Saturday, September 13, 2014

PIA conducts trainers’ training for 44th IB soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 12): PIA conducts trainers’ training for 44th IB soldiers

To capacitate soldier-trainers of the 44th Infantry Battalion in their conduct of Youth Leadership Summits, PIA-9 team conducted today a lecture on communicative skills development and handling group discussion at Imelda town.

“Communicating is connecting to your audience,” said Regional Director Noemi B. Edaga of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-9 in a statement.

According to Dir. Edaga, it is important for every speaker to identify his audience before any activity to make the necessary preparations, as it is vital in effective communication development.

Director Edaga discussed to the 11 soldier-participants attending the training the communication process which is composed of three basic components: sender, message, and receiver.

“There is more to the three components. It is a cycle that also includes feedback from the receiver and back to the sender, and so on.”

She also explained public speaking as a skill that naturally flows out of listening, that is, also the ability to distinguish sounds in an alphabet.
“Speaking is a natural, fundamental human skill for expression and exposition,” Dir. Edaga said.

She also stressed the three PIA core values, which are: timeliness, relevance, and accuracy as an effective tool of communication.

Ms. Alma L. Tingcang, information center manager of PIA-Sibugay, discussed handling group discussion and presented the video documentary produced by PIA-ZAMBASULTA on climate change.

To apply what they have learned during the discussion, the participants were grouped into two and were asked to answer questions relevant to the climate change video presentation and presented the group’s output at the end of the training.

Philippine Navy invites Bataeños to be part of its team

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 12): Philippine Navy invites Bataeños to be part of its team

Physically fit men and women from Bataan, which is known as training ground of caliber naval stalwarts, are invited to join the Philippine Navy either as an officer or seaman.

Under the Naval Officers Candidate Course, passers will get a basic salary of P27,425, an additional monthly allowance of P4,400, and other allowances and benefits.

“Applicants must be a natural born Filipino citizen, of good moral character, 21-28 years old, single, graduate of a four-year baccalaureate degree (preferably technical courses), and at least five feet tall for both male and female,” the Navy said in a statement.

Other requirements for this course include no pending civil/criminal case, physical and mental fitness for training, and passing of the AFP Aptitude Test Battery, IQ test and Service Wide Exam.

Under the Basic Seaman Course, passers will get a basic salary of P11,265, an additional monthly allowance of P5,660, and other allowances and benefits.

“The same requirements are required for this course apart from the age limit of 18-23 years old, and applicants must have at least 72 units or graduate of a two-year vocational course (preferably technical courses),” the Navy added.

Visit the recruitment office in Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City for the schedules of exams in Manila area.

Attire is plain white t-shirt and maong pants.

Initial requirements include transcript of record, NSO birth certificate, diploma, NBI clearance, and 2x2 ID picture with white background.

For inquiries, call (02) 523-3438 or visit their websites at and

Another Leyte town declared 'insurgency-free'

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 14): Another Leyte town declared 'insurgency-free'

MERIDA, Leyte - Military, police and local officials witnessed the signing of the joint declaration of an “insurgency-free” Merida at the town’s ABC Session Hall, September 4.

The joint declaration was signed by Mayor Jesus Antonio Martinez and Col. Arnulfo Matanguihan, Deputy Commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade and attended by officials from the 22 barangays of Merida.

Also present as witnesses were Mr. Joselito delos Angeles, Secretary to the Sanggunian who represented Vice-Mayor Marcos Antonio Solaña; Lt. Col. Nedy Espulgar, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion; and Police Inspector Eduardo Satorre, Chief of Police who represented Leyte Police Provincial Director Brigido Unay.

Mr. Delos Angeles, said the pronouncement was based on the enacted Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 14-15-092 which authorized Mayor Martinez to sign the joint declaration as an “insurgency free” municipality attested by Vice-Mayor Solaña and adopted by the council on June 18, 2014.

Merida is the second town in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte and Biliran to be declared insurgency-free, next to Matag-ob (Leyte) which was declared last June 12.

The town’s insurgency situation was on its peak in 2000 and dwindled in 2006 with the surrender of several insurgents when top ranking cadres were neutralized by government forces.

It can be recalled that the provinces of Biliran and Southern Leyte were both declared insurgency-free in December 2008 and October 2011, respectively. Likewise, the province of Leyte was also declared as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development Ready Area in December 2011.

Lt. Col. Espulgar said that the 19IB had been pushing local chief executives to declare their respective towns or cities as insurgency-free early this year.

“We assessed and set priorities which town will go first, send proposals to the Local Chief Executives then attend Sangguniang Bayan Sessions and encourage LGUs to reactivate their Local Peace and Order Councils which are appropriate venues in discussing peace and order concerns, ” Espulgar added.

On the other hand, Mayor Martinez explained the impact and benefit in declaring Merida as insurgency-free. Just recently, he said, a certain company is eyeing to put up a solar energy plant in town.

“An insurgency-free town will mean strong economic confidence from the business sector”, the Mayor said.

Finally, Col. Matanguihan called the continued support of the local officials of Merida to be one in achieving peace as he also underscored this year’s theme of the National Peace Consciousness Month celebration, “Nagkakaisang Bayan para sa Kapayapaan.”

 “Ito ay deklarasyon na hindi na natin muling payagan ang insurhensiya sa bayan ng Merida. Ito ay desisyon na dapat panindigan nating lahat." (This is a declaration that never again shall we allow insurgency to set foot in the town of Merida. This is a decision that we must all stand for). (19th IB, 8ID)

Islamic State And Southern Philippines: Tenuous Links With Militants – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Sep 13): Islamic State And Southern Philippines: Tenuous Links With Militants – Analysis
The Islamic State (IS) has aroused much media attention in the Philippines, with concerns raised over pledges of allegiance (bay’at) made by leaders of two groups of Muslim militants. However, links remain normative rather than operational, given the dissonance between IS ideology and Mindanao rebels.

