Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Philippine Navy closely monitoring the construction of first strategic sealift vessel

From Ang Malaya (Feb 3): Philippine Navy closely monitoring the construction of first strategic sealift vessel

Philippine Navy sent a number of prospective crews to Indonesia to monitor the building of its first strategic sealift vessel. PT PAL has started the construction of one Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock in Surabaya, Indonesia on January 22, 2015. Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan attended the ceremonial first steel cutting on the said date.

“Some of them are already at the shipyard facility in Surabaya, Indonesia, monitoring the construction works [to assure the ship is being built according to PN specifications],” PN public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna said as reported by state media. “They will be the ones who will be sailing her home.”

This unit is scheduled to be delivered on the second quarter of 2016. PN’s SSV can act as floating command center, military sealift and transport vessel and respond during disasters and calamities. Second unit is scheduled to be delivered within the second quarter of 2017.


Phil Army welcomes 167 new CAFGU members in Kalinga

From the Baguio Midland Courier (Feb 3): Phil Army welcomes 167 new CAFGU members in Kalinga

One hundred sixty seven trainees of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) were installed today as regular members of the civilian auxiliary force after successfully completing the 45-day paramilitary course.

Col. Francisco Milliari, commander of the Philippine Army, 77th Infantry Battalion, welcomed the new batch of the Cafgu force and told them to uphold and protect the good morale of the military in Kalinga and in their future areas of deployment.

The latest batch will be under the control of the 77th Infantry Battalion. They shall be deployed in the various areas of operation of the army in the province.

Milliari said as military auxiliary service, Cafgus are trained not only on combat operations but are also given courses on other tasks on environmental protection, preservation and enforcement of environmental laws.

The 167 Cafgus went through community environment project training at the military reservation lot in Barangay Santor, Rizal where they were exposed to greening activities.

Their training included the propagation of trees and orientation on small livelihood projects as possible source of additional support for their families.

The Cafgu is administered by and under the control of regular units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. These are tasked to prevent the re-infiltration of insurgents into communities that have already been cleared of their influence by combat operations conducted by regular units of the AFP.


Army officer killed in clash with NPA in Northern Samar

From InterAksyon (Feb 4): Army officer killed in clash with NPA in Northern Samar

Government troops are in pursuit of guerrillas under the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the New People’s Army who killed a young Army officer in a clash the other day in Las Navas, Northern Samar.

Quoting reports from the field, 8th Infantry Division spokesman Major Amado Gutierrez said 2nd Lieutenant Raphael Vicente Cubillan, a 2014 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, died while leading his platoon from the 34th Infantry Battalion against the rebels in a 15-minute firefight in Barangay Imelda past 9 a.m. of February 3.

“My men were conducting peace and security patrol when the rebels fired at them,” Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Delos Reyes, the battalion commander, said.

Hit in the chest, Cubillan was airlifted from the battlefield but died on his way to a hospital.

Gutierrez said the slain officer, a native of Cagayan de Oro, is newly married with one child.

The military could not say if the rebels suffered any casualties, although they said two suspected guerrillas were cornered and captured.


Opinion: Dealing with MILF: It's knowledge, not intelligence

From Rappler (Feb 4): Dealing with MILF: It's knowledge, not intelligence (by Patricio N. Abinales)

We really know very little about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

For all the anger over the death of 44 Special Action Force commandos on one side, and the sober appeals at the other end, we chose to sidestep one elementary fact for us to better understand the context of the MILF-BIFF alliance at the January 25 encounter: we really know very little about the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
A quick search of the best historical studies on this resilient organization only yields a few. There are sections in the now out-of-print book by Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria, Under the Crescent Moon that detail its origins as a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Anthropologist Thomas McKenna’s Muslim Rulers and Rebels gives us some insight into the role played by imams in the reorientation of the separatist movement and a glimpse on why ordinary Maguindanaos joined the rebellion.
Local and non-local “security specialists” release short briefs on the organization, but these should not be taken seriously given their inability to do independent fieldwork and their laziness to anchor their assertions on historical fact. Their statements look very quaint on TV talk shows or the occasional Rappler piece, but they should be taken with a huge grain of salt.
And forget the pundits.
What we truly know about the MILF is extremely thin. And this accounts for several questions and contradictions that – until today – remain unanswered. A couple is worth citing here.
There is some information on the political biography of the late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim, but beyond some general information there is hardly anything about this Cairo-educated Maguindanao scholar. Thus, the puzzle as to why Salamat wrote a letter to George W. Bush, the most hated president in the Muslim world, to mediate in the peace talks in 1996 remains unexplained.
Of the MILF Central Committee and its prominent leaders Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, the scholar Mohagher Iqbal and their ex-comrade Eid Kabalu, we know nothing about: where they were born, where they got their education, how they ended up in the Middle East, or did they fight in Afghanistan, etc. I doubt if many of us have read Iqbal’s two works, Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny and The Long Road to Peace (written under the pseudonym Salah Jubair), for if we did we could have gained some insight on how the MILF views the world and its struggle.
Our relative ignorance extends even to the organization itself. Yes, we know the MILF already had differences with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as early as 1978. However, we do not know why Salamat was able to bring to his fold the largest number and most combat-experienced units of his old organization (echoes of Umbra Kato and the BIFF leaving the MILF in 2008).
Equally fascinating from a strategic point of view is how the MILF in turn kept its organizational cohesion (well until 2008). While the coalition built by the MNLF unraveled once Marcos offered largesse to the traditional politicians who joined the rebellion, the MILF’s relationship with Moro elites appear to be very durable if we go by its ties with the powerful Mastura family of Sultan Kudarat.
Army and camp
And there is, of course, the issue of their well-armed army.
This is rather significant given that the smuggling routes for weapons (and other commodities) go through the Tausug and MNLF-control Sulu archipelago. How then did the MILF manage to tap these maritime Southeast Asia connections for its benefit? One report mentions that MILF snipers possess one of the best American-made (!) sniper rifles. How did this organization get these?
But then here is yet another contradiction: the pride over its weaponry is negated by its bad choice of strategy.
Unlike the New People’s Army, which relies mainly on mobility as part of its strategy, the MILF has stood pat and informed us where its territory is and where its boundaries end. This is rather foolhardy for an army to announce where it is located. In fact, the MILF is bottled up in a couple of areas in Maguindanao province and on the southern edge of Lanao del Sur, displaying their camps, uniforms, guns and checkpoints. This kind of quasi-trench warfare remains a puzzle to many.
Finally, there is the MILF’s relationship with terrorist groups in Southeast Asia, prominently the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). In the series of reports on Mindanao and Indonesia, the International Crisis Group has pointed out that from 1996 to 2000 the MILF entered into “a reciprocal arrangement” with the JI wherein the latter sent some of its Afghan war veterans as “trainers of a new generation of mujahedeen” in camps inside MILF territory.
But following closely the pragmatic path laid down by Salamat Hashim, Iqbal and Ebrahim cheerfully welcomed the visit of former US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney to Camp Darpanan in February 2008 – the first senior American official to visit the camp. A WikiLeaks report also had Kenney assuring the MILF leadership of American support during that visit. Murad of late has hinted to United States Agency for International Development officials that should the Bangsamoro bill be passed, the MILF looks forward to USAID implementing a version of the successful Livelihood Enhancement Program that helped MNLF veterans return to and benefit from their old agricultural and fishing endeavors.
Addressing contradictions
And then the organization turns an about face and hosts Zulkifli bin Hir (or Marwan), one of the masterminds behind the Bali bombing and who, before his death, had already trained 300 new experts on making improvised explosive devices.
I once listened to an American colonel explain how his engineering unit was finally able to convince an Iraqi neighborhood, not to throw garbage on the streets. He did so by not asking for more trucks, shovels, cement or even additional security. Instead he requested for an anthropologist who studied Iraqi social life. The scholar explained to him and his men that the streets may look messy because of the garbage, but the insides of Iraqi homes are exquisitely spotless.
The challenge for the engineering unit then is to convince the Iraqis that the streets were an extension of their homes. In six months, the colonel said, the area looked different.
Maybe this is how we should approach the MILF, especially now that it wants to talk peace. Send in the anthropologists, the historians along with the public administration folks and the economic advisers. Then together with their own intellectuals tease out the answers to some of the contradictions listed above and solve them together.

