Thursday, January 30, 2014

Army overruns BIFF camp, traps 100 rebels

From the Manila Times (Jan 30): Army overruns BIFF camp, traps 100 rebels

MORE than a hundred members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been cornered by government forces following clashes in central Mindanao that left at least 41 people dead and dozens wounded.

The military was given by the joint action group of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) until Saturday to complete its mission to hunt down the BIFF, whose members broke into smaller groups to better elude government troops, a military official said on Thursday.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF members had fled to Reina Regente mountain at the boundary of Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato province.

“They (BIFF) broke into smaller groups after a running gunbattle yesterday (Wednesday) and the army and police have overrun the villages of Bakat and Ganta at Sharif Saydona Mustapha in Maguindao,” Hermoso said.

Sharif Saydona Mustapha is a known BIFF stronghold. The group’s headquarters, training camp and center for manufacturing improvised explosive devices are all located in the town.

“There were running gunbattles because they splintered into smaller groups. There are still some sporadic fighting in [Brgy.] Bakat and they are still there,” Hermoso said.
The army official said one government soldier was killed while 13 others were wounded since clashes broke out on Monday.

Hermoso said the three Army battalions are more than enough to go after the BIFF.
He added that the Adhoc-Joint Action Group (AHJAG) has extended for 72 hours the military and police’s operation against the BIFF, which had broken from the MILF.

“We have requested for an extension and the AHJAG granted our request and this will last until Saturday if they (BIFF) surrender. If not, we will continue, but (that) depends on the situation on the ground,” Hermoso said.

He said the MNLF and MILF pledged to steer clear of the fighting and not take sides.
“We made close coordination with them and they have promised that their groups will not support or make alliance… but some of their members have relatives with the BIFF,” Hermoso said.

Former MILF commander Ameril Umbrakato formed the BIFF in 2012, and the group has since been involved in terrorist acts, including the sacking of villages and taking of hostages.

Malacañang on Thursday justified the offensive against the BIFF as part of the military’s duty to preserve peace in Mindanao.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they want the hostilities to end soon through heightened cooperation between government troops and MILF fighters.

“We need to understand the situation. We also need to understand that the primary responsibility of our Armed Forces and the police is to ensure the safety of our people,” Coloma said.

“If there are sectors who would claim that the operations encroach their territory, the important question is whether the forces of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the police follow the accepted rules of engagement. Do they follow the important consideration of protection of human rights and against indiscriminate use of force?” he said.

Coloma was reacting to reports that MNLF forces in central Mindanao complained that government troops had entered their turf.

But Coloma said government troops have orders to strictly abide by the rules of engagement and protect civilians.

Coloma refuted the MNLF’s claim that they were left out in the negotiations.

“There was no move that intends to disadvantage or discriminate any particular sector because our objective is to have a peace pact. We do not want violence. But we need to defend the safety of the people with the end in view of having lasting peace,” he pointed out.

Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the military operations “are geared at degrading the BIFF’s capability to continue to cause harm to the government forces, civilians and the peace process.”

“Over the last nine months, the [BIFF] repeatedly harassed our soldiers and terrorized local communities. They planted roadside bombs, sniped at our soldiers, took school teachers as hostages, and in one instance, even beheaded a civilian captive. A few days ago, in the midst of the fighting, they commandeered a private vehicle and forcibly used it as a roadblock,” she noted.

“Government and the MILF have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the operations will not spill over to involve MILF combatants or cause unnecessary or prolonged hardship to civilians,” she said.

Ferrer appealed the the BIFF to “put down their arms and be part of the process.”
As the fighting entered its third day, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) vowed to support peace efforts in Mindanao.

In a statement, the PCEC congratulated the members of the government and the Muslim peace panels who demonstrated transparency, determination, and trustworthiness as they struggled with many difficult issues around the negotiating table.

“We pray that the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Transition Commission would reflect the just and peaceful aspirations of all the Moro people, all the various tribes among the Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Migrants in Mindanao. We also pray that this BBL would pass the careful, responsible examination and deliberation in the House of Representatives using the lenses of justice, righteousness, and peace for all,” the statement said.

MILF fighters refuse to surrender arms

From the Manila Times (Jan 31): MILF fighters refuse to surrender arms

The fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not turn in their weapons despite the signing of the final annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement that calls for the decommissioning of the MILF force.

An MILF ground commander said half of MILF’s forces want to hold on to their firearms on the chance that the peace deal will eventually fail, in the same way that the 1996 agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government was left unimplemented.

“Of course we don’t want to surrender our firearms because if they [government] fail to implement what the MILF had been fighting for, we will still have our firearms and we can fight again for our cause,” the commander, who wanted to be identified only as Malik, said.

Malik told The Manila Times majority of his comrades will likely defy orders to lay down their arms.

“What happens to us when our arms are taken away?” said Malik, who claims to lead 200 men.

Malik said not all MILF fighters follow orders from their leaders. He said there are three factions in the group—one loyal to Salamat, the second to Murad and the third to Umbrakato.

He said the prevailing suspicion among MILF fighters is that only their leaders and the people close to them will benefit from the peace agreement.

Under the normalization annex signed last week, a decommissioning body of three foreign and four local experts nominated by the two parties will oversee the disarming of MILF.

A foreign expert will head the panel that will make a headcount of MILF fighters and weapons and decide how to collect and stockpile of the surrendered weapons.

The MNLF has denounced the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement, insisting that the government must first guarantee that the peace pact signed by his group in 1996 is implemented.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. explained the decommissioning of MILF troops does not mean that the group has surrendered to the government.

“We emphatically explained that this is not surrender. There was no notion or element of surrender that was discussed ever since,” Coloma said.

He defined decommissioning as “a voluntary deactivation of arms.”

“The MILF recognizes the new image and form of their participation in the development of the region…They have acknowledged that they will have to actively, purposively transform themselves into a social movement; and they will take on the added responsibility of law enforcement in the area,” Coloma said.

Under the normalization process, the MILF will organize its own law enforcement and police forces.

“They will assume the bigger responsibility of enforcing the law and keeping peace and order in their area. They will assume the responsibility of taking on, law enforcement and police duties in the area,” Coloma said.

Bigger problem

 Groups of social democrats headed by a non-government organization called the Panaghugpong Mindanao urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd not to sign the final peace agreement with the MILF, saying it will create more serious problems in Mindanao.

The group, a regional movement under the Ang Katipunan ng mga Samahang Maharlika (Ang KaSaMa Inc.), said signing the final agreement may spark a bigger conflict that could engulf Mindanao.