By Joseph Franco

Recent Philippine  media reports has given the erroneous impression that the Islamic State (IS) had arrived in force. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte from Davao City “confirmed” the recruitment of youths in the city; while former Philippine President Fidel V Ramos estimated 100 Filipinos are undergoing training with IS in Syria.

Notwithstanding their subsequent retractions and admissions that information was derived from “raw intelligence” the reports had stirred widespread discussion in forums and the media. Such discussions often feature gross oversimplifications of conflict in the Southern Philippines. National media had caricatured the belligerents in Mindanao, without looking into the greater context that fuels the persistence of conflicts. Religion and ideology act as discourses for justification rather than acting as the motivation in their use of violence. The pre-eminence of material factors instead of ideational factors in explaining conflict in the Southern Philippines has long been recognised in studies by international organisations.

The Abu Sayyaf Group and the Western Mindanao kidnapping “industry”

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continues to engage in extortion and engaging in kidnap-for ransom activities, considered by US special operations forces as a “desperate bid”. Pundits making the claim of increased Abu Sayyaf activity pointed out the growing number of cross-border raids into Eastern Sabah.

This conclusion fails to take into consideration the long history of conflict and porous national borders. Violence in the maritime region bracketed by Mindanao, Borneo, and Sulawesi existed long before Islamist militants. Anthropological research has referred to the existence of a contiguous “Sulu Zone” characterised by slave-raiding and warfare, which in the contemporary period morphed into a hub for the illicit small arms trade. Cultural artifacts from the area such as Tausug poetry and folklore are replete with references to a “just war” and the preference for combat. Combined with high levels of illicit firearm possession in Mindanao, what results is a potent mix of socially-constructed inclination to violence and the material capability to engage in such activity.

It is telling that the Philippine military refers to ASG bands as “community armed groups”, wherein members nimbly switch allegiance based on convenience. It is not uncommon for armed individuals whether or not formally aligned with the ASG, to provide assistance to their relatives who are formally linked to the Islamist group. ASG bands involved in kidnappings operate akin to a cottage industry. The islands off the coast of Western Mindanao host a coterie of individuals who grab the victims. “Facilitators” shunt the kidnapped to villages that provide “room and board” (a euphemism for detention), and up to the local officials who act as “negotiators”. It is a similar modus operandi used by organised kidnapping groups operating elsewhere in the Philippines.

Clan warfare and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement

On the other hand, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) in Central Mindanao is mostly motivated by clan conflicts. It is oft-ignored that the BIFM bay’at came with a major caveat—explicitly stating they do not need financial or training support from overseas.

Like the ASG, the BIFM had been a consistent fixture of alarmist reporting emanating from Manila. Aside from disparate reports of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members seeking refuge in Central Mindanao, there is little evidence to suggest that the BIFM ever had strong links with overseas groups, much less to IS. Geography and demography would also not work in favour of foreign militants considering taking refuge in BIFM areas. Central Mindanao, unlike the other trade-centric cities of Mindanao, does not house burgeoning communities of foreigners, previously exploited by JI operatives to hide in plain sight.

In fact, the BIFM’s attacks can be correlated to the rice harvest season as shown by prior research by the International Crisis Group. What emerges is a pattern of parochial disputes (i.e. land ownership), overlain with Islamist themes. A simple misunderstanding between a pro-government militia farmer and a BIFM member may be misrepresented as a Muslim-Christian clash by Manila-based media. Clashes between Muslim families follow the same template but are spared of an “us-versus-them”, inter-sectarian rhetoric.

It is clear that the BIFM and ASG pledges are nothing more than a superficial declaration of moral support. Community recruitment remains as the mechanism of involvement in armed groups in Mindanao and is no different from choosing a vocation. Neither group has a compelling reason to link up with IS, considering the trade-off in terms of greater pressure from state security forces. Kidnapping Malaysia-based traders and Filipino civil servants makes Manila more likely to treat ASG activities as plain banditry/criminality rather than as a major national security issue. The same goes for the BIFM whenever it gets involved in clan infighting and land disputes.

Disconnect between “materialist” Mindanao and ideological IS

Minimising actual operational/organisational links with IS aligns with the role played by communities in facilitating ASG and BIFM violence. The infusion of foreign influences would only disturb the delicate balance of demographic, social, and economic factors that make ASG “community armed groups” and BIFM “clans” sustainable. Such destabilisation in turn, can disrupt the conduct of their illicit livelihood—kidnapping and extortion, relied upon by these militants and their kin.

Nonetheless, these groups still pose a tangential threat to Southeast Asia (SEA). While ideological indifference diminishes the potential for organisational convergence with jihadi groups in the region, Mindanao retains the potential of acting as a logistics hub for purchasing arms and explosives. In fact, materiel and even explosive materials intended for the Singapore JI truck bomb plot in 2001 were mostly procured from Mindanao. Without appropriate intervention, Mindanao-based militant skill sets and weapons are vulnerable to exploitation or even outright purchase. Such resources do not even have to come from the ASG and the BIFM as the presence of an insecure and conflict-wracked environment is sufficient to foster a marketplace of illicit resources.

On a positive note, the ongoing efforts to establish an autonomous Bangsamoro sub-state in Mindanao will go a long way towards undermining the material motivations of the militants in the Southern Philippines. Effective self-governance by Filipino Muslims under the Bangsamoro can also be a strong counterpoint to the erroneous and simplistic discourse of IS—that Muslims can only thrive under a caliph.

Governments proximate to the “Sulu Zone” must not rely heavily on counter-ideological solutions to address material-based problems. Doing so would result in policy dissonance and would fail to capitalise on an unrecognised vulnerability of IS-related discourse in the SEA region—the Islamic State’s disconnect with Southern Philippines-based groups.

