Thursday, August 28, 2014

DND to tap foreign tipsters on ISIS links

From the Philippine Star (Aug 28): DND to tap foreign tipsters on ISIS links

The defense department will tap its  international links to verify reports that extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is recruiting Filipinos in Mindanao.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the information about the group’s supposed recruitment efforts came as a surprise for the military.

They (military) were surprised because they did not monitor such activities or movements of Filipinos in the southern part of the Philippines,” Gazmin told radio station dzRH Thursday.

Right now, we are verifying through our international network if there are indeed movements in the areas mentioned,” he added.

ISIS has been slaughtering several non-Muslims in Iraq as part of its goal to form an Islamic state in the Middle East.

Early this month, former President Fidel Ramos told ABS-CBN News Channel that about 100 young Filipino Muslims have infiltrated Iraq to train with the ISIS.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte later on revealed receiving information that there were people traveling to the Middle East to join a war.

A video clip showing Filipino lawless groups Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement pledging alliance to ISIS also surfaced online. The military, however, has yet to confirm the alleged alliance between the local bandits and the ISIS.

Abu Sayyaf leader on arms charge

From the Star Online (Aug 29): Abu Sayyaf leader on arms charge

KOTA KINABALU: A highly wanted Abu Sayyaf leader linked to kidnappings in Sabah has been charged by the Philippines authorities with illegal possession of firearms.

Mobin Hailil alias Apo Kahumbo (pic) was charged yesterday with possession of a .45 Colt pistol loaded with six bullets and an MK2 grenade.
Pix of Apo Kahumbo, a mastermind of the kidnappings in east coast of Sabah.

The 44-year-old Kahumbo was arrested at a mobile checkpoint at Sanga Sanga village in Tawi Tawi province on Tuesday.

When contacted, Tawi Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf leader was charged in a court in Bongao, the administrative capital of Tawi Tawi, which shares water borders with Sabah’s east coast.

Kahumbo will remain under remand pending his trial.

However, Col Salido said police had yet to get “witnesses or evidence” to conclusively link Kahumbo to any of the kidnappings in Sabah’s east coast earlier this year.

He said he was unaware of any request by Malaysian authorities to question Kahumbo.

He also said Tawi Tawi police had yet to get any firm proof on Kahumbo’s involvement in the cross-border kidnappings.

Philippines intelligence officers described Kahumbo as the man instrumental in the transfer of hostages snatched by Abu Sayyaf from Sabah’s east coast to Jolo in Sulu province.

The Philippines National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group task force said it received intelligence that Kahumbo was an Abu Sayyaf member operating in Tawi Tawi.

Task force member Chief Insp Arthur Valdez said Kahumbo was instrumental in bringing kidnap victims from Sabah to Sulu because he was a good navigator.

“In the intelligence community, he is known as the receiver of kidnap victims from Sabah before their transfer to Sulu,” he explained.

Philippines police said Kahumbo was the second Abu Sayyaf suspect to be arrested this week following the arrest of Jauhari Idris, alias Jal, who was wanted for “kidnappings and serious illegal detention” in Basilan province.

Abu Sayyaf groups are still holding two Malaysians abducted from the east coast of Sabah.

Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, was grabbed from Kunak on June 16, and marine police constable Zakiah Aleip, 26, was kidnapped from Mabul Island, off Semporna, after Filipino gunmen gunned down his colleague Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32 on July 12.

BIFF links up with ISIS, assures Mindanao Christians not to worry

From MindaNews (Aug 28): BIFF links up with ISIS, assures Mindanao Christians not to worry

BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama announces the linking up of his group with the Islamic State in an interview somewhere in Maguindanao Thursday (28 Aug 2014). MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera

SOMEWHERE IN MAGUINDANAO – The breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) announced today they are joining forces with the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group.

But BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, during his group’s announcement in a secluded area in the province, assured Christians in Mindanao they have nothing to worry.

“Christians, don’t be afraid,” said the bespectacled Mama, a pistol tucked on his waist and fellow BIFF members with long arms around him.

Mama said they are fighting the same cause as the ISIS. “What they are fighting for is the establishment of an Islamic government,” he pointed out.

He said that the mujahideens are like one body, united even if separated all over the world. “Kung masaktan ang kalingkingan ng isa ay nasasaktan ang buong katawan,” he said. (Even if only the little finger is hurt, the whole body feels the pain.)

