Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NPA attacks Lumad camp

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 11): NPA attacks Lumad camp

After raiding Carmen town in Agusan del Norte on Sunday, around 60 New People’s Army rebels attacked Monday the Tagbagani Camp of lumads in Barangay Panikian, Carasscal in Surigao del Sur, authorities said.

Col. Gregory Cayetano, 401st Infantry Brigade Commander, said the group targeted  the compound of Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. in Barangay Gabuyan also in Carasscal more than a kilometer away from the lumad stronghold.

He said intelligence reports enabled the army to field troops to secure the mining site as a preventive measure.

“They diverted their attack to Tagbagani Camp of the lumads guarding their ancestral domain now mined by different mining firms” Cayetano told Manila Standard when reached by cellphone.

The brigade is under the army’s Fourth Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.

4th ID spokesman Major Christian Uy in a phone interview Tuesday morning said the rebels took four .45 caliber Smith and Wesson pistols, two 5.56mm M4 assault rifles, one .30 caliber M2 carbine, one 5.56mm AR-18 rifle, one shotgun and a .38 caliber pistol along with assorted ammunition.

Uy said he had no report about the presence of Datu Rayan Hunog, leader of the lumad armed security group when its camp was attacked nor information whether the lost firearms were licensed.

But he said the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 allowed tribes to protect their ancestral land noting that mining firms owned licensed firearms that were assigned to lumads hired to guard their mining concessions.

But Cayetano said the Philippine National Police was in a better position to determine the status of armed lumads or tribes.

“I think the PNP has its own office dealing with licensing and issuing permits to carry and owned firearms. Maybe it is the PNP that can answer if those other firearms possessed by Tagbagani were licensed or not,” he told Manila Standard.

Chief Supt. Dominador Eslava Aquino, PNP Caraga regional director, was unavailable for comment when contacted by phone on Tuesday; calls to the information office in Camp Rafael Rodriguez were also unanswered.

According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Marcventures holds a mineral production sharing agreement for a 4,799-hectare tenement located in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.


Army troops in Surigao Norte recover 4 AK-47 rifles

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 9): Army troops in Surigao Norte recover 4 AK-47 rifles

Troops of 30th Infantry “Python” Battalion (30IB) recovered four AK-47 rifles after a clash against more or less 20 members of Sandatahang Platun Pampropaganda 16 (SPP16C) at the vicinity of Brgy Cambuayon, Bacuag, Surigao del Norte at 10:40 a.m., Sunday. 

A platoon from 30IB led by CPT Reynaldo B Guillermo were conducting combat operations when they encountered more or less 20 members of the SPP16C at the vicinity of Brgy Cambuayon, Bacuag, Surigao del Norte.

The firefight lasted for about 20 minutes afterwhich the enemies scampered towards different directions. This was after persistent reports from the civilian populace that a group of armed men led by a certain aka “X” was harrasing and extorting money from them.

The troops recovered four AK-47s, two hand grenades, one rifle grenade, one handheld radio (yaesu), six bandoliers for AK47, 15 magazines loaded with 30 rounds of live ammunition each, four improvised explosive device (IEDs)  and six backpacks containing of personal belongings.

Last week, troops of the 30th infantry Battalion also encountered the SPP16B at Brgy Tagbuyawan, Mainit, Surigao del Norte. The troops recovered one AK-47, one M653 and one M14. Three dead NPA bodies were also recovered. One of them a female IP which was left for dead by her comrades 400 meters from the encounter site.

LTCol Arsenio Sadural, Commanding Officer, 30IB said “Through the various informations we have gathered from the civilian populace and thorough examination of these areas, we have pinpointed their locations and engaged them decisively.”

“We will be launching more combat operations in order to decimate their group,” he added.

Meanwhile, Col Ferdinand Quidilla, Commanding Officer 402nd Infantry Brigade praised the troops for the successful combat operations. “I congratulate the troops of 30th Infantry Battalion for their steadfast and swift victory against the remaining members of Guerilla Front 16 (GF16). This is what we are trained for, to find and crush the NPAs in order to prevent them from harming our fellow Filipinos," said Quedilla.

MGen Ricardo Visays AFP, Commander, 4ID said, “We will ensure that the enemy will get what it wants if they continue to pester the people. There will be no let-up in our combat operations against these NPAs.”

“However for those who are tired of their non-sense ideology and want to return to the folds of the law, bring down your arms and the government is willing to help you start a new beggining,” he added.


Army 67IB to conduct Area Clearing Validation in SurSur town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 9): Army 67IB to conduct Area Clearing Validation in SurSur town

The Army 67th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Michael Banua is set to conduct an Area Clearing Validation (ACV)  at 1:00 p.m. on June 10 at the Municipal Social Hall of Lingig, Surigao del Sur.

The activity aims to get “an honest to goodness validation and assessment of the peace and order situation of the whole municipality” through a plenary discussion which is in line with the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) that the battalion is currently undertaking, according to Lt. Col. Banua.

With the theme, “Kalinaw, Kahiusa ug Kalambuan sa Lingig, Surigao del Sur (Peace, Unity and Development in Lingig),” Governor Johnny Pimentel is invited to grace the occasion and to give a closing remarks.

Unlike other cities and municipalities in the province, it was learned that Lingig town, the southernmost municipality of Surigao del Sur, 204 km. south of Tandag City; also, 29 km. south of Bislig City, is the only local government unit (LGU) to have been included in the area of responsibility (AOR) of an army battalion holding camp outside of Caraga region.

Meanwhile, based on the official invitation, high ranking army officers will also have their respective parts in the program proper.

BGen. Roberto Domines, Jr., Asst. Division Commander of the 10th Infantry Division is set to deliver a message and Col. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., 701st Brigade Commander is likewise tasked to give a welcome remarks.


'US, allies not going to war vs. China'

From the Philippine Star (Jun 9): 'US, allies not going to war vs. China'

Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Marines practice engaging the enemy during convoy operations training April 7 at Camp O’Donnell, Philippines, as part of exercise Balikatan 2013. US Marines/Courtney White

The United States' policy of rebalancing to Asia and deepening its ties with regional allies including the Philippines is not designed to provoke an armed confrontation with China, an American analyst said at a forum on Monday.