[Joseph Franco is an Associate Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.]

[RSIS Commentaries are intended to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy relevant background and analysis of contemporary developments. The views of the author/s are their own and do not represent the official position of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU, which produces the Commentaries.]

Reds storm construction site

From Tempo (Sep 13): Reds storm construction site

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels raided a construction site and burned heavy equipment in Barangay Tamisan, San Isidro town, in Davao Oriental on Tuesday afternoon, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported.

Senior Supt. Jose Carumba, Davao Oriental Police director, said the burned equipment is owned by a certain Lando Ching of Maverick Construction.

Carumba said around 20 heavily armed rebels stormed the construction site and burned the equipment and destroyed other facilities of the construction firm.

Refusal to pay revolutionary taxes was the reason for the attack, the police added.

No one among the construction employees and workers were hurt during the attack.

The Army identified the perpetrators as members of the NPA’s Front Committee 18.

Three held for joining bid to claim Sabah for Sulu sultanate

From The Star Online (Sep 11): Three held for joining bid to claim Sabah for Sulu sultanate

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have detained three people, including a Filipino, for their alleged involvement in the so-called Royal Sulu Army.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police arrested the three – Abu Bakar Jayari, Zainuddin Mislani and Kassim Ibrahim – on July 22 under the Prevention of Crime Act for allegedly joining the group with the aim of removing Sabah from the Federation of Malaysia.

“The three are believed to have been recruiting new members to join their cause.

“It is supposed to be a starting phase in their bid to claim Sabah for the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Khalid said the three men were detained under Section 19A of the Act which provides for detention for not more than a two-year period.

“Two of the men are of Sulu and Bajau ethnicity while Kassim is a Filipino who is believed to have entered the country illegally,” he said.

On Feb 12 last year, Sulu militants led by Agbimuddin Kiram – the brother of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram – intruded Lahad Datu’s coastal village of Tanduo.

It led to a standoff which lasted more than a month with over 200 militants arriving in boats to claim Sabah.

The standoff ended on March 24, marking the end of Ops Daulat. The Eastern Sabah Security Command was launched on June 29 to make security arrangements and conduct operations on the Ops Daulat area.

NPA attacks soldiers conducting survey in Davao del Norte town – 68th IB

From GMA News (Sep 13): NPA attacks soldiers conducting survey in Davao del Norte town – 68th IB

The New People's Army attacked a unit of the 68th Infantry Battalion conducting a "needs assessment survey" in Talaingod in Davao del Norte on Thursday, the Philippine Army said Saturday.

According to a press release, 20 members of the NPA fired on a Peace and Development Team of the 68th IB that was in the town to coordinate with the local government on the delivery government services.

A Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit active auxiliary was hurt in the hour-long firefight and was airlifted to Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Davao City for treatment.

Members of the battalion are staying in the area to "[ensure] the safety of the civilian communities."

LTC Zosimo Oliveros, commanding officer of the 68th IB, said the needs assessment survey "is very important, especially in collecting data in very remote areas, to effectively and efficiently facilitate the delivery of services by the Local Government Unit of Talaingod and other agencies".

Mayor sets record straight on Abu Bilal Philips issue

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 12): Mayor sets record straight on Abu Bilal Philips issue

On the Abu Ameena Bilal Philips issue, what is on record is that the venue where the activity that Mr. Philips was supposed to preside was not available on September 6 due to an ongoing Art Healing Workshop for 300 school children affected by the 2013 siege.
Because of the non-availability of the venue, the organizers informed the City Government that Mr. Philips was no longer proceeding to Zamboanga City.
Philips was arrested by police authorities in Davao City last Sunday (Sept. 7), on the eve of President Aquino’s visit to that city, on grounds that he could be considered a threat to national security noting a ban imposed on him in Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, Kenya, United Kingdom and the United States.
Philips is reportedly suspected of supporting terrorist groups.
Mayor Climaco expressed surprise why some sectors blame her for banning the entry of Philips in Zamboanga City.    “He was apprehended in Davao and so what is the connection between Zamboanga and Davao?”
She said it is best to let the people judge the issue for themselves by taking a close look at the facts made available by the police and military. She pointed out that Zamboanga City has gone through a siege and that the residents would not want further incidents that would bring back the bitter memories of the past.
“They make it appear that it is only me who is the enemy, so be it, because I will do everything I can to protect the people of Zamboanga,” the mayor said in reaction to insinuations that she ordered Philip’s ban in Zamboanga City to the extent of burning her defaced picture in a tarpaulin in a rally by students in Marawi City last Wednesday.
“We will protect our people—Moslems, Christians and Lumads have suffered enough from the siege. Zamboanga City is our home and we are building it back better with God’s grace and people’s support,” Mayor Climaco added.

Hunt on for Korean’s kidnappers in Sibugay

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 13): Hunt on for Korean’s kidnappers in Sibugay

Security forces on Friday scrambled to the hinterland and coast of Kabasalan town Zamboanga Sibugay in search of kidnappers with possible link to the militant Abu Sayyaf who snatched a Korean national Thursday night.
Police said Li Pei Zhei, 25,  who was reported to have been engaged in business was seized by four unidentified men armed with high powered firearms while he was in his store around 6:25 p.m. in Kabasalan.
Police troopers, Army soldiers and militiamen have joined forces to track down the kidnappers led by Abu Musa that dragged Li to a mini van called “bicho bicho” which sped away to still unknown place.
Kabasalan Mayor George Cainglet said the security guard of the store was not able to protect Li as he was overpowered by the kidnappers, who loaded the Korean to  a motorized pumpboat that headed for Limono Island.
The gateaway mini-van was later found burning in Barangay Danda, Kabasalan.
The latest kidnapping of foreigner in Kabasalan happened a day after a member of the notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang called “Mamay Aburi Group” was arrested during an intelligence maritime interdiction and law enforcement operation along shore of Zamboanga Sibugay of Wednesday.
Arrested was Masdal Sabtal, a criminal gang member, who has a warrant of arrest for kidnapping, serious illegal detention and robbery cases.
The Korean embassy in Manila did not release any statement about the kidnapping of Li Pei Zhei.
A police intelligence source who talked on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to reporters said Abu Musa is a notorious leader of a kidnap-for-ransom gang that had abducted several victims in the past including  a retired Australian soldier married to a Filipina.
Warren Richard Rodwell, 53, was kidnapped on December 11, 2011 from his residence at Greenmeadow Subdivision, Lower Pangi village in Ipil town Zamboanga Sibugay. He was freed after 15 months in captivity.
The modus operandi of the kidnapping, according to the police source, is that the kidnap-for-ransom gang snatches a victim and turn him or her over to the Abu Sayyaf that keeps the hostage while the gang negotiates for the ransom which if paid is shared by both groups.