Philippines will buy three vessels from Australia at ‘giveaway prices’

From BusinessWorld (Feb 3): Philippines will buy three vessels from Australia at ‘giveaway prices’

THE PHILIPPINES will buy three surplus naval landing craft from Australia in addition to two vessels Canberra has donated to deal with future relief efforts following typhoons, a defense official said on Monday.

The three 44.5-meter-long (146-foot) craft, which are designed to carry heavy supplies, will be acquired and refurbished at a cost of around P726 million, said Defense department public affairs chief Arsenio Andolong.

“By market standards, these are almost giveaway prices,” he told AFP.

“These vessels will be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Mr. Andolong said.

The Australian embassy confirmed that the Philippines had expressed its intention to purchase the three vessels.

Australian Defense Minister Kevin Andrews previously announced that two of the same ships would be donated to the Philippines to help with humanitarian assistance and relief work, and would arrive in the Southeast Asian archipelago in May.

Australia saw the need for such vessels after a shortage during relief operations following super-typhoon Haiyan, Mr. Andolong said.

Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded on land, decimated whole towns and villages when it struck in November 2013.

The Australian military were dispatched to help victims of the storm, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

“They know we are typhoon-prone and they saw the effects of (Haiyan) on us,” Mr. Andolong said.


MILF leaders do not control fighters–Agfo

From the Business Mirror (Feb 3): MILF leaders do not control fighters–Agfo

THE ambush-killing of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao only showed that the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) exercised no control over its men and, therefore, the government must tread seriously in its peace agreement with the separatist group, a retired and active military and police generals said on Tuesday.

“What we are seeing there is they have no control over their men, weak command and control, and this is the reason it has happened,” retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, president of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (Agfo), said.

The 800-strong Agfo issued a manifesto calling for the investigation of the ambush, filing of charges against those involved, and the declaration and observance of national mourning for the killed members of the Special Action Force (SAF).

The Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Alumni Association Inc.  also asked its 4,000 members to observe a 40-day mourning for the fallen commandos by wearing black arm bands.

Through its chairman, retired Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, the association also asked its active members in the police service to simultaneously file a five-day leave of absence in protest to the slow or weak response of the government to the massacre.

Six of the seven officers who died in the ambush were PNPA graduates.

Adan said there was no reason for the MILF to kill the policemen, more so that it was observing a cease-fire with the government.

“At our end in Agfo, we see no justification whatsoever for them to kill the policemen, for them to destroy the police forces,” he said.

Adan and the Agfo support the investigation that is currently being conducted by the National Police’s Board of Inquiry (BOI), which should determine the involved forces of the MILF and their commanders, and after they were identified, the MILF should turn them over.

If the MILF refuses to surrender its men, then action should be taken, including filing charges against the leadership of the MILF.

“They should be held accountable…the government should use all means to arrest the perpetrators,” Adan said.

No to Aquino appointees in probe body

VICE President Jejomar C. Binay on Tuesday said members of the proposed Independent Fact-Finding Commission on the Mamasapano Massacre should not be appointed by President Aquino to remove doubts on the impartiality of its members.

He said a search committee to be led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) should choose the members instead.

“While the creation of the body is an important first step in finding out what really happened and to determine accountability, we need to remove any doubt about the impartiality of its members,” Binay said.

“Having the members appointed by the President as proposed by several pro-administration senators will certainly cast doubts on their impartiality,” he added.

Binay said he supports any move that will uncover the truth on the Mamasapano carnage. However, he also warned that having the members of the fact-finding body appointed by the President would only lead to speculations of a whitewash.

“It could fuel speculations that the investigation will lead to a whitewash, even before the probe has started. We need to ensure that the investigating body, from the start, is seen as an independent body,” he said.

Aside from proposing that the IBP, the country’s major lawyers’ group, lead the search committee, Binay suggested that the members of the fact-finding body include former chief justices of the Supreme Court, leaders of Church and religious groups, and eminent personalities.

DOJ probe

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed on Tuesday that President Aquino has directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a fact-finding team that would undertake a case buildup for the purpose of filing criminal charges against Moro rebels involved in the killing of 44 members of the elite National Police’s SAF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.

De Lima also denied reports saying that the DOJ is now ready to file charges against certain individuals in connection with the incident.

She said the investigation team will be composed of state prosecutors and other lawyers under the DOJ National Prosecution Service and investigators from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

De Lima added that the investigation panel will closely coordinate with the National Police and with the BOI, which was tasked to determine the circumstances and facts that lead to the death of the 44 SAF commandos.

“We will not be precluded also from gathering evidence so as to help in the case buildup. So, the reports that we are already to file charges against certain personalities, I don’t know where it is coming from,” de Lima said.

Espina to MILF: Return weapons

DEPUTY Director General Leonardo Espina, National Police officer in charge, called on the MILF “to at least show sincerity in its peace talks with the government by returning the equipment of the killed police commandos.”

Espina echoed the persistent calls on the Moro group to turn over the firearms and other fighting equipment of the 44 SAF commandos who were ambushed by a joint group of the MILF and its breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Killing the commandos did not only increase the stock of powerful weapons of the MILF and the BIFF, but even gave them the capability to wage night battle as some had feared.

The gunmen did not only strip the killed policemen of their state-of-the-art automatic weapons, but even took their night-fighting equipment, including night-vision goggles.
“The government must not only demand for the return of the firearms, but even those night-fighting equipment,” one soldier said.

He said the firearms could be easily replaced, but not the night-fighting gear, which only elite soldiers and specialized police units such as the SAF have.

