Thursday, September 18, 2014

AFP, U.S. Marines Begin “Groundbreaking” Work in Puerto Princesa City

From DVIDS (Sep 18): AFP, U.S. Marines Begin “Groundbreaking” Work in Puerto Princesa City

AFP, U.S. Marines Begin “Groundbreaking” Work in Puerto Princesa City

U.S. Marine Col. John Armellino, front, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Marine Col. Custodio J. Parcon Jr. shovel cement onto a capsule filled with a blueprint of two classrooms during a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 16 at the Maoyon Elementary School in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines. The ceremony signified the start of a humanitarian civic assistance project to build two new classrooms and a bathroom that will provide the resources needed to teach more than 100 students. Parcon is the deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade, and a native of Iloilo, Philippines. Armellino the chief of staff of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and a native of Newark, New Jersey,. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matt Myers/Released)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN, Philippines – Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Marines gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 16 at Maoyon Elementary School in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.

The ceremony signified the start of a humanitarian civic assistance project to build two new classrooms and a bathroom that will provide the resources needed to teach more than 100 students.

“We will have community members, along with school teachers and students, working with the U.S. and Philippine Marines to build these classrooms,” said Irene Dilla, the school principal. “We are so thankful that you (both) are here to help us, and the children are all excited.”

When construction is completed on Oct. 6, the school will provide a safe and comfortable environment for the children of Puerto Princes to have the opportunity to learn, according to Dilla, a native of Maoyon, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.

AFP and U.S. service members will partner around the area to complete more community relations projects to assist where help is most needed and build upon friendships, according to Col. John Armellino, chief of staff for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“Our Philippine counterparts select all the project sites because they know what needs help better than we do,” said Armellino, a Newark, New Jersey native. “[These projects] allow us to work closely and make important memories. If you have a friend and you want to strengthen that bond, then you need to participate in activities together to form a lasting relationship.”

As the ceremony came to a close, a hole was dug so Armellino and AFP Marine Col. Custodio J. Parcon Jr., could place a capsule holding the new classroom blueprint into the ground before pouring cement over the top of it to signify the beginning of the project and, with it, a brighter future for generations of school children.

“This training gives our country positive exposure and will be seen all around the world,” said Parcon, deputy commander, 3rd Marine Brigade, AFP and native of Iloilo, Philippines. “It is also good because the U.S. Marines here [help] the locals and they help teach the children how to speak English.”

Beijing's ingenious strategy to control China Sea: build islands

From The Nation (Sep 17): Beijing's ingenious strategy to control China Sea: build islands

Having missed out on the prime real estate, China is constructing its own

A Chinese flag flies over octagonal structures built on the Manila-claimed Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

A Chinese flag flies over octagonal structures built on the Manila-claimed Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia control real islands in the South China Sea. "China came very late to this party and missed out on all the good real estate," writes the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in a report last week headlined "China's Island Factory".
So, Beijing is creating new islands of its own.

Beijing today seeks "to dominate sea-space within the first island chain", Wingfield-Hayes writes. That chain runs from Borneo's coast, past Taiwan, to southern Japan. It is, in Beijing's opinion, China's backyard.

"But in the longer term, China wants to move beyond the Philippines and southern Japan to the 'second island chain'. That stretches from Palau, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. … This will be a seismic shift in the Western Pacific's balance of power.

"Now, for the first time, a new power is emerging with the will and means to challenge America's military dominance. It is unlikely to be a smooth ride."

Recent Philippine Navy photos document land reclamation work carried out by China since January. It is building new islands on five different reefs. They are creating "new facts on the ground".

Beijing's belated "nine-dash line" map sweeps in a tongue-shaped expanse up to the coasts of the Philippines, Vietnam and even Borneo. For decades, China did little to enforce this vague and sweeping claim on maritime territory. But now, its Communist Party has reclassified the South China Sea as a "core national interest". That lumps it with Taiwan and Tibet and means China is prepared to fight to defend it.

Manila lacks military muscle. So the Philippines brought its case to the United Nations, seeking a ruling based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). Unclos usually accords coastal states an exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline. An Unclos ruling would be good for the Philippines - though Beijing has made it clear it will not be bound by any ruling.

This is not just a quarrel with the Philippines and other countries bordering the sea, its resources or even strategic space, let alone sovereignty, Wingfield-Hayes notes. Instead, it is about China's real strategic rival: the United States.

Washington does not acknowledge China's claim. And the US Pacific fleet sails regularly through these waters. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied gas pass yearly from African and Persian Gulf suppliers, through the South China Sea, to Asian consumers.

China's Monroe Doctrine

The "Monroe Doctrine" of 1823 identified the Western hemisphere - notably the Caribbean Sea - as America's backyard. Old European colonial powers were told to keep out. "Today, China is doing something very similar in the East and South China seas," Wingfield-Hayes writes.

Last week, Manila displayed ancient maps documenting the history of China's sea claims. From the Song Dynasty in year 960 until end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, China's southernmost territory was always Hainan island, just off the Chinese coast, explained Philippine officials. All five constitutions of China make that point. None include, for instance, Scarborough Shoal, which China seized in June 2012.

Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who has done extensive research on this territorial dispute, notes: The facts "can restrain extreme nationalism … [and] give hope to a just and durable settlement of disputes".

Indeed, these waters are dotted "with strange little military outposts and civilian colonies", Wingfield-Hayes notes, making it hard to decipher which is which and who controls what. The disputed Pagasa was called Thitu Island; in Chinese it is Zhongye Dao, and Dao Thi Tu in Vietnamese.