Ang KaSaMa Inc. national coordinator Deo Palma told The Times his group will hold a Peace and Development Summit in University of the Philippines in Diliman where the participants will plan how to convince the President to give priority to the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

Palma warned that disregarding the pact with the MNLF could lead to a full-scale war.
“It’s not President Aquino or the Manila people who will suffer but the people in Mindanao who will bear the consequences if the 70,000 forces of the MNLF wage a wider war against the Aquino government,” Palma said.

On Wednesday, President Aquino vowed to crush “peace spoilers,” particularly the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the MNLF which continue to oppose to the pact with the MILF.

The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo defended the so-called “spoilers of peace.”
Abraham Idrijani, secretary general and spokesman of the Sultanate, said groups which the President call “spoilers of peace” are not against peace in Mindanao but want only equal protection from the government.

“They wanted peace to reign but it has to embrace and transcend ideological lines and groups affiliations,” Idrijani told The Times. “Both the MNLF and the BIFF are Filipinos who deserve the protection of their ancestral and political rights by the Aquino government.”

Idrijani said the MNLF felt that the Aquino administration violated the three international treaties signed by the MNLF and the government during the time of president Corazon C. Aquino in 1987.

He pointed out that the agreement with the MILF covers the same territories covered by the international treaties already signed and mutually agreed upon.

NPAs kill barangay chief and ex-comrade in Agusan del Sur

From Malaya (Jan 31): NPAs kill barangay chief and ex-comrade in Agusan del Sur

A BARANGAY chairman who was a former New People’s Army member was shot dead by his former comrades Tuesday in Agusan del Sur.
Joselito Rodrigo, of sitio Kidihay, barangay Limot in Veruela town, was shot just after attending a meeting of barangay chiefs in barangay Poblacion, also in Veruela town, at around 5 p.m.
Rodrigo was on his way home aboard a motorcycle, with Cherry Lou Noos, barangay secretary, as passenger, when some 20 men blocked the road Purok 1, sitio Mahaba, in barangay Del Monte.
The rebels ordered Noos to alight and started to shoot Rodrigo, hitting him in different parts of the body. The rebels fled on foot, leaving Noos unharmed.
In Kalinga also Tuesday, government forces seized four high-powered firearms from the NPA.
Kalinga is among at least 30 provinces cleared by government forces of the communists. The military declared the province insurgency-free in 2011.
Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, chief of the military’s 1st Civil Relations Group, said a province declared as insurgency-free does not necessarily mean there is no rebel presence. He said it just means that the rebels have no capacity to cause serious problems.
On the seized firearms, Garcia said the M16 rifle, Garand rifle, Carbine rifle, and a Springfield rifle were unearthed in barangay Magnao in Tabuk town.
He said burying of firearms “is a manifestation their strength continues to dwindle.”
“They (NPA) are burying their firearms because they lack people to carry them (firearms),” he said.
Garcia said troops the 17th Infantry Battalion and militiamen proceeded to the area after persistent reports that NPA rebels buried something in the area a few months ago
In Agusan del Sur yesterday, forces from the 29th Infantry Battalion recovered an AK47 rifle, an improvised explosive device, and three backpacks with personal belongings and documents following a firefight with NPA rebels in barangay Tagmamarkay in Tubay town around 8:45 a.m. 
1Lt. Joe Patrick Martinez, chief of the 42nd Civil Military Operations Company, said the soldiers were deployed to the barangay after residents reported rebel presence in the area.
Martinez said about 20 rebels opened fire at the troops while approaching the rebel position. The troops maneuvered and instructed civilians to leave the area.
He said the rebels withdrew after a 20-minute firefight.
He said the rebels sustained casualties as evidenced by bloodstains in area where the insurgents positioned themselves.

BIFF fight widens; MILF, MNLF friends, kin join; gov’t forces engaged for 5th day

From Malaya (Jan 31): BIFF fight widens; MILF, MNLF friends, kin join; gov’t forces engaged for 5th day

FIGHTING between government forces and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao continued for the fifth day yesterday, with fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front aiding the BIFF.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the involvement of some MILF and MNLF men in the fighting is not sanctioned by the leaders of the two groups.
He said these MILF and MNLF members are fighting government troops merely “reinforced” their relatives in the BIFF.
“They’re (BIFF men) only about 100 but they are reinforced by their relatives from other armed groups when you engage them,” he said.
“This is an independent action by these people. It’s not an institutional action; (they joined) because they have relatives in the BIFF,” he added.
The MILF is engaged in peace talks with government. The MNLF signed a peace pact with government in 1996 but some of the members later left the group and formed the MILF. The 300-strong BIFF is headed a former MILF commander who is opposed to the peace negotiations between government and the MILF.
Hermoso, asked how many MILF and MNLF fighters have aided the BIFF, said they are a few because most of them “do not want to subscribe with the BIFF.”
Hermoso also said fighting is dragging because troops are unfamiliar with the terrain and because of the presence of civilians in the area.
He said the target is to finish the operation by Saturday.
As of yesterday, there were sporadic firefights in barangays Bakat and Ganta, both in Shariff Saidona Mustapha town, and barangay Damablas in Datu Piang town.
“We’re pursuing them and they splintered into smaller groups. As of now, there is sporadic fighting. They (BIFF men) are still there,” he said.
The fighting broke out last Sunday in Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao when government forces launched law enforcement operations against BIFF members for atrocities.
The military cleared the operations with MILF because the areas of operations are near MILF communities.
Hermoso said the military would continue with the operations “because the MILF itself requested to finish off the BIFF so that they would have no problem later on.”
He also said there is no need to deploy additional forces in Maguindanao because there are enough operating troops. Three Army battalions are directly involved in the campaign and other units are playing a support role, he said.
Around 40 BIFF men, including child warriors, have been killed since Sunday while 12 others were wounded. On the government side, a soldier has died and 13 others were wounded.
Miriam Cornel-Ferrer, chair of the government panel in the peace talks with the MILF, urged BIFF members to lay down their arms and be part of the peace process.
“We ask them (BIFF) to listen to the plea of their own brothers and sisters to give peace a chance,” she said.
She said local government officials are ready to receive BIFF men who would want to participate in programs under the peace agreement. She said the BIFF could also contact supporters or local ground commanders of the MILF.
She also said relief provisions have been on standby for those temporarily displaced.

UK backs rules-based solution to West Philippine Sea disputes

From InterAksyon (Jan 31): UK backs rules-based solution to West Philippine Sea disputes

The United Kingdom on Thursday backed a growing international clamor for the territorial row in the South China Sea to be resolved based on rule of law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

British Foreign Minister William Hague, who is in the country for a one-day visit, also urged all parties to the disputes to “seek peaceful and cooperative solutions” in resource-rich waters being claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“In the international system and within states themselves, a principled and rules-based approach will be critical to stability and growth in the long term,” Hague told diplomats and government officials during a foreign policy speech in Makati City.

