Monday, November 24, 2014

MILF: 3rd Mobile District Teachers meet on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 25): 3rd Mobile District Teachers meet on BBL

Parang, Maguindanao- A very pleasant and healthy discussions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) between the speakers and participants took place during a meeting on November 21, 2014 at Sarmeinto West Elementary School, Parang, Maguindanao.

Supervisor Maliling G. Casan, led the 107 participants in their eagerness to be enlightened and updated on the contents of the basic law.

The activity was coordinated by Parang South District teachers Association President, Principal Tarhata B. Tarapas. The forum started with an invocation led by Ustadz Abdulmaguid Salik and followed by a roll-call of schools whose teachers attended the program.

“A brief summary on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the need to abolish it by replacing it with the new Bangsamoro Region is badly needed”. This was topic by Abu Asma, Information Director of Iranun Province. The BBL and the Basic Rights contained therein were discussed by Abu Asma.

Sheik Abdulhadie Gumander, an Islamic Scholar discussed about Islam. “Why it is called a Religion of PEACE?, he asked.  “If only people understand what Islam is all about, then there will be no problem as they can be solved on the basis on the Noble Qur’an and the Hadith (Practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon Him), yet it is being misunderstood”, said Sheik Gumander.

“The same is true with the BBL. Let us understand it well because the people who laboriously worked on it believed that it’s the answer to the problems affecting us in Mindanao.”  The BBL was crafted well and balanced, that no rights of people shall be trampled upon – just read the Draft BBL and understand its contents”, Sheik Gumander further said.

After the presentation, an open forum followed whereby the participants were given time to air their worries and other related concerns. With the facilitation of Ms. Christine L. Auditor, queries and doubts of participants were answered by the speakers to the satisfaction of the participants. They realized that all stakeholders will benefit from the BBL irrespective of tribes, religion, etc. They vowed to fully support the passage of the BBL in Congress.

Suspect in Zambo twin blast faces frustrated murder

From ABS-CBN (Nov 25): Suspect in Zambo twin blast faces frustrated murder

The Zamboanga City Police Office has filed a frustrated murder case against the alleged bomber in the Deluxe Massage and Videokebar Bar explosion along Tomas Claudio Street, this city last November 9.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, Zamboanga City police office public information head, identified the alleged bomber as Muamar Askalani alias Abu Rami.

Huesca said they are still verifying if this is the same person who acted as the spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf Group during the negotiation for the release of two German nationals last October.

Police said they came up with the name of the alleged bomber based on the testimonies of the employees of the establishment who saw the suspect inside the videoke bar minutes before the first explosion happened.

The second explosion happened just outside in the adjacent establishment in same area.
PO2 Franklin Ined, a member of Zamboanga City bomb squad, was injured in the second blast, causing damage to his eye.

PO2 Ined is still in the hospital until now after undergoing two medical operations to save his other eye.

Diego, the bomb sniffing dog being handled by PO2 Ined, was recognized by the local officials of Zamboanga City as a hero for saving the life of his handler.

Diego sustained minor injury after the explosion.

Based on the results of his medical examinations, Diego's internal organs were not affected in the blast but he was put to 2-3 weeks rest and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the police and military in Zamboanga City are still in heightened alert following the explosion in North Cotabato which left 2 persons dead and several others were hurt.

Huesca said they remained vigilant and alert, to thwart any possible sabotage and attacks especially in the vital installation of the city.

Six FA-50 commissioned in 2016, S-211 pilots to handle

From Ang Malaya (Nov 24): Six FA-50 commissioned in 2016, S-211 pilots to handle

Philippine Air Force formed a committee, composed of KAI and PAF officials, to screen possible pilots who will to train in South Korea next year for the FA-50 Fighting Eagle. According to PAF Commanding Officer Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, SIAI-Marchetti S-211 pilots will most likely be chosen for the training.

PAF earlier said that pilots with high jet flying time from the ranks of major and captain will be chosen to train to operate the Fighting Eagle. These pilots who will train in South Korea will eventually become trainors when they return.

Department of National Defense announced earlier this year that two out of twelve ordered FA-50s will be delivered September next year. DND added that in 2016 six Fighting Eagles are already commissioned.

FA-50 can load up to 4.5 tons of weapons and has a wide-range of armament system. It has a 20 mm three-barrel gun that can fire at extremely high rate internally installed.

It can be fitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder, a short-range air-to-air missile; AGM-65, an air-to-surface missile designed for close-air support missions; cluster bombs and rocket launchers.

The Fighting Eagle is equipped with Multimode Airborne Fire Control Radar system designed to accomplish air-to-air and airstrike missions.

M'lang mayor offers P100K for arrest of bombers

From the Philippine Star (Nov 25): M'lang mayor offers P100K for arrest of bombers

NORTH COTABATO - Officials on Tuesday offered a P100,000 cash reward in exchange for any information that may lead to the arrest of those behind Sunday’s bombing attack in M'lang town.

M'lang Mayor Joselito Pinol, chairman of the inter-agency municipal peace and order council (MPOC), said members of the town council gave him imprimatur to offer the amount to hasten the efforts of identifying the culprits for them to be prosecuted in court.

