Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bansil sisters: Storytellers even in captivity

From Rappler (Mar 2): Bansil sisters: Storytellers even in captivity

SAFE AND SOUND. Nadjoua and Linda Bansil are back in Manila after being kidnapped by members of the Abu Sayyaf. Photo obtained by Rappler

SAFE AND SOUND. Nadjoua and Linda Bansil are back in Manila after being kidnapped by members of the Abu Sayyaf. Photo obtained by Rappler

It was a story that led them to harm's way.

But stories were also what made Linda and Nadjoua Bansil survive the 8 gruelling months when they were held captive by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. (ASG) in the province of Sulu.

In those bleak days that turned to weeks then months, they came up with ideas for future documentaries, visualized entire storyboards, and spoke to some of the people they met. "Andon na rin kami eh," the Bansil sisters told Rappler, days after they were released by their captors. (We were already there anyway.)

The sisters were captured on June 22, 2013 in Liang, Patikul, while filming a documentary about coffee famers in the province. It was a project that was put together in a rush. Within days of finalizing the story line and concept, the two were already bound for Mindanao.

They were on their way back to Jolo, where they were based, when the jeepney they were riding was blocked by armed men.

Linda admitted to Rappler that they were naive to think they could go to Sulu just like that. After all, many civilians, including journalists, have been kidnapped before them.

Nadjoua, who is older, puts it more bluntly: "Para kaming mga 10-year-olds." (We were acting like 10-year-olds. (READ: Mohammed's sisters)

The daily grind

"I couldn't believe what was happening," said Linda, recalling the immediate moments of their capture.

For 4 to 5 months, the Bansil sisters and their captors moved around the jungles of Sulu. The steady hum of the jungle and the uncertainty of going around with an armed group became the norm for the two. "[There], the situation changes per day, per minute. Here, it's the same thing over and over again," said Nadjoua.

Daily life while in captivity eventually followed a steady routine: wake up, pray, drink coffee, depending on the situation. On good days, they would help locals with planting. On bad ones, the steady sound of gunfire kept them company.

The abduction of the two shows how "the breakdown of law and order in Jolo gets more chaotic," according to a Rappler report. The sisters were under the protection of the Abu Sayyaf while filming, but were later abducted by a "young, more volatile breakaway faction" of the ASG. Documents obtained by Rappler show their captors demanded P50 million for their release.

Officials have neither confirmed nor denied paying ransom for the sisters' release.
Linda and Nadjoua said it was difficult, at first, to communicate with their captors. Their young captors viewed them with distrust. It probably didn't help, the two said, that they were foreign-looking.

Their mother is an Algerian Moroccan while their late father, is a Muslim cleric.
But eventually, "we earned their respect, their trust. Once they knew that we would not escape," the sister said, referring to their captors.

The sisters lost at least 40% of their body weight while in captivity, mainly because they didn't have the same diet as their captors.

They considered escaping several times not because they were particularly brave, but because the hunger was too much to bear. "Inisip namin, mamamatay na talaga kami sa gutom." (We thought we'd die of hunger.)

THE BANSIL SISTERS. Linda and Nadjoua Bansil. File photo courtesy of Niño Tan

THE BANSIL SISTERS. Linda and Nadjoua Bansil. File photo courtesy of Niño Tan

Faith, activism

Although they were first-timers in Sulu, telling difficult stories was nothing new to the Bansil sisters. In 2012, the two produced "Bohe," a film about a group of Badjaos in Southern Luzon.

The Muslim narrative is something close to the sisters' hearts. "It was a chance to give a voice to our own people," said Linda. The coffee farmers of Sulu were a particularly interesting topic – living in poverty despite producing one of the best coffee beans in the world.

Even after they were kidnapped, the documentary was one of Nadjoua's concerns. "Naisip ko rin yung mga farmers na kasama namin," she said. (I thought about the farmers who were with us.) "Pero syempre natakot ako, threatened. Baka pugutan kami ng ulo," she added. (I was also scared, threatened. They might cut our heads off.)
Despite everything, Linda said she was confident they would come out alive. But the two were realistic: "Kung mamatay, tanggapin," said Nadjoua. (You have to accept the possibility of death.)

"It's the Muslim way, you have to accept what is happening," said Linda. "Insha'Allah," the two kept reminding themselves. (God's will.)

Juanita the kitten

Hope also came in the most unlikely form: a little kitten they named "Juanita."
"Mas nakakakain pa yun sa amin, kahit yung Abu Sayyaf ninanakawan niya ng pagkain," said Linda. (Juanita ate more than we did. She'd even steal from the Abu Sayyaf.)

When Rappler met the Bansil sisters in Metro Manila, they had yet to be reunited with Juanita, who is still in Zamboanga City. Linda carried Juanita all the way from the Abu Sayyaf camp to the residence of Sulu Governor Sakur Tan on the night of their release.
Like Juanita, Linda never quite got used to the sound of gunfire. As they were walking away from the jungles of Sulu, they started hearing gun fire. Linda, with Juanita in tow, got terrified.

"Sabi ko: ano ba yan, dapat sanay ka na," Nadjoua said. It was their first taste of freedom in 8 months. (I told her: You have to be used to that by now.)

Stories need to be told

The Bansil sisters are thankful they're finally home – back in the arms of a younger brother whose world stopped spinning when his older sisters were kidnapped, and a mother who can finally crack jokes again now that her daughters are safe and sound.
But freedom also means adjusting all over again.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the metro, they miss Sulu's serenity. The sisters also grew accustomed to wearing veils that cover their faces, compared to only covering their hair in the past. It takes some getting used to, the sisters said.

It will take a while before they jump back into the world of filmmaking and storytelling. "We already have a few stories in mind, but let's wait a few months before we do them," said Nadjoua. They may even make a story about their experience in the jungles of Sulu.

