Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Al Jazeera video shows military shoot hostages

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 30): Al Jazeera video shows military shoot hostages


An amateur footage of cable news outfit Al Jazeera showing Philippine state forces indiscriminately firing at supposed hostages of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces who held an almost three-week siege of Zamboanga City is catching fire despite efforts of Malacañang to shrug off the video as an MNLF propaganda.

Al Jazeera even said the footage raised fresh questions on the conduct of military operations in the standoff with the MNLF.

The video initially showed a crowd waving white flags who were described as hostages of the MNLF before shots were heard in the background that resulted in the individuals scampering for safety while some dove for cover.

The video then showed a commotion supposedly individuals looking for any safe ground while continuous firing was heard in the background. Eventually the video showed several of the supposed hostages prone on the ground, with some appearing to have been shot.

President Aquino when asked by an Al Jazeera reporter about the footage during a recent Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) event questioned the authenticity of the video, even hinting that it was an MNLF propaganda material.

The military, however, admitted that the video was authentic but said the hostages may have been caught in a crossfire as the army fought the rebels.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala, sought by Al Jazeera, said civilian safety was the top priority during the Zamboanga City operations.

“During this video we never fired at them; we were firing at sniper positions of the enemy. They [MNLF rebels] were the ones firing at the hostages,” he claimed.

“We were directed by the president to rescue the hostages and neutralise the threat. We were able to rescue 195 hostages. Unfortunately 12 were killed, eight directly by rebel fire and the other four, we think, were killed on a bus when a bomb went off,” he added.

Aquino said that the “claims” will be properly investigated and if there are cases that have to be filed, they will be filed.

“But at the same time, perhaps I should caution you, that it smacks of a bit of propaganda,” Aquino said.

Al Jazeera, however, said the videos have been “coming out online” which were validated by human rights advocates in the city and by survivors of the conflict as well.
Aquino replied: “I haven’t seen the videos, number one. Number two, the videos – from the Secretary of Justice’s point of view – have not been verified.”

“I’m again at a disadvantage. I have not seen these videos and I am being asked to comment on that which I have not seen. So it will be speculation on top of speculation, which I think is not responsible,” Aquino said.

Jamela Alindogan, an Al Jazeera reporter, however, related in a story that when he visited one of the alleged hostages in the video Juan Santander Morte, she was told that the video was not fabricated.

Morte himself was hit by a shrapnel on the head and back but he said he doesn’t blame anyone, not even the Philippine military because “everybody is a collateral damage of war.”

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, meanwhile, has designated a team of prosecutors to handle the cases against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman and erstwhile Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Nurulaji “Nur” Misuari and 64 others in connection with the siege of Zamboanga City from Sept. 8 to 29, 2013.

In Department Order 799 signed by De Lima, the team of prosecutors will be composed of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony D. Fadullon, as team leader; and Regional Prosecutor Peter L. Medalle, Assistant State Prosecutors Aristotle M. Reyes and Niven R. Canlapan, and Prosecuting Attorney Cesar Angelo A. Chavez III, as members.

The Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court has already issued warrants of arrest against Misuari and MNLF commander Habier Malic, and 63 other MNLF leaders and members for the cases of rebellion and violation of the international humanitarian law, and other crimes against humanity, in connection with the standoff in Zamboanga City.
The cases were transferred to the the Taguig City RTC as ordered by the Supreme Court last October 17.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday expressed readiness to vacate his post anytime if so ordered by President Aquino amid reports that he is on his way out of the Cabinet as he pointed to groups that are interested in his post behind the spread of the information.

At a press briefing, Gazmin said he was surprised over news reports about his supposed departure from the Aquino administration.

“I am ready to go if the President loses trust on me, I serve at the pleasure of the President. So, I will be replaced, thank you, if not thank you also,” said Gazmin, who was the defense secretary since Aquino assumed the presidency in June 2010.

Reports published yesterday stated that Gazmin would be replaced by incumbent Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

The same reports said that Gazmin’s supposed departure from the Cabinet was in connection with his recent statements regarding the discovery of concrete blocks on Panatag Shoal in Zambales. Gazmin expressed belief that the blocks could have been placed there by the Chinese, which the President reportedly is not convinced.

Gazmin said that the President did not discuss anything about his (Gazmin) position during their overnight stay in the earthquake-stricken Loon, Bohol.

“I was surprised, I read in the papers today...there are rumors that I will be replaced by somebody. We never talked about this in Bohol. It was never came out,” said Gazmin.
The defense also said he has not yet talked to the President after reading the news reports yesterday.