Johnson South Reef is dubbed Chi Gua, Yongshu, Gac Ma to Mabini Reef. And so it goes for dozens of other islets, even sandbars. The Philippines has nine outposts, Vietnam eight and Malaysia seven - like China, at last tally. Taiwan has a sprawling air base in the biggest island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

Ayungin Reef is 120 nautical miles from the coast of the Philippines. That puts it well within the Philippines' claimed 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. It is more than 800 nautical miles from the Chinese coast. And yet Beijing claims that this submerged reef is an integral part of Chinese territory.

Pagasa is halfway between Palawan and Vietnam. An eccentric Filipino businessman landed there in 1956 and declared it "Freedomland". Tomas Cloma was arrested and forced to hand over "his country" by Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who paid a token one peso for the territory.

Marcos built concrete bunkers along the shoreline plus anti-aircraft gun emplacements. Only the airstrip remains usable. There are 30 Philippine Marines based on Pagasa. They won't be able to stop the People's Liberation Army if it decides to clear them out.

Pagasa's most important asset lies at the far end of the island - a ramshackle village of about 30 families. Filipino civilians started coming in the late 1970s and gradually built a little colony. "We get a free house, a job and free food," said one. "And there is a school for our children."

Like Manila, Hanoi is settling civilians on several of the islets it controls. Civilian colonies certainly make military confrontation more difficult and less palatable.

"Shooting soldiers, as China did at Johnson South in 1988, is one thing. Shooting women and children is quite another. Whether these heavily subsidised microcolonies really strengthen legal claims to places like Pagasa has yet to be tested," Wingfield-Hayes writes. "Clearly, Manila and Hanoi believe they do."

Nur snobs ‘Bangsamoro’ hearing

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Sep 19): Nur snobs ‘Bangsamoro’ hearing

MORO National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari will not appear before any House hearing on the discussion of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

In a statement sent to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by lawyer Elly Pamatong’s group United States Allied Freedom Fighters of the East (Usaffe), Misuari was quoted as saying: “I am not going to appear or serve as resource person before the fact-finding committee of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in Manila. There is no more need for that.”

Pamatong is the international spokesman and legal counsel of the MNLF.

Misauri, however, said Marcos and his committee members “are welcome to see and meet me here in Jolo, particularly in one of my camps, where they can conduct a senate hearing in aid of legislation.”

“I have already repeatedly expressed my basic opposition toward the Framework Agreement, CAB and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and GRP (Philippine government) knows everything there is to know about my views on the Bangsamoro and their dream for independence,” Misuari said.

Misuari’s statement came in the wake of the call of Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on local government, to allow the former to speak before the body.

Marcos said Misuari should become part of the process because if both the MNLF and its splinter group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are left out of the equation, then the whole exercise “will not succeed.”

For his part, Cagayan de Oro second district Representative Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, also wanted to invite Misuari and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Ameril Umbra Kato during the committee deliberations of the BBL at the Lower House.

At the Senate, the local government and peace, unification and reconciliation committees are tasked with the BBL deliberation, while the ad hoc committee is its counterpart in the Lower House.

The reason for this, Rodriguez said in an interview, is for Misuari and Kato to be given the chance to speak up and let their views be heard on the BBL before the legislators.

Both lawmakers have urged for the suspension of Misuari’s and Kato’s warrants of arrest so they could attend the committee hearings.

“Misuari, who [is] currently surrounded by roughly 30,000 fully armed freedom fighters, is willing to fight to the very end if only to uphold and defend the blood-sanctified Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement of 1996,” the Usaffe statement said, adding that “For GRP to bring Misuari to his knees, reliable sources say GRP may have to sacrifice 15- to 20,000 lives to do it.”

The statement said Misuari has already fully cooperated in good faith with the international committee in implementing the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, “in fact, he (Misuari) said, he allowed 30,000 of his best fighters to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the greater interest of peace.”

“But, he said he felt betrayed because, after that, GRP struck another agreement with Malaysia through the MILF that would virtually give [Minsupala] to Malaysia thereby bringing about tragic territorial dismemberment,” it added.

MILF: Editorial -- BBL menu for unity and solidarity

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Sep 17): BBL menu for unity and solidarity

“Don’t give any reason to Moros in Mindanao to secede from the Philippine state.”
This was the oft-repeated message of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This was also stated in his speech during the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacañang Palace on March 27, 2014.

Successful insurgency or revolutionary struggle necessarily must have legitimate reasons to fight the state and rally the people around it. Popular support is indispensable in the success of this life-and-death struggle. The MILF has all these elements to keep it alive and moving to become the most organized and strongest of all the so-called Moro rebel groups in Mindanao. It has even eclipsed the mother organization, the Moro National Liberation Front, when the latter had failed to consolidate its gains both militarily and politically.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is currently under deliberation in both chambers of Congress, has addressed most if not all of the legitimate reasons for any legitimate revolutionary or jihadic organization to fight the state. Anyone or group who fight the government, after a good BBL is finally put into law and sincerely implemented on the ground, will no longer have the cause to fight for and get the support of the people and the international community. Such a struggle will eventually lose steam and fade eventually.

Contrary to the fears of some people, the BBL is a menu for unity and solidarity of the entire Philippine state. Continue to deny the Moros of their basic rights and legitimate aspirations for right to self-determination is to provide them good ammunition to exist and fight a popular war.

We firmly believe the BBL is an antidote to secession; and moreover, it gives more legitimacy to the Philippine state.

In the BBL, it addresses the issues of identity, territory of the Bangsamoro, ancestral domain, natural resources, sharing of powers and wealth, administration of justice (Shariah Law, local courts, and indigenous justice system of the indigenous peoples), human rights issues, etc. What more a Moro can ask for?

Of course, solving the Bangsamoro Question or Problem will not be fully addressed by the BBL alone even if it is passed by Congress. The basis of the BBL is only the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), its four Annexes and the Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters, thereby leaving other parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) not yet addressed or unimplemented.