Robbert Sutter, professor of International Affairs in George Washington University, said that China can neither afford to have a conflict with Washington despite its economic growth and unprecedented military expansion.

"We are not going to war," Sutter said in a forum in the University of the Philippines on Monday, addressing speculations that the Obama administration's foreign policy is an effort to contain China.

He said President Obama is "not interested" in confronting China, its largest trading partner, as the prospect is unpopular with the American public.

The US also sees that containing China is "not a viable fantasy" as it needs more than one million troops for the job.

The challenge Washington takes up, however, is toggling between dissuading China from using force and coercion in the disputed waters and trying to build a relationship with the Asian giant.

"The bottom line here is quite clear--the US wants to engage with China. The US in in the middle of a balancing act, like all governments in Asia are doing," Sutter, who did work for the Central Intelligence Agency, said.

China, on the other hand, is "failing in its foreign policy" by trying to convince its neighbors it aims to rise peacefully while sowing distrust and suspicion through its unilateral actions in the waters, which is why China is unprepared to confront the Western power, Sutter said.

"China has a terrible legacy in Asia," Sutter argues, citing events such as the Tiananmen massacre and the more recent Scarborough Shoal and Senkaku Island standoffs that dented its reputation. "Are they influential? Yes. Do they have countries to count on? Are there countries 'bandwagoning' for China? I can find none."
He added that China has serious internal issues that threaten its stability and needs to sustain its economic growth to project legitimacy of the ruling communist party.

"[Chinese president] Xi Jinping doesn't want big problems with the US. This a government [that is] legitimate insofar as it produces good results.

They have 100 to 200 mass demonstrations every year. They have a big gap between the rich and poor. China is using four times the amount of oil to grow its economy that the US does. This is hard to sustain," Sutter said.

For Sutter, these weaknesses that China is going lengths to cover will make its Asian policies including its claims in South China Sea to fail, though it seems to be succeeding in the interim.

"The People's Republic of China is the only government in the world of its size that has not admitted a mistake in foreign policy. They are never at fault ... As a result they cannot deal with these issues effectively." he said. "... This, I think, is a big constraining factor in China."

Sutter admitted that the US' global position is on a decline, but believes it remains to be the leader in Asia as it provides the most important factor in wielding influence.

"Is Asia stable? Not really. Because they say, [countries] don't like each other and don't trust each other. We get together to collaborate ... [but] it means that they have to get their stability somewhere else," Sutter said.

He said that the US is in the other side of the Pacific but is willing to achieve stability in Asia.

"Americans don't do this because they love Asia, but because it is in their interest to do so," he said.


Authorities eye resolution to Moro-Ilonggo feud in Kidapawan

From the Philippine Star (Jun 9): Authorities eye resolution to Moro-Ilonggo feud in Kidapawan

Local officials and the police are scrambling to organize a multi-sectoral group to pacify armed ethnic Moro and Ilonggo settlers in Kidapawan City that twice figured in bloody encounters last week.

The animosity between the two groups  --- squabbling for control of patches of arable lands in a government reservation at the borders of Barangays Patadon and Amas --- escalated last week with the alleged decapitation of Moro farmer Kenti Diagao, 44, by Ilonggo peasants.

Diagao was reportedly hauling newly-harvested corn using a Carabao-drawn cart from his farm to his house when shot from behind with gauge 12 shotguns and beheaded.

Bobby Benito, executive director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), recommended an immediate diplomatic intervention by North Cotabato's religious and  political communities to prevent an escalation of the conflict.

The MinHRAC is involved in the civilian protection efforts of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Relatives of Diagao retaliated three days after he was killed by attacking Sitio Nazareth at the boundary of Barangays Amas and Patadon from different directions, sparking running firefights with village watchmen and armed residents.

Three barangay tanods were killed while two responding policemen, SP01 Edwin Maglate and Police Inspector Randy Apostol, were wounded in the  encounter.

The security situation in the area reportedly started to deteriorate when Moro farmers began asserting ownership, following the October 15, 2012 signing of the government and the MILF of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, of rice and corn farms on lands separating Kidapawan City’s Barangay Amas and Patadon, where the Department of Agriculture has demonstration farms.

The disputed lands are inside a government property, which neither of the groups legally own.

Local officials on Sunday urged the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee to deploy a peacekeeping contingent between the feuding groups after learning that the attack on Sitio Nazareth was led by a Moro commander named Satar Manalundong.

Manalundong, a member of the MILF, and his men had also figured in hostilities in 2013 in North Cotabato’s Matalam town with members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace pact with government on Sept. 2, 1996.

Even the police director of North Cotabato, Senior Supt. Danny Peralta, had recommended an immediate intervention by the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee to stave off possible escalation of the conflict in Barangays Amas and Patadon.

The office of North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou TaliƱo-Mendoza had organized a crisis committee to help the city government of Kidapawan resolve the conflict.


Peace bears fruit in Basilan coastal town with footbridge project

From Business World (Jun 9): Peace bears fruit in Basilan coastal town with footbridge project

For the former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the island-provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, the struggle for Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination does not end with gaining political power over their ancestral lands.

The real challenge is to effectively bring progress to the people and sustain stability across their historical territories.

Bara S. Jikiri, a former MNLF junior officer, once led hundreds of Moro fighters at the height of the Moro revolution in Basilan in 1970s. His new battle, he said, is to advance the welfare of the Moro natives without the use of guns.

“The aspiration of having a genuine governance over our ancestral lands does not exclusively lie on how well you fought for it, but how will you bring the needed humanitarian progress to our fellow Bangsamoro people and non-Moros residing in our areas,” Mr. Jikiri said in the vernacular.

“But the word ‘progress’ is not only confined to the economic aspect alone. Progress means people can live devoid of fear; children can be children; and society is stable,” he added.

Mr. Jikiri said the best legacy his generation could leave are improvements on the lives of the Bangsamoro people -- the very constituents to whom the Moro fighters dedicated their quest for genuine self-rule.

“That kind of legacy is still a challenge for us to fully realize. Gradually, we are living that dream by engaging with proper government agencies in bringing the needed developmental projects to our communities,” said.

