Friday, January 2, 2015

Communists following own ceasefire sked, says Joma Sison

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 3): Communists following own ceasefire sked, says Joma Sison
With the government accusing the communists of violating the ceasefire in attacks that have left three soldiers dead, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison on Friday said the communists were bound only by their own unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Sison noted that the ceasefire dates of the CPP—including its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF)—were different from those of the Armed Forces of the Philippines ceasefire.

“When the ceasefire dates of the NPA and AFP coincide, the NPA has not made any tactical offensive and has even gone to the extent of releasing its prisoners of war in contrast to the (government) hoarding 14 NDF consultants and 500 other political prisoners on multiplied charges of rebellion and common crimes,” Sison said.

Teresita Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, on Thursday accused the communist rebels of double talk, saying they wanted to return to the negotiating table but continued to launch attacks on government forces during the Christmas ceasefire.

In her New Year’s Day message, Deles said that because of the NPA attacks, she was looking at the resumption of the peace talks with caution.

The government declared a unilateral ceasefire from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19, the last day of the visit of Pope Francis to the country.

The communist rebels declared a staggered ceasefire: from 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 24, 2014 to 11:59 p.m. of Dec. 26, 2014; 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 31, 2014 to 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 1, 2015; and, in observance of the Pope’s visit, 12:01 a.m. of Jan. 15, 2015 to 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 19, 2015.

Earlier, Deles denounced the NPA’s torching of the heavy equipment used in a construction of a building in Paracale, Camarines Norte, and burning a civilian-owned vehicle in Agusan del Sur last Dec. 22; the Dec. 23 abduction of Compostela Valley jail warden Jose Mervin Gementiza Coquilla in Panabo City, Davao del Norte; and the Dec. 29 murder of 1st Lt. Ronald Bautista, Private First Class Albert Amor and military volunteer Renel Baluca in Sitio (settlement) Barigyan, Barangay (village) Candinuyan, Mabini, Compostela Valley.

Building bridges of peace for youth in conflict areas

From Rappler (Jan 2): Building bridges of peace for youth in conflict areas (by Bambina Olivares Wise)

One small group is fostering peace using technology and bridging together communities across the country

BRIDGES. Host Baicon Macaraya in Cotabato City speaking with Jennifer Foltz, Cultural Affairs Officer, US Embassy – Manila, in Zamboanga City. Photo by Bambina Wise
BRIDGES. Host Baicon Macaraya in Cotabato City speaking with Jennifer Foltz, Cultural Affairs Officer, US Embassy – Manila, in Zamboanga City. Photo by Bambina Wise

We live in an era where even terrorists and warlords have no qualms about posting beheadings on social media and watching the images go viral. Where celebrities bare their famous assets online and the internet promptly "breaks." Where women can be degraded on Twitter, cute cats and fashionable toddlers glorified on Facebook, and the profligate spending of corrupt politicians' offspring, revealed on Instagram.

But what if social media were used for purposes truly positive, truly constructive, and truly epic?

Some organizations may indeed choose to employ social media to sow terror. But there are others using it just as effectively for the opposite purpose – to build peace. One such organization, PeaceTech, is doing it right here in the Philippines.

PeaceTech Inc., a Philippine-based non-government organization, harnesses the power of technology via videoconferencing and social media, employing them as tools to bridge young people in Mindanao who are separated by distance and ignorance.

Using this model, PeaceTech teamed up with the US Embassy in Manila to launch a program they call EPIC – “Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication."

With the support of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), which generously provided a private high-speed line, the Embassy and PeaceTech demonstrated the reach of this new tool for peace-building in November 2014 in a massive videoconference connecting thousands of young people gathering in Cotabato and Zamboanga cities.

EPIC included high school students and out-of-school youth from two regions, which can show mistrust for one another – Central Mindanao, including Cotabato City, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat; and Western Mindanao, including Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The ground-breaking videoconference, showed the youth via giant screens that the misperceptions they carried about one another were often the result of misinformation and the lack of communication.

