Wednesday, December 31, 2014

YEARENDER: 15 killed, 120 hurt in Mindanao bombings in 2014

From MindaNews (Jan 1): YEARENDER: 15 killed, 120 hurt in Mindanao bombings in 2014

The year 2013 in Sumisip town in Basilan literally ended with a bang when a bomb exploded there on New Year’s Eve killing six persons and wounding six others.

On 31 December 2014, it was the turn of M’lang town in North Cotabato to experience a bloody yearend when a bomb went off at the public market. One person was killed and at least 25 others were injured in the blast.

In between those dates, MindaNews reported that nine other reportedly improvised bombs exploded mostly in Western and Southwestern Mindanao.

These resulted in 15 people killed, at least 120 injured – and no arrests so far.

On Sept. 16 in General Santos City, an explosion at the plaza killed a student and injured seven others. Police have yet to arrest a suspect in the incident despite a P200,000 bounty put up by the city government.

A month later, Oct. 15, a bomb went off in Isabela City in Basilan. Another bomb exploded two days later in the same city. No one was injured or killed in both incidents.

On Nov. 6, a bus owned by Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) was bombed as it was traveling along Barangay Dologon in Maramag town, about a kilometer away from Central Mindanao University (CMU). Four passengers were injured but there were no fatalities. The bus had come from Tacurong City bound for Cagayan de Oro City.

A week later, Bukidnon police announced they had filed a case against Dawting Gendang, allegedly a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), as a suspect in the bombing. Gendang remains at large.

Three days after the bus blast in Maramag a bomb went off in Zamboanga City injuring one person. Yet another explosion rocked the city on Dec. 29, although no one was killed or injured. Police arrested three suspects who came from Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

On Nov. 16, a bombing in Kabacan town in North Cotabato killed one person and injured 16 others.

A week after, two persons were killed and 25 others were wounded when a bomb exploded at the plaza in M’lang. The town was celebrating its Kawayan Festival.

But the deadliest bombing happened on Dec. 9, outside CMU in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon. Ten persons, five of them students, were killed and 42 others were wounded when a bomb exploded inside another RTMI bus bound for Cagayan de Oro from Banisilan town in North Cotabato.

Just two days after the incident, police said they have filed charges against a suspect named Macmod Manibpil, an escapee from the North Cotabato Provincial Jail in Kidapawan who is also a suspect in the 2006 bombing in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Police said Manibpil belongs to the BIFF. But the BIFF leadership denied any involvement in either of the two bus bombings in Bukidnon and implied instead that the attacks could be the handiwork of the military.

Police were also looking at extortion as a possible motive of the bus bombings.
Authorities further reported having defused three improvised bombs, two in Isabela City and one in Lamitan City, also in Basilan.

Cops distribute anti-kidnapping flyers

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 31): Cops distribute anti-kidnapping flyers

THE cops of Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) have distributed anti-kidnapping flyers to establishments and individuals in the city, an official said.

Superintendent Ariel Huesca, the ZCPO spokesman, said the distribution of the flyers is intended to raise the public’s awareness on kidnapping incidents; however, Huesca did not say whether lawless elements have threatened to kidnap local businessmen.

Huesca said they have not also received report from businessmen about extortion activities by any lawless groups, but added: “The threat is always there. With regards to extortion, as of now we did not receive report.”

He said they do not discount the possibility that some of the local businessmen have received extortion letters “but don’t report to the police.”

The anti-kidnapping flyers came after the Abu Sayyaf rebels released businesswoman Michelle Panes, who was kidnapped last August 18 in Barangay Labuan in Zamboanga City.

Panes was freed on Christmas Eve at Barangay Bilaan, Talipao, Sulu.

Zambo bomb suspects fall as cops check terror link

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1): Zambo bomb suspects fall as cops check terror link
Police said they have arrested three suspects in Monday night’s explosion that damaged two massage parlors here.

Three people were also injured, not from the explosion, but when they jumped off the building that housed the massage parlors.

Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, city police director, did not identify the arrested suspects but said two are residents of Barangay Malimbaya in Indanan, Sulu. The third one, he said, is from Tandubas in Tawi-Tawi.

Casimiro said a massage parlor employee took hold of the first suspect, who was to flee on a motorcycle and acted suspiciously.

The first suspect was caught in the act of trying to hide under a bed a plastic bag that was believed to have been used to conceal the bomb that damaged Princess Massage Parlor and the adjacent De Luze Massage Parlor and Videoke Bar during the 8:50 p.m. explosion, he said.

Casimiro said investigators found syringes and fuel oil in the suspect’s motorcycle. While the suspect was being interrogated, according to Casimiro, his mobile phone rang and “a voice from the other end asked him (the suspect) got arrested.”

The call led to the arrest of two more suspects during an operation in Barangay Baliwasan here, said Casimiro.

Hairline difference

He said police are still trying to ascertain the affiliation of the three suspects and also to determine if Monday’s explosion is linked to the November bomb attack here, which injured K-9 handler PO2 Franklin Enid.

In the November explosion, police filed charges against Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami.

Abu Rami is the same Abu Sayyaf spokesperson who was involved in the release of German hostages Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen in October.

Casimiro said police are determining if the suspects are members of the Abu Sayyaf or the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Moro rebel group that had entered into a peace agreement with the government in 1996 but is now disgruntled over being left out in the Aquino administration’s peace effort with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“If you look at it closer, the places where they came from [are] basically dominated by MNLF,” said Casimiro.

“But in those areas there is a hairline difference between the two (Abu Sayyaf and MNLF),” he added.

The city has been on heightened alert for terror attacks following the attempt by followers of Moro leader Nur Misuari to take over parts of the city in September 2014.

Sison vows to return if ceasefire is declared

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 1): Sison vows to return if ceasefire is declared

SELF-EXILED Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said he is ready to return to the Philippines once an indefinite ceasefire is signed between the government and the National Democratic Front.

“As soon as there is a truce and cooperation agreement between government and NDF, or best of all, when there is already a final and complete peace agreement, then I am coming home,” Sison said.

The 75-year-old founding leader of the world’s longest-running insurgency said the first thing he would do when he returns is to express thanks to those who have supported the peace negotiations through a series of meetings.

Only after that will he rest with his immediate family members, he said.

Peace talks however, will have to be held in Oslo, Norway, Sison said.

“The negotiations on the remaining items of the substantive agenda will still be done in a neutral venue abroad,” he added.

Sison recalled that as early as February 2011, the NDF has already informed the Aquino administration that a truce and cooperation agreement could be immediately concluded “on the basis of a general declaration of common intent to achieve national unity, peace and development” while the negotiating panels work on the other remaining items in the peace talks agenda.

