Sunday, January 11, 2015

Soldier leads rescue of toddler from hostage-taker father

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): Soldier leads rescue of toddler from hostage-taker father


A toddler was rescued from her father who threatened to kill her during a rescue operation by policemen and civilian volunteers organized on the spot on Sumulong Highway in Barangay Mambugan, Antipolo City, Saturday, belated reports said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) identified the soldier as Army Technical Sergeant Gilbert Ang, 39, a member of the AFP Special Operations Group (SOG).

“He was on his way home on board a motorcycle when he spotted a commotion. He stopped near the crowd of people to investigate because just a few meters away he saw a deranged man in his 20s poking a knife at he neck of his own daughter, so he learned later,” Cabunoc said.

In his personal account, Ang said armed policemen tried to negotiate with the suspect for the release of the child but the suspect ignored them.

“The sight of policemen with long firearms irritated the hostage-taker who kept walking away, followed by a growing number of villagers. By that time, the stand-off had dragged for about half an hour,” he said.

Ang said he talked with Chief Inspector Dogwe, team leader of the policemen, and offered to help rescue the child.

“I told them that I can do something with the help of a few unarmed civilians. I explained that the suspect might stab the child because he was very agitated and appeared emotionally unstable,” Ang said.

Civilian volunteers were also taken into the rescue team and were briefed on what to do.

“I assigned myself as the main effort, the civilians and policemen as the supporting efforts. It was like a military operation where I am the over-all leader and primary actor,” Ang said.

As the main effort, he volunteered to ram his motorcycle on the left side of the hostage-taker’s body in order to throw him off-balance, and allow the two civilians and policemen to grab the knife and the child. They all knew that it was easier said than done.

"I made sure that the plan was clearly understood by all players. The suspect had already walked about a kilometer toward Marikina-Infanta highway and was visibly exhausted,” he said.

In two occasions, he had to abort his plan because the suspect became suspicious and again threatened to kill the child.

He patiently waited for the opportunity by continuously trailing the suspect from behind. His team members were only a few meters away around the suspect who looked like being escorted by a platoon of well-wishers as he walked with the victim along the busy road.

Seeing that the hostage-taker was not looking, he raced toward him, aiming the front wheel of his motorcycle on the suspect's left leg. He hit the mark and crashed just beside the suspect.

"I was not fully aware of the next scene because people rushed in. I felt something hit my butt but I sensed the pain on my leg which smashed on the road," Ang narrated.

Senior Police Officer 3 Jesus Magno, SPO1 Herbert Iligan, and PO2 Roy Macuto of Police Community Precinct 1, Antipolo City wasted no time in disarming the suspect, who was later identified as Alvin Occidental, 28, a resident of Pansol, Quezon City.

Blast rocks Cotabato City, bomb found in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): Blast rocks Cotabato City, bomb found in North Cotabato

The entire length of Gonzalo Javier Street, Rosary Heights-7 was jolted by an explosion from a rifle grenade past 9 p.m. Sunday.

The explosion occurred near the office of the Sultan Kudarat Descendants Organization of the Philippines.

Initial reports from 5th Special Forces Commander Lt. Rannie Sevilla, one  M203 grenade launcher  exploded.

No one was hurt in the explosion, but it destroyed windows of nearby structures.

Two men on a motorcycle were spotted near the bomb site minutes before the explosion.

Police are still finding out who are behind the explosion and what their motivations are.

In a related development, a homemade bomb was recovered in Midsayap, North Cotabato by the police past 9 p.m. Sunday.

The bomb was made of 81 mm mortar, North Cotabato police director Senior Superintendent Danilo Peralta.

It was found in Poblacion 7 near a mosque.

Authorities immediately alerted the entire province for the threat of terrorism.

Earlier, a homemade bomb was discovered in the town of Pikit Friday night, while a bomb also exploded in the town of Mlang.

IED defused in North Cotabato

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 11): IED defused in North Cotabato

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- A large Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was defused by authorities at 10:05 p.m. Saturday, January 10.

Pikit Chief of Police Sindatu Karim said they spotted a man moving suspiciously as he left a bag beside the road at Datu Piang Street in Barangay Poblacion, Pikit.

As the man was being accosted by members of Task Force Pikit led by Superintendent Jordine Maribojo, he was able to escape with the help of another man onboard a motorcycle who brought him to a remote area in Pagalungan Maguindanao.

The police and members of the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army chased down the suspects but failed to catch them.

Members of the Explosive Ordnance and Disposal (EOD) Team of the Philippine Army responded to the scene and inspected the contents of the bag and found a bomb inside it.

The IED was fashioned from one Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) with citric acid connected to a cellphone, which served as the triggering mechanism. It was defused by the EOD team.

The authorities believe that the suspects were targeting soldiers and police officers patrolling in the area.

The military and police are currently beefing up security in the province of Cotabato following threats of bombing and surprise attacks from rebels.

Pikit farmer foils powerful blast

From the Philippine Star (Jan 12): Pikit farmer foils powerful blast

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines — A Muslim peasant on Saturday foiled an attempt by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to set off a powerful roadside bomb along a busy street in Pikit, North Cotabato.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers managed to immediately remove the blasting mechanism of the improvised explosive device after having been informed by a farmer, who noticed the bomb along Datu Piang Street in the town proper of Pikit.

Petinglay said the tipster, whose identity she declined to reveal for security reasons, first noticed the electrical wires dangling from the box containing the IED, prompting him to immediately report what he saw to the nearby headquarters of the Army's 7th Infantry Battalion.

"We ought to thank the vigilant informant. Through his vigilance, the police and military succeeded in preventing another bomb explosion in the town center of Pikit," Petinglay said.

She said intelligence agents of the 7th IB are now helping the Pikit municipal police determine the identities of the two suspects that left the IED along a busy stretch of Datu Piang Street some 20 minutes before a Muslim farmer noticed and reported its presence to authorities.

The two suspects, riding a motorcycle together, casually pulled over along the street, left the box containing the IED and hurriedly sped away.

Barangay folks are convinced the brigand BIFF was responsible for the attempt to set off a roadside bomb in retaliation for losses in encounters with the Army in nearby towns last week.

Pikit is a known gateway to the vast Liguasan Delta, a haven of the BIFF.

