Sunday, January 25, 2015

2 more NPA men surrender

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 25): 2 more NPA men surrender

TWO members of the New People's Army (NPA) surrendered to government troops in Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong town, Davao del Norte on Saturday evening.

But the Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra refused to identify the rebel returnees for safety reasons.

Lacambra said the two rebels are former members of the NPA's Guerilla Front 34 of Southern Mindanao Sub-Regional Committee.

He added that the two turned themselves over to the Army's 60th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Patil around 6 p.m. of Saturday.

"According to them, disillusionment in the underground organization and the hardship in the mountains made them decide to return to the folds of the law," Lacambra said.

The 10th Infantry Division noted the increase of rebel surrenderees.

Last week, an NPA rebel armed with .45 caliber pistol and a fragmentation grenade also surrendered to troops in Paquibato, Davao City.

Lacambra said 10 more rebels surrendered to government troops in different areas of responsibility of the division during the month-long suspension of military operations (Somo) this year.

The 10th ID commander Major General Eduardo Año earlier said the increase in the numbers of rebel returnees is a sign that a growing demoralization among their ranks is now taking place.

"We are again calling on our brothers [and sisters] who are still in far-flung areas, continuously deceived by the communist propaganda to lay down their arms and embrace a peaceful life," Año said.

Lacambra said the rebel surrenderees will soon avail themselves of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of Davao Del Norte after undergoing some procedures.

Acting PNP chief: Retrieving, treating casualties in Maguindanao clash a priority

From GMA News (Jan 25): Acting PNP chief: Retrieving, treating casualties in Maguindanao clash a priority

The Philippine National Police is focused on evacuating and treating casualties in a clash against "lawless elements" in a Maguindanao town early Sunday, its acting chief said Sunday evening.
In a statement to the press, P/Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer-in-charge of the PNP, said the casualties are a "priority concern".

He said, however, that pursuit operations are also underway against the armed groups that members of the PNP Special Action Force were in a firefight with.
He has also ordered police commanders in the area "to make available all support systems to contain the situation and mitigate the effects on civilian communities."
"Operational information from the field are still sketchy at the moment but what we know so far is that there is an ongoing operation in the area sgainst a high-value target believed to be behind the recent spate of bombings in Central Mindanao," Espina said.
In the meantime, security forces are also assessing the situation and looking for possible courses of action.

According to an earlier report, the PNP SAF troopers were in Mamapano town to serve an arrest warrant on Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias “Marwan”,  a Malaysian bombmaker also wanted by the US, and whose presence had been confirmed in the area.
Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator said the clash was triggered by lack of coordination with the MILF and local authorities on the SAF operation.

According to a Reuters report citing local officials, 27 police officers and five rebels were killed in the fighting. Seven more police officers were unaccounted for and a further eight captured by Muslim rebels.

Palace vows to fight BBL ‘misinformation’

From the Manila Times (Jan 25): Palace vows to fight BBL ‘misinformation’

Malacañang has vowed to fight misinformation on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) to ensure its passage by March this year.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte made the statement as the House Ad Hoc panel on the Bangsamoro wrapped up discussions after 35 hearings on the BBL.

“One of our enemies in terms of pushing for the BBL is misinformation and/or disinformation. The OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process], as well the negotiating panel and other stakeholders, would want the correct information to be disseminated as far as possible,” Valte said in a radio interview.

The panel’s executive session on the BBL next week will not be open to the media.

The panel hopes to come up with a committee report to be tackled in the plenary by February.

The proposed BBL, which will establish a Bangsamoro region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, gives extensive and exclusive powers to the Bangsamoro government and limits the central government’s power to defense and external security; foreign policy; coinage and monetary policy; postal service; citizenship and naturalization; immigration; customs and tariff; common market and global trade and intellectual property rights.

The proposed BBL also includes provisions on transitional modalities, power sharing, wealth sharing and putting MILF combatants beyond use.

After President Aquino signs the BBL into law, a plebiscite will be conducted on covered areas. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will then prepare the region for the elections whose winners will form the Bangsamoro government—a referendum that the Aquino administration wants to be conducted on the same year of the 2016 Presidential elections.

“We support such efforts and we have also talked with Congress members to explain and push for the timelime, and we hope that there will no substantial deviation from the timelime,” Valte said.

In one of the previous Bangsamoro hearings, Muslim groups took offense on an observation that there is no guarantee that they would abandon their armed struggle because of discord among their ranks.

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of Mandaluyong City suggested that the Muslim groups should unify their stand in a national convention, but MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal gave assurances that a good number of Muslim groups, support the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law.

“Yes, the best way is to arrive at a consensus in national convention.

That is the best option. But that is not possible anymore at this point.

What we can do is to reach out, and we have been doing that. We have signed a communiqué with MILF factions in December, and another with the one led by Alonto last in January. This communiqué, signed by MILF Chairman Ebrahim Murad stated their [other groups’] unconditional support for the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal said.

“And if ever there are issues to be raised, we iron it out within our ranks under the Bangsamoro Convention that we organized,” he added.

MILF: Editorial - Pass a good BBL now!

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jan 25): Editorial - Pass a good BBL now!

Proceeding and passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the only option open to all of us now. Any hesitancy breeds more complications. Like a good driver, the focus must be on how to reach the destination while seeing and minding all the sides of the road, including looking back using the mirrors.
Never mind the detractors, obstructionists, and even outright spoilers; they are always part of the whole journey. It is better to appreciate their inseparability to the process rather than to accumulate remorse in our hearts and hate them, especially if done openly.

Never mind also those people including politicians and church people who said that they were not consulted! Checked with actual facts their voices can be easily doubted. Alone, the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace (MCSOPP), one of the partners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), had conducted 625 dialogues or consultations on the BBL not only in Mindanao but also in other parts of this country.  In one way or the other, those politicians and religious personalities were involved in these dialogues, if not in the MCOPP’s but surely in those held by government, MILF and other entities supporting the BBL and the peace process in general.

The truth is that it is impossible to talk to and consult everyone in this country. If these leaders of people are real and responsible, they should not wait to be consulted but instead they should and must seek for a dialogue themselves. National interests demand of us to set aside our egos and work for the common good.

The BBL is not an ordinary legislation. It is a product of 17 long years of an on-and-off negotiations frequently interrupted by fierce fighting between government and MILF forces. It is a legal document based on political documents, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Any deviation from the letter and spirit of these agreements which the BBL amply captured is problematic.

