Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lumads denounce presence of NPA in their area

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 4): Lumads denounce presence of NPA in their area

KORONADAL CITY,  South Cotabato --   Over a  thousand  Tboli and Blaan  residents   in   Lake Sebu, this province, marched to  the town plaza  on  Saturday afternoon,  Aug.  30  to denounce  the   presence New People’s  Army (NPA)  in their  area.

Capt. Rey Balibagoso, spokesperson of the 1002nd  Infantry Brigade  Philippine  Army,  told Philippine  Information  Agency   in a statement  that the  peace rally,  participated by  residents from the  municipality’s   19  barangays, was  organized  to  show their objection  to the atrocities carried  by the  rebel  group  in  the area. 

“Hadu kem  tao tabag; aknagol to dad NPA! (We  denounce the  group NPA; we do not  need  them!),  the  participants  shouted in their  mother  tongue as they  marched to the  town  plaza.

Among  the  marchers  were  chieftains,  tribal  leaders, and barangay  officials.

Balibagoso  said  most of the participants  came  from   Barangay  Ned,  the biggest  and farthest  barangay of Lake  Sebu.

“The NPA  terrorized them (residents of Barangay  Ned) before the conduct  of the Peace and Development  Outreach Program  by the 27th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, in collaboration  with the local  government unit   and  concerned agencies,” he said.

Speaking  at the rally, Lake  Sebu  Mayor Antonio Fungan emphasized:  “We, the IPs, are  peace-loving people. What  my constituents need are basic services like health, education, and livelihood.”

Fungan  said  the  national  government is  currently  constructing  a road  network that  would  connect  Poblacion, Lake Sebu   to  Maitum, Sarangani via  Barangay  Ned.

Once  completed  the road  could mean less  costly and   fast  transportation of   agriculture  products of  farmers  in the uplands  to the market; however, the presence of the  rebel  group  along the South Cotabato – Sarangani  boundary  poses a threat  to this  development program.

On this  regard, the   local  chief  executive  requested  the  27th IB  to  provide  security  for the heavy equipment  and the workers  constructing the  road.

‘We are  promoting  our  town as  a tourist  destination. For now, we are number 2 tourist  destination in the  Philippines. We  envision to become the  number 1  someday,”  he added.

In response,  Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial  assured  to sustain  the peace and order  in the  area  with the  help  from local  police, the LGU,  and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile,  Col. Ronald  Villanueva, commanding  officer  of the 1002nd Infantry  Brigade  appealed to the  NPAs  to  spare  the indigenous  peoples in their  useless and  futile armed struggle.

“The IPs  have the right  to self-governance and self-determination. It is stated in  Republic Act 8371, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997,”  said Col. Imperial.

In an  interview,   Capt.  Balibagoso confirmed  that  prior to the  peace rally in  Lake  Sebu, several  peace marches  have  been  held in their  areas of  responsibility.

These included   a condemnation rally in  Digos City  on March 5  denouncing the  armed  group’s  use of landmines in  nearby Bansalan  town  where  four civilians were  injured;  in Pinalpalan  in Malita, Davao del Sur on  July 27  where a Tagakaolo civilian  was  killed by members of the NPA; in Makilala, North Cotabato  on August  9; and  in Poblacion, Arakan, North Cotabato  on August  21.

“The   upland  folk  continue  to  denounce the  CPP-NPA-NDF and  call  for  the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s  campaign  on Internal Peace and Security Plan – Bayanihan, so that  peace and  development  will continue,”  Balibagoso  said.

Kapalong tribal leaders declare ‘pangayaw’ against NPA, NGO support

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 4): Kapalong tribal leaders declare ‘pangayaw’ against NPA, NGO support

After a series of unrest in Barangay Gupitan, the tribal leaders in the barangay which is part of Kapalong town, declared ‘pangayaw’  or tribal war against the New People’s Army and its support non-government organizations (NGO).

This was revealed earlier today by Municipal Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Datu Arturo Davao in  a Press Conference on  the Gupitan Incident held at ABC Hall, Kapalong.

“We, the tribal leaders, signed a manifesto declaring war after a number of NGOs tried to enter our ancestral domain disregarding our agreements,” Datu Davao said.

Davao added that ten NGOs tried to enter Brgy. Gupitan twice and that he  revealed KARAPATAN  and PASAKA were among those NGOs.

“At first, we (tribal leaders) had a dialogue with them and told them not to enter certain sitios because of ongoing encounter between the army and the NPA. But during the dialogue, they insisted and I had to stop the forum since discussion got heated up,” he said in Visayan dialect.

Davao then requested the NGO to set another schedule to continue the discussion.

“However when they returned, they did not pass by us. It’s a disrespect  for us,” he said in Visayan dialect.

Gaspar Balinggao, municipal administrator and action officer of the municipal disaster risk reduction and management center, said that the municipal government set up an Incident Command Center on August 15 after declaring Barangay Gupitan on a state of imminent danger.

“Since the encounter started in July, ten communities of more than 800 households in Barangay Gupitan have been affected,” Balinggao said.

He said that the ICS provided food, medical and transportation assistance to affected families, who remained in their houses.

As of today, Balinggao disclosed that the municipal government already distributed a total of 4,685 food packs.

“We have served all the households and we still continue serving them until encounter ends,” he said.

Esscom forces engage eight boats; Filipino intruder shot, captured

From the Star Online (Sep 4): Esscom forces engage eight boats; Filipino intruder shot, captured

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security forces shot at and captured a suspected Filipino intruder in a standoff with eight boatmen in separate pump boats in waters off Pulau Bakungan Kecil that borders southern Philippines.

Soldiers from the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) were forced to shoot one of the intruders and sink his boat when he threatened to attack them after they were found trying to sneak into Sabah's waters from neighbouring Philippines island of Bakungan Besar at about 1.45pm on Wednesday.

However, seven other intruders immediately fled in their pump boats back into Philippines waters.

The 22-year-old suspect has been admitted to the Duchess of Kent Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

Esscom commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said that prior to the shooting, soldiers had intercepted eight pump boats heading towards Pulau Selingan in Sandakan.

He said they fired three warning shots at them demanding their surrender. However, only two of them turned back while six others remained in defiance.

"One of the intruders brandished a parang at security forces, prompting an attack from our side," he said on Thursday.

Abdul Rashid said the suspect was shot and his boat sank in the incident. He was later taken into custody and brought to the hospital for treatment.

"Investigations into the suspect's background is being carried out," he said, adding that security forces will continue strengthening security to prevent any intrusion in the 10 districts under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).

The 10 districts are Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau.

