Saturday, January 10, 2015

NorCot cops, military laud civilians in foiled bombing attempt

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): NorCot cops, military laud civilians in foiled bombing attempt

Police and military authorities have launched a manhunt operations against two men who left an improvised explosive device (IED) along a busy street here Friday night.

At the same time, they lauded the civilian folks on Sunday for their vigilance that prevented the commission of a crime in their area.

Supt. Jordane Maribojo, chief of Task Force Pikit, urged the civilians to continue vigilance to prevent lawless elements from disrupting the relative peace in the town and the province.

Local residents quickly alerted the Pikit Police Office after a suspicious box, left by two men on a motorbike, was found unattended on Friday night.

Responding police and Army bomb experts, backed by bomb sniffing dogs, confirmed the explosive device and safely defused it at past 10 p.m.

Pikit police said the IED was fashioned from rocket propelled grenade with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

Police said the bomb was left in front of a house of a certain Robert Bobby Sahid along Datu Piang St., Poblacion Pikit.

The presence of Task Force Pikit, a multisectoral agency formed to restore normalcy in the town, forced the suspected bombers to abandon the IED, a police officer told reporters.

The foiled bombing attempt came as the police in North Cotabato released the cartographic sketch of two suspects who left a powerful improvised bomb and set it off during rush hour shopping at M'lang public market on Dec. 31, 2014.

Two women were killed while 33 other persons were wounded, one of whom had her legs amputated due to serious shrapnel injuries.

Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police chief, said the M'lang bombing was in retaliation for the arrest of one Abdulazis Glang who was linked to the earlier bombing on Nov. 23, also in M'lang, which left three teenagers dead and 25 other people wounded.

Police blamed the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighting for independence in Mindanao and resorting to extortion activities and bombings.

Military chasing ASG band who shot it up with BPAT members in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Military chasing ASG band who shot it up with BPAT members in Sulu
Troopers from the Western Mindanao Command are conducting pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who traded shots with Barangay Police Action Team (BPAT) members near Barangay Kiyutaan, Talipao, Sulu on Saturday morning.

Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Rowena Muyuela said the encounter took place at about 6:05 a.m. after some 30 ASG bandits harassed the BPAT members led by Councilor Lakim Uddin.

The ASGs were reportedly headed by sub-leaders Angga Adji and Roger Saji.

Muyuela said the bandits started their attack by firing several M-203 grenade launcher rounds at Lakim's group, prompting the latter to retaliate.

The firefight lasted for almost 10 minutes that resulted in the wounding of one BPAT member identified as Akmad Aburan.

Anonymous declares war over Charlie Hebdo attack - CNN

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 11): Anonymous declares war over Charlie Hebdo attack - CNN


ANONYMOUS declared war on Islamic extremists Friday and promised to take revenge for the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo.

In a video posted on YouTube, the group of hackers said they would track down websites and social media networks linked to terrorists, and take them down.

"We, Anonymous around the world, have decided to declare war on you the terrorists," it said.

The video is described as a message for "al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorists," and promises to avenge the killing of 12 people in Wednesday's attack.

"We intend to take revenge in their name, we are going to survey your activities on the net, we are going to shut down your accounts on all social networks," Anonymous said.
Cherif and Said Kouachi, the brothers wanted for the massacre at Charlie Hedbo's offices in Paris, were killed Friday by French security forces in a town where they had been surrounded, according to a local official.

Said spent several months in Yemen in 2011, receiving weapons training and working with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. officials said Friday.

His younger brother Cherif was sentenced to three years in prison for being part of a jihadist recruitment ring in Paris that sent fighters to join the conflict in Iraq.

An ISIS radio broadcast Thursday praised the attackers, calling them "brave jihadists." But the broadcast did not say whether the two had any connection to the militant group.

The attack has prompted an outpouring of solidarity, with thousands joining rallies in defense of freedom of speech and republishing many of the magazine's most controversial cartoons -- including of the Prophet Mohammed.

Anonymous has hacked websites belonging to government departments, companies and other organizations. The loose collective is also known for supporting the Occupy movement.

Soldier unscathed in gun attack

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 10): Soldier unscathed in gun attack

A SOLDIER has escaped unscathed in a gun attack in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, the police reported Saturday.

Zamboanga Sibugay Police director Robert Roy Bahian said the incident took place around 6:30 a.m. Friday along the national highway at Sitio Pulo Pantad in Barangay Baluran, Tungawan town.