The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which has origins to the Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has gained notoriety lately as the most violent Muslim extremist group in the Middle East, claiming that they have religious authority over all Muslims in the world.

News reports say the Islamic State has been killing Christians and beheading children. It grabbed the limelight when it released a video as the group beheaded American journalist James Foley.

Mama said that two months ago, Sheikh Ismael Abubakar, vice chairman for political affairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi have agreed to join forces.

He said, however, that the BIFF has not yet sent members abroad for training or to join battles, contrary to reports. But Mama said that should the Islamic State request the BIFF’s reinforcement, then they are ready to send people.

The Abu Sayyaf has earlier announced it is joining forces with the Islamic State.

Beijing, Hanoi okay sea talks

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 29): Beijing, Hanoi okay sea talks

CHINA and Vietnam agreed to negotiate on their South China Sea disputes without backing away from territorial claims that have caused a rift between the two communist countries.

Vietnamese politburo member Le Hong Anh, at the invitation of China, met with President Xi Jinping and other officials in Beijing yesterday. Ties cooled after a Chinese oil rig was placed off Vietnam's coast in May, triggering skirmishes between boats of the two countries and deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

The two countries agreed to government-level negotiations on border and territorial issues, Vietnam News reported today. They will seek ways to contain sea disputes and implement principles to guide the settlement of such disputes, the paper said.

Leaders have previously issued statements on the intent to negotiate even as tensions continue, said Alexander Vuving, a security analyst at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. The Beijing meeting allowed each side to size up the other, particularly after U.S. leaders began calling for a lifting of an embargo on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam, he said.

“I don’t see any breakthrough in China-Vietnam relations,” Vuving said by phone. “There are no reasons China would refrain from provocations. They are very assertive. Vietnam has no other option than to continue to move closer to China’s rivals, such as the U.S., Japan and India.”

Xi yesterday called for China and Vietnam to restore ties, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, saying “a neighbor cannot be moved away and it is in the common interests of both sides to be friendly to each other.”

The president said he hopes “the Vietnamese will make joint efforts with the Chinese to put the bilateral relationship back on the right track of development.”

Anh invited Xi to visit Vietnam, Vietnam News reported.

Vietnam is still considering implementing “international law” as a peaceful means to protect its sovereignty, Le Hai Binh, Vietnam foreign ministry spokesman, said during a Hanoi briefing.

Vietnam reiterates it “has undisputed sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands,” he said. “Therefore any activity that is conducted without Vietnam’s permission is considered illegal.”

Japan seeks intensified maritime patrols

From the Manila Times (Aug 28): Japan seeks intensified maritime patrols

Japan’s coastguard is to ask for a doubling of its budget to boost patrols around islands that are the focus of a dispute with China, officials said on Thursday.

The agency will submit a request to the government for 50.4 billion yen ($485 million) for the financial year starting in April 2015, they said.

The move will come after two years of relentless tensions with Beijing over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Japan nationalized in September 2012.

 That angered China, which claims the chain as its own under the name Diaoyus.

Since the long-simmering dispute flared anew, Chinese vessels and aircraft have regularly approached the unoccupied islands, with Japan’s coastguard in pursuit.

The coastguard plans to add one new jet aircraft to its fleet, 10 large patrol ships and four small patrol ships, as well as to increase the number of personnel assigned to the new large patrol ships, it said in a statement.

It will also replace two jets with new ones and retire existing patrol ships in favor of new vessels to boost cruising distance and speed, the officials said.

It also hopes to build a pier, accommodation for crew and other facilities at its base in Ishigaki island, the main jumping off point for the Senkakus.

The measures are part of efforts to push back against Chinese government ships loitering in nearby waters and to create an around-the-clock air patrol system, officials said.

The budget request also considers the “possibility that the number of foreign fishery ships plying disputed waters could double,” a coastguard official told reporters.

Aside from Chinese official ships, the number of foreign fishery ships entering the islands’ waters has rocketed over the past three years, from 39 over the 12 months to March 2013, to 169 in just five months between April and August this year, the official said.

Aquino still reviewing BBL draft

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 28): Aquino still reviewing BBL draft

President Benigno S. Aquino III remains optimistic that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be submitted very soon to Congress, as he said that the BBL draft is still under thorough review.