Three M'lang villagers were killed while 23 others were hurt in the incident.

Members of the MPOC had also passed a resolution supporting Pinol’s promise to shell out P100,000 cash to any informant that could provide information on the exact identities of the bombers and their whereabouts.

Police on high alert in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Nov 25): Police on high alert in North Cotabato


North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza (second from right) consoles relatives of the victims of the deadly bombing in M'lang town on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. John Unson

Police on Tuesday tightened security in the province's 17 towns and capital, Kidapawan City, to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s bombing in M'lang town that left three residents dead and 23 injured.

The bombing is the second in the province in just two weeks. A college student, Monique Mantawil, was killed while 15 others were injured in a powerful explosion that rocked Kabacan municipality early this month.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, chairperson of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, said she has directed the provincial police to enlist the help of local Muslim and Christian religious leaders and civil society organizations to help investigators identify those responsible for the deadly bombing in the town proper of M'lang, on Sunday night.

M'lang Mayor Joselito Pinol said there are witnesses now helping the municipal police investigate the incident.

One of the witnesses volunteered to help police cartographers make out how the two suspected bombers looked like. Initial police reports said two men on board a motorcycle left an improvied bomb on a bench near a billiard table inside a makeshift shelter near the municipal plaza.

Local authorities believe that the bomb was remotely detonated using a mobile phone.

The regional police office in General Santos City, which has jurisdiction over North Cotabato, dispatched on Monday morning a team of investigators to help identify the bombers.

Highly-placed Army intelligence officials said there is a possibility that the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is responsible for the bombing.

The sources said the attack was in retaliation to the military’s recent bombardment of BIFF positions at the border of Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Mendoza’s office has extended initial assistance to the families of the three fatalities in the M'lang bombing and to the injured victims now being treated in different hospitals.
Mendoza said the police also need to look into the possible connections of all the recent bombings in the province, which all happened on a Sunday.

Three worshipers were killed while four others were injured about two months ago when an unidentified man fired a 40-millimeter grenade projectile to a United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) chapel in the town proper of Pikit.

The bombing in Kabacan town two weeks ago was also pulled off on a Sunday.
Army intelligence units in North Cotabato are now helping the police investigate the Kabacan and M'lang bombings.

US troops’ heavy presence down south comes under fire

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 25): US troops’ heavy presence down south comes under fire

The Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives on Monday condemned the presence of  around 6,000 US troops in Mindanao, a figure that even surpasses current US military deployment in Iraq.

“While the Aquino administration harps about largely-imagined development in the human rights situation in the country, it  has allowed heavy foreign military deployment in Mindanao,” one of the group’s members, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said.

“The presence of thousands of US troops in Mindanao adds to the fact that majority of the Philippine Army’s forces are deployed in the area. This large-scale deployment bodes ill for the people of Mindanao, many of whom have already been internally displaced and lost jobs and loved ones due to the heavy militarization of the area,” Ridon said.

“Manilakbayan,” a protest caravan composed of people of Mindanao that journeyed to Manila, has  revealed that as many as 6,000 American soldiers  are stationed at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

Hundreds of people have joined the long journey from Mindanao to Manila to expose the worsening human rights situation in several provinces in Mindanao. Manilakbayan has documented multiple cases of human rights violations, and even the entry of military forces in schools.

A protest program was held Monday at Mendiola in Manila to denounce the intensified militarization of regions in Mindanao.

“Heavy deployment of combined US and Philippine forces in Mindanao has severely affected the lives of people living there, especially the indigenous peoples and their children. There are several reports of schools being turned into barracks, hamletting of entire communities, and hundreds of indigenous people driven away from their ancestral homes due to militarization,” Ridon said.

Catanduanes winning over insurgency

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 24): Catanduanes winning over insurgency

After almost two decades of battling communist insurgents, military and local authorities yesterday declared Catanduanes province as “conflict manageable and ready for further development.”

Major Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said Catanduanes used to be a happy and peaceful island until the mid-1990s when  the New People’s Army (NPA) came in, recruited and armed some 200 members, and then influenced around 100 barangays (villages) in the province.

Guzman said continuous efforts by the AFP to rid the province of insurgency proved successful as the NPA’s strength in Catanduanes is now down to 27. Also, all 100 barangays have been declared free from NPA influence as of the second quarter this year, he added.

Yesterday, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr. flew in to Catanduanes to witness the formal handover of the internal peace and security responsibilities to the provincial government.

A simple ceremony was held at the the provincial capitol in Virac where 9th Infantry Division (9ID) Commander Maj. Gen. Yerson E. Depayso and Catanduanes Governor Araceli B. Wong signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) declaring Catanduanes as “conflict manageable and ready for further development”.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya, Solcom commander; Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento; Bishop Manolo A. delos Santos D.D., of the Diocese of Virac; Senior Superintendent Adelio Benjamin G. Castillo, Police Provincial Office (PPO) director; and Vice Gov. Jose J. Teves, Jr. were present to witness the event.