“I assure you we will always encourage not only here but all over the world, we encourage a rules-based rather than power-based solution to the disputes,” Hague said in a statement that reflects the increasing international concern over the long-running territorial row, the need to prevent the conflict into turning violent and an assurance of unimpeded access in the busy sealanes.

Tensions spiked anew in waters after China imposed a fishing restriction against foreign vessels over nearly the entire South China Sea.

Parts of the waters that fall under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone have been renamed West Philippine Sea by Manila. China has declared undisputed claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, saying it has ancient maps and documents to prove its assertion.

The maritime row was among the several issues taken up by Hague and his Philippine counterpart, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario during their meeting.

Del Rosario said he and Hague agreed that countries “should desist from taking actions that affect peace, security and stability in the region.”

“We further agreed on the importance of maritime security, freedom of navigation, non-use of force and the threat of the use of force, and the peaceful settlement of disputes to peace and prosperity in the region,” Del Rosario told an earlier press conference with Hague in Manila.

Del Rosario thanked the U.K. for its support in the Philippines’ pursuit of a rules-based solution to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that governs the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.

The U.K., Hague said, does not take sides on the territorial rifts, but noted that his country would “want to see peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance to international law.”

Manila last year posed a legal challenge against China’s massive claim before a Netherlands-based tribunal.

Beijing refused to participate in the proceedings, saying the Philippine claims are groundless and lack legal merit.

Hague said the Philippines is entitled to pursue legal remedy against China and that the U.K. is following the progress of the case closely.

MILF to AFP: Kill all the BIFF rebels

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 31): MILF to AFP: Kill all the BIFF rebels

Fearing a future threat to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  with the establishment of a Bangsamoro substate, the MILF wants the Philippine military to kill the Muslim rebels, telling the Philippine Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  to finish off the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which armed group is now the subject of deliberate operations in Maguindanao, apparently to avert its breakaway group from posing an armed threat in the future.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said that government security forces continue to pursue BIFF elements in the towns of Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Piang yesterday.

Sporadic clashes are still erupting in the said areas between military troops and BIFF.

So far, 40 BIFF rebels and one soldier have been killed in the ongoing conflict in Maguindanao, according to the military, even when there are no cadavers to buttress its claim of the number of dead BIFF rebels.

BIFF’s Umbra Kato debunked the military claim, saying that only two of its fighters have been killed.

Ironically, the MILF rebels then, along with the BIFF, before the BIFF cut off from the MILF, and before the MILF cut off its ties with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNL), also took the very same position as the BIFF today, killing soldiers and even beheading them.

“There will be no let up, we will not stop because that is the request of the MILF – to stop BIFF, so that they (MILF) will have no problem later on,” said Hermoso.

Hermoso said that there were reports that many BIFF members were also wounded and urged them to coordinate with barangay officials to seek proper medical attention.

“There are many wounded and we encourage the BIFF to coordinate with local officials, barangay officials to have proper medical attention…as humanitarian consideration because they are fellow Filipinos,” said Hermoso.

There have been “sporadic (clashes) because they (BIFF rebels)  splintered into smaller groups,” said Hermoso.

According to Hermoso, the military is not deploying fresh troops to Maguindanao to augment the Army’s 601st Brigade which is leading the deliberate law enforcement operations against the BIFF.

Hermoso said that three Army battalions are involved in the operations.

Prior to the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the administration of then President Ramos and MNLF chaired by Nur Misuari, the MILF was formed by Hashim Salamat, who clamored for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao instead of autonomy.

This was the reason for the break with Misuari, which breakaway group formed itself into the MILF.

The MILF, now headed by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, had just signed the normalization annex, the last contentious issue under the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) which will pave the way for the comprehensive compact agreement between the MILF and the government of the Philippines.

In 2011, Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato broke away from the MILF due to differences with the MILF leadership in handling the peace negotiations. Kato is known as a hardliner clamoring for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

The MNLF) yesterday scored the military’s deliberate operations against the BIFF  which came immediately after the government of the Philippines and the MILF agreed on the last contentious annex of the FAB.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman of MNLF, noted that while the government and the MILF urged the entire country to celebrate with the signing of the normalization annex of the FAB last Saturday, it was followed by massive military operations in Maguindanao.

“We were surprised that immediately after the signing, the government resorted again to violence. This is very saddening,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

“I thought the government is for peace, why launch such operations? Is this the government’s message to the MNLF if we do not support the peace talks, are we going to be subjected to  similar action?” he asked.

The government and MILF peace panels signed the normalization annex of FAB last Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

Immediately on Monday, the military launched its so-called deliberate law enforcement operations against BIFF personalities who have standing warrants of arrest.

The military, however, could not identify specifically the targets of the ongoing operations.

Fontanilla warned that such government move will only bring about conflict in Mindanao instead of peace and development.

“That (ongoing fighting) will only expand. It could escalate into government versus Muslim because our Muslim brothers, when attacked just like what is happening, will rally behind relatives regardless of group affiliation,” said Fontanilla.

“There will be no MNLF, MILF or BIFF, our Muslim brothers will fight for our brothers,” he added.

Fontanilla stressed that the MNLF, which signed a Final Peace Agreement with the government in 1996, has no official relations with the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the MILF founded by Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato in 2011.

However, Fontanilla said that there are MNLF members related with BIFF fighters.
The MNLF spokesman likened the present government moves in Maguindanao to what happened in Zamboanga City last September when government security forces engaged MNLF fighters in a 21-day conflict,

Meanwhile, the success of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF could either end in war or peace including the eradication of the Abu Sayyaf.

This was the position of former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon even as he called on the government to expedite the required measures that would implement the accord.

“If everything fails, there is only one alternative, wage war,” warned Biazon.

War will be the inevitable result of a failure by government to execute the provisions of the peace pact with the MILF while the annihilation of Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups in Mindanao will be part of the prize if the peace effort succeeds.

Biazon, a member of the administration Liberal Party, posited that an ad hoc legislative committee is needed to expedite measures needed in the implementation of the  accord.

Biazon, chairman of the House committee on national defense, admitted that there will be constitutional issues that might be brought before the Supreme Court which may rule for or against any enacted measures that will seal the peace treaty.

The Aquino government is expected to ask Congress to approve a bill that will amend existing laws or repeal Republic Act No. 6734 or the organic act that created ARMM.
“There are annexes to the treaty that might touch on constitutional provisions but we can avoid amending the Constitution.  There are ways to avoid it,” he said.

Biazon, however, underscored the importance of the peace agreement that is anchored on the Constitution.

Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the problem of the BIFF could also be solved with a peace agreement.

Biazon admitted that there is a need to amend the law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a requisite move for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity.