Sison has been living in the Netherlands for 27 years now since he left the country on a self-imposed exile in 1987.

Last week, Sison disclosed that formal talks between the government and the NDF will resume in January, a move that would end close to three years of impasse in the negotiations.

Both the government and the NDF have maintained that there should be no preconditions to the resumption of the talks even as the communist group urged the Aquino administration to consider releasing 14 of its consultants, including detained CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma.

On Wednesday, the Palace condemned the “pointless violence” of members of the communist New People’s Army over the holiday season that left two soldiers and one militiaman dead.

“In blatant disregard of the Christmas season, when our people desire and expect peace and goodwill, the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-NPA has reciprocated the government’s gesture of a month-long unilateral ceasefire with acts of senseless violence,” presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles said.

The government earlier declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19.

The CPP-NDF-NPA reciprocated with a staggered truce covering Dec. 24 to 26; Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, 2015; and Jan. 15 to Jan. 19, 2015.

Deles noted that on Dec. 22, NPA rebels torched heavy equipment used for the construction of a bridge in Paracale, Camarines Norte.

The rebels also set fire to a vehicle owned by a civilian in Agusan del Sur.
“Both acts were committed in retaliation for the civilians’ refusal to give in to their extortion,” Deles said.

On Dec. 23, NPA members abducted Compostela Valley jail warden Jose Mervin Gementiza Coquilla in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

On Dec. 29, Deles said the NPA shot dead at point blank soldiers Ronald Bautista and Albert Amor and militiaman Renel Baluca, who were unarmed and in civilian clothes, and on their way to spend the holidays with their families.

“We strongly condemn the pointless violence exercised by the CPP-NPA-NDF. If they are truly serious in their call for the resumption of peace negotiations with government, we challenge them to walk their talk and stop harassing development projects, civilians and unarmed soldiers on holiday,” Deles said.

“There is no way to peace but through peace,” she added.

‘Pass BBL as soon as possible’

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31): ‘Pass BBL as soon as possible’

President Aquino has renewed his appeal to Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and approve his emergency powers to address an impending energy crisis in 2015.

In a videotaped message for the New Year, the President said nothing was impossible if trust would reside in each person.

“Every year, we get closer to the fulfillment of what we have been hoping for for so long: long-term peace and vast progress in Mindanao,” he said.

Last March, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Aquino expressed hope that the proposed BBL would be passed by Congress “as soon as possible.”

After the BBL is passed, a plebiscite will be held in the areas to be covered by the new Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

However, the largest faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is worried about the possible marginalization of its Sept. 2, 1996 truce with government once the new Bangsamoro government is in place.

The 1996 government-MNLF truce was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Former Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the most politically active MNLF faction, said while they are not opposed to the dealings with the MILF, they will be badly hurt if their now 18-year peace pact with government is overtaken and invalidated by the CAB’s implementation.

“We want to clarify that this MNLF group is not an enemy of the MILF. We are not at war with the MILF. We can never be at war with the MILF because we have the same peace and development objectives for the Bangsamoro people,” Sema said.

However, Sema said the national government and the MNLF, from which the MILF had splintered in the early 1980s, should bilaterally protect the 1996 peace accord and preserve its gains.

Aquino said it is his obligation to listen to everyone and find solutions to all problems that are acceptable and products of consensus that would be good for all.

“Let us put ourselves in the position of the other side, so there would be fair assessment of every issue and ensure that it is every Filipino’s interest that would be pushed forward,” Aquino said.

“One example is the issue on energy and the environment,” the President said, noting the need for balance in taking care of the environment while addressing the need for energy.

He said everyone must open their hearts and minds for the sake of the majority despite shortcomings.

“What is clear is that despite heated debates and intense discourse, we should not forget that every decent Filipino only has one goal: To ensure fair play, widen opportunities and improve the quality of life in the country the soonest time possible,” Aquino said in Filipino.

Editorial: Negotiating with rebels

From the Sun Star-Cebu (Dec 29): Editorial: Negotiating with rebels

IT'S not mere coincidence that stories about reviving the failed talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) are being circulated while the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) celebrated its 46th founding anniversary last Dec. 26. Those stories are products of the occasion.

It’s like when either Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao or American Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight separate opponents. The promotion always includes talks about the prospect of the two finally battling each other in one ring.

Earlier reports about government efforts to revive the failed peace negotiations have been confirmed by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

But she clarified that while there have been efforts to reach out to the CPP, government wants the resumption of the talks to be on the basis of a “doable and time-bound” agenda.

Deles and Malacañang are fresh from successfully negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a peaceful settlement of the decades-old war that it waged in Mindanao.

But the Aquino administration knows that it is dealing with a different kind of group in the NDF, the political arm of the CPP whose armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), has been engaging government troops in a protracted and nationwide war. It has as guide the lessons of the failures of previous administrations to push the talks forward.

Indeed, it would have been good if the war waged by the government and the CPP would end in the negotiating table instead of in the battlefield.

But as it is now, even bringing the two sides to sit down in front of each other is difficult considering their differences.

Besides, government seems to have lost through the year the feeling of urgency to reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict. It has, for example, been claiming success in its anti-insurgency operations by drastically reducing the NPA’s armed strength.

Meanwhile, the years have also seen a reduction of NPA operations nationwide. This obviously played a part in the hardening of the resolve of the Aquino administration not to give in too much to NDF demands. That is why reports about the resumption of the failed talks between the GRP and the NDF are akin to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight scenario: it will be believed only when both sides sign on the dotted line.

Reds pick new chief to replace Tiamzon

From the Manila Standard today (Dec 31): Reds pick new chief to replace Tiamzon

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon

THE Communist Party of the Philippines has already installed a new chairman to replace Benito Tiamzon, who was arrested with his wife, Wilma, in Cebu in March, National Democratic Front negotiating panel spokesman Fidel Agcaoili said Tuesday.

“Based on past experiences when the party was quick to respond to changes in leadership, it is logical to presume that there is already a new chairman of the CPP,” Agcaoili said in a phone interview.

“The CPP is an underground organization, so of course it will not be announcing if a plenum has already taken place and who is the new chairman,” he added.

While Agcaoili declined to hazard a guess as to who could have replaced Tiamzon, he ruled out the possibility that it was Vicente Ladlad, who has already gone above-ground.

Right after Tiamzon was arrested in Carcar, Cebu in March, CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison expressed confidence that there will be no leadership vacuum in the guerrilla movement.