Mr. Jikiri is now a village councilor of Barangay Port Holland in the town of Maluso in Basilan.

He and other leaders are helping bring progress to the community by rehabilitating their community’s footbridges, which are fast becoming unreliable. Viewed from afar, Port Holland, which faces Sulu province, looks like a typical fishing community.

Up close, however, one can see that the houses are built on stilts connected by a complex network of wobbly footbridges that are the soul of the community.

The vulnerability of the wooden footbridges makes life perilous for the residents.

Fishers in the village have to depend on small diesel motor boats to transport their catch.

Abdurahman Minong, the barangay chairman, noted that a huge portion of the fishers’ income is eaten up by high operating cost in transporting their catch since the wooden footbridges could not bear heavy loads.

“Many of the footbridges here are dilapidated. It has been worn out over the years. The maintenance and repair, required every two to three years, are also costly. The wooden bridges even pose dangers to the residents here, especially to the children,” said Mr. Minong.

Gajer S. Jamadin of village youth sector lamented that before the construction of the rock causeways, several students failed to perform well in schools as they face difficulties in crossing the footbridges when heading to schools. This is eminent especially during bad weather, where seawater rises, which then submerged large portions of the age-old footbridges, making it impassable.

“There are instances where elementary students fell on those footbridges. Those incidents caused not only physical injuries but trauma to the children. Some have even lost their desire to go to school simply because they are afraid of crossing those unstable footbridges,” he narrated.

Sitticalma Mangsan, who leads the women’s group in the village, said the narrow footbridges sometimes trigger conflict among the villagers. “The wooden bridges are quite narrow. When someone is in a hurry and carries heavy loads and chance upon a resident who is also walking in an opposite direction, chances are conflict will erupt,” she recounted.

With the entry of Pamana (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan), one of the government’s key developmental programs in conflict-affected areas, concrete causeways were built to replace the wooden footbridges, providing stable links among the houses.

After Mr. Minong met with the Pamana area managers, he immediately called a meeting with the local community. “We (residents) immediately convened and proposed an infrastructure project that will ease the burden of the villagers, and that is to have safe and stable access roads within the community,” Mr. Minong said.

The swampy coastal village is one of the many in Basilan province that the national government is providing assistance to through Pamana, an initiative of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and its partner government agencies.

The program, which was launched after Benigno S. C. Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010, has been providing vital developmental projects in areas that have been impoverished due to armed conflict.

For the autonomous Muslim region, the implementation of Pamana programs is part of the government’s lasting commitment to the Final Peace Agreement it had signed with the MNLF in 1996. With the program in full swing, residents of Port Holland worked together to construct several causeways using boulders, sand and cement.

The paths are more than a meter wide and could accommodate a tricycle transporting goods around the village. Each rock causeway stands more than four meters long to prevent it from submerging during high tide. Since it is made of concrete, it can withstand strong waves even during bad weather. “We use a portion of our annual barangay budget as our counterpart to finance the rock causeways. This is to augment the P1.5 million that the Pamana program provided us for the constructions,” Mr. Minong said.


AK-47s: PH Reds weapons of choice

From the Asian Correspondent (Jun 10): AK-47s: PH Reds weapons of choice

Long before the Philippine National Police (PNP) disclosed that 1,004 AK-47 rifles may have been sold to the New People’s Army (NPA), a senior cadre of the rebel group intimated that hundreds of the sturdy rifle are now in the hands of Red fighters.
Photos of NPA rebels brandishing AK-47s began appearing with regularity a couple of years ago, about the same time when the Philippine police said a broker purchased the rifles purportedly for security forces of mining companies in Mindanao.  The broker, identified as Isidro Lozada, then sought clearance and licenses from the the PNP Firearms and Explosive Office.
Turned out that the names where these weapons were to be delivered were fictitious.  By the time the PNP discovered the anomaly, the AK-47s have already been test-fired by the NPAs in ambushes and encounters with government police and military forces.
Ka Efren, spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Far South Mindanao Region, said they find the Chinese variant of assault rifle efficient and durable.
The AK-47 was designed by Russian inventor Mikhael Kalashnikov and put into mass production in 1947.   The Avtomat Kalashnikov (Kalasnikov’s Automatic) has since undergone little changes.
It has become an iconic weapon of liberation armies and rebel forces throughout the world.
The NPA’s red flag even has an AK-47 in its emblem although for years, Asia’s longest running communist insurgency has relied on government standard M-16 rifles.
The sturdy reliable AK-47 is a weapon of choice for Philippine communist guerrillas.Pic by Edwin Espejo
In an interview somewhere in Cotabato province middle of last year, Ka Efren said they were able to procure caches of AK-47s from gunrunners and government sources.  Police and military authorities said an AK-47 costs P52,000 in the open market.
Throughout Mindanao, especially in the Davao, Caraga and Cotabato regions, young NPA guerrillas are now slinging the Soviet era-designed Kalashnikov rifle.
Some say about 30 percent of the issued firearms of NPA regulars are now AK-47 rifles.
Enough to arm a brigade
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said if the number of AK-47 rifles now in the hands of the NPA rebels is accurate, it could arm a standard Army Brigade.
Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainer Cruz, commanding general of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command had earlier ordered the investigation of the proliferation of AK-47s in the hands of NPA guerrillas after they seized a handful of these firearms during encounters with the rebels.
His order came after the Army’s 27th Brigade intercepted 4 AK-47s at a checkpoint in Tboli, South Cotabato.  The arms were supposedly transported by the NPAs from Tulunan in Cotabato for its guerrilla front in the said province.
Cruz said they have been monitoring cargo ships making port calls in Surigao provinces where there are heavy mining activities, mostly mineral ore extraction by Chinese mining companies.
Cruz believed the AK-47s came from China.
Early smuggling attempts
The AK-47s used to be issued only to top cadres of the communist underground movement but are seldom used and fired because of difficulties procuring ammunition.
This first batch of AK-47s to land in the hands of the NPAs was what little was left in the failed MV Karagatan gun smuggling case in 1972 where more than 1,200 M-14 and AK-47 rifles were shipped from China.
China then was actively supporting and arming communist insurgencies in Asia.
The ship however ran aground off the shores of Palanan in Isabela and was spotted by a reconnaissance plane of the AFP.  As former Army lieutenant-turned NPA rebel then again government soldier Col. Victor Corpuz recounted, a fierce encounter took place before the guerrilla unit he was commanding could finish unloading the smuggled firearms.
Corpuz and his band of NPA guerrillas retreated after suffering casualties and were only able to recover a few hundred of rifles, some of them Soviet-made AK-47s.
The AK-47 is a favorite assault rifle because of its durability even under different extreme conditions and simple mechanism with an accuracy rated as “good enough.”
Around 75 million AK-47s and their variants have been manufactured.  In contrast, the standard M16 rifles used by Western countries and their allies have built only 8 million.  Including their variants, the AK-47s now in use worldwide could number up to 100 million, or almost 1/5 of the world’s manufactured assault weapons.
The gas-fired assault rifles uses a 7.62mm cartridge, similar to the M14s but slightly shorter with its shell casing a bit bigger in diameter.
It can fire up to 600 rounds per minute and has an effective range of 400 meters at semi-automatic firing and 330 meters when fired at full automatic mode.  When fired, it has a muzzle velocity of 715 meters per second. 
While these specs are slightly behind the M16s which can fire up to 950 rounds per minute at velocity of 948 meters per second, the AK-47s have been said to fire even when soaked in mud or water for extended period.
“It doesn’t break, jam, or overheat. It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand,” as Yuri Orlov described in in the Lord of Wars movie starred by Nicolas Cage.
Most armies have found the AK-47 easy to operate and clean.  No wonder it is also the world’s most smuggled assault rifle and is also a favorite among criminals and syndicates.
With police authorities and the military now keeping a tight watch on more AK-47s landing in the hands of the state enemies, the NPAs could find themselves toting assault rifles with limited supply of bullets.
Unless the NPAs have their own ordnance production team, they might soon discard their iconic weapons and revert to ‘cleaning up’ M-16s during ambuscades and raids.
Ammos for the AK-47s are likely also imported too as the Philippines produces only 5.56 cartridges for M16 rifles and the bigger 7.52 of the M-14s.  The NPAs are however noted to be very economical in firing their weapons with the orientation of making sure the target is within sight and range.
Still, they will have to look for other means to find bullets for their weapons of choice.