To show the United States’ support, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg flew to Zamboanga City to speak live to the thousands of young people through the screens: “All of you, standing together, can make a difference.

“What we are really here to do today is to help young people create a better future, to look forward, and to be able to have a real impact on your communities, on your city, on your country. And that’s why we support the EPIC Program.”

Noralyn Lumbatan, 22, an out-of-school youth from Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao watched the Ambassador from Cotabato City: “I (now) realize that my negative perception about the people of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi would not have changed if it had not been for EPIC.”

Pinky Angga, 19, an out-of-school youth from Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao agreed: “At first, I really thought the people from Basilan and Sulu were kidnappers and killers, but because of EPIC and the technology like the Mass Videoconference, I learned that they are also nice and joyful people like us.”

On the other side of the videoconference, Tony Jamid, 21, of the municipality of Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi felt the same: “I didn't think that they were the same as us, not until we saw them and interacted with them. I realized that we have same 'hopes, same dreams and same expectations' just like in the EPIC Song.”

There were several truly “Aha!” moments, as the youngsters began to realize, as they became more aware of how “the other side” lived, that they had so much in common. And they also began to appreciate that they all had a voice, and could be heard, even the young people at risk of fighting in conflict. They were empowered in a way their parents had never experienced.

“My father told me that we the youth are very lucky nowadays since we have technology, and this can help us to know and meet different kinds of people in other places, and maybe the rest of the world,” said 18-year old Shira Guiamalo of Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Youth perform during the PeaceTech event

Youth perform during the PeaceTech event
It was not just the young who were impacted: “I never imagined…what PeaceTech is and what they do until I saw the MVC. It's really amazing what technology can do these days. People from different places are talking to each other as if they're face-to-face. This creates a huge impact in reducing conflict among people,” said Sol Mangumma, 54, of Zamboanga City, who was helping distribute food at the activity.

The videoconference was historic in other significant ways. Former “enemies” involved in conflict came face-to-face, courtesy of the video screens, such as a marine who lost his leg in a joint MILF-MNLF ambush in Lanao del Norte and a former MNLF fighter from Sultan Kudarat. Joining them were a MNLF hostage victim of the 2013 Zamboanga City siege and Edmund Gumbahali, an MNLF member who was himself a hostage of the Abu Sayyaf when he was kidnapped in 2012. He recalled matter-of-factly: “They mentally tortured me. They kept telling me: ‘Tomorrow, we will behead you…”

Conflict can sometimes seem the only mode of existence for these communities, acknowledges PeaceTech president Gianna Montinola.

“But it’s not a situation they necessarily want to find themselves in; it’s just that they have never known any other way – until now. And with technology dominating the lives of young people more and more, the possibilities for greater understanding – and lasting peace - are limitless. That’s why a program like EPIC is so important.”
The US Embassy has been a key partner with PeaceTech in making EPIC a reality, firmly believing that social media can have a significant impact among the youth in conflict-affected areas.

Jennifer Foltz, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Manila said: “One of our priorities is reaching out to young people, especially young people who want to improve their communities, who want to bring peace, who want to fix challenges with education… so when our partner in this program PeaceTech told about this awesome idea, we worked together to make this program happen.”

Using ICT and social media to connect groups within Mindanao might become a model, which PeaceTech and partners apply in other regions including the Middle East where groups are equally divided by ignorance. It’s easy to blame the enemy,” says PeaceTech founder Robin Pettyfer.

“But we believe that ignorance is the real enemy here and not other people. And that gives us hope because today we have the ability to connect people in the remotest places through programs like EPIC so they too can realize that what they are told about one another might in fact not be true.”

[Bambina Olivares Wise is a correspondent for the New York-based fashion trade daily, Women's Wear Daily (WWD). She got involved with PeaceTech after returning to the Philippines.] 

3 NPAs surrender in Sultan Kudarat

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 2): 3 NPAs surrender in Sultan Kudarat

Three members of the New People’s Army surrendered to military authorities in Sultan Kudarat province.