CPP/NDF: The conclusion of the MILF-GPH talks does not spell the end of the Moro revolutionary struggle

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 29): The conclusion of the MILF-GPH talks does not spell the end of the Moro revolutionary struggle

Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris)
NDFP Mindanao Chapter
Amid the euphoria on the recent signing of the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the NDFP-Mindanao cautions all stakeholders in the Moro struggle not to lose sight on the fundamental causes of the problems that saddle the Moro people. This is crucial because, no matter what agreement is forged, if feudal and semi-feudal bondage imposed upon the Moro people by the local ruling classes and their imperialist masters remain, no significant change is forthcoming. Without revolutionary change, their aspirations for a real autonomy remain elusive, including the problem of chauvinism against the Moro people.

Majority of the Moro continue to be victims of landlessness. The natural wealth of their ancestral lands and waters, such as the Liguasan Marsh, including their vast plains, will surely be target for plunder both by the domestic and multinational corporations. The local ruling classes continue to threaten the Moro people as second class Filipinos, peddling the utterly chauvinist line of their imperialist master that Moros are “terrorists” and the communities as “terrorist havens”, giving their fascist AFP the license to brutally attack genuine Moro resistance movements as they did against the MNLF in Zamboanga City last November 2013.

Clearly, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) does not address these more basic issues and instead settle on the pacifist power and palliative economic sharing that shall only benefit a few traditional elite Moro and their imperialist boss, which include new elite Moro as what history has witnessed with the result of the MNLF-GRP agreement.

The intent of the reactionary government to pacify the MILF may have partly succeeded but not the Moro struggle as a whole; in fact, while the negotiations are going on, skirmishes on the field have intensified. This will only lead to the galvanization of all Moro armed resistance outside of the MILF into one potent force that shall continue the Moro struggle for genuine self-determination and will wedge a substantial AFP force into fierce combat. The warmongering US-Aquino regime will not extricate their forces from Moro areas, thus, if this continues to be the case, we cannot expect strategic or long-term peace in the Mindanao.

When the euphoria on the “success” of the GPH-MILF talks settles down, the fighting between government and Moro resistance forces is expected to escalate, because conditions remain unchanged and even worsening, as can be gleaned from lessons learned both in the MNLF and MILF peace agreement with reactionary governments. The Moro resistance movement must clearly adhere to the more basic demands of the Moro peasants for the defense of their ancestral lands and they must closely coordinate their struggle with the Filipino struggle as a whole. It must understand the true reactionary nature of US puppet regimes so that it can avoid the trap that caught MNLF before and, most recently, the MILF.

On the other hand, the settlement of the root cause of civil war in our country through peace negotiation appears to be more elusive now under the US-Aquino regime because of its duplicity. In December of last year, it brazenly flaunted peace even as it escalated its armed brutalities by attacking NPA forces during the period of the Malacanang-declared ceasefire and recently announcing the deployment of an additional 7 battalions of its elite troops to Caraga Region and Region 10 within the first two months of this year to intensify its offensive military operations against the NPA. Their wrong belief that it had pacified the Moro resistance has emboldened the US-Aquino regime to defeat the revolutionary movement led by the CPP not in the negotiating table but through its brutal military offensive campaigns. But as the revolutionary movement grows stronger, Aquino III and his fascist forces may end up, as again, frustrated.

NPA weapons seized in 'insurgency-free' Kalinga

From the Philippine Star (Jan 30): NPA weapons seized in 'insurgency-free' Kalinga

Soldiers have recovered an arms cache of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Kalinga, one of the provinces declared “insurgency-free” by the government.

Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, chief of the Armed Forces 1st Civil Relations Group, said the arms cache was discovered in Barangay Magnao in Tabuk town Tuesday evening.

Recovered from the site were one M16 rifle, one garand rifle, one  carbine rifle and one springfield rifle.

“The successful recovery of the arms cache stemmed from persistent information coming from several local residents,” Garcia said.

“Authorities believe this is a manifestation of the dwindling number of NPA remnants who were forced to hide their firearms to avoid arrest,” he added.

Garcia  said the “insurgency-free” declaration does not necessarily mean zero presence of rebels. He said such declaration means that the rebellion in an area has weakened and could no longer overthrow the local leadership.

Meanwhile, members of the Army’s 29th battalion encountered around 20 NPA members in Tubay, Agusan del Norte  Thursday morning.

Lt. Col. Adonis Ariel Orio, commander of the battalion, said the clash ensued around 8:45 a.m. at Sitio Camarin, Barangay Tagmamarkay.

He said the rebels withdrew after 20 minutes of gun battle. Soldiers recovered one AK 47, one improvised explosive device and three backpacks with personal belongings and subversive documents from the encounter site.

“Tracks of bloods have been found (in the area) where the NPA (rebels) positioned themselves,” said 1Lt. Joe Martinez, chief of the 42nd Civil-Military Operations Company.

Security forces are now conducting pursuit operations against the rebels.

‘BIFF open to talks’

From Rappler (Jan 29): ‘BIFF open to talks’

Despite the ongoing hostilities between state security forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the rebel group said their doors are open for negotiations with the government.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said that Islamic teachings have taught them that regardless of the existing bitter conflict, all parties must still be willing to talk and make amends with their enemies.

“We were taught that if our enemies will talk to us we must face them and entertain them nicely,” Mama said.

But Mama claimed the government has not exerted any attempt to initiate talks with the rebel group.

He added that the BIFF is disappointed they have been consistently treated by government as bandits.

“For years, the government has sent heavily-armed troops to our communities, forcing us to fight back,” Mama said.

Mama said they wanted a peace negotiation that is “straight to the point.”

Unlike the GPH-MILF talks, which lasted for years, the BIFF wants a negotiation that is “direct,” Mama added.

The BIFF is presently waging a rebellion to claim an independent “Bangsamoro Islamic State” which is free from the “control” of the Philippine government.

Equal rights

“We wanted a state where everyone is equal. No Muslim, no Christian, no Lumad. Everyone must have equal rights. No one is poor and no one is rich. Islam is teaching us to create a world without boundaries and exploitation,” Mama added.

But for Col Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the military’s 6th Infantry Division, the BIFF should first face the criminal charges against them.

“We cannot negotiate with criminal elements. The BIFF must first face their criminal acts before the government can entertain them,” Hermoso said.

Hermoso explained that the charges against the leaders of the BIFF are criminal offenses and not political offenses.

North Cotabato governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said the ongoing law enforcement operation proves the sincerity of the government in achieving peace and order in the area.

“No one is above the law. The ongoing military operations are indicative of the government’s commitment to peace and justice. The skirmish between the military and the BIFF should not put to waste the gains of the peace process,” Taliño-Mendoza said.