Having such special combat equipment, he said, the MILF could improve its tactical capability, by now allowing its fighters to operate against the government during nighttime.

“It’s hard to imagine what they can do with those pieces of equipment,” the soldier said.

No cover-up–Palace

MALACAÑANG vowed to ensure that there would be no cover-up in the simultaneous inquiries being mounted to determine the facts and identify the perpetrators behind the SAF massacre.

“Any investigative body, whether it’s the [National Police] Board of Inquiry, the Senate or the House, should really seek the truth. That’s the minimum requirement,” Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Lacierda also confirmed that the DOJ is already building up a case against the perpetrators.

In a separate briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. told Palace reporters that the Office of the President had taken note of bills filed in Congress proposing the creation of a fact-finding commission, or a so-called Mamasapano Truth Commission.

“Whatever independent body that may be formed by Congress would find the relevant information that are now being gathered by the following bodies, namely, the National Police Board of Inquiry, the International Monitoring Team and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, as useful reference for its work,” Coloma said.


Kakilala assumes command of military’s psy-ops unit

From the Business Mirror (Feb 3): Kakilala assumes command of military’s psy-ops unit

A VETERAN communist hunter is poised to take over the command of the military’s Civil Relations Service (CRS), following the transfer of the unit’s former commander to the Army’s Second Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) based in Tanay, Rizal.

Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1984 and currently chief of the Armed Forces Office for Strategic Studies, is set to assume as CRS commander, replacing Brig. Romeo Gan.

Gan assumed on Tuesday as the commander of the 2ID following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Rodelio Santos.

The Army commander, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, presided over the installation of Gan, member of PMA Class of 1983. The assignment paves the way for Gan’s second star.

During his stint as CRS commander, Gan actively supported projects in line with disaster preparedness and awareness, empowerment of indigenous communities and the role of the youth in nation-building.

Before becoming CRS commander, Gan was the deputy commander of the Sixth Infantry “Kampilan” Division based at Camp Siongco in Awang, Maguindanao.

With the expected assumption of Kakilala to the leadership of the CRS, soldiers said the unit is expected take a more active role in the pursuit of the military part of its mission.

Officers described Kakilala as one of the best operations commanders of the military as shown by his accomplishments.

“He is a visionary and a master of intelligence and operations. Once he trains his eyes on an objective, you can be sure that it will be done,” one officer said.


BIFF vows more attacks

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 4): BIFF vows more attacks

Aquino orders DOJ to conduct parallel probe of SAF 44 carnage

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) yesterday warned of more attacks and called on residents to stay away from military and police outposts or checkpoints in Maguindanao.

Should the BIFF make good its threat, Col. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said the government is ready to stop them.

“We are not doing any offensive… if they (BIFF) will initiate anything that will unduly disturb peace in the area, the government will act with all its might to stop them,” Padilla said.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama bared the planned attacks in an interview with Manila Bulletin Monday afternoon.

“To all civilians, Christians or Muslims, living near military checkpoints, leave now because 100 percent we will launch attacks against them. Leave now so you won’t be caught in crossfire,” Misry Mama warned.

While the BIFF warns of fresh attacks, Abul Khayr Alonto, elected chairman of the surviving original members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) central committee, said the country cannot afford another wide-scale armed conflict in Mindanao as it will have disastrous effects.

“Those who call for all-out-war (after the Mamasapano incident) are those who in their nightmares even don’t know the situation of war,” he said.


As this developed, President Aquino has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct a parallel probe on the SAF 44 carnage. Earlier, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) formed a Board of Inquiry (BOI), composed of police generals, to investigate the massacre.

Yesterday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced the creation of a joint National Prosecution Service (NPS) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team, that will “undertake case build-up” for the possible filing of criminal charges against those responsible for the encounter, which has threatened to derail the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the overall peace negotiation between the government and the MILF.

She, however, quickly denied an online report that the DOJ was already set to file criminal charges against 13 MILF commanders, and said that the fact-finding team needed to ascertain the full facts surrounding the whole incident, including the identification of perpetrators.

“What I can confirm today is indeed the instruction of the President to the DOJ to undertake case build-up and prepare the appropriate or necessary criminal charges against those maybe identified or determined to be responsible doon sa nangyari,” De Lima told reporters in an ambush interview.


Currently, Misry Mama said BIFF forces are on standby in their respective areas ready to launch the attacks.

If attacked by government forces, the BIFF is ready to defend itself, Misry Mama added.

He also confirmed the movement of BIFF forces along Cotabato-General Santos City National Highway two days ago that nearly led to a clash with the military.

But Misry Mama clarified that the BIFF movement was not in preparation for an attack, saying the rebel forces only securing some of BIFF top leaders who were invited to attend a feast in Talayan area.

The clash was averted when the soldiers opted to leave the area.

“A firefight would have ensued had the military did not leave the area,” Misry Mama said.


The BIFF also vowed not to participate in any investigation that would be conducted by the government in connection with the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos of the Philippine National Police (PNP) last January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Misry Mama said his group will only participate in an investigation that will be conducted by a third party composed of civilians that would act as independent investigation body.

He was referring to investigations being conducted by the government following the clash between the PNP-SAF on one hand and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the BIFF.

“We will not subject ourselves to investigation. If the military enters enter here to investigate, we will shoot them,” he said.

“We are okay if civilians will investigate,” Misry Mama said.

He also confirmed that the SAF operation was really meant to get Zulkilfi bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman because of the big bounty offered by the United States for his capture. He, however, denied coddling the two wanted men.

Misry Mama also said that the BIFF received reports that an American was killed during the Mamasapano carnage.

“May report sa amin na may namatay na puti kasama ng SAF (We received report that a male Caucasian was killed during the encounter. He was with SAF,” he stressed.

He said the presence of Americans in the Mindanao is to the advantage of BIFF as they will no longer have to go the United State to wage war against them.

“It’s good that the Americans are here. We will fight against them here. We need not spend money to go to America and fight them there,” he said.


US denies hand in deadly mission

From the Manila Times (Feb 3): US denies hand in deadly mission

No American soldier died or was injured in a deadly clash in Maguindanao that killed 44 elite Philippine policemen, the US Embassy in Manila said on Monday.

“There were no US service member casualties,” Kurt Hoyer, US Embassy spokesman said in a text message to The Manila Times.

Hoyer was reacting to a report of a human rights group that an American serviceman was among the casualties in the January 25 clash between members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Suara Bangsamoro, a Muslim human rights group, cited the statement of a farmer who claimed to have seen at least one “white” soldier after the clash.

The US Embassy earlier clarified that American soldiers were in Mamasapano to “assist in evacuating the dead and wounded,” and that they were not involved in the operation to get two terrorists.

The Department of National Defense (DND) also denied allegations that American soldiers were involved in the daring operation by the SAF.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said US forces are prohibited by law from interfering in local conflicts or joining any police or military operation, except in joint land, air or naval training, like the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises.

