Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bukidnon blast, a BIFF test mission?

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 11): Bukidnon blast, a BIFF test mission?

Muslim rebels who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group are suspected of carrying out a bus bombing that claimed 10 lives (not 11 as earlier reported) Tuesday.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a military spokesman for the region, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a band of a few hundred guerrillas operating in the troubled southern island of Mindanao, are believed to have staged Tuesday’s attack which left 42 persons wounded.

Six of those killed – three male and three female – were students of the Central Mindanao University (CMU).

The BIFF denied involvement.

“Bombing civilians would not benefit us. The (military) is fabricating stories again to malign us,” BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said.

In a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, Abu Misry said “Hindi gawain ng BIFF and magbomba ng bus na may sibilyan. (The BIFF does not bomb a passenger bus with civilians on board),” as he denied the charge.

A young passenger told probers he saw a man wearing a jacket and cap leave a bag inside the bus.

The bus, which came from Wao, Lanao Del Sur, was headed for Cagayan De Oro City when the blast occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday a few meters away from the gate of the CMU.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the explosive was placed in the bus’ overhead cabin which explains why most of the victims suffered head wounds.


Balagtey said the explosive that ripped the bus was similar to the one used in a November attack on another bus owned by the Rural Transit Mindanao Incorporated (RTMI) which the BIFF is also believed to have orchestrated.

“The bomb/IED is made of an 81 mm mortar round (that was) cellphone-activated. The same bomb signature with the IED explosion that happened last November,” Balagtey said in an SMS message to journalists.

But while Balagtey did not name a particular suspect, Brig. Gen. Alexander Balutan, the deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command identified one Garnet Lintang, a BIFF commander operating in Central Mindanao to be behind the bombing incident.

According to Balutan, the  BIFF was conducting a test mission for their new graduates.

A spokeswoman for President Aquino condemned the bombing.

“We condemn the violent act that resulted in the loss of lives,” said Abigail Valte.
Valte did not say who the president’s office believed was responsible although she said authorities were following undisclosed leads.

It was the latest attack on the bus company which operates in Mindanao, where Muslim rebels and other armed groups are active.


Aside from the November bombing, 10 people were killed when a bomb exploded aboard a bus belonging to the company in 2010. That incident was blamed on an extortion scheme linked to Muslim extremists.

The BIFF split from the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in 2008.

It opposes the peace deal between the 10,000-strong MILF and the government signed in March, and vows to keep fighting for a separate Islamic state in the south of the largely-Christian nation.

In August the BIFF uploaded clips on YouTube showing one of its leaders pledging support for the Islamic State organization, the brutal jihadist group that has seized a large swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said it was likely that the BIFF carried out the latest bombing.

“The BIFF is fully engaged in offensive military operations. They are heightening their military activities right now, even their bombing operations,” he told AFP.

“Their bombing activities are commonly mixed with their criminal activities (such as extortion).”


A teacher-applicant who was on board the ill-fated bus said a bunch of documents stuffed in her bag which she placed on her lap covering the front part of her body saved her from imminent death.

She said all passengers around her died in the explosion.

Inside her bag, a two-inch long shrapnel was recovered among her things.

Police identified the victims killed in the bus explosion as Kim Valiente, 17, from Malaybalay City; Anita Santillan, 54 of Dologon, Maramag; Catherine Villahermosa; Johnrey Valdesco; John Bernard Cuhanap; Jonathan Balida; Marielle Achacoso, 17 from Kalasungay, Malaybalay City; Niezel Dee Gonzaga, 22 from Hagkol, Valencia City;  and Michael Buctos.

BIFF tagged in Bukidnon bus bombing

From the Daily Tribune (Dec11): BIFF tagged in Bukidnon bus bombing

Terrorists, linked to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were tagged as culprits in Tuesday bombing of a passenger bus in Bukidnon that killed 10 people and wounded 31 others.

An intelligence source, who asked not to be identified, tagged the “students” of Basit Usman led by a certain Dawtin Gendang as responsible for the bombing of a Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) in Maramag town at around 5:45 p.m.

The source noted the signature of the improvised explosive device (IED) used in the bus bombing is similar to those traced to Usman, a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) trained bomb expert tagged in string of explosions in various parts of Mindanao.

“Findings state that the bomb/IED is made of 81mm mortar round, cellular phone activated which points to the group of certain Dawtin Gendang of BIFF together with newly graduates of BIFF as their test mission,” said the official.

“Same bomb signature with the IED explosion which happened in the same province,” he said, apparently referring to a Nov. 6 bombing of another RTMI bus also in Maramag that wounded four people.

Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, also tagged the BIFF as a possible suspect in the latest bombing.

“Possible suspect is the BIFF. The signature of the bomb is identified with the group,” Baladad said.

The bus, with body number 2640, was traveling on its way to Cagayan de Oro from Wao, Lanao del Sur, when the explosion occurred, just a few meters away from the gate of the Central Mindanao State University.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesman of the Army’s 4thInfantry Division, said that based on the initial investigation, the homemade bomb was placed in the bus’ overhead cabin, and it was the reason most of the victims suffered head wounds.