“Talagang masusing inaaral bawat isang section at bahagi nitong Bangsamoro Basic Law dahil hinahabol nga natin isang panukalang batas na maibibigay sa ating mga kapatid sa Bangsamoro iyong kanilang inaasam-asam at binibigyan din naman ng kapanatagan ng loob iyong mga kapit-bahay nila –sa maapektuhan nitong batas na ito [We are really reviewing very thoroughly each section of the Bangsamoro Basic Law because we really want to have a law that would provide our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters what they have been longing for, that would also provide relief for those who would be affected by this law],” Aquino said in a radio interview aired over Bombo Radyo Thursday.

The President said he is reviewing the draft with heavy scrutiny as the “devil is in the details.”

“Walang pinagtatalunan doon sa mga batayang prinsipyo. At ngayon iyong paglilipat ‘nung batayang prinsipyong iyon doon sa mga specifications sa batas, iyon medyo nagkaroon ng konting mas matinding negosasyon [There are no arguments on the principles but on putting those principles into law, that is where negotiations are intense],” he said.

Aquino however said there have been major improvements on the negotiations between the two panels from last week.

“Masasabi ko sa inyo ang laki ng inabante nila. Mukhang maisusulong na natin o maihahain na sa Kongreso… sana sa lalong madaling panahon iyong isang panukalang batas na sinasangayunan ng lahat ng stakeholders [I can say they have moved forward and I think we can submit to Congress hopefully in the soonest possible time a bill that has been agreed upon by all the stakeholders],” he said.

Aquino said his administration is hoping for a plebiscite by the end of the year.
“Depende nga iyon sa talakayan ng Kongreso doon sa batas dahil ang hinahabol natin magkaroon ng one year and a half man lang na maipakita ‘nung transitional authority kung bakit mas angkop iyong sistemang iminumungkahi nila sa pagpapatakbo ng Bangsamoro [That would depend on the debates in Congress because we are after the transitional authority within one and a half years to see if this system would be effective for the Bangsamoro],” he said.

The BBL draft was submitted by the two panels to President Aquino last August 20.
The government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacanang on March 27, 2014.

The Aquino administration hopes to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law within President Aquino’s term in a bid to bring about a transition to the Bangsamoro political entity.

Two Chinese ships in Recto Bank heightening tensions – Aquino

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 29): Two Chinese ships in Recto Bank heightening tensions – Aquino

President Aquino yesterday called on China to help decrease tensions in disputed territories, stressing that the presence of the two Chinese hydrographic ships in Recto Bank has increased animosity between the two countries.

While the President did not call on China to withdraw the two Chinese ships, he stressed that Recto Bank is not a disputed territory but is part of the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) because it is 80 miles from Palawan.

Recto Bank reportedly contains 16.612 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“What is their purpose there and what are they mapping out? Hydrographic ships are used to chart the bottom of the sea. May we ask where? It’s hard to pinpoint without an evidence,” Aquino said in Filipino.

“What is clear is that there are two ships within our exclusive economic zone and instead of easing the tensions, the incident increased tensions,” he said.

Stressing that the Philippines has been doing its part of easing tensions in the disputed territory, Aquino called on China to do its part by not further increasing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The President said the Philippines has been doing its part of easing tensions, citing the arbitration case filed before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (DOC) in the ASEAN.

“In all forums we attended to, we emphasized the need to follow the rule of law that is within the bounds of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Aquino said.

“I hope the other party will also help ease tensions instead of worsening it,” Aquino said.

But instead of helping ease tensions, Aquino noted reports that China has been putting up reclamation areas.

“We are really bothered by these actions and this might lead to land dispute as well,” he said.

“We also hope they would cooperate well with neighboring countries,” Aquino added.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it will send a note verbale to the Chinese embassy in Manila to protest the presence of the Chinese hydrographic ships in Recto Bank. It said that China’s conduct of sovereignty patrols in Recto Bank is “in violation of both UNCLOS and the DOC.”

Gov’t forces trying to contain Misuari in Sulu — DND chief

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 28): Gov’t forces trying to contain Misuari in Sulu — DND chief

Government security forces are carefully assessing how to effect the warrant of arrest against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari to prevent possible bloodshed.

In a broadcast interview, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that government security troops are currently trying to constrict Misuari in one area in Sulu.

