Sunday, June 29, 2014

MILF: Current State of Peace Negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 29): Current State of Peace Negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front by Mohagher Iqbal

The peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is almost a success story.

The two parties have already signed the most significant agreement in their 17 years of protracted negotiation, which is the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last March 27, 2014. This agreement provides for the negotiated political settlement of the armed conflict and Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao that claimed the lives of about 150,000 lives since 1972. There are no more substantive issues left in the pipeline of the negotiation for the parties to discuss except when new problems, mainly on the implementation aspects, crop up from time to time that require a meeting of the peace panels in Kuala Lumpur.

The good thing in the GPH-MILF peace process, unlike other peace processes especially the GRP-MNLF peace process, is that even after the signing of the CAB, the peace panels are not disbanded and would continue to engage each other when necessary until all the signed agreements are fully implemented and they signed the “exit agreement”. This agreement will mark the termination and end of their formal negotiation, so that in the regular operation of the Bangsamoro Government all problems with the Central Government shall be resolved through the inter-governmental relations mechanisms involving several layers of government.

    To date, what remains to be done by the parties to complete the process, aside from the normalization of the previously conflict-affected areas and their transformation into peaceful and progressive communities, is to translate the CAB, which is a political document, into a legal framework to be passed by the Philippine Congress. For this purpose, the two parties have created the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) whose main mandate is to craft the proposed basic law called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will become the governing law for the future Bangsamoro political entity. However, in order to do it legally feasible and executory on the side of government, President Benigno Aquino III had signed an Executive Order No. 120 creating the BTC, which upon its creation in late 2012, started to work on its mandate immediately so that on April 22, 2014 it had submitted to the Office of the President (OP) the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law for submission to Congress as certified as urgent bill to fast track its enactment into law.

The BTC’s proposed BBL mainly copy-pasted the essential elements of the CAB, pursuant to the provision of the same, to wit: “The mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, including the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law pursuant to Article V. Territory of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, are spelled out herein. The Parties shall mutually take such steps for its full implementation leading to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the regular Bangsamoro Government …” in 2016.

The rationale behind this approach is simple. It is simply to avoid or minimize debates and oppositions especially from the government itself, knowing fully well that not all in the government service are fully on board the peace efforts of President Aquino. Besides, spoilers abound everywhere and ready to spew their venom at the first opportunity that occurs.

Sad to note, however, that only after two months, to be exact 61 days, while I was in Hiroshima, Japan on June 23 that this humble representation, as Chairman of the BTC and the MILF peace panel, had received a copy of the proposed BBL bearing the remarks and comments from the OP, which heavily diluted the original proposal coming from the BTC. A lawyer of the MILF, commenting on the remarks of the OP on the BBL, said that when a law is crafted out of it would be worse than the Republic Act No. 9054 that created the so-called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which in every bit is an administrative arrangement. No less than President called the ARMM as a “failed experiment”.

    Now the challenges ahead appear daunting. Unless the Parties and the supporters and friends of the peace process come to the timely rescue and prevent the foreseeable collision of approaches of the two parties, the much-heralded signing of the CAB in Manila, Philippines last March will be over-shadowed by bickering, blaming, and shaming. The direct consequence would be that the BBL will not be submitted to Congress on July 28, in time for the State-of-the Nation Address (SONA) in Congress of President Aquino, or the government would proceed to submit the BBL without the concurrence of the MILF.

    The position of the MILF on the proposed BBL is very simple and straight forward. All those explicitly expressed and provided for in the CAB will no longer be the subject of negotiations. They are finished and settled. It is therefore nonsensical to raise them anew. However, all those, which are not expressly provided but fleshed out by the BTC, as part of its mandate, could be the subjects of subsequent engagement between the Parties. If reasons and consistency prevail, there is no way this controversy cannot be settled.

    Be this as it may, but the MILF has been with this kind of situation before and emerged out of it head high. After the breakdown of the ceasefire and the peace negotiation in 2000 at the behest of the Estrada administration, which launched the all-out war against the MILF, the peace negotiation, which was then on a domestic stage, was elevated to the diplomatic stage with the participation of Malaysia, as third party facilitator, upon the invitation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001. In 2003, while the peace negotiation was also moving modestly, the government ordered another all-out war against the MILF under the pretext of running after so-called kidnap-for-ransom groups. After the last bullet was fired, and the Parties reengaged in their peace journey, the International Monitoring Team (IMT) came in to oversee the effective implementation of the ceasefire, thereby creating an atmosphere of tranquility for the peace negotiation to proceed undisturbed. Again, in August 2008, after the government reneged by not signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), after it was initialed on July 27, 2008, and another full-blown war erupted, the International Contact Group (ICG), early designed to act as “international guarantee”, was organized to help the Parties comply with their obligations. Their exact mandate is to “exert proper leverage to the parties” to make sure that all is well and followed.

Today, we are on the verge of a similar situation. But I don’t think we are in a hopeless situation. I don’t think the parties will allow the situation to degenerate into something we do not like. I still have confidence on both sides’ determination to overcome the perceived hardships ahead of us.  The almost sudden visit of President Aquino to Japan to discuss bilateral issues with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then proceeded to Hiroshima to speak before delegates to a peace forum organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), mostly coming from the MILF including Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and this humble representation is a timely occurrence at the precise moment when many a member of the BTC and the MILF is irritated, if not infuriated, by the almost total disregard of the proposed BBL crafted by the BTC. What is amazing is that the very government office tasked to oversee the conduct of the peace process, on the part of government, that led to the signing of the CAB, instead of defending the essence of this historic document or at least inhibited itself out of delicadeza, virtually led the review team of the OP to overhaul almost the entire proposal of the BTC, tasked by the two parties and by the President himself through his Executive Order No. 120 to craft the BBL. Before he spoke to the delegates, President Aquino met first with Chairman Murad and the undersigned at the Sheraton Hotel, which lasted for about 25 minutes. While I cannot disclosed the details of the meeting, but suffice to say that it was mainly about the way forward vis-à-vis the BBL.

Moreover, the infrastructures of the peace process, especially after the signing of the CAB, are so well-knitted and all-embracing that any sign of fissure can be addressed well and promptly. We have the third party facilitating country, which is Malaysia, we have the International Contact Group (ICG) composed of The United Kingdom, Turkey, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, representing the states, and Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), Conciliation Resources (CR), Muhammadiyah, and Community of Sant’Egidio, representing the international non-government organizations (INGOs), we have the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) headed by a foreign eminent person, which monitors and validates the compliance of the parties, we have the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), we have the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) headed by an eminent person nominated by Switzerland, the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) composed of Brunei, Norway, Turkey, and two representatives each from government and the MILF, and many more others.