This will be done through the other mandate of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which is to make proposals to amend the Constitution. And almost surely, one of the proposals is to give reserved seats in the Senate for the Moros and the indigenous peoples in this country.

MILF: UNYPAD holds series of forums for Bangsamoro Communities and CSO leaders

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 18): UNYPAD holds series of forums for Bangsamoro Communities and CSO leaders

In its continuous efforts to undertake viable approaches in promoting peace in the Bangsamoro, the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) held series of forums for community leaders and core groups of CSO’s in Western Mindanao. 
On September 13, 2014, UNYPAD held focus group discussions at Salsilah center, IFCL Conference Room, Isabela city, Basilan province attended by community leaders,  members of the academe, youth and religious sectors.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 was among the issues discussed so that stakeholders can see how good it was crafted and modified.

Brother Yusoph Lumambas, UNYPAD Secretary General organized the activity through the UNYPAD Basilan Chapter and facilitated by the research component of Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT). Various Issues and concerns regarding the BBL were noted and clarified in order to clear misconceptions and unhealthy speculations by the people in affected areas. 

On September 14, the UNYPAD proceeded to Zamboanga city and engaged in similar undertaking. Brother Zulfhikar Samsaraji, President of UNYPAD – Zamboanga Chapter organized the program. Community leaders from different barangays attended the forum. Moro community leaders in Zamboanga city and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) facilitated the half-day program held at a private residence compound.
Also, UNYPAD officers travelled to Bongao in the island province of Tawi-Tawi on September 17, 2014 and held similar program.

The participants expressed their profound gratitude to UNYPAD, other groups and international entities who are playing crucial roles in the peace process and promoting the value of peace in Mindanao region. 

UNYPAD had joined efforts with Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD), BLMI, and other CSO’s in Mindanao in creating harmonious relationship and understanding among inhabitants of the region through raising public awareness and encouraging participation in the peace building.

UNYPAD is a Cotabato City-based non-government organization. Among its primordial vision is to promote peace and understanding through productive dialogue with youth and other sectors of society. 
The UNYPAD Peace Dialogue Program was supported by the European Union (EU) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Marines caught pushing drugs in Pagadian to be dishonorably discharged

From the Philippine Star (Sep 18): Marines caught pushing drugs in Pagadian to be dishonorably discharged

The Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) will dishonorably discharge two members caught pushing illegal drugs in Pagadian City on Wednesday.

Marine Brig. Gen. Alex Balutan, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City, said Thursday that the two Marines, Cpl. Ryan Monterel Depuno and Private First Class Silvano Caindoy Jenisan will be terminated from the PMC based on the organization’s “non-negotiable stand” against drugs.

The two Marines have long been charged with Absence Without Leave (AWOL) by their commanding officers for failing to return after availing of allowable days of rest and recreation break.

“Madi-discharge na 'yan sila totally from the service. No one is above the law. That is an offense the PMC leadership will never tolerate. In fact, with their AWOL status eh matagal nang wala na sila sa service,” Balutan said.

Depuno and Jenisan, formerly under Marine units in nearby Sultan Kudarat province, were caught by plainclothes policemen in the act of selling shabu in San Jose district in Pagadian City.

“They will have their day in a civil court, as civilians, not as Marines,” Balutan said.

Chief Superintendent Edgar Basbas, Police Regional 9 director, said 14 sachets of shabu, P500 cash and a .45 caliber pistol with ammunition were recovered from the duo during the buy-bust operation.

Basbas said the suspects are now detained at a police camp in Pagadian City.

Suspected NPA bomber caught in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Star (Sep 18): Suspected NPA bomber caught in Zamboanga

Police and military forces captured on Thuesday a suspected bomber of the New People’s Army (NPA) and recovered bomb making materials in Dumingag town, Zamboanga del Sur, police said here.

Police identified the captured suspect as Joel Sumagop, 36, married and resident of Barangay Saad, and a suspected member of the NPA.

Police Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, information office of Police Regional Office (PRO) 9, said the local police of Dumingag and a platoon of soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion were conducting combat patrol when they spotted the suspect with another unidentified companion carrying sacks loaded with still unidentified material.

However, the suspect with his companion scurried upon seeing the security forces that prompted the hot pursuit operation and led to the capture of Sumagop while his companion managed to escape.

Samuddin said the security forces recovered from Sumagop 30 pieces of blasting caps, seven pieces of arming devices, 50 meters of electrical wires, 18 pieces of dry cell batteries and one component of an improvised explosive device (IED).

The forces also recovered 765 rounds of ammunition for AK47, medical supplies, foodstuff, toiletries and other personal belongings.

Officials believe that the recovered bomb materials could be part of the plot of the NPA rebel against military and police targets.

Chief Superintendent Edgar Basbas, PRO 9 director, lauded the police and military unit in foiling bombing attempt following the arrest and recovery of the bomb making materials.

Basbas also directed the police forces in the province to intensify its alert to prevent the rebels from staging attacks.

Moro leaders asked to help defuse tension in North Cotabato town

From the Philippine Star (Sep 18): Moro leaders asked to help defuse tension in North Cotabato town

NORTH COTABATO – Provincial officials enlisted on Thursday the help of traditional leaders in defusing tension in a barangay in Kabacan town where rival Moro forces again clashed early this week, displacing some 50 peasant families.

The rival groups, one led by Nayang Timan of the 108th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the other led by incumbent barangay officials residing in the area, are locked in territorial and political disputes.

Most of the residents in the troubled Barangay Pedtad in Kabacan are either members or supporters of the MILF too.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and the local government unit of Kabacan are initiating peaceful means of resolving the security problems besetting the barangay.

The governor on Thursday urged local clerics and traditional Moro leaders to help resolve the conflict.

“The provincial government, along with the 602nd Brigade, is in control of the situation there,” Hermoso said.