Gazmin said that coordination between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are continuous.

“The AFP right now in Sulu is trying to contain him (Misuari). Now, he has a warrant of arrest, the one that needs to serve the warrant will be the PNP so that it’s a joint operation between the PNP and AFP,” Gazmin said.

Asked how many battalion of security forces would be utilized to effect Misuari’s arrest, Gazmin replied “yan ang ina-assess nating maigi para sa ganun hind imaging bloody yung confrontation kung saka-sakaling i-serve sa kanya yung warrant.”

The defense chief’s response confirmed The Tribune’s report previously warning that arresting Misuari could lead to another conflict in Mindanao.

The Tribune, quoting informed military sources, earlier reported that arresting Misuari may spark a full-blown war in Mindanao, citing the support the MNLF chairman still enjoys from Muslim elders, particularly in his home province of Sulu.

The sources also said that Misuari remained in Sulu.

“Unlike ordinary criminals whom we can easily arrest without the danger of waging a war, capturing Misuari, at this time, would lead to another conflict,” one of the Tribune sources said.

After almost one year in hiatus, Misuari resurfaced last Aug. 12 on the outskirts of Sulu to address his MNLF supporters during the first anniversary of the declaration of Bangsamoro Republic.

Wearing camouflage uniform with bandoleer, Misuari appeared healthy in a photograph released by the MNLF.

Misuari is the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 13 in connection with the September 2013 siege on Zamboanga City by more than 300 MNLF fighters.

Misuari was ordered arrested October last year, along with MNLF commanders Ustadz Habier Malik, Bas Akri and Assamin Hussin.

Misuari was charged with genocide and rebellion after being tagged as the brains behind the 21-day Zamboanga City siege.

More than 200 MNLF fighters and soldiers were killed during the conflict.

Misuari’s supporters, led by Malik, wanted to raise the MNLF flag at the Zamboanga City Hall but were prevented by authorities, leading to the armed confrontation.

Filipino peacekeepers in standoff with Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

From the Business World (Aug 28): Filipino peacekeepers in standoff with Syrian rebels in Golan Heights

THE PHILIPPINE contingent to the United Nations (UN) is in a current standoff with Syrian Anti Government Armed Elements (AGAE), after the rebel group took the Fijian positions of the UN force deployed in the area, Philippine military reports said late Thursday evening.

At about 10 am (Syria time) on August 28, the Syrian rebel group demanded that the Fijian force surrender their firearms to them. Upon surrendering their firearms, however, the 43 Fijian peacekeepers were taken hostage.

The Fijian hostages were later taken in tow by the AGAE, as the rebel force encircled the Philippine contingent’s encampments demanding, this time, that the Filipino troops to surrender their weapons according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

A report by global news agency Reuters cited a UN press statement saying that in addition to the 43 Fijian peacekeepers taken hostage by the rebels, 81 peacekeepers from the Philippines were "currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah."

"The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation," the statement read.
The AFP said that the Philippine government and the UN are in close coordination and are working together to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino troops.

No misencounter, RPA says

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 28): No misencounter, RPA says

The Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade in the 1 st district of Negros Occidental yesterday disputed claims of the NPA Roselyn Pelle Command that its troops figured in a mis-encounter with Philippine Army soldiers in Brgy. Dian-ay, Escalante City, early this month.

Ka Remar Agabon, in a press conference, said they have no troops stationed in Escalante, and their forces are stationed in Brgys. Bagonbon and Rizal in San Carlos City.

The encounter in Sitio Madrak, Brgy. Dian-ay, Escalante City on Aug. 1 led to the injuries of Army 1Lt. John Rey Espinosa, who was hit in the head, and a certain Romeo Palote, who allegedly served as guide, with Danilo Amar, who also died in the gunbattle.

Cecil Estrella, spokesperson of the Roselyn Pelle Command, said in a statement issued to the media, that it could have been a mis-encounter between the RPA-ABB headed by Ka Remar and 62 nd Infantry Battalion soldiers.

Ka Remar said the NPA rebels are operating in Escalante.

Estrella called on human rights advocates to conduct an impartial investigation on what she claims to be a “bogus encounter”.

Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the statement of Ka Remar shows that the NPA leadership in northern Negros is again “lying, about their presence in the area.