‘Rebel leader’ nabbed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 12): ‘Rebel leader’ nabbed

The Philippine Army yesterday justified the arrest of an alleged top leader of the New People’s Army on Friday at a checkpoint in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, citing an arrest warrant for murder, while the suspension of military operations against communist rebels is still ongoing.

No one is above the law, Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander said, referring to the arrest of Rogelio Posadas, secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal- Negros Northern Negros Front.
Aying said Posadas, with the aliases of Poten and Isko, has a pending warrant of arrest for murder, in connection with the death of an Army officer on March 9, 2010 in Cadiz City.
“It was a law enforcement operation,” Aying said, adding that Posadas was positively identified by his former comrades at the checkpoint, that was manned jointly by the San Carlos City police, Special Operations Group of NOPPO, 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion and the 62nd Infantry Battalion, in Hacienda Socorro, Brgy. Punao, San Carlos City.
In July last year, Abraham Villanueva, alias Tikboy, who was alleged by the military and police to be the secretary of the KR-Negros South West Front, was also intercepted at a police checkpoint in Brgy. Dancalan, Ilog.
While several other NPA leaders arrested managed to post bail due to weak evidences and lack of witnesses, Aying said he is confident that Posadas, who was intercepted at a checkpoint while riding a “habal-habal (motorcycle),´may not able to do so, as they have strong evidences against him, and witnesses against him used to be his colleagues.
Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, in a statement he issued, said the Army’s involvement in the arrest of Posadas is part of its mandate to support the law enforcement operation of the Philippine National Police, to maintain peace and security in the locality, consistent with the guidelines in the SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations).
The SOMO being observed by the AFP will end on Jan. 19, while the CPP-NPA is observing its unilateral ceasefire on Jan. 15 to 19, in line with the visit of Pope Francis in the country.
Aying said they are still verifying two other arrest warrants for murder and homicide against Posadas, who was unarmed during his arrest.
Supt. Victorino Romanillos, who led the combined police and military personnel in conducting the random checkpoint, said they released the driver of the habal-habal, while Posadas was brought to the Cadiz City Police Station for detention.

Tri-people in T’boli town hold peace rally

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 12): Tri-people in T’boli town hold peace rally

KORONADAL, South Cotabato -- Hundreds  of  Christian, Muslim, and  Lumad  residents  of Tboli, this province  gathered  at the   town’s public market  Sunday  to  express their  sentiments and  send  message of peace.

These residents, majority of whom  are  Tboli and Blaan from the  25 barangays  of the municipality,  marched to the  town’s  terminal  bringing  placards and  shouting  in  their mother-tongue “We  will never give financial support  to groups  that are not under the  government.”

Captain Rey  Balibagoso,  spokesperson of the  1002nd  Infantry  Brigade,  said  the  rally  was  held  after a three-day peace building seminar facilitated by the local government unit, Philippine National Police  and Armed Forces of the  Philippines.

“We in T’boli are peace-loving people. We don’t want to be involved in armed conflict. What we want are peace and development,”  said  Vice Mayor Grace Silva.  Mayor Dibu  Tuan, who was  out of town  during the  event,  earlier  expressed   support  for the  peace  rally.

At  the event,  participants  signed   support  of  commitment. Officers of the  Peace  and  Development Volunteers in the area, headed  by  federation president  Benjamin  Baladad, also  took  their  oath of  office.

Also present during the   rally were  Municipal  Peace and Order Council  chair  Ely James Simangan  and other  councilors, members of the  local  tribal council, religious  leaders headed  by  Pastor  Regalado  Bantilan,  Tboli Chief of Police PSInsp. Jose Marie  Simangan.

1002nd Brigade Commander Col. Ronald  Villanueva and 27th Infantry  Battalion  Commander Lt. Col  Ronald  Jess  Alcodia  were also  present.

In his message   Lt. Col  Alcodia  said  the   Army’s  ongoing   Peace and Development Outreach Program  has  helped  civilians understand  that they  too  have  roles and responsibilities   in the  fight against  insurgencies in their places.

 “We all know that purely military solution is inadequate in addressing this internal security concerns, thus PDOP is a holistic approach of the Philippine Army to address this multi-dimensional problem that required multi-faceted solution,” Alcodia emphasized.

Under the command and supervision of 1002nd Brigade, the 27th IB has deployed its Peace and Development Teams in upland barangays of T’boli, South Cotabato to conduct PDOP that

The   effort  has resulted in the   surrender of  5  troops of the New People’s  Army to  the  said  unit   recently.

Meanwhile, Col. Villanueva, said the solution to social problem is for all the stakeholders including the armed group to come together in the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan and work on our commonalities to attain peace and development.

PNP monitors suspected 'sleeper' agents

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jan12): PNP monitors suspected 'sleeper' agents

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is tracking the movements of foreigners suspected to have links with terrorist groups as part of heightened security for the arrival of Pope Francis this week.

The move is being implemented amid a global security alert following the terrorist attack on a newspaper office and Jewish supermarket in Paris last week that left 17 people dead. A lone wolf attack last month in Australia also killed two captives in a coffee shop.

A highly placed source told The STAR that the PNP-Regional Investigation and Detection Management Division (RIDMD) has issued a memorandum to all police district offices nationwide to submit a report on the number of foreign suspects in their custody and the status of the cases.

The order was issued to monitor and track down possible terrorist cells and “sleepers” who might create trouble during the papal visit, the source said, adding that monitoring is focused particularly on citizens of one Asian nation.

Sleepers are persons who remain dormant members of a terrorist cell but are ready to act on short notice.

“Some of these people could be here as students or businessmen. Whatever their cover might be, we will be thoroughly checking them out as part of our measures,” the source said.

He said the intelligence community is also in constant contact with different government agencies, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in relation to the security measures being prepared for the visit of Pope Francis.

At least five police chiefs in different cities in Metro Manila denied having knowledge of the memorandum or if they were ever sent one by Camp Crame.

Even Northern Police District director Chief Superintendent Jonathan Miano, reportedly part of the brain trust for security preparations, denied there was such a memo.

A document obtained by The STAR, however, showed that the memorandum, dated Jan. 5, was addressed to all police chiefs nationwide.