“Central Committee members may be imprisoned or killed. But they are automatically replaced by other central committee members,” Sison said.

“There are national cadres and also cadres in regional party committees to replenish vacancies in the central committee,” he added.

Sison recalled how the late President Ferdinand Marcos boasted that the CPP was decimated when the founding chairman was captured in 1977.

“But the CPP, the NPA, the mass organizations and the people’s democratic government continued to grow and become stronger,” Sison said.

The Tiamzons are among the 14 consultants whom the NDF wants released, although not as a precondition to the expected resumption of the formal peace talks in January.

Agcaoili said the other consultants are Alan Jazmines, Tirso Alcantara, Eduardo Sarmiento, Eduardo Serrano, Alfredo Mapano, Pedro Codaste, Jaime Soledad, Reynante Gamara, Loida Magpatoc, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza and Kennedy Bangidang.

Malacañang, however, stood firm on its position that there should be no conditions to the resumption of the peace talks, and that negotiations should move forward before discussions on releasing consultants could be taken up.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said if the peace talks are going well, “many things can happen.”

“There being no preconditions, releases will be appropriately talked about as necessitated by developments on the peace table,” she said.

Sison said the Tiamzon couple are needed for talks on a truce and cooperation agreement with the government.

In an earlier interview, government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla insisted that the Tiamzons, arrested for pending frustrated murder and murder cases, are not covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

But NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni insisted that the couple are “NDF consultants who have fulfilled and are fulfilling highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF.”

Padilla disputed Jalandoni’s claim.

“The CPP-NPA is well aware of the effects of the failed verification. But they only have themselves to blame for rendering the JASIG inoperative for most of their alleged consultants. If indeed Benito

Tiamzon was listed under an alias, he is no longer covered by the JASIG,” Padilla said.“Wilma Austria, on the other hand, jumped bail when she escaped from detention on Dec. 26, 1989, when there were no peace talks, and six years before the JASIG came into effect. This makes her ineligible for JASIG protection, even assuming she was identified in the JASIG list by her real name,” Padilla added.

Military says number of communist rebels declined

From the Philippine Star (Dec 31): Military says number of communist rebels declined


Amid talks of a possible resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the military has released a report claiming that the strength of the communist rebels was reduced last year.

Data released by the Armed Forces Public Affairs Office showed that the membership of the New People’s Army (NPA) decreased to about 3,200 in 2014 from about 4,000 in the last few years.

It was the first time the military claimed that the rebels’ strength has shrank to 3,000 levels. The number of communist insurgents has been stuck to about 4,000 in recent years despite military officials’ repeated claims that the rebellion is on a decline.

“We have dealt a big blow against the NPA as their strength decreased to about 3,200 NPA remnants this year,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said in a statement.  

“This is due to the intensified focused military operations,” he added.

The military also attributed the supposed decrease to the “crisis” within the communist movement that stemmed from the capture of rebel leaders like Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Eugenia Topacio, Agathon Topacio and Arnold Jaramillo.

Cabunoc said 90 NPA members were killed in clashes while 106 others were arrested and are now facing criminal cases. He said 521 insurgents surrendered to government forces.

The military reiterated its support for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDF, which represents the communist rebels in the peace negotiations.

Peace talks with the NDF were stalled last year after government negotiators rejected a demand to free communist leaders facing criminal cases.

NDF claimed that the detained communists, including suspected NPA commanders accused of staging deadly attacks, are peace consultants and should be immune from arrest.

Earlier, Communist Party of the Philippines founder and NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the talks may resume after the visit of Pope Francis this month.

Sison, said the government should release all NDF consultants including the Tiamzon couple and 500 political prisoners. He claimed that freeing the Tiamzon couple is a government obligation under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

Benito, his partner Wilma, and five other rebels were nabbed by security forces in Aloguinsan, Cebu last March 22. The Tiamzons are facing 15 counts of murder and was apprehended on a warrant issued by a regional trial court in Leyte.

Malacañang, however, stressed that there should be no pre-conditions for the resumption of the negotiations.

Soldiers in Sulu attacked

From ABS-CBN (Dec 30): Soldiers in Sulu attacked

SULU – A still unidentified group of men opened fire at a group of soldiers in Patikul, Sulu.

Colonel Allan Arrojado of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Task Force Sulu said members of Scout Rangers Class 191 were on their way to Jolo for some administrative matters when around seven armed men fired at them.

The incident took place at around 8:30 a.m. No one was hurt in the incident.

The soldiers were able to regain control of the area after a 10-minute firefight.

Arrojado advised soldiers in Sulu to be proactive at all times.

Photo: Blast site

From MindaNews (Dec 31): Photo: Blast site


Members of the Army’s Explosives Ordnance Disposal team conduct post blast investigation at the explosion site in the public market of M’lang, North Cotabato on  December 31, 2014. One person was killed while 25 others were injured duing the blast, the second in two months in M’lang. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA.

Warring MILF leaders clash in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 1): Warring MILF leaders clash in Southern Philippines

Military and police forces have tightened their patrol Wednesday in the restive Maguindanao province in southern Philippines following sporadic clashes between two warring leaders of the former Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The fighting broke out in the village of Ambadaw in Datu Piang town between Commander Fahad, of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, and Commander Adzmie, of the 106th Base Command, and their followers.

The clashes lasted over 2 hours, but it was not immediately known if there were casualties in the battles. No other details were available about the fighting, but both groups had been at odds with each other over control of territories.

Fahad was also implicated in the killing of Commander Mutin, of the separatist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in 2011 during a major battle in Datu Piang.

There was no immediate statement from the MILF which recently signed a peace accord with Manila. The BIFF broke away with the MILF and continues waging a separatist war in an effort to up an independent Islamic state.

NorCot cops clueless who set off IED in town's public market

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 1): NorCot cops clueless who set off IED in town's public market

MLANG, North Cotabato -– Police authorities here continue to gather evidences and information about unidentified men who set off an improvised explosive device (IED) at a busy public market here Wednesday afternoon which left one dead and 35 others wounded, four of whom were in serious condition.

Mlang Mayor Joselito Pinol also urged the police and military to expedite the probe on and seek people’s cooperation who can provide information that could identify, arrest and prosecute the suspects.

Earlier radio sketchy report said four persons could have died in the blast that occurred at 3:45 p.m. while hundreds of rush shoppers mill around the site where the IED went off.

But Ferdinand Pinol, town administrator, said only one person died and identified as Christine Salo, 28 of Barangay Bialong, Mlang. He said four of those rushed to various hospitals were in critical condition.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza condemned the attack and urged Mlang local officials to strengthen their resolve in protecting our people from further barbarism.