Guzman recalled how the AFP won Catanduanes from the jaws of insurgency.

“Various Army units were deployed to carry out the campaign. In 2010, the newly organized 83rd Infantry Battalion (83rdIB) was deployed and assumed the internal peace and security responsibility,” he stated.

Catanduanes is the first of six provinces in Bicol to be declared as “Conflict Manageable and Ready for further Development.”

2 killed, scores wounded in Agusan clashes

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 24): 2 killed, scores wounded in Agusan clashes

An Army soldier and a suspected communist insurgent were killed while undetermined number of rebels was believed wounded when two separate gunbattles erupted between government security forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Agusan del Sur province, military reported Monday.

Killed in action was identified as certain Private First Class Garcia of the 9th Special Forces Company (9th SFC) while identity of the slain NPA rebel was not yet established as of press time.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, regional Army spokesman of the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, said troops of the 9th SFC also believed that they were able to inflict more casualties on the enemy after they saw bloodstains at the scene of the clashes and at the escape route taken by the rebels.

He said the encountered rebels were believed regular fighters of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NMRC).

“This is also part of the continuing wide and massive pursuit operation following the seizure of 2 NPA camps previously,” Martinez said.

According to him, Garcia was killed at the height of a heavy gunbattle that occurred at 11:45 a.m. the other day in Candi-isan area.

The encounter lasted for almost 35 minutes before the rebels hastily withdrew to the nearby mountainous area at Sitio Candi-isan, Barangay Mahagsay, San Luis town of Agusan del Sur.

“Our troops inflicted several casualties on the retreating NPA’s,” claimed Martinez, quoting a flash report from the field.

CPP/NDF: AFP suffers platoon-size casualties in 14-day clashes with NPA

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Nov 23): AFP suffers platoon-size casualties in 14-day clashes with NPA

Cesar Renerio
NDFP North Central Mindanao Chapter
The 4th ID has been launching massive and simultaneous military operations in the guerrilla fronts of North Central Mindanao Region since the second week of November using as pretext the operations to rescue Prisoners of War Pfc. Marnel Cinches and Pfc. Jerrel Yorong who have remained in NPA hands since August 22.

While awaiting the final agreement between the NDF-NCMR and Gov. Zubiri’s Local Crisis Management Committee regarding the date and place of the two prisoners’ release, eleven gunbattles between operating AFP troops and NPA units under the Eastern Misamis Oriental-North Eastern Bukidnon Subregional Command erupted in Minalwang, Claveria, Misamis Oriental from November 15 to November 19. Already failing to rescue the two soldiers, the AFP suffered even more casualties and caused the dislocation of the local populace, resulting in the evacuatin of 67 families comprising 251 individuals from sub-villages within Minalwang. On November 17, another NPA unit harassed AFP troops in Alipuaton, Salay and by November 20,
another harassment operation was launched by the NPA on AFP troops in Bantaawan, Gingoog City. Troops of the 12th and 10th Scout Ranger Company of the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, the 58th IB, 8th IB and DRC are currently conducting operations in this subregion.

Simultaneously, harassment operations launched by the NPA Mt. Kitanglad Subregional Command “welcomed” operating troops of the 8th IB, 23rd IB and 1st Special Forces Battalion. Six harassment operations were launched by various NPA units from November 12 to November 20 in villages within Libona, Malaybalay City and Valencia City, Bukidnon province. The fascist troopers fired artillery shells ten times, resulting in the evacuation of Lumad living in the forested areas of Libona.

At the Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Subregional Command, three harassment operations were launched against operating troops of the 26th IB, 36th IB, 28th IB and 29th IB on November 9 in Mahayahay, San Luis; November 21 in Marbon, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur; and November 22 in Mahagsay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Psywar operations continue in the form of Community Organizing for Peace and Development in 13 communities and villages in La Paz and San Luis in Agusan del Sur.

The AFP suffered platoon-size casualties while the NPA incurred only one casualty in a total of 22 firefights from November 9 to November 22.

The US-Aquino regime is hallucinating in its belief that through the brutal and counterrevolutionary Oplan Bayanihan, it could weaken the national-democratic revolution even before its term ends. The futility of relying on military power to suppress the people’s revolutionary struggle has been proven in Philippine history at the time of the US-Marcos dictatorship’s military rule.

Relying on its accumulated strength, on the local organs of political power it has established and in the widespread participation and support of the oppressed and exploited people, all the revolutionary forces in this region are determined to resist and frustrate Oplan Bayanihan.

CPP/NDF: Justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Nov 23): Justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!
NDFP National Executive Committee
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines joins the nation and the international community in commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, in which 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were brutally murdered in Maguindanao province.

The NDFP expresses its full support to local and international media organizations who have been calling for an end to the prevailing culture of impunity, which they say only emboldens those in power to commit atrocities as gruesome and brazen as the Ampatuan massacre.