Army says 4 BIFF die in Maguindanao clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): Army says 4 BIFF die in Maguindanao clashes

The military announced Tuesday that four members of renegade Moro rebel group were killed in a series of firefights with the Army that started Tuesday dawn in Maguindanao.

Three civilians, including a minor, were also hurt in attacks carried out by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), according to Colonel Dickson Hermoso.

Hermoso, speaking for the regional military unit, said it was the second day of sporadic attacks by the BIFF in various Army positions in the province.

At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, BIFF rebels ambushed combatants of the 45th Infantry Battalion in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which triggered an hour-long firefight.

The BIFF then retreated toward the marshland of Maguindanao bringing with them wounded comrades while leaving behind their four fatalities when Army reinforcements from nearby military base arrived.

Hermoso said the dead BIFF guerillas were turned over to village officials.

The Army forces, led by Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan of the 45th IB, and Col. Gener Del Rosario, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, conducted follow-up operations which led to the arrest of four BIFF bandits, one of them a woman.

After interrogation, Hongitan said, the captured bandits led the soldiers to their hideout where several improvised roadside bombs, a .50-caliber Barret sniping rifle and a firing tube for 60-mm mortar projectile were found.

Government forces also recovered a stolen Toyota air-conditioned van at the hideout of the gunmen, led by a certain Commander Bonggo.

On Monday, three BIFF bandits were killed while a soldier was wounded in fierce firefight following an attempt by Moro guerillas to overrun an Army reconnaissance base in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona town, also in Maguindanao.

Hermoso said the atrocities carried by the BIFF also resulted in the injury of three civilians, including a minor in three adjoining towns.

On Monday dawn, Hongitan said, the BIFF set off a roadside bomb fashioned from 60-mm mortar along a highway in Barangay Lower Salbu, Datu Saudi Ampatuan that wounded a man passing on board a motorcycle.

On Saturday, a minor was hurt in a grenade attack carried out by suspected BIFF toward an Army base in Barangay Elian, also in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

A 35-year-old woman, Bai Saida Lakin, was hurt when BIFF strafed an Army base in Barangay Damalabas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao on Monday night.

Hermoso blamed the strafing to BIFF members led by Commanders Quiapo and Leki, known field commanders of BIFF founding chair Omra Ameril Kato.

Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, admitted they initiated the attacks but denied suffering casualty.

Hermoso said the highway linking Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat province remained passable but commuters were advised to refrain from using the road network at night or early morning.


2 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): 2 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clash

Two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed while improvised bombs, .50 caliber Barret sniper rifle along with unexploded artillery shells and other bomb components captured after troopers of the 45th Infantry Battalion attacked their base in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, early Tuesday.

Major Dante Gania, 6th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said their assault was backed up a mechanized company.

This took place around 5:40 a.m. Fighting lasted for more than an hour.

The bodies of the slain rebels were recovered.

Soldiers have yet to report how many "ready-to-fire" IEDs were found at the site, while the unexploded artillery munitions include mortar and 105mm howitzer rounds.

A Toyota Grandia van believed to have been stolen was also recovered at the site, Gania said.

Members of the BIFF attacked security forces' outposts in Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Piang, and detonated improvised explosive devices in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, from Sunday night to early Monday.

The attacks left three rebels dead and injured a soldier and a civilian.


Rifles recovered from rebels were stolen from PNP – AFP

From the Manila Times (Jun 10): Rifles recovered from rebels were stolen from PNP – AFP

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-Eastmincom) on Tuesday said the AK-47 assault rifles it recovered in various encounters with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) were among those stolen from the arsenal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and believed to be sold to the underground movement.

Eastmincom spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said they have been aware of the situation for a year. Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz called the attention of the police and coordinated with the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division (FED) in tracing the source of the AK-47 rifles.

“Yes [they were part of the AK-47s stolen from the PNP]. Our commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, demanded an investigation after a series of AK-47 rifle recoveries following several encounters between the soldiers and CPP-NPA,” Caber added.