Lt. Col. Markton Abo, 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, withheld the identity of the rebel returnees to protect their families from possible retaliation from their former comrades.

Abo said the three surrenderees, who were residents of Lebak and Senator Ninoy Aquino towns, were former armed regulars of NPA-Front Guerilla 73 which is operating in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

“The NPA surrenderees asked us to withhold their names at the moment so as not to jeopardize the security of their family members,” Abo said.

The former NPA rebels, who yielded carbine and shotgun rifles, said they decided to abandon the underground movement so that they can live normal lives with their families.

Abo said they will receive livelihood assistance from the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the provincial government.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a Maoist-inspired insurgency campaign in the Philippines for the more than four decades now.

Peace talks between the government and the CPP are expected to resume this year after they were stalled in 2001.

Officials tag BIFF, Al-Khobar group in N. Cotabato bombing

From the Philippine Star (Jan 2): Officials tag BIFF, Al-Khobar group in N. Cotabato bombing

Local officials are convinced only either the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), or the Al-Khobar extortion ring could be responsible for Wednesday’s bombing of the public market in Mlang, North Cotabato.

Mlang Mayor Joselito Piñol said the bombing, which killed two of his constituents and injured more than 30 others, could be in retaliation for the earlier arrest of a guerilla bomb expert implicated in the November 23 bombing in the same town.

Two Mlang residents were killed while more than 20 others were injured in the bombing, which local leaders said was perpetrated by the brigand BIFF.

“The denial by the BIFF that it was not responsible for the two recent bombings in our municipality is unbelievable. All leads point to that group as responsible for these bombings,” Piñol said.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the outlawed BIFF, said the local government unit of Mlang should first investigate extensively on both bombings before pointing an accusing finger at them.

“We only attack military targets, not public markets, public terminals and buses carrying passengers,” Mama said.

MILF open to improving Basic Law

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 3): MILF open to improving Basic Law

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said it is open to “improvements” to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which is undergoing congressional scrutiny.

In an editorial posted in its website (, the MILF acknowledged that a concern that keeps cropping up is whether the former rebel group would accept a watered down version of the BBL, which was sent to Congress on Sept. 10.

“Would the MILF accept it? The answer to this question cannot be a straight and blunt, because it entails a lot of sensitivity and reality. We know for a fact that in this country, plenary power over legislation is lodged with Congress,” the MILF said.

“Our answer has been very consistent that the MILF trusts the collective wisdom of Congress to pass a good legislation. Congress, like any entities of government, wants the Moro question or problem to be solved. We do not know of any time in the future that this opportunity presents itself again,” it added.

The MILF acknowledged that the BBL “is not an ordinary legislation” having been the product of 17 years of negotiations.

The group said it will respect the prerogative of lawmakers who might want to amend the proposed BBL even as it cautioned Congress that their decision might not be a welcome development for the Bangsamoro people.

“The MILF’s position is clear: We welcome an improvement of the BBL. Who does not want an improvement?”

“But a reminder has to be earnestly said: an improvement to one group may not necessarily be so, to another group,” the MILF added.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier renewed his appeal to Congress to pass the BBL “as soon as possible.

‘Weakened’ Reds seeking talks—AFP

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 3): ‘Weakened’ Reds seeking talks—AFP

THE 46-year-old communist insurgency is steadily dwindling and that may be one of the reasons why the communist National Democratic Front is again seeking to enage the government in peace talks, the military said on Friday.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc attributed the supposed decline in member to the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan,” which was conceived in 2010 to erode rebel influence through community development projects coupled with security operations.

“We have dealt a big blow against the NPA as their strength decreased to about 3,200 NPA remnants this year.,” Cabunoc told defense reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“This is due to the intensified focused military operations that resulted in the neutralization of 90 members who were killed in clashes, 106 who were arrested and filed with cases and 521 others who voluntarily surrendered to government forces,” Cabunoc added.