Based on their assessment, Aying claimed that Amar was killed and Palotes was injured when they were hit by bullets from their own comrades.

Meanwhile, Espinosa, 27, commander of the 62nd Infantry Battalion Bravo Company, is slowly recovering from his head injury, he added.

ARMY SAYS: We're winning the peace

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 28): ARMY SAYS: We're winning the peace

The Philippine Army declared yesterday that it is “winning the peace” in Negros Occidental.
Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, said they have used non-traditional military approaches, including social, economic, political and even justice reforms, in addressing the insurgency problem in the province.
“With our multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral efforts implemented from 2011 up this time, we were be able to regain the trust and confidence of the people in conflict-affected communities, reducing their vulnerability to terror and deception tactics of the lawless New People's Army,” Aying said.
The 303 rd Infantry Brigade, in tandem with multi-sectoral groups, including peace advocates, non-government and people's organizations, Church, government agencies and the private sector, launched and implemented its “winning the peace” campaign in the hinterland communities of the 1 st and 5 th districts of Negros Occidental, populace.
Aying, who presided over the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center meeting at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City, said about 150 former rebels have abandoned the armed struggle since 2011.
The former rebels and their families also availed of financial and livelihood assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental, military records show.
A total of 19 former rebels are also working at the Negros First and Wellness Program in Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, and are engaged in organic farming and livestock raising, through the help of the provincial government of Negros Occidental, Aying said.
In the 5 th district of Negros Occidental, eight self-confessed NPA militiamen also surrendered to the 11 th Infantry Battalion, and endorsed 18 firearms, including a KG 9 sub machine gun, M1 garand and carbine rifles,, shotguns, 357 and caliber .38 revolvers, military records also show.
Aying said they were also able to liberate the conflict affected communities in the ESTOCA (Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava) areas from the influence of the NPA, through Bayanihan Team effort.
In order to preserve their gains, Aying said, “We are sustaining our capacity-building internally, through the Pro-PiDU, with the continuing involvement of various sectors of NGOs, while the military and police supporting the efforts”.
With the mechanism in place, the grassroots program from the city or municipality, down to the barangay level, will continue, even there is a change of leadership, he added.
He also said it is up to the local leaders, in tandem with national government agencies, down to barangays and sitios, to strengthen the institutionalization of capability building.
He expressed optimism that the holistic approaches under the Bayanihan program will eventually render insurgency irrelevant in Negros Occidental.

Task Force Davao strengthens ties with Muslim community

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): Task Force Davao strengthens ties with Muslim community

Task Force Davao (TFD) has convened the United Muslim Council for Peace and Development (UMCPD) in Davao to strengthen partnership and collaboration with the Muslim community amid unverified reports that some Muslim Filipinos left for the Middle East to train with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Although the reports are still being verified by the military, TFD Commander Col. Macairog Alberto, who presided over the meeting, said they are also gathering information if there are Filipinos who trained with ISIS.

Alberto met the UMCPD Officers headed by its president Datu Mohammad Buisan with Imams and deputy mayors and representatives of the 6 Muslim tribes in the city, to strengthen ties in line with the TFD’s mission to deter, prevent and defeat terror groups in its area of responsibility.

According to Macairog, the task force will continue to protect the people of Davao city and maintain the peace and support the progress and development in the area.

In the meeting, Imam Mohammad Pasigan assured that the Muslim community will continue to support the efforts of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and TF Davao in maintaining the peace in their communities.

Pasigan said they will report any information on Islamic extremism activities not only as a collaborative effort with the city leadership and TFD but more on the security of the city.

Macairog said the continued collaboration of TFD, the elders and Islamic leaders are done through consultations, dialogue and visit to the communities.

He said the activities are proactive measures to counter terrorism and encourage communities to reject terrorism.

Gunrunning group nabbed in Nueva Ecija; grenade, Armalite rifle, ammo seized

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): Gunrunning group nabbed in Nueva Ecija; grenade, Armalite rifle, ammo seized

A tip from a concerned citizen played a decisive hand in the tracking down and arrest of a group of armed men believed to be members of a “gun-running group” looking for prospective clients or buyers in the province.

Superintendent Renato O. David, town police chief, reported the arrest of the six-man group late Wednesday afternoon on board a Toyota Revo car (WGP 633) which was intercepted by town police in Barangay Triala, this town.