'Settle the conflict'

Meanwhile, Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the MILF, said it is up to the government to initiate talks with the BIFF.

“My perception is that the government is avoiding talks with the BIFF. But I may be right or wrong in this. Maybe the government is thinking that if they will talk with the BIFF that it would legitimize the existence of the organization,” Jaafar said.

Balay Mindanaw, a Filipino Mindanao-based and Mindanao-focused organization focused on transforming this poorest and most conflict-torn of the country’s region into a home for its peoples, said they are pleased with the developments on peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (READ: Gov't, MILF agree on historic arms deal)

“However, we are also worried with the recent hostilities between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. As we continue to journey in attaining peace in Mindanao, the concern for the primacy of life is more crucial over quantitative accomplishments,” the Balay Mindanaw said. (READ: Soldiers attack MILF breakaway units)

The organization said efforts to bring peace in Mindanao “must be an inclusive process and that no one should be excluded.”

“We appeal to the government to reach out and settle the conflict without further bloodshed. And we are also asking the BIFF to open its doors and talk with the government,” the Balay Mindanao said.

Balay Mindanaw added that peoples of Mindanao should be “more vigilant in protecting the gains achieved after years of hard work in pushing for the completion of the peace deal against spoilers or groups and individuals with selfish agenda.”

After 3 days of fighting, the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) said at least 1,000 displaced families were reported in the province of Maguindanao.
  • Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha: 500 families
  • Bakat, Shariff Saydona Mustapha: 180 families
  • Damabalas, Datu Piang: 211 families
  • Reina Regente, Datu Piang: 150 families

Meanwhile, DSWD documented at least 796 families staying in 10 evacuation centers in Pikit, North Cotabato. About 913 families have sought shelter in the houses of relatives and friends.

MinHRAC is presently appealing for humanitarian aid for the displaced families. MinHRAC executive director Zainudin Malang appealed to the military and the BIFF to spare the civilians from the fighting.

A two-year-old girl and a pregnant woman were hurt in a bomb explosion at the public terminal in Datu Piang on Tuesday noon.

An artillery shell also landed near the evacuation center in Sitio Madtalbayug in Datu Piang on Tuesday evening, MinHRAC said.

Malang also appealed for help for the residents displaced by the hostilities.

“MinHRAC is calling on all parties to avoid hitting or harming civilians and their properties. It is also calling for aid agencies to attend to the needs of the civilians and make sure that no one is excluded from aid,” Malang said.‘biff-open-talks’

Military captures BIFF strongholds, extends operations

From Rappler (Jan 30): Military captures BIFF strongholds, extends operations

The Philippine military said it has captured strongholds of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao but it is extending its offensive against the rebels to run after remaining members.

"We have captured their strongholds in barangay Ganta and barangay Bakat in Shariff Saydona Mustapha. We have captured their training facility in Bakat and more importantly their headquarters and bomb-making facility in Ganta," Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Army's Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division, told Rappler in a phone interview.

Intense firefight occurred Wednesday night, January 29, in Ganta, where the BIFF manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDS). The encounter there killed more BIFF members and wounded more soldiers.

The death toll has risen to 41 as of Thursday morning, January 30. The military said 40 BIFF members and one soldier were killed. A total of 25 soldiers and rebels were also wounded.


The military operation was supposed to end Wednesday, January 29, but was extended for another 72 hours, or until Saturday, February 1.

Hermoso said the BIFF has splintered into "small groups" but the marshy terrain is proving to be a challenge, he said.

"We requested for an extension. It was okayed by the Government-MILF Ad hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG). We were granted an extension of 72 hours," he said.

Fighting erupted in Maguindanao between soldiers and the breakaway unit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday, January 26, hours after the government and the MILF signed the "Annex on Normalization" in Kuala Lumpur, which would pave the way for a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The military offensive has the backing of the MILF. "The ongoing military operations are geared at degrading the BIFF’s capability to continue to cause harm to the government forces, civilians and the peace process," said government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Ferrer said the ceasefire mechanisms of the government and the MILF ensured civilian safety and relief provisions are on standby for those have been displaced.

The site of the clashes are considered MILF territories. Formerly with the MILF, the BIFF members are also residents there. Hermoso said the MILF wants to get rid of the BIFF there because the peace deal is "very imminent" and their presence poses problems to the new political entity.

Hermoso said they want to "degrade" the BIFF into a "mere police matter."


The offensive against the BIFF is extended despite the calls of several groups, and even of the BIFF fighters, for a negotiation. (READ: BIFF open to talks)

The BIFF said they will wait for the government to initiate talks for either a temporary ceasefire or a full negotiation for the "Bangsamoro Islamic State" which they are demanding.

Hermoso scoffed at the BIFF's call. "They're now willing to negotiate because we got them. We think they should first answer to the crimes they've committed. They've beheaded people in Midsayap, they engaged in extortion activities," Hermoso said.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said they've captured and torched an armored personnel carrier (APC) after "confiscating" the .50-caliber machine gun mounted in the vehicle.

"We already torched it. We cannot use it because we do not have roads here," Mama said.

Thousands of families continue to stay in various evacuation sites while classes are affected as the sporadic exchanges of gunfire, air assaults, and artillery shelling continue.

BIFF denies death toll

The BIFF denied the military death toll. Mama said only 7 BIFF members were wounded.

Hermoso said they have identified 12 of the 40 BIFF casualties. They've included in their count freshly dug graves, which, he said, they did not touch anymore fearing they would violate cultural sensitivities.

Hermoso claimed that among those killed in the firefights were arm-toting child warriors as young as 15 years old wearing BIFF uniforms. He said they are coordinating with barangay officials to get their identities.

NPA official falls: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 30): NPA official falls: Army

A suspected leader of the New People’s Army, with a pending arrest warrant for murder, was apprehended Tuesday by troopers of the Army’s 32nd Division Reconnaissance Company in Sitio Cunalom, Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

The arrest of Biboy Espinas, alias Miro and Richard, yielded a .38 caliber revolver with five live ammunition and subversive documents with high intelligence value, Maj. Rey Tiongson, spokesman of the 3rd Infantry Division, said yesterday.

Tiongson said the 32nd DRC troopers also found out that Espinas has a pending arrest warrant for murder, for the death of Army 1Lt. Archie Polenzo in Cadiz City, almost four years ago.

Revelations of former rebels who have joined the mainstream society also identified Espinas as a member of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros Finance Bureau and former spokesman of the KR-N Northern Negros Front, he also said.

Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said Espinas is also liable for illegal possession of firearms, because of the unlicensed gun recovered from him.

Tiongson said Espinas was seen with the group of four individuals in the sitio, who had in plain view, a .38 caliber revolver. However, the three other persons were released and turned over to officials of Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City.

