Friday, January 3, 2014

Army seeks extension in clearing of NPAs

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 4): Army seeks extension in clearing of NPAs

The 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Armed based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, has asked the government for an extension of six months to clear the province of rebel infestation, its commander, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, yesterday said.

He said the command is assessing the result of the continuous combat operations and Bayanihan Team activities in the province. Earlier, he had said there will be a zero infiltration of the New People’s Army by the end of 2013.

Patrimonio said 12 of 17 barangays earlier identified as insurgency-affected have been neutralized, although this is still subject to validation and confirmation.

The five remaining barangays are Nagbinlod and Talalak in Sta. Catalina, and Sandayao, and two others that Patrimonio did not identify, in Guihulngan City.

He said the fact that several rebels have returned to the folds of the law, while the rest are on the run, is an indication that the Army is gaining headway in its mission.

Patrimonio said one criterion for clearing a barangay of insurgency problem is when an armed group is neutralized.

NPA ends unilateral ceasefire

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 4): NPA ends unilateral ceasefire

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental is maintaining its full alert status against possible attacks by the New People’s Army, during the suspension of military operations that ends January 15, its commander, Col. Jon Aying, yesterday said.

The unilateral New Year ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines, meanwhile, ended January 2, with the CPP ordering its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to launch more tactical offensives against government security forces throughout the country.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said yesterday that Army units in Negros and Panay island will continue to observe the SOMO until January 15, but they will not lower their guard, and will conduct continued security patrols, peace and development activities, and support to humanitarian programs.

In a statement it issued, the CPPC said, “Upon the direction of the CPP, the NPA will be launching more frequent tactical offensives to cripple the weak units of the enemy and acquire more firearms.”

“This year, every command of the NPA should exert more efforts to surpass the number of firearms they seized from the reactionary military, paramilitary and police forces before,” it added.

Aying said they aim to further reduce the 40 rebel-influenced barangays in Negros Occidental this year, with residents “gripped by fear from the threats of rebels”.

Military estimates show there are about 200 NPA rebels left in Negros Occidental.
But Aying said, “I believe that the number will go down this year as many of the members of the NPA are already surrendering because of the hard life they experience in the mountains."

The CPP, however, claimed that 2013 clearly showed the failure of the military’s internal peace and security plan, “Bayanihan,” to reduce the strength of the CPP-NPA to an insignificant level.

    The IPSP “Bayanihan” is the brainchild of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who used to be the 3rd Infantry Division commander. It is designed to reduce the insurgency problem to insignificant levels by 2016 through a whole-of-nation approach.

Slain Indonesian terror suspects planned US embassy attack – police

From the Manila Times (Jan 3): Slain Indonesian terror suspects planned US embassy attack – police

Six suspected terrorists killed in a New Year’s Eve police raid near Jakarta had planned to carry out a string of attacks targeting the United States (US) embassy, a church and Buddhist temples, police said on Friday.

Following a nine-hour gun battle with the six men in a house on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital, police seized a hand-written document revealing the group’s targets, national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.

“Take your pistols, holy warriors, and prepare to attack the US embassy,” Amar said, reading from the document during a press conference. Suicide attacks were also planned, he said.

The document listed “hotels harboring the Central Intelli-gence Agency” and anti-terror police officers among targets, while National Police Chief Sutarman said the men also planned to attack a church and Buddhist temples to avenge anti-Muslim violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The men are believed to be behind a low-impact bombing on a Buddhist temple last August, which lightly injured one person, police said.

Police linked the men to a cell formerly headed by Abu Roban, a suspected militant killed in a raid last year, and Sutarman said the cell was suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

“One of the men, according to documents [seized], was also planning to go to Syria for jihad. He planned to carry out a suicide bombing there,” said Sutarman, who goes by one name.

Indonesia was rocked by several deadly terror attacks in the last decade, including the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

But only low-impact attacks have been executed in recent years as the country continues a clampdown on terrorism, having dismantled some of the deadliest networks.