The source said the denial of all police officials concerned was understandable, considering the magnitude of the security measures being laid down to avoid any incident that would cause embarrassment to the country.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that the 12,000-strong military is on high alert, while Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin noted that the government is “well prepared” and on top of the situation for the papal visit from Jan. 15 to 19.

The terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sparked fears of similar acts of violence by local terrorist groups like Abu Sayyaf and the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, which have links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Avoiding a repeat of Oplan Bojinka

The PNP also resolved not to take any chances and do everything it could to protect Pope Francis during his five-day stay in the country to avoid a repeat of the 1995 Bojinka plot, the source told The STAR.

Oplan Bojinka was a large-scale three-phase plan hatched by extremists Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to assassinate Pope John Paul II, then visiting Manila for the celebration of World Youth Day; to bomb several airliners flying to the United States; and to attack the Central Intelligence Agency by crashing an airplane on its headquarters in Fairfax County in Virginia.

Yousef and Mohammed, believed to be members of terrorist group al-Qaeda, initially planted bombs in a shopping mall in Cebu City and another in a movie theater in Makati in December 1994 to test the workability of the improvised explosives. While the bombing in Cebu caused only minor damage, the explosion in Makati injured scores of people.

Another bomb was planted in a Philippine Airlines plane, which led to one fatality and about 10 casualties and causing nearly enough damage to destroy the aircraft.

The Bojinka plot – supposedly a precursor to the 9/11 attack in the World Trade Center in 2001 – fizzled out after a fire broke out on Jan. 6, 1995 at the six-story Doña Josefa apartments in Malate where Yousef and Mohammed were billeted.

Pope John Paul II was then scheduled to arrive in the country on Jan. 12, 1995.

According to reports at the time, a certain Abdul Hakim Murad started the fire shortly before 11 p.m. in the kitchen of Room 603.

The police then decided to investigate the situation, having been suspicious due to the recent wave of bombings, and eventually discovered evidence such as fake passports, street maps of Manila with routes plotting the papal motorcade, and some chemicals.

The PNP will ensure that “none of this kind will occur during the visit (of Pope Francis),” the source told The STAR.

“The problem, however, is that monitoring these people is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But we are relying on the intelligence community, including of course the AFP and the Filipino people,” he said.

He added that ordinary citizens could help protect the pontiff by reporting any suspicious characters in their areas to the police.

MILF, MNLF join forces to fight against Abu Sayyaf in Basilan

From the Zamboanga Today (Jan 12): MILF, MNLF join forces to fight against Abu Sayyaf in Basilan

High-ranking leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have joined forces to help the government’s campaign against the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern province of Basilan.
On Saturday, MILF-MNLF commanders and former combatants of the Fronts based in Basilan met with Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman, officials of the military and police for a peace dialogue in Al-Barka town.
Basilan-based commander Datu Tumanggong of the Western Mindanao Front Committee, Musawarin Abubakar 113th Based Command and Ustadz Idris Awal of the MILF local monitoring team, represented the MILF while Umbong Malatim also known as Commander Cobra represented the MNLF.
Col. Rolly Bautista, chief of the 103rd Brigade Command, represented the military, while Sr.Supt. Mario Buyucan, provincial director of Basilan, represented the Philippine National Police (PNP). The non government organization (NGO) was represented by Hadija Hassan of Guinanta, Al-Barka.
All the parties involved in the dialogue agreed to jointly address various threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf group led by Furuji Indama and to improve, safeguard peace and stability in four towns, particularly the Al-Barka town, where the bandits or lawless elements take refuge.
They believe the Abu Sayyaf menace can be addressed not only with the use of guns and weapons but with peaceful means through promoting unity, community dialogue, resolving the rido or family feuds as well as application of socio-economic infrastructure development.
As part of government’s PAMANA peace and development framework to respond and strengthen peace building, reconstruction and development in conflict affected areas, Governor Hataman said his administration will release P20 million for community projects for five municipalities in Basilan.
The peace dialogue was done through the initiative of ARMM regional government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the local government unit (LGU) and a non-government organization (NGO).

Military confident to win over insurgency

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jan 11): Military confident to win over insurgency

A HIGH-RANKING military official said that the area of responsibility (AOR) of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division (4ID) would soon see progress owing to the diminished obstacles to development.

Major General Oscar Lactao, 4ID commanding general, underscored the gains of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the entire country in its various thrusts, particularly in winning the war against insurgency in the countryside where a number of affected areas have already been declared out of the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

 Investors’ destination

He said that in the AOR of the 4ID such as Dinagat in Surigao del Norte, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, parts of the two Agusan provinces are already classified as investor’s destination, ready for tourism and other economic developments.

“It is with pride that our soldiers are able to carry our mandates to bring together our people and start to develop the countryside which were once impoverished because of the presence of the NPA,” Lactao said.

He said that with less traditional military approach -- violent confrontations -- in solving the insurgency, they were able to win the confidence and the cooperation of the communities that were left behind in terms of social economic growth.

Social workers

“We, the soldiers, have practically embarked on being 'social workers' and reached out to the people in need of services, and that’s how we won the hearts and minds of the communities that once were ruled under the communist ideology,” Lactao said.

He said that according to the AFP’s assessment, the number of NPAs in parts of the country has drastically decreased owing to the capture and surrender of top leaders and combatants.

The 4ID has recorded 300 surrenders coming from the various NPA fronts in its AOR and is anticipating of more combatants to go back to the folds of the law in the coming months.

“The implementation of our Operation Bayanihan has proved effective, although not perfect, but our soldiers are able to show results and sustaining the gains and momentum of creating peaceful communities,” Lactao said, adding that “with the net track rating of 74 percent that the people have confidence in the AFP, there is no reason why we cannot carry out our job.”

He said that with the AFP’s strengthening of its Regional Community Defense Group (RCDG), efforts of the military in keeping the peace would be enhanced through the participation of the reservists and civilians who have gained military trainings.

Poverty alleviation

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Gregory Cayetano, 401 Brigade commander, based in the Caraga Region, said the military would now start its thrust in poverty alleviation projects in areas that were once dominated by the NPA.

“We can win over the insurgency by improving the lives of people who thought they were neglected by the government and free the them from fear of being subjugated by the armed group.” Cayetano said.