This is the reason that it is always our firm belief that Congress has the collective wisdom to pass a good BBL. This BBL is intended to solve a political problem, the Bangsamoro Problem or Question that stays with us for decades or even centuries.

On the constitutionality of the BBL, it is better to hear and heed the voices of the surviving members of the 1987 Constitution, including former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hilario Davide Jr. and Fr. Joaquin Bernas, who said that the vision, spirit and the core principles behind the provisions on autonomous regions which constitute the essential constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Opinion: Prospects for talks with NDF

Opinion piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 25): Prospects for talks with NDF(by Soliman M. Santos, Jr.)

The hugely successful visit of Pope Francis, which took the whole country by storm, still reverberates. Will the surging waves of goodwill, as well as calls for prophetic action, lead to a resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) soon?

The best sign that something is brewing on the NDFP peace front was Inquirer’s banner headline last Dec. 28 that “Joma looks forward to meet with P-Noy.” This was right after Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the NDFP and founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which leads the New Peopleís Army (NPA), said both parties might resume talks probably soon after Pope Francis’ visit.

Given the past long track record of more-off-than-on and more-failed-than-successful peace talks, the questions that come to mind boil down to three:

What really, in terms of peace talks, is afoot in the remaining one-and-a-half years of the Aquino administration?

What are the prospects that something good enough–in terms of tangible gains and moving that process forward–will come out of any new talks?

What needs to be done to push these talks forward?

The recent “excitement” on the NDFP side about a possible resumption of talks soon appears to be a change from the previous Joma/CPP position of waiting for a new administration to resume peace talks.

Private emissaries

It was the Philippine government (GPH) that took the initiative to explore this through its “private emissaries” or “friends of the peace process” (notably former government peace negotiators Rep. Silvestre Bello III and Hernani Braganza) making “informal contact” with the NDFP since July 2014.

They are “shuttling back and forth between the two parties to explore possible parameters for restarting talks at the earliest possible time, but nothing is final,” a GPH source said.

Why this new GPH? Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles speaks of “President Aquino’s policy to pursue the peace process as a major agenda of his administration.”

The peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has become the cornerstone, which for President Aquino has taken historical legacy proportions.

Former NDFP chief peace negotiator Satur Ocampo sees the new GPH as Mr. Aquino seeking also “to redeem the unrealized vow that his mother, the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, made in 1986 to end the protracted armed conflict between the government and the Left revolutionary forces” through peace negotiations.

If we take what has been the framework agreement for these peace negotiations since 1992, The Hague Joint Declaration, they are being held “to resolve the armed conflict.”

Common goal

The “common goal” is “the attainment of a just and lasting peace.”

What does this hold for the ordinary Filipino and for the economy?

The people and the economy will benefit from the peace dividends. The ordinary folk, especially in the countryside zone of war, can expect to at least go on with their day-to-day lives of eking out a living without getting caught in the crossfire. And needed socioeconomic reforms can be instituted as a result of a final political settlement.

Root causes

Such reforms are ultimately aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict and social unrest. Aside from cutting the considerable human and economic costs of the conflict, a peace settlement would allow much more resources to be devoted instead to socioeconomic development that should benefit the country, especially the poor. This is why it is worth trying to give peace a chance.

Why the change from the previous Joma/CPP position of waiting for a new administration to resume peace talks especially at the formal level?

Perhaps, aside from its telegraphed tactical considerations, it is really more for the NDFP to prepare some ground for such talks in the next administration.

Some observers note that this comes after the March 2014 capture of in-country CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon who were said to take a harder line than Joma on the peace talks.

Joma, to whom the CPP has entrusted the peace talks, now appears to have more CPP room to maneuver on this front, as shown by recent statements issued under his name in the media for public consumption, as distinguished from major CPP policy statements like its 46th anniversary statement of Dec. 26 believed drafted by him under the name of the CPP for the guidance of its leadership and entire membership.

Too late for final settlement

Both the government and the NDFP are agreed that there is not enough time for a final peace agreement or political settlement before the end of Mr. Aquino’s term in June 2016.

Joma says “there is little time left to make all the agreements up to the final peace agreement” but “I think there is ample time to arrive at a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) and a Truce and Cooperation Agreement on the basis of a general declaration of mutual intent.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has pointed out that if talks would at all progress, it would be in the next administration where “there would be a clean slate … new personalities and a new beginning.”

Otherwise, he said it would result in a half-baked agreement. Besides, the “election fever” for a new presidential administration, when all serious business stops, will kick in by the second half of 2015 and impinge even on existing peace processes. The government has reportedly decided to give the talks until June 2015 to produce significant results.

What are the prospects for the peace talks?

The question of prospects for significant results refers to a phase of new informal talks that, if they get underway, could take the whole first half of 2015. This necessarily must have scaled down objectives.

Doable, time-bound

For the government, Deles has stated these parameters. “We believe, however, that for the peace talks to prosper, we need to pursue an agenda that is doable and time-bound, with agreements that are realizable within the remaining term of President Aquino. More importantly, the peace talks must heed our people’s call for an end to violence. We view peace negotiations as the beginning of sincere dialogue toward resolving the problems of the country without resorting to the use of arms,” she said.

There is a strong government accent on the need to provide people with security and respite from violence–if possible end the armed conflict. The government seeks a long-term truce/ceasefire during the entire process of the peace talks, especially the formal talks, should these resume even before the end of the Aquino administration.

There is some ground-level and humanitarian basis for a ceasefire, but the government pounding on this reinforces the CPP’s beef in its 46th anniversary statement about “the reactionary government and its current officials who regard the negotiations as the means for the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people.”

The NDFP will likely reject a ceasefire that it considers too long (that in its perception retards the primary armed struggle) and is not coupled with substantive achievements in the talks. The thing is, the government has not presented its own clear “agenda that is doable and time-bound, with agreements that are realizable within the remaining term of President Aquino.”

Joma at least proposes achieving a Caser and/or a “general declaration of mutual intent”–but which, if marked by “constructive ambiguity,” can later become another “document of perpetual division between the Parties,” as the GPH has already characterized The Hague Joint Declaration.