David said the group members are currently undergoing tactical interrogation to determine the depth of their participation in arms smuggling and probable recruitment of soldiers, among others.

He identified the suspects as: Arnaldo Arao, 32; Jackson Tuazon, 31, both residents of Sitio Bertese, Barangay Lennec, Guimba; Jerry Villastique, 38, a native of Oriental Beta, Lanao Del Sur and presently residing in Barangay Sta Veronica, Guimba; Alayodan Jalil, 39, also of Barangay Sta Veronica, Guimba; and Sumacum Cader,72, a native of Linao Bayang, Lanao Del Sur.

Recovered from the possession of the suspects were one Armalite rifle without serial number, one hand grenade, one long magazine with 15 live ammunition for M16 rifle, eight assorted cellphones, one tablet, and P150,661 cash.

Charges of violation of Republic Act 10591 and Republic Act 9516, or illegal possession of firearms, explosives and ammunition, were filed against the suspects.

Army tracking down rebel group who abducted 2 soldiers in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): Army tracking down rebel group who abducted 2 soldiers in Bukidnon

Troopers from the 8th Infantry Battalion are now conducting tracking operations against New People's Army (NPA) fighters who abducted two soldiers in Barangay Buntungon, Impasugong, Bukidnon.

Lt. Norman, 8th Infantry Battalion civil-military operations officer, said that the troopers, identified as Pfcs Marnel Cinches and Jerrel Yorong, were discovered missing Wednesday.

Tracking teams also learned that the two were abducted by rebel forces around 4 p.m. last Aug. 22.

Tagros said that the two were on their way to rejoin their peace and development team in Barangay Buntungon after helping facilitate a Department of Labor and Employment livelihood project in Impasugong town when the NPAs flagged down the vehicles of the troopers and took them at gunpoint.

Tagros said NPAs under Lorna Pekabalyo and Noel Gabuki admitted to abducting the two soldiers who were in civilian clothing when snatched by the rebels.

Rescue operations are ongoing.

Eastern Mindanao Command celebrates 8th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): Eastern Mindanao Command celebrates 8th anniversary

The Davao-based Eastern Mindanao Command celebrated its 8th anniversary on Thursday with the theme “Patuloy sa Pagtataguyod ng Bayanihan sa Silangang Mindanao Para sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran.”

Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the celebration started with a Mass participated in by ranking officials, enlisted personnel and civilian employees.

This was followed by awarding of medals to military personnel, peace and development streamer to units, plaque of recognition to some government officials and stakeholders, military and civilian personnel, and trophies to winners of the recently concluded sports and shooting competitions.

In his message, Eastern Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said:

“Like other public servants, the Eastern Mindanao Command exists because of the people it is mandated to serve. We have all the reasons to celebrate today, to give honor and to remember. Let this occasion serve not only as a celebration of our accomplishments but more as fitting stepping stone towards greater opportunities for service and mission accomplishment."

DND chief says PHL using international networks to verify ISIS recruitment report

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): DND chief says PHL using international networks to verify ISIS recruitment report

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced Thursday that the country is using its international networks to determine the authenticity of reports claiming that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conducted a recruitment drive in Davao City last July.

Aside from its foreign assets, the DND chief said that he has instructed local intelligence operators to verify this report.

"So far, we are still to get any feedback or information especially on the claims that (around 100 Filipino-Muslim) youths have left the Philippines to join the fighting in the Middle East," Gazmin said in Filipino.

Earlier, former president Fidel V. Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte claimed that ISIS recruited 100 Filipino-Muslims to join in the ongoing fighting in Syria and Iraq.

"We have talked with Mayor Duterte but he refused to identify his source, which of course justifiable since he is protecting the latter. So far, we requested our international networks to help verify this information," he said.

Claimant countries must work to reduce tension in West Philippine Sea, says President Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 28): Claimant countries must work to reduce tension in West Philippine Sea, says President Aquino

Claimant countries in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) must have the "sense" to settle the dispute peacefully and must work together to reduce tension in the contested territory, President Benigno S. Aquino III has said.

"Sana talagang magkaroon tayo ng tinatawag sa Ingles na ‘sense’ mula sa kanila na talagang nakatutok sila sa pagbababa ng lahat ng tensyon at pagreresolba ng lahat ng naayon sa tinatawag na international law at pakikipag-ugnayan ng mahusay sa mga karatig na bansa," President Aquino told Bombo Radyo Philippines in an interview on Wednesday.