8ID joins the nation in the observance of the Peace Month

From Samar News (Sep 5): 8ID joins the nation in the observance of the Peace Month

8ID Pledge of Peace

Col. Clifford Cyril Y. Riveral, the Division Inspector General, led the 8ID soldiers in reciting the Pledge of Peace during the Annual Peace and Consciousness Month commemoration at Camp Vicente Lukban, Brgy. Maulong, Catbalogan City on September 1, 2014.


CAMP VICENTE LUKBANThe 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division joined the whole nation in commemorating the Annual Peace and Consciousness Month during the flag raising ceremony at Camp Vicente Lukban, Brgy Maulong, Catbalogan City on September 1, 2014.

With its annual theme “Nagkakaisang Bayan Para sa Kapayapaan”, the troops prayed in unison through a harmony prayer for peace by Cpt. Randolph E. Lanaja, the Command Chaplain. After which, Col. Clifford Cyril Y. Riveral, the Division Inspector General, led the 8ID soldiers in reciting the Pledge of Peace as a reminder of the Division’s advocacy in “Winning the Peace”.

Maj. General Jet B. Velarmino, 8ID Commander, on the other hand, expressed his high regard in the AFP’s observance of the National Peace. He said that the event makes a soldier realize how important his role is in achieving peace. By recognizing that winning peace is an individual soldier’s mandate, he is doing his share to realize this mission.

“This commemoration of the Annual Observance of the National Peace reflects our sincerity in our efforts in ‘Winning the Peace’. Our pledge is to support peace in every way possible. I am certain that everyone wants peace as much as we do. With the enhanced commitment of our partners in LGUs, NGOs, other stakeholders and above all, the continuous support of the local people, achieving this goal will never be impossible”, he added.

Former rebels get cash assistance

From Samar News (Sep 5): Former rebels get cash assistance

Leyte former rebels

A former rebel received a check from Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla during the special PPOC meeting on Tuesday, September 2, 2014.

By 19th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA

KANANGA, LeyteThree (3) former rebels get cash assistance during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting held at Governor’s Hall, Leyte Provincial Capitol Bldg., Tacloban City on Tuesday, September 2.

The three, whose anonymity was requested by the Leyte Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), received each a total of P75,000.00 worth of checks.

Ms. Gwyndalyn Malate, CLIP Focal Person said the bounty comprised P65,000 livelihood assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and P10,000 basic assistance from the provincial government of Leyte.

The checks were awarded by Leyte Governor Leopoldo Domico Petilla who hoped the said amount will be used by the recipients in improving their living conditions. The governor also accorded one (1) sack of rice and food packs each to the former rebels who were present during the meeting.

Cpt. Christopher Badong, Civil Military Operation Officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion based in Kananga, Leyte, said the recipients surrendered to the military, after experiencing hardships in the underground movement of New People’s Army.

8ID commander urges new scout rangers: Be ready to take on greater responsibility

From Samar News (Sep 8): 8ID commander urges new scout rangers: Be ready to take on greater responsibility


CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityMajor General Jet B Velarmino, AFP, Commander, 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army graced the graduation ceremony of sixty-four (64) students of the Scout Ranger Course Class 189-2013 at Headquarters, First Scout Ranger Regiment, SOCOM, PA, Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan on September 8, 2014.

8ID chief MGen. Jet Velarmino

8ID chief MGen. Jet Velarmino

The sixty-four (64) students that comprise SRC Class 189-2013 came from the different units of Philippine Army and Philippine National Police. After undergoing the tough and rigid preparatory leadership and combat skills training at Camp Tecson, the students were then deployed here in Samar last July 14, 2014 to test and hone their skills and expertise in tactical operations against rebel armed groups operating in the region.

Notwithstanding their short stint in the area, the class significantly yielded various accomplishments to include the recovery of two (2) carbine rifles; capture of enemy camps specifically at Barangay Capoto-an and Poponton both of Las Navas, Northern Samar.

In his message, Major General Jet B Velarmino humbly acknowledged the sacrifices made by each student in undergoing the rigid of the course, “I believe that there were times in your training that you feel like giving up, as if you were put into extreme torment, but you never let that overcome you.” Addressing the families, friends and loved ones of the graduates, “… you have been the inspiration and motivation of our graduates. You are the very reason why they have made it this far.”

“Be ready to take on greater responsibility in fighting against unprincipled individuals who intend to obliterate the peace and freedom that our nation have”, Velarmino added.

The Scout Rangers are elite forces of the Philippine Army. Ranger qualified personnel are highly-skilled in guerilla warfare able to match the enemy’s cunning, agility, and combat strategies. Their success in the field of combat operations is a replete of stories of heroism, sacrifices, and exceptional combat accomplishments, sometimes beyond the call of duty.