While the military believed that the bombing was carried out by the BIFF, it was not also discounting the possibility that it could have been made out of the extortion activities by other groups on the management of the bus company.

Baladad said RTMI is the same transportation company which experienced extort tries from criminal groups in the past, including the Al Khobar group.

He said the government is currently creating an inter-agency unit, whose task is to prevent further bombings in Mindanao.

For his part, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin condemned the attack as a barbaric act as he vowed the military and police will get to the bottom of it.

“The DND through the AFP is in full support and cooperation with the PNP to get to the bottom of this barbaric act,” said Gazmin.

“We also ask the help and cooperation of our fellow Filipinos in providing related information which may lead to the identification and arrest of the perpetrators that we may bring them to justice,” he added.

Hike in burial benefits for war vets OKd

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 9): Hike in burial benefits for war vets OKd
President Aquino has doubled to P20,000 the government’s burial assistance to war veterans, but they say the amount was not even enough to buy a cemetery plot.

Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), said the veterans would start receiving the burial assistance on Dec. 12, following the President’s signing of Republic Act No. 10649 last month.

While they welcome the increase, the veterans and their relatives say P20,000 could not cover the price of a burial plot, estimated at P30,000 to P60,000.

Carolina said the PVAO would reimburse the claim as long as this was filed two years from the death of a veteran.

Congress last increased the benefits of veterans in April 1994.

War veterans are pushing for the passage of bills that seek to provide them additional pension.

House Bill No. 2367 seeks to increase to P20,000 monthly the old age pension of veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, who are not receiving pension from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. On the other hand, Senate Bill No. 638 recommends an amount of P6,000 monthly, rising yearly until it reaches P10,000.

Also pending in Congress are HB 2511, which provides immediate aid to the family of a soldier killed in line of duty, and HB 2225 and SB 830, which establishes more hospitals for war veterans.

What should US policy be in the South China Sea?

From the East Asia Forum (Dec 9): What should US policy be in the South China Sea? (by Michael McDevitt, CNA)

The South China Sea is not the central strategic element in the overall US–China relationship. It was clearly not a centerpiece of the November 2014 Obama–Xi summit in Beijing. Climate change, North Korea, Iran, Taiwan, trade, intellectual property theft and cyber security are all more important bilateral issues. But, since 2012 China has been taking a more assertive stance towards territorial disputes in the South China Sea — raising significant policy questions for the United States.

A printing worker holds a new officially approved map of China that includes the islands and maritime area that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, at a factory in south China's Hunan province on 27 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

China has controlled all of the Paracel Islands since 1974 when it forcefully ejected South Vietnamese forces. Despite Vietnam’s continuing claim to sovereignty, China is unlikely to ever leave. China also effectively resolved the dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in 2012 when it established control over the shoal. Again, it is unlikely to relinquish it. This means that the Spratly Islands (with overlapping claims from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei) are the only remaining disputed area in the South China Sea not completely under the physical control of China.

Washington takes no position on sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, but it does oppose states engaging in destabilising behaviour in pursuit of sovereignty claims.

The current US policy towards the South China Sea rests on the most important US interest — freedom of navigation. US policy exhorts all parties to follow the rules of international law as the surest way to achieve stability. It also explicitly defines how Washington would like conflicts to be solved (through peaceful negotiations) and includes hard-power initiatives aimed at redressing some of the power imbalances between the Philippines, Vietnam and China. US policy further incorporates an element of deterrence by not ignoring America’s security alliance with the Philippines as well as providing access for US naval and air forces in Singapore and the Philippines.

Washington’s public rhetoric has, over time, become far more specific and less diplomatic. It now specifically calls China’s actions destabilising and bullying. The US has also become more specific in its commentary regarding the rules governing sovereignty disputes. The US has especially criticised the most destabilising aspect of the disputes in the South China Sea: China’s nine-dash line.

Unfortunately, China has largely ignored US exhortations to follow the rules, to stop pushing other claimants around and to seek third-party arbitration to resolve claims. Beijing apparently believes that national interest trumps adherence to international law.

So what should the US do?

I argue that South China Sea policy should not be overwhelmingly anti-Chinese. The United States should criticise Chinese behaviour, along with the behaviour of American friends and allies, when it is warranted. When it comes to the South China Sea, Washington should not announce policies it is not prepared to back up.

The United States should issue a comprehensive white paper on the various aspects of international law that are being abused by China and other claimants in the South China Sea.

US officials have publicly supported a request for arbitration from the Philippines that, among other things, seeks to clarify whether China can make a maritime claim based on the nine-dash line. But the tribunal could rule that it does not have jurisdiction. That would be a major setback to hopes that international law can be the basis for shaping the behaviour of parties involved in South China Sea disputes. The US Department of State should publicly highlight the importance of allowing the Philippines to have its day in court.

The US should also help South Sea littoral states help themselves through improvements in surveillance, command and control, and policing of their respective maritime domains. The United States also needs to be completely committed to a very long-term and dedicated effort to improve the maritime capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Both sides need to mutually agree upon a ‘minimum credible deterrence’ plan.