China planning joint military command system

From the Manila Times (Jan 3): China planning joint military command system

China’s armed forces plan to set up a joint operational command system to “enhance efficiency” in crisis response, state media reported on Friday.

At present, the People’s Liberation Army, (PLA) the world’s biggest military, which incorporates China’s navy and air force, is arranged on a geographical system with land forces at its core and dividing the country into seven regions.

Now the military has “launched positive pilot programs” for a joint opera-tional command system and will establish the system “in due course,” the state-run China Daily newspaper said, citing the defense ministry.

It was not clear from the report whether the regional system would be replaced.

But a more unified structure could reduce the possibility of a local commander taking unauthorized action in a crisis situation.

The defense ministry said its military modernization was not aimed at any country, the China Daily said.

Ouyang Wei, a professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, said such a system would increase the military’s speed in responding to an emergency.

“The system, which has been popular in the West for decades, is not [aimed at] starting a war, but to kill it in the cradle,” he told the paper.

Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a simmering territorial row over Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands.

China has for years had double-digit increases in its official military budget, and Li Qinggong, deputy secretary general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said the country will focus on improving its high-tech sea, air and nuclear arsenals.

China’s navy—by adding aircraft carriers and stronger fleets—was likely to be the highest priority.

“China has built an iron bastion in its border regions,” he told China Daily. “The major concern lies at sea.”

Zhao Xiaozhuo, of the PLA Academy of Military Science, told the paper that contingencies at sea were viewed as ever more likely.

“An increasingly efficient military will not necessarily be a more aggressive one,” he was quoted as saying. “China has made its peaceful stand clear, but it is time to improve its combat ability.”

Japan announced last month it will buy stealth fighters, drones and submarines as part of a splurge on military hardware that will beef up the defense of its far-flung southern islands.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet agreed to spend 24.7 trillion yen ($237 billion) between 2014 and 2019 in a strategic shift towards the south and west of the country—a 5 percent boost to the military budget over five years.

The China Daily report came two days after Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that China was considering reducing the number of military regions to five.

The planned revamp would mark a shift from the current army-focused, defense-oriented military to one that ensured more mobile and integrated management of the army, navy, air force and strategic missile units, Yomiuri said.

Sulu Sultanate to peacefully negotiate Sabah claim

From the Manila Times (Jan 3): Sulu Sultanate to peacefully negotiate Sabah claim

AFTER its Royal Forces occupied a portion of disputed Sabah that resulted in a standoff, the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo on Friday expressed willingness to negotiate with the Malaysian government.

Newly installed Sultan Esmail Kiram 2nd has approved the recommendation of the Advisory Council of the Sultanate to push for a peaceful and civilized resolution of their Sabah claim.

“Today, I have approved the recommendation of the Council to resolve the Sabah issue in a civilized and peaceful manner, which recommendation is also sanctioned by the Ulama Council of Mindanao,” Kiram said in a press briefing.

As an initial step, he directed the chairman of the council to form and create a negotiating panel preparatory to formal negotiations of the territorial dispute between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Federation of Malaysia.

The membership of the panel will be announced by the Sultanate in the next few days.

When asked if a government official will be part of the negotiating panel, the Sultanate said it is no longer necessary since they are claiming a private property not duly owned by the government.

Kiram also ordered the legal panel of the Sultanate and its international legal experts to prepare the legal groundwork and conduct inventory of legal and historical documents to prove its legal and historical rights over Sabah.

He likewise urged the Philippine government to support the case of the Sultanate to be filed before the International Court of Justice and other international tribunals cognizant of the case.

Kiram said the move is only part of the Sultanate’s “New Year’s resolution to repossess Sabah through peaceful means.”

Sultanate Secretary General Abraham Idjirani said “the entire supporters of the sultanate support the sultan’s desire to repossess Sabah.

He likewise expressed hope that President Benigno Aquino 3rd will support the sultanate as the “issue involves the interests of the Philippines, the sultanate, and Malaysia.”

More than 200 Royal Security Force (RSF) members headed by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of the reigning sultan, occupied a portion of Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu in Sabah on February 9 last year.