Alleged Pinoy intruder shot at PHL-Malaysian border —report

From GMA News (Sep 5): Alleged Pinoy intruder shot at PHL-Malaysian border —report

A Filipino was shot and captured allegedly while trying to enter Malaysian waters Wednesday afternoon, a Malaysian news site reported late Thursday.
The Filipino was supposedly aboard one of several pump boats that was involved in the standoff off Pulau Bakungan Kecil, according to a report on Malaysia's The Star Online.

While the Filipino was not immediately named, he was described as 22 years old. He was brought to the Duchess of Kent Hospital for treatment.

Soldiers from the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) sank the Filipino's boat allegedly after he threatened to attack them.
The report said the boats came from the Philippine island of Bakungan Besar at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. Following the shooting, the seven other boats fled back toward Philippine waters.
Esscom commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said that before the shooting, soldiers intercepted eight pump boats heading towards Pulau Selingan in Sandakan.

He said they fired three warning shots but only two of them turned back.

"One of the intruders brandished a parang (a Malaysian-made bladed weapon) at security forces, prompting an attack from our side," he said.

Malaysian security forces are working to prevent intrusion in the 10 districts under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
The 10 districts are Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau.

Asean must get rid of ISIS in Southeast Asia

From the Establishment Poste (Sep 5): Asean must get rid of ISIS in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is no stranger to terrorist attacks. In 1995, Abu Sayyaf militants raided the predominantly Christian town of Ipil in southern Philippines, killing more than 50 people after robbing banks and stores and burning the town centre.

In 2002 and 2005, there were a series of bombings in Bali that killed a total of 222 people. Southeast Asia has also seen dozens of kidnappings and cases of terrorists being holed up in parts of southern Philippines, eastern part of Sabah and eastern Indonesia.Some of the local militant groups have links with al-Qaeda.

More recently the threat of ISIS in Southeast Asia looms. In the last few month, ISIS has started to move into the region so as to make Southeast Asia part of its caliphate, an Islamic state. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is also known as Islamic State. This group is bent on attacking people in places deemed to be un-Islamic or not extreme enough. ISIS members had confessed that the group was planning to launch attacks on several nightspots in Kuala Lumpur and the Carlsberg factory in Petaling Jaya, and on Putrajaya. (See: Malaysia should officially ban ISIS)

ISIS is much better organised in that it has a military approach in  spreading its influence with an over-arching set of strategies and a strong centralised leadership. Al-Qaeda has more of the attack-and-run style, and the groups affiliated with it seem to be operating relatively independent. ISIS has also used social media to the fullest, and has a steady source of funds. A grouping such as this would be very appealing to the dissatisfied and disillusioned in Southeast Asia.

Already groups in southern Philippines and Indonesia have rallied behind ISIS. For this reason, Asean should come together to fight the spread of ISIS influence and to stop their plan to make Southeast Asia part of their caliphate. Asean has a lot to lose if the grouping fails to stop ISIS in Southeast Asia from further advancing.

Asean is the fourth largest exporting region in the world. It is the most diverse and fast-moving competitive region in the world. All this would be lost if the region was riddled with terror attacks and violence.

ISIS presence in Southeast Asia

  1. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, has condemned extremist jihadists in Iraq and Syria, and vowed to stop the spread of their “virus” into the Southeast Asian nation.
  2. Another Philippine rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claims Sunni preachers have been conducting recruitment for ISIS members.
  3. Al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf pledges allegiance to ISIS.
  4. Earlier reports say Malaysian women are offering sexual jihad or Jihad Al-Nikah to ISIS members. Malaysia denies claims.
  5. There were two postings on ‘JIM-Jamaah ISIS Malaysia’ Facebook page calling for the beheading of Dayaks because they were non-Muslims. Dayaks are a people group in Sarawak.
  6. Malaysian Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, 26, is said to be the first ISIS martyr. He reportedly drove a military vehicle carrying explosives into Iraq’s special forces headquarters in Anbar, killing 25 soldiers and himself on May 26, 2014.
  7. The Malaysian police arrested 15 men for their alleged links to ISIS. One of them was a 30-year-old naval officer who had been in service for 10 years.
  8. The Singapore government said that a handful of Singaporeans had gone to fight in Syria.
  9. Jailed cleric and terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir told his followers to support ISIS. The message was sent through the leader of the Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid, a group designated a terrorist organisation by the US. This group is said to be raising funds to send fighters abroad.
  10. There may be at least 500 Indonesians who have joined ISIS. One 19-year-old fighter identified as Wildan Mukahallad died in a suicide attack in Baghdad.
  11. A few hundred Muslim scholars and activists gathered in Jakarta to pledge their support for ISIS. Among then were Abu Sholih Attamarowi and journalist M. Fachry.
  12. About 200 Indonesians are in Syria fighting for ISIS. About 30 Malaysians are said to be in ISIS in Syria, out of which 15 were killed.
  13. “Mujahidin” groups have been recruiting Malaysians using social media and usrah (family) sessions. Mujahidin means those doing jihad.
  14. With 20 million rupiah (about US$ 2,000), these young jihadists can fly to Syria and get real combat experience, compared to just a hiking session they get in Indonesia. (See: Terrorism in Indonesia: ISIS and Release of Terrorists)

How ISIS members use social media in Southeast Asia

  1. Robert Musa Cerantonio is an Australian Muslim convert living in the Philippines but deported to Australia for trying to incite Muslim men in the Philippines to fight in the Middle East. He is said to the third most ‘liked’ extremist preacher on Facebook. His Twitter account is still alive and posts numerous recruitment video clips of him preaching. He is walking about freely in Australia, and is not under detention.
  2. There are video clips on YouTube of armed men, with faces covered, speaking in a Filipino language and Arabic pledging allegiance before an ISIS flag.
  3. In another video, dozens of Filipino prisoners are gathered in a jail hall, shouting slogans in front of a black flag with white lettering and vowing loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  4. ISIS media arm Al Hayat releases videos with subtitles for a more international audience. Al Hayat also publishes an online newsletter translated into English.
  5. After the clampdown by Twitter and YouTube on ISIS, they started using the open-source social network Diaspora – where the content is impossible to remove.
  6. ISIS developed an android smartphone app called “The Dawn of Glad Tidings” in April. The app has since been taken down.
  7. Malaysians Ahmad Salman Abdul Rahim and Mohd Lotfi Ariffin are two of a group of Malaysians in Hama, Syria who claim to be engaged in jihad, fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They have released numerous videos to give Malaysians a glimpse of their jihad. They have even been interviewed by the Malaysian mainstream media via Facebook.