US naval and air presence in the South China Sea should be a visible daily occurrence. To that end, the US should increase the duration of its exercises with South China Sea littoral states and expand participation in these exercises by inviting participation from other Asian maritime states, such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and possibly India. This will increase US presence in the region and illustrate that other maritime states are concerned about stability in the South China Sea.

Finally, Washington should ensure that planned US military posture and capability improvements in East Asia are portrayed as symbols of reassurance and stability and are not characterised as attempts to directly confront China. The US must emphasise that the objective of the military portion of the administration’s rebalance strategy is to ensure that the United States can fullfill its security responsibilities to its allies and friends.

[Admiral Michael McDevitt is a senior fellow in Strategic Studies at the CNA Corporation. A more extended version of the author’s argument is presented in a recent CNA Occasional Paper.]

Report on CIA torture one more reason to junk EDCA - Bayan

From InterAksyon (Dec 10): Report on CIA torture one more reason to junk EDCA - Bayan

If the issue of sovereignty is not enough to scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, the just released report on torture carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency should be enough reason to junk the pact, an activist group said Wednesday.

The US Senate report detailed brutal interrogation techniques adopted by the CIA after the September 11 terrorist attacks, including some that went beyond what the American government had officially acknowledged.

Among these were rectal feeding and rehydration, used as a "means of behavior control."

“That the US is capable of these things should be reason enough not to allow EDCA,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“The Philippine government should at least be alarmed by the US CIA torture report, especially since the US has waged its war on terror in the (Philippines) since 2002,” Reyes said. “Have US facilities in Mindanao and elsewhere been used to interrogate suspects?”

Reyes worried that locations in the country that American forces are allowed to use under the EDCA “will be used as rendition sites,” referring to the US' abduction of terror suspects and detaining them in other countries, where they are often tortured.

The EDCA allows the increased presence of American troops in the country and also allows them to use local military facilities.

5 killed in Maguindanao ambush

From MindaNews (Dec 9): 5 killed in Maguindanao ambush

A barangay captain, his councilor and relatives died on the spot as an undetermined number of armed men sprayed bullets towards their Multicab in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao early evening Tuesday.

Maj. Jo-ann Petinglay, information chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they received reports from ground troops that the ambush took place as the barangay captain and his companions were traversing Barangay Dimapatoy of the said town around 6 p.m.

Dimapatoy is just a few kilometers from the 6ID’s camp.

Senior Insp. Datu Tulon Pinguiaman, Datu Odin Sinsuat chief of police, identified the fatalities as Michael Sinsuat Dalidig, chairman of Barangay Dimapatoy; barangay councilor Jonathan Benito; Benito’s wife; and Dalidig’s relatives who suffered multiple gunshot wounds that caused their instantaneous death.

Initial police investigation disclosed that the assailants used various kinds of high-powered firearms, including M-16 rifles, based on empty shells gathered from the crime scene.

Pinguiaman said they don’t have leads yet as to the motive, but said the victims came from the house of Benito when ambushed.

Police manhunt and follow-up investigation is under way, he added.

Maguindanao Vice Gov. Datu Lester Sinsuat, a relative of the slain victim, immediately rushed to the crime scene tonight as he vehemently condemned the killing.

The Sinsuat clan is one of the biggest political clans in Maguindanao.

Mindanao in tight security watch after deadly bombing

From the Mindanao Examiner Blogspots site (Dec 10): Mindanao in tight security watch after deadly bombing

A policeman searches for bomb fragments in the bus owned by Rural Transit Mindanao in a photo passed on to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Philippine authorities have tightened anew its security in Mindanao following a deadly bus bombing that left dozens of casualties in the restive region where troops are battling Muslim and communist insurgencies.

Maj. Christian Uy, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said 11 people were confirmed dead and 21 others wounded after an improvised explosive went off at the compartment section of the bus, owned by Rural Transit Mindanao, in the town of Maramag in Bukidnon province late Tuesday afternoon.

But other reports said as many as three dozen people were injured in the powerful blast that ripped through the bus. The explosion occurred outside the Central Mindanao University at the time many of the students were coming out of the school.

Uy said the bus was traversing the highway when the bomb exploded. He security has been tightened in northern Mindanao where the explosion occurred with soldiers and policemen deployed in bus terminals.

Maj. Ezra Balagtay, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said authorities were still trying to determine who was behind the bombing. “Investigators are working on this case to determine who was behind it,” he told The Manila Times.

Balagtey said the bus came from Wao in Lanao del Sur province in the Muslim autonomous region in central Mindanao and was heading to Cagayan de Oro City in northern Mindanao when the explosion occurred.

Terror groups

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but previous bus bombings in the Muslim region were largely blamed to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf – both recently pledged allegiance with the Sunni jihadist group ISIS which is fighting for Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Another Filipino terrorist, Abdulbasit Usman, a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, is also being linked by military intelligence to the bombing. Usman, who has ties with al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, has escaped a military operation in June in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao province that resulted to the killing of his grandfather and the arrest of his wife’s uncle, including his 2 children. 

Three other women - two of them Indonesian nationals and a Filipina native of Sulu province - were also arrested and that one of them is the wife of Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, the leader of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia, who was reportedly killed in a US-backed airstrike in February 2012 in Sulu province, but his body had not been found or recovered.