Aussie raids foil IS ‘demo killings’

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 19): Aussie raids foil IS ‘demo killings’

Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism raids on Thursday detained 15 people and foiled an alleged plot by Islamic State jihadists to conduct “demonstration killings”, including beheading a random member of the public.

A major pre-dawn operation was carried out across Sydney and Brisbane by more than 800 officers acting on some 25 search warrants. One person has so far been charged with serious terrorism-related offenses.

At least one gun was seized, along with a sword.

Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in a Sydney court and was remanded in custody, charged with planning a terrorist act which prosecutors alleged was designed to “shock, horrify and terrify” the community.

The court heard he was instructed in a recent phone call by the most senior Australian member of Islamic State, Afghan-born Mohammad Baryalei, to commit the atrocity.

Prosecutor Michael Allnutt alleged the plan involved the “random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute” on camera and involved “an unusual level of fanaticism”.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the video was then to be sent back to IS’s media unit in the Middle East, where it would be released to the public.

The jihadists have in recent weeks broadcast video footage of three foreign nationals being beheaded in Syria.

The raids, which spanned multiple suburbs, came barely a week after Australia boosted the terror threat level to “high” for the first time in a decade on growing concern about militants returning from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had been briefed on intelligence that public beheadings had been ordered by IS militants.

“That’s the intelligence we received,” he said, prompting comparisons to the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death in a random attack on a street in England last year by two Muslim converts.

“The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country,” added the prime minister.

“So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have.”

The Australian government believes up to 60 Australians are fighting alongside jihadists for IS, while another 100 were actively working to support the movement at home.

“These people, I regret to say, do not hate us for what we do, they hate us for who we are and how we live. That’s what makes us a target,” said Abbott.

“It’s important our police and security organisations be one step ahead of them and this morning they were.”

The latest raids followed the arrests of two people last week in Brisbane who were charged with allegedly recruiting, funding and sending jihadist fighters to Syria.

Who is ‘Boogie’?

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 19): Who is ‘Boogie’?

CONTROVERSY may have hounded the career of retired police general Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza Jr., but his more than 30 years as a police intelligence officer has shone through in his retirement years and he is now credited as the father of counter-terrorism investigation in the country.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, Mendoza was linked to several controversies and was once described as being obsessed in a supposed mission to destroy former national police chief and senator Panfilo Lacson.

But his vital role in the uncovering of the famous Bojinka plot of 1995 and the discovery of the Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement has cemented his growing reputation as a counter-terrorism expert.

The Bojinka plot was a large-scale three-phase terror attack hatched by Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abdul Hakim Murad in the early 1990s.

It involved a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II, an air bombing of 11 airliners flying from Asia to the United States and a plan to crash a plane into the CIA headquarters in Virginia.

The plot was backed by Osama bin Laden and Hambali and was funded by Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa and Wali Khan Amin Shah, an Afghan who laundered the money through his girlfriend and other women in Manila.

Before the plot was discovered, Yousef detonated test bombs in a mall and theater, injuring scores of people, as well as Philippine Airlines Flight 434, killing one person and nearly causing enough damage to result in the destruction of the aircraft.

But Bojinka was accidentally discovered after a chemical fire drew police attention to the hotel where Ramzi Yousef was staying and their plans were found in their computers.

Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were able to escape, but Murad was captured and it was Mendoza who interrogated him which eventually led to Yousef’s arrest in Pakistan after 21 days.

Grenade blast rocks North Cotabato town, no one hurt; cops suspect NPA harassment

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 18): Grenade blast rocks North Cotabato town, no one hurt; cops suspect NPA harassment
A grenade explosion rocked the Arakan in North Cotabato Wednesday night, the third explosion in Central Mindanao in just two days.

An unidentified man tossed the fragmentation grenade inside the house of a certain Susan Seminilla through a window then quickly fled, Chief Insp. Rolly Oranza, chief of the Arakan municipal police said.

Oranza said no one was hurt in the explosion, but the bombing triggered panic in the farming community.

Police are still trying to establish the identity of the man who threw the grenade and the motive for the attack.

The communist New People’s Army operates in the hinterlands of Arakan, a mountainous town in North Cotabato bordering the Bukidnon province.

Earlier, police said the NPA has been mulcting villagers of revolutionary taxes, especially now that farmers have started harvesting agricultural crops.

On Tuesday night, seven people were hurt in a homemade bomb explosion at a park in General Santos Santos City plaza while three policemen were wounded in Magpet, North Cotabato, Wednesday morning when suspected NPA rebels set off roadside bombs.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, police regional director for Central Mindanao, said police and military authorities were on top of the situation and that the separate explosions were not related.

An explosion also rocked Lamitan City Tuesday night.

Human rights violations still prevalent in Davao Region

FromMindaNews (Sep 18): Human rights violations still prevalent in Davao Region

Progressive groups here said human rights violations are still prevalent in the Southern Mindanao Region, citing reports on extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and torture.

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region secretary general Hanimay Suazo said that since the start of the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, there have been 33 cases of extrajudicial killings in the region; 36 cases of illegal arrests involving human rights activist, environment defenders, civilians suspected as rebels, and even members of New People’s Army whose cases have not undergone due process; and 11 tortures.

Speaking at a forum on human rights and peace at the Homitori Dormitel, Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez said it was high time to increase vigilance by monitoring human rights abuses, especially with the approach of the anniversaries of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21 and the Ampatuan Massacre in November.

“Nothing is happening yet with the Ampatuan Massacre,” Enriquez noted.

Suazo said that Mindanao is among the most “highly militarized” regions in the Philippines.

She accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines of allocating more than 50 percent of its resources to the regions here.

