in the protected area.

"Considering the magnitude of illegal activity, as it is well financed and to prevent further expansion of the gardens and other destruction, the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall be requested to be based and camp in sito," the PPOC said.

The report was presented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Provincial Environment and Natural Office (Penro) and likewise recommended "A checkpoint shall also be installed at the junction near the Mt. Pulag Primary School and shall be jointly manned by the barangay, the local government unit, police, AFP, NPC and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources."

Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan said soldiers under the 51st Infantry Battalion will be stationed in the area after Bokod officials asked for help to stop illegal activities at Barangay Ekip.

The DENR report was certified by Edgardo Flor, Cenro officer-in-charge as well as three forest rangers and also sought the help of "Protected area superintendents and National Power Corporation to ensure smooth and synchronized action towards abatement if illegal logging activities and other forest destructions and depletion within protected areas, watersheds, forest lands and other untenured areas."

Fongwan said a task force will be convened to monitor activities within the reservation and to protect the forest.

The Mt. Pulag area touches parts of Buguias, Bokod, Kayapa and Tinoc but is 80 percent part of Kabayan, The boundaries of the reservation reaches as far as Viscaya and Ifugao.

The National Park covers 11,550 hectares were established to protect and preserve the natural features of the area such as its outstanding vegetation and wildlife.

Bokod officials are also hoping to form a covenant or agreement stressing there shall be no expansions and the site shall be rehabilitated.

Veterans assured of P1.5-b pension

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 17): Veterans assured of P1.5-b pension

President Benigno Aquino III has approved the release of P1.59 billion for the regular pension requirements of military veterans.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the amount will cover pension benefits for the last quarter of the year.

A total of 206,154 pensioners – whose identities have been certified and validated by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office – will benefit from this latest release.

“Aside from the P7.94 billion we have released so far this year, this latest release supports the well-being of our military veterans and their families, ensuring that their pensions are well-provided for in the last quarter of the year. This is in line with the President’s continuing support to our veterans and their families who have demonstrated great bravery and loyalty to the country,” Abad said.

Abad said the list of pensioners has already been validated and purged.

Of the 211,913 pensioners who were included in the cleansed list, 37,634 accounts were classified “doubtful” because of the duplication of names and discrepancies in the account numbers assigned.

Thereafter, 31,875 additional pensioners were validated by PVAO as active and valid, making the total number of validated pensioners to 206,154, Abad said.

“Our dedication to deliver the pension benefits of our veterans in a timely fashion goes hand in hand with our commitment to ensure that public funds are well-accounted for.

Through our evaluation and validation process and the subsequent enrollment of all eligible pensioners to ATM accounts, we have successfully cleansed our beneficiary list of invalid, duplicate and ghost entries,” he said.

Farmers and peasants hit Aquino for anti-poor policies and programs

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 17): Farmers and peasants hit Aquino for anti-poor policies and programs

ANGLES CITY,  Pampanga — Farmers and peasant groups in central Luzon denounced the anti-land reform policies of President Aquino on Wednesday and said he was the cause of their continuing state of poverty.

The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) and the Anakpawis Party-list said they are marking the World Food Day of the United Nations as World “Hunger” Day.

“World Food Day is celebrated here. Ironically, Aquino’s programs … are direct threats to the country’s food security,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson.

The AMGL and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) held a rally outside the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City on Tuesday to protest the “systematic hunger” in the country.

The protesters blamed the anti-farmer programs of the Aquino administration as the cause of their hunger. They listed these programs as the Comprehensive Reform Program, the Public-Private Partnership and liberalization of agriculture, mining, and land-use conversion.

“The conversions of productive agricultural lands to other unproductive uses, like Aquino’s anti-land reform policies at Hacienda Luisita …pose a real danger to farmers and other sectors because it undermines our food security,” Canlas said.

Troops finish clearing 2 war-torn Zambo villages

From ABS-CBN (Oct 17): Troops finish clearing 2 war-torn Zambo villages

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Security forces have cleared two of the four barangays that were placed under siege by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels after more than two weeks of clearing operations, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said here yesterday.

Police Director Carmelo Valmoria, Task Force Suyod chief, reported that barangays Rio Hondo and Zone IV were cleared of unexploded ordnances, booby traps, firearms and MNLF stragglers who escaped the government offensive.

The two villages along with the barangays of Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina were heavily damaged after more than 20 days of clashes between government troops and MNLF fighters loyal to Nur Misuari.

At least 2,000 public and private buildings were burned or damaged, including the local offices of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Hall of Justice, the Bangko Sentral and Land Bank of the Philippines.

More than 10,000 houses made of concrete and light materials were also razed to the ground.

Task Force Suyud members have so far recovered 396 unexploded ordnance, 19 firearms and 53 bodies and skeletal remains.

More than 400 followers of Misuari stormed Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 to seize the city hall and raise the flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed after more than three weeks of fighting, while 292 other suspects were either captured or have surrendered.

Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.

At least 120,000 villagers fled their homes as the rebels burned houses to derail the military operations to get the MNLF fighters.

Mayor Salazar, chair of the local crisis management committee (CMC), said the clearing forces are now focused in barangays Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

The police have cleared 50 percent of Sta. Barbara and about 80 percent of Sta. Catalina.