This is not helped by the CPP anniversary statement which telegraphed a tactical agenda of propaganda that serves its protracted people’s war strategy: “What is good about the peace negotiations is that the NDFP is able to broadcast the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and help bring about the victory of the revolution in the long run or before then help bring about truce and cooperation with a government that is not led by the Party but which adopts patriotic and progressive policies to deal with the severe crisis brought about by imperialism and reaction.”

CPP urgent tasks

This and other high-policy guidance in the CPP anniversary statement–including priority-numbered “urgent tasks” for “[2.] the people’s struggle to oust the Aquino regime” and to “[3.] intensify and advance the people’s war toward the stage of the strategic stalemate [for the umpteenth time] … by launching more frequent and sustained tactical offensives with occasional blows to the head of the enemy”–in turn reinforce the government’s current wariness and caution about the prospects of the peace talks. Nowhere is the latter set forth in the statement’s summary of 10 numbered “urgent tasks.”

In the nearly 25 years since The Hague Joint Declaration, the only substantive achievement has been the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), but its implementation has been stalled along with the main peace process.

There are many reasons for this undue lack of progress. For the most part and at its root are the mutually antagonistic frameworks which treat the peace negotiations as more tactical rather than strategic.

Mountain of distrust’

This raises nagging questions of sincerity and political will for the talks. The long negative experience on the war and peace fronts, including belligerency both in deeds and in words, with each other has aggravated the “mountain of distrust” between the parties.

What needs to be done to push the peace talks?
Trillanes’ point that confidence-building measures should be undertaken before any “P-Noy-Joma meeting” is a well-taken one. Deles says, “Professions of sincerity are no longer acceptable to a skeptical public….” The Hague Joint Declaration itself points to the need for “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations.”

Short of ceasefire

An arrangement, short of a ceasefire, would be ideal as a specific measure of goodwill (especially for noncombatants), but it is a contentious proposition to the NDFP (which treats it for the last stage “end of hostilities”). It should be doable for the peace process in the short period left for the Aquino administration. The arrangement can rebuild the shattered confidence between the parties through a more collaborative, flexible and effective implementation of the spirit and letter of the Carhrihl, which as an agreement indicates clear common ground between them in terms of “respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.”

This would produce tangible results on the ground in terms of addressing concerns arising from continuing armed hostilities (because there is still no ceasefire), ensure the protection of noncombatants and reduce the impact of the armed conflict on communities.

This, too, is a “path to peace” in general, as well as a bridge to progress for this peace process into the next administration. Then, hopefully, enough confidence between the parties would have been rebuilt to take it further forward.

Negotiation road map

The government appears to envision that one doable thing during the new informal talks, which are supposed to set the stage for the formal talks if ever, is reframing a negotiation road map. This is already long overdue given the sense of many that the NDFP peace talks are “going nowhere.”

This could be a new framework agreement, taking a leaf from the experience in the 2012 breakthrough in the MILF peace process. But the idea of a negotiation road map that is like a new framework agreement might run into an NDFP roadblock. The NDFP might insist on resuming formal talks only “on the basis of upholding, respecting and implementing [more than 10] previously signed agreements,” including the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

Jasig is the agreement most relevant to the nonsubstantive issue raised by the NDFP for the release of its “consultants” and other “political prisoners” detained by the GPH. The NDFP considers this an issue of government trustworthiness for respecting its signed agreements.

It might be noted that the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro specifically provided the phrase “without derogating from any prior peace agreements,” including two prior framework agreements in 1998 and 2001, but still moving forward based on a new framework.

Outside the box

A better framework, one that is more viable and developed, should help move the peace talks forward. As has been said in the MILF peace process, “If neither party in the negotiations thinks outside the box, all they would arrive at is a constant impasse.”

The “box” is the Constitution, but it could also refer to ideology and even “prior peace agreements.” Says another peace observer, “Both sides [in the NDFP peace process] might have lost some perspective after going round in circles for so many years,” so that a new framework agreement is now called for.

Finding that new framework, or at least what court-annexed mediators call “zones of possible agreement,” is where ongoing efforts of supportive civil society peace advocates of diverse political persuasions under the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace (CAJP) can help.

We are referring to CAJP’s modus of study sessions on key issues relevant to the talks. These study sessions, which are mainly for developing a shared understanding of the peace process, including other country experiences, can themselves further develop toward being tapped for actual problem-solving inputs for the peace negotiations.

The lessons learned and the confidence built among politically diverse peace advocates can also have a ripple effect on the peace negotiators and leaders of both sides with whom the advocates have their own lines.

The persistence of civil society peace advocates, as well as of the prestigious third-party facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government, are among the few sources of hope that the NDFP peace process still has going for it.

It behooves all concerned, especially the leaders of both sides, to draw valuable guidance from various aspects of the current phenomenon called “the Pope Francis effect” that resonates with his Filipino mass base. This has implications also for the armed struggle/conflict and the peace process/agenda.

After all, it was a St. Francis of Assisi who prayed “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace …”

[Soliman M. Santos Jr. is a human rights lawyer and peace advocate, whose initial engagement with the peace process was in Bicol with the first GRP [government]-NDFP nationwide ceasefire in 1986. He is currently presiding judge of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur.]

3 NPA rebels patay sa encounter

From the Philippine Star Ngayon (Jan 25): 3 NPA rebels patay sa encounter


Tatlong  miyembro ng mga rebeldeng New People’s Army (NPA) ang napaslang habang marami pa ang nasugatan makaraang makasagupa ang tropa ng militar sa bulubunduking bahagi ng Brgy. Mat-I, Surigao City  kamakalawa ng umaga.

Sa phone interview, sinabi ni Brig. Gen. Jonathan Ponce, Commander ng Armys 402nd Infantry Brigade, dakong alas-10 ng umaga ng makasagupa ng 4th Infantry Division (ID) ang grupo ng mga rebeldeng NPA sa lugar.

Ayon kay Ponce ang bakbakan ay tumagal ng 15 minuto na ikinasawi ng tatlong rebelde na binitbit sa pagtakas ng kanilang mga kasamahan kasama ang marami pang bilang ng mga nasugatan.

Sinabi ni Ponce na grupo ng mga rebeldeng nakaengkuwentro ng tropa ng mga sundalo ay ang grupo ni Pablo Logamitan alyas Ka Lucas na siyang responsable sa panununog ng mga heavy equipment na pag-aari ng isang mayamang negos­yante sa Brgy. Mabini ng lungsod kamakailan.