He said that the reduction in rebel strength is also associated with the current leadership crisis within the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed New People’s Army following the capture of top leaders, like Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Eugenia Magpantay-Topacio, Agathon Topacio and Arnold Jaramillo.

“They are also considering going back to the negotiating table, which the AFP supports because it is in line with our IPSP ‘Bayanihan’ that calls for winning peace and for the CPP-NPA to abandon the armed struggle,” he added.

But CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison dismissed Cabunoc’s claim.

“If the AFP propaganda is true, the AFP brigades and battalions should go back to the barracks and let the police take over the lucrative rackets of the military in the field,” Sison said in an online interview.

Sison was referring to abusive officials who are supposedly protecting criminal groups, like illegal miners, in the countryside which have spurred ordinary people to seek the help of the NPA.

The military itself has confirmed that some politicians, in connivance with miltiary or police officials,  have become targets of the NPA because of illegal activities, like black-sand mining in Northern Luzon.

“At any rate the military and police are always competing in misappropriating public funds and extorting from the people and private companies,” Sison said.

The communist leader said the CPP itself has shown in the past that it is not averse to admitting mistakes and will not hesitate to apologize to the people so it will not fudge its membership data.

“Ang Bayan, the official publication of the CPP, has announced since a few years ago that the armed strength of the NPA is around 10,000, augmented by tens of thousands of men and women in the people’s militia and hundreds of thousands in self-defense units of the mass organizations,” Sison said.

“The CPP has already about 200,000 cadres and members. It has a mass base that runs into millions. The AFP disinformation claims false achievement that the NPA had 25,000 rifles in mid-1980s and now has only 3,500. The truth is that the NPA had 5,600 rifles in 1985 and now has 10,000 rifles,” he added.

The NPA also scored the miliary for claiming that the NPA reneged on its commitment to release “prisoners of war” in Surigao del Norte when it was actually the fault of the military who continued military operations although they publicly announced a suspension of military operations.

“I am apologizing to the families of the policemen that they were not released as expected. This is because the military and police have been violating the government’s declared ceasefire,” said top communist leader Jorge Madlos.

The NPA, however, said they will release policemen Democrito Bondoc Polvorosa, Marichel Unclara Contemplo and Junrie Amper before the Jan. 15 visit of Pope Francis.

1 soldier slain, 3 wounded in BIFF attack

From InterAksyon (Jan 3): 1 soldier slain, 3 wounded in BIFF attack

A soldier was killed and three others were wounded Friday night when the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked two Army detachments in President Quirino town, Sultan Kudarat, Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said.

It was the second recorded attack this year by the rebel group, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

On New Year’s Day, BIFF gunmen strafed an Army outpost in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao.

Breakout bid of 'Commander Lastikman' from Maguindanao jail foiled

From InterAksyon (Jan 3): Breakout bid of 'Commander Lastikman' from Maguindanao jail foiled

Jail guards at the Maguindanao provincial jail foiled on Friday the attempt of an alleged kidnapping and carjacking gang leader to escape.

Jail warden Armando Baguamama said guards conducting a routine inspection early Friday morning found hacksaw marks on the bars of the cell where Datukan Sama, 49, alias “Commander Lastikman,” is detained with 28 other inmates.

Sama is facing charges of multiple murder, frustrated murder, kidnapping and carnapping before courts in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

He was first arrested in Pikit, North Cotabato and detained at the Kidapawan City jail, from which 50 of his followers attempted to spring him in an attack that left at least three persons, including firemen, dead.

He was moved to Midsayap, North Cotabato and later transferred to the Maguindanao provincial jail, from which he escaped in 2013. Rearrested in July that year in Tacurong City, he was returned to the Maguindanao jail on May 2 last year.

Baguamama said they also found a motorcycle a few meters away from the jail, which they suspect was intended to be Datukan’s getaway vehicle.

The guards also found a sachet of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride, or “shabu,” a steel saw and bladed weapons in Sama’s cell.