Bahian identified the soldier as Sergeant Alexander Mangubat, a member of the Philippine Army, and a resident of Libertad village, Tungawan town.

Bahian said investigation showed Mangubat was driving motorcycle from Tungawan Municipality en route to Ipil, the capital town of Zamboanga Sibugay, when shot twice by one of two men riding tandem on another motorcycle that tailed the soldier.

The suspects fled towards Ipil town after Mangubat managed to dodge and escaped unscathed during the incident, Bahian said.

Investigation continues to identify the suspects, he added.

Rights group warns of militarizing Pope’s visit

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 11): Rights group warns of militarizing Pope’s visit

Human rights activists yesterday warned that the contingency plans drawn up by the government and the military will also be used to keep Pope Francis away from the people, “specially those who would want him to know what ails this country.”

While Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay acknowledged that it is the prime duty of the Aquino government to protect the Pope and ensure his safety and security, there are, however, “legitimate issues and concerns that the Filipino people would want the Pope to know.”

“These are issues that President BS (Benigno Simeon) Aquino would not address but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will try to hide these through massive troop deployment,” she sad in a statement.

Palabay raised the concern as AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang announced the deployment of some 17,000 soldiers for His Holiness’ visit on January 15 to 19, aside from the 20,000 members of the Philippine National Police.

“The massive deployment of troops and policemen is an antithesis of the spirit of the Pope’s visit, although it bespeaks of the essence of this government,” she said.

“This is ‘once in a lifetime event’ for the Filipino people and we do not want soldiers in their shadows. The people’s message might not reach Pope Francis,” she added.

“For one, we would want Pope Francis to know the wishes of the political prisoners for him to intercede for their release, specially the elderly and the sick.

Relatives of political prisoners and human rights advocates hope that we will be able to convey this message to Pope Francis,” Palabay stressed.

Political prisoners and their relatives, as well as families of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, have also written letters to Pope Francis calling for his support for justice and peace.

“We can’t help but turn to Pope Francis because the government does not heed the victims call for justice, they would want him to hear their woes,” she said.

Defense and police officials also yesterday said they are all ready for all possible security contingencies for Pope Francis’ visit.

This was in response to questions on whether security forces have rethink their strategies in wake of the series of terrorist attacks in France which claimed the lives of around 20 persons early this week.

“We have prepared for all scenarios with all resources we have. All government security agencies are in close coordination to ensure that our brothers and sisters attending and observing this event concentrate and fully experience the spiritual encounter of the Pope’s pastoral visit to the Filipino flock,” Defense spokesman Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said, “All possible situations are being considered and appropriate contingency responses are studied for implementation if necessary.”

About 37,000 police officers and soldiers, including reservists were ordered mobilized to secure the Pontiff in his five-day visit.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said they were still to detect any security threats for the papal visit and added that having a France-like incident happening in the country is “very remote.”

“The circumstances surrounding the incident in France is very remote. We do not see any reason why it should be linked to the visit of (a) Man of Faith, Peace, Justice and Equality,” he said.

MILF waffles on disarmament

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 11): MILF waffles on disarmament

Decommissioning set next month "symbolic" -- MILF

The decommissioning process of firearms would be at best symbolical when it is held next month as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) cited four phases that should be held in parallel with eight processes or “tracks” for the disarmament of its troops under a peace pact with the government.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said decommissioning of firearms “has to be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of other agreements.”

Iqbal described the event to be held next month which the government billed as the start of the decommissioning of the firearms of the MILF would merely be “symbolic” since the proces is in reality not that simple but a very “sentimental, sensitive and emotional” act.

Iqbal stressed that the decommissioning process should never be equated to surrender nor should there be “a destruction of weapons, but that a third-party monitor, called the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), would be responsible for the storage of said weapons.”

The symbolic decommissioning was initially set last December but “it has to relate to other tracks in Phase 1” of the implementation schedule, Iqbal added.

A supposed matrix detailing the program for normalization in the Bangsamoro has been attached to the annex on normalization signed among members of the government and MILF peace
panels last Jan. 25, 2014 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Iqbal said the matrix shows four phases of implementation with eight dimensions or tracks, including decommissioning, that have to be parallel and commensurate to each other.