In a statement, Felixberto Calang, of the human rights organization Barug Katungod, said the Mindanao Human Rights and Peace Conference was a venue where different progressive groups aimed to reach a unified decision on different issues, among these the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

“As Mindanawons, there is a need for grassroots communities and the basic sectors, human rights workers and advocates, church people, lawyers, and other professionals to come together and forge common action to meet these challenges head on,” Calang said.

Enriquez said that the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III is “not helpful” to the Philippines’ human rights situation, with the administration inheriting 206 extrajudicial killings from the Gloria Arroyo administration.

“Now, during the administration of Aquino, there have been 204 extrajudicial killings, 71 missing persons, and 99 reported tortures,” Enriquez said.

Seminar on anti-terrorism

From the Mindanao Newsbits section of the Manila Bulletin (Sep 19): Seminar on anti-terrorism

Zamboanga City – Malacañang Law Enforcement and Security Integration Office (LESIO)  and  the Anti-Terrorism Council-Program Management Center (ATC-PMC) recently a conducted a two-day seminar on security and public safety to  local government units, police, military, businessmen and the religious sectors from this city, Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

While it was a closed door seminar, a senior organizing official of the event  who declined to be named said the meeting is part of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s campaign dubbed “Hardening Terrorist Targets.”

Zahid: We will not tolerate terror financiers

From the Star Online (Sep 18): Zahid: We will not tolerate terror financiers

PUTRAJAYA: Stern legal action will be taken against Malaysians who are found guilty of participating in terrorist-funding activities, said Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi Thursday.

"We do not tolerate any attempt to fund internal or international terrorist activities," said the Home Minister.

"We will ensure that illegal funding not be given to individuals or organisations for the purpose of terrorism."

Zahid said police are working with Interpol and other international intelligence agencies to investigate the validity of a report published in an Australian newspaper, claiming that some RM110,300 was transferred to an unnamed Malaysian by an Australian money-remitting agency.
"Police started investigations into the matter after being alerted by our Australian counterparts, even before the news was published.

"If proven true, we will leave it to our Australian counterparts to take further action against those involved," he said.

Dr Ahmad Zahid gave his assurance to Australian authorities that no compromise will be made on the matter, in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act.

In KUALA LUMPUR, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the Ministry will investigate the alleged money transfer.

He said the Ministry viewed such links seriously, especially in the context of Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State.

"We are concerned especially for the security of Sabah given its close proximity to the southern Philippines.

"We will investigate the money transfer and any terror link," he told a press conference on Thursday.

He added the Ministry had been keeping close tabs on any terror development.

"I have been getting daily intelligence reports on the matter. We will get to the bottom of this," said Hishammuddin.

Jihadists’ sway here since 2006

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 19): Jihadists’ sway here since 2006

Intel expert claims money lures militants to join ISIS

Flag of terror. A propaganda photo of the
Khilafa Islamiya Mindanao shows a masked
aide of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon
waving the black flag of the terror group
Islamic State in 2012.

The Philippine’s former top spy said on Thursday that the influence and reach of the Islamic State in the country was evident as early as 2006.

Former Philippine National Police Intelligence director Chief Supt Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza said that eight years ago,  the ISIS, led by its supreme religious leader Aby Bakr Al-Baghdadi, sent a communiqué to the Jemaah Islamiya and Khalifa in Mindanao, which both had links with Al-Qaeda.

The Al-Qaeda, even then, was operating under the direction of Baghdadi, which recently declared an Islamic State among Muslim militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Mendoza said that to counter the ISIS’ growing influence over Filipino Muslim militants in the country, the government should adjust its strategies and tactics to meet the challenges of preserving the country’s internal and external security.

Mendoza said that it’s high time that the PNP formulate a sub-system to cope up with the growing threat of terrorism as the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) recruits more militants in Mindanao.

He added that global volunteerism among young Muslim militants to the ISIS cause through the social media could create a “severe impact” if not addressed quickly.

Mendoza also recommended the strengthening of the country’s vast coastline to monitor the possible entry of  explosives and sophisticated weaponry by the jihadists out to sow terror in the country.

“Our borders should be strengthened by increasing funding and the tempo of counter-intelligence operations against the terrorists,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the ISIS was established in the country after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group agreed to join forces under the banner of the international terrorist group.

“The shift of allegiance was a contract or a religious obligation embodied in the Koran. It’s a doctrine enshrined in the Koran,” Mendoza said.

He also expressed fears that some rebel groups operating in Mindanao may take advantage of the ISIS phenomenon by conducting bombing and other violent activities to elicit foreign funding.

Mendoza added that the ISIS continues to recruit militants in Mindanao in exchange for money, adding that he also received reports that some Egyptians and Arabs were in Mindanao since 2012 to conduct military and training to build explosives among the recruits.

As this developed, Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Charles Jose confirmed that they issued a memo on March 20, 2014 on Filipino Muslims joining their fellow militants in the IS in trying to overthrow the Syrian government, a week after the DFA denied its existence.

Jose said there was indeed a confidential memo from the DFA to Malacanang, but insisted that they have yet to verify the report that two Filipinos were killed fighting with the Syrian rebels.

“It was a confidential memo from the DFA to the President, which I was not aware of at that time,” Jose said.

“We reported to the president that our embassy in Syria received a report from the Syrian government that two Filipinos were reportedly killed fighting for the anti-Syrain government opposition, but like i said earlier, this report remains unverified and unconfirmed up to this day,” Jose said.

He reiterated that the DFA recognizes the possibility that Filipinos from the South are joining and undergoing training to fight with Syrian rebels.

“According to the statement we issued yesterday, we are aware of the potential dangers  if there are indeed Filipinos going there to fight. They pose security threat in terms of the extremists view that they bring back and which they can spread here so that is one potential danger that we see,” he said.

On Monday, DFA secretary Albert del Rosario said that Philippine security and intelligence authorities have already started monitoring possible recruitment by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“Our security and intelligence authorities have commenced the monitoring of possible recruitment by ISIS and other foreign extremist groups in the Philippines,” he said.