Gov’t officials welcome Nur followers

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): Gov’t officials welcome Nur followers

Malitbog, Bukidnon — Members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) surrendered to officials in Malitbog, Bukidnon last Monday, local officials said.
Malitbog Vice Mayor Gary Casino said that the MNLF members who surrendered were unarmed and came from the village of Abyawan, Barangay Siloo, Malitbog town.

Casino said that the MNLF members surrendered their ID cards as a gesture of withdrawal from the MNLF organization under its founding chairman Nur Misuari.

The mass surrender came following the filing of several cases against MNLF leaders following the Zamboanga City standoff recently.

The MNLF members also dismantled their MNLF flags hoisted over 10 areas in Malitbog town.

Earlier, the MNLF members had sent out surrender feelers. They were later fetched by a government vehicle and brought to the municipal center where they surrendered officially to police.

The MNLF members who surrendered were under MNLF Commander Amir Alibug.

Their names were not made available yet, Casino said.

AFP gives update on Agusan

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): AFP gives update on Agusan

Santiago, Agusan del Norte — An Army soldier was killed and a New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla commander captured in separate encounters that broke out last Monday in the hinterland areas of Palo 9 and Palo 8, respectively, in Barangay Poblacion 1, this town.

Supt. Martin M. Gamba, spokesman of the Police Regional Office 13 (PRO13), identified the slain Army soldier as Private First Class Rey A. Pastrana of 29th Infantry Battalion (29th IB).

Meanwhile, the identity of the captured commander of the Sanga Samahang Partido Platoon, Front Committee 16-A of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Party Committee, has been withheld by authorities.

“The first encounter happened at 7:15 a.m. in Palo 9 while the second gunbattle followed around 8 a.m. in nearby Palo 8,” Gamba said.

Gamba said the military believes that several NPA rebels were killed or wounded in both clashes.

13 ships, one PN aircraft deployed for quake relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): 13 ships, one PN aircraft deployed for quake relief efforts

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday said that it has deployed 13 ships and one Islander aircraft to help in the ongoing relief efforts in Central Visayas, which was badly hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake Tuesday morning.

"BRP Tagbanua (AT-296) is the dedicated vessel for the relief operations. (She) is presently now in Cebu. There are also two other logistic ships, four diesel fast craft, five patrol gunboats and patrol ship and an Islander aircraft," Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

He said that they already sent three disaster rescue and response teams (DRRTs) helping in the ongoing search-and-rescue operations in the affected areas. Each team is composed of one officer and 14 enlisted personnel.

"Our Naval Reservists from Naval Forces Eastern Visayas and 83rd Marine Reserve Battalion were activated to assist in the ongoing rescue and relief operations," Fabic said.

7 choppers, 3 C-130s now helping quake relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): 7 choppers, 3 C-130s now helping quake relief efforts

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said that it has increased the number of air assets helping in the ongoing relief efforts for quake-battered Central Visayas which was struck hard by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake Tuesday morning.

According to AFP, seven helicopters are now helping in the relief operations in Cebu and Bohol or three additional choppers to the four sent earlier.

The AFP also said that three C-130 cargo planes are placed on stand-by for additional relief flights in Central Visayas.

The military further said that one C-130 aircraft early Wednesday brought around 25,000 pounds of emergency supplies to Tagbilaran, Bohol.

Five to six more flights are scheduled in the coming days.

Human rights lawyers group ask CA to junk military's petition to re-arrest security guard

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): Human rights lawyers group ask CA to junk military's petition to re-arrest security guard

A group of human rights lawyers has asked the Court of Appeals to dismiss the petition of the military to re-arrest security guard Rolly Panesa who was ordered released after almost a year in incarceration.

The CA ordered the release of Panesa on Aug. 27, 2013 saying he was a victim of mistaken identity.

The military arrested Panesa on Oct. 5, 2012 tagging him as one Benjamin Mendoza, an alleged high-ranking officer of the New People's Army.

In an urgent motion for reconsideration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, said the CA's 5th Division should have denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Panesa's lawyers.

It argued the matter should have been handled by a trial court.

The military has charged Panesa with rebellion in local courts in the cities of Taguig and Lucena.

It claimed to have witnesses who can prove that he and Mendoza are the same man.

"Consistent with the position that the trial court has the best and sole jurisdiction of the case, it is likewise respectfully submitted that the Honorable Court should have denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus considering that the detention of Panesa is by virtue of a valid commitment order," the urgent MR said.

However, the National Union of People's Lawyers in its comment argued the warrant of arrest was for "Benjamin Mendoza" and not "Rolly Panesa" in the arrest warrant.

"The basis of the petitioners in filing this case is that the person who was arrested and under custody is not the same person who was the subject of the indictments on which the warrants of arrest and the commitment orders were issued," NUPL led by Atty. Edre Olalia said.

Olalia said if Panesa is the ranking rebel leader, once released, he should have gone back to the "mountains" but he opted to stay and filed a case against his tormentors.

Last month, Panesa filed a complaint for torture, unlawful arrest, perjury and incriminatory machination before the Department of Justice against several police and military officers.