While the three other individuals were released and treated humanely, he said Espinas was brought to the Himamaylan police, after he was apprised of his constitutional rights, and underwent a medical check up.

Espinas is among the NPA leaders, now in jail, after being implicated in the death of Polenzo, a company commander of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, in March 2010.

Militant groups have condemned the military and police for what they described as “trumped-up” charges, being filed against members and leaders of progressive organizations in Negros Occidental.

“With the apprehension of Espinas, the peace and order situation in Negros Occidental will be much better. The rule of law must always prevail and we will ensure that justice will be attained by the victims of the CPP-NNPA-NDF and Espinas,” Brig. Gen Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said in a statement he issued.

Patrimonio attributed the successful arrest of Espinas to the convergence of efforts among the Philippine Army, the PNP, and other stakeholders involved in the security sector and the civilians.

MILF: MILF Information Officers culminate training with harder tasks ahead

From the MILF Website (Jan 30): MILF Information Officers culminate training with harder tasks ahead

The Training of Trainers for MILF Provincial Information Officers culminated with harder tasks ahead as seen by Haji. Mansul Sakili, Provincial Information Director of an island province in Western Mindanao.
The 3-day capacity building activities was held on January 21-23, 2014 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Center, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The participants comprising 43 officers were Peace - Building advocates from different areas in Mindanao as far as the island province of Tawi- Tawi. The objective of the training was to enhance participant’s existing potentialities and infusion of strategic and critical thinking methodologies as well as on essential topics designed for such undertaking.

Mr. Sakili stressed that it is a high time to transform the dreams to reality that necessitates persistency not complacency while challenges lay ahead. He urged his fellow participants to uphold their Faith and not to succumb to temptations when one is on top over the others. Serving the Bangsamoro people with modesty and humility are divine teachings and beauty in Islam.

Atty. Haron Meling, Chief Executive Assistant to Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) lectured on Ministerial form of Government, while Dr. Taugan Kikay, Team Leader of Sajahatra Bangsamoro discussed about political party.  Mr. Nash Pulindao tackled the importance of advocacy among others.

On the other hand, Ustadz Sammy Alabat, BLMI Extension Services Officer, elucidated on the Islamic perspective and its applications. He emphasized the significance of Shari’ah (Islamic Law).  All the resource speakers harmonized their topics with the proposed Bangsamoro Government and its pertinent mechanisms that suit the Bangamoro aspiration.

During session hour, Professor Yoshida Osamu, Research fellow of Hiroshima University and Meg Kagawa, Research Fellow of the Graduate School of Social Science arrived. They were on a Bangsamoro study mission to jumpstart another support for the peace building from the Government of Japan.  They stayed for while and witnessed the flow of the training. They also had a meeting with BLMI officials headed by Executive Director Mahmod Ahmad. Prof. Mike Abdulah, BLMI Training Director facilitated the programs while other BLMI officers and staff were on hand to extend support.

During the closing program, the participants expressed their profound gratitude to The Asia Foundation (TAF) and AusAid which supported the BLMI Program and the BLMI Management. BLMI Community outreach programs/ consultations are also being undertaken and are supported by Conciliation Resources (CR) – EU.

BLMI Executive Director Ahmad in his closing message made a touching remarks by simply reminding the participants of their obligations entrusted to them and the mission directed by ALLAH. Changes of unhealthy habit and torpid mindset must be done to oneself first, internalized its wisdoms and share it to fellowmen with utmost dedication and sincerity.

The program ended with participants got enlightened and challenged to be more responsive and dedicated to the welfare and interest of the Bangsamoro.

BLMI has been making itself as working machinery for the Bangsamoro by bringing viable changes through conduct of capacity building, infusing knowledge and enhancement programs for the Moro future leaders and managers based on what is necessary and suitable to the Bangsamoro people in general.

MMD: Who are the true terrorist(s)

Posted to the Muslim Moro Defenders (MMD) Facebook page (Jan 29): Who are the true terrorist(s)


"Posting this video of the actual air strike to give others an idea of what civilians have to live with here in the Moro areas of Mindanao. This is also to show the extent of risks faced by both IDPs and those local NGOs who attend to them." Zainudin Malang
Posting this video of the actual air strike to give others an idea of what civilians have to live with here in the Moro areas of Mindanao. This is also to show the extent of risks faced by both IDPs and those local NGOs who attend to them.... This footage was taken this afternoon when Akas, Haidie, and I visited an encampment of IDPs who sought shelter in Datu Piang to check on their condition. While we were there, I asked another colleague to post our running update. The first update was: "Now with civilians in Datu Piang. Helicopters and planes overhead firing their rockets and heavy guns several hundred meters away. I can see the anxiety and nervousness on the face of the civilians our team is with now. Children and their parents watch helplessly." Later on, I SMS'd "Gone are the smiles on the faces of the girls once the air strike began". I was referring to the young girls who were giggling and were amused at me taking their pictures. You won't be smiling too if this is what you are seeing and hearing.

Note the delay in the time you see the rocket being fired and the actual sound of it being fired. The sound that comes after that is the munition exploding after hitting the ground.

All along the town of Datu Piang and even on our way back to Cotabato City, I saw civilians watching these choppers unload their munitions at their targets in what we identified as the village of Damabalas. But the ones who watched with a truly anxious expression on their face were most likely IDPs from those villages being shelled or have families/relatives living there.

Also, both IDPs as well as residents of Datu Piang recount that from dawn until daylight this morning, there were around 200 rounds of 105mm howitzer artillery shells that fell in the nearby villages where the military thinks its target was holed up. The residents say they do not recall this intense bombardment in the past.

MMD: War (Jihad) is Only solution for Peace in Mindanao

Posted to the Muslim Moro Defenders (MMD) Facebook page (Jan 30): War(Jihad) is Only solution for Peace in Mindanao

War(Jihad) is Only solution for Peace in Mindanao.
-Umra Kato

“The Caliph signs a peace treaty
with Christians but the Muslims feel only solution is Jihad,
then his peace treaty is annulled and his deed rejected.”...
Fath Aliy of Malik 1/289.

May ALLAH AzzawaJall give victory to our brothers the Mujahideen and destroy its enemies. Ameen !

AFP: BIFF immobilized, contained in Maguindanao village

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): AFP: BIFF immobilized, contained in Maguindanao village

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been immobilized, contained and may soon surrender to face the charges leveled against them, the Army here said.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the "weak" BIFF forces have been contained in the village of Ganta, a well-fortified enclave of BIFF guerillas who are the subject of massive police and military operations in Maguindanao.

"Our forces have practically surrounded their location in Barangay Ganta," a village which is partly part of Datu Piang and partly part of Shariff Saydona, he said.