“The rest are transitional components of normalization, socio-economic programs, confidence-building measures, redeployment of AFP, policing, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups, transitional justice and reconciliation,” he added.

Iqbal said he had written Ambassador Haydar Berk of Turkey, who heads the IDB, about the number of MILF weapons and combatants that would be decommissioned.

The IDB is made up of Norway, Turkey and Brunei and four other local experts jointly nominated by the parties.

It is expected to meet in Manila this month.

Iqbal added that delaying the decommissioning process is the unfinished implementing guidelines of the terms of reference of the IDB.

Since the IDB was constituted last September only, its members “cannot put up themselves yet in the proper way to move forward,” Iqbal said.

“The MILF is committed to decommission its weapons and forces and put them beyond use, but it is in exchange for something for our people. That something is in a good (Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),” the MILF, meanwhile, said in its website

“If there is no reason to bear arms and that all our limbs and properties are safe, who will then be in need of these weapons?,” it stated.

The Palace, meanwhile, said it hopes to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law within the administration’s timetable in the first quarter of this year.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said she will raise the legality issues of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Santiago, has set the hearings for Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

Deputy presidential spokesmann Abigail Valte, in a radio interview, said she hopes the constitutionality issues on the BBL will be settled in Congress.

“In the beginning, I understand that Senator Defensor-Santiago has always been of the position that there are certain things that she believes — that she has a contrary opinion,” Valte said.

“Hopefully, these questions or positions can be the subject of discussions between her and other lawmakers, as the law is discussed in Congress,” she added.

Asked if she thinks the the law could be passed within the administration’s time frame, the Palace official said they have not lost their optimism for its passage.

“We remain hopeful. We understand that there are a number of issues that need to be thoroughly discussed by lawmakers when this reaches the floor,” she said. “But we remain hopeful that it will make the intended timetable.”

Santiago said she wanted to hear the views of those who forged the agreement. She noted the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also sought to establish a substate that would exercise certain sovereign powers otherwise reserved for the central government.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who conducted public hearings on the draft law in parts of Mindanao as chair of the local government committee, agreed that the issue of substate was the “main constitutional question.”

Six hurt as armed groups clash in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Jan 10): Six hurt as armed groups clash in Maguindanao

A clash between private armed groups in Brgy. Poblacion in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao left at least six people injured, the Army said on Saturday.
According to Army 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Jo-ann Petinglay, the firefight occurred between the groups of Akmad Ampatuan and a certain "Tamano" on Friday evening.
Petinglay said Tamano's group attacked Ampatuan's home around 9:55 p.m., which led to the firefight.
Meanwhile, Shariff Aguak chief of police Insp. Michael Tinio said at least three M-79 grenades were fired near Ampatuan's home.
The Army responded by sending a platoon to the area to de-escalate the fighting between the armed groups.
Ampatuan is the former mayor of Datu Salibo town and one of the main witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre case.
The motive behind the attack is believed to be a rido or feud but authorities are still conducting an investigation to fully determine the reason and the suspects involved.

PHL seals deal for two C-130 aircraft

From GMA News (Jan 10): PHL seals deal for two C-130 aircraft

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has inspected two Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft that the Philippines will purchase from the United States, the US Embassy said on Friday.
In a news release, it said that AFP Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics Major General Victor Bayani led the second inspection at the Joint Reserve Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, Texas. 
After the inspection, Bayani signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance which sealed the deal for the purchase.
The Philippine government bought the two C-130s for $55 million as part of a joint investment program to build up the capabilities of the AFP.
In addition, the US will also provide $20 million in Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines with the purchase.
The two C-130s are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2016 and will be used by the AFP to bolster the Philippine Air Force's airlift capabilities.
The Air Force currently has three working C-130s which are used to transport troops and equipment. The airplanes are also used to fly relief goods in times of calamity.

Potential terrorist threats in parts of Mindanao cited in US worldwide caution

From GMA News (Jan 10): Potential terrorist threats in parts of Mindanao cited in US worldwide caution

The United States on Saturday cautioned its nationals in the Philippines against travel to parts of Mindanao due to the threat from the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

In a worldwide alert, the US noted the JI and Abu Sayyaf have cells in Southeast Asia with JI being linked to Al Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups.

"There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao," it said.

"Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group, have cells operating throughout Southeast Asia and JI is linked to al-Qaida and other regional terrorist groups," it added.