What are Southeast Asian countries doing to curb ISIS in Southeast Asia

  1. In Indonesia, Muslim leaders publicly condemned ISIS and the government criminalised support for the group. The government has also banned video clips on YouTube that promote ISIS teachings. Indonesia feels that the ISIS ideology does not fit with the ideology of Pancasila.
  2. Malaysia strongly condemns the actions of ISIS. The police are monitoring social media to pick out content used to influence and recruit young Malaysians to join the militant movement and to arrest those behind it.
  3. Singapore has condemned ISIS and called their actions “barbaric”. The government is detaining those flying off to Syria. There are joint efforts by Muslim groups to educate young Muslims on peace education and to counter the radical misinterpretation of Islam by members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group in Singapore.
  4. Philippines says none of its citizens has joined ISIS. But its armed forces are keeping their eyes peeled.

Fast Facts About ISIS

Territorial Control of the ISIS
By NordNordWest, Spesh531 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Territorial Control of the ISIS
  1. Also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State (IS).
  2. It is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim.
  3. Started as an al Qaeda splinter group. Bad blood between these two groups cause them to go separate ways in February 2014.
  4. Aim is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria, and around the world.
  5. ISIS is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts.
  6. The group orders women to stay home, banned smoking and drinking and warned of harsh consequences under Sharia or Islamic law.
  7. The group currently controls hundreds of square miles. It ignores international borders and has a presence from Syria’s Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad.
  8. ISIS fighters are Sunnis. The tension between Iraqi Shias and Iraqi Sunnis is a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS. A majority of Iraqis are Shias, and a huge part of the Muslim world outside Iraq is Sunni. This includes Southeast Asia.
  9. ISIS doesn’t depend on foreign aid to survive. In Syria, they have a mini-state: collecting taxes, selling electricity, and exporting oil to fund its militant activities.
  10. They now control seven oil fields and two refineries in Iraq, and six oil fields in Syria – extracting at least 40,000 barrels a day. They sell all this oil at US$25 to $60 a barrel. Brent crude is currently over US$100 on the London ICE Futures Europe exchange.
  11. They are making roughly US$2 million a day, and everything paid for in cash or bartered goods. No one knows who’s buying their oil, but the oil flows to Turkey and Jordan.
  12. ISIS behaves more like a military force where they move in and conquer cities and territories. Unlike al-Qaeda that does one spectacular attack. Which is why ISIS call what they are doing a war, why the rest of the world call it mass murders, mass rapes, mass tortures and mass destruction.
  13. As of July, ISIS has reportedly killed 1,600 people in conflicts.

About the Web 

Gunmen seize van carrying teachers

From the Philippine Star (Sep 4): Gunmen seize van carrying teachers

Gunmen seized a van carrying public school teachers Thursday in the outskirts of Lamitan City in Basilan province.

Lamitan City acting police chief Senior Inspector Gean Gallardo said the teachers—four women and a man—were on board a passenger utility van bound for Tipo-Tipo town it was flagged down by the gunmen about 8 a.m. in Baas village.

Gallardo said the terrified passengers, who were ordered to alight from the vehicle, scampered and sought help from a nearby community.

The victims were later brought to the police for debriefing.

Authorities said the suspects apparently only aimed to take the van due to a grudge against its owner. The teachers were nonetheless secured following the incident as the Abu Sayyaf continues to attack areas in the province.

Photo: Navy Vision -- 2020

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 4): Photo: Navy Vision -- 2020

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin receives a copy of Philippine Navy’s Strategic Sail Plan and Electronic Performance Governance Reporting System from Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan during a ceremony at the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard in Manila on September 4. The Sail Plan serves as guide for Navy to accomplish  its vision by year 2020.  DANNY PATA

Photo: New rifles

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 4): Photo: New rifles

Military personnel test-fire their newly acquired M4 assault rifles during a distribution ceremony at the Fort Magsaysay Army training camp in Nueva Ecija on Thursday. Some 50,000 M4 assault rifles will replace the military’s old assault rifles (inset). AFP

7 killed in NPA-AFP clash in Abra

From The Daily Tribune (Sep 5): 7 killed in NPA-AFP clash in Abra

At least seven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, one of them a ranking commander, were killed while several high-powered firearms were seized by military troops following an intense clash in Abra province yesterday.

Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the 1st Civil Relations Group (CRG), said that the firefight between elements of the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) and about 50 NPA band was still ongoing as of noontime yesterday.

According to Garcia, the cash erupted at around 5:40 a.m. after the Army troopers discovered an NPA camp along Barangay Guinguinabang in Lacub town.

As of press time yesterday, Garcia said that at least seven NPA rebels had been killed while six firearms were recovered.

One of those killed was identified as Arnold Jaramillo, alias Ka Mando, tagged as secretary of the NPA’s Abra Provincial Party Committee.

Among the seized firearms were two M653, two M16 rifles, a Carbine, one Garand rifle and a caliber .45 pistol and two Icom radios.

Garcia said that the Army troops, led by Capt. Dionizer Mark de los Santos, were conducting combat operation in Lacub town when they saw about 50 rebels, including around 15 amazons, at the NPA camp equipped with high-powered firearms.

“The firefight stemmed from earlier reports from local populace about the presence of armed men passing through some villages collecting foodstuff, money and enticing young folks to go with them and gravitating at an undisclosed place which was validated by many sources and other local residents which prompted the authorities to conduct security patrol to protect the local populace,” said Garcia.

“The NPA remnants were believed to be conducting training with their newly recruited members from neighboring provinces which is being facilitated by Jaramillo,” he added.

There was no reported casualty on the government side.

Close air support was provided to the engaged troops.

“The firefight and the death of the seven NPA remnants is a sad development but our troops have to protect our people,” said Lt. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad Jr., commander of Northern Luzon Command.

“We offer our sympathy to the relatives of those killed in the encounter but we renew our call for them to surrender, go back to the mainstream society and be productive citizens,” he added.

MILF: Transforming boundaries among diversity of peoples to be points of understanding and cooperation

Posted to the Guest Article section of the MILF Website (Sep 4): Transforming boundaries among diversity of peoples to be points of understanding and cooperation [Written by  Masako Ishii (Osaka University)]

The diversity of the Southern Philippines has always amazed and overwhelmed me since my first visit to the region in 1994.

The sea trade connecting the Arab Peninsula and Insular Southeast Asia had brought Islam to the people living on the coastal area as well as on the river branches in the Southern Philippines in 13th to 14th centuries, leaving aside the people living in the hill side.  Christianity had been introduced to the region with the coming of the American missionaries and influx of Christianized people from Luzon and Bisayas. 

As a result, it is generally mentioned that there are “Tri-People” in the Southern Philippines; Muslim (or Moros), Christian, and Lumads (or Indigenous Peoples: IPs).  And “inclusiveness” of the “Tri-Peoples” has become one the slogans of the MILF which engages in establishing the new autonomous Bangsamoro Government with great fortitude today. 