Finally, let me state here that no matter what happens to the BBL, enacted or not by Congress, the MILF will remain focused on pursuing the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination at all cost. The MILF will also leave no stone unturned in exposing the true state of things surrounding the BBL, which must be faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB. Truth must be pursued and error must be shunned. More urgently, the MILF will continue to capacitate our people, including building of institutions, linkages, networks, and alliances, so that they will have greater clout and power in asserting their right to self-determination.

Thank you very much and wassalam.

[A statement read by Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), during a forum on peace process in Istanbul, Turkey on June 26-27, 2014.]

MILF: UNYPAD members attend Islamic Leadership Training

From the MILF Website (Jun 30): UNYPAD members attend Islamic Leadership Training

Twenty five youth leaders of the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) participated in the seminar-workshop on Islamic Leadership organized by the UNYPAD Maguindanao cluster-2 chapter on June 14, 2014 held at Ma’had Muj’tamah, Pagatin, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.
The UNYPAD Provincial Chapter Chairman Mahmod Tulino; Norodin Guiamaludin, Vice Chairman for Internal Affairs; Yusoph Lumambas, UNYPAD Secretary General and this writer facilitated the seminar-workshop.

Lumambas shared why there is a need for youth to organize. He also pointed out that one of the objectives of an organization is to transform the Bangsamoro youth into becoming competitive, technology-oriented and God fearing citizens.

Tulino pointed out that, “Islam is a complete way of life, unlike what other peoples’ perception that Islam is just a “ritual-concern religion”.

Tulino also cited the successful leadership of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as well as Omar Ibnu Abdul Aziz during the golden age of Arabian Peninsula.

Buharie Yunos, Datu Salibo Municipal Chapter Chairman explained in his opening message, “The main purpose of the activity is to empower the youth on how to become a good leader and served as an instrument for the good transformation of communities.”

“The current leadership style of leaders in this society is very different in what we have learned in today’s training,” he stressed.

The participants extended their appreciation to the leadership of UNYPAD by reaching out to their community that is always affected by armed-conflict.

The seminar-workshop was jointly organized and facilitated by Maguindanao cluster-2 provincial chapter with support from the national chapter.

Fighting Terrorism: A Third Way

Commentary Magazine (Jun 29): Fighting Terrorism: A Third Way by Max Boot

It is not just in Iraq that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are on the march. This is a general trend across the Islamic world. As Seth Jones of Rand notes in a recent report, “from 2010 to 2013 the number of jihadist groups world-wide has grown by 58%, to 49 from 31; the number of jihadist fighters has doubled to a high estimate of 100,000; and the number of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates has increased to roughly 1,000 from 392.”

How should the U.S. combat this distressing trend? Simply pulling back from the Middle East, as President Obama envisioned, is not working–American retreat is increasing conflict, not decreasing it. But that doesn’t mean that the only other alternative is, as the president suggested in his West Point address, to launch a major ground war with American troops.

There is a third way and it can be found in the Philippines where, after 9/11, the U.S. set up a Joint Special Operations Task Force to combat Abu Sayyaf and other Islamist terrorist groups. That task force, whose operations I described in this 2009 Weekly Standard article, never had more than 600 personnel and it never went directly into combat. Rather its mission was to assist the Philippine armed forces with intelligence, planning, civil affairs, psychological operations, training, and other important tasks. Now, having accomplished a lot, the task force, based in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, is being disbanded.

The New York Times quotes one analyst as saying “that the unit ‘undoubtedly helped the Philippine military to curb the activities of violent extremist groups operating in the region’ so that militants ‘now only pose a small, localized threat.’ ” That doesn’t mean Abu Sayyaf has ceased to exist but its numbers have been drastically cut–from an estimated 1,200 fighters to 400–and it has become more of a criminal than a terrorist menace.

That’s not a bad result, all things considered; it would certainly look like victory if we were to achieve anything approaching that outcome with such groups as Boko Haram, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and of course the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

That’s not to say that 600 Special Operations troops by themselves can get the job done everywhere; circumstances were propitious in the Philippines where the insurgency was localized among a minority Muslim population and where the state had a long history of functioning, albeit with substantial problems of corruption and ineffectiveness.

The crisis is more acute in countries like Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and Iraq where large sections of the countryside have fallen entirely out of the government’s control. In some places–Iraq and Afghanistan among them–it will take a lot more than a few hundred special operators to keep the enemy at bay. But in other countries the Philippine model could prove to be sufficient. We should certainly try to apply it where we can, because the alternatives–retreat or massive military intervention–are so unpalatable.

More barangay tanods fielded in DC for anti-terror campaign

From MindaNews (Jun 30): More barangay tanods fielded in DC for anti-terror campaign

Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas on Sunday met with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and police officials to discuss security measures undertaken against reported terror threats targeting the city and key areas in Mindanao.

At a press briefing Sunday night at the Marco Polo Davao, Roxas said the security contingent against terrorism should go down to the community level with the use of additional barangay peace keeping action teams (BPAT).

He cited the addition of five more tanods per barangay in all of the city’s 182 barangays.

Roxas added that the additional barangay volunteers would ensure that a more local intelligence network is created so that crime incidents would be prevented.

“Your own residents would be the ones to know if there are suspicious people in your barangays,” he said.

Roxas said police visibility has also been increased, with around 1,400 police and 350 Task Force Davao personnel roving the city.

“We’re doing everything that is humanly possible,” Duterte said.

Duterte and Roxas did not name the organization behind the alleged terror threats.

Duterte ranked the threat to be a “3” on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the highest but added that the city’s response to threats always corresponds to a “10.”

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday phoned Duterte about intelligence reports on terrorist threats targeting his city and the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Koronadal and Kidapawan.

Duterte said Aquino told him not to treat the threat lightly. He immediately convened a meeting with the security sector in the city.

Immediately, orders were made disallowing military o police or any civilian to carry firearms into the city. “They should leave these at the checkpoints,” Duterte said, adding only police and military personnel assigned in the city are allowed to carry firearms.

The alert level comes one month before the annual Kadayawan Festival.

Duterte said it has always been the practice of the city to raise its alert levels and that Dabawenyos have been trained to cooperate with security measures such as checkpoints, the prohibition of backpacks in public areas, as well as the presence of CCTVs in major areas in the city.

President Aquino’s call to Duterte came on the same day media reported that the United States was disbanding its anti-terror contingent in Mindanao – the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, or JSOTF-P, which was set up over a decade ago to fight Al Qaeda-linked groups such as the Abu Sayyaf following the September 11, 2001 attack in the United States.

An Associated Press (AP) report datelined Manila on Thursday quoted US Embassy Press Attache Kurt Hoyer as saying that the United States’ partnership with Philippine security forces “has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines” and that the remaining terrorists “have largely devolved into disorganized groups resorting to criminal undertakings to sustain their activities.”

Hoyer said US military planners in coordination with their Philippine counterparts are working on a “transition plan where the JSOTF-P as a task force will no longer exist.”

Hoyer said there were currently about 320 American military personnel left in the south.