Also, it said that over the past year there have been several kidnappings-for-ransom targeting foreigners in Eastern Sabah and in the southern Sulu Sea area.

Such incidents may have involved terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines, it said.

"In addition to incursions on the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area," it said.

The US State Department, in updating its worldwide caution, cited recent terrorist attacks, "whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators" that it said "serve as a reminder that US citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness."

Also, it noted that on September 22 last year, the US and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

In response to air strikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are.

"Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia," it said.

"Kidnappings and hostage events involving US citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al Qa`ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody," it said.

Also, it said extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests.

Such targets may include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays, it said.

"U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City," it said.

Sulu brgy councilor attacked by alleged Abu Sayyaf men

From ABS-CBN (Jan 10): Sulu brgy councilor attacked by alleged Abu Sayyaf men

A barangay councilor in Talipao, Sulu and his men were attacked by around 30 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group on Saturday, authorities said.

The armed men, believed to be under sub-leaders Angga Adji and Rogr Saji, fired shots at the group of Barangay Kiyutaan Councilor Lakim Uddin Saturday morning, resulting to a firefight between the two groups.

The firefight lasted for almost 10 minutes, authorities said.

A certain Akmad Aburan from Uddin's group was slightly wounded in the clash.

There was no reported casualty from the side of the terrorist group, which fled toward the direction of Barangay Bungkaong.

Police said Uddin and Adji have a long standing family feud.

6 hurt in Maguindanao market shooting

From ABS-CBN (Jan 10): 6 hurt in Maguindanao market shooting

Six people sustained minor injuries in a shooting incident in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on Friday evening.

Police said gun shots were heard at a public market in Barangay Poblacion, Shariff Aguak at around 10 p.m.

They then discovered a hole in the roof of the said market and some marks from the splinters believed to be from an M203 grenade launcher.

Shariff Aguak Police Chief Senior Inspector Michael Tinio said 6 people sustained splinter injuries, but they are all now out of danger.

The public market is just adjacent to houses of former Datu Salibo Mayor Akmad Ampatuan and former Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Ampatuan.

On Sunday night, the former’s house was harassed by still unidentified armed men.

Shariff Aguak Acting Mayor Marop Ampatuan said the decision of his father, Akmad Ampatuan, to testify against those accused in the Maguindanao massacre case could be the reason behind the harassment on his family.

Akmad Ampatuan is the cousin of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., the patriarch of the Ampatuan family who is one of the principal suspects in the Maguindanao massacre case.

Authorities are conducting further investigation into the incident.

New buzz words, targets: P600B for AFP modernization

From Rappler (Jan 10): New buzz words, targets: P600B for AFP modernization

Defense officials want everyone to drop the buzz phrase 'minimum credible deterrence' and instead use 'credible deterrence' as the motivation for the AFP's modernization

PATROLS: Philippine Navy's illustration of the brand new frigates it plans to acquire
PATROLS: Philippine Navy's illustration of the brand new frigates it plans to acquire

There are new buzz words and new targets that observers of the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) need to know.

There's first horizon and second horizon – your first two buzz words – as defense officials are now discussing the “second horizon” of AFP modernization as the “first horizon” makes significant advances.

The first horizon refers to the P90.86 billion allocation provided by the Aquino administration under the Revised AFP Modernization law seeking to modernize the military in the wake of China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

It is not much compared to the defense budgets of neighboring countries but it has been the most aggressive modernization by one of Asia’s weakest militaries.

The first horizon, which is set to be completed by 2017, includes the 12 fighter jets – two of which are arriving at the end of the year – and the long-delayed two frigates that the Department of National Defense (DND) is hoping to bid out in the first quarter. These are the two big-ticket items in a list of 91 projects funded by the P90-billion modernization fund.

As most of these items await deliveries, defense officials want everyone to drop the buzz phrase “minimum credible deterrence” as the motivation for the modernization. The goal now is “credible deterrence” because how does one measure “minimum” anyway, asked one official.

Note to Aquino successor

Defense officials are now in the thick of meetings to identify priorities under the “second horizon” of modernization slated between 2018 and 2023.

DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions and Materiel Fernando Manalo said it’s premature to enumerate the items but it will focus on areas of concern.