The Maguindanao provincial jail, also known as the House of Correction, is located within a military reservation area and beside housing units on PC Hill, Barangay Rosary Heights 1, Cotabato City.

AFP able to restrict movement of BIFF, RMEs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): AFP able to restrict movement of BIFF, RMEs

Due to its security operations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was able to restrict the movement and limit the capability of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Rogue Moro National Liberation Front Elements (RMEs) for creating havoc.

"The AFP has been successful in restricting the movements and limiting the violent activities of the BIFF and RMEs that seek to derail the implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will finally bring lasting peace and development in Mindanao," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

He added that the AFP’s focused military operations against the BIFF and RMEs from first quarter to third quarter 2014 has caused a reduction in their manpower and armed capability.

A total of 84 BIFF members were neutralized, of which 81 were killed and three were apprehended/captured with 19 firearms seized by government troops.

From the RMEs, four were apprehended/captured and six surrendered with government troops gaining six firearms.

Since 2008 to 2013, a total of 42 provinces were declared peaceful and ready for further development.

The normalization of the security situation in the said provinces was a result of the AFP’s active cooperation and coordination with law enforcement agencies particularly the Philippine National Police (PNP), and continued engagements with local government units and other stakeholders.

In 2014, six provinces were added to the list namely; Pampanga, Catanduanes, Negros Oriental, Palawan, Misamis Oriental, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The AFP will continue both its focused military operations and bayanihan activities in cooperation with other government and law enforcement agencies and stakeholders so that the 28 remaining provinces nationwide which need urgent normalization will be declared peaceful and ready for further development before the year 2015 ends, Cabunoc said.

AW-109s enhances maritime air patrol capabilities of PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): AW-109s enhances maritime air patrol capabilities of PN

The AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters, now in service aboard the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates, have greatly enhanced the maritime air patrol and surveillance capability of the Philippine Navy (PN).

This was stressed by Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad in a statement.

"Likewise, (the AW-109s have greatly enhanced) the conduct of disaster response operations. They are also projected to be onboard components of the SSVs (strategic sealift vessels) and (missile-armed) frigates (which is now ongoing bidding)," he added.

The PN currently possess three AW-109s. They were delivered and commissioned in December 2013.

The last two units of the five helicopter deal with AgustaWestland was delivered last Dec. 29 and now undergoing assembly and testing prior commissioning.

The contract is worth Php1.33 billion.

The last two will be armed with machine guns, 20mm cannons and possibly air-to-ground rockets.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It's superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many others helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

Trooper killed, 3 others hurt as BIFF attacks military detachments in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): Trooper killed, 3 others hurt as BIFF attacks military detachments in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat

A soldier from the 33rd Infantry Battalion was killed while three of his companions were wounded after a still undetermined number of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) simultaneously attacked military detachments located in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces early Saturday morning.

The simultaneous attack on the Kulasi Detachment at Barangay Kulasi, General Salipada K. Pendatun town; Sumilalao Detachment at Sitio Sumilalao Barangay Katiku, President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat, took place 1 a.m., 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay said.

"Troops from the said detachments immediately returned fire to enemy positions. After an hour of firefight, enemy withdrew from the area," she added.

Petinglay also said that soldiers from the Katiku Detachment suffered one fatality and three wounded in the encounter.

The identities of the four were withheld pending notifications of their next-of-kin.

She added that the casualties were immediately extricated by responding troops from 62 Division Reconnaissance Company and brought to a nearby hospital for treatment.

"The incident manifest that the BIFF will continually be as potent spoiler to peace in Central Mindanao. The 6th Infantry Division in coordination with the Philippine National Police will continue to work proactively in order to preempt plans of the lawless group which may cause disorder to the peaceful and developing communities of the region," Petinglay pointed out.

She also said that the 6th Infantry Division leadership is calling on the community to be vigilant and to help look in the whereabouts of the terror group in order to limit their movements and actions.