When they were discovered by Sabah authorities, they were asked to withdraw and return to Tawi-Tawi, Mindanao, but they resisted resulting in a standoff.

A shooting war erupted on March 1, 2013 that led to the launching of an all-out war by the Malaysian Security Forces against the Sultanate’s forces.

The Malaysian government had filed rebellion and terrorism charges against those captured, one of them the son of Sultan, who denied participation in the standoff.

6th RPSB troops return to Neg. Occ.

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 3): 6th RPSB troops return to Neg. Occ.

The 120 troopers of the 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion, who augmented those in Zamboanga during the crisis in Mindanao, have returned to Negros “intact”.

Newly-promoted Senior Supt. Iver Apellido, 6 th RPSB director, said yesterday that he and his men left Negros as a whole, and have returned also as a whole.

Police Director General Alan Purisima had earlier conferred the Medalya ng Kagalingan, the PNP Merit Medal, on the 6th RPSB troopers headed by Apellido in recognition for their peacekeeping efforts during the Zamboanga crisis.

Police records show that the 6 th RPSB served as support group for the ground troops in cordoning areas occupied by about 400 armed followers of Moro National Liberation Front-Nur Misuari faction, and in securing captured MNLF fighters.

Chief Supt. Josephus Angan, regional police director of the Western Visayas, accompanied by Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, led the welcome ceremony on Dec. 30 at Camp Aniceto Lacson in Victorias City, to honor the RPSB troopers.

Angan congratulated the police contingent from Negros for a job well done in the maintenance of peace and order in Zamboanga City, and for the professionalism they displayed for 121 days in their place of assignment.

“ You have made the PRO6 very proud because of your displayed gallantry and patriotism in a far away land,” he told the 6 th RPSB troopers, adding, “You have wholly played your role as police officers, always ready to give your full potentials in the accomplishment of the organization's goal, even at the cost of your life and limb”.

Apellido said nobody among them was injured or killed during the Zamboanga standoff.

Army condemns NPA killings

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 3): Army condemns NPA killings

After the Leonardo Panaligan Command announced that they have penalized members of the New People's Army responsible for the ambush of civilians and policemen in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, last year, the military yesterday challenged the NPA to bring those responsible for the killing of a ranking leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade in Iloilo, to the courts of law.

The killing of Demetrio Capilastique, RPA-ABB national deputy commander, on Dec. 30 in Badiangan,Iloilo, was claimed by the NPA in a statement published at the website of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The ambush in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana on Jan. 27 last year, which was claimed by the NPA, left nine persons dead, and caused injuries to 12 others.

Almost a year ago, RPA-ABB leader Joven Tababa and Gina Genilan Gestalao, wife of a former RPA-ABB member, were shot dead separately by NPA assassins January last year, in Tigbauan and San Joaquin, Iloilo, respectively, military records show.

Capilastique, alias Ka Hugo, was accused by the NPA for his involvement in several killings in Panay island.

Brig. Gen. Arnold Quiapo, 301 st Infantry Brigade commander, who said that what the NPA had done was an inhumane act. He also said that any issue against Capilastique should be brought to the proper court to let him answer to our judicial system.

As the CPP-NPA-NDF claimed responsibility for the killing, they should also bring those culprits from their ranks to the courts of law, Quiapo said.

Capilastique was the deputy of Carapali Lualhati, nom de guerre of Stephen Paduano, who had resigned from the RPA-ABB in 2011, to join politics.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, said” in a statement, he issued that these unlawful killings and blatant violations of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law of the NPA should be stopped.

IEP: BIFM-BIFF attacks in North Cotabato

Posted to the Islamic Emirate (IEP) of the Philippines Facebook page (Jan 3): BIFM-BIFF attacks in North Cotabato

(Old photo of Cdr Kato and BIFF rebels)

Assalamu alaicum mga suled ku kanu agama islam....i am asking to every muslim to make dua...for our brothers in jihad (BIFM-BIFF),because from dec.31,2013 untill now have heavy (confrontation) between the tyrants of government of the phillipines and the victorious mujahideen in BRGY. Mapagkaya, PIKIT north cotabato. Alhamdulilllah 5 post of (the) infidels had overun by BIFF (bangsamoro islamic freedom fighters). Takbir...allahu akbar...many times as u can. Dont forget us in ur dua...