The President said he is worried about intelligence reports saying that the rocks and features of the area have been reclaimed and turned into islets.

This would change the legal boundaries in the area, especially as the country pushes its claim through legal means, he said.

"Nababahala tayo sa lahat ng mga kilos na ito, na baka magkakaroon pa tayo ng report na hindi na lang sa ibang mga bansang meron silang... sabihin nating dispute, hindi na lang tubig ang pinag-uusapan, meron na ring land claims," he said.

The President said he has received reports about two hydrographic ships deployed to Recto Bank to do mapping operations.

Recto Bank is 80 miles from Palawan and within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the country, he noted, adding that he wonders what the two ships were mapping inside Philippine territory.

The Philippines is concentrating on two initiatives to resolve the issue -- through arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), and by pushing for a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The country has filed an arbitration case to compel China to clarify its claims in the South China Sea. China however has refused to participate in the arbitration.

The Philippines wants to craft a Code of Conduct in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that, once approved, will ask China to also adopt the binding code.

The ASEAN tried to craft a Code of Conduct in 2002 but only produced the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The declaration is non-binding.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan are laying claim to the South China Sea.

MILF vows to combat Islamic State 'virus' in PH

From InterAksyon (Aug 28): MILF vows to combat Islamic State 'virus' in PH

File photo shows MILF officers graduating from a training course in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao (photo by Bernard Testa)

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has condemned extremist jihadists in Iraq and Syria, and vowed to stop the spread of their "virus" into the Philippines.

After decades of armed rebellion that claimed tens of thousands of lives, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a peace agreement in March that commits it and the government to share power in a new autonomous region to be created as part of the pact.

The MILF portrayed its moderate leadership as vital to stopping the savage ideology of Islamic State infecting the southern Muslim regions.

"The MILF condemns barbarism and savagery whether done by other groups including the ISIS or even by its (MILF's) own members," the organization said in an editorial posted on its website,, this week.

"Frankly, it is the power, moderating line, and influence of the MILF that hinders the birth of a truly strong radical group," the editorial said.

The MILF also said the planned Bangsamoro autonomous region that is the centerpiece of the peace deal would be a bulwark against the ideology of the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.

The MILF urged President Benigno Aquino III to approve the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was submitted to him last week by a joint committee of rebel and government negotiators.

The peace agreement called for Aquino to submit the BBL to Congress earlier this year so the autonomous region would be in place by the time he leaves office in mid-2016.

But he rejected an earlier draft and had the joint committee prepare a revised version.

"It is this ... fear (of) not being able to realize it (Bangsamoro Law) for whatever reason that the ISIS' virus is much to be feared," the MILF warned.

Two other groups, the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have recently vowed allegiance to the IS in video clips uploaded on the Internet.

Some politicians have expressed concern both groups may be sending recruits abroad to fight alongside the IS, though the military said there was no evidence of this.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loosely organized Al-Qaeda-linked group of several hundred militants blamed for the country’s deadliest terrorist attacks.

The BIFF, which has about 200 fighters, split from the MILF after rejecting the peace talks and has vowed to continue pursuing an independent Islamic state.

"For us, the threat is not in the two groups' joining the ISIS. Their number(s) (are) too tiny to be felt and make a difference," the MILF said.

"The threat really comes from the extremism espouse(d) by the ISIS. Ideas are contagious and infectious."

Govt finalizes preparations to serve warrant against Misuari

From InterAksyon (Aug 28): Govt finalizes preparations to serve warrant against Misuari

Photo by Joselito Vitug

The Department of National Defense (DND) said on Thursday that government operatives are finalizing preparations for the operation to serve the warrant of arrest on Nurjulani Misuari, popularly known as Nur Misuari, the former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The preparations are intended to avoid a repeat of the incident in Basilan that killed almost two dozen soldiers while serving arrest warrants against leaders of lawless groups in 2012.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Sulu has been containing him [Misuari] in just one place. There is a warrant of arrest and this must be served to him. There is the Philippine National Police (PNP) to do that. It's going to be a joint operation between the PNP and AFP," DND Sec. Voltaire Gazmin said, without disclosingjust how many soldiers are going to be deployed to support the police in serving the order.