Both Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao are hotbed of Muslim insurgency where BIFF, the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, founded by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Ameril Umra Kato, is actively operating.

Philippine authorities have blamed the BIFF and Usman for the spate of deadly bombings in Mindanao in recent years. The MILF, which recently signed a peace deal with Manila, has previously ordered its forces to hunt down Usman after he was linked to terror attacks.

In 2010, Pakistan military reported that Usman was killed along with another foreigner and 10 al-Qaeda militants in a US drone strike in the restive South Waziristan region, but the reports turned out to be false with the Philippine military saying that the militant leader was in Mindanao.

The United States has put up a $1 million bounty for Usman’s capture under its Government Rewards Program after he was tagged by authorities as behind deadly bombings in the Philippines and has been considered by Washington as a threat to the country.


Just last month, a bomb also exploded in another bus owned by the same company and killing three people in the same area. The bus originated from Tacurong City and was travelling to Cagayan de Oro City when the improvised explosive planted in the bus went off.

In April this, security forces also recovered an improvised explosive planted on a bus in Tacurong City. The bomb, assembled from a 60mm mortar attached to an old mobile phone and concealed in a cardboard box, was discovered by two passengers and immediately disarmed by soldiers.

But in August 2012, a bomb explosion ripped through a Rural Transit bus in Zamboanga City and wounded at least 5 people, including a boy. The powerful blast tore open the rear and the left side of the bus, which came from Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province.

NorCot Army offer 'hand of peace' to NPA this Christmas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): NorCot Army offer 'hand of peace' to NPA this Christmas

Despite the series of harassment conducted by communist New Peoples’ Army in North Cotabato against the Army and civilians, the military is offering a “hand of peace” this Christmas, an Army official said.

Speaking to a local radio station, Colonel Nilo Vinluan, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, appealed to the NPA to silence their guns to allow peaceful Christmas celebrations.

The past days, the communist rebels launched a series of road side bombings that left government forces and civilians either killed or wounded.

Vinluan said like the soldiers, the NPAs are also Filipinos and fighting and killing each other was a nonsense thing.

He made the appeal days after the NPA set off road side bombs that wounded an Army captain and his subordinate.

The NPA is yet to respond to the Army’s invitation.

Army in Western Visayas re-affirms commitment to uphold human rights

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Army in Western Visayas re-affirms commitment to uphold human rights

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) in Western Visayas reiterated their commitment to uphold human rights in all aspects of its operations and to protect the human rights of every individual in today’s observance of the 64th International Human Rights Day.

The 3rd ID, headed by Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, added that they continue to promote and enhance the culture of respect for human rights and adherence to International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law as they join the nation in marking the National Human Rights Consciousness Week from December 4 to 10.

“Your Army in Western Visayas continues to be the advocate of human rights and pledges its support in protecting and respecting the rights of our people. We also continue to focus our efforts in serving the people through ‘Bayanihan’ activities,” Guerrero said in a press statement.

On December 16, the 3rd ID Human Rights Office in cooperation with the Commission on Human Rights-Region 6 will hold a Human Rights Symposium at Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz for troops in the frontline with the aim to strengthen the soldiers’ commitment and responsibilities as human rights advocates.

The 3rd ID will also conduct a symposium for student leaders in Roxas City as part of their campaign to strengthen the people’s awareness on their basic human rights and their responsibilities in protecting and respecting human rights.

Maguindanao cops send emissaries to pacify families of slain village chair, 4 others

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Maguindanao cops send emissaries to pacify families of slain village chair, 4 others

Police authorities in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao today sent a peacekeeping team to pacify relatives of a village chairman and four others killed in an ambush Tuesday.

Michael Sinsuat Dalidig, chairman of Barangay Dimapatoy, barangay councilor Jonathan Benito, his spouse and their two children, died from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in the 6 p.m. attack along a dirt road in Quarry Site, Barangay Dimapatoy.

According to Senior Insp. Tulon Pinguiaman, Datu Odin Sisutat town police chief, said the victims were on their way home on board a multicab vehicle from the Quarry side when gunmen who positioned themselves on both sides of the dirt road surrounded by tall cogon grass opened fire.

Police recovered 200 pieces of empty shells at the crime scene.

“Our investigators are still determining the identities of the suspects, although a lot of names have come up," Pinguiaman said.

Relatives of the victims believed an old grudge triggered the ambush or it could be work related, police said.

Pinguiaman told reporters he sent emissaries to the victims' respective families to convince them to refrain from retaliating and to give the local police enough time to finish its investigation and file charges against the suspects.

The victims have been buried according to Islamic rites.

Update: Police tag BIFF as responsible for Bukidnon bus bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Update: Police tag BIFF as responsible for Bukidnon bus bombing

The regional police here has tagged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as responsible for the Tuesday bombing of a passenger bus in Bukidnon.

Police Supt. Bernardo Mendoza, the spokesperson of the police regional command based in Camp Alagar here, said that police investigators in Bukidnon are 80 percent certain that the bombing was the handiwork of the BIFF.