CPP/NPA: Intel ng 17th IB sa Cagayan, pinarusahan!

Just recently posted to the PRWC blog site (Dec 26): Intel ng 17th IB sa Cagayan, pinarusahan! (17th IB Intel (agent) in Cagayan punished)

Crispin Apolinario
NPA West Cagayan Front Operations Command (Danilo Ben Command)
Disyembre 26, 2013

Pinarusahan ng isang tim ng mga partisano ng Danilo Ben Command – NPA West Cagayan si Sgt. Edimar Vinoya, intel ng 17th IB sa Cagayan. Nangyari ang pamamarusa noong ika-23 ng Disyembre, alas-tres ng hapon sa Brgy. Tubel, Allacapan, Cagayan.

[Sgt. Edimar Vinoya, (intelligence agent) of the 17th IB in Cagayan was punished by a team of partisans from the  Danilo Ben Command - NPA West Cagayan on 23 December at three o'clock in the afternoon in Brgy. Tubel, Allacapan, Cagayan.]

Ang pamamarusa ay hatol mismo ng mamamayang pinagbantaan at sinaywar ni Vinoya sa panahong siya ay intel ng 17th IB hanggang hugutin siya ng 21st IB nang ang huli’y maidestino sa probinsya.

May mga kaso rin ng paglabag sa karapatang-tao si Vinoya. Kabilang dito ang harassment at intimidasyon, random interrogation sa mga pinaghihinalaan niyang sumusuporta sa NPA at pagmamanman sa mga lider-magsasaka.

Pinasinungaling naman ng tagapagsalita ang pahayag ng AFP na nakadestino si Vinoya sa Kalinga at nagbabakasyon lamang para sa kapaskuhan. Sa katunayan, noong mga buwan ng Hunyo hanggang Oktubre, kasama pa si Vinoya na nag-gayd sa nag-ooperasyong tropa ng 21st IB sa Allacapan at sa panahon namang walang operasyon ay malayang nakakaikot sa bayan. Ayon kay Ka Crispin Apolinario, narekober pa mula kay Vinoya ang dalawang granada.

Pinabulaanan din ni Apolinario ang bintang ng AFP na nilabag ng BHB ang idineklarang tigil-putukan sa kapaskuhan. Ang isinagawang aksyon ng yunit ng BHB ay isinagawa bago nagkabisa ang naturang deklarasyong ng Komite Sentral ng PKP para sa panahon ng kapaskuhan at para mabigyang ng pagkakataon ang mamamayan na makadalo sa mga pagdiriwang ng ika-45 anibersaryo ng Partido.

Pinasalamatan ng DBC-NPA ang mga mamamayan na tumulong upang maipataw ang rebolusyonaryong hustisya kay Vinoya. Hinikayat ni Apolinario na maging matapang ang mamamayan na sampahan ng kaso at isumbong sa NPA ang mga abusadong pulis at militar. Nagpaalala rin ito sa pulisya’t militar na pagsilbihan nila ang kanilang uring pinanggalingan at makiisa sa mga magsasaka.

PA vows to provide modern combat equipment for soldiers this year

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 3): PA vows to provide modern combat equipment for soldiers this year

The commanding general of the Philippine Army has visited Camp Melchor dela Cruz here for an exit visit to the army officials and personnel of the camp.

Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, Philippine Army chief,  visited the camp yesterday announcing that modern firearms and combat equipment  are set to be provided to the army soldiers this year.

Coballes said the provision of modern firearms and other combat equipment of soldiers is provided under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

Among the combat equipment to be provided are firearms, first aid kits, combat shoes, bullet proof vests and other protective gears.

Coballes lauded the officials and personnel of the army division for continuously performing their duties in protecting the country and the people.