Citing information from the ground, Hermoso said the BIFF, from a huge force of about 1,200 armed men, have split into smaller groups to avoid the military manhunt.

"We will continue operations in the next 48 hours, by then we hope they will lay down their arms and face justice," Hermoso told reporters.

Government forces have been hunting down a band of BIFF who are facing criminal, kidnapping, bombing and murder charges. But the attempt to serve warrants of arrest led to the punitive operation as the BIFF was seen massing in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato on Monday.

Hermoso announced that the number of fatalities rose to 40 among the BIFF with one soldier killed in action and eight others wounded.

Twelve other BIFF were hurt in the four-day sporadic skirmishes.

A soldier was killed when the BIFF set off an improvised device in Barangay Damabalas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

He said the police and military personnel were tasked to serve arrest warrants against leaders of the BIFF but were fired upon, triggering a firefight.

The joint police-Army operation was launched Monday in BIFF strongholds in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Piang, Sultan sa Barongis and Datu Salibo in Maguindanao, and Pikit in North Cotabato.

"The MILF is aware of our operation and they are supporting it by protecting civilian communities," he said.

Relief officials placed the displaced persons to about 12,000.

Hermoso stressed the operation has nothing to do with the signing of the last annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement. The BIFF has repeatedly said they are opposed to GPH-MILF peace process.

On Saturday, MILF and government peace panels signed the fourth and final annex to FAB that will pave the way for the the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Abductors of Zambo Sur education official locally-based KFRG

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Abductors of Zambo Sur education official locally-based KFRG
The group behind the abduction of an education official in Kumalarang municipality, this province, is a locally based kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG).

This was disclosed by suspect Ryan Tumales, who also revealed that he was a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA) before he joined three months ago the KFRG involved in the abduction of Rudy Luna.

Tumales, 22, was arrested barely two hours after they seized Luna and his wife, Tessie, around 8:00 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Diplo, Kumalarang town.

Luna’s wife was able to escape while they were being dragged into one of the three motorized bancas of the suspects docked at the shore of Sitio Dacun, Barangay Picanan of the same town.

Luna is the Bayog District School supervisor in Bayog town while his wife is the supervisor of Kumalarang Central Elementary School.

Tumales disclosed that their group is operating in this province and in the nearby province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

“I was left behind because the motorized banca where I am supposed to ride was already loaded,” he said.

In revealing he was a former NPA rebel, Tumales disclosed that he was wounded and captured in a clash on November 2, 2008 at the age of 16 in Barangay Gasa, Lakewood town this province.

Tumales said that after his capture, he was admitted at the “Tabak” Hospital of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

1st Infantry Division information officer Maj. Edmond Abella said based on records it was confirmed that Tumales was admitted at the “Tabak” Hospital in November of 2008.

Tumales said that Luna’s abduction was his “first mission” after he joined the KFRG three months ago.

He is in the custody of the police as investigation continues concerning Luna’s abduction.

1 dead, as Army and NPAs clash in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): 1 dead, as Army and NPAs clash in Caraga

A New People's Army (NPA) member died, while an improvised explosive device (IED) and two high caliber firearms were recovered by the government troops in two separate clashes between soldiers and the rebels here in Caraga region Wednesday and Thursday.

Report from 1 Lt. Joe Patrick A. Martinez, commanding officer of the Philippine Army's 42nd Civil-Military Operations Company, 4ID, said that Army troops under the command of Lt. Col. Adonis Ariel G. Orio of the 29th Infantry Battalion, conveyed that his troops encountered some 20 rebels in Sitio Camarin, Barangay Tagmamarkay, Tubay Agusan del Norte at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.

Reports said that a concerned civilian tipped off the soldiers on the location of the NPAs in their area.

Lt. Col. Orio, upon receiving the report, dispatched a team to proceed to the said area. While on their way to the said place, the Army troops were fired upon by the NPAs, "who were unmindful of the civilians in the vicinity."

This accordingly caused the soldiers to maneuver to a place which will keep the civilians away from the crossfire. A twenty-minute firefight accordingly ensued, after which the NPAs withdrew to some unknown directions.

The government forces overrun the place where the NPAs had positioned themselves and recovered an Ak 47, an improvised explosive device (IED) and three backpacks containing personal belongings and some subversive documents.

Bloody tracks were also observed by the pursuing troopers at the encounter site where the rebels had positioned themselves. "Using IEDs and employing indiscriminate strafing are violations of the provisions under Art. 2, Sec. 15 of the Comprehensive Agreement On Respect Of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Because of this, the people in the area are living in fear (of the rebels)," Martinez quoted Lt. Col. Orio as saying during his interview with the official.

"The recent clash tells us again that violence is not the solution to whatever problems that NPAs have. This is a lose-lose situation when another Filipino loses his life in this nonsense fight," said Lt. Col. Orio as quoted by Martinez.

Martinez also said that the 29th IB chief has called on the rebels to bring to the nearest hospital their wounded comrades for immediate medical attention and even offered the medical facilities of the nearby Army camps "so that their wounded can be saved from their gunshot wounds," Orio accordingly said.

Meanwhile, a rebel was killed and an M14 rifle was recovered in a separate Army and NPA encounter at a hinterland village in Tandag City in Surigao del Sur 11:55 a.m. Wednesday.

Surigao del Sur Police reports that Philippine Army Scout Platoon under 1Lt. Jude Ken Roche, while on a combat operation encountered an undetermined number of the rebels in the vicinity of Carbon, Maitum, Tandag City.

A 25-minute firefight ensued, where the enemies withdrew towards the southern direction after pursued by the government troopers. The pursuing troops recovered the body of a dead rebel and an M14 rifle.

AFP: 3 more BIFF members killed as clashes continue in Maguindanao; GPH urges BIFF to join mainstream

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): AFP: 3 more BIFF members killed as clashes continue in Maguindanao; GPH urges BIFF to join mainstream

The military here said three more Moro bandits were killed while six soldiers were wounded in Datu Piang, Maguindanao as skirmishes between members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and government forces entered the fourth day Thursday.

Three more government forces were wounded, raising the number of injured government troops to 13, according to Colonel Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

“Based on the information provided by the local government officials that 40 BIFF bandits were killed since last Monday," Hermoso said.

"Last Wednesday, there were 37 casualties on the side of the BIFF and by 6:30 a.m on 30th of January, three more bandits were killed," Hermoso added.

Local officials in Datu Piang, Shariff Saidona, Mamasapano and Rajah Buayan towns, all in the second district of Maguindanao, said 14 BIFF bandits have also been wounded in the ensuing firefights.

Twelve of the wounded bandits were evacuated by their companions to a marshy area at the border of the neighboring Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, Hermoso said.

Relief officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said more than 11,000 villagers have been displaced in four Maguindanao towns.