It is at this moment when the historical Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) had just been drafted when I visited the Mindanao from Aug 17 to 27, and conducted interviews with stakeholders.  Since my concern had been how the IPs could be accommodated into the Bangsamoro Government, many of my interviewees were IPs.

Thanks to my Moro friend who had facilitated my research, I could interview intensively with around 20 people extending from Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, some staff and members of Peace Panel, Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), Office for Southern Christian Communities (OSCC) of ARMM as well as National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), leaders of the IPs, and academe.  This short essay is my personal observation based on the interviews.

“We fully support the struggle of the Bangsamoro”

This was a unanimous opinion especially among the IP leaders, though their positions and conditions varied.  The reason behind this sentiment lies the sympathy that they also had experienced the generations of “historical injustices” similar to those of the Bangsamoro’s.

Though rich in knowledge on the usage of the environment and their living world, the introduction of the formal school system had made them “less educated”.  Both Bangsamoro and IPs, without having the knowledge on Alphabetical letters and on modern governmental system, nor the concept of private ownership of land, had lost their ancestral domain to those who have them.  This common experience has turned them into their respective struggle to correct the “historical injustices” to this day.

Meaning of correcting the historical injustices

Though this sentiment to support the Bangsamoro struggle and longing for peace was unanimous, there were nuanced differences in interpretation of the past and the eventual present. 

One of such examples was the interpretation of Mamalo-Tabunaway story.  Commissioner Melanio Ulama, calling a careful attention that this was a “Tiduray version”, kindly narrated the beautiful story of the three siblings of Mamalo, Tabunaway and Putri Salabagon, the story of their ancestors.  Tabunaway and Putri Salabagon had embraced Islam, and parted away from Mamalo who remained faithful to his faith, but they had a secret covenant to cooperate and unite together had any one of them faced crisis.  However, I also heard other version of the story which negated that Tabunaway and Mamalo had been brothers.

Perhaps, there is no one history and it is futile to contend for its authenticity.  If we recall back, the historical injustices have always been committed by erasing the voices of less educated, the minority, and the weak in terms of political and military power.  If, to correct the historical justices is what the Bangsamoro Government aims for, it has a lot of potential to be “inclusive” to the diversity of histories.

“Boundaries to be the points of understanding and corporation”

During my stay, I was honored to be able to pay a courtesy call on Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.  With his very gentle smile and a firm will, he had assured that the IPs rights should be well protected. 

When asked about the most difficult challenge since he had become Chairman in 2003, he mentioned that “to protect and sustain the peace process in times of hostilities was the most difficult challenge,” but “we did not close our door to continue for the negotiation.”  Closing the door to the conflicting party and building walls on the boundary to part away from them may be easier than to keep the door open. 

This reminded me of the story narrated by one IP leader.  Referring to the relationship between the Moro and IPs, he mentioned that that “the boundary between us was not to separate one from another, but it used to be the point of understanding and cooperation”. 

I would like to see the future Bangsamoro Government where the doors among the diversity of peoples are open and their boundaries become points of understanding and cooperation.

MILF: Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Committee holds advocacy in Biwang Province

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 5): Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Committee holds advocacy in Biwang Province

The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Committee conducted peace advocacy on August 29-31, 2014 in Biwang Province. It was held at the Da’wah Training Center, Sitio Bayang, Malisbong, Palimbang,  Sultan Kudarat.
The activity was sponsored by Bangsamoro Initiatives and Emergency Development Assistance Program (BIEDAP), a non-government organization (NGO) based in Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat; Bangsamoro Communication Network (BCN) led by Marot Piang; SUFRA BASE led by Harris Guiapal and Kabalikat Civicom led by Jun Mangulamas. The advocacy program was organized by MILF AHJAG Team-4 and Committee on Information, Provincial Director Hajji Salem Abo and Biwang Provincial Secretary Amrillah Mamadra.

Dr. Parido R. Pigkaulan of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and some members of MILF agencies arrived in Maitum, Sarangani Province on August 29 and were welcomed by members of MILF-AHJAG and motorcade towards the coastal village of Malisbong.

The advocacy proper was held on August 30, 2014 and was attended by participants from five Municipalities of Biwang Provincial Committee namely, Kraan Municipal Committee, Chairman Kasanan Malinog, Javalnur Municipality, Chairman Akas Mamintal, Lake Sebu Municipality, Chairman Kasan Sampiano, Palimbang Municipal Committee, Chairman Nasser H. Pendi and Maganao Municipality.

MILF-BIAF 107th Base Commander Taruc Mastura, Brigade Commander Ansar Kudanding, Social Welfare Committee (SWC) MILF Biwang Province Chairperson Samsiya Taja and Yasmine Mangulamas, the Provincial Chairman on Health and Sanitation joined the activity.

The program started with a recital of some verses of the Holy Qur’an, followed by a welcome address and a muhadarah or Islamic orientation. An inspirational message was delivered by Chairman Kingboy Bayang of the MILF Biwang Provincial Committee.

Dr. Pigkaulan, the invited speaker gave up-dates on GPH-MILF peace deal, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Normalization programs, Justice and Reconciliation. He said that the long delayed submission of BBL to Congress had caused anxiety and confusions among the Moro people but after a lengthy discussion the government represented by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace panel Chairman and concurrent BTC chairman, finally came up with an agreed version that is expected to be submitted to congress within the first week of September. After his lecture, an open forum followed.

On August 31, an initial investigation was made on the infamous 1974 Malisbong massacre that took place inside a mosque. Survivors and/or relatives of martial law victims and ILAGA atrocities were interviewed. The team from Justice and Reconciliation Committee made evaluation of properties damaged in the locality; took note of usurped Moro lands by settlers and all other acts in violation of human rights were also recorded by the team. The horrible experience of Moro women who were forcefully taken on board a naval ship sometime in 1974 were part of the investigation. They also made an actual inspection of the Malisbong Mosque and took pictures.

MILF: Australia-PAHRODF expands support to Bangsamoro human resource development

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 4): Australia-PAHRODF expands support to Bangsamoro human resource development

The Australian Government, through the Philippines Australia Human Resource and Organizational Development Facility (PAHRODF), is expanding its support to Bangsamoro human resource development in order to improve the capacity and competency of its current and future leaders and usher growth and development in the region.
On September 3, the PAHRODF and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) signed a partnering agreement that would help build a stronger Bangsamoro by assisting leaders to pursue and achieve professional excellence.

BLMI is a non-profit organization and a product of the GPH-MILF Peace Process. It is a training institute with mandate to train and develop Bangsamoro leaders and prepare them for the upcoming new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Aside from being a training center, the BLMI is also a research agency and community action centre; and the Australian Government, through the PAHRODF aims to reinforcing institute’ s internal processes and human resource management systems.