Asked who could be behind the rumors, Gazmin replied “maybe some people are interested in the post. I am not sure.”

The defense chief theorized that some interest groups might want to muddle big issues now pressing the government. Gazmin, however, did not identify the groups or specifically mentioned the cases being diverted.

He also admitted the possibility that there are attempts to break his relationship with the President. Gazmin is known to be close to the Aquinos having served as Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander to the late President Cory Aquino, mother of the incumbent commander in chief.

As PSG commander, Gazmin protected the late President from a number of bloody coup d’etats in the late 1980s.

“Maybe they would want to break the relationship, most probably. I am identified with the military, at the same time I am quite identified with the Aquinos. If you want to break the relationship between the Aquinos and myself or myself and the Armed Forces, you have to sullied me,” said Gazmin.

Gazmin stressed that it is okay for him to vacate his post, if so ordered by the President. “It’s time to go on vacation, it’s been a long dream for me.”


We’ll not allow another war — AFP

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 30): We’ll not allow another war — AFP

Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay—The armed forces will not allow war to break out again in this city, according to Col. Andrelin Colina, commander ofd Task Force Zamboanga.

He said security measures were being reinforced in the shoreline comunities, which were occupied by the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) last September.

“We have finished clearing operations, including looking for rebel stragglers in mangroves and swamps, for unexploded ammunitions. Our troops have been pulled out,” Colina sasid.

About 500 rebels, soldiers and civilians were killed in the fighting when the MNLF occupied five barangays last September 9. The MNLF withdrew on September 29.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes and sought refuge in several evacuation centers in the city. Many of them were squatters, and the city has started moving them to resettlement sites.

Colina said soldiers will be stationed in the hardest hit barangays, which included Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, to prevent a possible return of the rebels to the area.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said about 100 residents of Sta. Catalina subdivision were allowed to return last week, but residents in other districts were carefully screened by barangay officials.

“In some places people were not allowed to return to their homes pending restoration of power and water services to their barangay,” she said.

She said many residents left their homes to comply to a force evacuation order and a big number of them did not need keys when they came back because their doors were forced open by looters.


Two NPA members surrender to the Northern Samar military

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 30): Two NPA members surrender to the Northern Samar military

Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to military authorities in Northern Samar on Sunday, October 27, 2013.

Reports coming from the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Catbalogan,  showed that Ruel C. Sirse, aka Bulay and Melly C. Esponilla, aka Mica, NPA squad member and NPA Medic respectively, surrendered to soldiers of the 34thInfantry Battalion under Lt Colonel Rodrigo Ilustrisimo.

The government troops were reported to have been conducting peace and development activities in Barangay Rizal, Gamay, Northern Samar when they were approached by the surrenderees. The duo brought along with them one .45 Caliber pistol with three magazines and 20 live bullets.

Under the AFP Guns For Peace Program, they will receive P25,000.00 in exchange for the firearm they surrendered. Each of them is also entitled to receive P50,000.00 livelihood assistance and P15,000.00 immediate assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under its Comprehensive Local Social Integration Program (CLIP). They can further avail of the Local Social Integration Program of the Local Government Unit of Northern Samar.

During the interview Bulay and Mica admitted that they are live-in partners and they decided to surrender because they wish to raise a family away from harm and violence. Upon learning of the new program of the AFP which is the Gun for Peace Program, they were encouraged to surrender and avail of the program.

Brigadier General Jet B. Velarmino AFP, Commander of the 8th Infantry Division said: “We welcome the surrender of the two NPA members and we wish them well. The 8th ID fully supports and advocates the government’s peace program. Be assured that your Army in Eastern Visayas is always ready and willing to assist NPA rebels who wish to return to mainstream society.”


NPA leader killed in Misamis Occidental clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): NPA leader killed in Misamis Occidental clash

A New People's Army (NPA) leader was killed following an encounter with 1st Infantry Division troopers in Sitio Kapehan, Barangay Gala, Tudela town, Misamis Occidental Monday afternoon.

1st Lt. Franco Suelto, acting 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that their soldiers were conducting routine security patrol in the area around 3 p.m. when they encountered 20 heavily-armed rebels headed by one Edwin Lapinid alias "Bryan" and affiliated to the NPA's Section Committee Joji.

An hour-long firefight broke out and resulted in the death of one NPA leader identified as Henry H. Celajes.

No one was killed nor hurt in the government side.