Bombing attempt by lawless elements in Lamitan foiled

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 3): Bombing attempt by lawless elements in Lamitan foiled

Government authorities have foiled an attempt by lawless elements to bomb a passenger jeep in Lamitan City, Basilan province on Friday.

Senior Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamitan City police chief, said this came after an improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered shortly after noon Friday aboard a passenger jeep parked at the public market.

Gallardo said the IED was placed in a basket full of vegetables. The IED contains ammonium nitrate, wirings concrete nails and a triggering device.

Gallardo said IED was safely defused by the military’s explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) team.

He said they are conducting a thorough investigation in a bid to identify the people behind the bombing attempt.

He also ordered his personnel to strengthen security around the public market.

Lamitan City serves as the trading hub of nearby towns such as Tuburan, Akbar, Mohammad Ajul and others.

Retired Marine sergeant found dead inside Bonifacio firing range

From ABS-CBN (Jan 2): Retired Marine sergeant found dead inside Bonifacio firing range

A retired enlisted personnel of the Philippine Marines was found dead inside a firing range at the Naval Station Jose Francisco in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Friday morning, the Philippine Navy confirmed.

Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, the commander of the civil military operations group of the Philippine Navy, identified the enlisted personnel as Romeo Sierra, a retired master sergeant of the Philippine Marines.

Sierra was also one of the range officers inside the said camp.

Based on initial investigation, Sierra was allegedly shot in the mouth. A .45-caliber pistol allegedly owned by the victim was found near his body.

Arevalo said based on closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage, Sierra arrived at the firing range at 6:58 a.m. on board a tricycle.

His body was found at 8:15 a.m. by an enlisted personnel of the Philippine Navy.

According to Arevalo, he has received reports that Sierra was having financial difficulties and was even trying to pawn his personal pistol to a colleague.

He, however, said it is now up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to find out if Sierra committed suicide or if he was shot by a suspect.

Arevalo said Sierra's death has nothing to do with the shooting of Marine 1st Lt. Shelina Calumay in November and the robbery of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) commissary exchange service last year.

Security forces intercept jeep carrying bomb in Basilan

From Rappler (Jan 2): Security forces intercept jeep carrying bomb in Basilan

Army scout rangers invite suspects for questioning

BLOCKED. Security forces intercept a public utility jeepney carrying an improvised explosive device in Lamitan town, Basilan January 2, 2015. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

BLOCKED. Security forces intercept a public utility jeepney carrying an improvised explosive device in Lamitan town, Basilan January 2, 2015. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler
Government security forces intercepted a public utility jeepney carrying an improvised bomb in the downtown of Lamitan, Basilan Friday, January 2.

Police said army scout rangers invited two suspects for questioning.
Army rangers, who were alerted about the improvised explosive device, intercepted the vehicle at the oval near the commercial district of Lamitan at about 12:30 pm Friday.
The jeep had just arrived from the town of Al-Barka.
Military personnel immediately conducted a search operation and discovered the bomb inside a medium-sized carton box concealed by okra (lady's fingers).
The police said the bomb was composed of 2 kilos of ammonium nitrate, half a kilo of common nails, and a bottle of fuel gasoline as incendiary.
Names of the apprehended suspects were not released pending the investigation.

Miriam seeks probe of P10M robbery at Fort Bonifacio Naval Station

From InterAksyon (Jan 2): Miriam seeks probe of P10M robbery at Fort Bonifacio Naval Station

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Resolution No. 1059 seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the alleged P10-million robbery inside the Fort Bonifacio Naval Station recently.

In her resolution, Santiago said that on November 16, 2014, personnel of the Naval Station discovered the robbery, which was then investigated by National Capital Region Police Office's Southern Police District (SPD).

Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo, the Navy's public affairs office chief, reportedly said an initial inquiry showed that the huge amount of money was taken from the manager's vault inside her office, which was not forcibly opened,” Santiago said.

Quoting Domingo, Santiago said that while she could not give the exact amount lost, there were reports that the robbers took off with PIO million.