Narekober sa pinangyarihan ng bakbakan ang dalawang M16rifles, isang M203 grenade launcher, isang M653 rifle at sampung  backpacks na naglalaman ng mga personal na kagamitan at mga subersibong dokumento.

Fast facts on peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 25): Fast facts on peace talks

Nov. 27, 1986

LUIS Jalandoni, chair of the NDF panel
LUIS Jalandoni, chair of the NDF panel
SECRETARY Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process
SECRETARY Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process
Date of the first peace negotiation between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF). They agreed to a 60-day ceasefire from Dec. 10, 1986 to Feb. 8, 1987.

The NDF honored the agreement but later declared withdrew from formal peace talks on the day of the Mendiola massacre on Jan. 22. Maria Serena Diokno, who was on the government panel, later clarified reports that the Mendiola massacre did not cause the breakdown of the peace talks.


Estimated strength of the New People’s Army, from a peak of more than 26,000 in the late 1980s, according to the military. In contrast, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is 124,000 strong, as of December 2014.

At least 40,000

People, including civilians, killed in the armed conflict since the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was established in 1968, according to government figures.


Initial bilateral agreements reached. These include:

The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, which stated that the root causes must be addressed and that no precondition should be made in the peace talks so as not to negate the inherent purpose of the negotiations.

Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees in 1995, which binds both parties to guarantee the security of negotiators, consultants and personnel of the parties engaged in the peace talks.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in 1998, which acknowledges that the application of principles of human rights and international humanitarian law is a necessity in the prolonged armed conflict in the Philippines.


Reported issues in deadlock. Along with a final peace deal, issues in deadlock are the release of detained communist insurgents, declaration of a longer ceasefire, reaffirmation of all signed agreements, reconvening of the joint monitoring committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, implementation of the Jasig and confidence-building measures.


Norway has been the lone third-party facilitator, brokering and holding peace talks since 2001. Peace talks have been held in The Hague in The Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium. A series of informal meetings have also been held in Hong Kong.


Number of negotiators on the government panel last chaired by Alexander Padilla, a human rights lawyer and former health undersecretary. Members were Ednar Gempesaw Dayanghirang, Jurgette Honculada, Efren Moncupa, Maria Lourdes Tison and Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process.

On the NDF side were Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDF panel; CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, chief consultant of the NDF, as well as detained CPP chair Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma tagged as “peace consultants.”

Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives,, “Lost in Time: From Birth to Obsolescence: The Communist Party of the Philippines Book II”

Korean abducted from home in Zamboanga Sibugay town

From GMA News (Jan 25): Korean abducted from home in Zamboanga Sibugay town

A Korean was abducted in a Zamboanga Sibugay town on Saturday night by a group that may have links to the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Capt. Vivar Crisostomo, civil military operations officer of the 102nd Brigade, said on Sunday that  Noui Hong Sung, 73, was taken from his home in Barangay Mabuhay in R.T. Lim town at around 9:30 p.m.
“There were five suspects, all armed. They (suspects) came in aboard a mini-van,” the captian said.
Crisostomo said authorities have yet to identify suspects in the abduction, adding there are several “lawless groups” operating in the province, including the Abu Sayyaf.
He said the military and the Philippine National Police are working together to find out where the Korean was taken. 
In the meantime, he said, authorities expect the kidnappers to contact the victim's family for ransom negotiations.
A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group may have links with the Abu Sayyaf.
“There are groups that have ties with the Abu Sayyaf. Kidnapping has become a business enterprise here. A group would kidnap a victim and then turn him or her over to the Abu Sayyaf for a fee,” he said, adding kidnap victims are sometimes brought to Basilan, where Abu Sayyaf presence is strong.
“There are lawless groups here that have links with the Abu Sayyaf…We are seeing the involvement of the Abu Sayyaf here,” the source said.
Government operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which is holding foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu, were ramped up last year.  

Dozens feared dead in Maguindanao clash between PNP, Moro rebels

From GMA News (Jan 25): Dozens feared dead in Maguindanao clash between PNP, Moro rebels

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao - A police operation turned into a fierce and bloody firefight on that left at least 30 elite police officers dead in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Sunday.
Dozens of government troops were killed in a “dusk to dawn” gun battle in the village of Tukanalipao between the troops of Philippine National Police Special Action Force and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which was joined by another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator said the clash was triggered by lack of coordination on the SAF operation.
“There was no coordination,(nasagasaan din nila ang tropa namin) and they also enggaged our troops nearby aside from the BIFF, that how started the bloody war today”, Iqbal said over the phone.
Sources said the police operation was to serve an arrest warrant on Malaysian bombmaker Zulkifli Bin Hir, alyas “Marwan”, whose presence had been confirmed in the area. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered a $5-million reward for information on "Marwan".
Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan confirmed that loud gunfire and explosions were heard in the inner part of town. He said he immediately told his barangay captains to keep civilians safe.
“Two of my contituents were wounded and we are still working to evacuate those who are believed to be trapped civilians”, Ampatuan said.
A separate report said three civilians — two women and a man — had been killed in the fighting.
Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said the firefight started when police attempted to raid the suspected hideout of Basit Usman that was actually the house of a certain Ustadz Manan, a sub-commander of MILF 105th base command under Zacaria Goma.
“When the firefight broke out, our troops engaged the invading troops until we surrounded them in Barangay Manggapang, Mamasapano town," Mama said.
The BIFF bragged they recovered 10 high-powered firearms from the slain cops.
“At the moment, we have surrounded remaining government troops in Barangay Manggapang and, any time, we will strike”, Mama added.
The Army 1st Mechanized Brigade under Col. Gener Del Rosario deployed tanks along the highway but could not engage for fear of hitting civilians or police.
“We have no communication with the SAF in the area inside. At first, there was no coordination with us”, Del Rosario said.
The Army 6th Infantry Division and the Maguindanao provincial police also said there was no coordination with them on the SAF operation.
The soldiers nevertheless helped extricate the bodies of dead police officers after the joint International Monitoring Team and joint MILF- Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities came to calm the situation down.
'Death toll could reach 50 people'

Meanwhile, a Reuters report, citing information from local officials in Mamasapano, said 27 police officers and five rebels were killed. Seven more police officers were unaccounted for and a further eight captured by Muslim rebels.
The death toll could reach 50 people, most of them from the police, the army sources said.
Col. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said no army unit was involved but they were helping recover police casualties in the area. Nine had been retrieved.
Government and rebel peace panels are now holding informal talks to defuse tension and prevent the incident from escalating and spilling out and threaten the entire peace process.
The last time the MILF clashed with security force was in November 2011 when troops raided a supposed Islamist militants lair. The peace talks with MILF nearly collapsed then. 