Aside from this, government forces recovered from the encounter scene a .30 caliber US M-2 carbine, a magazine carbine, five M-16 short magazines and assorted medical equipment and paraphernalia.

Suelto said Celajes was the mastermind in the series of extortions in parts of Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga Del Sur area.

These included the torching of the Ogis chicken plants in Molave and Mahayag, both in Zamboanga Del Sur as well as the burning of four dump trucks of a construction firm in municipality of Josefina, also in Zamboanga Del Sur a year ago.


Army commander: Poll duty and IPSP operations “complementary”

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Army commander: Poll duty and IPSP operations “complementary”
Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said election duty of soldiers in Monday’s barangay polls was complementary to the government’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP).

Brig. Gen. Patrimonio explained during a post-election briefing Monday afternoon that these two activities are not independent of each other.

According to him, the role of the Philippine Army in the barangay elections was to primarily secure areas affected by the insurgency problem, which is nothing new to the soldiers that have been conducting combat and non-combat operations even before the barangay polls.

More than 1,000 troops were deployed in the Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs) in Guihulngan City, Sta. Catalina, Siaton and Brgy Dobdob, Valencia in Negros Oriental, and in the different critical areas of the 5th District of Negros Occidental under the jurisdiction of the 302nd brigade, he said.

One platoon of about 28 men and two officers were also dispatched by the 79th Infantry Battalion to nearby Siquijor Province to augment the security personnel requirements there.

The Army commander disclosed that during Monday’s barangay elections, no insurgency-related incidents were reported especially in areas tagged by the military as having the presence of the New People’s Army.

Brig. Gen. Patrimonio, meanwhile, said the IPSP Bayanihan will continue in Negros Oriental according to the set time schedule as the Army targets to reduce the insurgency problem in the province to an insignificant level by the end of this year.


Govt forces hunt down abductors of Indian trader in Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Govt forces hunt down abductors of Indian trader in Cotabato City

Police and Marine elements have launched a city-wide manhunt against four armed men who seized an Indian trader here, police said.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquino, city police chief, said the suspects grabbed Mike Khemani, owner of Sugni Superstore, in front of his business establishment along Bonifacio Street, Cotabato City at 6:15 p.m.

Aniceto Rasalan, speaking for the Cotabato City government, said two security guards of Khemani traded shots with the suspects.

Kaura Abdul, 26, one of the trader's security escorts, was killed while another, Mustapha Abdulrahim, was wounded.

Balquin said three to five armed men on board a black Hyundai car without license plate was seen parked in front of the victim’s store along Bonifacio Street.

Report said Khemani was doing a regular tour inside and outside his department store when he was grabbed by two of the suspects and forced him into a waiting car.

Quoting witnesses, Rasalan said the victim and the suspects were last seen transferring to a motorboat along Rio Grande de Mindanao and sped upstream toward Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.

Khemani, who also owns department stores in Kabacan, North Cotabato and in Kidapawan City, escaped kidnapping twice in 2007 and 2009.

Pursuing policemen found the getaway Hyundai car (MCW-692) abandoned beside the Rio Grande de Mindanao in Barangay Poblacion 1.

The Army's 6th Infantry Division, using its night-capable watercraft joined the manhunt along the Rio Grande de Mindanao.


Army troops capture 2 motorcycle gunmen in Pagadian City

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 29): Army troops capture 2 motorcycle gunmen in Pagadian City

Government troops captured two motorcycle gunmen following a chase in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province in the southern Philippines, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

Army Lieutenant Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said patrolling soldiers led by Lieutenant Michael Paul Caspe seized an AK 2000 automatic rifle and a KG9 machine pistol, including five magazines and ammunition, from the men – one of them has been identified as Victor Muños, 25.

He said Muños, a resident of Dumango village in Pagadian City, was also wounded after the rifle he was carrying went off hitting his left leg. The soldiers, who were members of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, brought the wounded gunman to the hospital and eventually handed him and his unidentified companion to the local police.

Suelto said they received reports from civilians that the two men were frequently spotted armed and roaming during night time in the village of Kawit.

“According to the residents, the duo had been roaming Barangay Kawit during evenings and sow fear and terror to the neighborhood,” he said without further elaborating.

Lieutenant Colonel Victor Tanggawohn Jr, the battalion commander, has ordered troops to intensify their patrol following the arrest of the two gunmen. 

Brigadier General Felicito Virgilio Trinidad Jr, the regional army commander, praised the soldiers for the arrest of the Muños and his companion. “The vigilant efforts of our soldiers will continue to ensure peace in the community,” he said.