“They are not allowed to join in operations, but we asked for their help because they have all the assets to provide the medical evacuation,” Gazmin added.

After the Mamasapano incident, a US chopper was photographed loading some of the dead and wounded SAF members.

But Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said witnesses who claimed to have seen the body of an American soldier after the Maguindanao clash should attend an investigation to be conducted by the House of Representatives.

Colmenares and Rep. Carlos Zarate, also of Bayan Muna, sought a thorough probe “to get to the truth.”

“I know for a fact that Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, said they were able to interview a 40-year-old farmer in Barangay Tukanalipao,
Mamasapano, and was also relayed to Pinoy Weekly. The witness said he saw at least ‘one body of a Caucasian soldier’ minutes after the deadly encounter. In fact, the witness said that he even touched the nose of the dead Caucasian soldier,” Zarate said.
“I hope to get the witness to testify during the investigation,” he added.

Colmenares said they would also ask the House to summon officials of the US Embassy in Manila.

“[W]e hope the embassy will not use its diplomatic immunity and answer questions as to its role in the bloody operation,” he added.

Not the first time

 It was not the first time, however, that US servicemen were reported to have been involved in a local military operation against state enemies.

In May 2013, it was reported that a group of American soldiers were with Filipino troops when they were ambushed by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Al Barka, Basilan.

 Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the 104th Brigade, denied that Americans joined in the firefight.

When members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) stormed Zamboanga City in 2012, it was also reported that American soldiers assigned with the Joint Special Operation Task Force based in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City joined the police and the military in flushing out MNLF men who occupied at least five coastal villages.

But the report was also denied by then-military spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr.

Earlier, WikiLeaks also released a classified US information showing that two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were embedded with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

It said the FBI agents made significant contribution to counter-terrorism efforts.
“FBI deployment with JSOTF-P is an innovative concept that puts US law enforcement officers where they need to collect vital evidence on terrorists who target US interests. We urge that this program be continued,” the report added.


New 2ID chief named

From the Manila Times (Feb 3): New 2ID chief named

Brigadier General Romeo Gan has been named as commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

Gan formally assumed his post on Tuesday following a change of command ceremony at the 2ID’s headquarters in Tanay led Army Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri. Gan is the current commander of the Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (CRSAFP).

He replaced Maj. Gen. Rodelio Santos who retired from the military service yesterday.

During his stint as CRS Commander, Gan is known to have led teams that protected or helped civilians out of harm’s way during calamities.

Prior to his designation as CRS commander, Gan was the Assistant Division Commander of the 6th infantry (Kampilan) Division based in Camp Siongco, Awang DOS, Maguindanao.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983.


PNP to MILF: Return commandos’ firearms

From the Manila Times (Feb 3): PNP to MILF: Return commandos’ firearms

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday issued a strong demand for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces (BIFF) to return the firearms, equipment and personal belongings that were carted away from 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos killed in a bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

“Gamit namin yun, dapat isoli nila. [Those things belong to us, they should return it],” Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer-in-charge, said in a radio interview.

Espina was reacting to reports that the firearms and other law enforcement gear of the fallen SAF members were being openly sold in Maguindanao.

The 800-strong Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) made a similar demand on Tuesday. The group said the return of the firearms and equipment of the massacred SAF members and the surrender of those involved in the carnage should be set as conditions for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“The firearms and all equipment should be returned by the MILF. If they do not return those firearms then there’s lack of goodwill,” AGFO president retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan stressed.

All the dead SAF men were divested of their firearms and other gear, including their personal belongings like cell phones. Photos showed that many of them were almost stripped naked.

SAF members are individually equipped with either a Glock 17 or Colt M1911 pistol and an assault rifle. During operations they also have with them sniper rifles, submachine guns and general purpose machine guns.

The standard Glock or Colt pistol costs about $500 to $600 (P22,000 to P27,000), or roughly P1.8 million for the 44 pistols, according to the PNP. The assault rifles, sniper rifles and other ordnance command a higher price.

Johnny Siao, the commander-in-chief of the National Border Command of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) wing that covers Southern Mindanao, said almost 100 high powered firearms from the SAF were stolen by the MILF and the BIF, including the Barret rifles used in the Balikatan training, 90 Recoilles rifles, AR-13 rifles, cellphones, boots and uniforms of the SAF team.

On the other hand, Ustadz Pendie Colano, over-all chairman of the Selatan State Revolutionary Command (SKSRC) a sub-wing of the MNLF, also told the Times that the MILF members who joined with the BIFF in the attack belong to the elite forces of the MILF that strongly reject the normalization process because they are against the decommissioning of their firearms as required under the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Yung mga MILF na kasama ng BIFF sa pag atake doon sa mga SAF ay sila yung mga MILF na ayaw isuko ang kanilang mga firearms pagkatapos na malaman nila na ang normalization process ay kasama pala doon ang pag surrender ng kanilang mga armas”, Colano said.

“Napaka imposibleng mangyari ang pagpapasuko ng armas mula sa mga MILF dahil lalong magkakaroon ng gulo pag ito’y ipilit ng Aquino administration,” he added.


Rebels in Mamasapano clash toughened by Maguindanao private militias

From the Philippine Star (Feb 2): Rebels in Mamasapano clash toughened by Maguindanao private militias

Umbra Kato launched his self-styled Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in early 2010 with a vow to continue fighting for a puritan Islamic state in Mindanao. File photo

The rebels who clashed with policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last week were toughened by bloody combat maneuvers from 2001 to 2009 with the armed private militias of the Ampatuan clan.

The rebels belong to the 105th Base Command (BC) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose units operate in the adjoining Mamasapano, Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay, Datu Piang, Salibo, Shariff Saidona and Sharif Aguak towns, all in the second district of Maguindanao.

At least 44 operatives of the police’s elite Special Action Force and 18 MILF members were confirmed killed in the January 25 encounter at the boundary of Barangays Mangapang and Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, less than 10 kilometers southeast of Shariff Aguak, the old provincial capital and hometown of the Ampatuans.

Among the war exercises rebels in Mamasapano have had were those when their former leader, cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, led them into a rampage in Central Mindanao in protest of the aborted August 8, 2008 crafting in Malaysia of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by the government and MILF. The MOA failed due to constitutional issues.

The MOA-AD, which the Supreme Court eventually dismissed for being unconstitutional, aimed to establish an MILF-led government in Mindanao, with great administrative, political and taxation powers.

There were documented reports on lootings, burning of houses and beheadings of people killed in the mutiny by Kato and his men in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, apparently meant to express their sentiments over the botched MOA-AD.

Among the thousands badly affected by the Kato-instigated atrocities was now retired Col. Julito Ando, then spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, who lost some P300,000 worth of livestock, including a dozen water buffaloes in his farm to Kato’s group during their simultaneous raids in November 2008 of Barangays Tapudok, Dungguan, and Bagulibas, all in Aleosan, North Cotabato and in Barangay Baliki in Midsayap town in the same province.

Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia as a government scholar during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, was booted out of MILF for leading the uprising and other serious infractions of the group’s revolutionary policies.

The recalcitrant Kato launched his self-styled Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in early 2010 with a vow to continue fighting for a puritan Islamic state in Mindanao.

Kato was replaced as chief of the MILF’s 105th BC by Zacaria Goma, just as the Ampatuans became politically weak as a consequence of the incarceration of its leaders, among them clan patriarch former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009  “Maguindanao Massacre,” the country’s worst election-related violence ever.

Ampatuan, while governor, was so hostile with MILF leaders in what was known then as his “political principality” that spanned over 10 towns from where he mustered captured votes for favored congressional, senatorial and presidential candidates during electoral exercises.

The private militias of the Ampatuans first intensified their attacks on groups belonging to the MILF’s 105th BC after the governor’s son, Mayor Saudi Ampatuan of Datu Piang in west of Maguindanao, got killed, along with 17 others, mostly security escorts, in a roadside bombing in the same town on Dec. 22, 2002.

The Ampatuans blamed the MILF for the bombing and even filed criminal charges against dozens of guerillas and their commanders implicated in the carnage.
The governor’s private militias, armed with military-type assault rifles, M-60 machineguns, shoulder-fire grenade launchers and equipped with modern two-way radios, drove the rebels away from their farms at the border of Mamasapano and Sharif Aguak in offensives that resulted to the unjust annexation of their rice fields to his lands.

The process of dispossessing members of the MILF’s 105th BC of their lands was markedly bloody, capped off with more than a hundred deadly firefights from 2001 until the nation was shaken to its core by the infamous 2009 Maguindanao Massacre the Ampatuans allegedly masterminded.

“The clan amassed weapons, invested on sophisticated weapons  because its leaders would never lord it over to the MILF if given chance to gain political power based on a peace deal with government,” said a relative, who works in a government office in Cotabato City as a career service executive.

The encounters between civilian volunteer groups under the municipal governments controlled by the Ampatuans and their private militias escalated after foreign-trained bomber Abdulbasit Usman set off in June 2005 a car packed with explosives, parked along a highway in the town proper of Shariff Aguak, while the governor’s convoy was passing by.

Ampatuan survived the bombing unscathed but eight people were killed while more than a dozen others were injured in the incident.

Followers of Ampatuan immediately retaliated by attacking enclaves of the MILF’s 105th BC, then still under Kato, in west of Shariff Aguak and in Mamasapano, sparking a series of violent firefights, which waned only after officials of the national government intervened.

“That is one reason why the members of the 105th Base Command in those areas are so distrustful of outsiders,” said a local official, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Rebel sources, however, said it was Kato’s radical views and Wahhabi-influenced preaching, while chieftain of the 105th BC, that fired the zeal of religious fanaticism in their hearts.

Wahhabism, pioneered more than a hundred years ago by Arab scholar Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, of what is now Saudi Arabia, espouses ultraconservative and puritanical concept of Islamic spiritualism.

The outlawed BIFF is operating as a Wahhabi-inspired group and enforces a Taliban-style justice system in towns where it has enclaves, which are all, ironically, covered by the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

The ceasefire enjoins the MILF to reign in criminals and terrorists within its reach to ensure the cordiality of its peace overture with government.


Don't make a legend out of Marwan, public urged

From the Philippine Star (Feb 2): Don't make a legend out of Marwan, public urged

Marwan was reportedly killed during the clash between government forces and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Officials on Monday called on the public not to create a legend out of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir by stoking sentiments that tend to memorialize his reported death in the hands of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF).

The appeal was aired by officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, among them ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, after staging an anti-war rally in Cotabato City on Monday, in support of efforts to peacefully resolve the deadly January 25 encounter between SAF members and guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Hataman said sowing animosity between government and Moro sectors can only encourage extremism among groups indignant about the incident.

“Let’s not make a legend out of Marwan,” Hataman said.

Hataman also confirmed that Marwan, a Malaysian national, was killed by SAF operatives that raided his hideout in a marshy area in west of Mamasapano before dawn of January 25.

“I’ve been informed that he was indeed killed in that police law enforcement operation,” Hataman said.

Hataman and hundreds of his subordinates converged at the 32-hectare ARMM compound Monday morning and released baloons while in an open field to show support to Malacañang’s position of not allowing the incident to stifle the on-going government-MILF peace overture.

Hataman called on residents of ARMM, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, to patiently wait for the result of the separate investigations on the encounter by the MILF, the government’s Board of Inquiry, and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union, has been helping oversee since late 2003 the enforcement of the 1997 government-MILF ceasefire accord in flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

Laisa Alamia, ARMM's regional executive secretary, said four civilians were killed in the January 25 SAF-MILF Mamasapano encounter.

She identified the fatalities as peasant Badrudin Langalan, five-year-old Sarah Pananggulon, Murshid Hashim, and Omar Dagadas.

Alamia, who is helping Hataman manage the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART), said six villagers, Saad Minidal, Samra Pananggulon, Tot Pananggulon, Saed Sangutin, Amina Salaganan, and Sajid Pasawilan, were wounded in the ensuing crossfire.

Alamia said the HEART had extended initial assistance to the families of the four civilian fatalities.

She said the HEART has also been helping attend to the needs of the six wounded villagers.

Rashid Ladiasan, chairman of the MILF’s ceasefire committees, said 18 MILF rebels were killed in the ten-hour encounter, which waned only when ceasefire monitors managed to disengaged the two groups.

Hataman said what the public ought to do now is to help deescalate the tension caused by the incident by avoiding making hostile comments about it and refrain from warmongering, particularly via social media.

“We need to support the separate investigation on the incident by the MILF, the Board of Inquiry which the government activated for this purpose and the IMT for us to really know the truth behind the incident,” Hataman said.


Army: Abu Sayyaf using women fighters as front liners in firefights

From the Philippine Star (Feb 3): Army: Abu Sayyaf using women fighters as front liners in firefights

The military could not ascertain if it was the first time the Abu Sayyaf deployed a bigger number of female Abu Sayyaf members as front liners during encounters. File photo

The Abu Sayyaf militants deployed women fighters as their front liners against the Army rangers during the Sunday encounter in the mountains of Sulu, an official said on Tuesday.

Ensign Chester Ramos, spokesman of the Joint Task Group Zambasulta, said this was revealed by one of the four wounded Army rangers who encountered the Abu Sayyaf group under the Lucky 9 faction also known as Ajang-ajang under sub-leaders Hatib Aseri and Basarun Arok.

“The wounded rangers said they were approaching their targets when they encountered armed women deployed by Abu Sayyaf as front liners and later engaged in combat the bigger group,” Ramos said, referring to the statement of the wounded Army rangers confined at the Camp Navarro General Hospital.