Abus eyed in bombing

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 25): Abus eyed in bombing

THE police are questioning at least one person linked to the blast that killed two people near a bus terminal in Zamboanga City on Friday after President Benigno Aquino III ordered lawmen to thoroughly investigate the explosion.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview the President has been briefed on the situation and the military will also be part of the police investigation.

“We can tell you is that current evidence available to us has indicated a particular direction. There are suspects, [but] we are not free at this time to discuss the details,” she said.

Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar
But Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said on Saturday the incident was related to last Monday’s foiled plan to spring Abu Sayyaf members from a local detention facility.

The bomb exploded around 3:15 p.m. Friday in front of a pub located across the bus terminal in Barangay Guiwan. It was placed aboard a car that was parked in front of the pub house.

Salazar said the ASG plan was to set off the bomb to divert the attention of the security forces while the ASG detainees will stage jail break while another group would storm the detention facility to rescue their comrades.

“Their target was really to destabilize the government by creating a diversionary tactic,” Salazar added.

She said the main target was to rescue from the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center the two brothers of Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama, namely, Benzar and Musang.

Chief Insp. Julius Arro, ZCRC warden, disclosed there are 56 suspected members of the ASG, including the two Indama brothers, who are detained at the detention facility.

Salazar said that the ASG pushed through with their intention to set off the bomb although the plan to rescue their comrades last Monday was foiled.

“They were unsuccessful with the plan to rescue but they pushed through their intention,” she said.

The rescue plan was foiled when the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel detailed at the ZCRC managed to confiscate Monday three caliber .45 pistols and 140 rounds of ammunition delivered to an ASG detainee.

The guns and bullets were concealed at the bottom of the two home-made concrete charcoal stoves delivered to an ASG detainee by three people, including two women, at the ZCRC.

Zamboanga City police spokesman SPO2 Alex Mabalot said at least 10 of the 52 wounded are still in hospital.

Mabalot also said the police’s bomb squad has established that the blast was indeed caused by a car bomb, but he declined to comment on what they suspect to be the motive behind the blast, saying investigators are “still digging deeper into the case.”

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman on Friday evening said the blast in Zamboanga City was a “heinous act” intended to kill innocent civilians.

In a press statement, Hataman condemned the attack, saying it was a cowardly and heinous act.

“We in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao extend our sympathies to the victims and pray for their speedy recovery,” he said.

“We condemn this crime, meant to kill innocent civilians, and demand that the perpetrators of this incident be brought to justice,” he added.

Korean kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay

From ABS-CBN (Jul 25): Korean kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay

A Korean national was kidnapped by a suspected terrorist group in R.T. Lim town in Zamboanga Sibugay Saturday night, a military official said Sunday.

Capt. Vivar Crisostomo, a civil military operations officer of the 102nd Brigade, said Noui Hong Sung, 73, was snatched from his house in Sitio Limono in Barangay Mabuhay at around 9:30 p.m.

The victim was taken by five armed men, who were riding a mini-van.

Crisostomo said they have yet to establish the identities of the suspects, as well as their group affiliation, noting that there are several "lawless groups" operating in the province, including the Abu Sayyaf.

A source said the group behind the kidnapping may have links with the Abu Sayyaf. There have been incidents in the past where kidnap victims from the province were brought to Basilan – a bailiwick area of the Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding several foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu. Government troops intensified their operations against the Abu Sayyaf both in Sulu and in Basilan last year.

AFP eyes 3 possible groups behind Zambo blast

ABS-CBN (Jan 25): AFP eyes 3 possible groups behind Zambo blast

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not ruling out the possibility of other groups' involvement in the fatal bombing near a bus terminal in Zamboanga City last Friday.

"The Abu Sayyaf is a usual suspect but others can do it," said AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc of the explosion that killed two people and left 54 others injured.

Authorities earlier mentioned the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as a potential suspect in the bombing because of a foiled plot to spring out one of their detained members, Bensar Indama, last week.

"It might be related to their failed plot to spring out one of their detained members. That is based on the revelation of the police," Cabunoc said.

The plot was foiled last week when soldiers, policemen and jail guards seized three firearms that would allegedly be used in the escape of Indama, while being smuggled into the Zamboanga City jail.

However, Cabunoc, citing military assessments, said the bombing could have also been carried out by other groups, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"There’s a group against the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law)," said Cabunoc in pointing to the BIFF as a possible suspect.

Congress is still deliberating on the BBL, which will pave the way for the establishment of a new political entity, in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – as part of the peace agreement with the MILF.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said the explosion could also be politically motivated, not ruling out the possibility of groups espousing violence to embarrass Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco.

"We know that (next year's) election is approaching. Some may want to discredit mayor Climaco," he said.

While the authorities are still in the process of investigation, Cabunoc said measures to prevent a repeat of the bombing are already in place.

''But we can't discuss them because they are operational (in nature). We have adopted counter-measures but we cannot discuss it (in public),'' he said.

AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, meanwhile, said President Benigno Aquino III visited Zamboanga City on Sunday to check on the people displaced by last year's siege of the city by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Padilla also said the President also had a close-door meeting with military officials to discuss issues confronting the AFP in Zamboanga City and in the Western Mindanao region in general.

Asked for the security adjustments made in the aftermath of last Friday's bombing, Padilla said: "We heightened our alert. We established checkpoints and pursuing measures that are already in place even before."

AFP declares CamNorte as second Bicol province freed from NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): AFP declares CamNorte as second Bicol province freed from NPA

The Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) has claimed another momentous victory in its decades of fight against communist insurgency in Bicol by neutralizing the New People’s Army (NPA) and restoring peace in the province of Camarines Norte.

The province is now “peaceful and ready for further development,” a recent statement of the AFP said as it forged a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the provincial government formalizing its declaration as a “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development (CMRD)” area.

The document was signed by Major Gen. Yerson Depayso, commanding general of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division of the Philippine Army (PA), in behalf of the AFP and Gov. Edgardo Tallado, in behalf of the provincial government.