It was not immediately known whether the two men were behind the spate of gun attacks and killings in Pagadian City perpetrated by motorcycle gunmen. Just recently, a motorcycle gunman also fired his M16 automatic rifle in the air at Purok Muslim Village in Kawit village and fled with his companion after the indiscriminate attack.

Armed men riding tandem on motorcycle have been sowing terror in villages in Pagadian where hired killers are actively operating and largely blamed by authorities for the spate of murders in the city.


Rebel attacks in E. Mindanao affect 471 persons

From the Philippine Star (Oct 29): Rebel attacks in E. Mindanao affect 471 persons

A total of 471 individuals have been affected by atrocities committed by communist rebels in Eastern Mindanao since 2010, the military said yesterday.

Of the number, 396 were soldiers while 75 were civilians, according to Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez, spokesman for the Army’s 102nd Brigade.

Despite the supposed gains of the military against the New People’s Army (NPA), 109 soldiers in Eastern Mindanao were killed and 287 others were wounded during the period.

A total of 27 civilians were killed during the attacks while 48 others were wounded.

“From 2010 to date, the NPA has deliberately harmed a total of 471 civilians and military personnel through detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in eastern Mindanao alone,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

He said the NPA had disregarded the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect to Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law when it used the explosives.

The agreement protects civilians, non-combatants and soldiers who are wounded and are no longer capable of fighting.

In an earlier statement, the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communist movement, said the explosives being used by its fighters are allowed by the international treaties.

The NDF said the IEDs of the NPA were command-detonated explosives and not pressure-triggered to ensure the safety of the civilians.

The explosives, the NDF claimed, are manned and triggered on command and are legitimate weapons of war.


MNLF leader's son defeats veteran in Cotabato village polls

From the Philippine Star (Oct 29): MNLF leader's son defeats veteran in Cotabato village polls

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - A 23-year-old son of the chairman of the largest group in the Moro National Liberation Front defeated a veteran in Monday’s race for the chairmanship of one of the city’s vote-rich barangays.

Datu Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema defeated by a wide vote-margin re-electionist Jimmy Sandigan, chairman of Barangay Rosary Heights 7 here.

The newly elected barangay chairman is also known as 'Haring Bakal' among peers and his supporters.

Sema is son of former Cotabato City’s vice-mayor, Muslimin, chairman of the largest and most politically active faction in the MNLF, which has actively been supporting the peace effort of President Benigno Aquino III with southern Moro communities.

Sema’s matriarch, Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, is a scion of the influential Sinsuat clan in the first district of Maguindanao.

A relative of the lawmaker, Al-Haashir 'Omboy' Ala, also won in his bid for a second term as chairman of the Barangay Rosary Heights 13, also a densely populated area here.

Many of Ala’s supporters have complained of having allegedly been disenfranchised deliberately to prevent him from winning.

Ala is son of former Assemblyman Tommy Ala of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who had also served as regional director of the Department of Agriculture in Region 12.

Ala’s defeated rival, Basilio Rosal, is patriarch of his lone rival in the 2010 barangay elections.


PH sends first female officer to lead UN peace-keeping mission

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 28): PH sends first female officer to lead UN peace-keeping mission

Captain Luzviminda Camacho Photo from Facebook
For the first time, a female military officer will lead the Philippine contingent to a peacekeeping mission of the United Nations.

Captain Luzviminda Camacho, commander of the 17th Philippine Contingent to Haiti, will lead the 157-strong officers and personnel to the UN mission of up to nine months. She is the first female to lead Philippine contingents for the UN. They will be sent off at Villamor Airbase in Pasay on Tuesday, October 29.

She was also the first female to be a commanding officer of a Navy ship. When she had a rank of Commander, she led the BRP Manuel Gomez (PG 388), a patrol gunboat, in the areas of Davao and General Santos from 2008 to 2009.

Camacho also skippered BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20) in the areas of Maguindanao, BRP Iloilo (PS-32) in the areas of General Santos to Polloc in Maguindanao, BRP Teotimo Figuracion (PG 389) in areas of Misamis Oriental to Surigao.

The all-Navy contingent will be tasked to provide perimeter security to the Force Headquarters of the UN Mission to Haiti, provide administrative and logistics clerical services to the Force Headquarters, operate their military vehicles, and provide VIP security to specified personalities by the Force Headquarters.
They are expected to serve from six to nine months.

The Philippines also sends its peacekeeping forces to Liberia and Golan Heights.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano will lead the send-off ceremony at Villamor Airbase, spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said in a media advisory.