In Eastern Mindanao alone, he pointed out, government troops have been able to recover 45 AK-47 rifles in clashes in some parts of Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces, Caraga and Davao Regions since 2013.

Out of 45 rifles, 14 were surrendered by Maoist rebels who availed of the AFP’s Guns for Peace Program.

The latest recovery of four AK-47 rifles on June 8 followed an encounter between soldiers from the 30th Infantry Battalion and NPA elements in Bargy. Cambuayon, Cacuag, Surigao del Norte.

Similar type of assault rifles were also recovered in encounters in Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Sorsogon, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Wesstern Samar, Agusan del Norte and Compostela Valley, among others.

It was in March this year that PNP Director General Alan Purisima ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate the missing AK-47 and Armalite rifles.

Last week, CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong announced that 1,004 AK-47 assault rifles were missing from the FED.

The CIDG linked at least 19 PNP officials, including four active police generals, and 10 civilians to the anomaly.

But following the CIDG announcement, PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac immediately defended the beleaguered police officials, saying that the statement of the CIDG chief was “premature.”

Sindac even quoted Purisima as saying that “in the absence of any hard evidence,” everything was considered “speculations and hearsay.”

Among those earlier linked to the anomalous disappearance of the rifles were PNP Civil Security Group Director Gil Meneses; Police Regional Office 3 commander, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta; Chief Supt. Tom Rentoy of the Supervisory Office for Security Investigation Agencies; PNP Directorate for Comptrollership executive director, Senior Supt. Regie Catiees; and Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto Jr.

All five have denied the allegations against them.

Meneses and Petrasanta were former directors of the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) while Catiis and Acierto were former chiefs of the licensing division of the PNP-FEO.

Rentoy officially retired last February 26 while Meneses is due to retire this month and has already filed for non-duty status.

Magalalong earlier explained that the missing firearms were not procured by the PNP but by JTC Mineral Mining Corp. for the use of its security forces against the NPA and other lawless elements.

The high-powered firearms reportedly were originally imported by Twin Pines Inc., a license importers of firearms, gun parts, ammunition and shooting accessories, and later sold to JTC.

However, when the PNP conducted a nationwide gun check, it was discovered that the weapons were missing from JTC’s inventory.


NPA bombs transloading station of mill

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 10): NPA bombs transloading
station of mill

Suspected New People’s Army rebels raided and bombed again another transloading station of the Lopez Sugar Corp.-this time in Sitio Santa Ana, Brgy. Mabini, Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said yesterday that the suspects, who introduced themselves as members of the New People’s Army, placed Improvised Explosive Devices or homemade bombs, in two cranes and the core sampler laboratory.
Lirazan said the explosions damaged a crane and the core sampler laboratory, which is used to determine the quality of the sugarcane. The other IED that was placed in another crane, however, did not explode.
On March 16, 2008, the NPA also burned and destroyed the transloading stations of Lopez Sugar Central and Victorias Milling Company in Brgy. San Jose, Toboso, police records show.
Lirazan said the damage has not been determined yet, although the core sampler laboratory is valued at P10 million. Each crane also costs P5 million.
Also damaged were a platform weighing scale, gas pump and one Fuzo hauler truck, that had been peppered with bullets by the fleeing NPA rebels.
Lirazan said the rebels also disarmed the security guard of his 12-gauge shotgun with 20 rounds of ammunition, and also took two ICOM radio handsets.
However, the armed suspects did not harm the security guard, a watchman, a mechanic and his family, who reside within the vicinity of the transloading station, he added.
They told the civilians, who were herded to one place, that they are only after the sugar milling properties and a certain Ballesteros, Lirazan also said.
The unexploded IED was recovered by the police.
The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division yesterday condemned the latest NPA atrocities, saying “This is a gross violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by the CPP-NPA, of which the communist group is a signatory”.
Major General Aurelio Baladad, 3ID commander, said the CPP-NPA leadership that has direct knowledge (of the incident) continues to tolerate such acts.
Baladad said information they have gathered showed that the bombing of the transloading station is part of the NPA punitive action against the sugar milling company, to (make them) give in to their extortion demands.
Last year, the NPA also raided the Philex Mining Corp. compound in Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, burned its drilling machine, employees’ bunk houses, and a generator set, military records showed.

CPP/NPA: 60th IB exacts revenge by killing Kapalong motorcycle driver, placing on OB five others

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jun 9): 60th IB exacts revenge by killing Kapalong motorcycle driver, placing on OB five others
Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command
The barbaric killing of motorcycle driver Wilfredo Estrebillo, in Sitio Pandulian, Barangay Mabantao, Kapalong, Davao del Norte last June 4 showed that the notorious 60th Infantry Battalion is engaged in vindictive operations against civilians. The New People’s Army Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-Regional Command condemns this fascist act and vows revolutionary justice for Estrebillo’s family.

Estrebillo was first to be killed among the list of six drivers in Kapalong that are on the military’s Order of Battle, a list that came out following the capture and subsequent release of Prisoner of War Corporal Rogelio Rosales last month in Brgy. Florida, Kapalong. Estrebillo is the latest casualty in the US-Aquino regimes counter-revolutionary and anti-people Oplan Bayanihan.

Early this year, Estrebillo had expressed that the military had placed him and his fellow drivers under surveillance because the latter accused them of transporting goods and food supplies to the NPA. Estrebillo said they were blocked and harassed by the military several times in its checkpoints.

Despite the threats, he and the drivers prevailed over their fears and went on with their daily routine. Other drivers that are being threatened by the military are Eleazar Batobato, Loloy Labaho, Undo Labaho, Dodong Labaho, and Ptr. Joy Eway. On June 6 at 6:30 evening, two men carrying .45 caliber pistol tried to barge in at the house of Eway.

While the NPA released Cpl. Rosales on humanitarian grounds and placed on archive his case of destructive logging and illegal drugs, the military, on the other hand, vented its ire against civilians like Estrebillo. Worse, they also planted drugs at the scene of the crime to wrongly insinuate that Estrebillo was a drug user.