“The second horizon will probably be heavy on HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response) and the West Philippine Sea and not so much on the ISO (International Security Operations) because we are expecting that ISO will not be so intense in the next 5 years and what we have already acquired should be sufficient to address ISO,” said Manalo.

This should mean additional frigates for the Philippine Navy to complete its minimum requirement of 6 frigates to effectively patrol the country’s waters and the possible acquisition of multi-role fighters, which is more sophisticated than the FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers that the PAF are getting.

Based on Manalo’s estimates, the second horizon will need a budget that is “much higher than [the] P90 billion” allocated for the first horizon. It is a commitment that the security sector will need to get from the successor of President Benigno Aquino III who is stepping down in 2016.

Manalo said the J5 (Office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for plans) and the Office of the assistant secretary for plans and programs are finalizing the list for the second horizon.

“I think within the year, the Department of National Defense will be able to submit the proposed modernization for the second horizon,” Manalo added.

Third horizon to complete the P600-B requirement

There is a “third horizon” in the pipeline – covering the period 2024-2028 – in the hope that the second horizon will not meet the fate of the original AFP Modernization law – the precursor of the Revised AFP Modernization law – that promised P330 billion in modernization funds but went pfft.

Manalo could not give estimates on the cost of the third horizon but all 3 horizons, he said, should “not less than twice” the original funding provided by the original law, meaning, P660 billion.

Philippine troops disarm powerful bomb

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 10): Philippine troops disarm powerful bomb

A masked BIFF rebel listens to his commander during a clandestine interview by the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)
Security forces have disarmed an improvised explosive after it was discovered on a busy road in Pikit town in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, officials said Saturday.

Officials said bomb disposal experts from the army’s 7th Infantry Battalion were dispatched to the town to defuse the explosive which was connected to a cell phone by a wire.

The explosive was still wrapped in a packing tape and made to look like a baggage when a civilian spotted it and immediately informed the authorities, according to Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

“We still do not know who was behind the foiled bombing, but investigation is going on,” Petinglay told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

A series of explosion late last year also injured and killed scores of civilians in North Cotabato province blamed by the military and police to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

A lone BIFF member also killed three soldiers with the army's 9th Intelligence Service Unit in the same month in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao. The rebel killed an army major and two privates who were travelling in a car. The soldiers also lost their weapons and a laptop to the attacker.

Some 500 BIFF rebels also assaulted the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in the village of Sapakan in Rajah Buayan town. The attack sparked a six-hour firefight that wounded Corporal Charlie Dilangsoy, and another village in North Cotabato's Midsayap town.

MILF commander attacks Ampatuan clan member in Maguindanao province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 10): MILF commander attacks Ampatuan clan member in Maguindanao province

A former rebel leader attacked the house of a politician in the restive province of Maguindanao, sparking a firefight that left one person injured, the army said on Saturday.

It said gunmen led by Tamano Mamalapat, a senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, assaulted the house of Akmad Ampatuan, a former mayor in Datu Salibo town.

The attack was connected to a long-running feud, according to Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division.

She said the attack triggered a firefight that wounded Salik Camsa, but it was unknown whether the man was caught in the crossfire or had been fighting for either side of the warring clans.

Mamalapat’s group had previously attacked Akmad’s house and that of his son, Maroph, who is now the acting mayor of Shariff Aguak, after his rival Mayor Zahara Ampatuan went into hiding last year following her alleged links to the 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers in Maguindanao.

Zahara’s father-in-law, Andal Ampatuan, who is the clan’s patriarch, and his sons and other family members are facing multiple murder charges because of the massacre. Zahara denied all charges against her and branded the accusation as political propaganda.

Akmad and Maroph had turned their backs on Andal and his sons and is now bitter political rival.

Andal’s mansion and that of his son Zaldy, former governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, were also strafed by gunmen.

Just last month, gunmen also ambushed Akmad’s convoy and wounding him and two of his bodyguards in Guindulungan town, also in Maguindanao.

Ampatuan’s convoy was heading to Shariff Aguak when gunmen attacked the politician’s vehicle.  Also in December, an unidentified assailant also fired a rifle grenade on the mansion of  Zahara, although no one was injured or killed, and caused little damage as the grenade exploded on the sprawling compound.

Militia wounded in Sayyaf clash in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 10): Militia wounded in Sayyaf clash in Southern Philippines

A government militia was wounded following a firefight with Abu Sayyaf rebels on Saturday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the militias, who are members of the Barangay Police Action Team, were patrolling the village of Kiyutaan in Sulu’s Talipao town when the rebels attacked them with rifle grenades.