Australian Embassy Philippines Chargé d’ Affaires Dr. David Dutton underscored the importance of this new collaboration: “This partnership between PAHRODF and BLMI is a milestone in our efforts to improve peace and security conditions in Mindanao. It recognizes our commitment to help the Philippines build and enhance human capital to address binding constraints to growth, promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance political stability in the country.”

As an initial step, PAHRODF will conduct an organizational assessment of BLMI to determine its current state. A series of human resource interventions will then be implemented to improve the organization based on the results of the assessment.

Since 2010, PAHRODF is the Australian Government’s flagship program to support human resource management, organizational development and institutional change in the Philippines. It provides a range of support to select Philippine organizations, including Australia Awards (scholarships), customized short-term training programs, and advisory support, where necessary. PAHRODF’s Facility Board is composed of the Australian Embassy, Civil Service Commission, National Economic and Development Authority, and Department of Budget and Management.

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CPP/Ang Bayan: Video -- Resist Aquino’s cha-cha and term extension scheme

Ang Bayan video posted to the CPP Website (Sep 4): Video: Resist Aquino’s cha-cha and term extension scheme

Resist Aquino’s cha-cha and term extension scheme

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) urgently calls on the Filipino people to wage intense struggle against the Aquino clique’s moves to extend its stay in power through Marcos-style measures .

The Aquino clique is targeting the amendment of the 1987 constitution (cha-cha) in order to clip the Supreme Court’s powers to stop Aquino from doing as he pleases. Like Marcos, Aquino wants the other branches of the reactionary government to become his rubberstamps and serve as mere facades to conceal his dictatorial conduct.

The Aquino clique, especially its minions in Congress, is likewise focused on amending the constitution to allow Aquino to extend his current term or run for a second term. Its members are now in a mad scramble to create the illusion of mass support for Aquino in order for him to stay in power after Aquino stated that he was open to such a possibility if it was in accordance with “his bosses’ wishes.”

CPP/NPA: Kapalong Mayor Timbol is forewarned of further prolonging the existence of Alamara bandits

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Sep 3): Kapalong Mayor Timbol is forewarned of further prolonging the existence of Alamara bandits

Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command
Kapalong Mayor Eduardo Timbol is intensifying the suffering and misery of Lumads and peasants by abetting, unleashing and sponsoring the paramilitary bandit group Alamara whose armed operations have already affected 10 villages in Barangay Gupitan.

As a warlord, Mayor Timbol used the notorious tribal leader LarrisMansaloon and the Alamara, as his own private army that is responsible for protecting his various economic and political interests. Mansaloon and the Alamara bandits were the armed component of Mayor Timbol’s electoral machinery and illegal logging business. As the Mayor’s goons, Mansaloon and the Alamara displayed a grave abuse of influence and perpetrated various criminal activities like killing, theft, rape, banditry and gambling.

Lately, Mayor Timbol allowed Mansaloon and Alamara bandits to be used by the AFP’s 60th Infantry Battalion, 48th IB, 69th IB, and the 28th IB units as running dogs for their operations in Davao del Norte. Under the guise of the Peace and Development Outreach Program or PDOP, they are responsible for the economic blockade, red-baiting, harassments and psychological warfare operations, all designed to sow fear among the Lumads and peasants.

To stifle the surging people’s struggle against military’s abuses, MayorTimbol has ordered Mansaloon and the Alamara to harass and hinder human rights advocates from conducting humanitarian mission in Barangay Kapatagan, where more than half of its residents were dislocated after the fascist AFP troops used their houses and villages as camps and shelters.
The AFP has arbitrarily encamped houses in Taogatok and Upper Tagasan, Ngan, Mangkay, Vega and Magimon villages, and villages of Muling and Luno, all resulting to the hamletting of the residents and the disruption of their economic activities. Fearing for their lives, the Lumads have evacuated from the area.

Mayor Timbol sponsored the military and Alamara’s abject reign of terror to allow banana plantation, palm oil project and large-scale mining. Despite testimonies from the masses and the glaring evidence of displacement of civilians, Mayor Timbol has obstinately contradicted the people’s clamor for an end in the banditry and injustice by saying there are no victims of human rights abuses in his town.

The New People’s Army cautions Mayor Timbol to cease from doing overt and covert anti-Lumad, anti-people and counter-revolutionary acts. As a civilian elected official, he should disband the Alamara paramilitary group and stop the abuses heaped against peasants and Lumads.In an act of goodwill, the Mayor should uphold human rights and call for the resumption of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GPH.

Failure on Mayor Timbol’s part to rectify his ways will only compel the New People’s Army and the People’s Democratic Government to expedite its process of revolutionary justice for the victims of paramilitary banditry and the military’s fascism.

General Catapang aims to declare Philippines NPA-free next year

From AngMalaya (Sep 4): General Catapang aims to declare Philippines NPA-free next year

“My target is to declare the entire country peaceful and ready for development before I step down,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

He firmly said that New People’s Army will be wiped out before his retirement next year.

“When I go around, I read reports and the usual sightings were 20 men. When I add them up, they are just hundreds. That’s why I’m asking the intelligence [group] to re-assess the situation,” Catapang added.

This forecast by the military chief is one year ahead of President Aquino’s commitment to eradicate the New People’s Army before he step down as the country’s president.

“I think we have the momentum to declare the country peaceful and ready for development next year,” Catapang noted.

Catapang was the commander of the Northern Luzon Command when NPA in Pampanga was wiped out.

The AFP chief said that NPA is surviving in some regions by extortion activities against business owners.

Japan and PH want China to act within established principles

Posted to AngMalaya (Sep 4): Japan and PH want China to act within established principles

Lawmakers from Philippines and Japan signed a document entitled Joint Document for Cooperation on Promotion of the Rule of Law at Sea that calls on all parties involve to resolve maritime disputes peacefully.

“Both [Japan and Philippines] are democratic states, we believe, parliamentarians, the legislatures have a role to play to discuss issues among themselves and make recommendations to their respective governments so this conflict can be resolved under international auspices. What’s important is we achieve peace in the seas in the world,” said Hiroshi Nakada, a lawmaker from Japan.

“Of course the sea as we know has been a peaceful sea for many years, but recently it has also become a sea of conflict,” Nakada added said.

“And the reason for this is the unilateral use of force in order to change the status quo and this is the reality that we can’t deny.”

“What we are trying to do here is essentially to make China aware that the global community wants China to act within established principles (2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct) that have been agreed upon,” Hiroshi Nakada explained.

Representative Rodolfo Biazon said, “I agree with the mounting of a campaign by nations interested, nations that are directly affected and that are indirectly affected.”