The AP report also quoted Hoyer as saying a still unspecified number of US military personnel from the Pacific Command would remain under a new unit called the PACOM Augmentation Team to provide Filipino forces with counter-terrorism and combat training and advice, and “ensure that violent extremist organizations don’t regain a foothold in (Mindanao).”

The US and the Philippines in April signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that would allow US forces temporary access to selected Filipino military camps and enable them to preposition fighter jets and ships.

Former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada who voted against the treaty extending the stay of US military bases in the country in 1991, had petitioned the Supreme Court questioning EDCA, arguing that such an agreement required the concurrence of the Senate.

Commentary: Is This What Terror War Success Looks Like?

Commentary from The Blog on the Huffington Post site (Jun 28): Is This What Terror War Success Looks Like?

What does success against jihadist terrorist groups look like? For all the talk of a Forever War, we might just have an answer now.

With activity in the decades-long Islamic jihadist insurgency in the Philippines down to a consistently low ebb, and an autonomy agreement now struck between the government in Manila and the main jihadist group, the overall Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for a very limited swath of territory in place, the US is disbanding its big Philippine special ops task force focused on the conflict.
And preparing to pull up stakes and head for home?

[Video-GMA News Report: NTVL: USS Ashland, dumaong na sa Subic bay para sa carat exercise]

US forces are again flowing through the old Subic Bay naval base in the Philippines, but not to deal with Islamic jihadists.

Not hardly, as discussed before. For the US in fact is ramping up its presence in the Philippines, with the former US naval base at Subic Bay in the midst of major upgrades as US and Philippine forces work more closely together in the midst of the crisis over China's assertion of sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.

Did Philippine government forces aided by US advisors completely defeat the Islamist insurgency? No. Was that insurrection degraded, through a combination of military action and political concessions to deal with legitimate concerns, to a level akin to a low-grade virus? Yes.

The US and Philippine governments were then free to move forward on more pressing geostrategic matters, as part of the Asia-Pacific Pivot.
This could be a model for how what many have called the "Forever War" (named after the classic Joe Haldeman science fiction novel) against transnational jihadist terrorism comes to an end. Of course, there are differences elsewhere, not the least of which is the frequent absence of a government with basic popular appeal for a nation-state with a substantial degree of coherence.

Speaking of which, US efforts to hold together the post-World War I colonial construct called Iraq are not going well, despite Secretary of State John Kerry's high-profile meetings with government and factional leaders in Iraq, NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, and Gulf Arab foreign ministers in Paris.

Despite being very hard-pressed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is refusing calls from Kerry and others for a government of national reconciliation. Active Sunni leaders are either silent or working with ISIS. And the Kurds are declaring "a new era in a new Middle East," in which they have brand-new oil supplies ready for sale.

Maliki, and the US, seems to have dodged a bullet with the Baiji oil refinery, Iraq's largest, apparently still at least partially in the hands of government forces, the recent BBC report to the contrary notwithstanding. But it is out of service, which only further ramps up the sense of crisis.

While spurning Kerry's entreaties for a coalition government addressing Sunni and Kurdish concerns, Maliki has welcomed air strikes against ISIS formations by the Syrian Air Force and is now looking to Russia to supply aircraft previously promised to the Iraqi regime by the US but not yet delivered. High on that list are jet fighters and attack helicopters. Both of which the Russians do about as well as we do.

But while the odd attempt by the Obama Administration to hold up artificial borders constructed by the British and French empires after World War I, and the government installed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney after the Iraq invasion of 2003, plays out, let's look at an actual success story.

It's been a long time coming. Since the late 1960s, in fact, when both Islamic jihadist and Communist guerrilla movements erupted in the Philippines.

Our overt imperial relationship with the Philippines -- which we seized as a colony, in violation of our pledge to Filipino rebels after the Spanish-American War -- ended with the independence of the Philippines in 1946 after Americans and Filipinos fought side by side against Japanese forces in World War II. But another sort of imperial relationship continued.

A cadre of Filipino stewards, for example, as I came to experience, continued to serve US Navy officers around the world for decades. The great naval base at Subic Bay, America's largest outside the US, was a critical staging area for the adventure in Vietnam. And there was an active US military assistance program, which I helped in, to deal with persistent insurgencies by Islamic jihadists -- an early harbinger of what was to come -- and Communist guerrillas, guided by the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, from the end of the '60s on.

Those uprisings ebbed and flowed as the US found itself kicked out of the Philippines after the Ferdinand Marcos regime, too close to the Reagan/Bush Administration, was overthrown in the 1980s.

Yet the US and Philippines retained a formal alliance by treaty and US forces went back into the Philippines after 9/11.

The Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines advised and assisted the Philippine armed forces in its struggle with jihadists in the Mindanao region of the southern Philippines vast archipelago. Over time, the insurgency was degraded even as the government in Manila forged a limited autonomy agreement with the principal jihadist group, granting it power over a small swath of the big island of Mindanao and several small islands near it.

The Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines was one of several formed around the world, as the mission description went, to fight Al Qaeda-linked groups at their source before they became a threat to the US.

The special forces task force, which ranged in size from 300 to 600 troopers, was directed to play an advisory role to Philippine forces without taking on a direct combat role. But they did play a major role in spinning up air and artillery strikes, often through use of drone aircraft, and operated in obvious combat zones and situations. Though there have been several jhadist outfits about, their principal target was Abu Sayyaf, a group which spun up in the early and mid-'90s after receiving training in Afghanistan from core Al Qaeda members.

The group continued to pull off attacks on government forces and bombings of civilian sites as well as various criminal acts for money, such as kidnappings for ransom, throughout, but saw its ranks reduced by two-thirds over the past decade while it proved either unable or unwilling to pull off attacks on the US.

Will all attacks cease once the accord between Manila and the MILF is fully implemented? Probably not. Some Abu Sayyaf members may continue, and there are a couple of other smaller groups pulling off various missions. But the judgment has been made that the activity has diminished to a sufficiently low ebb as to be not much more than an annoyance.

Meanwhile, major facilities are again being provided for US forces as the Philippines face a major maritime challenge from China in waters around the archipelago nation. This time around, as I discussed when President Barack Obama formally won back the long expected access in April, the bases in question such as Subic Bay and Clark Field will not be permanent American bases but facilities shared by US and Filipino forces, with American units not so much permanently bases in the Philippines as they are flowing into and out of the islands as part of a permanent rotational presence.
And so the long-standing Joint US Military Advisory Group Philippines (JUSMAGPhil), with top officers often working together in Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Metro Manila's Quezon City, has changed focus, dropping the post-9/11 war on terror focus to emphasize the Asia-Pacific Pivot.

Is jihadism dead in the Philippines? Probably not. But it has been arm wrestled, through a program combining targeted military action with limited political concessions and palliatives, into a contained situation, a manageable condition, freeing up intellectual and operational bandwidth for bigger challenges.

It may not be dramatic, but it may be real.