But Linda said she'd rather stay away from Sulu for now. "Ayoko na, ayoko na muna. Tama na yung isa. Baka ma-kidnap ulit!" she said. (I'd rather not go back for now. One kidnapping is enough. We might get kidnapped again!)

Nadjoua has one regret: "Nasasayangan ako sa docu namin. Pero tignan natin, baka pwedeng gawin ulit, balikan." (I regret not finishing the documentary. But let's see, maybe we can go back and still do it.)

Linda flashes Nagjoua a curious look before the older Bansil added: "Basta hindi kami ma-kidnap ulit." (As long as we aren't kidnapped again.)

CPP/NPA: 57th IB Army, PNP legitimate targets in Pres. Roxas ambush

Posted to the CPP Website (Mar 1): 57th IB Army, PNP legitimate targets in Pres. Roxas ambush

Isabel Fermiza
NPA Mt. Apo Sub-Region Sub-regional Command
The New People’s Army aimed at trouncing the 57th Infantry Battalion troops and PNP personnel during an ambush February 27 @ 3pm in Barangay Datu Inda, President Roxas town, North Cotabato. The tactical offensive did not target Pres. Roxas Mayor Jaime Mahimpit who was with the armed convoy. When the mayor’s gray Pajero car passed through the road, NPA operatives switched on the command detonated explosives against 14 policemen in motorcycles and the military aboard a 6×6 truck who were closely following the mayor. The ambush wounded SPO4 Hector Castillo, who was the mayor’s escort leader, PO3 Joemer Ilagan and PO2 Joselax Avena.

Thursday’s tactical offensive was meant to deter the 57th IB which has intensified its triad military operations in Roxas, Magpet and Arakan towns following its turnover of Makilala and Tulunan towns to the 39th IB early this year. The PNP and army elements were legitimate targets, contrary to reports that Mayor Mahimpit was the object of the punitive action linked to revolutionary tax collection.

Brutal to the core but coward and desperate, the fascist troops attempt to avoid NPA ambuscades by taking cover under the mantle of civilian bureaucracy. The AFP engages Red fighters through fascist and manipulative means, by abusing the masses to deter them from participating in legitimate struggles, and by using local civilian officials for its forward deployment operations. When AFP’s combat troops and the PNP enter guerilla bases and zones of the NPA, they pretend to be local escorts to civilian officials when their real mission is to do battle and suppress the people.

Hence, the NPA calls on local GPH authorities and functionaries to cease from directly participating in the military’s offensive operations. If they do not commit serious crimes against the people and are not engaged in armed and counter-revolutionary violence, GPH authorities like Mayor Mahimpit are safe from the NPA’s punitive actions. They should focus, instead, on dispensing their civilian duties and shun from military operations, intelligence activities and hostile armed acts. They must prevail over the AFP which maintains a policy of pressuring GPH civilian officials for its civilian-military operations in the countryside.

Armed forces reshuffling top officers

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 1): Armed forces reshuffling top officers

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been silently reshuffling key positions with jockeying going on in some units.

Brigadier General Alexander Balutan, former commander of the 1st Marine Brigade based in Central Mindanao, was designated Deputy Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

Balutan, a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class 1983, was among ranking officials who exposed the alleged poll cheating in Mindanao during the 2004 presidential election won by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Arroyo defeated the late Philippine movie action king Fernando Poe Jr.

The command is presently led by Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III of PMA “Dimalupig” Class 1981.

Balutan was replaced by classmate, Col. Emmanuel Salamat.

Also promoted Deputy Commandant of the Philippines Marines was Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre (PMA ’83), former commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Sulu.

Cenabre was replaced by Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto of PMA “Maharlika” Class 1984.

On Friday, Col. Melquides Feliciano (PMA “Sandiwa” Class 1985) was installed as the new commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army. He replaced Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan (PMA ’83).

The Sandiwa class has Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. as honorary or adopted member. The senator was among lawmakers currently facing plunder case together with alleged pork-barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles in the P10-billion scam involving the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The 602nd Brigade has been leading in the battle against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters across Central Mindanao.

The BIFF is led by Ameril Umbra Kato, a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In 2012, the MILF expelled Kato and his followers from the organization for sabotaging the peace talks between the MILF and the government. In the same year, Kato formed his own BIFF to further sabotage the peace talks.

Other top positions in Army are the 7th and 5th Infantry Divisions based in Nueva Ecija and Isabela, respectively.

The 7th ID was the former command of now Army chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri (PMA ’83) whose appointment was marred with controversy because of his closeness to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Reports said some quarters have blamed the so-called “Board of Gazmin” for lingering favoritism in the promotion and designation of senior officers especially in the Army. Gazmin was a former Army chief.

Gazmin repeatedly denied such accusation. The Board of Generals led by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista with Vice Chief of Staff, The Deputy Chief of Staff and commanders of the three major services (Army, Air Force and Navy) recommends the promotion and designation of senior officers.

Bowing out of service this year are Bautista (PMA ’81) who will retire at age 56 on July 20; Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro dela Cruz (PMA ’80), April 30; Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano (PMA ’79, May 1; Armed Forces Vice Chief Lt. Gen. Alan Luga (PMA ’81), May 12; AFP-Civil Relations Service chief Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco (PMA “Sandigan” Class 1982); Western Command (Westcom or “West Philippine Sea commander”) chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda (PMA ’80), August 17; Cruz, September 6; and Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo (PMA ’80), September 8.

READING CHINA | What is China's message in its actions toward the Philippines?

From InterAksyon (Mar 2): READING CHINA | What is China's message in its actions toward the Philippines? (by Amado Mendoza)

[Editor’s note: Amado “Bong” Mendoza is a faculty member of the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines (Diliman) and is primarily interested in Philippine politics and political economy. He used to write for Business Day covering the finance beat and the online edition of Inquirer. This piece first appeared in his blog, and he has allowed to re-post it.]