Defense Secretary Hagel: US needs to maintain military superiority

Posted to AngMalaya (Sep 4): Defense Secretary Hagel: US needs to maintain military superiority

The U.S. military’s technological superiority is being challenged by other nations, including China and Russia, and in order to maintain its dominance America must be more innovative in how it develops and buys new technologies, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told industry leaders here Wednesday.

In a speech to members of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance at a conference on defense innovation, Hagel said that unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups are acquiring destructive weapons, and Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their armed services, including their electronic warfare and special operations capabilities.

And unless the U.S. takes these challenges seriously, he said American troops could face advanced weapons and technologies on the battlefield that will put their lives at risk.

“We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space — not to mention cyberspace — can no longer be taken for granted,” said Hagel. “And while the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given.”

As examples, he pointed to advancements in precision strikes, stealth technology and wide-area surveillance several decades ago, but said those U.S. advantages are beginning to erode.

To maintain the technological edge, Hagel said Pentagon needs to invest wisely in the face of declining budgets, including in new sophisticated commercial technologies such as 3D printing and robotics.

The department has taken steps to improve its often cumbersome and complex acquisition system. Hagel said a new phase of changes will make it easier to buy commercial products and improve the Pentagon’s ability to work with industry partners.

“We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority,” said Hagel. “This will not only require active investment by both government and industry — it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation” in how American buys and develops new technologies..

Hagel’s speech in Newport is the first stop on a weeklong trip that includes his participation in the NATO summit in Wales, as well as stops in Georgia and Turkey.

One soldier killed, another wounded in Davao Occidental village encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): One soldier killed, another wounded in Davao Occidental village encounter

A brief firefight between the government troops and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels occurred in a remote village in Davao Occidental, Tuesday dawn where a soldier was killed and another one wounded.

The encounter happened at around 4:30 a.m. in Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental killing private first class (PFC) Harold Sacramento and wounding PFC Johnny Caballero, both member of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion.

Military sources revealed that NPA members attacked the government soldiers led by Lt. Emmanuel Capisanan in Barangay Culaman, Jose Abad Santos. Joint operatives of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police are conducting a hot pursuit operation against the rebels.

The incident happened as Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang issued a statement stating that the NPAs would be fully neutralized by 2015.

Catapang said, “I think we have the momentum to declare the country next year by the time I retire as peaceful and ready for development.”

Catapang added that NPA fighters were already operating in smaller numbers and estimated that the rebels have only 2,000 active members.

The AFP chief of staff added that the NPAs failed to regain their strength way back during Martial Law years where the rebels numbered to some 25,000.

Army, local officials settle Maguindanao land dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): Army, local officials settle Maguindanao land dispute

Local officials, military and religious leaders have forged a truce that will pave the way for the resolution of a land conflict in South Upi, Maguindanao.

Earlier, Muslim and Christian rival groups also agreed to let traditional leaders, the police and the military to jointly set the demarcations that would separate their respective territories to prevent misunderstanding that can lead to shooting war.

Marine Colonel Emmanuel Salamat, chief of 1st Marine Brigade, initiated the dialogue between warring clans in Sitios Bahar and Pomogoyon in Barangay Pandan after both sides traded bullets last week that claimed at least two lives.

Maguindanaons, the people of Maguindanao involved in the conflict are either member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and National Liberation Front (MNLF.

Earlier, Brig. Carlito Galvez, chair of the government ceasefire panel with the MILF, urged the warring clans to sit down in a negotiating table and settle their misunderstanding peacefully.

Police and Marines were deployed in the village to prevent skirmishes.

The village had been quite the past four days, Salamat said.

National Young Martyrs’ Day every 20th of September proposed

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): National Young Martyrs’ Day every 20th of September proposed
A lawmaker has formally proposed to declare the 20th of every September as National Young Martyrs’ Day to commemorate the martyrdom of the youth who offered their lives for national liberation and social change.

Rep. Terry L. Ridon (Party-List, Kabataan) filed House Bill 4755 also known as the Young Martyrs’ Day Act of 2014, seeking to remember the martyrdom of the youth who, beyond mere words, took the initiative and made their ultimate sacrifice.

Ridon said that commemorating the lives of young martyrs should kindle the patriotic spirit of young Filipinos to work and struggle for social change beyond the confines of their classrooms and their homes.

“Our nation was founded on the blood of many young Filipino martyrs – from the youths that joined national hero Jose Rizal in the Propaganda Movement, to the brave youths who fought valiantly in the Katipunan alongside Andres Bonifacio,” Ridon said.

“As we set a date to commemorate the life and times of young martyrs, let us also remember the guerrillas who persisted in the resistance against the Japanese invaders, many of whom were in the prime of their youth,” Ridon said.

Further, Ridon explained that September 20 of every year is the date to remember the martyrdom of the youth because of its historic significance to the national youth movement during Martial Law days.

“It was the date when renowned Martial Law era youth leader and activist Edgar Jopson was captured by the military in Davao City and was shot numerous times until he died,” Ridon said.

According to Ridon, during these turbulent times, many youths – like Jopson – were left with no choice but to go underground to continue their campaign against the dictatorship, choosing to fight in far-flung provinces at a time when military might reigned supreme.

Ridon also explained that the actions of the youth may hinder us from recognizing them as heroes, but we should contextualize their heroism as manifestation of their youthful response to the call of their time, an era when the nation was confronted by massive poverty under the tyrannical dictatorship that offered the people few alternatives to change the society.

“Let us remember those youths who, in the years after the lifting of Martial Law, continued to fight for the oppressed and the marginalized even if it meant early death,” Ridon said.

“At a time when our people continue to suffer socio-economic and political crises, let our young martyrs from the past to the present serve as an inspiration to always be ready to make selfless sacrifices whenever necessary,” Ridon said.

Under the measure, the National Youth Commission (NYC), in coordination with the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and other national youth organizations, is tasked to plan, fund and execute appropriate programs and activities to carry out the aim of the commemoration.

The National Young Martyrs’ Day shall concurrently be called “Edgar Jopson Day” in commemoration of the renowned nationalist student leader who was captured and shot by the military on September 20, 1982.

The Department of Education (DepEd) shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulation in order to designate September 20 as a special day when social studies lectures in elementary and high schools shall be devoted to the teaching of the lives of young Filipino martyrs and the patriotic values that all Filipino youth must espouse.

Baladad relinquishes command of 3rd ID in preparation for Eastern Mindanao Command stint

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): Baladad relinquishes command of 3rd ID in preparation for Eastern Mindanao Command stint

Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad has formally relinquished command of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division in preparation for his stint as Eastern Mindanao Command chief beginning Sept. 5.

Baladad commanded the 3rd Infantry Division for a period of one year and two months. He will take charge of the three-star Eastern Mindanao Command post with Army, Navy and Air Force components that maintain peace and security in the eastern parts of Mindanao.