Now dubbed as the most violent single election-related incident in the Philippines and the worst attack on the press in history, the Ampatuan massacre was carried out on orders of the powerful warlord Ampatuan clan. Facing multiple murder charges are at least 15 members of the family, including Andal Ampatuan Sr. and son Andal Ampatuan Jr., then mayor of Dato Unsay, who has been pinpointed by witnesses as being involved in shooting many of the victims himself.

Also charged are at least a hundred members of the local Philippine National Police (PNP), the paramilitary Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), and the Ampatuan’s private army. They were part of the armed contingent that abducted the convoy accompanying the wife of Buluan Vice Mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu and her family who were on their way to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of Ishmael Mangudadatu for governor of Maguindanao.

Five long years have passed since then, but the court proceedings have only dragged on under Aquino’s watch. In fact, recent developments surrounding the case are leading many to believe that the massacre, despite strong international outcry, would just be added to the long list of unsolved political killings in the Philippines.
The NDFP takes note of the following:
  • the attack last November 18 on two key witnesses, which resulted in the death of Dennis Sakal, the former driver of Ampatuan Sr., and the wounding of Sukarno Butch Saudagal, allegedly the former bagman of Ampatuan Jr. Sakal’s death brings to four the total number of witnesses killed so far;
  • the failure of the authorities to arrest 98 suspects who remain at-large;
  • the granting of bail petitions to the 41 accused policemen, after the court found that the evidence of guilt against them is “not strong”;
  • the promotion of Brig. Gen. Medardo Geslani, then head of the Army’s 601st Brigade, who turned down the victims’ request for security escort;
  • the reported bribe accepted by the prosecution team; and
  • the continued threats being received by the victims’ relatives and pressures on them to settle amicably with the Ampatuans.
The NDFP strongly condemns the Aquino regime for this state of affairs. Aquino’s lackadaisical attitude towards the case has allowed the Ampatuans, with their ill-gotten wealth remaining intact, to delay the court proceedings and, in turn, bastardize the country’s already dysfunctional judicial system.

Worse, his indifference to calls to stop extrajudicial killings in the Philippines has only emboldened those in power to have no qualms in eliminating their critics, not excluding journalists.

Once criticized for not knowing the correct number of victims in the Ampatuan massacre, Aquino has also got the goat of media practitioners when he dismissed media killings as not always work-related. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a total of 33 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since Aquino took office in 2010.

President Aquino’s lack of willingness to punish the Ampatuans for this crime has long been established just more than three years after the Ampatuan massacre, when at least 72 Ampatuan clan members managed to run as candidates in the May 2013 elections, nine of them under the banner of Aquino’s Liberal Party.

As the NDFP already pointed out in a previous statement on the Ampatuan massacre, the Ampatuans, just like the other warlord clans all over the country, continue to enjoy the favor and protection of those in MalacaƱang for delivering votes through massive fraud and brute force, as in the case of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose one-million winning margin in the 2004 presidential elections was a product of the Ampatuans’ electoral hocus-pocus in Maguindanao.

Nothing has changed under Aquino who, just like his predecessors, has only entrenched the politics of warlordism and patronage in the Philippines by way of bribing these clans via the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), both of which were recently declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, aside from arming the private armies maintained by warlord clans.

It is in view of all this that the NDFP reiterates its call that those behind the Ampatuan massacre are finally brought to justice.

More villagers to flee as rescue operations go on

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Nov 23): More villagers to flee as rescue operations go on

RESCUE operations conducted by the military in Northern Mindanao to free captive soldiers violate the rights of the indigenous people, as "it forces the lumads out of their ancestral domain, threatening their livelihood and existence."

Roger Plana, secretary-general of the lumad group Kalumbay, said they condemn the ongoing rescue efforts of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) due to the displacement of more than three hundred villagers.

“We condemn the rescue operations. Our brothers and sisters have been forced to flee from their homes, their sons and daughters wail as explosions from the army’s cannons are getting nearer to their communities,” Plana said, adding that most of the displaced are women and children.

He said most of the evacuees were members of the Higaonon tribe that used to reside peacefully in the sitios (neighborhoods) of Lakbangan, Kalhaan, Impadiding in Barangay Minalwang, Claveria town in Misamis Oriental.

“If the military operations will continue, we are certain that more women and children in the lumad communities will be displaced,” Plana said, adding that it could balloon to thousands in a few months if this would go on.

He said the affected communities got no choice but to flee from their homes, their farms and livestock.

Plana added the displaced villagers are now having a hard time living in the evacuation site.

Rights violations

He said the months of October to December are harvest season for the lumads, and if the military operations will continue, they will cause a devastating effect to their food production.

“This operation is a violation to the rights of the indigenous peoples as stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” Plana added.

In the website of the United Nations, it is stated in the article 30 of the UNDRIP that “military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned.”

It added that “the state shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.”

LGUs, religious no power to negotiate

In a news report published recently in Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, Major General Oscar Lactao, 4ID’s commanding general, said the goal of the military in conducting its combat operations is to rescue Privates First Class Marnel Clinches and Jerrel Yorong who were captured by the guerrilla fighters last August 22 in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

Lactao said the military could not declare a suspension of military operation (Somo) to ensure a smooth turnover of the captured soldiers because it is a political decision.