During the program, as a token of sincere gratitude to the Commander of the 8ID for supporting the culmination phase of the SRC Class 189-13 training in the Stormtroopers’ area of responsibility, Major General Velarmino was conferred as an honorary member of Scout Ranger class 189-13 making him part of one of the proud and elite forces of the Philippine Army.

China, ASEAN police team up to fight terrorism

From the Philippine Star (Sep 13): China, ASEAN police team up to fight terrorism

Police in China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are teaming up to fight terrorism and transnational crimes, said sources attending a security forum here Saturday.

Fighting terrorism was one of the major topics at the two-day forum, which closed Saturday in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said Li Wei, vice minister of public security in China.

He said it is crucial for police authorities in China and ASEAN to work together to maintain regional security.

Terrorist attacks targeting China and ASEAN have risen from 146 in 2003 to 575 in 2012, according to the Global Terrorism Database.

"It's noteworthy that terrorists nowadays are not just targeting police and government," said Zhu Lin, associate professor with the institute of China's armed police forces. "Many attacks in recent years have targeted ordinary people, foreign tourists included."

The wide use of information technology has also made it easy for terrorists and other transnational criminals to hijack information without revealing their own identities, said Zhu.

"It's therefore crucial to set up long-term cooperation mechanisms. By sharing information and increasing exchanges, it will enable police to stop terrorism and other crimes," Zhu said.

More than 120 representatives from China and the 10 ASEAN members attended the forum.

Gen. Trinidad: AFP will remain, defend Zambo amidst anxieties

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 11): Gen. Trinidad: AFP will remain, defend Zambo amidst anxieties

A top military brass reassured the Zamboanguenos on the night of the Zamboanga siege anniversary (September 9),  that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will remain and defend the city amidst anxieties of a possible attack a year after.

Lt. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, Jr., who represented AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang quoted, “rest assured that your AFP will continue to be here in Zamboanga and in the adjacent areas to protect the people.”

Gen. Trinidad, according to Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar personally manned the defense strategy during the siege.

“Este noche, ta rindi quita gracias con el Armed Forces que ya dale servicio na maga residente,” (We express our gratitude to the Armed Forces who served and protected the residents) said Mayor Climaco-Salazar.

On Tuesday, the night of the Zamboanga siege anniversary, government officials and employees, police, military, academe, religious sector, and local residents gathered around City Hall and Plaza Rizal for a solemn candle-lighting ceremony dubbed “Luz de Ezperanza” (Light of Hope). Residents paid tribute to those who have fallen in defense of the city, including the young officers and men of the Armed Forces.

“We honor both the fallen and living heroes that have stood by in defense of our city,” said Mayor Climaco-Salazar.

Prior to September 9 this year, numerous scare text messages were circulating, allegedly that of a looming attack in Zamboanga City. Residents have expressed their anxiety and concern.

“Sobra saltao kame si ta recivi maga ansina clase de text. Hinde na gayod quita puede ase de nohay lang cay ya socede ya se del otro año,” (We panic whenever we receive these messages. We can’t remain apathetic towards them since we have already experienced the siege last year) said one concerned resident.

The mayor has continuously appealed to residents to be “calm but vigilant always,” and to report and validate these messages with the authorities.

Zamboanga siege: Tales from the combat zone

From Rappler (Sep 13): Zamboanga siege: Tales from the combat zone

One year since the bloody siege of Zamboanga City, Rappler sits down with soldiers of the Light Reaction Battalion who have stories to tell and lessons to share

FORTRESS: The rogue MNLF fighters turned the KGK building into their headquarters. Photo from the LRB Gallery in Fort Bonifacio

For several days government troops waited as negotiators exhausted means to end the Zamboanga siege peacefully. By the time the soldiers were ordered to mount a counter-attack, however, they were already faced with a complex combat zone where rebels had taken hostages and entrenched themselves in key defensive positions.

Soldiers by the codename "Venom," "Dark Knight," "Karambit," and "Wild Orchid" remember everything that transpired in Zamboanga City from September 9 to 28, 2013 – the action, the suspense, the drama and even the comedy that came with it.

On September 9, 2013, close to 500 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked the city to protest what they considered was government's failure to fulfill the provisions of the peace agreement that the MNLF signed with the Ramos administration in 1996.

Government troops fought back in what would turn out to be the Philippine military's biggest operation in recent history. What followed was a fierce battle that stretched for 3 weeks, killed 19 government forces and 208 rebels, and dislocated 24,000 families. (READ: Zamboanga siege: Ground zero a year after)

A year after the siege, Rappler sat down with the elite troops from the Philippine military's anti-terrorist Light Reaction Battalion (LRB) at their headquarters in Nueva Ecija, where they recalled the siege that tested their wit and mettle.

Created in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, the LRB was trained for situations such as the Zamboanga siege. It's a Tier 1 unit, whose members were plucked from the elite Scout Rangers and the Special Forces. They were trained to either become an assaulter or a sniper – skills necessary in urban combat, hostage rescue, and neutralization of high value targets

Target: KGK

The first challenge for the LRB was the KGK Building along Lustre street, a 4-story structure with very thick walls that MNLF commander Habier Malik and his followers had turned into a well-fortified base. It would become the most important target for government troops.

MNLF Commander Habier Malik.
MNLF Commander Habier Malik.

Trained for surgical operations, the LRB troops planned to attack the KGK building. But there was a hitch: they didn't have the floor plan and they lacked enough information on rebel strength and position.

"Wala kaming floor plan. Pero sabi ng tropa: Sir, kailangan kunin na natin ito (We didn't have a floor pan. But the troops said: Sir, we should take this already)," recalled LRB commander Colonel Teodoro Llamas.

They found a short route from the back of a hospital compound. The plan was to approach the wall of KGK, bore a hole in the wall, force their way in, surprise the rebels and free the hostages.