Shamed that its member was into logging and drug use, the 60th IB exacted revenge by turning its guns to hapless civilians like Estrebillo. When the NPA captured Cpl. Rosales last May 3, Estrebillo who was a resident of Brgy. Florida, witnessed the arrest of the prisoner of war. Cpl. Rosales, now dismissed from AFP service, erroneously blamed Estrebillo for having participated in the NPA’s arrest. He and three companions were spotted at Estrebillo’s wake.

The revolutionary movement extends its heartfelt condolences to Estrebillo’s family and friends, in recognition of his contribution to the masses and its revolutionary cause.

Estrebillo or Pendong to his friends, was a long-time habal-habal driver in Kapalong, Davao del Norte and had dedicated his life in serving the community. He was one of the community’s honest and reliable drivers offering services for all kinds of passengers teachers, students, pastors and church people, government officials, traders, and farmers.

The NPA and the revolutionary movement are one with Pendong’s family in the pursuit of revolutionary justice and in the advancement of what Pendong had supported— genuine land reform through the people’s democratic revolution.


MILF: Editorial -- Nothing is prejudiced

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 9): Nothing is prejudiced

The Sabah Claim by the Sultanate of Sulu is not part of the agenda of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation; it has never been discussed officially by the parties during their 17 years of peace engagement.
Even the MNLF, which was led by Nur Misuari, a Tausog, never had this issue part of their peace negotiation with the government. The claim rests entirely with the Philippine government, being within the ambit of foreign relations. The Sultanate of Sulu, however, is free to pursue (or not to pursue) its claim, if any, because the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is totally silent on this issue.

However, we appeal to the heirs of the Sultanate to read the CAB carefully and not to interpret beyond its proper context and nuances. All legitimate rights of the Bangsamoro are upheld and enshrined. Nothing legitimate is prejudiced. The MILF has no right to foreclose any legitimate rights of the Bangsamoro people.

If the MILF differs sharply with other groups asserting for the same rights of the Bangsamoro people, it is because of two critical factors or approaches: First, it has a clear ideology on which basic principles and core values emanate; and second, as much as possible, it is pragmatic. It studies the cause and effect in historical or political events and adopts the most appropriate strategy and tactics. For instance, correct history would tell us that practically the whole of Mindanao and Sulu belongs to the Bangsamoro people. If the MILF insists on including all these areas in the territory of the Bangsamoro in the negotiation, would that be practical?  Would there be CAB at all, come to think of it?

The truth is that man, group, nation cannot rest on their laurels alone; because many of these past glories cannot be enforced effectively or achieved anymore. Any man or woman who relies on laurels alone is like dreaming for the rainbow where a cache of gold is stored. Sometimes, what is available or practical is always the best choice.

For the MILF, past history is very important but the future is more important. We cannot rely on reliving the past, because it is only in our minds. We must prepare for the future. This is where we are going and we cannot escape from it. We either succeed or we fail and the choice is ours to make.

The CAB is designed for the collective interests of the entire Bangsamoro people. It is neither pro-poor nor pro-elite. Whoever has the moral ascendancy and leadership qualities --- and accepted by the people --- will be given the chance to lead our people. In Islam, except by piety, everyone is equal before God.

We are open to holding dialogue with the Sultanate of Sulu, as we are open to any and all other groups. Hearing from the horses’ mouth, so to speak, is better than one’s own interpretations.


MILF: LGU of Pikit, Cotabato holds forum on Bangsamoro Government

From the MILF Website (Jun 10): LGU of Pikit, Cotabato holds forum on Bangsamoro Government

The Local Government Unit of Pikit, North Cotabato held a forum on the proposed Bangsamoro Government on June 7, 2014, held at Pikit Pilot Central Elementary School. It was attended by thousands of residents comprising Moros and settlers from Pikit and neighbouring municipalities of North Cotabato and Maguindanao province.
The big event was spearheaded by Pikit Mayor Muhyrin Sultan-Casi and members of the municipal council; former mayor Sumulong Sultan and his wife Dulia Sultan, Board Member of the province of Cotabato. Two Cotabato Board Members also attended.  Members of the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) served as peacekeepers/security during the duration of the event.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) delegation was headed by 1st Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Ghazali Ja’afar. Members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) from Malaysia and Norway were also present.  

In her opening remarks, Board Member Dulia Sultan expressed her full support to the Bangsamoro government.  She called on all the participants to vote for “YES” to Bangsamoro during the plebiscite.

MILF !st Vice Chairman Ja’afar in his message narrated the  accurate history of Mindanao and the Moros. He said that Bangsamoro people fought for centuries against colonization and oppression that started when the Spaniards set foot on the shores of Mindanao up to the succeeding foreign and local colonizers.

He added that the real owners of all lands in Mindanao were the Bangsamoro and our brothers Lumads (indigenous people). All Christians in Mindanao were from Luzon and Visayas who settled to Mindanao through act of government and they didn’t bring with them even one foot square meter of land, Vice Chairman Ja’far said.  Many migrated to Mindanao, occupied Moro and Lumads lands and settled in the region permanently, until today.

He added that the Bangsamoro people are not land squatters. He also delved and discussed clearly the proposed Bangsamoro government especially on the status of the Christians under the new region. He said that Christians will enjoy all their rights and privileges in the Bangsamoro.  The Bangsamoro is not an Islamic Region but rather a democratic one where everybody can enjoy their rights under the law and are protected by the government.

He asked all Christians that live in the proposed region “not to be afraid and worried of Bangsamoro saying they will be part of it”.  He cited Indonesia where about 98% of its populations are Muslims but the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces is a Christian.
In his speech, Vice Mayor Dong Mangansakan, called on the national government officials and President Benigno Aquino III to fast track the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by Congress. He added that Moros are also trained in public administration and governance. He thanked the leadership of the MILF leadership in disseminating to the Christians of Pikit and all its residents of accurate information on the proposed Bangsamoro government.

The forum was organized by the MILF “Liguasan Province” where Pikit belong. Members of the MILF-Liguasan Provincial Police Force (PPF) also attended and served as security marshals.