”We have witnessed once again acts of barbarism aimed at disrupting our peace and order initiatives.While I assure you that your provincial leadership is exhausting all efforts in bringing these cowards into the folds of law and prevent similar occurrences in the future,” Mendoza said.

”This act has no place in a civilized society. I reiterate our firm stand against any form of violence on our people,” she added.

She conveyed condolences to the family of the dead and offered prayer for the full recovery of those who were injured.

Mendoza added that the provincial government will provide financial assistance to blast victims and affected families.

”While we are sincere in our offer of peace to everyone, we seek justice for all the innocent victims as well,” she said in a statement.

To the perpetrators, Mendoza said: “Your actions today will not discourage the provincial leadership in its pursuit of a peaceful North Cotabato. Your outright disrespect to every Cotabateño will end sooner than later.”

Wednesday afternoon’s bombing came 38 days after a similar IED was set off by still unidentified men at a makeshift billiard hall in front of the town plaza that left three teenagers dead and wounded 23 others.

On Monday, police operatives from PNP in Region 12, arrested a man due to drug pushing but later identified him to be one of those who set off an IED in the Nov. 23 bombing.

All the victims in the public market blast Wednesday were merrymakers preparing for the New Year’s revelry.

Anti-submarine helicopters specification now undergoing final review

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): Anti-submarine helicopters specification now undergoing final review

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that specifications for its two anti-submarine helicopters, which is now undergoing bidding, is now on final review.

This was announced by PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad.

He added that the two anti-submarine helicopters, which are specified to be twin-engine, are also multi-role in nature and will serve as "force multiplier of the frigates (now also undergoing bidding) to protect the country's integrity and sovereignty."

Taccad said that the aircraft will have the capability to monitor, detect, interdict, and sustain sub-surface operations nationwide.

Earlier, PN chief of naval staff for logistics Capt. Alberto Carlos said that the contracts for the anti-submarine helicopters and frigates will be awarded by 2015.

"For the frigate and the anti-submarine helicopters, we are looking at signing the contract by early next year," he added.

He added that this because both assets will be working in tandem together, giving the PN a much needed punch in securing the country's vast territorial waters.

Carlos said he expects these assets to be delivered within three to four years as building brand-new ships and helicopters is a lengthy process.

The country is allocating Php18-billion for its two missile-armed frigates which can also perform anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface missions.

While another Php5.4 billion is allocated for the two anti-submarine helicopters.

PAF units now helping in 'Seniang' HADR missions

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): PAF units now helping in 'Seniang' HADR missions

In spite of the holidays, Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel and aerial assets are again in the thick of things as they are among the first military units to respond to the devastation caused by Tropical Storm "Seniang" in Central Visayas.

"Due to flooding and damages brought by Tropical Storm Seniang' in Central Visayas, the PAF in the Visayas headed by Major Gen. Sonny Manalo, the Division Commander of 2nd Air Division based in BGen Benito Ebuen Air Base (Mactan Air Base), had been conducting HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster response) operations in Loboc Municipality of Bohol since Dec. 30, 2014 due to rooftop level floods," PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said.

He added that UH-1H "Huey" helicopters were utilized in conducting aerial survey of damages, transport of rubber boats and delivery of relief goods.

In Palo, Leyte, the Tactical Operations Group 8 in Tacloban, Leyte deployed one disaster response team led by Staff Sgt. Rodrigo Cutamora, Jr., with one M-35, one rubber boat, life vests and assorted rescue equipment in Palo as requested by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"The team of Staff Sgt. Cutamora successfully and safely evacuated more than 50 individuals, including infants and aged persons, stranded in rooftops to evacuation centers in the Municipality of Palo, Leyte," Canaya said.

Meantime, PAF units stationed in Davao and Villamor Air Base, weather permitting, brought in Super "Huey" and Sokol helicopters to augment current air assets at Mactan Air Base as staging area for the conduct of HADR operations.

"Today, December 31, 2014, two C-130s from Villamor Air Base, brought in logistics and relief goods to Tagbilaran, Bohol and the PAF’s Mobile Disaster Response Unit (MDRU), headed by Lt. Col. Dennis Alcarde, were also alerted, assembled and even reviewed basic procedures such as basic life support as early as 6am in preparation for deployment to Visayas at moment’s notice," Canaya pointed out.

Alcarde is also the 505th Search and Rescue Group deputy commander.

The 505th SRG motto is “That Others May Live.”

Statement of OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles on the recent atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): Statement of OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles on the recent atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF

In blatant disregard of the Christmas season, when our people desire and expect peace and goodwill, the CPP-NPA-NDF has reciprocated government’s gesture of a month-long unilateral ceasefire with acts of senseless violence.

On December 22, in Paracale, Camarines Norte, NPA rebels torched heavy equipment used in the construction of a bridge. In Agusan del Sur, they likewise set fire to a vehicle owned by a civilian. Both acts were committed in retaliation for the civilians' refusal to give in to their extortion.

On December 23, NPA members abducted Compostela Valley Jail Warden Jose Mervin Gementiza Coquilla in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

On December 29, in Sitio Barigyan, Brgy Candinuyan, Mabini, Compostela Valley, 1LT Ronald Bautista, PFC Albert Amor and CAA Renel Baluca, unarmed soldiers in civilian clothes, were on their way to spend the holidays with their families when they were shot pointblank by members of the NPA.

We strongly condemn the pointless violence exercised by the CPP-NPA-NDF. If they are truly serious in their call for the resumption of peace negotiations with Government, we challenge‎ them to walk their talk and stop harassing development projects, civilians and unarmed soldiers on holiday. There is no way to peace but through peace.

AFP modernization includes HADR capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 1): AFP modernization includes HADR capability

Aside from ensuring that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has sufficient resources to defend the country, the military's ongoing modernization program is also aimed improving the AFP's humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) capability.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc Thursday.

"The AFP Modernization Program is focused on territorial defense operations (TDO), and HADR as the military gradually shifts from internal security operations," he said.

The Army, Air Force and Navy will be geared towards this TDO campaign/effort as part of the modernization and capability upgrade under medium and long term development plans.

During the Aquino administration, a total of 46 modernization projects (more than the combined completed projects of the previous administrations) were completed, Cabunoc said.

"The AFP has gained appreciation and recognition not only from the beleaguered communities affected by the typhoons and the national government but as well as from the international community who commended the whole Philippine government for its successful HADR operations in the recent calamities that affected the country," he said.

The AFP’s HADR gains this year were highlighted during its disaster response operations in areas affected by Typhoon "Ruby".