The fighting on late Sunday afternoon left an Army ranger killed and four others wounded when the troops clashed about 60 Abu Sayyaf militants at Bud Pula (Red Mountain) in Barangay Bungkaong, Patikul town.

Ramos said the government forces suffered six wounded men, including two soldiers who were wounded since Friday ambush incident in Patikul.

The presence of the female Abu Sayyaf combatants prompted government troops to be more selective and discriminate in engaging the group, he said.

Ramos said the Joint Task Group Sulu is carefully investigating the presence of the female Abu Sayyaf combatants, their number and the extent of their participation in the combat.

The military could not ascertain if it was the first time the Abu Sayyaf deployed a bigger number of female Abu Sayyaf members as front liners as there were previous cases that soldiers were forced to neutralized female fighters during encounters.


NPA executes ex-leader for betrayal

From the Philippine Star posted to Yahoo news (Feb 2): NPA executes ex-leader for betrayal

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The New People’s Army (NPA) has executed an alleged former leader for reportedly betraying the rebel group.

Salaknib Monteverde, spokesman for the rebel group operating in Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur, said Rufino Dumayas caused the arrest and torture of several villagers by the military.

Dumayas, who used the alias “Ka Ram” when he was still with the rebel group, was executed based on a decision of the NPA’s “peoples court” in Besao, Mountain Province on Jan. 10.

He was reportedly a former leader of the NPA’s Leonardo Pacsi Command operating in Mountain Province.

Monteverde said when Dumayas was arrested in 1989, the former rebel leader disclosed to the military the identities of several NPA members.

“Dumayas’ disclosure resulted in the arrest of several members of the revolutionary movement in Besao and Sagada,” he said. 

The NPA’s people’s court investigated the arrests of their comrades and decided to impose a death sentence on Dumayas.

A unit of the rebel movement caught Dumayas but he was able to escape and hide.

“Twenty-five years later, Dumayas returned home to Barangay Tamboan in Besao town and was executed by the rebels,” Monteverde said.


3 soldiers hurt in NPA clash

From the Sun Star-Davao (Feb 2): 3 soldiers hurt in NPA clash

THREE soldiers were wounded in another encounter with members of the New People's Army (NPA) Sunday afternoon in Barangay Dominga in Calinan District, Davao City.

Calinan police identified the wounded soldiers as Private First Class (Pfc.) Ruben Gotanggonan, Pfc. Rex M. Barsabal, and Pfc. Marvin Asuncio, all members of the Philippine Army's 69th Infantry Battalion.

The wounded soldiers are now undergoing treatment at the Panacan Hospital Station in Panacan District in Davao City.

Record from Calinan Police Station showed that the encounter took place around 4:15 p.m. at Lower Quibaton in Barangay Dominga.

The police said one section of a Scout Platoon led by Second Lieutenant Mohammad Johaiman Manda of the 69th Infantry Battalion conducted patrol operation in the area when they encountered around 20 NPA rebels.

According to Manda, the firefight lasted for about 30 minutes before the rebels scampered to a far-flung area in Calinan.

Manda said they believe there are also a number of communist rebels who sustained to several gunshot wounds during the encounter.

The 69th Infantry Battalion troops launched Monday a pursuit operation against the members of the NPA Basil Platoon under the Pulang Bagani Command 1 whom they have encountered in Calinan.


AFP to cooperate with probe body on Mamasapano clash – Catapang

From GMA News (Feb 2): AFP to cooperate with probe body on Mamasapano clash – Catapang

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it will cooperate with the police Board of Inquiry (BOI) investigating the Mamasapano clash, according to a Philippine National Police (PNP) statement on Monday.
"We have nothing to hide, we will be very transparent and provide all necessary document and evidence to support the ongoing investigation by the BOI," AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. was quoted as saying in a PNP press release.
The BOI is headed by Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) head Chief Superintendent Edgardo Ingking, along with Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong and Directorate for Research and Development head Chief Superintendent Catalino Rodriguez Jr.
The BOI has started its probe and has taken the statement of Director Getulio Pascua Napeñas, the head of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who was relieved following the Mamasapano "misencounter" and will be out from his post "pending the outcome of the board of inquiry."
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has said the BOI will tackle the "tactical level" of the firefight and will determine if there are any operational lapses that led to the firefight.
PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, for his part, said the board will determine if the officers who led the SAF operations would be administratively or criminally liable for the deaths of the elite police commandos.
Magalong said board investigators have documented a total of 286 sworn statements mostly from officers and personnel of the PNP-SAF who took part in the operation, AFP key officers and personnel in central Mindanao, and some civilian witnesses.
The BOI expects to get statements from at least 420 individuals to complete its investigation, Magalong said.
On January 25, the SAF troopers had a daylong firefight with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.

Analysis: The Philippines’ Naval Build Up

From USNI News (Feb 2): Analysis: The Philippines’ Naval Build Up

 HMAS Balikpapan, Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) L133 HMAS Betano, and Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1665 transit out of the Segond Channel during Pacific Partnership 2011. US Navy Photo

HMAS Balikpapan, Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) L133 HMAS Betano, and Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1665 transit out of the Segond Channel during Pacific Partnership 2011. US Navy Photo

Like many of its regional peers, the Philippines is in the midst of a defense buildup, motivated in no small part by China’s assertive moves in the western Philippine Sea and the resource-rich Spratly islands.

The donation this week of two Balikpapan-class Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) from Australia was the most recent boost to Philippines defense efforts.

The LCH donation is particularly timely, as it complements the upcoming pair of Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSV), being built by PT PAL Indonesia. Based on the Indonesian navy’s successful Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock (LPD), the 8,600-ton amphibious lift ships can transit to remote areas and serve as a mobile base for helicopters and smaller landing craft. As evidenced during Typhoon Haiyan, the dearth of such assets hampered the Philippine government’s aid response to the hardest-hit parts of the country.

As gifts stand, the donation of ex-HMAS Tarakan and Brunei is particularly generous – the Royal Australian Navy will hand them over fully refurbished with new safety and navigation components, plus spare parts packages. Manila is considering purchasing the three remaining LCHs as well.

While the media focus of Manila’s defense acquisitions under the Capability Upgrade Program has been centered on big-ticket items to restore basic conventional force capabilities, there have been other, quieter acquisitions that directly support war-fighting and maritime domain awareness (MDA).

Notably, the service signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014 with the Philippine National Oil Company to transfer three retired 2,500 ton petroleum tank ships. This acquisition would enable fuel replenishment at sea and increase on-station time for high-endurance assets like the patrol frigates Ramon Alcaraz and Gregorio Del Pilar, both formerly U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutters.