PH to send fresh batch of peacekeepers to Golan Heights

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): PH to send fresh batch of peacekeepers to Golan Heights

The Philippines will send a fresh batch of troops to a peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights in December to replace the current forces serving there.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said the peacekeeping forces currently serving their duty would return “sometime in December.”

He said President Benigno Aquino III agreed to send a new batch of troops after the United Nations accepted the Philippine government’s conditions, including additional protection for the peacekeeping forces such as equipment for chemical warfare.

The current Filipino peacekeeping forces in Golan Heights would be serving for more than a year by December, exceeding the usual six months of duty. They were deployed in November last year and were supposed to return home last May, but it was delayed several times pending the government decision and the United Nations.

The military said 25 of the peacekeepers currently deployed in Golan Heights were abducted in two incidents in recent months. One was also injured in a “wayward indirect fire” amid fighting between Syrian rebels and the government.

Raymond Quilop, assistant secretary for Strategic Assessment, told reporters that the security situation would be assessed every six months before sending new troops.

“So for example, if within the next months it [security] will deteriorate, there is a possibility of a pullout. But if not, the rotation will continue,” he said.

About 300 Army soldiers will replace the current force at Golan Heights.


Stash of rebel ammunition recovered in Sorsogon clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 28): Stash of rebel ammunition recovered in Sorsogon clash

A stash of ammunition for high powered firearms were recovered by government troops after a 10-minute firefight with suspected members of New People’s Army (NPA) in Sorsogon City on Monday afternoon, the military said.

Captain Mardjorie Panesa, public information officer of Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said three magazines for M14 and one magazine for M16 were found inside a backpack left by the retreating rebels after a clash with an Army unit under the 31st Infantry Battalion in Sitio (sub-village) Puniton, Barangay (village) Buhatan, Sorsogon City, at around 3:45 p.m. Monday.

Panesa said the soldiers encountered about 10 armed men in a wooded area of the barangay, while conducting security patrol in connection with the ongoing barangay elections.

She said the rebels immediately scampered in different directions after the 10-minute firefight.

No casualties were reported on either side.


2 rebels surrender to 34th Infantry Battalion in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): 2 rebels surrender to 34th Infantry Battalion in Northern Samar
Two New People's Army (NPA) fighters have surrendered to the 34th Infantry Battalion in Northern Samar last Oct. 27.

Belated reports from Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the surrenderees as Ruel C. Sirse, alias "Bulay" and Melly C. Esponilla, alias "Mica".

The former is an NPA squad member while Esponilla is a medic.

Both voluntarily surrendered to soldiers of the 34th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Rodrigo Ilustrisimo.

Gutierrez said government troopers were conducting peace and development activities in Barangay Rizal, Gamay, Northern Samar when they were approached by the two NPA fighters.

The duo also surrendered one .45 caliber pistol with three magazines and 20 live bullets.

Under the AFP Guns For Peace Program, they will receive P25,000 in exchange for the firearm they surrendered.

Each of them is also entitled to receive P50,000 livelihood assistance and P15,000 immediate assistance from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Peace Process under its Comprehensive Local Social Integration Program.


Arrival of 8 armed AW-109s to boost PAF close-air support capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Arrival of 8 armed AW-109s to boost PAF close-air support capability
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Tuesday announced that its close-air support capability will be greatly boosted upon delivery and commissioning of eight armed AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters by 2015.

"It will definitely give us a much needed boost on our close-air support capabilities," PAF spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

He added that eight AW-109s will also supplement the existing fleet of McDonnell Douglas MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopters that the PAF uses in ground attack missions.

It is known to operate between 12 to 16 models of the MG-520, according to military sources.

The PAF affair with the MG-520 started in the early 90s when 25 units of these excellent aircraft were delivered to the country.

It was used with great effect against New People's Army (NPA) rebels and lawless elements like the Abu Sayyaf Group for the past few years.

The MG-520 is derived from the MG-500 light utility helicopter.

It can be armed with .50-caliber heavy machine gun and air-to-ground rockets.

The AW-109s which the PAF will be getting is armed with .50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers for ground attack role.


Appointment of lady officer to head Haiti contingent shows gender equality in PHL military

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Appointment of lady officer to head Haiti contingent shows gender equality in PHL military

The appointment of Capt. Luzviminda Camacho as the commander of the 17th Armed Forces of the Philippines contingent to the United Nations Peace Keeping Force to Haiti only shows that the Philippine military establishment practices gender equality, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday.