The army chief is set to retire next month when he met the mandatory retirement age in the military.

AFP vows to be vigilant as CPP-NPA ceasefire ends

From the Philippine Star (Jan 4): AFP vows to be vigilant as CPP-NPA ceasefire ends

The military vowed to be vigilant against possible attacks by insurgents as the six-day holiday ceasefire declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ended on Thursday.

Government forces, however, cannot launch offensives just yet as the truce declared by MalacaƱang will continue to be in effect until Jan. 15.

“We will continue with the suspension of military operations against them. However, we will maintain our active defense,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

“We will continue our active defense and protect our soldiers and our camps,” he added.

The CPP declared a truce that took effect from Dec. 24 to 26 and from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. The government reciprocated the declaration by implementing a longer truce from Dec. 21 to Jan. 15.

The military and the rebels have traded accusations of truce violations.

Security officials said one soldier was killed after New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas attacked a military team in Impasugong, Bukidnon last Dec. 26, the third day of the holiday truce declared by the CPP.

Communist rebels, however, said the military violated the ceasefire by deploying additional troops and assets in Southern Mindanao.

The National Democratic Front said the Army has boosted its presence in parts of Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

The military, however, denied violating the ceasefire, saying that the deployment of troops was meant to protect people from threats.

In its New Year statement, the CPP said its armed units would continue to “undertake more frequent tactical offensives.”

“This year, every NPA command must gun for a record increase in the number of weapons seized from the reactionary military, paramilitary and police forces,” the group said.

The CPP also claimed that the military’s security plan Bayanihan had failed to weaken the strength of the NPA.

“As 2013 ends, we can conclusively declare the defeat of the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan which failed in its declared aim of reducing the armed strength of the New People’s Army to inconsequentiality by the middle of this year,” it said.

Bayanihan, which took effect in 2011, seeks to end insurgency by curbing its roots like poverty and lack of access to basic services.

The military, however, insisted that it achieved “great successes” last year.

“The year 2013 has been another time of distinguished service to our nation in fulfillment of our mandate as protector of the people and the state,” Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said in his New Year message.

“We were also confronted with great challenges that tested our strength and resolve. But through our collective effort, we were able to meet these challenges, and our nation emerged more peaceful, and more secure,” he added.

PA's 9th Infantry Division conducts own inquiry on soldiers violating no-firing policy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): PA's 9th Infantry Division conducts own inquiry on soldiers violating no-firing policy

The Camarines Sur-based 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said Friday it is conducting its own inquiry on reports that some of its soldiers fired warning shots at a group of intoxicated men who were allegedly harassing an intelligence operative in Naga City on New Year's eve.

"We are conducting our own inquiry to help competent authorities decide on what course of action to take because the incident took place inside our area of responsibility," 9th Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar said.

He added that the matter is now under the jurisdiction of the Naga City Philippine National Police.

The suspect soldiers are now under the 9th Infantry Division custody and undergoing investigation.

"The Philippine Army continuously monitors incidents of indiscriminate firing perpetrated by its personnel during the celebration of New Year in the different parts of the country," Army spokesperson Capt. Anthony Bacus earlier said.

He added that they are currently consolidating reports from the line units of the Army nationwide regarding violations of the no-firing policy.

It can be recalled that the PA reiterated the strict implementation of its no-(indiscriminate) firing policy not just in observing significant occasions such as the New Year, but also throughout the year.

Unit commanders were also reminded to closely monitor their subordinates and ensure that the policy is strictly enforced.

10 Muslim bandits die, Army hurt in clashes in NorCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): 10 Muslim bandits die, Army hurt in clashes in NorCot

The Philippine Army (PA) here announced on Friday that ten Muslim bandits were killed in two days of sporadic skirmishes after they attacked military detachments in Pikit, North Cotabato.

Captain Anthony Bulao, speaking for the military's 602nd infantry brigade based here, said the renegade Moro rebels belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) had been harassing Army and militia positions in Barangays Paidu Pulangi, Nabalawag in Pikit, and adjacent villages in Aleosan, both in North Cotabato.