During Baladad’s stint as 3rd Infantry Division commander, he introduced innovations in “winning the peace” campaign in Western Visayas.

These included the “Dagyaw Para sa Kalinaw III” (Working together for peace) campaign which was immediately implemented upon Baladad's assumption of command in July of 2013.

The increase in operational tempo and sustained pressure to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) coupled with enhanced "Bayanihan" team activities significantly contributed to the accomplishment of the 3rd Infantry Division peace and development objectives.

The 3rd Infantry Division’s focused military operations during Baladad’s watch resulted to the neutralization of 68 CPP-NPA-NDF members that included five high ranking CNN personalities.

Fourteen rebels were killed during encounters, while 26 were captured or arrested and 28 have decided to lay down their arms and returned to the fold of the law.

The 3rd Infantry Division also recovered a total of 75 firearms (39 high-powered and 36 low-powered) and 12 improvised explosive devices.

Baladad also served as the Incident Commander during the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations after the onslaught of super typhoon "Yolanda" in November last year.

As posted by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Lessons from Civil Military Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) last January 2014, “Task Force Yolanda” based in Roxas City, Capiz Province, set the example for disaster management, called “the best I’ve ever seen” by International humanitarian workers.

Baladad expressed his profound gratitude to the men and women of the 3rd Infantry Division for the support extended to him.

On a personal note, Baladad said, “There’s no greater accomplishment than seeing the professional growth of each and every member of 3ID since I assumed the command in July 2013. I encourage you to continuously aspire for excellence and improvement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Major Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero will take over the helm of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Guerrero is presently the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army. He belongs to the Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class of 1984.

PHL military contingent in Ebola-affected Liberia taking every possible precaution

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): PHL military contingent in Ebola-affected Liberia taking every possible precaution

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that Filipino peacekeepers are taking every possible precaution to avoid being infected with the deadly Ebola Virus.

Liberia and other Western African countries are struggling to contain the dreaded disease which so far has killed around 2,000 people.

"Peacekeepers are operating under strict precautionary standards to prevent infection," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

He added that this is in-line with the medical bulletin issued by the UN for strict implementation and compliance.

The Philippine contingent in Liberia consists of 115 officers and enlisted personnel.

The Department of National Defense (DND) earlier announced the Filipino military contingent in Liberia will be pulled due to the Ebola outbreak.

But DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said the Philippines is amenable to the redeployment of Filipino troops should the situation stabilizes.

"We are committed to our peacekeeping commitment (to the UN) but if the threat level there goes beyond certain threat level, the Philippines can disengage," he added.

(Update) Number of dead rebels in Abra clash now at 7; 6 firearms recovered

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): (Update) Number of dead rebels in Abra clash now at 7; 6 firearms recovered

The Northern Luzon Command said on Thursday the number of New People's Army (NPA) rebels killed during a clash with the 41st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Guinguinabang, Lacub, Abra has increased to seven.

This figure was two higher than the five initially reported.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 1st Civil Relations Group commander, said the firefight started at 5 a.m. Thursday when 41st Infantry Battalion troopers located an NPA camp in the area.

Around 50 heavily-armed NPA fighters, 15 of them females, were present in the camp at the time of discovery.

In the issuing firefight, seven rebels were killed, Garcia said. The troops also recovered six firearms.

Garcia said the operations against the rebels stemmed from civilian reports of NPA extortion and recruitment attempts.

The NPA force was training its recruits when surprised by the military, Garcia said, adding that the rebel band was led by a certain Arnold Jaramillo, alias "Mando," the secretary general of the Abra Political Committee.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing, Garcia added.

Canada provides additional P 20-M aid to Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): Canada provides additional P 20-M aid to Mindanao

Canada is providing additional P 20 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by conflict in Mindanao.

The funding, which amounts to Cad$ 500,000, will be channeled to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to address the humanitarian needs of thousands living in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

Canada has committed to scaling up interventions that will have the greatest impact, focusing in the areas of strengthening health systems, improving nutrition, and reducing the burden of leading diseases,” Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said in a statement on Thursday.

“The contribution announced today builds on this engagement by supporting efforts to improve the health and well-being of those in greatest need in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao,” he added.

Canada is supporting ICRC operations in Mindanao by providing seeds, tools and fishing equipment to help improve the livelihoods of 59,500 conflict-affected people; and technical assistance to rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities at the community level.

The assistance has helped at least 6,000 people, improved detention facilities for up to 6,000 vulnerable detainees, and provided medical and surgical supplies for hospitals and food and other supplies for up to 84,000 people.

“This additional funding demonstrates Canada’s continuing commitment to build on our strong ties with the Philippines,” Reeder said.

In June, Canada added the Philippines “a country of focus” for international development efforts.

(Update) Ranking NPA leader in Abra among those killed in clash with soldiers --AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): (Update) Ranking NPA leader in Abra among those killed in clash with soldiers --AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that Arnold Jaramillo, General Secretary of the Abra Political Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), was among the five rebels killed during a clash with soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Guinguinabang, Lacub, Abra Thursday morning.

Northern Luzon Command chief Major Gen. Virgilio Trinidad said that Jaramillo's remains were positively identified and recovered by the military from the clash site together with the bodies of the other NPA fatalities.

Also recovered were seven weapons consisting of two "Baby" Armalites, one M-16 automatic rifle, one carbine, one M-1 Garand rifle and two .45 caliber pistols, along with two ICOM radios.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 1st Civil Relations Group commander, earlier said the firefight started at 5 a.m. when 41st Infantry Battalion troopers located an NPA camp in the above-mentioned area.

Around 50 heavily-armed NPA fighters, 15 of them females, were present at the time of discovery.

In the issuing firefight, five rebels were immediately killed.

Garcia said the operations against the rebels stemmed from civilian reports of NPA extortion and recruitment attempts.

Garcia said the NPA force was training its recruits when surprised by the military.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting, Garcia added.

AFP tells UNDOF commander to review all actions before accusing Filipinos of cowardice

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): AFP tells UNDOF commander to review all actions before accusing Filipinos of cowardice

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said that United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha should review all his actions to the Filipino contingent during the height of the Golan Heights stand-off before calling the Filipino decision to breakout from Position 68 an act of cowardice.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said that the UNDOF commander could have ended the stand-off much earlier had he ordered the immediate repositioning of the Filipino officers and enlisted personnel on Position 68 once word reached him that Syrian rebels were encircling the detachment in an attempt to force troops there to surrender their weapons.

The stand-off took place Thursday (Syrian time). Earlier, 44 Fijians were captured by the Syrian insurgents after laying down their arms.