He said that the PNP regional command received an initial report that nine people died on the spot, some of them students of the Central Mindanao University (CMU), in Maramag, Bukidnon. The number climbed to 11, however, in subsequent reports as two of the wounded victims died later in the hospital.

Mendoza said that the passenger bus owned by the Rural Transit Mindanao, Inc. (RTMI) left Wao, a municipal town in Lanao Del Sur, about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday en route to Cagayan De Oro City.

He said the bus made a stop over to pick up eight passengers in front of the CMU, a state-owned university that specializes in agriculture, forestry, and animal science studies.

“The bomb, an improvised explosive device (IED), exploded inside the bus about 100 meters from the CMU gate,” Mendoza said.

He said that police have tagged the BIFF responsible for the bombing since the IED was similar to the one that exploded inside the RTMI passenger bus a month ago on November 6 in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

“No one was killed in the Nov. 6 explosion, but four passengers were treated for minor shrapnel wounds since the bomb exploded at the back of the bus,” Mendoza said.

He said that the motive for the bombing was extortion since the bus company did not give in to the BIFF demand about two years ago.

According to Mendoza, the PNP has already filed charges against Amir Umra-Kato, the leader of the BIFF, and his followers in connection with the Nov. 6 bombing of the RTMI bus company.

Central Command units pursuing rebel groups that torched eng'g equipment in Eastern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Central Command units pursuing rebel groups that torched eng'g equipment in Eastern Samar

Units from the Central Command are now conducting pursuit operations against a New People's Army (NPA) band that torched engineering equipment belonging to the Hanjin (HHIC) Company in Gen. MacArthur town, Eastern Samar Wednesday morning.

Destroyed were two dump trucks and a backhoe, Central Command spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Jim Alagao said.

An estimated 30 rebels participated in the attack which took place 10 a.m. at the vicinity of Barangay Vigan and Binalay River, Gen. MacArthur, Eastern Samar.

At the time of the assault, HHIC construction crewmembers were conducting quarry operations.

Alagao said these rebels are operating under the "Sesame" group of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

HHIC is also in charge for the road widening project of a national road from Buray to Guiuan town.

"We are aiming for peace and development on this side of the country. Roads should be opened for further development to start for Samar that has long been a hot bed of insurgency in the country. The burning only indicates that they are against development," Alagao said.

“Typhoon 'Ruby' has just devastated some parts of Eastern Visayas. Your Armed Forces in the Visayas is in the middle of a huge relief-operations to help out our kababayans and here come these communist terrorists wreaking havoc and destroying the livelihood of the people in the area. They said they are going to help those who were affected by the typhoon. Should the Filipino People believe them? I guess not," he added.

Bukidnon police has CCTVs of suspects in bus bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Bukidnon police has CCTVs of suspects in bus bombing

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) has caught two possible suspects in the bus bombing in Bukidnon on Tuesday, the police said Wednesday.

An improvised explosive device (IED) exploded inside a Cagayan De Oro City bound passenger bus a few meters away from the main gate of the state-owned Central Mindanao University (CMU) past 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, killing 10 people and wounding 43 others.

The CCTV caught the two unidentified men who disembarked from the bus near the main gate of the state university’s high school department, the police said.

A witness also told the police that the explosion occurred a few minutes after the two men disembarked from the passenger bus, the police said.

“The suspect could be just somewhere nearby,” the witness told the police.

Pol. Inspector Leonard Cordero, of the Maramag Police Station, said that they have already had a copy of the CCTV and statements of witnesses.

“Based on the initial investigation, the IED was an 81 millimeter mortar – not 60 millimeter as earlier reported,” Cordero said.

The IED device was wrapped and placed inside a jute sack and was placed in the luggage compartment at the rear portion of the bus. “A cellular phone was believed used as the triggering device,” he said.

Cordero said that the Maramag police has already turned over its initial findings to the Bukidnon provincial command which would later forward the findings to the regional police command in Cagayan De Oro.

“We could not give so much detail of the initial findings since we are living it to the higher headquarters,” Cordero said.

He said that the investigators are looking at extortion, sabotage, and terroristic act as the possible motive of the bus bombing.

81mm mortar round used in Bukidnon bus bomb blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): 81mm mortar round used in Bukidnon bus bomb blast
Military authorities in Bukidnon announced that an 81mm mortar was the primary component in the improvised explosive device detonated inside a passenger bus in Maramag town, Bukidnon Tuesday afternoon.

This was confirmed by 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Christian Uy.

Uy said that reconstruction is now being conducted to determine how many 81mm mortar rounds were used in the bombing attack which left 11 people dead and 42 wounded.

All of these patients are undergoing treatment at the Valencia Hospital in Bukidnon.

"We are assisting the Philippine National Police in the conduct of the investigation," Uy said when asked what role they are playing in the incident.

The explosion took place at 5:45 p.m. as an RTMI bus with body number 2640 was passing near the Central Mindanao University, Maramag town, Bukidnon.

Uy said nine of fatalities died on the spot while the others died while undergoing treatment.

The bus was headed for Cagayan De Oro at the time of the explosion.

Uy said that investigators are still determining the motive for the attack.