Bulao said three BIFF fighters were killed in a clash with elements of the 7th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Nabalawag on January 1.

A soldier was slightly wounded in the two-hour firefight until the guerrillas fled to Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao, a town separated only by a river with Pikit, North Cotabato.

“After they retreated they continued sniper shots," Bulao said.

On Thursday, seven rebels who attacked the village of Paidu Pulangi, also in Pikit, were killed after an hour-long firefight between the attackers and elements of the 7th Infantry Battalion, Bulao said.

“BIFF kept on harassing our forces in a bid to retaliate the death of their two companions,” Bulao said.

Bulao, citing intelligence information provided by local Muslim leaders, said that the BIFF, composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas who turned into banditry, had targeted the multi-billion peso Maridagao-Malitubog irrigation project.

"They would like to extort money from irrigation officials and Moro communities who have been earning much because of the irrigation project," Bulao told reporters.

The project provides irrigation to at least 10,000 hectares of rice fields in Pikit and exits water toward Rio Grande de Mindanao.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied the military claim and stressed that not a single BIFF was hit by Army artillery fire.

“Our forces will continue to harass Army and CAFGU detachments, we advise the civilians near them to leave," Mama said in Filipino.

Bulao said the BIFF also attacked villages in Aleosan, Midsayap and Pikit, in North Cotabato since December 31.

These North Cotabato low-lying villages are separated by rivers with Datu Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao. The BIFF used the river in escaping back to Shariff Saydona.

Bulao said more troops were deployed at the lower portion of Mal-Mar irrigation project to prevent BIFF from harassing communities surrounding the dams.

The BIFF gained notoriety when they broke ties with the MILF in 2008 following the botched signing of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Led by former MILF field commander Uztads Ameril Umra Kato, the BIFF had launched simultaneous attacks against government forces in Maguindanao and North Cotabato last year, set off improvised bombs in populated communities and held hostage civilians, including teachers, in harassing villages.

Few civilian families have fled to nearby villages but returned home as the BIFF returned to the marshland.

Army chief visits Isabela camp; vows to provide modern combat equipment to soldiers this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): Army chief visits Isabela camp; vows to provide modern combat equipment to soldiers this year

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela -- The commanding general of the Philippine Army made a New Year visit to Camp Melchor dela Cruz based in the town of Gamu, Isabela on Thursday, purposely to boost the morale of the soldiers at the start of the year.

During the visit, Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes announced to the officials and soldiers that modern firearms and other combat equipment are set to be provided to the army personnel this year.

Coballes said the provision of modern firearms and other combat equipment of soldiers is provided for under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

Among the combat equipment to be provided to the soldiers are firearms, first aid kits, combat shoes, bullet proof vests and other protective gear.

“Our soldiers will soon be receiving modern combat equipment to effectively carry out the soldier's mandate,” Coballes said.

He lauded the officials and personnel of the Army division for continuously performing their duties in protecting the country and the people.

Authorities assure rebel returnees of govt assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): Authorities assure rebel returnees of govt assistance

Civilian and military authorities in Negros Oriental on Friday assured rebel returnees of the sincerity of government in helping them start fresh in their lives outside of the underground movement after leaving the New People’s Army – the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The assurance comes as Governor Roel Degamo and Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Negros Oriental, led other civil government agencies and military officials on Friday in the turning over of initial cash assistance to at least four members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.

The recipients, former regular members of the NPA’s Larangan Guerilla 1 operating in northern Negros Oriental until their surrender to military authorities last year, were Danny Boy Sombilon Encabo of Barangay Tacpao; Jemmar CaƱete Visor of Sitio Titip Dako, Barangay Sandayao; Oliver Callora Villahermosa of Batayan, Barangay Tacpao; and Morita Bayato Barino, of Binobohona, all in Guihulngan City.

They are the first batch of rebel returnees in Negros Oriental to receive financial assistance from the provincial government for the new year , said Provincial Social Welfare Officer Alice Legarde.

Last year, around 27 other rebel returnees also received similar assistance from the government, records showed.