[Political analyst William Bradley is an award-winning columnist and experienced political advisor. His New West Notes, longtime California leader in near real-time political analysis, has a 90%+ forecasting record.

Beginning as a U.S. Senate intern, Bradley has been a senior advisor and special advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns, governors and senators, was senior advisor with Arianna Huffington of Shadow Conventions 2000, and advised leading parties in Mexico, Japan, Germany, and Russia. The HuffPost featured columnist and former chief political writer for the LA Weekly and California Business has held national, state and local posts, co-founded a newspaper in California's capital, dabbled in Hollywood, written for a score of major international publications, hosted a national radio show on XM, and been an Al Jazeera analyst.

A U.C. Berkeley grad and U.S. Navy vet, Bradley is USC's first senior fellow for online journalism and a former national merit scholar, VISTA Volunteer, and Royal Society of Arts fellow. A yearly judge of the national AltWeekly Awards, he was a senior fellow of University of Colorado and Cal State University think tanks and is a member of the American Legion and Mensa.

The former doctoral fellow, who has done post-grad work at UCLA, USC, Oxford, Stanford, University of Virginia, Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College, earned memberships in the national honor societies of a half-dozen academic fields, as well as the overall liberal arts, and awards in advertising and public relations. A multi-sport and multi-event athlete in high school and college and a sometime track coach, he has a 1st degree black belt in karate.

Bradley is a frequent analyst on national radio and international television, and enjoys the cavalcade of events in these dark and fascinating times.]

New group may be behind threat to Davao City – AFP EastMinCom

From GMA News (Jun 29): New group may be behind threat to Davao City – AFP EastMinCom

A new group linked to the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah may be behind the supposed terrorist threat against Davao City, which has been on heightened alert since last week, a ranking military official said on Sunday.

The new group, supposedly led by master bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman is planning attacks in the country's largest city, Capt. Alberto Caber of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command said.

Usman is a foreign-trained bomb expert who was caught in 2002, however, he escaped that the same year.

The United states has offered $1 million for information that could lead to his arrest.

On June 11, a joint police and military operation killed two of Usman's relatives, but the wounded bomb expert managed to escape.

"May intelligence report na may plano ang isang grupo na magsagawa ng bomb attack dito sa Davao City," he told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

"Wala pang pangalan itong grupo pero may link ito sa Abu Sayyaf at JI (Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda)," Caber added.

"Puwede na new group ito," he said.

Caber said that according to intelligence reports, the group might use bombs or improvised explosive devices for the attack.

"Puwedeng magpasabog ang mga ito to kill government forces or to kill civilians to attract international attention," he said.

Still, Caber explained that the military has yet to validate the intelligence reports.

Retaliation for ASG leader's arrest

The military is not discounting the possibility that the bomb threats are retaliation after the Philippine National Police captured top-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader Khair Mundos, who has a $500,000 bounty.

Mundos was arrested in Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City on June 11.

The police and military have tightened security measures in Davao City. Caber said that they have increased the number of personnel and checkpoints within and outside the city.

"We also have operatives in plain clothes," he added.

According to Davao-based GMA News Online contributor Mac Macapendeg, there are more patrol cars and checkpoints in the city, especially in commercial areas.

He said, though, that the heightened security has not kept residents from regular activities.

On alert until August

Davao City has been on heightened alert since last week after President Benigno Aquino III called up Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to warn him of a possible security threat.

"There are reports of possible terrorist attack. For good measure, the president called Mayor Duterte," explained AFP public affairs chief Ramon Zagala in a separate phone interview.

"The public is warned. They should be aware and vigilant," he added.

Caber said the heightened alert in Davao City will remain until August or after the celebration of the Kadayawan Festival, the city's biggest annual celebration.

Meanwhile, the government assured residents that it has enough soldiers on the ground to keep civilians safe.

"We have more than enough forces to secure Davao City and its neighboring towns and communities… We have the support of the civilian population and the rest of the stakeholders," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, in a radio interview on Sunday, quoted Zagala as saying.

Two suspected rebels bagged in Zamboanga Del Sur encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Two suspected rebels bagged in Zamboanga Del Sur encounter

Two suspected New People's Army (NPA) fighters were captured following a firefight in Sitio Sagpang, Barangay Datagan, Guipos town, Zamboanga Del Sur Friday afternoon

In a statement forwarded by Capt. Franco Suelto, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, Sunday, the incident took place 2: 45 p.m. as troopers of their 53rd Infantry Battalion was conducting routine security patrols in the area.

He added the firefight lasted for three minutes which resulted in no casualties for government forces.

As rebel forces retreated, two suspected NPA fighters identified as Wilfredo Damulos and Edgar Cadilansa, were captured by government troopers.

Seized from their possession were one Ingram M-11 9mm auto-pistol, 52 rounds of ammunition and one hand grenade.

Suelto said the two were immediately turned-over to the Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Police Office for filing of appropriate charges.

“It is unfortunate that the two captured individual believed and supported an irrelevant ideology that espouses armed struggle when peace is only the way to progress and development. We are calling the local NPAs in Zamboanga Peninsula to lay down their arms and avail the AFP Gun for Peace and Comprehensive Local Integration Program so they can return to normal lives and live peacefully in mainstream society. Let us give peace a chance, “ he concluded.

Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates PHL's frontline in CARAT 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates PHL's frontline in CARAT 2014

Not many people are aware of it but two of the Navy's Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates are representing the country in the ongoing CARAT 2014 exercise off the Zambales coast.

These ships are the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the lead ship of the class and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).

Both ships are former Hamilton-class cutters serving the US Coast Guard.

The two frigates are the largest combatants of the Philippine Navy and are the mother ships of the AgustaWestland AW-109E "Power" helicopters commissioned last December 2013.

As of this writing, both ships along with the four American naval vessels are engaged in various exercises which include combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance flights, and gunnery drills.

The American contingent consist of the USS Halsey (DDG-97) or the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Ashland (LSD-48), a Whidbey Island-class docking landing ship, USS Safeguard (ARS-50), a Safeguard-class rescue vessel plus assorted Marine and helicopter units.

CARAT refers to "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training".

It formally began on June 26 and will end on July 1.

Lt. (JG) Rommel Rodriquez, Philippine Fleet spokesperson, said BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was acquired and commissioned in 2011 while BRP Ramon Alcaraz was obtained in 2012 and commissioned in 2013.

Both Filipino ships are also armed with the Oto Melara 76mmm automatic cannon which is considered one of the best weapons of its class as it can engage both surface and air targets within a range of 20 nautical miles.

He added that it will be the first time that these modern fleet assets will be working together in a joint naval exercise with foreign naval ships.

2 soldiers die in NPA ambush in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): 2 soldiers die in NPA ambush in Albay

Two members of 91st Reconnaissance Company of the Philippine Army were killed in an ambush staged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Busac, Ligao City, while on their way on board a motorcycle back to their camp in Barangay Oma-Oma on Saturday afternoon.