Camacho is the first ever lady officer to be appointed to such post.

"This is a good example of (gender) equality," he added.

Gazmin added that this also shows that if you have the necessary talent and skills, you will be given important positions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, regardless of your gender.

Camacho's group left for their Haiti mission Tuesday afternoon.

The 17th all Navy contingent will be tasked to provide perimeter security to the Force Headquarters of the UN Mission to Haiti, provide administrative and logistics clerical services to the Force Headquarters, operate their military vehicles, and provide VIP security to specified personalities by the Force Headquarters.

They are expected to serve their tour in Haiti for 6 to 9 months.


Army unit beats off rebel band in Miag-ao, Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Army unit beats off rebel band in Miag-ao, Iloilo
In a 30-minute clash with 30 New People's Army (NPA) fighters, troops from the 82nd Infantry Battalion successfully beat off the rebel band, capturing two improvised explosive devices and four backpacks filled with intelligence materials and assorted personal items Tuesday.

The encounter took place 11:30 a.m. at the boundary of Barangays Dalije and Alimodias, Miag-ao, Iloilo.

Reports from residents about the presence of lawless armed elements in the area prompted the government troops to conduct a routine security patrol.

During the firefight, the NPA fighters fled with an undetermined number of casualties with no losses to the government side, the military said.

“We acknowledge the effort of the peace loving community of Miag-ao for the timely reporting of presence of the lawless armed elements who are threatening the civilians in the area," 82nd Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Aldwine Almase said.

The troops have been closely monitoring the activities of the NPA prior to the conduct of barangay elections.

Almase added that this was done to ensure the safety of the voters for them to exercise their political rights free from threat and intimidation from these lawless armed elements.


Soldiers recover explosives, ammos following clash with rebels in southern Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Soldiers recover explosives, ammos following clash with rebels in southern Iloilo

Troops of the Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion recovered two improvised explosive devices and assorted live ammunition following a clash with New People’s Army rebels at an area between barangays Dalije and Alimodias in the southern town of Miag-ao, Iloilo.

The soldiers, who encountered the rebels at around 11:30 a.m., also found four backpacks containing “subversive documents of high intelligence value,” and personal belongings.

The armed engagement with about 30 NPA rebels happened while government troopers were conducting security patrol.

None of the soldiers was injured during the 30-minute firefight.

Lt. Col. Aldwine Almase, commander of 82nd IB, said in a press statement that they acknowledged the efforts of the residents of Miag-ao in reporting the presence of the rebels who are threatening civilians in the area.

For his part, Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said he still believes that lasting peace can be achieved if the rebels will agree to a peace negotiation.

“We call on our brothers and sisters in the NPA to lay down their arms. Let us work together and help each other to achieve lasting peace and development in our society,” Baladad appealed to the rebels anew.


Zamboanga tweets ‘unconfirmed’ reports of looting by troops

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 29): Zamboanga tweets ‘unconfirmed’ reports of looting by troops

A screen shot of the Twitter page of Zamboanga City Government which posted 'unconfirmed' reports of looting by troops in villages. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Things have turned for the worse for government soldiers deployed in villages in Zamboanga City after allegations of looting surfaced. Worst, the local government of Zamboanga has posted Tuesday on its Twitter account “unconfirmed” reports of the pillage

“Unconfirmed reports showed that soldiers carrying out the clearing operations were responsible for the looting incidents,” the local government said in its tweet.

Troops were deployed in several villages to search for remnants of Moro National Liberation Front rebels who stormed Zamboanga on September 9 that led to bloody street battles that lasted three weeks. Soldiers also cleared the villages for unexploded ordnances left behind during the fighting that killed and wounded over 400 people.

Alleged looting by soldiers was first reported by Council man BG Guingona, who claimed that troops, stole from their machinery shop and his uncle’s home at the height of the fighting in the village of Santa Catalina. He said the military has ordered an investigation into the looting.

“The matter is under investigation and the Armed Forces of the Philippines did a good job of responding right away. The acts of a few do not reflect the goal and the efforts of the entire AFP in promoting peace and order. It is unfair to generalize the issue because there are many soldiers risking their lives to protect the people. So, my faith in the AFP as a whole remains,” he told The Manila Times.

The Philippine Army has detained at least 5 soldiers - members of the 9th Infantry Battalion - who were accused of looting Guingona’s shop and house. They were arrested and disarmed after fellow soldiers reported the looting to their commander.