It was easier said than done. The plan exposed them to an open terrain and a swampy area. They had to crawl under the cover of darkness, relying on government snipers and machine gunners who would open fire at rebel positions from the roof of the nearby Zamboanga City Medical Center.

The troops eventually reached the wall and bore a hole in it while dodging bullets from the enemy side. It was about 2 am.

"Kung hindi lang sa kasamahan namin nakikipagputukan, katay na kami doon. High risk ang ginawa namin. Medyo suicidal yun e (If it weren't for the others who were engaging the rebels, we would have been massacred. It was a high-risk operation. It was suicidal.)," recalled "Dark Knight," one of those who led the approach.

But it turned out it's not the wall they needed. "Hindi namin mapasok kasi yung pader pala na papasukan namin swamp. Tapos walang access sa mismong [KGK]. Hindi namin alam 'yung floor plan. Walang access (We coudn't enter because the wall was in a swampy area. It didn't have access to KGK, too. We didn't know the floor plan. It didn't have access)," recalled "Venom," one of the company commanders reporting to Llamas.

They had to retreat to the hospital.

COMBAT ZONE: Close quarter battle in the coastal barangays of Zamboanga City. Rappler photo

(Close) quarter battle in the coastal barangays of Zamboanga City. Rappler photo

Mortars, fires, and gun holes

They made a second attempt to seize KGK after lunch on the same day. But the rebels were already alerted, waiting for the soldiers to return.

The troops had to change tactics.

They then went around the building, moving from one street corner to another in tanks, running from house to house, hitting walls with mortars.

But the rebels proved to be well-trained in this type of battle.

"We suspect that some of them have some sort of a training also. We see styles from Afghanistan or Pakistan. There were 3 layers before you can engage them, " said Llamas.

Sometimes the rebels fired through holes in several layers of walls. It was hard to tell where the bullets were coming from and harder to see where the hostages were kept.

And then there was the burning of houses and facilities that forced the troops to stop and prevented them from immediately closing in. Sometimes the troops had to sleep in half-burned houses.

The MNLF rebels had two advantages in the prolonged firefight: they had food supplies inside the abandoned houses and they had hostages that they used as shields.

A soldier dies

On their 3rd attempt to take KGK, the elite troops suffered their first loss. They watched Corporal Michael Baltazar fall after a surprise attack from a rebel who suddenly appeared from a sewer.

Some of the men couldn't help their tears while they were engaging the enemies. “Kinuha ko ang baril ni Baltazar. Dalawa na gamit ko. Sinabihan ako ng CO (commanding officer) ko na “Kalma ka lang, brother.” Sa isip ko, gusto ko na talaga pasukin KGK (I took Baltazar's firearm and was firing 2 rifles. My commanding officer had to tell me to calm down. In my mind, I wanted to enter KGK),” "Wild Orchid" recalled.

9 LRB troops were killed

9 LRB troops were killed

"Venom" was wounded, too. A shrapnel hit his left hand and he bled profusely. Llamas had to order a master sergeant to drag "Venom" him by the collar to a tank that brought him to the hospital.

It would take 5 difficult advances until the troops were able to take the building. But by then, the rebels had fled with their hostages.

On September 18, the troops raised the flag on the roof of KGK and sang the national anthem. But this did not mean the end of the crisis; it only meant the rebels were deprived of a fortified base.

The soldiers continued to pounce on the rebels until they cornered them in a small area.

Hard lessons

Looking back, some of the troops say they should have made their move on Day 1, when one company of Light Reaction troops had the vantage point in a building where they could see the rebels marching with their hostages.

But the soldiers could not do anything. For the first 4 days they were paralyzed by negotiations held between government representatives and rebel emissaries for the peaceful surrender of Malik's followers.

The soldiers told Rappler that during those days they played the battlefield in their minds; they would shoot the enemy, rescue hostages, show immense firepower. But it was tough to fight an imaginary war. When they got impatient, one officer mustered the courage to seek permission to attack. He was rejected.

The go-signal would come only the 5th day, September 13 (Friday the 13th), after President Benigno Aquino III arrived in Zamboanga City. (READ: Bungled chances in Zamboanga and Zambo crisis: The fog of war)

By then the rebels had taken defensive positions and camped at the KGK with hostages, putting government troops at a disadvantage.

Worse, the troops were given two – but somewhat complex – orders: rescue the hostages and neutralize the enemy. They were two different missions that required different firearms and approaches. “Ano ba talaga sir?,” junior commanders would ask Llamas. He told them the priority was the safety of the hostages.

Small team

Llamas lost 9 men in the Zamboanga siege. He said he feels guilty that he was unable to visit their graves more often.

He also remembers considering to beg off from the operation. "Technically, we were non-operational. Our unit was not filled up," he said. The military has always estimated their number to be 300 but, in fact, they are much smaller. The Zamboanga operation seemed too big for the small unit.

But Llamas also knew he couldn’t say no.

The troops also felt it was a "once-in-a-lifetime" operation cut out for them. They've rescued hostages before and have surprised terrorists in their encampments, but there was nothing like the magnitude of Zamboanga City. There were about 100 hostages held by close to 500 rebels in 5 densely populated barangays. The elite troops' 13 years of training would be put to test.

"It was the real world. It's no longer training," said Wild Orchid, 42, who joined LRB in 2003.

The crisis would drag for 21 days, too long for a unit that is trained to finish a job in 3 days. In the end, the combat zone was razed to the ground.

The LRB would get help from a company of Navy Special Operations Group (NAVSOG), the equivalent of the US Navy Seals, whose training was closest to the LRB except their expertise is water. The LRB and the Navsog both fall under the Joint Special Operatios Group (JSOG) under the command of Colonel Danilo Pamonag. (READ: 'The first to respond, the last to leave')

The Scout Rangers, too, helped. They occupied the frontlines when the LRB needed to rest.