The People’s Republic of China is a revisionist seeking to change an existing regional or world order or balance of power, rather than a status quo power seeking to keep things as they are. These rather old concepts still apply in this case. Despite appearing to have been socialized with the “civilized” behavior of the international community states, China seeks changes in the international order according to what it reads as best for its interests.

It may be a member of the United Nations Security Council, yet China is not secure. Compared to the Cold War period, the only improvement is rapprochement with Russia. On its flanks, China is hemmed in by hostiles like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and further afield–Australia.

China is basically a land power with a brown-water navy. While the US 7th fleet had a more formidable presence during the Cold War (it had an anti-Soviet orientation), this time American naval forces have an undisguised anti-Chinese orientation.

China seeks to build its forces steadily so it can over-match the opposition, the US included. It asserts its territorial claims for the twin purpose of interdicting sea lines of communications as well as pushing forward lines of defense.

It has not entirely abandoned its charm offensive in so far as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Timor Leste are concerned. It wants to drive a wedge within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is cautious with Vietnam and other territorial claimants in Southeast Asia. Cambodia and Myanmar offer possible outlets to the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean via the Bay of Bengal.

Only the Philippines is treated in a different manner. The Chinese leadership has apparently written the Philippines off. The resort to hard power is addressed more to the United States than Manila. The question seems to be: what will you do for your ally beyond the issuance of official communiques? To themselves: to what extent can we push the envelope?

With the key powers in the sub-continents—India and Pakistan—China have good relations. It’s true that India was closer to the Soviet Union during the Cold War given that a war was fought with China over disputed territory. The US sought to improve relations with India post-Cold War but India refuses to be trapped in a monogamous relationship. In addition, the US has cohabited with Pakistan, India’s principal enemy, for a long time. Pakistan will not change its anti-India orientation but it is doubtful if it could be mobilized in an anti-China effort.

China’s activities in sub-Saharan Africa are intended to create friendly spheres of influence through soft power. What is interesting is China’s pointed willingness to do business with states and leaders that are frowned upon by the Western powers.

China is obviously not a global power. Its current program is to achieve parity with the United States in the East Asian theater. Whether it will go beyond what it’s currently doing is an empirical matter.

Who are China’s allies in the East Asian theater?

Together with Russia, China is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic, and security organization. However, SCO is principally oriented to Central rather than East Asia.

In the Yellow Sea region, only North Korea is apparently China’s ally. Its reliability is rather suspect. Opposing China is Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the American military forces.

The US alliances established during the Cold War with Thailand and the Philippines are still intact and the latter’s forces exercise regularly with the US and other American allies like Australia for inter-operability.

In short, China seems to be alone while the other side is heavily populated.

Why then is the apparently weaker and out-numbered side making very bold and provocative initiatives (at least vis-a-vis the Philippines and Japan)?

It is less risk-averse. Its moves are calibrated. It stops short of making a move that will invite catastrophic consequences. If an earlier move is more or less unanswered and gains are made, it will raise the ante until the returns are no longer attractive. It may lay low for a while and launch a new offensive in the future.

Such is the nature of revisionist powers. They will always take the initiative. I cannot imagine them to be merely reactive.

Peasant leader abducted in Isabela, says Bayan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 1): Peasant leader abducted in Isabela, says Bayan

A local peasant leader was taken and dragged into a van by armed men on Friday, according to his 21-year-old son whom the kidnappers left behind.

Romulo Dela Cruz, a farmer and leader of the militant Agbiag-Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Isabela (Agbiag-Dagami), was on a motorcycle with his son in the village of Nueva Era when men who claimed to be agents of the National Bureau of Investigation flagged them down as they passed the local office of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, according to his  family.

“He was manhandled and then dragged into a silver gray van by armed men.… He has yet to surface. This is a case of enforced disappearance,” said Randy Felix Malayao, the Bayan leader in Cagayan Valley.

The human rights group, Karapatan-Cagayan Valley,  said Dela Cruz had taken part in a crusade against alleged land grabbers in Roxas town, which is adjacent to San Manuel.

Dela Cruz’s family had gone to the police, but relatives and friends have also started drafting a petition for habeas corpus and a petition for a  writ of amparo which they plan to submit to the regional trial court here.

Anton Cruz, a Cagayan Valley official of the Commission on Human Rights, said his agency was  looking into the abduction.

‘Brains’ of NPA in Davao Norte turns self in

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 2): ‘Brains’ of NPA in Davao Norte turns self in
The alleged brains of the communist insurgents’ activities in Davao del Norte surrendered to the military late last week, according to a report from the Army’s 10th Infantry Division on Saturday.
In a statement, the 10th ID said Geneng Ambas, alias Chong, was a political officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Ambas “voluntarily surrendered” to soldiers of the 72nd Infantry Battalion under the 10th ID in Purok 6, Barangay Linao, San Isidro, Davao del Norte, at around 9 a.m. on Feb. 27.

“He is the brains of the NPA’s illegal activities in the municipalities of Davao del Norte,” the 10th ID’s statement said.

It added that village officials and relatives of Ambas arranged his surrender.

“Ambas confessed that he was a victim of the NPA’s deception until he realized that they were already into banditry and terrorism, which changed his mind (about the NPA) and (he) opted to surrender,” the statement read.

The military said there had been 230 NPA returnees since 2013, seven of them from the underground mass organization of the CPP/NPA/National Democratic Front (NDF) who voluntarily surrendered to the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, which has jurisdiction over eastern Mindanao.

Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said the number of rebel returnees in eastern Mindanao indicated “strong support for the soldiers in winning the peace,” and “that the spirit of Bayanihan within us is alive.”

Bayanihan is the counterinsurgency program of the military that enlists the help and support of civilian stakeholders and government agencies to take part in resolving the decades-long communist insurgency in the country.

US ambassador Goldberg pushes code of conduct between Asean, China

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 2): US ambassador Goldberg pushes code of conduct between Asean, China
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China should come up with a code of conduct that would provide a peaceful, rules-based resolution to the conflicting claims over the South China Sea, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Saturday.