He added the civilians, the local government units, and the religious leaders have no power to negotiate for cessation of hostilities between the military and the NPA.

In the same article, Lactao promised the military will do its best to locate and rescue the captives without collateral damage -- sparing civilians while targeting armed rebels.

Engaging rebels in outlying areas

In a separate report, acting 4ID spokesman First Lieutenant Patrick Martinez said to avoid hitting the residents, the government troops were instructed to engage the insurgents in the outlying areas far away from the residences.

Martinez added the NPA could also be held liable if civilians are hurt from the landmines that the rebels have planted all over the place intended for the military.

He said the loud booming noises the villagers heard were not from the artillery shelling by the government troops but from the exploding landmines.

Request for Somo

Richard Colao, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR), said National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he is amenable to the Somo declaration.

Colao said if the military implemented the Somo, the two captives could have been released a long time ago.

He added the casualties and the displacement of lumad communities could not have happened if the military implemented the Somo for 10 days to facilitate the smooth turnover of the captured soldiers.

In an recent article published in Ang Bayan, the official publication of the New People’s Army under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NPA), it was reported that Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, wrote a letter to President Benigno Aquino III and Gazmin, urging them to declare the Somo.

Another Sun.Star article cited a statement from Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, head of the local crisis committee that is negotiating for the release of Cinches and Yorong, saying that the NPA identified the areas that would be covered by the Somo as San Fernando, Cabanglasan, Malaybalay City, Impasug-ong, Manolo Fortich and Malitbog in Bukidnon.

In Misamis Oriental, the areas that will be covered in the temporary ceasefire would be Balingasag, Claveria and Gingoog City, the report added.

MILF refuses land transfer to Zambo

From the Business World (Nov 23): MILF refuses land transfer to Zambo

THE MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is opposing the handover of the Cabatangan Government Complex from the custody of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Zamboanga City government.
On Sunday, the MILF opposed the transfer of ownership of 96-hectare compound, citing that the property should become a part of the proposed Bangsamoro region as stated in the peace agreement the group has inked with the national government.
“Being the prospective lead entity once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is established in 2015, the MILF is opposed to this sale, because all the assets and properties of the ARMM will eventually be transferred to the BTA, as provided for in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB),” the MILF said in an editorial posted on its Web site Luwaran.

The MILF also scored Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and Zamboanga Rep. Celso L. Lobregat for wanting to start the process of transferring the ownership immediately.
“The city officials, with one or two expressing strong reservations, want to buy the property up to the extent of threatening to file a case of mandamus to force the national government to agree to the sale,” the MILF also said.

The Cabatangan complex is located inside the Cabatangan Village in Zamboanga City, which has been a place of a major armed conflict between government and rebel forces in the past.

In 2001, the complex was seized by former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to protest the ouster of its Chairman Nur Misuari as head of the ARMM during the time of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Philippine military then conducted air strikes on the area before agreeing to an agreement with the MNLF that ended the conflict.

The complex currently houses several government offices which include the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission as well as other government regional offices.

Officials condemn Mlang blasts during Mindanao Week of Peace

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): Officials condemn Mlang blasts during Mindanao Week of Peace

Fatalities of the Mlang bombing. Photo by Dennis Arcon

Officials of the Provincial Government of North Cotabato condemned the bombing on Sunday night that took the lives of three students and wounded 24 others at the town of Mlang, even as Provincial Governor Emmylou Mendoza said she remains hopeful that justice will be served and the perpetrators caught to answer for the crime.

The blast in Mlang comes shortly after a separate incident in Kabacan, at a footbridge where a college student died and 17 others were wounded.

Governor Mendoza took pains to point out that the fatalities were innocent students and non-combatants or players in the armed conflict that has been brewing in the region.

Many officials from Mindanao sent their messages of sympathy and condolences to the families of the students who died in the violent incidents, including Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman who remarked that the violence comes during the commemoration of Mindanao Week of Peace, whose theme is "We Pray for Long-lasting Peace in Mindanao, Give, Share, Live and Proclaim Peace."

Monday's program was presided over by ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Lucman, who echoed the hope that all the advocacies for peace and development will be marked by "solidarity" by all stakeholders in Mindanao.

Included in the program of activities is a kite-flying special event to promote the KITES For Peace advocacy, which will see an estimated 13,000 elementary school pupils taking part in an attempt to establish a new Guinness World kite-flying record.

CIDG nabs suspected BIFF member tagged in ambush-slay of 2 soldiers

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): CIDG nabs suspected BIFF member tagged in ambush-slay of 2 soldiers

BIFF spokesman Abu Misri is seen in file photo with some followers. A suspected BIFF member was collared last weekend by the CIDG-Central Mindanao office, and faces charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms in connection with last October's ambush-killing of two soldiers. AFP FILE PHOTO

The Central Mindanao unit of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) arrested at the weekend a suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tagged in the ambush-killing of two soldiers in October this year in Maguindanao.

Detectives of the CIDG Central Mindanao under Police Supt. Cholijun Caduyac, together with the Army's 45th Infantry Battalion, in Barangay Timbangan, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao collared Zainudin Kawilan, AKA Indal and Zai.