He said the responsibility of helping elevate the economic status of Filipinos in the hinterlands, at par with those in the urban areas, “is not an easy task, but we will do our best to implement the poverty alleviation program mandated to the military.”

Rebels declare ceasefire for Pope

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 11): Rebels declare ceasefire for Pope

NPA says many fighters Catholic believers, too

Communist guerrillas have offered to rest their guns during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines from Jan. 15-19, with guerrilla leaders saying most members of the guerrilla group New People’s Army (NPA) are Catholics, too, who wanted to pay respect to the head of the Catholic world.

In a statement, a rebel spokesperson said Catholics in the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), are “as excited as those in the mainstream of society” about the papal visit.

“Since most of our fighters are Catholics, it was just fitting to pay respect during Pope Francis’ visit in the country by extending the ceasefire,” said the statement, quoting rebel leader Efren Aksasato, who speaks for at least five NPA guerrilla fronts in Mindanao.

Aksasato said in observance of the visit of the Argentine pontiff, the NPA would not launch any attacks from Jan. 15-19.

“We are extending the ceasefire (period) until after the visit of Pope Francis,” he said.

In an earlier advisory on its website, CPP said the ceasefire in connection with Pope Francis’ visit would start 12:01 a.m. of Jan. 15 until 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 19.

No attacks

During those days, the CPP advisory said, “all units of the New People’s Army and people’s militia are ordered to desist from carrying out offensive operations” against military, police and government militia targets.

The rebel movement, which believes that religion is the opium of the people, said the ceasefire was “in deference to the upcoming visit of Roman Catholic patriarch Pope Francis, which the Filipino people look forward to as an opportunity for religious celebration.”

But while the ceasefire is in effect, CPP ordered NPA to remain in “active defense mode.”

“All units of the NPA and people’s militia must always be prepared to take the option of engaging the aggressive units of the enemy in self-defense in order to prevent them from committing acts of brutality and repression with impunity,” said CPP.

The guerrillas are waging the world’s longest Maoist rebellion, hoping to topple the government and replace it with a socialist regime.

Failed talks

Efforts have been made to bring guerrilla leaders and the government to the negotiating table, but talks faltered amid accusations from both camps of insincerity and government refusal to heed rebel preconditions for the talks.

Recently, overtures had been made that raised hopes the peace talks could resume, but both sides officially appeared reluctant to be optimistic saying the resumption of the talks would depend on “political will and sincerity.”

The closest that the guerrillas and the government came to an agreement was during the rule of the late President Corazon Aquino, who was swept into power in 1986 through a peaceful revolt and appeared to reciprocate the help of the communist movement in ousting the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos by releasing top communist leaders from prison.

BEYOND DUTY | Soldiers securing Pope love him, feel blessed by his presence - AFP chief

From InterAksyon (Jan 11): BEYOND DUTY | Soldiers securing Pope love him, feel blessed by his presence - AFP chief

'Vicar of Christ in our midst' : soldiers are "shoulder to shoulder" with an image of Pope Francis at their briefing Sunday in Camp Aguinaldo. AFP chief Gen. Catapang said the thousands of troops tasked to secure the pope this week are happy about their mission, viewing it as a privilege, not a chore. HANDOUT PHOTO FROM AFP-PAO

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Sunday met troops tasked to secure Pope Francis during his 5-day visit to the country, and laid down ground rules for their mission.

Giving a pep talk at the General Headquarters grounds in Camp Aguinaldo, Catapang told the soldiers: “We’ve to accomplish our mission. We have to be ready for the coming of Pope Francis.”

During the mustering of troops, a priest blessed the officers and men with the sensitive mission of ensuring the Pope and his entourage are safe during activities in Metro Manila and in Tacloban City and Palo in Leyte.

“The purpose of this (mustering of troops) is to see our troops are ready not only physically and mentally but also spiritually,” Catapang said.

Papal security is a formidable challenge because this particular pope had earlier drawn the ire of the Islamic State, when he denounced the extremist group's rampage, driving out Christians and other sects from their homelands, and imposing a brutal regime in places they occupied.

The two previous popes who visited the Philippines before also had security issues. Pope Paul VI was attacked by a knife-wielding Bolivian painter; and Pope John Paul II, now a saint, was the subject of an international terrorist plot that Philippine police averted on his second visit in 1995.

Of the number being deployed, some 7,000 reservists have been called to a 5-day duty for the Pope, from Jan. 15 to 19.

According to Catapang, up to 12,000 soldiers and reservists may be deployed only in Metro Manila.

Catapang earlier told reporters the Armed Forces has 20,000 troops to augment the 25,000 personnel the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be deploying.

Commenting on observations in some quarters that the "too many" soldiers and reservists are being deployed during the papal visit, Catapang, speaking in Filipino, reminded critics that “most of us soldiers are Christians and desire to play a role in the visit of His Holiness. We just want to make certain he is safe. Do you know that the entire Armed Forces is eager to welcome the pope and feel blessed by this visit?"

Their preparations and readiness to carry out their visit-related tasks, he added, go beyond duty. Ensuring the Pope's security “is more than that” because “it is more of showing of our attention, of our love, of our desire to see the Vicar of Christ in our midst.”

Pope Francis will arrive on January 15, and will have engagements in several Metro Manila spots where enthusiastic crowds are expected: the Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) in Manila; and the Quirino grandstand in Rizal Park where a mass he will celebrate is expected to draw more than the nearly 5 million faithful who attended the World Youth Day concluding mass, with Pope John Paul II, in January 1995.

The Pope is also scheduled to meet with survivors of typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte.

MILF weapons go to storage, symbolic decommissioning set in February

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 11): MILF weapons go to storage, symbolic decommissioning set in February

MILF rebels and their weapons. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

The former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front is set to decommission soon - at least in a symbolic ceremony - its weapons as part of the peace agreement it signed last year with the Philippine government, said a senior MILF leader.

Mohagher Iqbal, who negotiated peace with Manila, said the symbolic decommissioning tentatively set on February may sound ceremonial, but it is in reality not that simple but a very “sentimental, sensitive and emotional act.”

He said the decommissioning of rebel weapons has to be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of other agreements.