Dead on the spot were Pfc. Jaynard Guinoo and Pfc. Louie Jardio, both of the PA's 91st Recom based in Barangay Oma-Oma.

Initial police report said the ambush took place at about 4:10 p.m. after the two soldier-victims had just underwent a reconnaissance operation in the area.

About ten NPA members armed with M-16 armalite rifles ambushed the Army soldiers, the report said.

Earlier, Army intelligence reported that an armed group of men was seen in the village prompting the command to send Guinoo and Jardio to confirm the report, which resulted in the ambush.

The 91st Reconnaissance Company of the PA immediately sent reinforcement but it failed to catch up with the rebels who had withdrawn to an unknown direction.

Indigenous tribes want ancestral lands excluded from Bangsamoro autonomy

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 29): Indigenous tribes want ancestral lands excluded from Bangsamoro autonomy
Leaders of indigenous tribes within the proposed Bangsamoro territory have demanded that their ancestral lands be excluded, saying that if Philippine government refuses to exclude them from the draft law on Bangsamoro autonomy, it would violate their inherent and inalienable right to self-determination.

“We cannot accept Bangsamoro as our identity. We have our own identity and this is the Erumanen ne Menuvu,” Erumanen Datu Ronaldo Ambangan said as he read the declaration of the Erumanen ne Menuvu tribe during the June 24 congressional consultations on the proposed Bangsamoro in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

In Davao City, Timuay Alim Bandara, a Teduray leader, told the June 26 congressional committee hearing that peace should be given a chance, not only for the Bangsamoro but also for all affected communities in Mindanao.

“I especially mention here other affected communities and societies because it is not only the Bangsamoro community and society that has been affected by all the wars and armed encounters, by injustices and conflicts in this region,” Bandara said. “I am referring to the community and society of indigenous peoples specifically the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo in portions of Maguindanao in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where the IPRA (Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act) provisions are not implemented in the past 17 years simply because we are inside an autonomous region that is the product of the peace process.”

He said the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the area covered by the peace agreement with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were not only victims of war but also victims of peace because the IPRA, which should have been enjoyed by IP tribes in the last 17 years, were not implemented.

“This is why, since the signing of the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) in 2012, we indigenous peoples in the area have been coming out of the peace zone to say in public and in small forums our discomfort on the previous peace agreement,” he added.

Ambangan said the Erumanens have defined ancestral territories in Central Mindanao.  These are undergoing delineation and titling processes in line with the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), according to Ambangan.  The Erumanen declaration asked national cultural communities of the House of Representatives conducting the hearing “to exclude our ancestral territories from the proposed Bangsamoro government as it will damage our inherent and inalienable right to self-determination.”

Signed by Erumanen Datu Al Saliling, Datu Roldan Babelon, and Datu Ronaldo Ambangan, all members of the Council of Leaders of the
Erumanen ne Menuvu, the declaration also claimed that Erumanens have been exercising their own governance system called Gempa te Kelindaan
ne Kamal for many years and cited the peace covenants forged between and among the Bangsamoro and the Erumanen ne Menuvu in the past which, though constantly violated, governed their peaceful co-existence with the Bangsamoro tribes.

Erumanen leaders called on Congress to craft a resolution directing the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to fast-tract the delineation and titling of ancestral domain of the Erumanen ne Menuvu and other non-Moro indigenous peoples in the adjacent areas of the proposed Bangsamoro territories; ensuring enough budget for the process; and to respect the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Erumanen ne Menuvu in cases of expansion of Bangsamoro territories.

They also asked the NCIP to finally issue a title, not just a resolution of granting the title to the Erumanen ne Menuvu claimants particularly the ancestral domain claim in Aroman and neighbouring barangays; Renibon in Pigcawayan town, and Libungan, Aleosan, Midsayap and Pikit Unified Ancestral Domain Claim, all in the province of Cotabato.

2 soldiers killed in Albay ambush

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 29): 2 soldiers killed in Albay ambush

PILI, Camarines Sur, Philippines — Two unarmed soldiers were waylaid and killed by a group of suspected communist rebels while on their way back to their patrol base in Albay on Saturday afternoon, the Army said.

Private First Class Jaynard Guinoo and Private First Class Louie Jardio, both members of the Philippine Army’s 91st Division Reconnaissance Company, were killed on the spot when fired upon by a group of suspected New People’s Army in Purok 5 (sub-village), Barangay (village) Busac, Ligao City, Albay at around 4 p.m. Saturday, Lieutenant Colonel Perfecto Peñaredondo, commanding officer of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion, said Sunday.

Peñaredondo said the two soldiers were wearing civilian clothing and were riding tandem on a motorcycle heading for their temporary base in the village of Oma-oma in Ligao City when waylaid by suspected NPA members armed with high-powered firearms.

He said the ambush-slay of the two soldiers in Ligao City followed a similar attack in Daraga, Albay, last June 16, wherein two soldiers – Sergeant Servando Bautista and Private First Class Daniel Solinap Jr., both of 9th Civil Military Operations Battalion — were also killed while on their way to coordinate a livelihood program with the local government.

Bautista and Solinap were also wearing civilian clothing, unarmed and riding motorcycles when they were killed, he said.

“Unarmed soldiers not even in uniform are becoming targets of opportunity hence we are taking precautions to avoid similar scene including victimizing civilians through mistaken identity,” Peñaredondo said Sunday.

The bodies of the slain soldiers were brought to a funeral home in Naga City, he said.

New penitentiary to open in Army camp by yearend

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 29): New penitentiary to open in Army camp by yearend

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines—Sprawling and far from any congested metropolis, the military reservation at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province appears to be the ideal relocation site for the national penitentiary, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

Catapang was in this city last week to turn over hundreds of chickens to active and retired soldiers for their livelihood projects.

The ceremony was held at the Philippine Army’s 70th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Canantong in Laur town, Nueva Ecija.

The transfer of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) from Muntinlupa City could be completed by yearend or in early 2015, Catapang said.

“The President wants it done by the end of 2014,” he said, adding that the logistics required for such a move were being worked out with other government agencies such as the Department of Justice and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

PPP project

Catapang said the transfer could be carried out as a public-private partnership (PPP) project.

The Fort Magsaysay military reservation is located in Palayan City and covers areas that formerly belonged to the towns of Laur, Sta. Rosa, Gen. Tinio and Gabaldon, all in Nueva Ecija. It extends to Dingalan Bay in Aurora province.

Earlier, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, who oversees the BuCor and the NBP, said the government wanted to improve its prison facilities to meet international standards and the transfer of the national penitentiary to Fort Magsaysay could be a step toward achieving this.

Baraan said the facilities for a new modern prison could cost P40 billion. He said the 551-hectare NBP in Muntinlupa City, which was opened in 1940, was congested with over 20,000 inmates. Its maximum security section houses 14,500 inmates, although it was designed to hold 8,400 prisoners.