The Department of National Defense through its spokesman Peter Paul Galvez condemned the bombing, stating that it will work with the police in order to ensure that those who are behind the incident would be brought to justice.

2 motorcycle-riding BIFF men killed in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): 2 motorcycle-riding BIFF men killed in Maguindanao

Two motorcycle-riding Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members were shot dead after firing on patrolling troopers of the 45th Infantry Battalion in Datu Unsay town, Maguindanao Wednesday afternoon.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the encounter happened at 2:25 p.m.

She added that soldiers were patrolling the road junction going to Sitio Kyamco along Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay when two BIFF members, aboard a red Honda XRM motorcycle, fired on the soldiers.

Government troops immediately returned fire, killing the two.

Petinglay said prior to the neutralization of the two, another BIFF group engaged the soldiers, triggering a series of gun battles lasting 15 minutes.

Reinforcements from the 45th Infantry Battalion and Datu Unsay Municipal Police Station eventually forced the BIFF to retreat.

One of the slain BIFF was identified as "Jonex" while the identity of the other fatality is still being determined.

Recovered from the crime scene was a .45 caliber pistol, a hand grenade, assorted shells and the motorcycle.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting.

"The military troops are continually conducting visibility and security patrols along the national highway in order to preempt the attempt of any group who plans to conduct criminality in the area. The recent incident will bring a strong message to the criminals that they will never be given a chance to create disorder and chaos in the communities," Petinglay said.

189 recruits formally joined 10th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): 189 recruits formally joined 10th Infantry Division

One hundred eighty-nine newly recruited privates formally joined the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division Wednesday.

“Go forth and serve the people well,” 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Eduardo M. Año said.

Año personally pinned the insignia of fresh graduates of Candidate Soldiers Course (CSC) Class “Maalab” and “Maligalig” during their graduation rites. He also handed the government issued rifles to them.

“These rank insignia entail greater responsibility on your part and these firearms issued to you shall be put to use only in defense of the Constitution against the forces of evil that wish to trample it," he said.

The 189 privates will be distributed to different units under 10th Infantry Division.

The addition of these personnel is a big boost to 10th Infantry Division's campaign of ensuring peace and development in Davao Region under the Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan".

Eastern Mindanao Command also eyeing BIFF hand in Bukidnon bus blast, task forces formed to deter further attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Eastern Mindanao Command also eyeing BIFF hand in Bukidnon bus blast, task forces formed to deter further attacks

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad on Wednesday is not discounting the possibility of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) having a hand in the bomb attack behind the passenger bus in Maramag, Bukidnon which claimed the lives of 10 people and wounded 42 others Tuesday afternoon.

As this develops, Baladad added that task forces, in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP), are now formed to prevent further bombings.

"We have already created task forces together with the PNP to prevent further bombings. We are now coordinating with the Western Mindanao Command to prevent these lawless elements from conducting their attacks here," he said.

"There is a possibility that the people down under, the BIFF may have a hand in the attack," he said in Filipino.

This is because the signature of the bomb used in the incident has the same pattern as those used by the BIFF, Baladad stressed.

Possible motives for the attack are extortion as another bus company was bombed by the group earlier for its refusal to give to the BIFF's shake-in demand and desire of the BIFF to create terror.

However, he declined to comment further on the matter as the lead agency in the case is the PNP.

DND chief condoles with families of Bukidnon bus blast victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): DND chief condoles with families of Bukidnon bus blast victims

With the law enforcement community doing everything it can to put behind bars the suspects who masterminded the bombing of the passenger bus in Maramag town, Bukidnon Tuesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and wounded Wednesday.

Ten people were killed while another 42 were wounded in the 5:45 p.m. explosion that gutted the RTMI bus with body number 2640.

"We condole with the families of the victims of this tragic incident," Gazmin said.

"The Department of the National Defense thru the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in full support and cooperation with the Philippine National Police to get to the bottom of this barbaric act," he added.

The DND chief said the security and law enforcement community is asking the help and cooperation of the public in providing related information which may lead to the identification and arrest of the perpetrators that we may bring them to justice.

"Together with our countrymen, let us all make every effort to further the fabric of peace in the region," Gazmin concluded.

Malacañang condemns act of violence in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Malacañang condemns act of violence in Bukidnon

The Palace has condemned Tuesday’s bomb attack on a passenger bus in the town of Maramag, Bukidnon province, killing nine individuals and injuring at least 15 others.

“We condemn the violent act that resulted in the loss of lives of nine people and more than 15 injured,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Valte took the opportunity to extend the government’s sympathies to the respective families of the victims, assuring them that it would assist in any way it can.

“I was informed that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is now supporting the PNP (Philippine National Police) as to finding the perpetrators of this act,” she said.

“Certainly, we are set on finding who is responsible. To my knowledge, there are no groups yet that have claimed responsibility. But certainly, the full investigation is already underway,” she added.

The Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) bus was on its way to Cagayan de Oro from Wao, Lanao del Sur, when the explosion occurred at about 5:45 p.m. near the Central Mindanao University in Maramag.

The explosion was reportedly caused by an improvised explosive device.