But Iqbal was quick to say that the decommissioning of rebel weapons must never be equated to surrender or destruction of weapons, but that a third-party monitor - the International Decommissioning Body headed by Turkish Ambassador to Manila, Haydar Berk - would be responsible for the storage of all those weapons.

The IDB is composed of Norway, Turkey and Brunei and four other local experts nominated by the four countries.

Most of the MILF weapons are anti-tank rockets, AK-47 and M16 automatic and sniper rifles, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, including grenade rifles and anti-tank explosives.

Iqbal said the decommissioning process would have to be parallel and commensurate to each other agreements such as the transitional components of normalization, socio-economic programs, confidence-building measures, redeployment of Philippine troops, policing, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups, transitional justice and finally reconciliation program.

Iqbal said he had written Berk about the number of MILF weapons and combatants that would be decommissioned. He said the IDB is expected to meet in Manila soon, but Iqbal is worried that there would be a delay in the decommissioning of weapons because of the unfinished implementing guidelines of the terms of reference of the IDB, which was constituted only in September last year.

Following the signing of the peace deal, the MILF has formed its own United Bangsamoro Justice Party and would join the general elections next year.

2 tribal leaders executed before horrified villagers

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 10): 2 tribal leaders executed before horrified villagers

Butuan City – A chieftain of the Higanonon tribe yesterday appealed to local authorities for the immediate investigation of two highland tribal leaders – a father and son who were mercilessly killed by unidentified armed men before horrified villagers in the most hinterland and far-flung area of Bunsalam, Barangay Simbalan, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Higanonon tribal chieftain Datu Bawang, who made his impassioned call in vernacular at a local radio station here yesterday, appealed to police authorities, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to help them solve the killing of their sectoral tribal leaders in Bunsalam area, Barangay Simbalan, in Buenavista town, Agusan del Norte.

The Higanonon tribal chieftain said Victor Mansamahan, known in the Higaonon tribe as “Datu Pahinaan” bore seven stab wounds and was buried in a shallow grave  near the make-shift house of the victim while his son Ronilo Mansamahan, Bunsalam leader of Higaonon tribe, also was shot once in the head and twice in other parts of his body.

Datu Bawang claimed that the son was killed before their horrified villagers, all belonging to the Higanonon tribe.

“Mihangyo kami sa hintungdan ahensya sa gobyerno nga masulbad kining niloog nga pagpatay sa among mga sectoral leaders sa Simbalan (We appeal to concerned government agencies to help solve the grisly killing of our sectoral leaders in Simbalan),” Datu Bawang appealed over a Bombo Radyo live interview yesterday.

The Higaonon tribal chieftain also appealed to all Higanonons to stay calm and let due process of the law to prevail.

Datu Bawang claimed that Datu Ronilo Mansamahan was dragged from his house by an undetermined number of heavily armed men the other day and hogtied him before shooting him to death. “Gipatay intawon sya atubangan sa iyang mga katawhan ginamit ang taas nga armas” (He was brutally killed before his horrified people using long firearm), he said.

Datu Bawang said the father, Datu Pahinaan, was also dragged and brought to a nearby grassy area where he was murdered by the suspects.

“Ang iyang patayng lawas nakaplagan na lang sa atong katawhan nga gilubong sa mabaw nga lubnganan ug dunay pito ka mga dinunggaban (Our villagers found his dead body in a shallow grave with seven stab wounds),” he added.

BIFF backs MNLF fight vs Bangsamoro law

From the Manila Times (Jan 10): BIFF backs MNLF fight vs Bangsamoro law

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Umbrakato has pledged to join the fight of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) against the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that seeks to create a new entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari has rejected the BBL because he said it will only create more problems in Mindanao.

Jimmy Labawan, vice chairman of the MNLF central committee and concurrently the acting chairperson of the group, said the government is not really serious in dealing with the MNLF because the peace agreement signed by the group in 1996 had not been fully implemented.

“We have been giving signals to the administration of President Benigno Aquino that he must heed the suggestion of the senior leaders of the MNLF central committee to settle first the issue of the MNLF-GPH peace agreement before settling the agreement with the Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF) but he did not listen to us.

Instead, he proceeded to enter another agreement with uncertainty,” Labawan said.

Ustadz Pendie Colano, the over all chairman of the Selatan State Revolutionary Command that covers the entire Region 12 or Socksargen area, disclosed that Umbrakato sent an emissary to the MNLF camp with the message that BIFF forces are willing to join the MNLF once it declares war against the government.

Colano said they have urged the President to schedule the tripartite review of the MNLF agreement which had been stalled many times.

“The 70,000-strong MNLF is divided into two—half of it is in favor of pursuing the GPH-MNLF 1996 peace agreement while the other half is looking at the possibility of declaring war if the government will not accomplish the peace pact with the MNLF,” Colano said.

He added that he received reports that the BIFF will mount terror attacks in Southern and Central Mindanao if the government will turn its back to the agreement with the MNLF.

Pass BBL

 Meanwhile, lawmakers were urged to scrutinize the Bangsamoro Basic Law and pass it because it is legal, not because of pressure from Malacañang.

The House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro will resume its deliberations on the measure on January 19.

“I appeal to my fellow legislators not to succumb to any political pressure or to fears of the resumption of armed conflicts in the Mindanao by passing the Bangsamoro measure without excising provisions which are unconstitutional. Instead, we must make it a life mission to ensure that the measure conforms to the Constitution and that we won’t create a special state within the Republic of the Philippines,” Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano said.

“At the end of the day, the real test for the Bangsamoro Law is its constitutionality. It is not a matter of whether it will be passed in the House or it will muster the support of the Senate to be signed as law by the President,” Albano added.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte remains optimistic that Congress will approve the measure.

“We understand that there are a number of issues that need to be thoroughly discussed by lawmakers when this reaches the floor. But we remain hopeful that it will make the intended timetable with the cooperation of our fellows in Congress,” Valte said in a radio interview.

Abad applauds rules for Intelligence Funds

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Abad applauds rules for Intelligence Funds

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad has welcomed the signing of the Joint Circular on Confidential and Intelligence Funds (IF) by various government agencies, as the Aquino administration continues to improve transparency and accountability in the use of funds while ensuring just and lasting peace and the rule of law in the country.