Goldberg, who opened the US Embassy’s “America in 3D Road Show on Diplomacy, Development and Defense” in a Pasay City mall, was asked by reporters about an incident in January where Filipino fishermen approaching the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal were doused with water by Chinese coast guard ships.

“We made it clear that we want to see legal, peaceful [and] diplomatic solutions to any issues relating to the South China Sea, [or] the West Philippine Sea, as it’s known here. And that coercion and the use of force is not at all the permissible route,” Goldberg said.

Last year, the dispute with China over Panatag, which the Chinese occupied in April 2012, as well as over islands in the Spratlys, was elevated by the Philippines to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, via an arbitration case.

Goldberg said the United States government supported the Philippines’ move for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

“[T]he reason we support the Philippines in its effort to bring certain of these matters before an international tribunal under international law is that we believe very much, very strongly in the legal process to help determine and resolve disputes. So we are concerned naturally by anything that isn’t in that arena,” he said.

The ambassador recalled that Washington had also spoken out strongly against China’s imposition of an air identification defense zone over the East China Sea, as well as fishing laws in the South China Sea.

“[T]hose things are unilateral, they’re things not done in coordination with other countries in the region,” he said.

Goldberg reiterated that although the US was not a party to the discussions on the code of conduct, his country was an “interested party” because it wanted to keep intact the freedom of navigation in the air and in the sea lanes surrounding the disputed islands.

“[W]e very much hope that those kinds of rules-based solutions will be the ones that will come to the fore,” he said.

Italians hit military planes deal won by Spaniards

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 2): Italians hit military planes deal won by Spaniards
An Italian company has complained that the bids and awards committee of the Department of National Defense (DND) awarded a P5.3-billion contract for the procurement of military aircraft to a Spanish firm despite questions on the bidding process.

In a letter to the DND, Italian firm Alenia Aermacchi said the Spanish company Airbus Military should have been disqualified from the bidding for the procurement of three medium-lift fixed-wing aircraft because it failed to disclose its business relationship with PT Dirgantara, an Indonesian company that also joined the bidding.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo on Friday said a notice of award had already been issued to Airbus Military and the contract for the procurement of the military planes would soon follow.

Conflict of interest

But Alenia said the DND should have nullified the Spanish firm’s bid for violating the prohibition in the government procurement law regarding conflict of interest among prospective bidders in government projects.

“A simple perusal of the company websites of both PT Dirgantara Indonesia and Airbus Military shows that the two bidders … are strategic partners in the production of the (military planes) CN 235 and CN 295,” Alenia said in a Jan. 16 letter signed by Roberto Pierdominici, the firm’s regional sales director.

Under Republic Act No. 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, a conflict of interest among bidders exists if a prospective supplier “has a relationship, directly or through third parties, that puts them in a position to have access to information about or influence on the bid of another bidder or influence the decisions of the procuring entity.”

The Inquirer tried to get a comment from DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez on the issue, but he did not answer calls to his mobile phone.

In an earlier interview with reporters, Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez said the DND would only award the contract to Airbus Military after all the issues raised against the Spanish firm had been settled.

A representative of Alenia, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak with the media, said the defense department had yet to answer its questions regarding Airbus Military’s bid.

‘Strategic partnership’

Citing a press statement, the Italian firm said Airbus Military itself admitted that the development of the CN 295 was a product of its “strategic partnership” with the Indonesian firm.

In a press release on its website dated May 21, 2013, Airbus Military stated that it was putting up a “delivery center and a final assembly line” for CN 295 planes in Bandung, Indonesia, “as a direct result of (PT Dirgantara) and Airbus Military’s strategic partnership signed in 2011.”

“(T)here is thus no doubt that the relationship of the two bidders … is a conflict of interest … Clearly, the bidders have a direct relationship that puts them in a position to have access to information about or influence on the bid of another bidder or influence the decisions of the procuring entity regarding this bidding process,” Alenia said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

“Worse, both bidders denied the existence of the relationship upon express request of clarification by the bids and awards committee during the opening and evaluation of the bids,” it added.

Failure of bidding

The Italian firm said PT Dirgantara and Airbus Military should be disqualified from participating in the procurement at hand, “without prejudice to the imposition of appropriate (suspension/blacklisting) and civil (restitution for damage and forfeiture in favor of the government) sanctions.”

Alenia had initially participated in the bidding for the military planes held on Nov. 11, 2013, but the DND declared a failure of bidding after admitting that it failed to publish the supplemental bid bulletin a week prior to the opening of bids.

Military turns over arrested MILF commander today

From the Philippine Star (Mar 1): Military turns over arrested MILF commander today

A thanksgiving ceremony will be held when security forces turn over arrested Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Wahid Tundok to his group today.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the thanksgiving or “kanduli” would be held amid the positive outlook on the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“The higher interest and peace prevailed. We are moving toward that because the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro will be signed anytime,” he said.

Tundok is the commander of the MILF’s 118th Base Command and has been charged with multiple murder and arson.

He was arrested by security forces in Cotabato City last Sunday by virtue of a warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 15 of Cotabato City.

Three days after the arrest, government negotiators announced that the warrant of arrest against Tundok had been recalled.
They even thanked the ceasefire panel and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group for ensuring the “smooth resolution of the matter.”

The recall of Tundok’s arrest warrant came as the government and the MILF are preparing to sign a historic final peace deal, which they believe, would solve the Mindanao problem.

Officials said the peace agreement may be signed next month.

Gov’t troops overrun NPA camp in Davao

From the Philippine Star (Mar 2): Gov’t troops overrun NPA camp in Davao

A suspected New People’s Army guerrilla was captured after elements of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion (IB) overran what was believed to be a rebel camp in Malita, Davao Occidental, yesterday morning.