Surrounding them were over 2,000 other troops. The Air Force brought in soldiers from the different units nationwide. They conducted air strikes and took snapshots of the battlefield. The Navy guarded the shorelines and the mangroves, while the rest of the Army protected the perimeter of the combat zone.

Everyone made sure that the rebels couldn't escape and they couldn't be reinforced.

Deaths and injuries

In the hospital, "Venom" made sure he was released immediately when he learned that his platoon leader also died in combat. He wanted to return to his troops but Llamas said no. Llamas was planning to assign another officer to take Venom's place as company commander.

Llamas recalled how an angry "Venom" stared at him when he received the orders. The battalion commander stared back at the junior officer. Nobody said a word until "Venom" teared up.

Llamas is laughing now but it was no laughing matter back then. "Parang drama e. Kung gagawin mong cartoons yun at may talk bubble, ang sinasabi niya sa akin: P@*!!#!! mo, sir. Huwag mong gawin sa akin ito (It was so dramatic. If there was a talk bubble there, he was tell me: [Expletives] Please don't to this to me)."

"Wala akong magagawa. Naging company commander din ako. I know how he feels. Patay platoon leader niya (I couldn't do anything. I was also a company commander. I know how he feels. His platoon leader died.)," Llamas added.

READ: PH to double size of elite anti-terror troops

Llamas allowed "Venom" to return to his men. “P@*!!#!!, pumunta ka na. Kapag na-infect ang sugat mo ako mismo ang papatay sayo! ([Expletives], go! If your wound gets infected, I will kill you myself.)”

They could afford to laugh now. But what if another siege of that magnitude happened again? "We're more ready," Llamas said.

Canadian Islamist preacher to be deported from PH

From Rappler (Sep 13): Canadian Islamist preacher to be deported from PH

Philips was detained last weekend 'due to security advisories from several countries'

A Canadian Islamic preacher detained for being a security threat in the Philippines has agreed to be deported, an immigration official said Saturday, September 13.

Jamaican-born Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips will be flown back to Canada as soon as possible, said immigration spokeswoman Elaine Tan.

"He voluntarily requested to be deported," she told Agence France-Presse, allowing the government to fly him out without going through deportation proceedings.

Philips was detained by police in the city of Davao last weekend while on a lecture tour in the south, where the country's restive Islamic minority is based.

"He was blacklisted (due to) information that he may conduct activities that are a threat to our national security," Tan said.

She said that the government hoped to fly Philips out quickly, but could not yet give a specific date.

In Davao, the regional police spokesman Superintendent Tony Rivera said they were ordered to hold Philips due to security advisories from several countries, adding he may have ties to extremist groups and labelling him as "dangerous."

In a post on his Facebook page, dated September 10, Philips, described by police as being 68, said: "I am safe and well-treated in Davao City immigration custody".

He also denied the allegations he was involved with extremists, expressing hope he might eventually be allowed back into the Philippines.

He conceded that he was blacklisted in the United States, Britain, Australia and Kenya, but said that this was based partly on statements that were taken out of context.

Philips was the second Islamic convert preacher to be detained by the Philippines since July, when it also arrested and later deported Robert Edward Cerantonio to Australia.

Police said Cerantonio had used the Internet to urge people to join "jihad" in Iraq and Syria, though they said they had no evidence to show he had managed to recruit any Filipinos.

Two southern Philippines-based Muslim guerrilla groups, the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have uploaded videos on the Internet pledging alliance to the Islamic State militants who have overrun large swathes of the two Middle Eastern countries.

Philippines starts inquiry into Filipino militants in Syria

From InterAksyon (Sep 13): Philippines starts inquiry into Filipino militants in Syria

The Philippines is investigating the involvement of Filipino Islamists in the three-year civil war in Syria after two locals were reported killed fighting for Islamic State militant group, an intelligence official said on Saturday.
A senior police intelligence official said Manila was also monitoring young Filipino Muslims who have gone to Syria and Iraq, and then tried to radicalize others on their return home.

The Philippines has been battling its own small but violent Islamist militant group, Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in the south. Since 2002, a U.S. special forces unit has been advising and training local troops.

Thousands of fighters from dozens of countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups, prompting the United States to draft a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding countries "prevent and suppress" the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters.

"These are disturbing developments that could affect our internal security situation," the intelligence official, who declined to be named because he was not allowed to talk to the press, told Reuters.

"We have scant data based on intermittent information made available from different agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs. We are now exchanging intelligence with our foreign partners so we can build our own data base."
Based on these exchanges, he said they have noted a gradual increase of foreign fighters heading to Syria coming from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Xinjiang, a troubled province in western China.

But the movement is not only one way, he said. Some locals who saw action in Syria, labeled themselves as "veterans" had returned to the south of the mainly Catholic state to spread extremist Muslim ideologies.
Documents seen by Reuters showed two Filipino Muslims had died in the Syria conflict in March. The foreign ministry also reported in May that about 100 Filipinos traveled to Iran to undergo military training and were subsequently deployed in Syria.

"One of them was raised in Syria and the other was a local passport holder," said the intelligence official.

Rommel Banlaoi of the Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies said the threats from Islamic State militants in the Philippines "is real rather than imagined".
"ISIS is replacing al Qaeda as the champion of the world Islamic caliphate," Banlaoi said, adding a video on YouTube last month indicated an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines has been established.
Militants from Abu Sayyaf, Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Muslim convert group Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement had pledged support to Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

On Wednesday, Washington authorized airstrikes for the first time in Syria and more attacks in Iraq in a broad escalation of a campaign against the Islamic State, which has seized large stretches of Iraq and Syria.

Marine reservists protect environment, marine resources in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): Marine reservists protect environment, marine resources in Sultan Kudarat

To help protect environment and marine resources, the local government units of the seaside Lebak and Kalamansig towns in Sultan Kudarat have organized Marine reservists to guard the coastal areas against pirates and illegal poachers.