It has been always a dream of the provincial government of Negros Oriental to attain true and lasting peace and genuine development by freeing itself from the clutches of the long-running insurgency problem, said Governor Degamo. He assured that his administration would continue to deliver the basic services and carry on with infrastructure and development projects in areas vulnerable to the insurgency problem.

According to Legarde, the four are also qualified to each receive a total of P65,000 from the national government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) once all requirements and other documents are submitted and approved.

The P65,000 comprises P50,000 for livelihood assistance under which a rebel returnee-recipient shall have to undergo training and P15,000 emergency assistance, said Legarde.

Legarde expressed hope that the financial assistance from the national government will be released by the 2nd quarter of this year at the latest.

One of the rebel returnees, Morita Bayato Barino, shed tears and hugged Gov. Degamo after receiving her check. Barino, 35, married, admitted that she was an “amazon’ or lady fighter of the NPA for three years until she decided to leave.

The three other former NPA members also thanked the governor and the Philippine Army for their kindness in facilitating their surrender, taking good care of them during the transition period and assisting in the processing of financial aid promised them.

Brig. Gen. Patrimonio, in a brief message during the turn-over ceremony, sounded the call to other members of the NPA to go back to the folds of the law.

He reiterated the governor’s statement earlier that the war against insurgency cannot be won solely by combat operations but through other means.

“Let us abandon the armed struggle”, he said, adding that the Philippine Army is continuously doing the rounds especially in the insurgency-affected areas to check on problems and how these can be solved by line agencies.

Patrimonio disclosed that Bayanihan Teams of the Philippine Army serve as conduits as well in identifying problems and recommending solutions to the other government agencies involved in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign or Internal Peace and Security Plan.

BIFF fails to overrun Army base in NorCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): BIFF fails to overrun Army base in NorCot

Renegade Muslim rebels tried, but failed anew, to overrun an Army detachment in Barangay Paidu Pulangi, Pikit, North Cotabato, the Army here said.

Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the military's 602nd Infantry Brigade, said about eight Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members have been firing at soldiers station across the Rio Grande river in Barangay Paidu Pulangi.

"From across the river, the BIFF had been sniping our troops since noon Friday," Bulao told reporters, though no casualty was reported.

Bulao accused the Muslim rebels from mulcting National Irrigation Administration (NIA) officials and private contractors of a flagship irrigation project in North Cotabato.

Bulao said the BIFF forces have been demanding protection money from the administration of Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation project that provides irrigation to 16,000 hectares of rice fields in the towns of Pikit and Aleosan, both in North Cotabato.

"The BIFF is demanding a P3 million money from NIA officials and private contractors," Bulao said.

The BIFF, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had launched series of attacks against government forces stationed in Barangays Nabalawag and Paidu Pulangi, both in Pikit.

On January 1, the BIFF attacked a militia-Army detachment of 40th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Nabalawag that left two BIFF killed and a soldier wounded, Bulao said.

The next morning, a huge number of BIFF forces harassed a detachment of the 7th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Paidu Pulangi, forcing the Army to use artillery to drive away the rebels.

Quoting village officials, Bulao said seven BIFF fighters were killed when hit by artillery attacks on Thursday morning.

"They wanted to show they are still a force to reckon with, thus they continue to harass Army and irrigation project workers," he said.

At 1:00 p.m. Friday, BIFF forces also fired on the Army detachment in Paidu Pulangi from across the Rio Grande de Mindanao which separates North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, confirmed their men were involved in the harassment but denied extortion allegations by the military.

"I believed we have not suffered even one wounded fighter," Mama said in Filipino.

The Mal-Mar irrigation project is a multi-billion irrigation dam funded by World Bank and national government.It first phase has been benefiting Moro rice farmers in the towns of Kabacan, Pikit and Aleosan, all in North Cotabato.

Army chief starts farewell visit to troops

From InterAksyon (Jan 3): Army chief starts farewell visit to troops

Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes

The commanding general of the Philippine Army began Thursday his farewell visit to field units of the 90,000-strong service arm.

Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Mapitagan” Class 1980, will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 in February.

 On Thursday, Coballes visited the 5th Infantry Division commanded by Major General Joel Ybanez and based at Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Barangay Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

Coballes, a native of Cagayan province, is the 55th Army chief. Before this, he was Armed Forces vice chief of staff.

Army spokesman Captain Anthony Bacus described Coballes’ visit to the 5th ID “as part of the traditional Yuletide visit of the commanding general.”

“Apart from bringing holiday cheers to the soldiers, the visit also aims to boost the morale of the troops in order to motivate them to carry out their mandates with dedication and commitment,” Bacus said.

Interaksyon .com earlier had first crack at reporting the names of possible contenders for the Army chief position.

Leading them is Northern Luzon Command chief Leiutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang (PMA “Dimalupig” Class 1981), classmate of Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista.

Also in the running is Major General Hernando Iriberri, commander of the 7th Infantry Division and a member of PMA “Matikas” Class 1983, who sources say is banking on the support of his long-time mentor Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Army kills nine Bangsamoro rebels in skirmishes in Pikit

From InterAksyon (Jan 3): Army kills nine Bangsamoro rebels in skirmishes in Pikit

File photo of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters

Philippine troops repulsed a series of attacks by a breakaway Muslim insurgent group in the country's south that left nine rebels dead and two soldiers wounded, the army said Friday.

The series of skirmishes occurred around several small military outposts near the rural town of Pikit between Tuesday and Thursday, local military spokesman Captain Antonio Bulao told Agence France-Presse.

Nine members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were killed in the fighting, Bulao said, citing intelligence reports.

The rebel faction's spokesman, Abu Misri, confirmed that its forces were involved in the fighting, but denied that it sustained casualties.

Bulao said two soldiers were wounded in the fighting.

The rebel faction split off from the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, after the MILF entered into peace talks with the government to end decades of conflict that have claimed 150,000 lives.

Bulao accused the renegade rebels of extorting from private contractors of a government irrigation project, but Misri denied this.

Misri also said the latest flare-up of fighting was unrelated to the government's peace talks with the MILF.

"This has no relation to the peace talks. We will not sabotage them," he told Agence France-Presse.

He said the rebels attacked because soldiers allegedly harassed Muslim farmers in the area, which Bulao denies.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been fighting since the 1970s for a separate Muslim state in the south, but has agreed to a ceasefire and peace talks with the government.

However the BIFF have refused to abide by the ceasefire, and have staged scattered attacks on civilians and the armed forces.

President Benigno Aquino has promised to end the insurgency by the conclusion of his six-year term in 2016.

The peace talks reached a crucial stage last month after the two sides hammered out the details of a power-sharing agreement within a proposed Muslim self-rule area in the south.

2 soldiers wounded in clash with Moro rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 3): 2 soldiers wounded in clash with Moro rebels

Two government soldiers were wounded in a clash with Muslim rebels opposed to peace talks with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front in southern Philippines, the military said.

It said a series of fighting in North Cotabato’s Pikit town erupted after a band of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked security forces guarding government projects there.

The military insisted that at least 9 rebels were killed in the fighting which began earlier this week, but security officials were only sighting unverified intelligence reports.

There was no immediate statement from the rebel group, which broke away with the MILF now currently negotiating with Manila for a separate Muslim autonomy in Mindanao, a mineral-rich region, but also dangerous due to the presence of other rebels and terror groups linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.

The MILF, now the country’s largest Muslim rebel group did not give any statement in connection to the latest skirmishes, but it previously denounced the BIFF for the continuing violence in the region. The BIFF wanted independence in Mindanao and rejected a limited autonomy for Muslims.

A peace accord is expected to be signed this year by Philippine government peace negotiators with the MILF following marathon talks in Malaysia, which is brokering the peace process.

The MILF said 2014 is a crucial year for the peace talks, stressing the need to forge the peace deal in the first quarter of the year so that the basic law can be immediately ratified by Muslims to pave the way for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro region which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao provinces, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.