According to Police Director Benjamin B. Magalong, CIDG chief, Kawilan was caught in possession of a fragmentation grenade, a caliber .45 pistol, shotgun ammunition, 60 mm mortar ammunition and a backpack with assorted wires.

He is a known BIFF member and was allegedly one of the assailants in the ambush-killing of two soldiers in October 2014, Magalong said.

Kawilan is under the custody of the CIDG Central Mindanao office, and will be facing charges for murder and violations of the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition (RA 10591), and Illegal Possession of Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives (RA 9516).

5 Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in clash with gov't forces in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): 5 Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in clash with gov't forces in Basilan

Reuters file photo of Abu Sayyaf members on patrol

At least five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed during a firefight with government troops before noon Monday in Sumisip, Basilan, according to Capt. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command.

She said the firefight happened at 11:10 a.m. after operating troops with some members of the Civilian Volunteers Organization stumbled into the bandits' camp.

After the firefight, the bandits scampered to different directions and left behind the fatalities.

Muyuela said the captured camp had 10 nipa huts with fortified trenches and foxholes.

A homemade shotgun with two ammunitions, 40-millimeter high explosive devise ammunition, solar charger, wet cell battery, and subversive documents were found in the ASG camp.

"The camp can accommidate more than 50 people. No reported casualty on government side," Muyuela said.

US Defense Secretary Hagel resigns

From InterAksyon (Nov 25): US Defense Secretary Hagel resigns

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. AFP FILE PHOTO

United States President Barack Obama on Monday announced the resignation of Chuck Hagel as the country's defense secretary, making the first change to his cabinet after the Democrats' heavy losses in both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections early this month.

During a statement delivered at the White House, Obama said Hagel concluded that now was an "appropriate time for him to complete his service."

The president also praised Hagel as an "exemplary defense secretary," commending Hagel for his "steady hand" through a period of transition for the US military.

Hagel, a 68-year-old Republican who took office in February 2013, said in a statement following Obama's announcement that he would stay on the job until his successor is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

Analysts reckon that Obama's decision on Hagel's removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government's response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Slain Army major helped negotiate for release of kidnapped German couple

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): Slain Army major helped negotiate for release of kidnapped German couple

An Army major who was among three soldiers slain last week in what the military called was a robbery incident on the Maguindanao-North Cotabato national highway helped negotiate for the release of the kidnapped German couple in Sulu, a senior military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity told

Until now the military has refused to disclose the name of the slain officer as well as those of his two security aides. But in an earlier article identifed the officer as Maj. Gerald Finsona.

Reportedly, Finsona and his men were travelling from General Santos City when they were killed at around 2 p.m. November 17 along the national highway in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

According to an incident report given by Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, the time of the incident was 12:30 p.m.

"The victims on board a civilian pick-up truck [were] flagged down by a lawless armed group belonging to the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). Without any provocation, the victims were shot at close range [and] divested of their valuables. Responding elements of 40 IB (Infantry Battalion) brought the victims to Midsayap Community Hospital in North Cotabato but all were declared DOA (dead on arrival)," Hermoso said.

"Their identities were later confirmed as members of Hqs (Headquarters), Phil. Army (1 officer, 2 enlisted personnel). Their names are withheld pending notification of next of kin. PNP (Philippine National Police) initial investigation disclosed that the motive is robbery," he added.

Other sources said Finsona was a product of the Officer Preparatory School (OPS) and a member of the Scout Ranger.

"Finsona had just come from Basilan and dropped by General Santos City to pick up his two aides and then travelled back to headquarters when they met along the national highway an 'AA' (Asset, Asset) and other men who turned out to be the gunmen. We don't know what went wrong between the officer and his AA why the latter had to kill him, dinamay na rin yung dalawa pang sundalo (the two other soldiers were also killed in the process)," a second source said.

He confirmed the first source's claim that Finsona helped negotiate with "Basilan-based contacts" for the release of 71-year-old physician Estefan Victor Okenek and his partner, 55-year-old Henrike Dielen.

The German couple was released last October in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) allegedly in exchange for P250 million in ransom money which the ASG confirmed but the military strongly denied. The local government of Sulu later slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines led by Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. for keeping secret the release of the two hostages from the Crisis Management Committee (CMC). Catapang later issued an apology.

After the killing of Finsona ang his two men, BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama confirmed in a report by that his men were behind the incident.

The military learned later that Finsona's "AA" was a former member of the BIFF.

"I can only speculate. Siguro gusto nang bumalik sa BIFF itong AA ni Finsona kaya bilang kapalit ng kanyang pagbalik, to show his sincerity, ay patayin niya si Finsona (Maybe this asset wanted to return to the BIFF and as proof of his sincerity was required to kill Finsona)," the second source said.

ON U.S. CALL TO STOP ACTION | Airstrip building in disputed waters 'justifiable' - Chinese general

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): ON U.S. CALL TO STOP ACTION | Airstrip building in disputed waters 'justifiable' - Chinese general

Beijing on Monday fired back at US criticism of an artificial island project in the disputed South China Sea that could reportedly include an airstrip, with a top general defending it as "justifiable".