With the circular, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of National Defense (DND), the Governance Commission for GOCC (GCG), and the Commission on Audit (COA) will have specific guidelines to follow on the “entitlement, release, use, reporting, and audit” of Confidential Funds (CF) and Intelligence Funds (IF).

"The very nature of the IF makes it vulnerable to misuse. If properly spent, however, the funds can promote greater stability and security in the country, both of which are necessary to inclusive development.”

As such, Abad said, the formulation and implementation of the circular is timely: “This Joint Circular comes at a time when our people are demanding greater accountability in public financial management. Citizens now are more intolerant of fund abuse in the Philippine bureaucracy, and rightly so.”

He added that the circular — which has clearer guidelines as well as stronger internal controls and accountability on the management of the IF — will enable the National Government to responsibly enact legitimate intelligence gathering and response intervention activities against increasingly complex security challenges with sufficient financial support.

Abad said, “Every time the government taps public funds like the IF, we need to guarantee that the money is always used for the people's benefit. By reforming the use of these funds, the Aquino administration can ably meet its commitments to preserve national security, all while ensuring better governance and responsible fund use.”

AFP assembles troops tasked to secure Pope Francis

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): AFP assembles troops tasked to secure Pope Francis

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assembled on Sunday the troops assigned to form part of the 17,000-strong security contingent that will help secure Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines starting this week.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. inspected the troops’ readiness during his visit at the parade ground of Camp Aguinaldo at around 9:30 a.m.

At least 6,000 soldiers from different branches of service showed up in their respective field uniforms and troop carriers.

More or less 3,000 ROTC cadets are also tapped by the Army Reserve Command (ARESCOM) to support the regular troops.

The contingent is composed of regular soldiers, military reservists and ROTC Cadets.

It will be placed under the Joint Task Force-NCR led by Brig. Gen. Apolinario Alobba.

Other AFP units have also conducted mustering of troops that will be deployed in their respective areas of responsibility.

Catapang said that their participation during the security operations for the papal visit is more than just an ordinary duty for the soldiers.

“By showing ourselves, we must let Pope Francis feel that he is well-loved by the soldiers and the Filipino people as a whole,” he added.

Catapang also said that the AFP has participated in table top exercises to overcome the security challenges during the Pope’s visit that will be attended by millions of Catholics.

The military has been placed on red alert status starting on Saturday.

All scheduled leaves are put on hold during the period of the papal visit.

The purpose of the "red alert" is to ensure the maximum number of troops that would be committed for security operations and other support role tasks.

Earlier, defense and police officials said they have all prepared for all possible security contingencies for Pope Francis' four-day visit to the Philippines.

This was in response to questions on whether security forces have rethought their strategies in wake of terrorist attacks in France which claimed the lives of around 20 people last week.

"We have prepared for all scenarios with all resources we have. All government security agencies are in close coordination to ensure that our mga 'kapatid' (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 spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said.

His view was shared by Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor.

"All possible situations are being considered and appropriate contingency responses are studied for implementation if necessary," he added.

An estimated 37,000 police officers and soldiers, including reservists, were ordered mobilized to secure the Pontiff in his Philippine visit.

Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said that they are still to detect any security threats for the papal visit, addong 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 stressed.

MILF joins PH in welcoming Pope Francis

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): MILF joins PH in welcoming Pope Francis

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is joining the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines in welcoming the historic visit of Pope Francis on January 15.

“We join the Christian Filipinos in the coming of Pope, alam namin na mahalaga ang pagbisita nya dito and meaningful (We know very well the importance of the Pope's visit and that it will be meaningful," Al Had Murad Ebrahim, MILF chief, told a select group of journalists in Camp Darapanan, the bailiwick of the MILF Saturday.

Murad said the MILF and the Bangsamoro people believed the Papal visit could help fast track the attainment of peace in Mindanao and the whole country.

"In fact last year, I personally sent a letter to the Pope through (Orlando) Cardinal Quevedo, appreciating his forthcoming visit, and hoping he will send us his word of wisdom and encouragement dito sa peace na hinahangad natin (in our desire for genuine peace), not only for the Muslims but for the entire population," Murad said.

The MILF is sending the chair of the Darul Ifta (Muslim House of Opinion), the Muslim highest religious leader of Mindanao to represent the MILF during the duration of the Pope's visit.

Murad said he was hoping the Argentinian Pontiff will mention the Mindanao peace process in any of his speeches while in the Philippines.

Earlier, Murad was quoted as saying the MILF is expecting the Pontiff to make a side trip to Cotabato City.

But based on the schedule of the Papal visit released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, there was no mention of the Pope taking a side trip to Mindanao.

His only trip outside of Manila as stated in the papal itinerary is Tacloban City on January 17.

BIFF continues harassing farmers in Maguindanao, officials say

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): BIFF continues harassing farmers in Maguindanao, officials say

Moro bandits continue to extort, and threaten farmers in remote villages in Sultan Kudarat province, officials today said.

Sancho Salamanca, chairperson of Barangay Katiku, said the Bangsmoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) continues to extort 'protection money' from farmers who were also threatened if the demand was ignored.

Salamanca admitted that farmers used to provide share to the BIFF so they will not be 'disturbed.'

But the demand was increasing and coupled with threats that no harassment will take place if the farmers shell out some sacks of palay to Moro bandits.

”Our farmers have no recourse then but to provide the bandits with few sacks of palay per hectare,” Salamanca lamented.

”However, recently, the BIFF were asking more and threatened to take over the rice fields by claiming its real owners belonged to the BIFF,” he said.

Many farmers in Sultan Kudarat whose rice fields are situated in the borders of Maguindanao have been arming to protect them from harassments, especially during harvest season.

”Its harvest time and the BIFF members are at it again,” he said.

Lt. Colonel Markton Abu, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion who has jurisdiction over President Qurino, Sultan Kudarat and part of Gen. SK Pendatun in Maguindanao, has deployed soldiers in the boundary to prevent the bandits from returning and harassing farmers anew.

The military has launched all out attacks against the BIFF in the borders of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao which led to the capture of a major BIFF camp.