MILF: Nonviolent Peaceforce and BDA SouthMin collaborate for child protection advocacy

From the MILF Website (Jun 10): Nonviolent Peaceforce and BDA SouthMin collaborate for child protection advocacy

The Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and Bangsamoro Development Agency Southern Mindanao Regional Management Office (BDA-SouthMin) agreed to collaborate in order to strengthen advocacy on child protection in Southern Mindanao region.
In a meeting held at BDA SouthMin Office on June 2, 2014, the two institutions came up with a mechanism to invite one another whenever there are orientations on child protection in their respective target communities.

NP is an international Non-Government Organization member of the International Monitoring Team under the Civilian Protection Component.

The IMT primarily monitors the compliance of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) -Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the observance of the ceasefire agreement.

NP is a non-partisan institution which also strongly advocates the protection of human rights and protection of children from grave child’s rights violation.

Bridgitt Sloan Mcmullen, NP International Civilian Peacekeeper, told the BDA SouthMin staff that their primary objective is to monitor and verify reports on abuses of rights of the civilians affected by conflict.

Reynaldo Patricion Sol, NP National Civilian Protection Monitor, related their activities on the ground educating both forces from the government and the MILF on human rights and child protection including the NP objectives.

BDA Regional Manager Mohalikin D. Piang said that through collaboration, more people will understand how BDA and NP work to serve the communities and how the stakeholders, especially the parents, can participate in the protection of their children.

NP also looks forward for BDA to help access support from its partners to assist communities on economic aspect.

Sol further related that there are some barangays of Sarangani Province which need livelihood assistance but NP cannot provide because economic assistance is not on their program.


MILF: Three killed, two wounded in Moro farmers clash with Ilonggos

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 10): Three killed, two wounded in Moro farmers clash with Ilonggos

Three  Ilonggo men were killed while two members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were injured in a clash between a group of Moro farmers and Ilonggo armed  men on Saturday, June 7 at the boundary of Sitio Nazareth, Amas  and East Patadon both barangays of Kidapawan City.
The dead bodies of  Ilonggos  who are members of Barangay Peace Keeping  Action Team (BPAT) of Barangay Amas were identified as Aurelio Calugmaton (30 yrs. Old), Bonie Vicente (23 yrs. Old) and civilian Ramboy  Palimba (26 yrs.old).

The three killed men served as guides of the two injured police men who rescued the group of Ilonggos during the clash while the two policemen who are members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) were identified as SPO4 Randy Apostol and SPO4 Edwin Maguate.

The clash is believed to be due to a land conflict between the Moro farmers and Ilonggos  in the boundary of Sitio Nazareth, Amas  and East Patadon in Kidapawan City.

Allegedly, the firefight was a retaliation by Moro farmers after the killing of a certain Moro farmer Kenti Diagao Matalam on May 30, 2014, a resident of West Patadon,  Matalam who is said to be killed by the Ilonggo men.

Meanwhile, members of the CCH-MILF and LMT, North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza, and Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista had a meeting to discuss the creation of a Joint Peace Keeping Force who will come from the Philippine Army and the MILF.


MILF: Third Party Monitoring Team meets Sarangani Governor and LMT members

From the MILF Website (Jun 9): Third Party Monitoring Team meets Sarangani Governor and LMT members

In order to get the feelings and observations of stakeholders on the peace process of the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the members of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) met the Governor of Sarangani Province and members of the GPH-MILF Local Monitoring Team (LMT) for a caucus.
The gathering, attended by Sarangani Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon with members of the LMT-Sarangani, was held at the Conference Room of the Provincial Capitol of Sarangani on June 6, 2014.

All members of the TPMT namely Huseyn Oruc, Karen Tanada, Steven Roods, and Rahib Kudto led by its Chairman Alistair Macdonald who recently retired from the European External Action Services were present.

Solon told the visitors about how the provincial government does its best in the delivery of basic services for the constituents of the province which are comprised of Christians, Lumads and Moros.

He added that his administration is creating a climate in province that can lure investors.

Solon related that there is an existing dedicated project for peace and development named Sulong Kapayapaan a component of a more comprehensive flagship program - Sulong Sarangani.

Sulong Kapayapaan primarily focus on peace advocacy works and other initiatives enabling the constituents to embrace peace and support the government’s socio-economic programs.

Expressing his support to the peace process, Solon further called the national government to fix the Mindanao problem because when backlash comes, “it is the local government units which always bear the brunt.”

He thanked the visitors for their support in finding the peaceful solution to end the problem in Southern Philippines.

Macdonald related that the TPMT is mandated to monitor, review and assess the implementation of signed agreements, primarily the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes.

The TPMT shall also communicate to the public the progress and developments in the implementation of the agreements of the Parties.

He noted the need to focus on the positive views of the Bangsamoro government and that the religious channel can do a great help in the information dissemination initiatives.

Maasim Vice-Mayor and member of the LMT Uttoh Salem Cutan, also a prominent leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, expressed his support to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

He further enjoined other MNLF to rally behind in the quest for a peaceful solution to the Bangsamoro problem particularly the peace initiatives of the Aquino Administration.

The vice-mayor said the provincial and municipal governments of Sarangani are working hard for the attainment of economic prosperity of the province.

Gov’t troops, BIFF clash anew in Maguindanao

From MindaNews (Jun 10): Gov’t troops, BIFF clash anew in Maguindanao

Four rebels were killed and several others were wounded as fighting erupted anew in Maguindanao between government troops and members of a breakaway Moro rebel group, the military said.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said the encounter occurred in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano town from 5:40-7:30 a.m. Tuesday between the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIFF) and 45th Infantry Battalion.

Hermoso said the encounter also led to the arrest of four suspected BIFF members.

Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan, commander of the 45IB, and Col. Gener del Rosario of the 1st Mechanized Brigade led pursuit operations against the BIFF under Commander Bongos.

Bongos reportedly staged the ambush last June 6 using an improvised explosive device that killed a soldier and wounded three others.

The soldiers were aboard a KM450 truck in barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay Ampatuan town when the ambush occurred.

Hermoso said that in Tuesday’s clash government troops recovered an HM 50 cal. Barret Sniper rifle, a 60mm mortar tube with base plate and bipod, several IEDs, and a Toyota Grandia van which was believed to be stolen.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over disagreements on the peace negotiation with the Philippine government.