The government troops reportedly encountered NPA rebels belonging to “Front 75” in Sitio Solo, Barangay Manuel Peralta, which resulted in the arrest of Rodane Antiodo, alias Dandan, the alleged team leader of the rebel group’s squad 1.

The firefight reportedly lasted for about 20 minutes. The soldiers recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, ammunition, a rifle grenade, electric wire, two sacks of rice, and personal items.

Antiodo was placed under the custody of the 73rd IB troops.

The “Front 75” was believed to be the same group that ambushed and burned the remains of a member of a peace and development team last month.

Despite the incident the government is still encouraging the rebels to return to the folds of the law, said Lt. Col. Patricio Ruben Mata, commander of the 75th IB.

NPA political officer yields

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 1): NPA political officer yields

A POLITICAL officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered on Thursday to the government in the province of Davao del Norte, a military official said Saturday.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) information officer Captain Alberto Caber identified the NPA official who surrendered as Geneng Ambas alias Chong.

Caber said Ambas surrendered Thursday to the troops of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion at Purok 6 in the village of Linao, San Isidro, Davao del Norte.

Caber said that the surrender of Ambas, the brain of the NPA’s illegal activities in the province, was arranged by his relatives and the village officials.

Ambas revealed he was a victim of NPA’s deception until he realized that they were already into banditry and terrorism which changed his mind and opted to surrender, said Caber.

Meanwhile, he said that there were 230 NPA rebels who surrendered to the government in 2013.

He said that seven of them belong to the underground mass organization of the NPA.

Eastmincom chief Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III earlier expressed his gratitude to the communities for the strong support to the soldiers in winning the peace.

“The snowball of returnees in Eastern Mindanao is concrete evidence that the spirit of Bayanihan among us is alive,” Cruz said.

Army holds caravan for peace

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 1): Army holds caravan for peace

The 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, based in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, and the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades, in collaboration with the provincial government of Negros Occidental, headed by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., initiated a Caravan for Peace and Development in Barangay Puso, La Castellana, Negros Occidental, recently.

The activity was a one-stop-shop medical mission that included medical consultations, dispensing of medicines, dental service, haircut, massage, circumcision, fruit-bearing seedlings, and vegetables seedlings, a press release from organizers said Thursday.

Representatives of provincial departments and offices also attended to provide information and livelihood programs to the barangay populace.

A total of 1,273 beneficiaries from Barangay Puso had availed of the free services, like medical consultation (52), tooth extraction, (10), distribution of coffee seedlings (800), free haircut (47), circumcision (31), massage (33), and assorted non-food stuff (300).
The beneficiaries also received one bag of rice and goods.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Brigade commander based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to support and facilitate the peace initiatives of the government in attaining peace, security and development in the community.

Lt. Col. Wilfredo Isaac, commanding officer of the 11th IB in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, said that the Army actively supports, advocates, and participates in peace-building in the country.

He also said “We should actively advocate peace, and work together to put forward the agenda of peace among the people”.

US envoy: Water cannon incident in Panatag Shoal 'not a permissible route'

From GMA News (Mar 1): US envoy: Water cannon incident in Panatag Shoal 'not a permissible route'

The United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Saturday said the water cannon incident in the Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal was not a permissible course of action in the disputed area.

"That coercion and use of force is not at all a permissible route," he said, when asked by reporters to comment on the issue.

On January 27, China's coast guard fired water cannon at Filipino fishermen for the first time to drive them away from a disputed fishing ground. On February 25, the Philippines protested the harassment.

Goldberg also reiterated US support "in [Philippine] efforts to bring certain of these matters before an international tribunal."

"We made it clear that we want to see legal, peaceful, diplomatic solutions to any issues related to the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea conflict," he said.

"We believe strongly in the legal process to help determine and resolve disputes," he added.

Goldberg also maintained that it is in the interest of the US to ensure free access to the resource-rich waters, and that conflicts are resolved peacefully even though it [the US] is not a party to the disputes.

But he said: "We are an interested party because our interest is freedom of navigation in the air and sea."

The US, along with other Western nations expressed alarm over China’s unilateral imposition of a fisheries regulation in the South China Sea, which China claims nearly in its entirety, and an air defense zone in the neighboring East China Sea, where a group of islands is jointly disputed by China and Japan.

Military: 3 BIFF members killed, 3 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao clash

From GMA News (Mar 1): Military: 3 BIFF members killed, 3 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao clash

At least three people were killed and three others were wounded in a gun battle late Friday evening between members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and government troops in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province.

Col. Edgar Gonzales, commanding officer of the First Mechanized Brigade based in Shariff Aguak town, confirmed that at least three of members of the BIFF – a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were killed in the 30-minute firefight that started at about 11:55 p.m. near a military camp.

“The dead bodies  were immediately brought by their comrades," Gonzales said, citing information from residents and the Military's "people on the ground."

Also, he said no soldier was killed, but three were wounded during the clash.

But a BIFF leader belied Gonzales' claims, saying several soldiers were killed in the confrontation.

BIFF spokesman Abumisry Mama said they used at least 30 rounds of M-79 grenade launchers, walloping army troops inside the Second Mechanized Battalion camp, which is just 300 to 400 meters from their (rebels') position.

“We could surmise they have several fatalities during our attack on the camp and ambush on their reinforcement,” Mama said.

He denied the BIFF suffered fatalities and laughed about the claim three of their members were killed.

Mama said their fighters splintered into smaller groups when the military began conducting operations targeting BIFF camps in Ganta, Datu Piang and Datu Salibo towns.

“ We are now divided into smaller groups, we are on guerrilla fight and will continue with our struggle," Mama said.

Gonzales on the other hand said, “We are tightening our security measures, but knowing the BIFF, we believe they don't have enough capability and they are just doing propaganda [war].”

On the other hand, the BIFF also denied accusations their recent attacks were meant to sabotage the expected signing this March of the Comprehensive Compact Agreement between the government and MILF.