Another low-profile capability is the National Coast Watch Center program—a surveillance system designed to monitor oceanic traffic in the western Philippine Sea. As expected, details of this national intelligence capability are closely held, but much of it is likely based on the successful implementation of the earlier Coast Watch South program. With heavy U.S. assistance, the Philippines created a network of monitoring stations combining radar, maritime surveillance and radio/data networks that provides a real-time strategic and tactical “picture” of oceanic traffic in the Southern Philippines—the so-called Sulawesi Sea Triangle. That area is a hotbed of illicit trafficking by sea and a favored logistical trail for transnational insurgent forces that prowl the region. When completed in 2015, the west-facing Coast Watch chain will monitor the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), extending 200 nm into the contested Spratly Islands group. In the future, additional monitoring chains will cover the Northern and Eastern facing portions of the country as well.

The most recent, visible and well-publicized modernization program has been the integration of the multipurpose helicopter program with the patrol frigate force. Five Augusta-Westland A109s twin-engine helicopters equipped with forward-looking infrared have been delivered to the fleet to replace long-retired BO-105s. From an operational perspective, the navy has made quick strides to integrating the air asset with ships of the line. The AW109s had a maiden deployment on board Ramon Alcaraz during the Australian multinational military exercise Kakadu 2014, approximately eight months after receiving the first helicopters.

Two Augusta-Westland A109s via Wikipedia

Two Augusta-Westland A109s via Wikipedia

Out of all the projects to restore capabilities, the navy is still awaiting final determination of its premier acquisition – the multi-role frigate. The Philippines wants to buy two units to serve as major and modern combatants of the patrol frigate force. While the negotiations have been stymied by a complex two-phase process, a list of qualified bidders has emerged, including well-known Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and several South Korean firms, among others. A winning bid was to be selected in late 2014, but the acquisition process reportedly has been complicated by efforts to separate the tracks of selecting a ship from the embedded weapon systems. This may have to do with current challenges of the Philippines not being easily cleared for purchases of regional-balance changing weapons, such as a long-range surface-to-surface missile, with which this ship class is normally equipped.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has benefited under President Benigno Aquino III’s administration. To date, multiple modernization programs have either reached significant acquisition stages or have been completed entirely during his tenure.

However, as the new paint smell wears off for the navy, the historical challenges that have haunted its past acquisitions and programs loom. It is critical that the next presidential administration continue to support the acquisitions, as well as the services, both politically and fiscally. The navy needs to ensure that internal expertise among the ranks to maintain their newly acquired equipment is present and sustainable. Above all, operating effectively and efficiently at sea continues to be the primary objective. The nation’s seafaring history and ties to the maritime culture give impetus to the current goals of ensuring territorial integrity and establishing a credible defense. Given the relatively rapid pace of modernization, the Philippine navy is well on the road to restoring the capabilities necessary to meet those demands.


MILF commander denies involvement in clash

From ABS-CBN (Feb 3): MILF commander denies involvement in clash

The commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) 118th Base Command denied involvement in the January 25 clash between rebels and police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Ustadz Abdulwahid, known as Wahid Tundok, granted ABS-CBN an exclusive interview in a village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, where a camp of the 118th Base Command is located.
Tundok said he wanted to clear the air over reports that he and his men were involved in the recent clash between MILF's 105th Base Command and SAF troopers in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town.

He stressed that he directed all his men not to make any move when they heard the heavy exchange of fire on January 25.

"Tanong nila sa akin, 'Ustadz? Ano ba yung mga putok na naririnig natin?' Sabi ko sa kanila, 'Walang aalis o gagalaw. Mag-ipon lang tayo. Walang mag-move para hindi tayo madamay o masali diyan.' Sabi ko, 'Maghintay tayo ng mga confirmation o balita," Tundok said.

He said he was later reached by the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the MILF as well as the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to help them talk to those involved and stop the firefight.

The Philippine government and the MILF entered a truce years ago and have adhered to that ceasefire agreement while peace negotiations are ongoing.

Tundok said he is puzzled why his name surfaced as among those involved in the firefight.

He stressed he did not have any knowledge on the whereabouts of terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan prior to the operation launched by the SAF commando.

"Nakikita namin pangalan niya o naririnig, pero hindi namin siya nakita. Di rin namin alam saan siya dahil kapag hinahanap ka ng gobyerno, palipat-lipat ka," he said.

The commander also clarified that he does not have any pending case, as of posting.

Last year, Tundok was arrested by elements of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit in Cotabato City for murder charges.

He said his warrant of arrest has been recalled. He showed his release order to the media.

According to Tundok, the clash in Mamasapano could have been avoided if only there was coordination with the MILF.

He lamented that the MILF has been placed in the hot seat, putting the peace process at risk, following the encounter.

Still, he said he still has high hopes for the Bangsamoro.
He said an "all out war" is not a solution.

He said he does not want his children to experience what he has gone through.

Tundok, a known MILF commander, is focused on mediating conflicting MILF forces and exposing the children in their community to the right teachings of Islam.

He said he will continue to uphold the peace process.

He said he will wait for the outcome of the investigating team formed by the MILF leadership.


Video: Ex-US envoys turn over school in Tacloban

From ABS-CBN (Feb 3): Video: Ex-US envoys turn over school in Tacloban

[Video report]

Former US ambassadors Thomas Hubbard, Richard Murphy, John Maistro and diplomats from the US-Philippines Society visited Tacloban over the weekend.

The group was in the province for the turnover of a school building in San Jose Central School, which was badly damaged during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.

The four rooms of the building will now be used by students.

They have been taking class inside makeshift classrooms after the typhoon.

Another building is also expected to be finished soon, which will also have rooms and a library.



MILF: Editorial -- Is justice one-sided in this country?

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1): Is justice one-sided in this country?

The MILF has come into full grips of the serious backlash of that tragic incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25 where 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) died during a “misencounter” with MILF forces, who in turn suffered 18 dead and 14 wounded. Civilian casualties are yet to be accounted for. It is natural that emotions would fly fast and intense especially from the SAFs’ kith and kin.

Surely, it takes sometimes before this heightened emotion and call for revenge to subside. One reason for which is those spoilers and the “political enemies” of President Benigno Aquino III are feasting on the issue.  It has been a free ride for them since that unfortunate incident happened. They are in a shooting spree using one stone for two birds: stifling the chance of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to pass Congress and to weaken the clout of the President so that whoever he anoints in the 2016 presidential election would have little chance to win.

By the way, it seems that only the wounded feelings of the families of SAFs are featured, recognized, and pursued. How about those of the fallen MILF combatants who just defended themselves from the night intruders who were armed to the teeth? Are they not also human beings whose feelings must also be respected? Is the application of justice one-sided in this country?

Frankly, the MILF is worried by how supposedly highly-placed people and some veteran media practitioners reacted irresponsibly and feverishly to that incident. Ousted former President and now Manila Mayor, Joseph Estrada, has again called for another all-out war against the MILF. Why he is not tired of this old rhetoric that never makes sense to sensible people? For the media practitioners, we think only Rigoberto Tiglao deserves space here. The rests are not as biased.  It seems he has never had good words for the MILF ever since his former boss, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, exited from power. Imagine his description of the incident as a "massacre" which totally glosses over the real facts of the firefight. We cannot understand why he has that intense remorse in his heart against the MILF when he has many old friends in the organization. He was afforded the sole privilege of interviewing the late Salamat Hashim in Karachi, Pakistan in December 1987. (We hope he has not yet burned his bridges with the MILF).