"Gen. Singha, instead of bringing his men to safety, even allowed us to continue (the) seven-hour firefight when he could have repositioned us earlier together with Position 69 (which was extricated with the help of the Irish armored contingent Saturday (Syrian time), but he did not, he left us there, our ammunition (was) low and he told us (that) if we are attacked again, (just) to lay down our arms and raise the white flag," he added.

"Now what's cowardice, his orders or us doing what is the best option to save Filipino soldiers lives," Zagala stressed.

Filipino soldiers, in Position 68, managed to extricate themselves from their encircled detachment early Sunday morning (Syrian time).

The AFP public affairs office chief also clarified that the mission of the Filipino contingent was not to defend the UN outpost but to ensure that the military forces of Israel and Syrian from fighting in the Golan Heights.

Zagala also pointed out the fact that despite being outnumbered by the Syrian rebels, the Filipinos in Position 68 successfully defended their detachment without no loss to themselves.

He also stressed that Singha's order to surrender weapons, without resisting, and raising of the flag, is the act of cowardice.

"To endanger our troops unnecessarily is the act of cowardice and (the order) to surrender firearms and raising the white flag (when under attack) instead of repositioning them, I think that's the act of cowardice," the AFP public affairs office chief stressed.

No need for AFP to be involved in 'blame-game' regarding Golan Heights stand-off

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 4): No need for AFP to be involved in 'blame-game' regarding Golan Heights stand-off

Now that all Filipino peacekeepers involved in the Golan Heights stand-off are safe in a secure position, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said that there is no need for the Philippine military to be involved in a "blame-game problem".

Catapang made this statement in the wake of reports that United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha called the Filipino decision to breakout from Syrian rebel encircled Position 68 an act of cowardice.

Filipino peacekeepers in Position 68 successfully broke out Sunday early morning (Syrian time).

Earlier, Singha ordered Filipinos troops just to lay down their arms and wave the white flag when attacked again by the Syrian rebels.

He added that the AFP will just let the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reply to all queries regarding the matter.

"We (AFP) decided that we should just keep our silence on further discussion about the incident. We have asked the DFA to reply to all queries about this unfortunate incident," Catapang stressed.

"We will just submit all the reports as directed by the President. After saving our troops from being massacred, the last thing we want to do is be involved in a 'blame-game' problem," the AFP chief stressed.

UN backs commander, denies PH soldiers' claim

From Rappler (Sep 4): UN backs commander, denies PH soldiers' claim

The order to Filipino peacekeepers was 'to leave the weapons quiet so as to give some space but never to hand over weapons,' says Hervé Ladsous, UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

GOOD JUDGMENT? UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous says he fully trusts UNDOF Commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha. File photo of Singha from the UN web site

GOOD JUDGMENT? UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous says he fully trusts UNDOF Commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha. File photo of Singha from the UN web site

The United Nations (UN) backed Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha amid complaints from the Philippine military that the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) put the Filipino troops in danger when he ordered them to surrender their weapons to Syrian rebels last week.

"It's a matter of judgment. Singha exercised good, sound judgment all throughout the process," said Hervé Ladsous, UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who held a press conference in New York on Wednesday, September 3, following his briefing to the UN Security Council.

Ladsous also denied the Filipino peacekeepers were ordered to surrender their weapons. "Never to hand over the weapons. To leave the weapons quiet so as to give some space but never to hand over weapons.... Not to shoot," Ladsous said.

This resulted in a standoff that escalated to a 7-hour firefight in one of the encampments. Forty Filipinos in Position 68 maintained they only fired in self defense.

Running out of ammunition, the soldiers hatched and later executed an escape mission midnight Sunday, September 1, that was backed by their Filipino commander in the Golan Heights and the military high command in the Philippines. They walked 2 kilometers to the Philippine Battalion headquarters while the rebels were sleeping.

The 32 troops in the other encampment – Position 69 – were earlier rescued by the UNDOF's quick reaction force sent by Singha.

Explained Ladsous: "You would realize though the situation on the ground is fast moving. There was time for fast action – to extract people. There are times when other considerations like safety of people come in. You have to possibly refrain from proactive stance like shooting back because it might put others in danger."

He added: "Clearly, it's a very challenging situation. Our peacekeepers showed considerable steadfastness, courage at all levels at the level of force commander General Singha who displayed strong professionalism, leadership, made decisions that I think helped. He is certainly to be commended. I place on the record my full trust in the way he performed his duty."


The Philippine military disagrees. Catapang said he wants the UN to investigate Singha.

At the command center in Camp Aguinaldo where they coordinated with the troops in Golan over the weekend, defense and military officials were baffled by Singha's order for the soldiers to surrender their weapons to the rebels.

"We will be massacred," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was quoted as saying. The troops monitored the rebels regrouping after the 7-hour firefight. The Filipino soldiers said they got new orders from Singha to again surrender their weapons and raise the White Flag if the rebels fire on them again.

Catapang said they considered Singha's order as an attempt to make the Filipino troops "sacrificial pawns" to save the 45 Fijian peacekeepers that the rebels had taken hostage. The Fijians, who were taken just before the attack on positions 68 and 69, were used as translators when the rebels made their demands to the Filipinos.

Catapang said there was no guarantee that the rebels would not take them hostage too. He questioned Singha's decision not to send troops to rescue those in Position 68 like he did in Position 69.

The rebels included members of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Al-Nusra Front. They are still holding the Fijians and have issued 3 demands: the Al-Nusra Front's deletion from the UN terrorist list, compensation for 3 colleagues killed in firefights with the peacekeepers, and humanitarian assistance for a town they control.

Pullout in October

The ramifications of the Filipino peacekeepers' defiance of the UNDOF commander remain unclear. Filipino UNDOF chief of staff Colonel Ezra Enriquez, also the Philippine Battalion Commander, quit his post but it was not accepted.

"That is a matter for them. What counts is the Filipino peacekeepers detained in 2 locations were in a position to come to safety," said Ladsous.

Before the incident, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III already decided to pull out Filipino peacekeepers based in the Golan Heights. More than 300 Filipino peacekeepers there are scheduled to come home in October. They will not be replaced.

The Philippines has instead offered a battalion of troops as a standby force to the UN.

UNDOF has been in Golan Heights since 1974 to monitor the ceasefire agreement between Syria and Israel. The peacekeepers in recent years have been targeted by Syrian rebels as the conflict turned for the worse.

The Philippines has been a troop-contributor since 2009. Filipino peacekeepers were kidnapped by Syrian rebels in 2 incidents last year but it was when they were out on patrol and were unarmed. They were eventually released.

Last week's incident marked the first time the rebels attacked them in their encampment.

The UN said it is now changing its rules of operation to keep peacekeepers safe and beef up their equipment.