“ It’s [peace deal] a non-issue for us if they sign whatever... our struggle  continues... we have nothing to do with that (Comprehensive Compact Agreement),” Mama said.

NPA guerrillas own up to landmine attack in Cotabato

From GMA News (Mar 2): NPA guerrillas own up to landmine attack in Cotabato

Communist rebels on Saturday claimed responsibility for detonating a landmine that hit a convoy of a town mayor in Cotabto, leaving three policemen wounded.

But in a statement sent to media through email, Ka. Isabel Fermiza, New People's Army’s Mount Apo sub-regional command spokesperson, denied military reports claiming that the target of the attack was President Roxas town Mayor Jaime Mahimpit.

Fermiza also said the incident occurred Thursday afternoon in Baranagy Datu Inda, President Roxas town, adding that the offensive targeted policemen on a military truck tailing the mayor’s vehicle.

A police report indicated that the three wounded President Roxas cops were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Meanwhile, Police Senior Inspector Bernabe Rubio, President Roxas town's chief of police, said the rebels might have stayed in the area for two to three days just to wait for the mayors’ convoy.

For his part, Mahimpit vowed to continue the multi-million road construction in Barangay Datu Inda despite threats from the rebels, who allegedly engaged in extortion activities targeting the construction firm doing the three-kilometer roadwork.

Mahimpit however denied reports he had fallen victim to NPA extortion.

“I don’t receive any letter or demand from them. That is why I am very confident to send our heavy equipment and personnel there,” Mahimpit told GMA News Online.

The mayor assured the constituents and the barangay officials that the project will go on, but also asks them to help secure the LGU equipment as well as the private firm personnel manning the ongoing road concreting work.

Mahimpit said once completed, at least 500 constituents stand to benefit from the project.

He also appealed to the rebel group not to harm anyone and let the construction project continue until its completion.

IEP: Ummah Updates (3/1/14)

From the Islamic Emirate of the Philippines (IEP) Facebook page (Mar 1): Ummah Updates (3/1/14)

Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Philippines

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters(#BIFF) "New #Guerilla" unit harassed the main camp of the 2nd Mechanized #Battalion in Datu Saudi Ampatuan last night, Friday 28th of February, 2014 at 11:00pm....

A convoy of hammer and several amphibians tried to reinforce but they suffered sever lose due to an ambush done by the Mujahideen to block the reinforcements. A Hammer was crushed and 6 AFP troops were dead on the spot and many were wounded.

AlhamduliLLAH! There are NO casualties from the Mujahideen.

Should there be any, we would have been so Happy and Proud to let everyone know in his honor for ALLAH grants the #Honor and #Mercy to The #Martyrs of HIS Deen.

ALLAHu Akbar! ALLAHu Akbar! ALLAHu Akbar!

Make Du'a for the Mujahideen who are honorably fighting to protect ans establish the Deen of ALLAH wherever they are.

Make Du'a to ALLAH for ourselves to help us and guide us to be amongst those whom who are true to their oath to ALLAH and tirelessly fight against ALLAH's enemies.

Make Du'a to ALLAH to help us and protect us from the evils of the Infidels and the Murtadeen and make us NOT amongst those who befriend them and make them allies against our bothers who are honorably defending ALLAH's Deen Al-Islam, for a very cheap price of physical safety and worldly praise.

help and Support our Mujahideen brothers in anyway you can, thus, in turn doing yourself a favor by helping them.

Be reminded of the rewards ALLAH has promised for doing so.

Be reminded of the Great Rewards ALLAH has promised for those who are true to their oaths to ALLAH till they acheive the Greatest of Success, Martyrdom!

Be reminded of the punishments ALLAH has promised for those who lag behind, sitting amongst the weak/disabled, women and the children of the UMMAH where they are able to fight!

ALLAhumagfilrliy wal Muslimina wal Muslimaah, wal Mu'mineena Wal Mu'minah, Wal Mujahideena Wal Mujahidah

ALLAHumma Unsuril Islamah wal Muslimina wal Muqatilina fiy sabiliLLAHirRabbil Alamin

Don't forget to Like, Comment and Share!!
JazakumuLLAHu Khairan Katheeran

WabarakumuLLAHu Fiqkum

North Cotabato exec confirms NPA extortion activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1): North Cotabato exec confirms NPA extortion activities

A town mayor in North Cotabato has confirmed that the communist New People's Army is mulcting the local government unit for it to allow the construction of a road project in an NPA infested village.

Mayor Jaime Mahimpit of Pres. Rojas, North Cotabato, said his refusal to grant the "request" led to the land mine attack on his convoy on Thursday afternoon.

The local government unit, through a private construction firm, is concreting a three-kilometer stretch of the road in Barangay Datu Inda.

But an emissary of the NPA Front 53 operating in the tri-borders of North Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao warned the project will be harassed once the LGU and the contractor denied their P1 million demand.

"This is clearly a violation, a human rights violation," Colonel Nilo Vinluan, 57th Infantry Battalion chief, said after Mahimpit narrowly survived an ambush but three of his police escorts were hurt.

"The rebels are extorting money from the contractor and when the demand was denied, they set off land mines," Vinluan said, adding that once the project is completed, the people in the village, including relatives of NPAs, would benefit from it.

Despite the bombing and the extortion activities of NPAs, Mahimpit said the project will continue as programmed.

"I talked to the village officials, they want the project completed," Mahimpit said, adding that the Army's 57th IB vowed to provide security.

Vinluan said the Army received reports a week earlier about the presence of NPAs in Barangay Datu Inda and conducting search-in and recruitment activities.

This prompted the military assigned in President Rojas to conduct patrol operation when they were strafed. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

On Thursday, Mahimpit went to the village to talk to an NPA emissary to explain that it has no funds for "protection money" and to tell the rebels they too can benefit from the road project.

It was then that his convoy was strafed and a land mine was set off when they noticed Mahimpit had Army escorts.