People's Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan told the state-run Global Times newspaper that Beijing was building infrastructure on the reef and the US should stay out of the issue.

"The US is obviously biased considering that the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam have already set up military facilities," Luo was quoted as saying.

"China is likely to withstand the international pressure and continue the construction, since it is completely legitimate and justifiable," he added.

A report last week by IHS Jane's Defense revealed new details of a vast land reclamation project China is undertaking on Fiery Cross Reef, known as Yongshu in China.

It is part of the Spratly Islands, which the Chinese call Nansha.

Beijing claims nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have their own claims, several of them also building structures on reefs or occupying islands.

According to the IHS Jane's Defence report the artificial island is a huge 3,000 meters (1,000 feet) long and 200-300 meters wide, one of several reclamation projects being pursued by China in the region but apparently the first that could accommodate an airstrip.

A harbor also has been dug out on the east side of the reef that appears large enough for tankers and naval warships, it said.

Days after the report, the US called on China to halt the project and for other governments to cease similar efforts.

"We urge China to stop its land reclamation program, and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities," US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool said.

But the Global Times contended Monday that China was building on the reef "mainly to improve the living standards of the reef-stationed soldiers".

The US, which is "not a claimant" in the South China Sea, has been acting "selfishly" in the region, the paper added in an editorial.

"China's construction on the Yongshu Reef will not be affected by US words," the Global Times wrote.

It added: "The Yongshu Reef is becoming a big island, which shows China's prominent construction capabilities."

China defies US call to stop island project in South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Nov 25): China defies US call to stop island project in South China Sea

China on Monday hit back at "irresponsible remarks" from the United States which has called on Beijing to stop a land reclamation project in the disputed South China Sea that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip.

China lays claim to almost all of the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits and one of Asia's biggest possible flashpoints. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

The comments by China's foreign ministry signal that Beijing would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension.

Media reports over the weekend cited US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool as urging China "to stop its land reclamation program and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities".

China reiterated that Beijing had "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, where most of the overlapping claims lie, especially between China and the Philippines.

"I think anyone in the outside world has no right to make irresponsible remarks on China-related activities," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"The construction-related activities undertaken by China on the islands are primarily to improve the living conditions of personnel stationed there and to better fulfill our international responsibilities and obligations in terms of search and rescue and the provision of public services."

A leading defense publication said on Friday that satellite images showed China was building an island on a reef in the Spratly Islands large enough to accommodate what could be its first offshore airstrip in the South China Sea.

The construction has stoked concern that China may be converting disputed territory in the archipelago into military installations.

"Vietnam and the Philippines should get used to China's island-construction in the South China Sea," said the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, in an editorial.

"We hope that the US can also get used to China's more frequent presence in the seas."

A Philippine court on Monday fined nine Chinese fishermen $102,000 each for poaching after they were caught with hundreds of sea turtles in a disputed shoal in the Spratlys.

DFA checking Chinese construction in Philippine-claimed reef

From InterAksyon (Nov 24): DFA checking Chinese construction in Philippine-claimed reef


File photo of the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), released June 12, 2014.

The Philippine government is verifying reports that China’s construction on a Philippine-claimed reef in the disputed South China Sea is nearly completed.

Reports said Fiery Cross Reef, or Kagitingan Reef in Filipino, has been transformed by China into an artificial island equipped with a landing strip.

“We have to validate that,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

He said the Philippines has no latest information on the extent of construction in the area.

“We believe it is ongoing,” Del Rosario said.

Philippine officials maintained Kagitingan, which is 257 nautical miles off the nearest point in the Philippine province of Palawan, is part of a cluster of islands, shoals, islets and reefs facing the South China Sea that is called Kalayaan Island Group.

China insists ownership to nearly the entire waters and has ignored calls from the Philippines to stop its ongoing reclamation activity.

In response to Chinese actions, DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippines will push for the full and effective implementation of a non-aggression pact in the South China Sea that China signed with Southeast Asian nations in 2002 and for the early conclusion of a code of conduct among claimants.

Troops kill 5 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan clash

From MindaNews (Nov 24): Troops kill 5 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan clash

Five suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed as government forces overran a bandit camp following a clash in Basilan province Sunday, a military official announced Monday.

Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista, 104th Infantry Brigade commander, said the troops clashed with a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits around 7:50 a.m. in Barangay Baiwas, Sumisip, Basilan.

Bautista said the clash resulted to the death of five Abu Sayyaf brigands.
He said no one was either killed or wounded on the government side.

He said a clearing operation in coordination with the militia forces followed after the clash leading to the capture of the bandit camp at the clash site.

Bautista said the camp has 10 nipa huts with fortified trenches and foxholes that could accommodate around 50 people.

He said the troops also recovered from the camp a solar charger, wet cell battery, a shotgun with two ammunition, a 40-millimeter high explosive devise ammunition and subversive documents.