The government and MILF signed on March 27 this year the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

The agreement needs a law passed by Congress. In a joint statement Tuesday, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal said the draft of the law will be submitted to Congress when it resumes sessions on July 28.


Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted to Congress by July 28

From MindaNews (Jun 10): Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted to Congress by July 28

Exactly seven weeks to the day it received the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Malacanang is still conducting what a joint statement from Malacanang and the BTC describes as a “thorough, extensive and comprehensive review” of the draft that will be submitted to Congress seven weeks from now, when it resumes sessions on July 28.

“We acknowledge the urgency behind the immediate passage of the BBL. However, we also recognize that a thorough, extensive and comprehensive review of the draft law’s numerous provisions is a necessary part of the process to ensure that these are consistent with what the parties agreed upon in the 17 years of peace negotiation,” the seven-paragraph joint statement issued Tuesday (June 10) by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal, said.

The statement, e-mailed to media outlets by the media bureau of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at 1:10 p.m. on June 10 noted that efforts “have already been made to coordinate with the Senate and House leadership to ensure that the draft BBL is submitted to Congress when sessions resume in July.”

Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 11 and will resume sessions on July 28, with the President delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles had hinted in her opening remarks at the International Conference of Cotabato at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City on Friday that the 97-page draft will not be transmitted before Congress adjourns on June 11. She said it was still undergoing a “thorough process of review” by the Office of the President to ensure Congress gets a “more refined and strengthened” draft.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a message read for him by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in the Cotabato conference, assured the Senate’s support to the peace process and their commitment to pass what he refers to as “unifying and integrating” Basic Law.

Drilon said they will “ensure that the Bangsamoro law falls within the four corners of the Constitution and that it can withstand judicial scrutiny.”
He vowed to pass the law “as early as possible.”

Deles urged hundreds of conference participants to “look at what’s going on from a glass-half-full perspective.”

“We have waited 17 long years for a mutually binding and acceptable peace process with the MILF; and yet that has been achieved within three years of this administration. We can be bold in taking a few more days, if not weeks, to ensure a more refined and strengthened draft BBL to be stewarded by the leadership of both Houses of Congress through the legislative process and thereafter for ratification through plebiscite,” she said.

In the revised roadmap of the GPH-MILF peace process – now constituting 11 steps from creation of the BTC to signing of the exit document — only Steps 1 and 2 have been completed: the BTC was created in February 2013 and the Basic Law was drafted and submitted to Malacanang on April 22.

The other steps: 3. Draft BBL submitted to Congress; 4. President certifies proposed Basic Law as urgent; 5. Congress passes BBL; 6. Plebiscite conducted to ratify law; 7. Basic law enacted; BTC ceases to exist; 8. ARMM is deemed abolished once the Basic Law is ratified; 9. Bangsamoro Transition Authority officials are appointed; 10. Election of officials of Bangsamoro Government by 2016; and Step 11, the signing of the exit document “officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

In last year’s SONA, the President urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before end of 2014 to allow more time for the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangasmoro, a new autonomous political entity with a ministerial form of governance.

Both parties are eyeing June 30, 2016, the end of the Aquino administration’s six-year term, as the inaugural of the regular Bangsamoro government and the proclamation of the first set of elected officials.

As of June 10, there are only 751 days left to June 30, 2016.


Notorious Filipino bomber wanted by US, Philippines wounded in clash

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner Website (Jun 10): Notorious Filipino bomber wanted by US, Philippines wounded in clash

MAGUINDANAO PROVINCE – A notorious rebel leader with links to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya and wanted both by the Philippines and the United States was wounded in a clash Tuesday with government troops in the Muslim province of Maguindanao, a Filipino army general said.

Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan said Abdul Basit Usman managed to escape a military dragnet, but two other suspected rebels were killed by soldiers who raided a hideout of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the village called Libutan in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town. 

Those slain were identified as the grandfather and uncle of Usman’s wife, who was also captured along with her two children who were turned over to social workers.

Three other women - two of them Indonesian nationals and a Filipina native of Sulu province - were also arrested and that one of them is the wife of Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, the leader of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia, who was reportedly killed in a US-backed airstrike in February 2012 in Sulu province, but his body had not been found or recovered.

The names of the four women were not released by the military, but all of them are being interrogated separately by authorities in an undisclosed location in Maguindanao province.

Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said there were no casualties on the military side. “Usman was wounded, but he managed to escape and troops are tracking him down. Two other rebels were also killed in the fighting,” he told The Manila Times by phone from the town where he set up a command center to monitor the operations against the terrorist leader.

He said they recovered a cache of weapons and improvised explosives, including a 155mm howitzer and mortar bombs and munitions. Troops also recovered a van and 7 motorcycles before rebels could rig it with explosives and use to bomb military and civilian targets. A wallet with Usman’s picture was also recovered in the area.

“We have recovered so many weapons and explosives, and there is also a Barrett sniper rifle, blasting caps and cell phones that they use as detonators, and 155mm (howitzer) and mortar bombs. The recovery of these war materials has saved a lot of lives,” he said.

He said troops launched the raid after a long surveillance operations and intelligence provided by civilians about Usman, a bomb expert, and the BIFF. “This clearly shows that Usman has a connection with the BIFF which was behind the series of attacks and bombings in Maguindanao and nearby provinces,” he said.

He said troops clashed with about 2 dozen rebels and the fighting lasted 45 minutes.

Maguindanao is one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where BIFF, the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement founded by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Ameril Umra Kato is actively operating.

Philippine authorities have blamed Usman, also a former MILF commander, for the spate of deadly bombings in Mindanao the past two decades. The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which recently signed a peace deal with Manila, has previously ordered its forces to hunt down Usman after he was linked to terror attacks.

In 2010, Pakistan military reported that Usman was killed along with another foreigner and 10 al-Qaeda militants in a US drone strike in the restive South Waziristan region, but the reports turned out to be false with the Philippine military saying that the militant leader was in Mindanao.

The United States has put up a $1 million bounty for Usman’s capture under its Government Rewards Program after he was tagged by authorities as behind deadly bombings in the Philippines and has been considered by Washington as a threat to the country.