The soldiers allegedly ransacked the house of the Guingonas and took assorted jewelleries and other valuable things and also tried to open a vault left in the house. An army official, privy to the ongoing investigation, said the soldiers could be expelled from the service if they are proven guilty of all accusations against them, and eventually charge in a civil court.

The soldiers, whose battalion is under the 9th Infantry Division, were sent here from the Bicol region to help augment hundreds of troops fighting the rebels.

A school - the American Career Training Institute - used by another group of soldiers in attacking rebels in Santa Barbara was also looted, its American and Filipino owners said.

The Filipino owner, Norida Patrick, said they reported the matter to the police and military authorities and to Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar, who sought an investigation into the looting. She said they were shocked to learn about the looting and claimed P300,000 in cash and equipment were missing and even the vault had been broken.

Troops managed to enter the school after its security guard allowed them to go at the rooftop where military snipers positioned themselves to take rebel targets. The looting is also being investigated by the authorities and so were many other complaints by displaced residents who recently returned to the village.

Villagers said many of their belongings, and even washing machines and freezer and computers were stolen. And they also blamed the soldiers for the pillage, but authorities insisted rebels were behind the looting after soldiers and policemen captured many of them with bags of jeweleries and cash and other valuables taken from the houses in the villages they occupied.

Philippine police recover bomb in school

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 28): Philippine police recover bomb in school

Police have recovered Monday an improvised explosive left behind a government school in Isabela City in Basilan province in southern Philippines.

 Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, said the explosive – a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil – was first discovered by a villager at the back of the Isabela City Pilot School and informed authorities about it.

“The explosive was placed inside a bag and was planted at the back of the building of the said pilot school.  It contained Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil with an improvised time fuse,” he said.

He said members of the Explosive and Ordnance Division of the Police Regional Public Safety Battalion rushed to the school and safely recovered the bomb. 

It was unknown who tried to set off the bomb or its motive, but the discovery of the explosive coincided with village polls. Police would not say if the foiled attack was connected to the elections or not.

Basilan is one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. Basilan and Lanao del Sur, also a province in the autonomous region, were two areas marred with violence and vote-buying during the polls.


Gazmin: If I will be replaced, thank you; if not, thank you

From ABS-CBN (Oct 29): Gazmin: If I will be replaced, thank you; if not, thank you

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday he is ready to resign if he has lost the trust of President Aquino.

"I am ready to leave if the President no longer trusts me. I serve at the pleasure of the President. If I will be replaced, thank you. If I will not be replaced, thank you," Gazmin told reporters.

He also said rumors could be a way to discredit him and drive a wedge between him and the Aquino family.

"They would want to break the relationship most probably because I am identified with the military and at the same time, I am somehow identified with the Aquinos. If you want to break the relationship between the Aquinos and myself or myself and the Armed Forces, discredit me," he said.

Rumors that Gazmin will be replaced started after he mistakenly blamed China for putting up concrete blocks at the Scarborough Shoal.

Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, however, said Gazmin “continues to enjoy the President's full trust and confidence.”

Gazmin served as custodian of the President's father, the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, when he was detained during the time of the Marcos dictatorship. He later took Ninoy as a principal sponsor to his wedding.

He served as commander of the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of Corazon Aquino, mother of the current president.

Gazmin said he was surprised when he read about the reports that he is on the way out. He said the rumors could have been sown by people interested in his job.

He said he and President Aquino did not discuss his possible removal while they were together in Bohol to help victims of the October 15 earthquake.


PMA alumni call for abolition of pork barrel 'in whatever form'

From GMA News (Oct 29): PMA alumni call for abolition of pork barrel 'in whatever form'

The Philippine Military Academy Alumni Advocacy Group, composed of PMA graduates no longer in active duty, has called on the government to abolish the "pork barrel" in all its forms and convict all those linked to the scam of misusing the controversial fund.

"Believing that national progress and the upliftment of the quality of life of all Filipinos, especially the less fortunate in society, can be better achieved if public funds are properly used," PMA alumnus Ramon Farolan said in his column published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

Agitated by the pork barrel misuse, Farolan said they strongly recommend the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) "in whatever form" and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

He also said the retired soldiers urged the President to submit "all unbudgeted funds," including the Malampaya Fund, the Road Users' Tax, and the social funds from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), to the Congress.

"The Congress of the Philippines, in turn, provide the President with enough funds to deal with calamities and other contingencies, subject to its oversight power," he added.