Jose made the statement following the confirmation by Moro National Liberation Front spokesman Absalom Cerveza that Syrian militants had recruited and funded Filipino Muslim militants to wage war alongside Islamic State forces in Syria.

Another source said an ISIS recruit, known only as alias Malik, was involved in a bombing incident in General Santos City on Monday, which injured seven people.

But Del Rosario assured that his department is willing to extend assistance and support in terms of reaching out to other concerned agencies and helping to facilitate information sharing.

The foreign agency chief however said that its department would defer to the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other security agencies on operational matters.

“The DFA defers to them (PNP, AFp) on this matter. We reiterate that the Philippines condemns the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by ISIS,” del Rosario said.

 “As a responsible member of the international community, the Philippines will do its part in global efforts to thwart ISIS,” he added.

On Friday, a confidential 2-page-memo obtained from sources in Camp Crame headquarters of the Philippine National Police contained reports of possible recruitment by jihadist to Filipinos.

The same memo also said “100 Filipinos who traveled to Iran had undergone military training and were deployed to Syria”, and that there is an increasing number of terrorist groups operating in Malaysia, Indonesia, Xinjiang in China, Thailand, and in Mindanao.

But Jose admitted that it is difficult to track Filipinos going to the Middle East.

He said that the DFA is now working with other agencies including the Bureau of Immigration and Intelligence group to find ways on how to track them.

“In Iraq and Syria, we already have a total deployment ban for a long time. We don’t let Filipinos leave if that is their destination,” he said.

“[It’s] hard to monitor even for [the Bureau of] Immigration because the Filipinos can go to another country in the Middle East before travelling by land,” he said.

Jose, meanwhile, said the Philippines will not be deploying ground soldiers to the current United States-led international coalition to fight with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

But Jose said the government had assured the United States that the Philippines will support them in different ways other than sending Filipino soldiers to the conflict area.

“With regard to the international coalition that is being formed the Philippines being a responsible member of the international community  we will consider in what ways  we can contribute to this effort without necessarily sending ground troops to the area,” Jose said.

It remains unclear, though, which countries are on the list and the precise role they will play. Some of those reportedly participating are Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan.

The US had conducted more than 150 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, and is currently gathering information on the group’s camps in Syria, where White House shifted its focus from ousting President Bashar al-Assad to bringing to an end ISIS’ reign of terror.

Meanwhile, authorities in Davao have tightened security following the blast in General Santos City.

Davao City security forces inspected the city hall and held mobile patrols, with city police OIC Superintendent Marvin Pepino leading roving patrols, with task force members manning the checkpoints inspected vehicles, motorists and even pedestrians.

Aquino: France ‘reliable partner’ in modernizing PHL military defense

From AngMalaya (Sep 18): Aquino: France ‘reliable partner’ in modernizing PHL military defense

President Aquino arrived at France Wednesday at around 4pm Philippine time. The President was welcomed at Orly Airport and was given military honors.

Aquino had a meeting with France President François Hollande. During the meeting Philippine and France agreed in different partnership.

“President [Hollande] and I resolved to deepen the Philippines and France’s partnership in the political, security, economic, and cultural spheres. We witnessed the signing of various agreements that will facilitate meaningful dialogue and fruitful exchanges between our two countries,” Aquino stated.

“We have made significant strides as well towards updating our bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement. The Philippines is in the process of modernizing our armed forces and improving our defensive capability, and we believe that France will be a reliable partner in this regard,” President Aquino added.

“Mr. President, the solidarity that France has demonstrated will never be forgotten by a grateful Filipino nation,” Aquino told France President François Hollande.

In a joint statement, President of France and Philippines upheld the the rule of law in West Philippine Sea and the entire South China Ses. “They emphasized the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability in this part of the world.”

Army-NPA brief encounter leads to discovery of enemy camp in Igbaras hinterland

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): Army-NPA brief encounter leads to discovery of enemy camp in Igbaras hinterland

A brief encounter between army soldiers and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Igbaras, Iloilo has led to the discovery of the enemy camp in the hinterlands of the said municipality.

In last night's interview over Bombo Radyo station based here, Major Ray Tiongson, spokesman of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID), Philippine Army based in Camp Macario Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz, said the government troops stumbled on the enemy as an aftermath of a brief encounter with NPA rebels that transpired in Brgy. Igcabugao, Igbaras around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Army soldiers from the 83rd Inrfantry Battalion (83IB) based in Camp Monteclaro, Miag-ao, Iloilo was conducting an internal security operation in the hinterlands of Igbaras when it encountered the rebel insurgents.

Tiongson said the encounter lasted for five minutes that later saw the disorganized enemy who scampered at different direction as they withdrew towards the forested area avoiding further head-on clash with superior fire power government soldiers.

The government troopers suffered no casualty during the firefight with several injured on the part of the fleeing enemy as traces of bloodstains have been seen along their route of escape.

The pursuing government forces gave chase against the enemy until they stumbled on the rebel camp located at a secluded sitio in the hinterlands of Brgy. Igcabugao.

Tiongson said the rebel camp has an estimated area of around 700 square meters with makeshift facility that could accommodate 100 cadres as well as firing range.

The camp, he said, was believed to be the training ground of rebels bomb makers based on several recovered items like wirings and other related paraphernalia in making improvised explosive and signs of ground explosion activities.

MNLF vows peaceful coexistence in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): MNLF vows peaceful coexistence in Northern Mindanao

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Northern Mindanao has vowed to peacefully coexist with the people in the region, an MNLF official said Thursday.

Sammy Tagalog, head of the MNLF regional command in Northern Mindanao, Davao, and the Caraga Region, said that the local MNLF has no plan to sow terror in the region following the arrest of the MNLF lawyer Ely Pamatong.