The signing of the MOU, according to Depayso, signalled the "shifting of effort" from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role.

The signing ceremony emphasized the implementation of more socio-economic and development projects that the civil government will implement with the support and protection of the military, the PA commander said in a statement reaching here over the weekend.

Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command chief, said during the occasion held in Daet, the provincial capital, that the declaration of peace in the province was based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its potential support system in the barangays and its failed recovery efforts.

This achievement, according to Visaya, would not be possible without the cooperation of the leaders of the province, along with the local government units, who have partnered with the AFP in fighting insurgency.

The 45-year- old insurgency being waged by the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), he said, has been preventing the progress and economic development of the province and all other affected localities in Bicol and in the country.

“This MOU brings great pleasure for it is a proof that the efforts of the government and its armed forces to restore peace and tranquility in the province have not been put in vain. We in the military stand by our mandate as the protector of the people and keepers of the integrity of the state,” Visaya stressed.

At least, the AFP has once again provided a space in Bicol where the people can feel safe and grow as progressive communities, in the case this time of Camarines Norte, he said.

The AFP has been maintaining the presence of the Philippine Army (PA) for about 16 years now in Bicol with its 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, manning the internal security of the region from the activities of the NPA.

This PA ID is in command of three infantry brigades composed of eight infantry battalions and seven support units, including an engineering battalion, distributed in all the six provinces of the region.

In over 40 years, Visaya said, Camarines Norte’s opportunity to advance to progress -- with its vast mineral deposits, agricultural lands, rich fishing grounds, exotic tourist destinations, rich natural resources and hard-working people -- has been stalled by unstable peace situation due to the presence of the NPAs and the culture of violence it has developed among local communities.

They prevent the implementation of government infrastructure projects, harass mining companies, extort money in the form of “revolutionary taxes” from businessmen, contractors and even from farmers, and execute those who refuse to remit including innocent civilians and civilian government officials. Visaya recalled that former Camarines Norte governor Roy Padilla Sr. was assassinated by the NPAs for his disapproval of their anti-people activities.

The late governor was appointed officer-in-charge of the province by Pres. Corazon Aquino in 1987,during the revolutionary government, following the historic EDSA Revolution.

He ran for governor and won posthumously as he was killed on the eve of the January 18, 1988 elections.

Now, the strength of the rebels in the province has been reduced from about 200 guerrilla fighters to only about 30, with limited firearms, according to Visaya.

In a separate statement, Tallado said that with the declaration of peace in his province, his administration can now intensify the implementation of its programs and projects geared toward bringing the government closer to the people.

He also attributed the success of the government in restoring peace in the province to the implementation of various countryside development projects of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a priority program under the peace agenda of the Aquino administration geared at ending internal armed conflicts.

Tallado said a total of about Php350 million has been poured into the province under this program from 2011 to 2013 which were all satisfactorily implemented and now serving communities very well towards PAMANA’s aim of attaining economic progress for the areas covered.

The projects communicate effectively among communities the initiatives of government in building the culture of peace and development in the countryside to make them resilient against the anti-government whims of the insurgency being carried out by the NPA, he added.

Camarines Norte is the second Bicol province declared by the AFP as a CMRD area, given that the local insurgency problem had already been contained.

The first was the island of Catanduanes which was placed under the same declaration last December owing to the dwindling local insurgency level observed during the recent years from the constant decrease of NPA manpower, firearms, affected barangays and activities.

The local CPP-NPA-NDF politico-military organizations have been reduced to a minimal level that they can no longer pose a serious threat to peace and order in the province, the military said.

The restored peace in these two provinces reduced to four the remaining Bicol areas being troubled by insurgency problems—Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon.

While current troop levels are maintained in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte to go on performing the lead role in protecting the government’s anti-insurgency gains in these areas, Depayso said “we can give more focus now on these remaining four provinces in our internal security operations to finally end communist insurgency in the Bicol region soon.”

President Aquino visits Zambo blast site, bombing victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): President Aquino visits Zambo blast site, bombing victims

President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III visited Sunday this city to get first hand information on the prevailing peace and order condition in this city.

President Aquino’s visit came two days after a powerful bomb explosion that killed two people and injured 52 others here.

The bomb, which was placed on a car, exploded around 3:15 p.m. Friday in Barangay Guiwan, this city.

The car was parked in front of a disco pub located across the bus terminal.

President Aquino planed in around 10:21 a.m. Sunday and immediately met closed door with top military, police and local government officials.

The President was accompanied by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Local Government Secretary Manul Roxas, II, and Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Catapang.

After the meeting, the President visited the blast site to see the extent of damage of the explosion in Barangay Guiwan, this city.

He was joined in by Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, city police director Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, and other local officials.

From the blast site, the President visited the victims in the hospitals--Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center (ZPMC), Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC), and Zamboanga Doctors’ Hospital (ZDH).

However, the President dropped by the wake of Reynaldo Tan and Dennis Valiente, who were killed in Friday’s bomb blast, coming from the ZDH.

It was reported over the radio that Valiente’s brother is a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

The next stop of the President was the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) where two of the victims were admitted.

Ten of the 52 wounded victims are admitted in the different hospitals in this city.

The President also visited the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)-administered Zamboanga City Reformatory Center (ZCRC) located along Varela Street, Barangay Zone I, this city.

Security has been tight in all the areas where the President and his party visited.

2nd Field Artillery Battalion gets new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): 2nd Field Artillery Battalion gets new commanding officer

The 2nd Field Artillery Battalion, which is equipped with 105mm howitzers, was given a new commanding officer in the person of Lt. Col. Romeo B. Pardo during short and simple ceremonies in Barangay Bua-yan, General Santos City last Jan. 22.

A statement forwarded by Major Rosa Ma. Cristina Rosete-Manuel, Army Artillery Regiment spokesperson, Sunday said the activity took place last Jan. 22.

Pardo, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1994, replaces Lt. Col. Lucito C. Carin, a member of PMA Class of 1993.

The latter was appointed as the AAR's chief of governance and strategy management office.

Present during the change-of-command ceremonies was ARR commander Brig. Gen. Leandro A. Loyao III.

Pardo, a native of Cavite, recently graduated from the Command and General Staff Course at the Camp Aguinaldo Quezon City.

He is a seasoned artillery officer having been performing artillery operations during his junior years in Samar and Leyte Region supporting the government troops fighting against the communist insurgents who are destroying the peaceful existence of the people in the communities.