“The Navy official further claimed that roving guards and security personnel did not notice anything unusual, nor did they monitor any unauthorized entry in the base premises,” Santiago said.

The robbery was discovered by an employee only the morning after the incident, and SPD was immediately notified of the theft.

Santiago said that the incident raises concerns on the safety of keeping huge amounts of money in government offices.

“It is timely to discuss the feasibility of a no-cash policy in all public transactions, to reduce the possibility of similar incidents,” Santiago said.

Congress, through relevant legislation, should ensure that public funds are not only appropriately used, but also safely kept, she added.

AFP to conduct more combat operations vs ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 2): AFP to conduct more combat operations vs ASG

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will conduct more combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to totally eliminate the bandit group in their enclaves in Sulu and Basilan, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc

Cabunoc said the operations would be focused and intelligence driven.

He said that the operations, which started last year, resulted in the neutralization of 69 of its members from first quarter to third quarter of 2014.

ASG manpower continued to dwindle from their original number in 2000 at 1,270 to 423 in 2014.

A total of 36 firearms were also recovered from the terrorist group during the period, Cabunoc said.

He also said that the ASG initiated violent incidents also decreased from 190 in 2011 to just 72 in 2014. However, their kidnapping activities remain a major concern.

Recently, the AFP recovered six hostages, including two Germans and a Swiss national. As of today, only seven (three foreigners and four Filipinos) kidnap victims remained in the hands of the ASG.

"While the AFP continues its operations against the ASG, it is also encouraging all stakeholders, including the local leaders and communities, to support its whole-of-nation approach in solving the ASG problem by addressing its root causes," Cabunoc said.

Php200,000 bounty offered for information on North Cotabato bombing suspects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 2): Php200,000 bounty offered for information on North Cotabato bombing suspects

A Php200,000 cash reward money has been offered for anyone who can provide information that could lead to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the suspects in the December 31 deadly bombing here that claimed the lives of two women and wounded 33 others.

The bounty was offered by the Mlang local government and the provincial government of North Cotabato, shelling out Php100,000 each to help fast track the dispensation of justice for the victims.

After meeting the town peace and order council and members of the town council, Mayor Joselito Pinol announced he was offering Php100,000 reward in order to encourage anyone who have witnessed the incident to come out and help the authorities identify the suspects and their hideouts.

He urged informants to bring the information directly to him, to police or military authorities so appropriate action can be taken.

He assured the informant and the information, after verification, will be treated with utmost confidentiality.

"Please do not be afraid to come out in the open and share us any information so that we can take immediate actions to give justice to those who have died and injured," Pinol said.

Earlier, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza also offered P100, 000 cash reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the possible arrest of the Mlang bombing suspects.

Sr. Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, disclosed it during a radio interview Friday morning.

He said the provincial government is always ready to help solve as soon as possible bombing and terroristic attacks in North Cotabato.

He also revealed, citing intelligence information, that among the target for bombing were the towns of Matalam, Kabacan, Pikit and Midsayap.

During the “ber” months, police visibility have been intensified in these areas because of intelligence report the suspects were eyeing these towns for bombing missions.

Peralta also confirmed the arrest of one of the suspects in the November 23 improvised bomb blast at a billiard hall in front of Mlang town plaza that killed three teenagers and injured 24 others.

Abdul Aziz Glang, 18 of Poblacion A, Mlang, NOrth Cotabato for possession of illegal substance but police record showed he was suspected to have carried out the Nov. 23 bombing at the billiard hall near the town plaza.

In the bombing, three teenagers died while 24 others were wounded.

"I cannot disclose full details of his participation. But we are now preparing complaint of multiple attempted murder and murder against him,” Peralta said.

The suspect is now detained at police regional office in Gen. Santos City.

Police arrested a man believed to have been involved in the November 16 separate bombing in nearby Kabacan, North Cotabato that claimed the life of a female student and wounded 17 others.

The arrest came after the local government unit offered Php200,000 reward money for information and whereabout of the perpetrators.