A team of soldiers has been deployed in the village to help police in safeguarding the helpless farmers.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division Commander, has directed the Army’s three brigades in Maguindanao to help the local police secure communities from BIFF retaliatory attacks.

”The BIFF suffered so much during the 33rd IB offensive and we expect retaliation from them anytime,” Capt. Joanne Petinglay, chief of the 6th ID public affairs unit.

Since the fall of BIFF camp, the Army recorded three retaliatory attacks from the BIFF in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano and Gen. SK Pendatun.

In those desperate attacks, Petinglay said, one soldier was wounded but is now safe.

Pangilinan, Abu and Petinglay reiterated calls for civilians to be vigilant and quickly alert the police and military should they see suspicious men in their midst.

Suspected drug pusher with links to BIFF killed in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Suspected drug pusher with links to BIFF killed in North Cotabato

Troops from the 6th Infantry Division and their police counterparts have shot and killed a suspected drug pusher with alleged links to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during law enforcement operations in Pikit town, North Cotabato Sunday morning.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the incident took place at 6:40 a.m. at the vicinity of Sitio Wangayen, which is located near the boundaries of Barangays Ladtingan and Batulawan, Pikit town.

She identified the slain suspect as Datungan Gumaga alias "Ali".

The latter is also known as Arnold Mamaluba.

Petinglay said 6th Infantry Division troopers along with elements of the Pikit Municipal Police Station, Task Force Pikit and Regional Police Security Battalion 12 were about to serve the arrest warrant for Gumaga when the latter resisted arrest and fired on government security forces, prompting the latter to retaliate.

Gumaga is one of North Cotabato's most wanted suspects with known connection to drug rings and the BIFF along with other crime groups.

In the issuing shootout, the suspect was killed while no casualties were incurred by responding police officers and soldiers.

Gumaga's body was claimed by his relatives while all troops involved have returned to their base.

NPA rebels execute suspected military asset

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): NPA rebels execute suspected military asset
New People's Army (NPA) members shot dead a farmer working in his farm Sunday morning in Barangay Eastern Capsay, Baleno, Masbate.

Victim Arnel Rapsing, 30 and married, was working in his farm at about 9:00 a.m. when the NPA rebels arrived, tied his hands and shot him on his head and body, a police report said.

The report said the rebels suspected Rapsing of being a military-police asset who gave information to the authorities on the activities of the rebels in the area.

It added that the victim had been receiving threats from the rebels but he just ignored these as, he claimed, it was not true.

Wife of abducted jail warden appeals for his release

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Wife of abducted jail warden appeals for his release

The wife of abducted Provincial Rehabilitation Center (PRC) ComVal Jail Warden Jose Mervin Coquilla plead to her husband’s abductor to release him before his birthday on January 18.

“Nagahangyo mi sa mga nikuha sa akong husband nga ibalik og safe akong bana kay hapit na iyang birthday karong January 18, (We plead to those who abducted my husband to return him safely to us before his birthday on January 18)” cried Lijobeth Coquilla in a press conference facilitated by Exodus for Justice and Peace at Haran, UCCP, Madapo Hills, Davao City on Friday.

Mrs. Coquilla begged for the safe and immediate release of Warden Coquilla whom she described as loving husband and responsible father to their three children.

“It really breaks us (family) down and it has affected us a lot,” Mrs. Coquilla said.

The abduction of Warden Coquilla left his family and friends in grief and deeply worried, bringing his co-employees in the provincial government, religious leaders, human rights practitioners and other concerned citizen’s plea for his immediate release.

Saddened by the incident, the employees and officials of the provincial government of Compostela Valley, led by Governor Arturo Uy, condemned the abduction of Warden Coquilla and made a signature campaign among capitol employees calling for the release of their colleague.

Moreover, Governor Uy is now in constant dialogue with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), asking for help in negotiating for the warden’s release.

Duterte is labeled as “Savior of Prisoners-of-War (POW)” for facilitating release of a number of soldiers and police officers seized by communist rebels through his negotiations with the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In his Sunday program, Duterte expressed optimism Coquilla will be freed. He even assured the jail warden’s family that he is being treated well according to international laws provided under the Geneva Convention on the treatment of POWs.

Duterte asked to give him some time to talk with the NPAs again and the communist party’s political arm the National Democratic Front (NDF).

He said there are demands on the release of Coquilla that he needs to communicate again with the rebels.

Last Thursday, city officials from ComVal appeared to talk with the mayor. Duterte allowed the NPAs to talk to the warden’s wife.

Coquilla was abducted by communist rebels while he and his family were on their way to church for the simbang gabi on December 23 in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. He was snatched by NPAs from his car wash near his residence.

Army in Bicol on red alert for Papal visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Army in Bicol on red alert for Papal visit

The 9th Infantry (Spear) Division has been on red alert status beginning Saturday in line with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ preparation for the Papal visit in Eastern Visayas and Metro Manila.

Maj. Gen. Yerson E. Depayso, 9th Infantry Division commander based here, said all Army units in Bicol are on red alert status in preparation for the Pope's visit and directed all his commanders to intensify security operations for any untoward incidents.

"Our troops are ready to support other agencies as necessary to make sure that the event will be peaceful and orderly," Depayso added.

He said a team from the 2nd Infantry Battalion in Albay was sent on Friday to augment the team from the Office of the Civil Defense-5, bringing with them a military truck and rescue equipment.

The team will form part of the Incident Management Team in Tacloban City along with other partner agencies and volunteers.

An additional two-company-size contingent will also be deployed as augmentation to the security forces there.

Moreover, the 9th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Lenart Lelina is at Camp Aguinaldo now ready to be deployed as buffer crowd control force and part of the AFP's security preparations in Metro Manila, Depayso said.

The battalion, covering security operations in the Masbate province, has just undergone Peacekeeping Operations Training for United Nations deployment.

Rear forces of the 9IB areas still continuing internal peace and security operations in Masbate.

Meanwhile, Col. Cesar Idio, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, committed his troops after planning with the Joint Security and Peace and Order of Sorsogon and Masbate Provincial Police Offices which cover security patrols, joint checkpoints and joint motorist assistance centers to ensure the safety and security of motorists and devotees, especially at sea ports and bus terminals to preempt any threats or hostile passengers that may sow violence.