Meanwhile, Loyao ordered the transfer of 2nd Field Artillery Battalion headquarters to co-llocate with 10th Infantry Division main base which is at Mawab, Compostela Valley.

“Davao Region is a national priority in the peace and development efforts of our government. Thus, in order for the 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army to achieve its mission, we, the artilyeros, are here ready to support them not only in their combat operations but also in its peace and development initiatives,” he added.

Maguindanao clash between SAF-CIDG vs. lawless elements, scores of casualties reported

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): Maguindanao clash between SAF-CIDG vs. lawless elements, scores of casualties reported

An ongoing firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, between police’s Special Action Forces (SAF) and Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao against lawless elements has resulted so far to many casualties from both sides.

An initial report from the Maguindanao police said an undetermined number of lawless elements engaged members of the SAF and CIDG who were conducting law enforcement operations in barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, on Sunday dawn to get Abdul Basit Usman, who is included in the US-list of most wanted terrorists and carries a US$ one million dollar reward on his head.

Usman, a Filipino citizen trained on bomb making in Afghanistan, has links with the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organizations operating in southern Philippines.

Usman, who is last reported to be in hiding in Central Mindanao, has long been wanted by authorities for his role in multiple bombing incidents since 2003.

In an interview by DXMY radio station here, Von Al Haq, Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman, placed the number of casualties at 27 body counts.

Reports added that at least 8 other members of the police raiding team are currently being held by the lawless elements.

Members of the Malaysian – led International Monitoring Team and joint GRP-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities are now in the area to disengage the combatants.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz now fitted with 'Bushmaster' auto-cannon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): BRP Ramon Alcaraz now fitted with 'Bushmaster' auto-cannon

One of the Philippine Navy's Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates (formerly the American Hamilton class cutters) has been fitted with a Mark 38 25mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannon which will act as its secondary weapon.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) was fitted with this weapon last November while BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) will be fitted with the Mark 38 25mm "Bushmaster" during her next dry-docking period which is scheduled between February and June this year.

This was confirmed by Philippine Fleet public affairs officer Lt. Liezel Vidallon.

The Mark 38 25mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannon will improve the ship's surface warfare capability.

Surface warfare refers to the capability to detect, engage, and if necessary, sink naval ships or unidentified vessels that may intrude in the country's vast territorial waters.

The secondary 25mm weapons will complement the 76mm Oto Melara main gun and allow the frigates to handle targets coming fast and that are too close for the ship's primary weapon to engage.

The weapon, commissioned by the United States Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets. It will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

Cops deployed in Cotabato bus terminal after grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): Cops deployed in Cotabato bus terminal after grenade attack

Police and military authorities here believed the grenade attack on a bus terminal here Saturday night was motivated by extortion.

Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, said additional police forces have been deployed at Weena Bus Terminal along Andres Alonzo Avenue, Cotabato City after two men lobbed a hand grenade in the compound at 7:20 p.m.

Nobody was hurt in the blast which came as the compound had been closed after all bus units from Davao City have entered the public terminal premises.

Police and Army probers said the new bus management had received an extortion letter from still unidentified armed men who threatened the firm with grenade attacks if the demand was ignored.

The blast caused minor damages to two parked Weena bus, now under the management of Bachelor Bus Company. It is the lone bus firm plying the Cotabato-Davao-Cotabato route.

Responding bomb experts from the police and Army Special Forces and operatives from the PNP's Scene f the Crime Operatives (SOCO) recovered the safety lever of an MK-2 hand grenade.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, chief of the 6th Infantry Division public affairs office, said two men were seen speeding away on a motorbike followed by a loud blast.

Army bomb experts recovered the safety lever of MK-2 hand grenade inside the compound.

Under the new management, the bus firm now have only four bus stops in the Davao-Cotabato route and its units do not pick passengers in between terminals as part of security measures.

The bus firm had been subjected to dozens of grenade attacks believed to be carried out by lawless elements extorting money from the firm.

In the bus terminals in North Cotabato, stricter policy had been implemented following the rash of bombings since late last year.

Plainclothesmen were also deployed in bus terminals and other public places to prevent bomb attacks.

JTF-NCR personnel to be feted for well-done job in securing visiting Pope Francis

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): JTF-NCR personnel to be feted for well-done job in securing visiting Pope Francis

For playing a key role in protecting Pope Francis and ensuring that his five-day papal visit was free of untoward incidents, the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) said it will be commending all officers and enlisted personnel of its Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR).

Awarding will take place after the flag-raising ceremonies Monday morning, AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.

The AFP deployed 17,000 military men, including those of JTF-NCR, to help augment the 28,000 Philippine National Police personnel deployed to secure Pope Francis during his historic visit to the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19.

Aside from members of JTF-NCR, personnel from the three major services who augmented its ranks will also be feted, Padilla said.

PH Navy OKd P340M supply deals w/o public bidding - COA

From Rappler (Jan 25): PH Navy OKd P340M supply deals w/o public bidding - COA

Aside from entering into procurement contracts without public bidding, state auditors found the Philippine Navy paid for the transactions through cash advances - a practice prohibited under current rules

AUDIT FINDING. In photo: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz.  File photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

AUDIT FINDING. In photo: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. File photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
The Philippine Navy approved supply contracts worth a total of P340.407 million in 2013 without any public bidding, the Commission on Audit found.
In a report released on Wednesday, January 21, state auditors said the Philippine Navy made the purchases using cash advances through "special disbursing officers." This practice is prohibited under the Commission on Audit Circular No. 97-002, which requires check payments for all government transactions.
Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act requires government transactions to undergo public bidding.
Although RA 9184 allows exemptions for emergency supplies, COA said the contracts involved were mostly on "common and regularly used items needed in the day to day operation of the agency."
Due to the nature of the purchases, COA said the items in questions should have been included in the Philippine Navy's annual budget.
Among the contacts questioned by COA include:
P113.85 million for "other supplies and expenses"
P88.71 million for "other maintenance and operating expenses"
P30.07 million for office supplies
P26.9 million for representation expenses
P15.79 million for training expenses
P14.8 million for repairs and maintenance - other structures
P5.35 million for military and police supplies
P4.92 million for general services
P4.91 million for repairs and maintenance - land improvement
P4.49 million for medical, dental and laboratory supplies
By department, the questionable contracts were distributed as follows:
Philippine Fleet- P92.63 million.
Philippine Marine Corps - P62.52 million;
Bonifacio Naval Station - P40 million;
Naval Combat Engineeering Brigade - P34.76 million;
Naval Intelligence and Security Force - P33.73 million;
Headquarters-PN/Support Group - P29.89 million;
Naval Sea Systems Command - P18.84 million;
Fleet Marine Ready Force - P10.92 million;
Naval Logistics Center - P7.4 million;
Manila Naval Hospital - P7.3 million; and
Cavite Naval Hospital - P2.42 million