Once the transfer is completed, the NBP in Muntinlupa could be transformed into a commercial district.

In 2006, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 568 authorizing the transfer of the NBP to a 272-ha reservation in Barangay (village) Cuyambay in Tanay, Rizal province. But Tanay officials opposed the plan.

In May 2012, the Aquino administration began studying the option of relocating the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women to Fort Magsaysay.

Most ideal

Several sites in Cuyapo and Talugtog towns in Nueva Ecija were also considered but the administration concluded that the 44,000-ha military reservation at Fort Magsaysay was the most ideal, the Inquirer learned.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Catapang have identified the military reservation as one of the military camps that would host American facilities under the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States.

The other sites are Subic Bay, Clark and Cubi Point in Central Luzon, Oyster Bay and Brooke’s Point in Palawan province, and Batanes province.

Officials said Fort Magsaysay was ideal due to its proximity to Dingalan Bay, which could be used for naval maneuvers. The reservation has been a venue of the joint military exercises conducted yearly by Philippine and US military forces.

At present, Fort Magsaysay hosts the headquarters of the Army’s 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, the Special Forces Regiment and the Special Operations Command.

It is also the site of the Aquino-Diokno Memorial Shrine marking the place where the late Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose W. Diokno were imprisoned and held in solitary confinement for a time by the martial law regime.

MILF praises Japan for support to peace, devt

From the Manila Times (Jun 29): MILF praises Japan for support to peace, devt

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has praised Japan for its strong support to the peace process and development in the southern Philippines.

MILF vice chairman and chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Japan has been playing an active role in an international effort to monitor the cease-fire agreement between the former Muslim rebel group and the Philippine government.

“We are grateful to the government of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for several assistances they have been extending to the Bangsamoro.

Japan has been playing active roles in the International Monitoring Team, International Contact Group and Independent Commission on Policing,” he said during the launching of the Japan-funded Human Resource Mapping in Cotabato City on June 4.

The program was attended by Takahiro Morita, senior sepresentative of JICA Philippine office, and Shinichi Masuda and Kazuhiro Okamoto, also members of the Japanese aid agency.

It was designed to gather data on Muslim professionals and store their files so that in the event the future Bangsamoro government requires workers, there would be easily accessible database.

Speaking before professionals during the launching, Iqbal cited the importance of professionalism among civil servants, especially in the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous regional government. The new government would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that has suffered from decades of poverty, corruption, and conflict.

ARMM abolition

But Iqbal said the abolition of ARMM—comprised of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi—would be gradually in several phases and he assured the rights of civil workers.

He said there is nothing to be worried about even if the ARMM is abolished because “the bulk of the bureaucracy of the future Bangsamoro government would not come from the ranks and file of the MILF since the latter would enjoy the fruits of the more than 40 years of struggle in some ways that would be fitting and special for them.”

“Certainly much of the bureaucracy for the incoming Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the future Bangsamoro government would substantially come from the ARMM because they have the training already,” he added.

Iqbal said while some of the MILF leaders would be in the prospective Bangsamoro government, majority would not be part of bureaucracy because they are not trained to be part of it.

“Their forte and training was something else,” he said.

Iqbal also emphasized though that over and above the training and competence, is to put in place a new value system that gives premium to accountability.

“It is the value system that determines the kind of people running a government. The MILF envisions that accountability is not only to the people, but more so to Allah,” he said.

Iqbal also urged Muslim professionals to journey with them in the quest for genuine self-governance and said that “efforts to transition require the entire Bangsamoro society and thus the MILF has to be inclusive and this inclusive policy includes resource mobilization and capacity development for everybody. People have to be the focus of development and empowerment since our society has already suffered a lot”.

The Philippine government and MILF peace negotiators signed the Comprehensive Agreement of Bangsamoro in March.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to President Benigno Aquino 3rd in April so he can sign it before it goes to Congress for approval.

Once Aquino signs the BBL, it can be ratified and implemented in time for the 2016 local and national elections. The BBL will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao.

The creation of Bangsamoro autonomous region would have to be decided on a referendum in the ARMM and in areas     where there are large Muslim communities probably before the year ends.

The MILF—a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996—is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which fought for decades for self-determination in Mindanao.

China capable of hegemony – analyst

From the Manila Times (Jun 29): China capable of hegemony – analyst

The statement of President Xi Jinping that China is incapable of hegemony or militarism does not jibe with its actions especially in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), an analyst said on Sunday.

International law expert Harry Roque Jr., a professor at the University of the Philippines, cited China’s naval modernization and its growing aggressiveness in disputed waters.

“They have written a defense policy that they will develop sea denial capability by 2020. They say they’re not hegemonic and yet they’re claiming territory that is not theirs,” Roque, also the director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of international Legal Studies, said.

Over the past months, China has asserted its claims to contested areas in the West Philippine Sea, forcing the Philippines to file a case at an international tribunal to contest Beijing’s nine-dash line policy. China refused to participate in the arbitration proceeding.

At the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law at the Chuo University Law School in Tokyo last week, Roque said China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratlys constitute a “serious breach” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Xi said on Saturday that China is incapable of “hegemony or militarism,” after calling for stronger border defenses to avoid a repeat of past humiliations by foreign powers.

“Hegemony or militarism is not in the genes of the Chinese,” he noted in a speech commemorating the six-decade old establishment of a commitment to peaceful co-existence with India and Myanmar.

“China neither interferes in other countries’ internal affairs nor imposes its will on others,” Xi said. “It will never seek hegemony no matter how strong it may become.”

He spoke to an audience of Chinese officials, military officers and foreign diplomats in a cavernous room in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Myanmar President Thein Sein and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, who also gave speeches, sat on stage as Xi spoke, as did Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and two other top ruling circle officials.

The speeches were part of commemorations for the 60th anniversary of a mutual peace vow by China, Myanmar and India.

Xi’s speech to an international audience contrasted with nationalistic remarks quoted by state media earlier in the day when he said China should bear in mind its history as a victim of foreign aggression and strengthen its frontier defenses on land and sea.

Those comments came at a “national meeting” held last Friday and also attended by Premier Li and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The remarks underscored China’s resolve amid testy territorial disputes with neighboring nations that have accused Beijing of being increasingly aggressive in pressing its claims.

Xi told the Friday meeting that the country’s weakness in the past had allowed others to bully it, the report said.

“Foreign aggressors broke China’s land and sea defense for hundreds of times, plunging the Chinese nation into the abysm of calamity,” he said, again calling on the people “not to forget the history of humiliation and to build a strong frontier,” according to Xinhua.

“Xi urged China’s frontier defenders to meticulously monitor over and control the frontier and to mount actions to defend the country’s maritime right, while implementing an overall national security outlook.”

Tougher military stance

 The comments are Xi’s latest pitches for a tougher military stance.

Since becoming China’s leader during a once-a-decade power transition that lasted from November 2012 until March 2013, Xi he has urged the country to turn its military into a force that can “win battles.”