The troops also linked up with coast guards and the provincial and municipal disaster risk reduction management councils for any eventuality.

#DearPopeFrancis | 'Mention the Mindanao peace process' - MILF

From InterAksyon (Jan 11): #DearPopeFrancis | 'Mention the Mindanao peace process' - MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is joining the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines in welcoming the historic visit of Pope Francis on January 15.

“We join the Christian Filipinos in the coming of Pope, alam namin na mahalaga ang pagbisita nya dito and meaningful (We know the Pope's visit will be important and meaningful)," Al Had Murad Ebrahim, MILF chief, told a select group of journalists in Camp Darapanan, the bailiwick of the MILF, Saturday.

Murad said the MILF and the Bangsamoro people believe the Papal visit could help fast-track the attainment of peace in Mindanao and the whole country.

"In fact last year, I personally sent a letter to the Pope through (Orlando) Cardinal Quevedo, appreciating his forthcoming visit, and hoping he will send us his word of wisdom and encouragement dito sa peace na hinahangad natin (in our desire for genuine peace), not only for the Muslims but for the entire population," Murad said.

The MILF is sending the chair of the Darul Ifta (Muslim House of Opinion), the Muslim highest religious leader of Mindanao, to represent the MILF during the duration of the Pope's visit.

Murad said he was hoping the Argentinian Pontiff will mention the Mindanao peace process while in the Philippines.

Earlier, Murad was quoted as saying the MILF is expecting the Pontiff to make a side trip to Cotabato City.

But based on the schedule of the Papal visit released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, there was no mention of the Pope taking a side trip to Mindanao.

His only trip outside of Manila as stated in the papal itinerary is Tacloban City on January 17.

Notorious criminal with links to BIFF slain in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 11): Notorious criminal with links to BIFF slain in Philippines

A notorious criminal with links to BIFF rebels was killed in a shootout with policemen and soldiers who were trying to arrest him on Sunday in North Cotabato’s Pikit town in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said Datugan Gumaga alias Arnold Mamaluba opened fire on security forces near the village of Ladtingan sparking a firefight until he was killed.

“He fired on our soldiers and policemen who were serving the arrest warrant and a firefight ensued and Gumaga was eventually killed,” Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

She said the body of Gumaga was claimed by his relatives for burial, but none gave a statement on the bloody end of his long criminal career.

Police also linked Gumaga, who was one of North Cotabato’s most wanted criminal, to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, however it was unknown whether he participated in terror attacks in the restive region.

Gumaga was also implicated in many criminal cases involving illegal drug trades and murders in the province, Petinglay said, quoting a police report.

MILF: MILF appeals to government leaders not to make hasty pronouncements on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 11): MILF appeals to government leaders not to make hasty pronouncements on BBL editorial dated January 08, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) appealed to all and sundry especially leaders not to make hasty pronouncements related to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) saying it would agitate negative reactions from the people.
The Moro Front said that the question of constitutionality of any provision of the BBL is in the domain of the Supreme Court.

Taking note of many statements coming out in the media by groups purportedly uttered by some leaders of the two chambers of Congress which the MILF categorized into three (3) groups on many matters related to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Moro Front said that “Most of the public statements were good and very encouraging; others are not so wholesome; and still others spoke of some unconstitutional provisions of the proposed law”.

Among the three groups, the MILF focused on the third category, deliberately sidestepping the first and second categories. The second category it said was made up of one or two, or at most three, legislators, who have been traditionally known as not supporters of the BBL.

It said that the MILF appreciates the second category, because it allows us to see the other side of the debate. Even outright spoilers are not all times bad. They can also enrich the debate, although that is not their real motive.
The MILF believes that if these legislators ever made these statements of the unconstitutionality of some aspects of the BBL, they were made in good faith. Or, they were quoted out of context by some media reporters, which we believe require a clarification.   It also said that “prudence is a better part of judgment”.      

“We are in a very sensitive and delicate situation” and “MILF members and combatants are waiting in baited breath about 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, the MILF continued saying.

The issue of the BBL is linked with other tracks of the peace process especially normalization. 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 BBL”, MILF said in the Luwaran editorial.

MILF: Bill for inclusion of Bangsamoro History and Culture in school curriculum filed in congress

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 11): Bill for inclusion of Bangsamoro History and Culture in school curriculum filed in congress

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara filed Senate Bill 2474 for inclusion of Bangsamoro history and culture in the school curriculum in both secondary and college levels.
The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to initiate and maintain the programs. They should also consult experts on Bangsamoro history, culture and identify in the formulation and creation of courses or subjects.

Senator Angara said on Thursday, January 8 that “Peace stems from an understanding of the multi-cultural nature of Mindanaoans, Christians, Muslims and Lumads alike. Improving such understanding of each other’s historical, social and cultural values lays the foundation for mutual respect and unity in Mindanao,” Angara said. 

Angara also said “Bangsamoro studies include an understanding of the roots of the conflict between Christians and Muslims, the appreciation of the various cultures and ethnic identities, support for a broader Mindanao peace process and promotion of intercultural dialogue”.

“Such a curriculum ought to recall and highlight the positive relations among the Muslims, Christians, Lumads and other indigenous peoples in Mindanao, as well as their common origins and other points of commonality,” he further said.

The DepEd and CHED can allow the teaching of Arabic as an elective course, he added.

“Education is crucial to the peace process in Mindanao. Such a grassroots approach is effective in instilling consciousness and understanding of the Muslim culture, especially for the Christian majority of our country – to possibly eradicate certain biases instilled in the minds of individuals. It is our hope that through these efforts, long-lasting peace will be fully realized,” Angara said.

MNLF Facebook: Strict Orders -- No Meetings/Gatherings in the Grounds

Posted to the MNLF Facebook page (Jan 10): Strict Orders -- No Meetings/Gatherings in the Grounds

Kung pinapapunta kayo sa isang lugar na sinasabi nila na may MNLF meeting at pupunta daw si Misuari, DO NOT ATTEND. Atsaka huwag kayo magpa-picture na kasama mga MILF or mga supporters ng BBL -- hangga't maari iwasan ang pag-punta sa mga ganyang lugar. This order must be taken as a STRICT order.