Pamatong is the leader of USAFFE, a group tagged by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as behind the alleged bomb plot of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

Before his arrest in Manila last week, Pamatong was at the headquarters of the USA Freedom Fighters of the East (USAFFE) in Gusa, Cagayan De Oro City.

Tagalog said that MNLF presence at the USAFFE headquarters was only to respond to the request of Pamatong to secure the area.

“We are now living peacefully since we are engaged in livelihood which was granted by the government after the GRP and the MNLF signed a peace treaty during the Ramos administration in 1996,” Tagalog said.

The local police force is closely watching the MNLF and the followers of Pamatong after local residents complained that he and his men have been harassing them.

A resident claimed that Pamatong urged them to join the USAFFE or vacate the place where they are now staying.

Cops files charges vs militants in Davao mall protest during presidential visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): Cops files charges vs militants in Davao mall protest during presidential visit

The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) has filed charges against 15 members of militant groups who protested inside the SM Premier mall during the visit of President Benigno Aquino III in the city last September 8.

Among the respondents, only Sheena Duazo, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), was identified in the complaint lodged before City Prosecution Office (CPO) for violation of Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines or tumults and other disturbance of public order.

President Aquino was the keynote speaker during the Mindanao Membership Meeting and Launching of Mindanao Inclusive Agri-Business Program in the city on September 8.

As the President entered the SMX Convention Center, some 100 members of progressive groups chanted "Mindanao is not for sale!!; Philippine is not for sale!; No to dictators! as they called on President Aquino to resign.

Police authorities, security guards and mall staff, were caught by surprise of the protesters who were expected to hold pickets outside the mall. But they were able to breach security like normal mall goers and converged at the third floor of the mall where the event was held.

The progressive groups only stopped their activity after the mall management had talked to them.

For her part, Duazo said the filing of the case against them was a sort of repression of the people’s right to air grievances against the government.

In an interview aired over radio station 783 Radyo ni Juan, Duazo said they already consulted their lawyers about the matter and that they are only waiting for a copy of the complaint against them.

In a separate interview, Sta. Ana Police Station commander Supt. Royina Garma told 783 Radyo ni Juan, that they forwarded the case to the CPO upon orders of the higher-ups.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner for Mindanao Jose Mamoag, however expressed doubted that the case will prosper in court, saying “if it was not the mall management which filed the complaint…the police cannot file because there was no disturbance…the police have to study more…the case might just be dismissed.”

“Between the constitutional right to assembly, if there was no public, no damage to property, let it go,” he suggested.

5 NPA surrenderees presented to DILG in Sarangani Province

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): 5 NPA surrenderees presented to DILG in Sarangani Province

The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) on Thursday disclosed that five New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who recently surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion were presented to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sarangani Provincial Director Flor G. Limpin.

Capt. Ernest Carolina, chief of the 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs, said the surrenderees brought with them their firearms -- an AK-47 7.62mm assault rifle and an M16 5.56-mm assault rifle.

According to Carolina, the former rebels belong to the indigenous people of Sarangani -- one belonging to the B’laan tribe and four to the Kaulo tribe.

Three of the surrenderees were taught to take up arms by the armed group prior to the age of 18, according to their testimonies. In doing so, Carolina said the NPA has violated Republic Act 7610: Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, in forcing children from these indigenous communities take up arms and participate in armed conflicts which poses extreme hazard and threaten or endanger their survival and normal development as children.

Limpin and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development (PSWD) head Lizette Lopez will present the surrenderees to Representative Steve Chiongbian on Sept. 22 at the provincial capitol.

Meantime, the surrenderees will be undergoing Custodial Debriefing as well as Medical and Psycho-Social debriefing with concerned agencies as part of their reintegration to the community.

“The NPA are not there to help the indigenous people. They have been there for decades exploiting the indigenous people, making use of what they can, including their children,” said Major General Eduardo M. Año, commander of the Army’s 10th infantry Division under which the 73th Infantry Battalion operates.

“We welcome these surrenders very much, because the government’s program is to win the peace, through collaborative efforts in addressing the root causes of conflict in the countryside; but for those who refuse to lay down their arms and continue to exploit youngsters like these, we will go after them using the necessary force,” Año added.

Southern Luzon Command to deploy medical teams in Albay evacuation centers

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): Southern Luzon Command to deploy medical teams in Albay evacuation centers

The Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Thursday it is deploying its medical teams to treat Mayon volcano evacuees who may have gotten sick while staying at evacuation centers in Albay.

This was revealed by Southern Luzon Command chief Major Ricardo Visaya in a message to the Philippines News Agency.

"SOLCOM is now readying medical teams and relief goods to be sent to evacuation centers in Albay," he said, adding that around 20 evacuation centers have been activated to shelter the families relocated from the communities near the Mount Mayon danger zones.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, Visaya said that a total of 5,694 families or 22,336 persons were evacuated. This figure was broken down into:

Ligao, 422 families; Tabaco, 456; Guinobatan, 649;Camalig, 1,492; Daraga, 1,869; Malilipot, 722; and Sto. Domingo, 84.

Col. Raul Farnacio, 901st Infantry Brigade commander, earlier announced that checkpoints have been deployed in communities evacuated due to the imminent eruption of Mount Mayon.

In the same vein, troops were deployed to increase the effectiveness of this security measure, he said.

“This is to check and monitor those who would return to their homes. We put up checkpoints to ensure that they would not return,” he added.

Farnacio said the checkpoints were set up outside the six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone.

The 901st Infantry Brigade chief said that barangay tanods are helping them in manning the checkpoints.

"We want to prevent people from re-entering to check on their farms, gather wood, and hunt,” he added.

Farnacio said they have not encountered any problems so far except for some individuals trying to sneak back in.