"We're assessing the situation carefully so the possible confrontation would not be bloody, if ever, during the serving of the warrant," Gazmin said.

In October 2012, 19 soldiers of the Philippine Army Special Forces (SF) were killed and 14 others seriously wounded during a daylong firefight against more than 300 armed men comprised of elements from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Al Barka, Basilan.

The troops were in the area to serve arrest warrants against some lawless leaders of the MILF including some sub-leaders of the ASG.

On Wednesday, a new spokesman of Misuari announced his purported return to Sulu after several months of recuperating from an illness while in hiding, to avoid getting arrested after the courts in Zamboanga City issued him warrants in connection with August 2013 Zambonga siege.

According to Habib Mudjahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF's ISalmic Command Council, Misuar had a meeting with his supporters on August 24 at Barangay Lampayag, Panamao, where he reiterated his declaration of "independence" from the Philippine government.

During that Zamboanga siege, Misuari's men men led by his loyal commander Habier Malik stormed the city but were repulsed by government forces after almost a month of fierce fighting.

The siege displaced up to 120,000 resident from several barangays in the city.

Misuari and more than 150 others were charged for war crimes. The seriously-wounded Malik, who was able to escape the frontline of the concflict, died later.

Retired military officers buck recognition of rebels as heroes

From InterAksyon (Aug 28): Retired military officers buck recognition of rebels as heroes

Malacanang photo bureau

Several retired military and police officials on Thursday criticized the Aquino administration for implementing a law honoring as heroes and martyrs some communist rebels who were killed in battle by government troops from the 1970's and up to 1986.

Rodolfo "Boggie" Mendoza Jr., president of the Philippine Institute for Peace Terrorism Violence Research (PIPVTR) described R.A 10368 as a complete affront on the memories of soldiers and policemen who fought gallantly in defending freedom during the 70's, 80's and 90s.

"I cannot stomach this process that makes rebels out to be martyrs and heroes," Mendoza said.

"I'm not defending the Martial Law. That's debatable. The ones I'm defending are those who fought for democracy during those times," Mendoza said.

Mendoza, a veteran intelligence police officer, said that soldiers and policemen who are battling communist rebels should be the ones being recognized by the Aquino administration as heroes and martyrs.

"So what do we think our soldiers and policemen will feel now that the rebels they are fighting get to be recognized by this administration as heroes and martyrs?" Mendoza asked.

The retired police official said the NPAs have their own system of recognizing their own hereos, and the situation should be left at that by the government.

Mendoza quotes a text message from another retired army general: ”That is a disgrace to our soldiers who have dedicated their lives to the service and keep the peace we have today. It was the NPA who disturbed our country and society."

Mendoza and other former officers called on the administration to also recognize soldiers and policemen that defended the democracy those times.

Mendoza said he is willing to suffer a demotion in rank and return all of the medals and honors he earned when he was still in the police service.

"I respect the law and I'm willing to do that, as long as they can prove that I have committed human rights violations," Mendoza said.

He suggested that what the government should do is enact a law that would provide just compensation for soldiers and policemen who fought against the rebels in defending the democracy.

We should recognize the hundreds of soldiers and policemen who were killed in encounters with the rebels, not the other way around, he stressed.

Another retired police official, Frank Villaroman, said the law might even end up presenting the wrong model to the youth: "Are we telling them that it's OK to go up to the hills and fight the government?"

Army sergeant killed by own soldier in Zamboanga barracks

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 28): Army sergeant killed by own soldier in Zamboanga barracks

An army soldier surrendered to his superior officer after killing his sergeant in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said Thursday.

Police said Corporal Greggy Patpat, a native of Cebu City, shot Sergeant Romeo Piedad, of Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, inside their barracks in the village of Dona Cecilia in Sirawai town. Both soldiers belong to the Charlie Company of 10th Infantry Battalion.

Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman, said the shooting occurred on Wednesday morning. He said investigators recovered 21 shell casings of M16 automatic rifle from the crime scene, including the rifle used in the killing.

“Initial investigation conducted by elements of Sirawai Police Station disclosed that the motive of the incident emanated from a personal grudge,” Samuddin said.

He said the soldier surrendered to Lieutenant Chesler Mastino, commander of Charlie Company, who subsequently brought him to the police station.
It was not immediately known what triggered the shooting.