She said the patrol, led by Councilor Lakim Uddin, fought some 30 rebels under Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Angga Adji and Roger Saji.

“The firefight lasted for almost ten minutes that resulted to the wounding of one Barangay Police Action Team member Akmad Aburan,” Muyuela told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

She said it was unknown if there were casualties on the Abu Sayyaf side. “There is an ongoing police and military operation against the Abu Sayyaf,” Muyuela said.

The Abu Sayyaf is being blamed for the spate of terror attacks and ransom kidnappings in southern Philippines.

Top NPA leader in Negros Occidental nabbed in joint checkpoint operation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Top NPA leader in Negros Occidental nabbed in joint checkpoint operation

A suspected leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental was arrested by joint police and military personnel in a checkpoint operation Friday night in Barangay Punao, San Carlos City, the military said Saturday afternoon.

The Philippine Army identified the suspect as Rogelio Posadas, who was intercepted along the highway near Hacienda Socorro at around 10 p.m.

Posadas has a warrant of arrest for murder issued by Judge Renato Muñez of the Regional Trial Court Branch 60 in Cadiz City.

He is facing charges for the death of First Lt. Archie Polenzo, company commander of 62nd Infantry Battalion, whose troop engaged in an encounter with Posadas’ group in Barangay Caduhaan, Cadiz City in March 9, 2010.

Posadas, who uses the alias Poten/Isko, is known as the secretary of the North Negros Front, Kometing Rehiyonal-Negros (NNF, KR-N) and National Democractic Front-Negros spokesman, the military said.

He is detained at Cadiz Police Station as of Saturday afternoon.

The arrest of Posadas was conducted by personnel of the Special Operations Group of Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office and the San Carlos City Police with assistance from Philippine Army troopers.

“The Army’s involvement in the arrest is part of its mandate to support law enforcement by the Philippine National Police in order to maintain peace and security in the locality which is consistent with the guidelines provided in the suspension of offensive military operations,” said Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Between January and February last year, military and police teams also arrested Biboy Espinas, suspected member of the KR-Negros Finance Bureau and former spokesman of the Northern Negros Front, also known as the Jean Pelle Command, and Romulo Bitoon, alleged by the military as the secretary of the Regional Unified White Area Committee of KR-Negros.

Both Espinas and Bitoon are also charged for the murder of Polenzo

IED found, detonated in North Cotabato town

From InterAksyon (Jan 20): IED found, detonated in North Cotabato town

A composite image of police cartographic sketches of the suspects in the New Year's Eve bombing at the public market of Mlang, North Cotabato that left two persons dead and 36 injured. (Mlang police)

An improvised bomb was found and safely detonated by authorities in Pikit town, North Cotabato just as authorities released composite sketches of the suspects in the New Year’s Eve bombing that left two persons dead and 36 others wounded in Mlang town.

The package containing the Pikit bomb, planted in front of the home of Bobby Sahidsahid on Datu Piang Street, Barangay Poblacion, was discovered by residents around 9 a.m.

A bomb squad immediately responded and safely set off the improvised explosive device crafted from a rifle grenade and set to be triggered by a cellular phone.
Authorities have yet to identify who planted the bomb.

Meanwhile, the suspects of the Mlang New Year’s Eve bombing were described as between 30-35 years old, around 5’5” to 5’6” tall and weighing around 62 to 68 kilos.

The blast followed the bombing of a billiard hall in the same town on November 23 that killed three teenagers and wounded 24 other persons at the height of Mlang’s Kawayanan Festival.

PVAO pushes for creation of veterans’ hospitals, pension hike

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): PVAO pushes for creation of veterans’ hospitals, pension hike

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) is working on providing more benefits to the war veterans of the country.

PVAO deputy administrator Maj. Gen. Raul Caballes said they were endorsing the establishment of three veterans’ hospitals: one each in Northern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

These hospitals would be in addition to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, Caballes said during the celebration of the 8th Pangasinan Veterans’ Day and the 70th Gulf Landings Anniversary at the Veterans Memorial Park, Capitol Complex here last Jan. 9.

At the same time, he said their proposal to increase the monthly pension of the living World War II (WWII) veterans by 300% or from Php 5,000 to Php 20,000 is now in the bicameral committee level of Congress.