PNP: Elite cops killed in Maguindanao clashes

From Rappler (Jan 25): PNP: Elite cops killed in Maguindanao clashes

(UPDATED) Local officials say at least 27 members of the Special Action Force are killed, while the MILF claims 5 of its members died

ENCOUNTER. Muslim rebels line up in their headquarters in Maguindanao.  File photo by Rappler
ENCOUNTER. Muslim rebels line up in their headquarters in Maguindanao. File photo by Rappler
The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed on Sunday night, January 25, that members of its elite Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in clashes with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Acting PNP chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said that "some police commandos" were killed in a series of clashes that began in the early hours of Sunday, but did not give details. "We mourn the loss of some police commandos of the PNP-SAF who offered the supreme sacrifice for peace," he said in a statement released shortly past 9 pm.

Local officials earlier said at least 27 were killed.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace pact with the Aquino government, said 5 of its members were also killed when police commandos ran into their camp while searching for members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"I extend my deepest sympathy to the orphaned families of our fallen policemen," Espina said. "They died a meaningful death on the side of justice and righteousness. They did not die in vain."

Espina did not elaborate, citing "sketchy" information from the field. "What we know so far is that there is an ongoing operation in the area against a high-value target believed to be behind the recent spate of bombings in Central Mindanao," he added.

Initial reports on Sunday noon from two Rappler sources said that the SAF teams conducted "law enforcement operations against [a] high value target" in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, at 2:30 am Sunday. The SAF troops were backed up by policemen from the regional headquarters of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Local officials said at least 27 SAF members killed and 8 were missing, citing eyewitnesses' accounts. The local officials' sources are residents of the towns of Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Datu Abdullah Sangki and Datu Piang.

“There are still ongoing efforts to extricate the fatalities from the scene of the encounter,” a municipal councilor, who asked not to be identified, told reporters past 6 pm Sunday.

The military also confirmed there were casualties but did not say how many.

"The AFP helped the PNP in extricating police casualties of this morning's encounter while the PNP conducted operations against lawless elements and in carrying out a warrant of arrest," said Lt Col Harold Cabunoc, head of the military's public affairs office, in a statement past 7 pm.
 "No military units were involved in the fighting," he stressed.

Encounter with MILF

Mohagher Iqbal, the lead MILF negotiator in a landmark peace deal signed in March last year with the Aquino government, confirmed the incident, but neither side would say how many fighters were wounded or killed, or to whom they belonged.

"This is the first encounter between the MILF and (government forces) this year. Hopefully, this will be the last," Iqbal told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

He said the police had entered an MILF-influenced area without notifying the group first, while searching for members of the BIFF, which disagrees with the peace talks and broke away from the MILF in 2008.

"They (police) ran into an MILF force. The ceasefire monitors are now in the area," Iqbal added.

Espina said they will evaluate what happened. "The priority concern at the moment is the medical evacuation and treatment of the wounded and extraction of the casualties from the battle zone," the acting PNP chief said.

How many dead?

There are conflicting accounts on the exact number of dead.

A senior military intelligence officer told Rappler past 6 pm Sunday that 32 SAF members were killed.

Reports reaching the office of Interior and Local Government Secretary said there were 26 SAF casualties.

Initial reports on Sunday noon from two Rappler sources said that as of 7:30 am, at least one SAF member was wounded. "There was [a] heavy firefight and the SAF troopers suffered casualties," the same reports added.

The PNP asked for reinforcement from the military.

By 1 pm, a senior PNP official told Rappler that 11 SAF members were already killed.

Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesman of the military's Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division, said military vehicles have been deployed near the encounter site but said it's not clear if they were able to get in.

As of 3 pm, the SAF teams remained trapped in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, according to a police report sent via text message to reporters.


Mamasapano is where many members of the MILF and the BIFF live.

The BIFF broke away from the MILF to protest the latter's peace negotiations with the Aquino government. The negotiations led to the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the MILF last year.

On Sunday afternoon, Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFF, said that the BIFF's 1st Brigade intercepted the reinforcement from the military at around 9 am.

The BIFF recovered at least 10 rifles, a baby Armalite, 4 M16s, 1 Bushmaster, 2 baby Armalites with M203 grenade launchers, 1 M16 with M203 grenade launcher and another long firearm, Mama said.

"We were shocked when the SAF attacked the 105th Base Command of the MILF because there is an ongoing peace talks with the government," Mama said.

"The firefight has already died down for hours but the SAF and the military are already surrounded by the MILF and the BIFF," Mama said.

Hunt for Marwan

Intelligence sources disclosed that the operation was meant to hunt down a top Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist in the area, alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan," who is in the Most Wanted Terrorists list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has a US$ 5 million bounty on his head.

2012 OPERATION. The site of the first operation against Marwan in Sitio Lanao Bato, Sulu

2012 OPERATION. The site of the first operation against Marwan in Sitio Lanao Bato, Sulu

Marwan, who is believed to have been residing in Mindanao since 2003, was the target of a military airstrike in February 2012.

He survived the attack but the Philippines declared back then that he was killed in that operation. (READ: After 2 years, PH military says 'killed' terrorist leader likely alive)

On Sunday, President Benigno Aquino III was also in Mindanao - in Zamboanga – to inspect the security situation in the city following a car bomb explosion that claimed two lives and hurt at least 48 last January 23.

Congress is deliberating a proposed new law that will create the future Bangsamoro region that is expected to have more muscle than the ARMM. But this would still be subjected to a plebiscite.

Under the government and the MILF's final peace agreement, MILF firearms would not be surrendered to the government but rather placed under lock and key in a secure location.

The firearms would not be decommissioned in one go. A specific number of weapons would be turned over as political commitments towards the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region are achieved. (READ: Real peace means the guns would have to go away)