Both Mayors Dionesio Besana of Lebak and Rolando Garcia of Kalamansig will exercise joint ministerial supervision of the contingent, the 75th Marine Reserve Service Support Group, which has about a thousand non-uniformed members.

Composed of owners of fishing vessels and fisherfolks, the reservists are now guard the coastal barangays in the two towns.

They were established through a memorandum of agreement signed last September 10 at the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Davao City by Vice Admiral Jesus Millan, flag officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy, and Emmanuel Lontok, president of the Lebak-Kalamansig Coastal Marine Association Incorporated (LKCMAI).

The signing of the MOA was witnessed by senior Eastmincom and Navy officials and Col. Emmanuel Salamat, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Brigade, which has jurisdiction over Lebak and Kalamansig, both located in west of Sultan Kudarat.

The Philippine Marine Corps is a component unit of the Philippine Navy.

The newly-organized reservist group, comprised of Moro, Christian and non-Moro indigenous Lumad members, shall help the LGUs of Lebak and Kalamansig address security concerns in their municipal waters, including illegal fishing and intrusion by pirates targeting hapless fishermen.

Danilo Chavez, an official of the LKCMAI, said Salamat, who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1985, and the LGUs of Lebak and Kalamansig coordinated with each other in organizing the reservist group.

In a statement released Saturday, Salamat clarified that the reservist group is a civic organization and not a counter-insurgency unit.

”It will help make functional all government peace and development programs in the two towns and help promote unity among the local Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities,” Salamat said.

Marine reservists will also engage in activities meant to bolster the peace process between the national government and Mindanao’s Moro communities, Salamat said, adding that the creation of the group was based on Circular No. 3 of the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Section 10 of the Republic Act 77, also known as AFP Reservist Act.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz now enroute to Surabaya, Indonesia

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): BRP Ramon Alcaraz now enroute to Surabaya, Indonesia

After proving herself in the recently-concluded "Kakadu 2014" naval exercises, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) is now steaming for Surabaya, Indonesia before heading back into Philippine territory.

This was disclosed by Philippine Navy (PN) public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo Saturday.

"PF-16 (BRP Ramon Alcaraz) departed from Darwin, Australian last Sept. 12 (after conclusion of 'Kakadu 2014'). She is now enroute to Surabaya Naval Base, Indonesia," she added.

Domingo said that BRP Ramon Alcaraz is expected to arrive there in three days time.

"Once there, PN troops will conduct sports interaction and other professional military exchanges (with Indonesian military personnel) to foster good relationship with our Indonesian counterparts," she stressed.

"Kakadu 2014" is the biennial naval maneuvers hosted by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Twelve nations participated in this naval maneuvers which started Aug. 25 and ended on Sept. 12.

The participating countries with navy ships/aircraft are Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Pakistan and Australia while Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vanuatu, South Korea, and India deployed personnel as observers.

It was held at the Northern Australian Exercise Area.This is the second time the PN has sent its ship to participate since the exercise began way back in 1993.

The first time that the PN sent a ship in the "Kakadu" exercises series was in 1999. PN observers were also sent in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

It can be recalled that on March 2014, Alcaraz’s sister ship, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) was also sent to Indonesia to participate for the first time in the Multilateral Naval Exercise codenamed “Komodo” which was participated by 16 countries.

The PN’s participation in multilateral exercises is an affirmation of its commitment in collaborating with other navies to promote peace and stability in the maritime region.

Philippine Army fetes 41st Infantry Battalion for successful Abra operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): Philippine Army fetes 41st Infantry Battalion for successful Abra operations

Six officers and enlisted personnel of the 41st Infantry Battalion were decorated Saturday for their successful campaign against communist insurgency in Abra last Sept. 4.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri personally handed out the decorations during short military ceremonies.

The Gold Cross Medals were awarded to 2nd Lt. Joe Mari S. Landicho, the head of the operating troops, and to Capt. Deo R. Martinez, 41st Infantry Battalion operations officer.

Lt. Col. Rogelio Noora, 41st Infantry Battalion commander, meanwhile, was conferred with the Bronze Cross Medal.

The Wounded Personnel Medal, on the other hand, were given to Cpl. Gilbert Baawa, Pfcs. James Erickson P. Danao, and Randy Saayan, while the other members of the operating troops received Military Merit Medals.

Troopers of the 41st Infantry Battalion successfully engaged New People's Army (NPA) fighters during operations in Barangays Guinguinabang and Poblacion, Lacub town, Abra on Sept. 4.

Eight NPA rebels died in the said encounter, while another was captured.

The Army troops also recovered 15 firearms, including M-653 rifles, M-14 carbines, M-16 automatic rifles, an AK-47, M-1 Garand and a.45 caliber pistol.

This successful operation caused a major setback to the ranks of the NPA, and contributed immensely to the accomplishment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' mission as embodied in the Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan".

Militiaman hurt in NPA attack in Davao Del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): Militiaman hurt in NPA attack in Davao Del Norte

A militiaman was seriously hurt after 20 heavily-armed rebels encountered their peace and development team in Sitio Paiton, Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte last Thursday.

Reports forwarded by 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Ernest Carolina Saturday said the incident took place around 9: 10 a.m.

He identified the wounded militiaman as Angelito P. Togcos, a member of the 68th Infantry Battalion peace and development team.

Carolina said Tagcos and other soldiers were conducting needs assessment survey in the area as part of coordinated efforts with the local government, when the 20 rebels appeared out of nowhere and fired on the group.

In the initial burst of gunfire, Tagcos was hit, prompting his companions to maneuver defensively and fire back at the rebels.

The firefight lasted for an hour resulting in an undetermined number of casualties for the rebel force who retreated in different directions.

Carolina said Tagcos was immediately airlifted to the Panacan Station Hospital in Davao City for treatment and is now in stable condition.