The AFP helped in preparations, particularly in pre-positioning of relief goods, rescue and clearing equipment; and assisting in pre-emptive evacuations.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) deployed 18 aircraft including two C-130 aircraft and two Sokol choppers that transported a total of 629,274 lbs of relief goods to affected areas.

The Navy also deployed six of its ships that transported 38.5 tons of relief goods while the Army utilized 173 of its ground assets to assist in HADR Operations.

The AFP also conducted information drives to educate residents of low-lying communities about the threat posed by storm surges and flooding.

"After the storm, our soldiers commenced with the aerial recon, clearing, rescue, and relief operations of 186,694 families or 868,624 persons who were displaced and eventually moved inside 3,003 evacuation centers," Cabunoc stressed.

"Furthermore, the AFP is continuously enhancing its HADR capability through the improvement of its operational readiness, training of its personnel and procuring of HADR equipment," he added.

HADR has now become a major role for the AFP due to the impact of climate change which is one of the global challenges the AFP is currently facing.

Cabunoc said the AFP will continue to ensure the security and safety of our communities including business establishments, the investment climate for economic development, and other opportunities for progress and prosperity.

Guided by the IPSP "Bayanihan" and the AFP Transformation Roadmap, the AFP will continue to reap success from all its operations as it looks forward to finally achieving the common goal of a just and lasting peace and stability for the whole country, Cabunoc concluded.

AFP condemns NPA attacks during SOMO

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): AFP condemns NPA attacks during SOMO

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday condemned the series of atrocities committed by the New People's Army (NPA) during the month-long government-declared SOMO (suspension of military operations) which started midnight Dec. 19 and will end this coming January 19, 2015.

"Records show that the NPA has reciprocated the government's gesture of peace with acts of violence during the period of SOMO," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

The SOMO was supposed to allow both sides to enjoy the Yuletide Season with their loved ones.

However, the NPAs only called for a shorter truce period on Dec. 24, 25, 26 and 31; January 1 and during Pope Francis' visit on January 15 to 19.

He added that the rebels attacked non-military targets after being refused extortion money demanded from private contractors who implement development projects.

"They burned heavy equipment used for the construction of a bridge in Camarines Norte and a civilian vehicle in Agusan Del Sur," Cabunoc said.

In Panabo City, they abducted Marvin Coquilla, the Provincial Jail Warden of Compostela Valley.

"Lately, they murdered two unarmed soldiers and a militiaman (CAFGU member) of the 71st Infantry Battalion in Mabini town Compostella Valley, killing 1st Lt. Ronald Bautista, Pfc. Albert Amor and CAA (CAFGU Active Auxiliary) Renel Baluca. The AFP mourns the untimely death of these fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the country," Cabunoc pointed out.

He also said that if CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) wants to pursue peace, the rebels must show sincerity by stopping criminal activities such as murder of soldiers and policemen, kidnapping, extortion, recruitment of minors to commit armed violence, and bomb attacks that have killed both members of the security forces and civilians.​

Sarangani town gets PhP22.8-M grant under PAMANA program

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): Sarangani town gets PhP22.8-M grant under PAMANA program

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has released a PhP22.8-million grant for the implementation of various peace and development projects in Sarangani Province.

Reynaldo Bungubung, DILG Region 12 director, said on Wednesday the grant was part of the region’s allocation for 2014 under its flagship Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

He said the funds will be utilized for the implementation of five community-based infrastructure projects in Barangays Daliao and Lumatil in Maasim, Sarangani.

The two villages were among the areas in Sarangani that were affected by past conflicts between government forces and Moro rebels.

The agency specifically allocated PhP1.6 million for the construction of community peace centers in Barangays Lumatil and Daliao, PhP1.6 million for a multipurpose building in Daliao, PhP2.8 million for the expansion of a water system project in Daliao and PhP16 million for the concreting of an access road in Lumatil.

“Through these projects, we’re hoping that residents would eventually embrace the government’s sincerity and efforts in promoting peace and development, especially in the most isolated parts of the country,” Bungubung said in a statement.

PAMANA is the government’s program and framework for peace and development in areas affected by conflict and communities covered by existing peace agreements.

The program intends to provide communities with projects funded under the government’s stimulus fund to bring genuine peace and development.

The DILG central office had approved a total grant of PhP258.5 million for Region 12 this year under the PAMANA program.

It allotted PhP187.2 million for the second congressional district of South Cotabato, PhP58.8 million for the lone district of Sarangani Province and PhP12.5 million for the first, second and third districts of Cotabato Province.

Among its major components are the concreting of barangays roads in Maasim town in Sarangani as well as Lake Sebu and T’boli in South Cotabato.

The other projects are the construction of community peace centers, day care centers, trading centers and multipurpose buildings.

Aside from the release of the PAMANA grants, Bungubung said they recently turned over a newly-completed potable water system project worth PhP3.4 million in Barangay Kiayap in Maium, Sarangani.

He said the project was constructed under its Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig sa Lahat or Salintubig program.

The potable water system is now serving around 380 households of Barangay Kiayap and the neighboring areas.

The Salintubig program, which is supported by the Department of Health and the National Anti-Poverty Commission, mainly intends to provide water supply systems for the identified “waterless” municipalities, barangays and rural health units in the region.

It covers two thematic areas: poorest/waterless barangays with high incidence of water-borne diseases and rural health centers without access to safe water.

The program was launched three years ago in response to the national government’s goal of providing potable water to the entire country based on the targets defined in the Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016, Millennium Development Goals, the Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap and the Philippine Sustainable Sanitation Roadmap.

Woman hurt as MILF armed men strafe Maguindanao village official's home

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): Woman hurt as MILF armed men strafe Maguindanao village official's home

A woman was hurt and several families have fled to safer grounds after hundreds of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerillas harassed and strafed the house of a village official in Talitay, Maguindanao Tuesday afternoon, a local official said.

Talitay Vice Mayor Allan Sabal told DXMS Radyo Bida that about 500 heavily armed MILF fired at the house of Village Councilor Madimuda Manibpel at past 11 a.m.

“We heard explosions, gun burst and M-79 grenade explosion,” Sabal said, adding that his house was few blocks away from the house of Manibpel.

Nobody was hurt in the family of Manibpel but a woman from Sitio Watamama, Barangay Gadungan, Talitay was hit by stray bullet on her leg. He was rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City.

Sabal said the attackers were all members of the 105th base command of the MILF under the leadership of Commanders Howl, Commander Gapur, Commander AButalwa and Commander Ali.