"What kind of ideology the NPA is pursuing, they claim to be fighting for the people but they are anti-people and anti-development," Mahimpit said, challenging militant groups to issue condemnation against the NPA for the attacks.

"When the Army conduct legitimate military operation, these militant groups cry human rights violation, when the NPA do, they keep quite, who are they protecting?" Vinluan asked.

Militant Bayan Muna, Karapatan and Panaghiusang Mag-uuma sa North Cotabato have remained silent since the incident.

Mahimpit vowed to push for the road project and more similar projects in President Rojas because it will benefit more the people in general.

Army fetes honest sergeant

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1): Army fetes honest sergeant

The Philippine Army (PA) on Saturday said it will honor to Sgt. Raffy M. Braga, the honest soldier, who returned two checks amounting to P350,000 he found while driving at McKinley Hill, near Emperador Stadium, Taguig City Wednesday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, Army spokesperson, said the presentation will take place 7 a.m. Monday flag-raising ceremony at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

He added the PA decided to fete Braga for his exceptional honesty which gave credit to the service.

The Plaque of Appreciation is signed by Army commander Major Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri.

Also present in Monday's event are civilian groups who will give the honest sergeant some small tokens.

Braga, 38, is assigned at the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, OG7.

The former was returning to Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after an official errand when two pieces of paper, with a check attached on it, flew across his service vehicle.

And when the former stopped to investigate, he found two Landbank of the Philippines checks, one of which amounted to P182,702.73, and the other P165, 506.06, both payable to the order of Manila Water Company.

Detoyato said Braga immediately reported the matter to his superiors who then coordinated with Landbank for the return of the checks to its owner.

A certain Kiko Loresco of Manila Water recovered the check at Braga's office.

Loresco expressed his gratitude, and thanked Braga for his honesty.

Braga is from Valencia, Bukidnon. He has been serving the Army for 17 years now. He is married and has two sons.

Detoyato said that the PA commends Braga for his honesty, and for exemplifying integrity and professionalism.

Army troopers overrun NPA rebel camp in Malita, Davao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1): Army troopers overrun NPA rebel camp in Malita, Davao del Sur

Troopers from the 73rd Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division, successfully captured a New People's Army (NPA) camp in Malita town, Davao del Sur Friday.

Also bagged in the military operation which took place at 10:45 a.m. was a rebel fighter, unit spokesperson 1st Lt. Ernesto Carolina said.

The captured rebel was identified as Rodane Antiodo, alleged leader of the NPA's Front 75.

Carolina said the captured NPA base is capable of housing 70 rebel fighters.

Prior to this, 73rd Infantry Battalion troopers engaged members of the NPA Front 75 in a 20-minute firefight.

The NPAs quickly fled, leaving behind an AK-47 automatic rifle and ammunition, a rifle grenade, 30 meters of electric wire, two sacks of rice and personal items.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

PH, Malaysia to set up security hotline

From Rappler (Mar 1): PH, Malaysia to set up security hotline

They discussed the Sabah issue after all.

Although the Philippines' dormant claim to Sabah was not part of the original agenda, President Benigno Aquino III discussed it with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during his first-ever state visit to Malaysia Friday, February 28.

It was Najib himself who brought up Sabah in the discussion when he followed up the possibility of setting up a Philippine consulate in Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu.

The talk did not revolve around any future assertion of claims, as the visit came while the Philippines is in the midst of encouraging its neighbors, including Malaysia, to join its case against China. Aquino, however, said the country's arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) was not discussed during the meeting.

Instead, Aquino signified the Philippines' intention to "come up to a consensus" on the issue. He also discussed with the prime minister the possibility of setting up a security hotline, a year after the bloody Sabah crisis.

"This is part of the effort to understand exactly what has transpired. Then we told our Malaysian counterparts, first of all, we’re not after conflict with anybody. But we want to be able to tell our people the real score, and in that sense, come up to a consensus based on that which is right," Aquino told reporters.

The government is still awaiting the final draft of a study on the Sabah issue being led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Address criminality, banditry

During Aquino's state visit, the leaders agreed to establish a security hotline between the two nations to "address criminality and banditry," especially along porous borders in southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia.

"In effect, the Abu Sayyaf – amongst other groups – is a problem common to both of us. And it behooves have greater coordination to first prevent and forestall and, in fact, hopefully deter anymore activities such as this," Aquno said.

A mechanism on how each country may contact each other in case of security issues – such as the year 2000 incident when the Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 tourists in Sipadan – will be established.

Aquino's visit to Malaysia comes a year after the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu trooped to Sabah to assert their claim on the island. A number of Filipinos are now facing terrorism-related charges over the botched claim.

Consulate in Kota Kinabalu soon?

During the meeting, Malaysia also followed up on its earlier request for the Philippines to set up a consulate in Kota Kinabalu.

At present, the Philippines only has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital.

Aquino said the DFA is still re-examining whether the Kota Kinabalu territory is part of areas in Sabah being claimed by the Sultanate of Sulu. The exact coordinates of the Sabah territory in question is still being verified by historians, Aquino added.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to grace the signing of the final peace agreement between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by the end of March. Malaysia served as the third-party facilitator in the 16-year negotiations.

BIFF attacks military HQ in Maguindanao

From Rappler (Mar 1): BIFF attacks military HQ in Maguindanao

As the government reassured the country that the final peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would be signed end of March, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) opposing the deal staged an attack against a military headquarters in Maguindanao late Friday evening, February 28.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFF, said a "new guerrilla unit" conducted the harassment operations against the main camp of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town at around 11 pm.

The attack came weeks after government forces launched a massive security operations against the BIFF. (READ Military captures BIFF strongholds, extends operations and Military sets up detachment in captured BIFF camps)

Mama said their fighters hid under the darkness and were able to breach through the security of the headquarters. Using automatic rifles, sniper rifles, and grenade launchers, the rebels opened fire, resulting to minutes of gunfight.