Contrastingly, we can only praise and hold high the statesmanship of President Benigno Aquino of soberly and reasonably reacting in the face of the outbursts of emotions and the mounting call for all-out war. We could only imagine the hardships, pressures, and intrigues facing him now. It is really hard to be president of this country who never makes correct decision in the eyes of his critics and political enemies.

Of course, there are other leaders who followed their reason and not their emotions. Among whom were Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, ARMM Regional Governor Mujib Hataman, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño, Maguindanao Governor Esmail "Toto" Mangudadatu, and Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, of Ateneo de Davao University.

On the misencounter, there is no doubt the villain was the lapse of judgment on the part of the commander of the SAF-PNP by overstressing secrecy at the expense of "coordination". Yes, the mission achieved its objective "to get rid" of Marwan but at the cost of so many lives and the uncertainty of the BBL passing into law.

On the current uncertainty of things, the MILF fully submits to what the Holy Qur’an says: “There are things that you do not like but it is good for you; and there are things that you like but it is not good for you.” The outcome of every effort or activity still lies in the will of God. All the Muslim members of the MILF fully submit to this injunction.


MILF: Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ displaces 2,236 residents: UNYPHIL Report

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 3): Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ displaces 2,236 residents: UNYPHIL Report

Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ displaces 2,236 residents: UNYPHIL Report

The United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UNYPHIL) after having conducted its own monitoring of the Mamasapano incident last January 25, furnished a copy of its report to Luwaran on the plight of local residents in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

According to the report, the clash between SAF-PNP and forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on January 25, 2015 at Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao did not only caused the death of combatants from both sides  but also the displaced some 560 families to various locations in Mamasapano town.

The internally displaced persons (IDP’s) temporarily stayed at Barangay Pimbalakan, Tuka, Dasikil, Pidsandawan and Tukanalipo in Mamasapano. Some were home-based while others were in evacuation centers like SZOPAD and market “Talipapa” in Tukanalipo. Others affected stayed on make-shift-tents along the road.

As of January 26, the 560 families that evacuated comprise of 2,236 individuals, according to the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (MDRRMC).

The report also said that that the 3 injured civilians from Barangay Tukanalipao were admitted to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City, one of them is a minor. They were identified as Tot Panangulang, Samra Kansi Panangulang and Sara Panangulan.

The report also said that during their monitoring, representatives of local government units were not allowed to the areas where the IDP’s were temporarily sheltered because of the ongoing retrieval and clearing operations of military that time. According to Maced T. Abdullah, of MDRRMO, some IDP’s have are already returned to their place of origin as of January 26, 2015 especially those coming from neighboring barangays of Tukanalipao not affected by the firefight.

MILF: Palace tells critics, “Let us give peace a chance

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 2): Palace tells critics, “Let us give peace a chance

Palace tells critics, “Let us give peace a chance

“Perhaps it would be best if we comply with the call to give peace a chance”, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said yesterday in an interview.

He also called on the public to stop finding blame for the massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao, saying this would stand in the way of the government’s long quest for peace in Mindanao.

Coloma also lauded the United Nations for expressing support for the government’s peace initiative.

“We should recognize the many years when war and violence were used to resolve rebellion but they never led to stability and tranquility for our fellow citizens,” he said.

“The government is pleased to note that the UN expressed its support for the government’s continued efforts to initiate and push for the peace process,” he added.

The UN said in a statement that, “Their team in Manila declared it is one with the victims “who lost their lives in the tragic incident of Jan. 25 in Mamasapano in Mindanao and expresses its condolences to the affected families.”

The UN team said they welcome the investigations by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front into the incident and the commitments expressed by President Aquino, MILF chairman Ebrahim Murad and other concerned parties “in regard to sustaining focus” on the peace process.

 “We welcome also the reaffirmation by the peace negotiating panels to strengthen their cooperation and coordination in addressing security concerns in the most effective and appropriate manner, and also in rebuilding trust and public confidence in the peace process,” the statement read.

The UN declared that the UN Peace Building Fund will release resources to support various aspects of the peace process and that it “looks forward to further progress through the combined efforts of all involved parties.”


CPP/PKM-NDF: Disgruntled elements in PNP, AFP urged to shun Aquino -- Aquino, US brains behind Oplan Wolverine, says PKM-NDF

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Feb 3): Disgruntled elements in PNP, AFP urged to shun Aquino -- Aquino, US brains behind Oplan Wolverine, says PKM-NDF

Andres Agtalon
Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid

The revolutionary peasant organization Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), today dared “disgruntled elements” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “shun President Aquino” and hold him principally responsible and accountable for the death of 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

“We challenge the disgruntled elements within the PNP and the AFP to reject Aquino and his similarly corrupt officials in the military and police. They should demonstrate different forms of protests, both open and clandestine, against Aquino and defy his fascist orders,” says PKM-NDF spokesperson Andres Agtalon.

The PKM-NDF spokesperson accused Aquino and the United States as “the brains” behind the botched operation of January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in the name of the United States’ terror war.

“Aquino, armed with US-fed intelligence information to the corrupt and suspended Gen. Purisima, had given direct orders to the latter to mobilize the PNP-SAF to launch Oplan Wolverine,” says Agtalon referring to the PNP-SAF operation in Mamasapano that led to the death of the 44 SAF members.

“The haciendero president’s mobilization of the police as sacrificial pawns to the US-instigated operation Wolverine shows Aquino’s penchant of exploiting farmers that extends to rank and file troops whose majority came from the peasant class,” he said.

At least 400 elite police troops were mobilized by Aquino and Gen. Purisima under “Oplan Wolverine” to capture Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman, alleged officials of Jemaah Islamiya and are included in the “US terrorist list.” They both carry bounties worth $7 million offered by the US State Department for their neutralization.

The PKM-NDF also called on the disgruntled troops to coordinate with members of and join the Lt. Crispin Tagamolila Movement, an underground revolutionary organization of patriotic members of the military and police, and to further arouse, organize, and mobilize progressive elements within their ranks, to defect from the Aquino regime, and further expose the intensifying US intervention in the country.


Police officer wounded in rebels’ attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): Police officer wounded in rebels’ attack

A police officer was wounded critically after he was shot on Monday by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Dugo Bangaan, Sagada, Mountain Province, the Cordillera police reported.

Investigation showed that Senior Police Officer 3 Wilfred Degay of the Cordillera regional intelligence office was driving his sports utility vehicle when he was fired upon by unidentified gunmen. He sustained four bullet wounds in the chest.

Rescuers brought Degay to the St. Theodore Hospital in Sagada. However, he was later transferred to the Bontoc General Hospital due to his critical condition.