When the attackers left, Sabal said he went to see Manibpel who told him that he was having lunch with his family when the gunmen arrived and without provocation opened fire.

He quoted Manibpel as saying that they immediately sought cover and firing lasted for about 20 minutes.

Afraid of further armed conflict, an undetermined number of families from the villages of Mangay, Poblacion, and Gadungan fled to nearby town of Datu Anggal and the Talitay town center.

Sabal said he already informed the MILF leadership about harassment.

Von Al Haq, MILF vice chair for military affairs, said an emissary had been sent by MILF chair Al Haj Murad to prevent the 105th base command from leaving its camp.

Al Haq said the conflict could have been triggered by family feud involving MILF members and the village official.

He added a probe team has been formed and a directive for a ceasefire had been issued.

MILF chief warns public vs. recruitment 'for a fee' for political party members

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): MILF chief warns public vs. recruitment 'for a fee' for political party members

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has warned the people in the envisioned Bangsamoro core territory against alleged "recruitment for a fee" by some unscrupulous individuals, a party official said Wednesday.

Sammy Al-Mansoor, secretary general of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), said the MILF chair also warned the public about reports that some groups are recruiting members for the Bangsamoro police in exchange for a fee.

Murad issued the warning during the general assembly of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“Concerning news that there are some who are recruiting for the UBJP membership for money, do not believe on them because they are fake officers or members, and I warn them,” Murad said in his speech aired over local radio stations.

“Also those recruiting for allegedly Bangsamoro Police, do not believe on them, and I warn them because not even the qualifications for police have yet been set. We will take appropriate action against them if complaint is brought before us,” he said.

Speaking about the newly formed political party, Murad said UBJP will serve as the MILF’s vehicle to bring the organization to mainstream Philippine politics.

“We need this newly formed political party as our vehicle to transport us to the mainstream Philippine politics. But this is not the end of our struggle. Our struggle has to be continued so that it will bear fruits to the benefit of everyone,” he said.

Murad declared the UBJP is different from any other political party in the Philippine political arena.

“Ours is principled political party and it aims to change the present political system of 'three Gs or gold, guns and goons,' and it aims to transform our electoral system to real democratic and Islamic way,” he said, adding that “had this gathering of volunteers been done by other politicians, it would cost them around millions or even billions (of pesos) but we spent nothing for it.”

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs and concurrent UBJP vice chairman for Central Mindanao, expressed hope that Congress will soon pass the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

To the members of Congress, Jaafar had a touching appeal. That is for Congress to help the occurrence of widows and orphans be stopped, referring to armed conflict that causes death of Bangsamoro fathers and mothers.

The UBJP secretariat reported that 117,025 volunteers showed up during the three-day activity.

Chanting of “my party, your party, our party,” reverberated around the 20-hectare Camp Darapanan after speeches were delivered.

The secretariat listed the following as guests: Rep. Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, former Cong. Didagen P. Dilangalen of Maguindanao, former Cong. Jerry Salapuddin of Basilan, former Cong. Datu Michael O. Mastura of Maguindanao, Mayor Datu Nathaniel Midtimbang of Talayan, Maguindanao, former Mayor Datu Tocao O. Mastura, former Mayor Hadji Datu Ali Midtimbang of Talayan, Mayor Datu Midpantao Midtimbang of Guindulongan, USM Professors Dr. Palasig U. Ampang, Dr. Alimen Sencil, Dr. Abubakar A. Murray, Prof. Abhoud Sayed Lingga of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of Mindanao Peoples Caucus, and many others who did not show up on the stage but joined the crowd.

59 IB PA distributes Christmas package to Dumagat families

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): 59 IB PA distributes Christmas package to Dumagat families

Sixty three families belonging to Dumagat tribe living in Barangay Tinucan, Tanay will have food on their table to welcome the new year after receiving a Christmas package each Tuesday provided by the members of the 59th Protector Gwapo Battallion of the 2nd Jungle Fighter Infantry Division of the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) headed by Colonel Marcelino “Kit” Teofilo, PA Battallion commander.

Captain Ruben Ayroso, PA ,spokeperson, said that they were able to gather funds for the project by conducting an experimental caroling activity around the town’s business area using the services of the 59 IB Band aboard the Philippine Army vehicle as their stage.

Ayroso also said that it was an instant street party where the people gathered while jamming with the band members.

Ayroso said that it was a successful activity. More successful was the giving of the package to 63 Dumagat families held in Barangay Tinucan Elementary School led by their chieftain Anria Vertudez.

4 die, 30 hurt in North Cotabato bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 31): 4 die, 30 hurt in North Cotabato bombing
Mlang, North Cotabato: Unidentified men set off an improvised explosive device Wednesday afternoon during shopping rush for New Year in this town’s public market, leaving four shoppers killed and 30 others wounded, officials said.

The victims were on a shopping rush for New Year along fruit stands outside the Mlang public market when the blast occurred at 3:45 p.m., according to Barangay Poblacion Chairman Rafael Porras.

According to Porras most of the injured were rushed to Mlang Doctor’s Hospital and Mlang District Hospital. Other wounded victims were rushed to Kidapawan City.

Mayor Joselito Pinol condemned the bomb attack.

He also recalled local government employees to assist the wounded victims in the hospital. Private individuals who owned vehicles were asked to lend their vehicle to transport the victims to the hospital in Kidapawan City.

Senior Inspector Joan REsurreccion, Mlang police chief, said most of the victims sustained shrapnel injuries in various parts of the body.

Army and police bomb experts are still at the blast scene conducting post blast investigation.

No one has claimed responsibility, the second deadly IED attack in this town since Nov. 23 when three died and 20 others were hurt when a bomb exploded at a billiard hall near the town plaza.

Resurrecion said most of the 30 wounded were hit by shrapnel in lower extremities and feet.

Initial investigation showed the bomb was placed few meters from the entrance of the public market where people mill around buying circle-shaped fruits.

The Wednesday blast happened a day after police from the regional PNP headquarters arrested in M’lang a suspected bomber believed responsible for the Nov 23 bombing.

Gov't condemns NPA attacks during holiday season

From Rappler (Dec 31): Gov't condemns NPA attacks during holiday season

The government calls the recent attacks of the New People's Army as 'senseless' and 'in blatant disregard of the Christmas season'

File photo

The Philippine government's chief peace adviser on Wednesday, December 31, condemned the recent attacks of the New People's Army (NPA) despite the month-long unilateral ceasefire extended by the government and pronoucement pointing to a resumption of peace talks between the two sides.

In a statement, Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles said the NPA attacks in Camarines Norte, Davao del Norte, and Compostela Valley were "acts of senseless violence" that came despite the observation of the holidays.