There are about 14,000 surviving WWII veterans in the entire country, 619 of whom are Pangasinan natives.

Meanwhile, the province recorded 1,373 post-WWII veterans.

Pangasinan’s observance of Veterans Day since 2008, by virtue of a provincial proclamation, was the province’s way of thanking the heroism and valor of the war veterans, said Governor Amado Espino Jr.

Also, recently, the provincial board approved a resolution allotting 360 square meters lot of the Provincial Capitol for the construction of PVAO field office.

PN to commission two attack AW-109s by May

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): PN to commission two attack AW-109s by May

The two AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" attack helicopters of the Philippine Navy (PN) will be commissioned this coming May.

This was disclosed by PN spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo in a message to the PNA.

"No date of commissioning yet but the target is to be in time or prior the the 117th Navy Day celebrations this coming May," he said.

The PN was founded in May 27, 1898.

At the moment, the Navy's AW-109s is still undergoing Bureau of Customs documentation, duties, and process of inspection.

The two Navy AW-109s, in disassembled condition, arrived last Dec. 28.

It is part of the five helicopter contract signed by the Navy with aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland last 2013.

The contract is worth Php1.33 billion. The first three units were delivered and commissioned in December 2013.

These AW-109s will be armed with machine guns, 20mm cannons and possibly, with 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.

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.

Phl's arbitration case vs China shows options in sea row

From ABS-CBN (Jan 10): Phl's arbitration case vs China shows options in sea row

By turning to international arbitration to define its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, Manila has shown there are options to resolve territorial disputes other than lopsided negotiations where mighty nations lord over small ones.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. voiced the observation in a speech during a reception he hosted for Washington-based journalists led by National Press Club president Myron Belkind.

“We have always been asked why we have resorted to arbitration. Our answer is simple. International law is the great equalizer,” Cuisia said in his remarks.

He said Manila sees the arbitration case as a model for other smaller states in a similar situation. Manila’s resorting to international arbitration was prompted by China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

He said other similarly situated countries should take the cue from Manila and consider the dispute settlement mechanisms under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or the United Nations Charter.

“By taking the legal route, we are showing the world that states have other viable options to resolving disputes other than in an asymmetrical negotiation where the big and militarily strong nation will dominate the smaller nation in the negotiating table,” he said.

The Philippines filed its arbitration case in 2013. It formally submitted its memorial or written arguments to the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague on March 30, 2014.

China ignored the Dec. 15 deadline set by the UN arbitral tribunal for the submission of its defense.

Beijing vowed not to participate in an arbitration, saying it would only accept bilateral negotiations with Manila.

Cuisia said a study prepared by Washington supports the Philippine position on the need for peaceful clarification of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

“Studies such as the one produced by the US contribute to the substantive international literature that supports the primacy and utility of UNCLOS in the determination of maritime entitlements and the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes,” he pointed out.

Cuisia also said a recent statement from Vietnam on the arbitration case was helpful in promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful solutions to the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Alleged MILF member nabbed for illegal possession of firearms

From ABS-CBN (Jan 10): Alleged MILF member nabbed for illegal possession of firearms

An alleged member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was arrested after he was caught carrying an unlicensed .45-caliber pistol at a bus terminal in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City on Friday.

Police identified the suspect as Erwen Sawardi, a native of Talusan municipality in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Police said Sawadi was acting suspiciously when he alighted from a bus at around 2 p.m.

This prompted a policeman assigned at the terminal to approach him and conduct a body search on him and search his bag.

Confiscated from the suspect was a .45-caliber pistol.

Authorities said Sawadi identified himself as a member of the MILF under a commander operating in Basilan. He, however, refused to identify the commander.

Police told ABS-CBN News that they are still verifying reports from an informant that the Sawadi was in Zamboanga City for an undisclosed mission.

The suspect is now undergoing tactical interrogation.

NPA leader nabbed in Negros Occ. checkpoint

ABS-CBN (Jan 10): NPA leader nabbed in Negros Occ. checkpoint

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL – A New people’s Army (NPA) leader in Negros Occidental was arrested in a checkpoint in the province.

A certain alias “Ka Isko” was nabbed after a rebel returnee who was his comrade positively identified him in a Philippine Army checkpoint.