Xi’s reference to frontiers comes as China is engaged in occasionally tense maritime disputes over territory with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

On land, China has a long-standing dispute with India, with which it fought a brief, but bloody border war in 1962, just eight years after the peaceful co-existence pledge.

And Beijing has also blamed what it describes as foreign-based “religious extremists” for fomenting terrorism in its largely Muslim far-western region of Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

China’s Communist Party has for decades stressed that under its leadership that began in 1949, the country finally overcame more than a century of humiliation by outside powers dating back to the Opium Wars of the 19th century.

Under the last imperial Qing Dynasty, China also saw incursions by western powers and Japan that secured trade and legal concessions as well as control of territory seen in China as unfair.

Fil-Ams stand proud in US Navy

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 29): Fil-Ams stand proud in US Navy

FOR THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE — Gas Turbine System Senior Chief Petty Officer Arnold Libongco, a Filipino-American US naval officer, talks to media about his role in the ‘USS John S. McCain’ over the weekend. (Jonas Reyes)

FOR THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE — Gas Turbine System Senior Chief Petty Officer Arnold Libongco, a Filipino-American US naval officer, talks to media about his role in the ‘USS John S. McCain’ over the weekend. (Jonas Reyes)

Subic Bay Freeport — “Fortune favors the brave.”

This is the motto of the “USS John S. McCain,” an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, participating in the 20th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2014 held at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

And one of those brave souls on the ship is Gas Turbine System Senior Chief Petty Officer Arnold Libongco, a native of San Mateo, Rizal – one of the 20 Filipinos aboard USS John S. McCaine, handling the engineering department.


Libongco is proud of his heritage and still speaks the Filipino language fluently.
He and the other Filipino-Americans on board the ship still savor Filipino dishes.

Libongco said that once a week, the ship’s chef prepares Filipino food. And the most popular of those is the Adobo, which even American sailors have loved to eat.


Proud to be part of the CARAT that will enable him to train together with Filipino soldiers, Libongco said any Filipino-American sailor inside the ship would say that they fight to the teeth just to defend the Philippines from insurgencies to ensure that the Filipinos would preserve his freedom.

American servicemen, he said, wants to learn to fight tenaciously despite the lack of numbers. “This is something that the American servicemen aboard the USS John S. McCain and the USS Ashland want to learn.”

“The unit level of the Philippine Marines, I think, is pretty small and that aspect is something that our guys could learn from. We need to experience the hand-to-hand training techniques, which we know we could learn from the Philippine Marines,” said Lieutenant Commander Dan Duhan of USS Ashland.

“Above that, the tenacity of the Filipinos when it comes to defending their country is incomparable to any nationality.”


The biggest reward of any Filipino-American whose ship is part of any bilateral exercises held in the Philippines is a chance to visit their families while their ship is docked in Subic Bay Freeport.

PNP confirms terror threat

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun30): PNP confirms terror threat

Security measures stepped up in Mindanao

The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday stepped up security measures against a possible terrorist attack in Mindanao, confirming that the information about the threat in Davao City was of “high reliability.”

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office chief, alerted all six police regional offices in Mindanao and ordered them to conduct preemptive measures by increasing police visibility in key installations and public areas.

“The information we received with high reliability revealed a possible terrorist threat to the peace and security in Region 11, particularly in Davao City,” Sindac said.

“We could not, however, divulge any further details of said reports received so as not to compromise ongoing security operations by both the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in these areas,” he added.

Last week, no less than President Aquino warned Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of a possible terrorist plot, allegedly from Basit Usman who is a known bomb expert connected to an international terrorist group.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas is scheduled to meet with Duterte to discuss security measures amid the terror threat.

Specifically, Sindac said the preemptive security measures include aggressive foot and mobile patrols, intensified checkpoints and gun check operations, including rigid inspections in land, sea and air transport terminals, commercial centers, places of convergence and vital installations.

“These measures are designed to harden possible soft targets of opportunity,” Sindac said.

Sindac said local police commanders were also instructed to minimize the impact of the intensified security measures to the people. He asked the public to cooperate.

“The measures being undertaken by our security forces in the area were simply to be more proactive and preemptive to these reports,” Sindac said.

“We urge everyone to give us any information that would be of help to the police and to our ongoing security operations,” he added.

Mindanao has been the site of several bomb attacks over the years, mostly carried out by local terror groups that have ties with international terrorist groups.

In the case of Usman, recent intelligence report showed he has been training members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in bomb-making and urban terror attacks.

This was confirmed in a raid on the camp of BIFF in Maguindanao recently where Usman was sighted.

The area command centers of AFP and PNP have already raised an “alert” status in Northern and Northeastern Mindanao regions over the weekend, but both denied receiving reports of an impending terrorist attacks in Cagayan de Oro City and Butuan.

Field commanders of the AFP and PNP were also ordered to beef up security in light, water and communication facilities, and assist local private security groups assigned in malls, terminals, seaports and airports, markets, church and school campuses.

Meanwhile, Chief Insp. Robert Domingo, spokesman of the National Capital Region Police Office, said police forces have not monitored any serious threat in Metro Manila.

MILF starts Congress lobby for passage of Bangsamoro Law

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 30): MILF starts Congress lobby for passage of Bangsamoro Law

He said Jaafar gave his assurance that the BBL will benefit not only the Bangsamoro people but the entire nation as well “because it will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for Mindanao and the Philippines.”

Nograles added that in that meeting, he made his personal guarantee to Jaafar that he is definitely for the immediate passage of the BBL and even made his commitment that he would help in convincing his colleagues to also support the measure.

 The Bangsamoro Basic Law would create the Bangsamoro Region which will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is passed by Congress and ratified by the people in a plebiscite.

The plebiscite for the envisioned Bangsamoro region will cover ARMM; six municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, Tagaloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; 39 villages in North Cotabato, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

The five provinces in the ARMM include: Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Nograles said the BBL could set the stage for a stronger national movement in the pursuit for a federal and parliamentary form of government.

“I expressed my support for the BBL because if this is made possible, then such will be a precursor to a shift towards a Federal and Parliamentary form of government for our country which I as a Mindanaoan fully support and advocate. What is good for the Bangsamoro people must be good for all Filipinos, equally, without distinction,” Nograles noted.

“I added that as people from Mindanao, we all share the concern that more development and more services must be poured into Mindanao, and because we are an island rich with resources then whatever we reap as a people must be poured back first for the development of our people; that is only fair and just; and that can only be achieved under a federal parliamentary form of government,” he said.

According to Nograles, the BBL is a “test case” for a federalized government and a proving ground for the Bangsamoro people in their ability to take the lead in bringing peace and progress in Mindanao.

“But the same must also be made equally available, beneficial and functional for the entire country,” he said.