"In blatant disregard of the Christmas season, when our people desire and expect peace and goodwill, the CPP-NPA-NDF has reciprocated government’s gesture of a month-long unilateral ceasefire with acts of senseless violence," Deles said.

Two separate attacks occurred just days before the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed that there are "ongoing peace negotiations" with the Aquino government.

Deles said NPA rebels set fire to heavy equipment and a civilian-owned vehicle in Paracale, Camarines Norte on December 22, allegedly in retaliation for the civilians' refusal to give in to extortion.

A day later, NPA members reportedly abducted Compostela Valley Jail Warden Jose Mervin Gementiza Coquilla in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

On December 29 – three days after the CPP's announcement – two unarmed soldiers and a member of a government paramilitary group in civilian clothes were allegedly killed by NPA members.

First Lieutenant Ronald Bautista, Private First Class Albert Amor and CAA Renel Baluca were on their way to spend the holidays with their families when they were shot, Deles said.

The peace adviser challenged the NPA to "walk their talk" to show their commitment to the resumption of peace negotiations with the government.

"If they are truly serious in their call for the resumption of peace negotiations with Government, we challenge‎ them to walk their talk and stop harassing development projects, civilians and unarmed soldiers on holiday. There is no way to peace but through peace," she added.

New Year's Eve blast kills 4 in North Cotabato, 30 others hurt

From Rappler (Dec 31): New Year's Eve blast kills 4 in North Cotabato, 30 others hurt

(UPDATED) The military says 'nails' were seen in the X-ray examination results of some victims, indicating that these may have been a component in the improvised explosive device used in the attack

BLAST SCENE. Mlang, North Cotabato experiences another bomb blast on December 31, 2014. Photo courtesy of the North Cotabato Provincial Government

BLAST SCENE. Mlang, North Cotabato experiences another bomb blast on December 31, 2014. Photo courtesy of the North Cotabato Provincial Government

As residents prepared for the New Year's eve celebration, a powerful blast leaves at least one person dead and 36 others wounded in the town of Mlang in North Cotabato.

Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the military's 6th Infantry Division, said the explosion occurred at the entrance of the town's public market at around 3:45 pm.

Military reports said 4 were wounded but the provincial government said it documented at least one fatality and 34 injured persons. Petinglay later released a progress report saying that there were 36 wounded by the blast.

The military identified the casualty as Christine Salo, who died on the spot.

Petinglay said the victims were brought to different hospitals in Mlang and Kidapawan in North Cotabato, and that "nails were seen in the X-ray examination result of some victims."

"This might mean that nails were among the components of the IED used," he said.

Responding security forces immediately sealed the blast site while bomb experts are now conducting an investigation to identify the perpetrators and the motive behind the incident.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza condemned the attack, which unfortunately happened during the holiday.

Mendoza said government agencies have been mobilized to fasttrack clearing operations and provide assistance to affected families.

On November 23, the same town was rocked by a powerful blast that killed two people and hurt 20 others.

"For the second time in Mlang, we have witnessed once again acts of barbarism aimed at disrupting our peace and order initiatives," Mendoza said.

"This act has no place in a civilized society. I reiterate our firm stand against any form of violence on our people," she added.

Government forces blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for the recent attacks in the province.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied the accusations asserting that they do not attack civilians.

New Year's Eve blast kills 4 in North Cotabato, 30 others hurt

From InterAksyon (Dec 31): New Year's Eve blast kills 4 in North Cotabato, 30 others hurt


MLANG, North Cotabato -- At least four persons were killed and 30 more wounded when a bomb exploded at the public market of Mlang, North Cotabato Wednesday afternoon.

The blast ripped through fruit stalls just outside the market, where most of the victims were doing last minute New Year’s Eve shopping, around 3:45 p.m., Barangay Poblacion chairman Rafael Porras said.

Porras said most of the injured were rushed to the Mlang Doctor’s and Mlang District hospitals while others were brought to Kidapawan City.

Mayor Joselito Pinol recalled local government employees from their breaks to assist the victims and asked private vehicle owners to help transport the injured.

It was the second deadly bombing in the town since an earlier attack on November 23 that killed three persons and wounded 20 others at a billiard hall near the town plaza.

No one has yet to claim responsibility for any of the blasts.

Wednesday’s incident happened a day after a suspect in the November 23 bombing was arrested.

Bomb explodes at busy market in Philippines (See names of victims)

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 31): Bomb explodes at busy market in Philippines (See names of victims)

An improvised explosive device exploded Wednesday at a market area in southern Philippines and killing one person and wounding at least 36 other people, officials told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Officials said the explosive was detonated near the entrance of the market in the town of Mlang in North Cotabato province. The blast instantly killed one civilian.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but several rebel groups are known to actively operate in the province.

Soldiers and policemen were deployed in the town as bomb squad members searched the market for hidden explosives, but found nothing. Officials said the explosive was left on a row of stores leading to the market.

Officials said the motive of the attack - that coincided on the eve of the New Year’s celebration – remains unknown.

The 6th Infantry Division has confirmed the casualties and released the names of lone fatality as Christine Salo.

It said at least three dozen people were wounded in the blast and some of them have been identified as Candido Pante, Zenaida Sueso, Helen Duazon, Charlene Junco, Jemelyn Dedalon, Michelle Martin, Nilo Condino, Alfred Berondo, Rosa Mae Buenaflor, Jonathan Tube, Gilbert Guadalupe, Arlene Tasis, Cezario Lingamen, Susan Gallo, Liberito Navasquez, Tye Galos, Maria FeSalo, Celiz Protacio, Darlene Salo, Jonalyn Marfel, Jojit Maquerang, Jesus Cuerpo, Marilyn Burgonos, Kim Mark Bosque, Prince Belardo, John Cedric Jawod, Shirly Jawod, Joan Mar Salazar, Jorge Gero, Liza Mad Buenafe and Felix Protacio.

Officials said four other victims were only identified either by their first or last names – Protacio, Teresita, Pante and Malunan. Many of the wounded were rushed to hospitals in Mlang and Kidapawan City. They suffered shrapnel wounds believed caused by iron nails packed in the bomb.

The army has strongly condemned the attack. It said security has been heightened  following the bombing.

The blast came two days after suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels bombed a massage parlor in downtown Zamboanga City.

Three alleged bombers - Marcel Jumadil, 35; Jumdan Dassan, 45; both natives of Indanan town in Sulu province, and Al-Shirit Sabdani, 49, of Tandubas town in Tawi-Tawi – were arrested in separate operations in Zamboanga City hours after the bomb exploded inside the Princess Massage Parlor at Tomas Claudio Street, according to Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman.