303rd Infantry Brigade Commanding Officer Col. John Aying said the suspect had a warrant of arrest for murder.

Judge Renato Munoz of the Regional Trial Court Branch 60 in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental issued the warrant on September 1, 2011.

The suspect served as the front secretary of the Northern Negros Front, the Rehiyong Negros Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

He was also the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front.

MILF says no plans yet to step in on BBL legal battle

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 10): MILF says no plans yet to step in on BBL legal battle

For the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), it is still too early to discuss the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is currently under congressional scrutiny.

In a statement over its website, the MILF appealed to all not to make hasty statements on  the constitutionality of the BBL that may spark negative reactions.

The MILF stressed the constitutionality of the BBL, agreed upon by the MILF and the government of the Philippines (GRP), falls under the authority of the Supreme Court.

“We therefore appeal to all and sundry, especially leaders, not to make hasty pronouncements that would agitate negative reactions from the people,” it stressed.

“The issue of constitutionality of any provision of the BBL is in the domain of the Supreme Court. We are not yet there,” the MILF pointed out.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have noted that some provisions of the BBL could be considered unconstitutional.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, chairman of the committee on local government, and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, head of the Congress ad-hoc committee, have been conducting public hearings on the BBL.

Both Marcos and Rodriguez have noted some provisions of the BBL similar to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) that was junked as unconstitutional by the high tribunal in 2008.

Without naming names, the MILF expressed belief that the legislators, who have issued statements regarding the unconstitutionality of the BBL, did such in good faith.

“We believe that if these legislators ever made these statements of the unconstitutionality of some aspects of the BBL, they were made in good faith,” the MILF said.

“Or, they were quoted out of context by some media reporters, which we believe requires a clarification. (We don’t know if we can go to that extent here),” it added.     

The MILF stressed that while the BBL’s fate is still hanging in the balance, the situation remains tense.

“Prudence is a better part of judgment. Even the well-intentioned views or statements can mean another thing to others. The truth is that we are in a very sensitive and delicate situation,” said the MILF.

“All honest stakeholders including MILF members and combatants are waiting with bated  breath on the fate of BBL in Congress.  While we have faith in the collective wisdom of Congress to pass a good legislation, in a tense situation such as we are now in, it is people’s nature to react swiftly — sometimes unreasonably — even to a slight movement,” it added.

Marcos has already referred the constitutional issues of the BBL to the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Marcos said one of the highly-contentious issues surrounding the BBL is the sub-state provision.

Santiago, a constitution expert, has accepted the request of Marcos and set the hearing on the constitutional issues surrounding the BBL on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

Santiago has been outspoken in saying the basis of the BBL, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, is unconstitutional because it allegedly violates the principle of constitutional supremacy.

Soldier killed in Samar shootout

From the Philippine Star (Jan 8): Soldier killed in Samar shootout

A soldier on his way to visit relatives, was killed by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in a shootout in Northern Samar last Sunday.

Lt. Col. Erwin Alea, spokesman for the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said Sgt. Leo Loberiano was driving his motorcycle when the rebels waylaid him in the outskirts of Barangay Napo in Palapag town.

“The soldier, realizing that the armed men were NPA rebels, fought it out and broke through their checkpoint,” Alea said in a statement.

He said the rebels took Loberiano’s pistol and bag.

Members of the 34th Infantry Battalion have launched pursuit operations against the rebels.

 The incident was the fifth atrocity blamed on rebels while the military is observing a suspension of offensive operations for the Christmas holidays and the visit of Pope Francis. The SOMO, which started on Dec.18, will end on Jan. 19.

Communist rebels also declared a ceasefire that took effect on Dec. 24 to 26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1. The NPA will suspend offensives again from Jan. 15 to 19 during the papal visit.
Military officials said the insurgents burned construction equipment in Camarines Norte and a civilian vehicle in Agusan del Sur on Dec. 22.

NPA guerrillas were also tagged in the kidnapping of Davao del Norte jail warden Marvin Coquilla on Dec. 23 and the ambush that killed a soldier and wounded three others in Mabini, Compostela Valley.

“While we remain sincere in our words and actions to abide by the provisions of the SOMO, the NPA rebels remain treacherous in their actions, taking advantage of every opportunity to inflict casualties not only on the members of the Armed Forces but even on innocent civilians,” said Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino, chief of the Army’s 8th ID.