Security exec warns of JI reprisal attacks in Mindanao

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 30): Security exec warns of JI reprisal attacks in Mindanao

Jemaah Islamiyah-linked bomb expert Basit Usman is plotting “car bombings” in key cities in Mindanao to avenge the killing of two of his men and the arrest of his wife during a military operation in Maguin-danao earlier this month.

A senior security official, who asked not to be named, warned that aside from Davao City, which was particularly identified as among the targets, the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and Iligan are now also being closely guarded.

“He (Usman) is planning to make revenge, he has plans to conduct bombings on key cities in Mindanao,” the official said.

Among the attacks supposedly being planned by Usman’s group are “car bombings.”

But the official maintained that there is no indicator of any presence of terrorists in Davao City.

“There are no specific targets…their (plan) is to use car bomb,” the official said.

Earlier this month, the military raided a lair of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where troops stumbled upon Usman, a bomb expert linked to JI and Abu Sayyaf group and included in the United States list of most wanted terrorist with $500,000 reward.

During the military operation, two of Usman’s companions were killed while four women, one of them his wife, were arrested and turned over to civilian authorities in Maguindanao.

All police units in Mindanao were subsequently alerted after government security forces raised terror threat in Region 11, particularly in Davao City.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, information officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP), in a statement, said the raising of the alert level status was prompted by reports “with high reliability” of possible terrorist threat in Davao City.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), however, refused to reveal specific details regarding the terror threat.

“Information received with high reliability, revealed a possible terrorist threat to the peace and security in Region 11, particularly in Davao City,” Sindac said.

“We could not, however, divulge any further details of said reports received so as not to compromise ongoing security operations by both the PNP and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in these areas,” he added.

According to Sindac, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered all police units in Mindanao to be on alert.

“All police forces in Mindanao have already been alerted by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, through the PNP High Command, to beef up security operations against possible infiltration of suspected members of said reported threat groups,” said Sindac.

“Similarly, all six Police Regional Offices in Mindanao remain on constant alert conditions to ensure their operational readiness and capabilities to respond to all possible contingencies,” he added.

Sindac said security forces in these areas will be initiating preemptive security measures in the form of aggressive foot and mobile patrols, conduct of intensified checkpoints and gun check operations, including rigid inspections in land, sea and air transport terminals, commercial centers, places of convergence and vital installations.
“These measures are designed to harden possible soft targets of opportunity,” he said.

“Police units are under instructions to, as much as possible, minimize any inconvenience to the public and that this was no cause for alarm especially for the people in Region 11 and other parts of Mindanao since the measures being undertaken by our security forces in the area were simply to be more proactive and preemptive to these reports,” Sindac added.

The PNP called on the public to coordinate with government authorities to thwart the threat.

“We urge everyone to give us any information that would be of help to the police and to our ongoing security operations,” said Sindac.

“Despite the situation, the Philippine National Police assures our fellowmen of our continued vigilance against all these reported threats. Let us not allow this to affect our lives or decide our fate,” he added.

For its part, the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), which has jurisdiction over Davao City, assured there is enough security forces to secure the city.

“We have more than enough forces to secure Davao City and its neighboring towns and communities. Task Force Davao and the PNP are in charge of the security of the City and its people,” said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, commander of Eastmincom.

“Threats to the thriving City and its communities are always a daily challenges that your AFP and PNP in Davao are always ready to respond to its occurrence,” Cruz added.

Checkpoints set up in Davao City to foil possible terror attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Checkpoints set up in Davao City to foil possible terror attacks

In line with its efforts to foil possible attacks by terror groups in Davao City, the Eastern Mindanao Command announced that it has beefed up its checkpoints and patrols in cooperation with the Philippine National Police .

This was disclosed by Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, Sunday.

But he clarified that they are still validating reports that Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf Group operative with ties with the Jemaah Islamiyah and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, is the brains behind the threat.

"Our intelligence units are still validating this report. They are still determining possible plans, motives, and locations for this purported attack," Caber said in Filipino.

The Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson stressed that terrorist threat can materialize in a form of a simple bomb attack or a car bomb albeit no confirmation can be made yet.

Car bombs are the trademark of Basit who is known to have perpetuated a series of car bombing attacks in 2002 in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

He added that they are being aided in this endeavor by the PNP.

Aside from the police checkpoints, Caber said that travellers heading for Davao City, after the airport, need to pass five to seven checkpoints before being allowed entry to the area.

The Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson said that passing through these security cordons will take at least an hour.

Aside from manned checkpoints, plain clothes operatives are constantly monitoring Davao City for possible infiltrators.

Caber said that checkpoints were also set up in the boundaries of Cagayan De Oro and Bukidnon near Davao City.

Signs with the hotlines of the local police are scattered all over Davao City to give civilians an idea on where to contact authorities should suspicious looking persons come to their areas.

Davao Gov't response to terror threat in full scale

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Davao Gov't response to terror threat in full scale

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has placed the terror threat at three in a scale of 10 but emphasized that the government response is in full scale "like it is martial law".

Duterte said the city government is doing "humanly possible" to ensure the safety of the people, adding that terrorism must be responded in full scale.

The mayor also stressed that response to terror threat whether in Davao City requires the full cooperation in all security checks at checkpoints and vigilance of the community.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas would not confirm if Davao City is the target of the terror group. He would not also confirm if the government is running after suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI).

However, he said he is satisfied with the preparations of the city' security forces.

All intelligence sources of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the mayor's own sources, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) are interconnecting with each other to track down terrorists, he said.

The 1,400 police personnel are on alert including the more or less 350 members of Task Force Davao. They will be augmented by other forces including those from neighboring provinces.

Duterte also emphasized that curfew on liquor is still in force.

Roxas flew in here from Manila to talk with Mayor Duterte on security threats and what actions have so far been taken to ensure the security of the city.

Duterte and Roxas met the press early evening after a closed door meeting at Marco Polo Hotel.

Roxas said the police and the military are on heightened alert since Thursday. Checkpoints have been set up in strategic areas.

Roxas also urged the public to be vigilant and report immediately any suspected persons.

Roxas has also tapped the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams, the barangay tanods and other individuals who serve as a network of anonymous informants for PNP.

Earlier, Duterte has ordered police and military to effect higher level of alert in the city following a phone call from President Benigno Aquino III who told the mayor on a classified information about the presence of international terrorists in Mindanao.

The President instructed Duterte not to take the information lightly and to ensure safety of the people.

“Do not take it lightly,” Duterte quoted Aquino, who phoned him at about 5:00 p.m. on Thursday (June 26). The mayor echoed the same to police officers, military commanders and concerned agencies, saying coming from the president is a serious matter.

While there was no specific details provided to him, Duterte said he wants everybody to do more to ensure that the city remains peaceful and safe.

According to the mayor, the government is pursuing “persons of interest” or people in the radar of the government security forces.

Duterte expects more mobile checkpoints and enforce stricter checks at entry and exit points of the city.

“I task everybody to cooperate,” Duterte said.