Workers for the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Relief Team (HEART) of ARMM have been distributing relief goods and food stuff to evacuation centers in Datu Piang, Shariff Saydona, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mamasapano and Raja Buayan, all in Maguindanao.

“The fighting has slowed down Thursday as the BIFF had been contained in one marshy area of Barangay Ganta, Datu Piang,” Hermoso said.

Hermoso earlier announced Wednesday that the punitive action against BIFF was scheduled to end by Friday morning. He said only two civilians, a pregnant mother and a girl, were wounded in a bomb attack by the BIFF at a public terminal in Datu Piang.

Chief government negotiator Professor Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, issued a statement Thursday, condemning atrocities by the BIFF while peace negotiations were ongoing in Malaysia.

She said for the past nine months, the BIFFs have harassed soldiers and terrorized local communities. The rebels planted roadside bombs, sniped at soldiers, took school teachers as hostages, and in one instance, even beheaded a civilian captive. A few days ago, in the midst of the fighting, they commandeered a private vehicle and forcibly used it as a roadblock.

"The ongoing military operations are geared at degrading the BIFF’s capability to continue to cause harm to the government forces, civilians and the peace process," Ferrer said in a statement.

Ferrer said that prior to the conduct of the operations, the ceasefire mechanisms of the GPH and the MILF have ensured the safety of civilians in surrounding areas. Relief provisions have been on standby to meet the basic needs of those who have been temporarily displaced.

She said the government and the MILF have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the operations will not spill over to involve MILF combatants or cause unnecessary or prolonged hardship to civilians. The MILF is assisting in the operations by helping the government contain the movements of the BIFF.

"We call on the members and the leaders of the BIFF to put down their arms and be part of the process. We ask them to listen to the plea of their own brothers and sisters to give peace a chance," Ferrer said, adding that the government is ready to receive those who would like to silence their guns and "participate in the different programs we will be undertaking as part of the implementation of the peace agreements."

"We know that BIFF members can also contact supporters or local ground commanders of the MILF who could facilitate their return to normal lives. These and other avenues are open for those among the BIFF who are ready to join us in our peace efforts," the government chief negotiator said.

All pilots, flight crews of PN's AW-109 now ready

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): All pilots, flight crews of PN's AW-109 now ready

The pilots and flight crews of the Navy's two attack AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters have already completed their flight and maintenance training and are ready to handle the aircraft.

Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic Thursday said these individuals were among the Navy personnel sent in three batches to train in Cesto Calende, Italy last year.

"All training for the pilots and crew of the five AW-109s are already completed," the PN spokesperson stressed.

The Navy last December received and commissioned into service three of the five AW-109s it had ordered.

The remaining two, which are the attack versions, is expected to be delivered by third quarter of this year.

Fabic said that weapon systems training for their attack helicopters will be determined at a later date.

"The only training left (for the crewmen of the two attack AW-109s) will be on the operation of the armament/weapon system," he stated.

Army tells wounded BIFF men to surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Army tells wounded BIFF men to surrender

Saying that they will be given adequate medical care and treatment, the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division on Thursday is urging all wounded Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to surrender immediately.

"We are calling to them (wounded BIFF) to surrender so that their wounds can be adequately treated in hospitals," 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Col. Dickson Hermoso said.

He added that their troopers have seen newly-unearthed graves, possibly of BIFF men killed in the fighting but did not dig it anew to avoid offending cultural sensitivities of our Muslim brothers.

As of this posting, around 40 brigands were killed while government forces sustained one dead and 12 wounded.

Hermoso added that cordoning units have already captured BIFF facilities in Barangays Ganta and Bakat in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao. These includes headquarters, training centers, and facilities for making improvised explosive devices.

And instead of releasing reports to the media of their willingness to negotiate with the government, the 6th Infantry Division spokesperson urged the BIFF to surrender and answer for their war crimes.

6ID Spokesperson assures more than sufficient troops at hand to deal with BIFF

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): 6ID Spokesperson assures more than sufficient troops at hand to deal with BIFF

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division, said there are more than sufficient troops at hand to deal with the remaining "Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters" (BIFF) brigands in their area-of-operations.

The 601st Infantry Brigade is the sole military unit conducting operations against the bandits.

He added that there is no need to reinforce this outfit as it is more than enough for the task at hand which consists of blocking and pursuit operations against the BIFF.

The 601st Infantry Brigade is a field unit of the 6th Infantry Division. It is composed of three battalions or roughy equivalent to 2,000 officers and enlisted personnel.

Hermoso said that as of Thursday, no heavy fighting has taken place between military and BIFF members aside from the sporadic exchange of gunfire in Barangays Bakat and Ganta, Sharif Saydona Mustapha and Barangay Dambalas in Datung Piang, all in Maguindanao.

The 6th Infantry Division spokesperson added that the only difficulty being experienced in this campaign is the terrain which is swampy and hilly at the same time.

VP Binay orders NHA to ensure quality of AFP/PNP housing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): VP Binay orders NHA to ensure quality of AFP/PNP housing

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday reminded the National Housing Authority (NHA) to ensure the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) housing projects are not substandard before they are turned over to intended beneficiaries.

Binay issued the directive after he received a report that some units in the AFP/PNP housing project in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur are substandard.

He also clarified that the NHA has yet to turn over the housing units in Pagadian because they still need to go through final inspections before they are given to the beneficiaries.

"The AFP/PNP Housing project in Pagadian is not yet complete. We need to finish all the units first before we turn them over to the beneficiaries,” Binay told reporters in an interview.

He also said that out of 1,300 housing units, the NHA found only six substandard housing units in Pagadian.

“We have inspected the units constructed in the AFP/PNP housing project in Pagadian and found that only six units have problems,” he pointed out.

“We saw that the technology used in the units were not up to standard so we will demolish and rebuild them,” he added.

In April 2011, President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 9 creating the AFP/PNP Housing Project. The AO mandated the NHA to implement and manage housing projects for more than 260,000 military and police personnel which was also expanded to include other units of the AFP and PNP.

Each house is a two storey unit designed in row houses constructed in a 40 square meter lot and worth some P140,000 each. The selected beneficiary will have to pay P200 per month for the first five years and the remaining 30 years of payment will be computed with a compounded interest method to produce equally affordable amortization ranging from P400 to P800 only.

Phase 1 of the AFP/PNP Housing Project was already completed in 2011. Some 8,000 units were constructed in Bulacan for military and police personnel in Northern Luzon, 8,000 in Cavite and Laguna for Southern Luzon, and another 5,000 in Rizal.

The NHA continues to implement Phase II of the AFP/PNP Housing Project though the development of 30 projects across the country, which generated 20,680 units. To date, 29,810 units are under various stages of completion for Phase II of the project.