Southern Luzon Command vows improved disaster response capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Southern Luzon Command vows improved disaster response capabilities

Despite the light damage sustained by Southern Luzon during the onslaught of "Ruby", military units tasked to secure this area vowed to improve their preparations further.

This was stressed by Southern Luzon Command chief Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya Wednesday.

"The preparation and coordination spared countless lives and prevented considerable damages to infrastructures in Bicol and Southern Tagalog Regions from the wrath of Typhoon 'Ruby'. But for the Southern Luzon Command, there is more to improve for the next typhoon or natural calamity," he added.

Sorsogon and Masbate experienced the strongest winds of Ruby in Southern Luzon.

Though the Provincial government of Masbate declared a state of calamity in the province, Masbate only had seven slightly injured constituents hurt by falling debris while Sorsogon had zero casualty.

Col. Cesar M. Idio, 903rd Infantry Brigade commander, said preemptive and forced evacuation in Sorsogon especially in coastal areas saved lives from storm surges and high waves.

In Bulusan town, three- to five-meter high storm surges washed away nine houses morning of Dec. 7.

“Disaster response units (DRUs) with the Philippine National Police and other partner agencies conducted information dissemination to coastal barangays using loud speakers,” Idio said.

“It is very effective and can be considered as one of the best practices in preparation for a typhoon,” he said.

Albay and Catanduanes achieved zero casualty with very minor damages but DRUs of the 901st Infantry Brigade are still assisting in the decampment of evacuation centers and in the distribution of relief goods.

Col. Raul Farnacio, 901st Infantry Brigade commander, said the PDRRMCs (provincial disaster risk reduction management councils) of Albay and Catanduanes are very active and are personally presided by their respective governors.

“The driving force is the active presence of the governors. Support from the DRRMCs (disaster risk reduction management council and other agencies are added factors,” Farnacio said.

“Cluster approach of all agencies is a good template in a response plan,” he added.

Farnacio added that the collaboration of all uniformed units with disaster response operations (DRO) capabilities is likewise significant to determining what hazards they are fitted to respond.

In Mindoro, DRUs were deployed to all municipalities and Calapan City.

203rd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Mariano Antonio Perez Jr., said that no DRO was conducted due to the change of path of “Ruby.”

“We felt the 'Bayanihan' spirit during the preparations for the supposed landfall of Typhoon “Ruby” in Calapan City,” Perez said.

In Laguna, the 202nd Infantry Brigade used military radios in transmitting reports and updates from the military camps and DRUs to PDRRMC.

202nd Infantry Brigade deputy commander Col. Leoncio Cirunay, Jr., considers the use of military radios as a good practice.

“We learned from 'Yolanda' where all cell sites went down,” he said.

“With Typhoon 'Ruby' weakening when it passed by Laguna, we saw it as an opportunity to train our troops use our Harris radios in HADR (humanitarian assistance disaster response) operations,” he added.

In Quezon province, Governor David C. Suarez commended the active participation and effective DRO of the 201st Infantry Brigade during the deactivation of the PDRRMC.

"A lot of best practices were seen and can be duplicated for future natural calamities," Visaya said.

"We have nowhere to go but to improve our HADR operations, inter-agency coordination and coordination among our units,” he added.

Army identify, charge suspect in Bukidnon bus blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): Army identify, charge suspect in Bukidnon bus blast

The deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) has identified a commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) as behind the bombing of the Rural Transit bus in Maramag, Bukidnon on Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Balutan, deputy commander of the EastMinCom, identified the suspect as one Garnet Lintang, a commander of the BIFF operating in Central Mindanao.

According to Balutan, BIFF was conducting a test mission for their new graduates.

The BIFF was the group linked to the international terrorist called Islamic state of Iraq and Syria or ISIS even pledging support to the terrorist group.

The bombing incident has claimed the lives of 11 people mostly students, two of whom died later in a hospital. The passenger bus owned by the Rural Transit Mindanao, Inc. (RTMI) left Wao in Lanao Del Sur, about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday en route to Cagayan De Oro City. The bus made a stop over to pick up passengers in front of the Central Mindanao University.

Balutan disclosed that forensic investigation showed the perpetrators used an 81mm mortar which was detonated with the use of a mobile phone.

As this developed, Balutan said they are filing multiple murder charges against Lintang while a hot pursuit operation is ongoing.

Balutan identified nine fatalities as Ken Valiente, Anita Santillan, Catherine Villahermosa, John Rey Valdesco, John Bernard Cunahap, Jonathan Balida, Mariel Pachacoso, Michelle Gonzaga, Michael Buctos, and one still unidentified.

Meanwhile, police and the military in Davao Region remain under heightened alert following the bombing incident. They are also fielding bus marshals to prevent bus bombings.

Speaking at the AFP/PNP press corps at Mandaya Hotel, Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Director P/Sr. Supt.Vicente Danao Jr., said police visiblity is being maximized, specifically in areas where there is convergence of people.

Danao said there are about 60 personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion that were sent to the DCPO to augment the present number of policemen in the city.

The AFP and the PNP are now asking the people of Davao City to stay vigilant and cooperate with all security measures.