Two people were slightly injured in the blast in Room 7 of the massage parlor in the building that houses the De Luxe Massage and Karaoke which was also bombed in November 9.

Jumadil was first arrested by policemen after they saw him running away from the area shortly after the blast. He broke down during interrogation and admitted his participation in the attack and pointed to Dassan and Sabdani as his companions. Both men were arrested in a house at Aquino Drive in the village of Baliwasan, also in Zamboanga City.

Last month, a member of the police bomb squad was wounded when an improvised explosive device went off inside the bar as he and his dog searched for bombs. A second bomb also exploded in the massage parlor, but no one was injured in the blast blamed by the police and military to the Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Troops tricked to free boat in smuggling

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): Troops tricked to free boat in smuggling

Soldiers guarding one of four vessels carrying smuggled rice were tricked into allowing the vessel to leave the city port for Sulu province, according to results of a military investigation.

ML Ayang, one of four boats that were carrying smuggled rice, was able to leave the city port on Dec. 16, shortly after it and three other vessels were intercepted by the Philippine Navy for carrying contraband.

Investigators, according to Col. Andrelino Colina, head of Task Force Zamboanga (a police-military force dealing with crimes in the city), said five soldiers guarding the apprehended vessels here were hoodwinked into releasing ML Ayang.


On Dec. 16, Colina said, unidentified men on board a boat arrived at the city port, introduced themselves as Customs officials and told the soldiers to release ML Ayang.

According to Colina, quoting investigation results, when the soldiers refused, one of the unidentified men made a phone call to their supposed boss at the Customs bureau and gave the phone to one of the soldiers.

“The man who spoke with my officer on the phone claimed the papers were OK. That led to the boat sailing out of the port,” Colina said.

“They were tricked into releasing the boat,” he said.

ML Ayang was later intercepted again as it was unloading its rice cargo in Sulu. It was brought back to the city, escorted by the Navy.
No training on smuggling

Colina defended the five soldiers, although, he said, they had been restricted to the barracks as the investigation continued. He said the soldiers had not been trained properly on handling cases of smuggling.

He pinned the blame on the Bureau of Customs here, which had not deployed anyone to the area where the vessels were being held.

“They could have deployed one of their policemen,” Colina said. He said the area where the vessels were being held was very near a Customs office.

Miguel Saquisami, Customs district collector here, insisted that ML Ayang and its crew “escaped.”

Not sleeping on job

Saquisami said he did not want to speak further about the controversy and that there should be “no pinpointing.”

“We are not sleeping on the job, but the number of our Customs policemen is limited. I hope you can understand us,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the Naval Forces Western Mindanao was coordinating with the Bureau of Customs in the investigation.

Esscom refutes claims of gunfire exchanges in east coast Sabah

From the New Straits Times (Dec 31): Esscom refutes claims of gunfire exchanges in east coast Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has refuted claims that Malaysian security forces were involved in gunfire exchanges with Filipino gunmen in Sabah's east coast.

Its commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the rumours were not true, stressing the people to remain calm.

"The situation in Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone) is under control, especially in Sandakan and Semporna," he said.

The rumours were circulated through social network sites including Facebook, causing panic among the netizens.

The rumours claimed a group of gunmen from the southern Philippines had landed at Kampung Luboh, Batu 12 Sungai Manila in Sandakan‎ on Dec 25.

A recent rumour mentioned about shooting incidents in Semporna, which is said to have been occurred last night.

Rashid said action would be taken against those spreading such rumours and advised the public to contact nearest police station to verify claim.

Sea dispute with China tested Philippines’ resolve

From the Manila Times (Dec 29): Sea dispute with China tested Philippines’ resolve

The passing year put to test the resolve of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to pursue the government’s arbitration case against China while continuing to develop relations with Asia’s economic tiger, and at the same time assess its strategic alliance with the United States.

The dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) has long been simmering but it wasn’t until two years ago that the world took notice of the newest potential military flashpoint in Southeast Asia. The naval standoff between the Philippines and China at the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal shook the otherwise friendly relations between Beijing and Manila.

In March this year, the Philippines submitted its Memorial, an annex of evidences, to the five-member arbitral tribunal in the United Nations-backed International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) to invalidate China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea that stretches as far as the territories of the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.

China was given until December 15 this year to submit its counter-Memorial, but Beijing has refused to take part in the process, insisting that it will only negotiate with claimant-countries bilaterally. It also accused the Philippines of violating international maritime laws, as well as the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC), which pointed out that disputes in the region should be resolved through bilateral negotiations.

It also warned other countries not to interfere in the regional dispute.

Amid all of these, the Foreign Affairs department tried to cultivate a relationship with a regional giant that has grown sour and an alliance with a global superpower that continues to be challenged by issues such as the killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City allegedly by US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.

The case, which is reminiscent of the rape case that involved Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, again examined the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries. Militant groups castigated the department for its failure to secure the physical custody of Pemberton, who is now languishing in a makeshift detention cell inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Although he is inside a Philippine military camp, US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg insisted that custody over Pemberton remains with the US until the “completion of all judicial proceedings.” The Olongapo Regional Trial Court filed murder raps against the US serviceman early this month.

The Foreign Affairs department tried to seek custody of Pemberton but its bid was rejected on the same day the warrant was issued. It, however, said that the jurisdiction of the case will remain with the Philippines because Pemberton will be tried by “Philippine courts under Philippine laws.”

Pemberton’s was one of the troops who took part in the Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex), a joint annual military training under the VFA, the same agreement that anti-US groups are now asking to be abrogated.

The Phiblex is also being seen as a preparation for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which the Philippines signed in April before the official state visit of US President Barack Obama. The EDCA, which will increase US military presence in the country and is now a subject of review by the Supreme Court, was agreed upon amid increasing tensions with Beijing, which has begun massive reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in five Philippine-claimed reefs—Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, Malvar (Eldad) Reef, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef, Burgos (Gaven) Reef and Kennan (Hughes) Reef—as well as an oil drilling operation near Vietnam.

Relations between the Philippines and China have suffered tremendously in the past two years because of the sea disputes. The US has shown concern because it has always maintained a “strategic interest” in seeing peace and stability in the region, a vital waterway that holds more than $5 billion of world trade annually, $1 billion of which belongs to the United States.

It remains to be seen, however, how the more important relationship between the US and China will eclipse Washington’s promises to the Philippines, which has held strong to a decades-old treaty, the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), in case an armed conflict with China arises.