Farolan also said they called for Congress to enact a law which provides "all revenues of the government from whatever source, including but not limited to the Malampaya Fund, the Road Users Tax, the PAGCOR Fund, and the PCSO Fund, be deposited in the National Treasury to be spent only as may be provided in the yearly General Appropriations Act, repealing or amending as necessary existing laws and Presidential issuances to the contrary."

Meanwhile, he added that public officials implicated in the misuse of their pork barrel funds, and also those who violated anti-plunder or anti-graft laws, to take a leave of absence or resign from their positions.

Aside from them, 34 others were also named in a plunder complaint filed by at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-B pork barrel scam supposedly engineered by controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles is being detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna by virtue of a Makati court order for her arrest over charges of serious illegal detention.

"The Judiciary of the Philippines, led by the Supreme Court, initiate reforms within its ranks to ensure speedy and impartial trial to punish the guilty and clear the innocent," Farolan said.

He added that they urge all public officials, including members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), to "set the correct example in good governance, perform their duties as protectors of the people and the State, and not use their office as an opportunity to amass wealth illegally."

Speaking up

Meanwhile, he noted that the PMA Alumni Association Inc. has since remained silent on the issue, as a result "of an association dominated by officers on active duty who are not allowed to publicly express their views on political matters, especially when they contradict official government policy."

"Neither are they allowed to air their grievances except through the established chain of command. Any violation of this principle could result in disciplinary action, including a possible court martial," he explained.

However, he said it is the task of PMA alumni who are no longer in active duty or in the government to speak up in behalf of their fellow alumni.

"This is their voice," he said.

In the past, PMA graduates with grievances against the government figured in a number of coup d'etat.

In 1989, then President Corazon Aquino survived a coup d'etat staged by members of the Young Officers Union composed of young PMA graduates.

At least 50 soldiers and civilians were killed while more than 500 others were wounded in the uprising.

Meanwhile, in February 2006, some military officials took part in an alleged coup attempt.

Among those found to have "conspiratorial participation" in the coup were Sen. Gregorio Honasan, former Marines head Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, former Scout Rangers chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, and Col. Ariel Querubin.

However, in 2010, then-AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Maj. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan assured that there will be no coup d’etat under the Aquino administration.

Pangilinan said the military is “more focused" today than 15 years ago. 

"We will be an AFP that is the same, perhaps more focused than maybe 10 or 15 years ago," he said. "Every one in the Armed Forces knows his place in society, that is, to protect the people and the state."


DOJ forms 5-member panel vs Misuari, others

From GMA News (Oct 29): DOJ forms 5-member panel vs Misuari, others

The Department of Justice has formed a five-member panel to handle the criminal charges filed against Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari in connection with the recent Zamboanga armed conflict.

The team is headed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rochard Fadullon, with members Regional Prosecutor Pete Medalle, Assistant Senior Prosecutors Aristotle Reyes and Niven Canlapan, and Prosecuting Attorney Cesar Angelo Chavez III.

 "In the interest of the service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, a team of prosecutors is hereby constituted to handle the active prosecution of the cases (against Misuari and the others)," said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in Department Order 799.

 In early October, the DOJ filed the rebellion charges and violation of the International Humanitarian Law (Republic Act 9851) against Misuari and 60 others for the assault on Zamboanga City in September. 

Charged along with Misuari were some of his commanders including Habier Malik. The charges were filed before the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court on Oct. 7.

Only Misuari, Malik and two others are still at large while 57 of those charged are now under detention at the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City.

 The DOJ said the attack on Zamboanga resulted in several casualties and extensive damage within the city, particularly in barangays Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-talon and Mampang, among others.

 The rebellion charge stemmed from Misuari and his men's taking up arms and attacking members of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces, as well as innocent civilians and by committing “acts of murder, pillage, disorder, looting, arson and destruction of private and public properties.

They were also charged for their acts of violence against the residents who did not take an active part in the armed hostilities and for taking non-combatant civilians as hostages while fighting with government forces. The Zamboanga City attack led to the deaths of 12 people, and injuries to "75 percent of civilians."

 The criminal charges also dealt with the armed group's forcible opening of houses, taking about 300 hostages which they used as human shields and the burning of 9,732 houses and building, both public and private, causing a damage amounting to more than P200 million.

 The Zamboanga prosecutors did not recommend any bail for the MNLF leaders while a P200,000 bail was recommended for their followers. No bail was also recommended for the violation of RA 9851.

 A few weeks after filing the charges in Zamboanga, the Supreme Court approved the DOJ request to transfer the case to Taguig because the courts in Zamboanga had been adversely affected by the armed conflict in September.