Civilian accidentally killed during Army troops-rebels clash in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): Civilian accidentally killed during Army troops-rebels clash in Sorsogon

A 29-year-old farmer was killed after being hit by a stray bullet during an encounter between troopers from the 31st Infantry Battalion and New People's Army (NPA) fighters in Barangay San Jose, Bulusan, Sorsogon Thursday morning.

1st Lt. Clint Antipala, 903rd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, said the clash took place at around 6:45 a.m.He identified the fatality as Jestoni Garote, 29, married and a resident of Barangay San Jose.

Investigators are still determining which side fired the fatal bullet.

The clash lasted for 10 to 15 minutes, Antipala said.

No casualties were reported on the government side but several blood trails were seen, indicative that some of the rebels were wounded in the firefight.

Two backpacks containing "rally paraphernalia" were recovered from the encounter scene. Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

Antipala said that troopers from the 31st Infantry Battalion were conducting patrol operations in the wake of reports that the NPAs were forcing residents to join them in their protest actions this coming Sept. 21 when the encounter took place.

Sept. 21 marks the 42nd anniversary of Martial Law declaration in the country by former President Ferdinand Marcos.

PH won't send troops to join US-led coalition in fight vs Islamic State - DFA

From InterAksyon (Sep 18): PH won't send troops to join US-led coalition in fight vs Islamic State - DFA

The Philippines will not send soldiers to the United States-led international coalition being formed to fight the jihadist Islamic State that has struck terror with its videos of beheading of two American journalists and one British aid worker.

"With regard to the international coalition that is being formed, the Philippines, being a responsible member of the international community, will consider ways we can contribute to this effort without necessarily sending ground troops to the area," Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press conference Thursday.

This, even as 100 Muslim Filipinos have reportedly been recruited to IS and have gone to IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq for military training. Two Filipinos allegedly died fighting alongside IS fighters March this year.

Even before the fiasco over the Filipino peacekeepers for the United Nations in Golan Heights, the Philippines has already expressed the possibility that it would stop sending troops to international peacekeeping missions.

Following United States President Barack Obama’s call for allies and partners to fight the growing IS, some countries, notably Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Great Britain have expressed support for the creation of an armed international coalition similar to the one that fought the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Already, the US has conducted air strikes against IS positions in Iraq, with the Pentagon hinting at sending troops on the ground.

DFA confidential memo

On the "confidential memo" issued by the DFA on March 20 this, Jose said the report of two Filipinos dying alongside the IS fighters "remains unverified and unconfirmed up to this day."

According to memo, the Philippine embassy in Damascus received information from the Syrian government that two Filipinos were killed while fighting with the anti-government forces. 

Jose said the embassy was never able to confirm the report of the Syrian government and did not see the remains of the deceased Filipinos.

In these cases of intelligence issues, the DFA defers to the military, the DFA spokesman said, reiterating that the Philippines should be able to counter the "sophistication" of the IS recruitment process.

"We should be able to find ways to counter that. We'll find ways," he said.

Tracking the departure and arrival of Filipinos would be difficult, Jose admitted, but "we should be working with other agencies, including immigration and intelligence, to find how we can track and possibly plug this loophole."

Jose noted that Filipinos are not singled out for the IS recruitment.

News reports indicate that Americans, Britons, and other Westerners have been recruited into the jihadist group.

PNP-12 creates task force for GenSan explosion probe

From MindaNews (Sep 18): PNP-12 creates task force for GenSan explosion probe

The Police Regional Office 12 has created a special task force that will spearhead the investigation of the explosion of an improvised bomb near the main city hall building here on Tuesday night.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Thursday the task force will mainly focus on the determination of the motive and possible suspects in the incident, which happened three days after the culmination of the city’s 16th Tuna Festival.

The blast occurred past 7 p.m. Tuesday near the monument of national hero Jose P. Rizal at the Plaza Heneral Santos, which is just a few meters away from the main entrance of the city hall building.

Camba said he designated city police director, Senior Supt. Froilan Quidilla, to lead the special investigation task group, which will involve various local police units and the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan.

“This is to fast track the investigation of the case, especially in the determination of the exact motive as well as the identification of the suspects and filing of appropriate charges against them,” he told reporters.

As of Thursday morning, the PRO-12 has yet to release its official findings regarding the type of explosive that was used in the attack but the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit declared that it was an improvised bomb.

An official statement issued by the City Police Office, Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan and the city government late Tuesday initially declared that the explosion was possibly caused by a grenade supposedly due to the absence of shrapnel or fragments at the site.

But EOD and scene of the crime operatives found suspected bomb fragments after conducting another sweep of the blast site on Wednesday morning.

Camba said the task force’s investigation will take off from the results of the post-blast investigation and accounts from several witnesses.

On Wednesday, he said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group conducted a re-enactment of the incident with the help of several witnesses.

The police official said their investigators have initially come up with a computerized composite sketch of a person who was believed to have planted the explosive.

“We’re now checking if the explosive has signatures of certain groups. From that, we will try to establish the identities of those involved, whether they are ordinary criminals or extortionists, and their motives,” he said.

Camba clarified that prior to the incident, local intelligence units have not received any report or threat regarding a terror attack in the city.

But he confirmed that a number of businessmen in the city have been receiving extortion demands by way of a letter from an undisclosed group.

Among those who reportedly received the extortion demands, which ranged from P50,000 and above per month, were several construction firms, a fishing operator and a resort owner.

“We confirm these extortion activities and we’re looking at them as among the possible motives of the attack,” he said.

Meantime, the office of City Mayor Ronnel Rivera disclosed in a statement three of those injured in the blast are still confined at a private hospital here.

Initial reports placed the injured victims at nine but it said only eight were so far confirmed by local government personnel.

Rivera earlier said the city government will shoulder all the hospitalization expenses and other related needs of the victims.