"We know the soldiers sustained fatalities, but we could not give body counts because we were not able to do an assessment of the damage. It was very dark during the firefight," Mama said.

The military confirmed that 3 government forces were wounded in the attack.

Colonel Edgar Gonzales, chief of the military's 1st Mechanized Brigade, claimed that their counter-attack left at least 3 rebels dead.

Mama said that the BIFF sustained no injuries or fatalities.

Security forces are in control in the area and was able to immediately conduct pursuit operations to flush out the rebels, Gonzales said.

Mama claimed that after the attack, the BIFF also ambushed a convoy of military reinforcements not far away from the military headquarters.

Gonzales clarified that it was not an ambush but an encounter between the blocking forces of the military and the fleeing rebels.

Despite the successive clashes with the military, the BIFF is still confident that they would be able to sustain their armed struggle for an "independent Bangsamoro state.”

"These attacks are proof that the military failed in its objective to crush the BIFF," Mama said.

Philippine town mayor dies from heart attack after ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 1): Philippine town mayor dies from heart attack after ambush

Google map of Maitum town in Sarangani province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

A Filipino town mayor died from heart attack following an ambush by armed men in the southern Philippines, an army spokesman said Saturday.

Capt. Alberto Caber, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Mayor George Cho Perrett of Maitum town in Sarangani province, was driving his car with his wife Elsie Lucille and a maid, when gunmen attacked them in the village of Bugo late Friday.

He said Perrett and his maid were both wounded in the attack, but the mayor eventually succumbed to heart attack at dawn Saturday in hospital in General Santos City where he was rushed.

“The victims were immediately brought to Saint Elizabeth Hospital in General Santos City for medical treatment, however, Mayor Perrett expired at about 2.30 a.m. due to cardiac arrest,” Caber told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner, adding, the politician’s wife was unscathed from the ambush.

Caber said the mayor was heading home from program at the municipal gymnasium when gunmen ambushed him. “Recovered from the crime scene were fired cartridges of M16 automatic rifle and .45-caliber pistol. Mayor Perrett was personally driving his car and with no bodyguards when the ambush occurred,” he said.

He said soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion and the local police force launched an operation to track down the attackers.

Caber said authorities were investigating the attack. “We still don’t know who was behind the ambush,” he said.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the ambush, but the province is a known stronghold of communist New People’s Army rebels fighting for the establishment of a separate state in the country.

Just recently, NPA rebels also ambushed Mayor Jaime Mahimpit, of President Roxas town in North Cotabato province, who was with a convoy of police and military forces. Three of the politician’s police bodyguards - SPO4 Hector Castillo, PO3 Joemer Ilagan and PO2 Joselax Avena - were wounded in the attack.

The NPA, which owned the ambush, said the target of the attack was soldiers and policemen, and not the politician. “The police and army elements were legitimate targets, contrary to reports that Mayor Mahimpit was the object of the punitive action linked to revolutionary tax collection,” a rebel spokesperson Isabel Fermiza said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Moro rebels raid military base in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 1): Moro rebels raid military base in Southern Philippines

Moro rebels launched a daring attack on a military base, firing grenades and automatic weapons and ambushed a government reinforcement that killed several soldiers in Maguindanao province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

A rebel spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, said they launched the attack on the army’s mechanized brigade near Datu Saudi Ampatuan town before midnight, surprising troops in the barracks. He said they also attacked a military reinforcement on the highway and killed soldiers.

“We brought the war to their doorstep. Brave mujahedeen attacked the military base and also ambushed soldiers trying to reinforce the beleaguered troops of the mechanized brigade. Our fighters killed several soldiers and we have no casualties,” Mama told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner by phone from his headquarters in the province.

Mama said the attack was ordered by Sheik Mohidin Animbang, new leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and its armed wing Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, in retaliation to continuing military offensive against them in the province.

“The military attacked our members who were just farming in the province and so we launched our own offensive,” Mama said, adding the raid was carried by an elite team of fighters armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons. “At least 30 rounds of grenades have been fired into the camp,” he said.

The military said no soldiers were killed in the attack and citing intelligence reports claimed that three rebels were slain in the fighting.

The rebel group – founded by Ameril Umra Kato - split with the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila. Kato accused MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim of abandoning their demand for an independent state in Mindanao and vowed to pursue an independent Muslim homeland in Mindanao.

The rebel leader has several times criticized Ebrahim for talking peace with the Aquino government which insisted on granting wider autonomy to some four million Muslims in Mindanao.

Kato is facing a string of criminal charges in connection to the series of attacks that he led after the failed signing of the Muslim homeland deal in 2008 between the MILF and the government. The Supreme Court declared the accord as unconstitutional and the aborted deal triggered a series of deadly attacks by Kato’s forces in Mindanao.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and its spokesman Abu Misry Mama during a clandestine interview in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Communist rebel leader surrenders in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Mar 1): Communist rebel leader surrenders in Southern Philippines

A communist rebel leader has surrendered to the Philippine military after his family convinced him to abandon his struggle and live peacefully again together with them in Mindanao.

Geneng Ambas, alias Chong, surrendered to the 72nd Infantry Battalion in the village of Linao in Davao del Norte’s San Isidro town, according to Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command.

He said Ambas was a political officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army and involved in its operations in the province. “He is the brain of the NPA’s illegal activities in the municipalities of Davao del Norte. The surrender of Ambas was arranged by his relatives and village officials,” Caber said.

Caber said more some 230 rebels also surrendered in eastern Mindanao since 2013 and availed of the government’s amnesty program.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the division commander, said the strong support of the communities to the military’s campaign and the government’s amnesty program have largely helped in convincing rebels to surrender peacefully.

“The huge number of rebels who are peacefully surrendering to the government is concrete evidence that the spirit of Bayanihan among us is alive,” Cruz said.

Bayanihan refers to a spirit of communal unity and cooperation and is also the government’s anti-insurgency campaign plan.

The NPA is fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.