Troops kill 2 Sayyaf, capture rebel camp in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 24): Troops kill 2 Sayyaf, capture rebel camp in Basilan province

Government troops seized an Abu Sayyaf camp following a firefight in the restive southern Philippine province of Basilan that left at least 2 rebels dead, officials said Monday.

Captain Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said members of the 64th Infantry Battalion headed by Lieutenant Michael Ignar engaged the rebels in the village of Baiwas in Sumisip town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Suelto said the rebels, under Katatuh Balaman, managed to break into smaller groups and escaped the military operations. “At least two Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in the fighting, but the operation against them is still going on,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

But the Western Mindanao Command claimed 5 Abu Sayyaf gunmen were reported killed in Basilan.

He said there were no reports of military casualties in the weekend clash. He said troops also recovered a shotgun, one 40 millimeter grenade, one solar panel, one battery and other documents about the Abu Sayyaf.

He said soldiers also discovered ten thatched houses which can accommodate at least 50 people inside the rebel camp which was surrounded with trenches.

Suelto said civilians in the village may also be in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf. “The influx of civilians coming in and out, to and from the encounter site is an indication that these people might be legitimate members and sympathizers or supporters of the Abu Sayyaf who intend to extract information (on the military operation.),” he said.

There was no immediate statement either from the village leaders or town officials about the presence of the Abu Sayyaf camp in the area.

Authorities tagged the Abu Sayyaf as behind the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the southern Philippines.

Notorious bandit killed, 4 others captured in Zamboanga clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 24): Notorious bandit killed, 4 others captured in Zamboanga clash

Officials said soldiers and policemen also recovered two rifles, a pistol, a motorboat and a motorcycle being used by the gang in their criminal activities in the province.

Captain Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said the operation was jointly launched by the 6th Special Forces Battalion, including government militias headed by Sergeant Michael Reyes, and a team of local police under Senior Inspector Chamer Lacay and Inspector Roex Quirez.

He said troops raided the village of Santo Nino in an effort to arrest the gang, but the gunmen opened fire on security forces sparking a 10-minuted firefight that killed the 29-year old Abdul-aziz Alhabshi. 

Three of those captured have been identified as Jambal Tarawi, who is one of the gang’s leader; Bernie Sahak, Alcif Tanjilu. They were implicated by authorities in the series of robbery and killings in the province.

Another gang leader, Danny Mohammad, who is facing a string of criminal charges, is still being hunted down by the police and military.

Brigadier General Gerardo Barrientos, the regional army commander, praised the soldiers and policemen for the capture of the notorious gang members. He ordered troops to continue operations against lawless elements and to stay on alert following the wave of bombings in Mindanao.

Army sends new artillery battalion to Zamboanga, ARMM

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 24): Army sends new artillery battalion to Zamboanga, ARMM


Members of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Cabansay.

The Philippine Army has sent an artillery unit in Mindanao to support ground troops in fighting rebels in various fronts in the restive southern region, officials said Monday.

Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Army Artillery Regiment based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province in central Luzon, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that the newly-activated 8th Field Artillery Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Cabansay left on November 23 and arrived here for deployment in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, all in the Muslim autonomous region.

She said Brigadier General Leandro Loyao III, commander of the Army Artillery Regiment, designated Cabansay, a seasoned and well-decorated artillery officer who fought Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Mindanao from 1996 to 2003.

“As our military leadership puts their trust and confidence to the Army Artillery, I also put my trust on you, Jeff and your men, because it takes not only skills, but also the experience to help our infantrymen on the ground as they fight in order to secure the civilian communities and eventually win the peace,” Loyao told Cabansay before heading to Mindanao.

Loyao told Cabansay to continually train and enhance skills of his artillery personnel if there is no operations in Mindanao, saying, “your mission there is very critical and any miscalculated action is unaccepted,” and reminded the artillery battalion to always uphold their dignity as soldiers and maintain their discipline and always give utmost respect to the people and its culture in the area.

Manuel said the artillery (105 mm howitzer) battalion was activated on October 16 in order to provide command and control over the three batteries currently deployed in Basilan and Sulu  previously under 7th Field Artillery (155 mm howitzer) Battalion.

Troops capture rebel who killed 2 soldiers in Cotabato hospital

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 25): Troops capture rebel who killed 2 soldiers in Cotabato hospital

Policemen, backed by government soldiers, captured a rebel tagged as behind the killing of two infantrymen in Cotabato City in southern Philippines, officials said on Monday.

Officials said Zainudin Kawilan was captured after security forces raided his hideout in the remote village of Timbangan in Maguindanao’s Shariff Aguak town.

Troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion headed by Lt. Col. Romeo Bautista also recovered a shot gun, a 60 millimeter mortar bomb and a fragmentation grenade from Kawilan’s hideout.

Officials said Kawilan is a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters under Sukarno Sapal and has been tagged as the killer of two soldiers who were fatally shot while guarding the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center on October 22.

The soldiers were shot by Kawilan who pretended to visit a patient at the hospital. Troops tracked down Kawilan in the village after civilians tipped off authorities about his presence in the area.