CA put off action on Purisima's plea

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): CA put off action on Purisima's plea

The Court of Appeals (CA) on Wednesday deferred action on the petition of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima to temporarily stop the enforcement of the 60-day preventive suspension on him by the Ombudsman.

Instead, the CA Special Tenth Division ordered the Ombudsman to submit its comment on the petition filed by Purisima.

The CA gave the Ombudsman a period of 10 days from notice within which to file its comment.

Likewise, the CA did not decide whether it would issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) as being sought by the petitioner.

In the petition for certiorari filed before the CA on Wednesday, Purisima claimed that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales committed grave abuse of discretion when she issued the preventive suspension order against him last Dec. 4.

The PNP Chief also said that the preventive suspension order has no factual and legal basis because the Ombudsman has no “substantial evidence” against him.

The six-month prevention suspension order against Purisima and 17 other PNP officials stemmed from the alleged irregularity in the selection of Werfast Documentary Agency as the official courier of the PNP for its firearms licenses.

PNP chief asks CA to stop his suspension

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): PNP chief asks CA to stop his suspension

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the implementation of the preventive suspension order against him.

In a 21-page petition for certiorari, Purisima told the CA that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering his preventive suspension.

Purisima, through his counsel Atty. Kristoffer James Purisima, said that there is no sufficient ground to justify the suspension order.

Under Republic Act No. 6770, or the “Ombudsman Act of 1989”, particularly Section 24, preventive suspension is given only if in the Ombudsman's judgment, the evidence of guilt is strong and the charge against the officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty.

In this case, however, the order of preventive suspension "is not supported by substantial evidence and is in violation of law and/or jurisprudence since there is no evidence of guilt whatsoever against petitioner (Purisima)," the petition said.

The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) ordered last Dec. 4 a six-month preventive suspension against Purisima and other police officials over a questionable contract with courier service company Werfast Documentary Agency in 2011.

However, the appeal said that Purisima did not recommend a specific service provider in delivering firearms license cards of gun owners.

The petition said that what Purisima approved was only the manner of distributing the license firearms cards and nothing else.

"With all due respect, by whatever stretch of the imagination, that’s hardly evidence of petitioner's alleged Gross Negligence and/or Gross Neglect of Duty, which connotes breach of duty that is flagrant and palpable. No such breach of duty exists on the part of petitioner," the petition said.

The petition added that even before Purisima signed the memorandum on the manner of distributing firearms license cards, it passed through several offices, including The Acting Director for Operations (TADO), The Acting Chief of the Directorial Staff (TACDS), The Deputy Chief for Operations (TDCO) and The Deputy Chief for Administration (TDCA).

"Thus, petitioner was not obligated to personally verify or check the entire records in relation to the accreditation of Werfast Documentation Agency Inc. Petitioner may rightfully rely on the recommendations of his subordinates absent any clear showing that said recommendations are without factual or legal basis, invalid and/or irregular," the petition said.

Citing the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the case of Arias vs. Sandiganbayan, the petition said that "we would be setting a bad precedent if a head of office plagued by all too common problems - dishonest or negligent subordinates, overwork, multiple assignments or suddenly swept into a conspiracy conviction simply because he did not personally examine every single a transaction before affixing his signature."

Likewise, Purisima said that following the Ombudsman order, it would appear that she has already prejudged his case after the order stated that he conspired with other officials of the PNP.

"Preventive suspension is but only a preliminary step in an administrative investigation and is not in the nature of a punishment or penalty," he said.

He also said that "the assailed order already takes the form of a penalty, contrary to the nature of a preventive suspension and contrary to the fact that petitioner is not party of any such conspiracy."

Purisima also said that there is no compelling necessity to preventively suspend the PNP Chief.

Under the Ombudsman Act, a public official may be preventively suspended if his continued stay in office may influence the possible outcome of the investigation against him.

In this case, he said that Purisima has no means to tamper, influence evidence against him because the investigation is not with the PNP but with the Ombudsman.

The case arose from an anonymous complaint and another complaint filed by Glenn Gerard Ricafranca alleging that they siphoned funds from the mandatory delivery fees paid by gun owners in securing their gun licenses, through the PNP entering into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Werfast for courier services in the delivery of firearms license cards despite its non-accreditation and having been incorporated only after the execution of the MOA, with a capitalization of only Php65,000.

Purisima, and several other PNP officials were preventively suspended pending administrative charges for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty against them.

National Police’s 3rd in command will be Officer-In-charge, says Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 10): National Police’s 3rd in command will be Officer-In-charge, says Palace
Malacañang on Wednesday announced that the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) third in command will serve as Officer-In-Charge (OIC), as Police Chief Director General Alan Purisima undergoes a six-month preventive suspension.

In a press briefing at the Palace, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters that National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Regional Director Leonardo Espina will act as OIC.

“My information is that the number two in PNP retired last Friday and the number three-man is former NCRPO Chief (Leonardo) ‘Dindo’ Espina. My advice is that General Espina will act as OIC for the time being,” said Valte.

The second in command who retired was Police Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas, Jr.

Last week, the Ombudsman ordered the suspension of Purisima and several other police officials over an allegedly anomalous contract with a courier service for the delivery of gun licenses.