Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gov't, MILF in backchannel talks to return SAF arms

From Rappler (Feb 5): Gov't, MILF in backchannel talks to return SAF arms

It might not happen in an instant as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is still in the process of tracking down weapons, the chief government negotiator says

RETURN WEAPONS. Philippine police commandos load a truck with body bags bearing the remains of comrades killed in a clash with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano town, in Maguindanao on January 26, 2015. File photo by Mark Navales/AFP

RETURN WEAPONS. Philippine police commandos load a truck with body bags bearing the remains of comrades killed in a clash with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano town, in Maguindanao on January 26, 2015. File photo by Mark Navales/AFP
In a bid to save the peace process, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are engaged in backchannel talks for rebel forces to return the weapons of elite cops killed in the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
"There are a lot of different lines going out so that we can solve this problem with the accountabilities addressed," chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told Rappler.

Returning the firearms, as well as the uniforms, cellphones, and other personal effects of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP SAF) who were killed in the January 25 clash is the first gesture that President Benigno Aquino III wants to see from the MILF to show its commitment to the peace process.

The other "concrete action" that the President wants is for the MILF to step aside during security operations for high-profile criminals and terrorists.
The MILF is under intense pressure to prove its sincerity after the deadly clash, which occurred in a town known as an MILF bailiwick.

Nearly 400 PNP-SAF members entered Mamasapano on January 25 with a mission to serve the warrants of arrest to wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan," and Abdul Basit Usman.

The troopers, who managed to hit Marwan, were reportedly surrounded by combined forces of the MILF and breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on their way out.

Brigadier General Carlito Galvez Jr, chair of the government ceasefire committee, said he has laid down the President's "reasonable expectations" to his counterpart in the MILF in the presence of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) overseeing the ceasefire agreement.

Galvez said his counterpart in the MILF, Rashid Lucman, told him, that the MILF is "considering everything."

The MILF is conducting its own probe into the Mamasapano clash. Separate investigations are also being conducted by the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Army, the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

MILF still tracking weapons

Close to two weeks after the Mamasapano clash, Ferrer said the MILF is still in the process of rounding up all the weapons that were captured.

"It's not impossible, that sign of sincerity. The problem here is they are still tracking (the firearms). So, we have to give them some time," Ferrer said.

PNP OIC Director General Leonardo Espina has accused MILF members of selling SAF weapons. Other firearms might have been captured by the BIFF as well, according to reports.

In a news conference in Camp Crame on Wednesday, February 4, Espina also scored the MILF for the "overkill" of its forces in the Mamasapano clash – even if proven true that there was no prior coordination with the rebel group – since the rebel group was engaged in peace talks with the government.

Espina said that after the rebels killed the troopers, they shot them in the face and did not only take their cellphones but even allegedly called the fallen officers' wives to tell them not to bother calling since their husbands were dead.

"We [in the PNP] are fully all out for peace. There are peace talks. We behave according to the protocol of the discussion. We expect the other party to behave. You took 44 lives; we have a peace process. Remember that. But we will always abide by the peace talks," the PNP OIC said.

If it were up to the panels, it would be easier to fix the situation behind the scenes.
"My personal opinion is the less demands made publicly, the better. It's better not to talk about it. For incidents like this, it’s really more effective to do things quietly. But we know the public has expectations," said government peace panel member Senen Bacani.


How do backchannels work?

Back in 1998, the MILF was able to capture a 90mm recoilless rifle and an M16 rifle from the military in a clash that killed two and wounded 35, Galvez said.

Galvez negotiated for the return of the weapons a year after the incident – but the process was not that simple.

“What we did, we made it appear that they did not return it. We sold it to a politician. We paid the politician but we also retrieved the firearms from the same politician secretly. That’s the backchannel. They can’t give it to us directly,” Galvez said.

A more recent incident happened in 2014. It only took a week to recover firearms since there were no casualties from both sides, Ferrer said.

“In the course of a series of events, the guns ended up in their (MILF) possession and we know that 6 firearms of the police were returned as a result of the negotiations facilitated by the ceasefire committee and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group," said Ferrer, who refused to give specific details of the encounter.

BEHIND THE SCENES. The government wants the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to return the firearms of elite cops killed in the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. File photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

BEHIND THE SCENES. The government wants the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to return the firearms of elite cops killed in the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. File photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler
What is the point of backchannel negotiations?

This is to avoid embarrassment on both sides, Ferrer said. It is no small deal on the side of the military to admit that their arms were captured while surrendering firearms is a sensitive issue for Moro rebels.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal himself has admitted that turning over firearms is almost a taboo topic among the MILF.

Under the peace accord signed in March 2014, the MILF agreed to decommission their firearms in exchange for the creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with greater political and fiscal powers than the current one.

What about Usman?

One of the conditions that Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr had set before resuming hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is for the MILF to help in the hunt for Usman.

The MILF, for its part, has maintained that it is not in a position to turn over the wanted terrorist. (MILF: We didn't coddle Marwan, Usman)

The government knows that the intricacies of the situation in Mamasapano – where BIFF and MILF members related to each other reside in the same community – would make it difficult for the MILF to surrender Usman themselves or facilitate his capture. (EXCLUSIVE: Marwan’s ties that bind: Ren-ren Dongon)

“Basit Usman lives in that area. He has a big family. If you do something bad to Basit Usman, every member of the family will gang up on you and it will become a big rido (clan war).” Galvez said.

Ferrer said MILF members and their relatives would need to protect themselves from Usman's supporters unless a comprehensive witness protection program is rolled out in the area.

Government representatives and the MILF are conducting a joint security assessment to craft a plan on how to pursue Usman and other criminal elements in MILF areas.

No fear: The SAF commando way of life

From the Philippine Star (Feb 4): No fear: The SAF commando way of life

For those who decide to join the elite police Special Action Force (SAF), the sacrifices start with basic training and do not stop until they are killed or transferred to another unit.

“Ricky” spent 10 years with the SAF and is now assigned to a precinct where the most action he gets is driving a patrol car around and manning a checkpoint.

Upon hearing of the deaths of the SAF troopers he worked with, he lit candles for the seven members of his old team and for the 37 he never had the honor to work with.

“If the target was indeed neutralized, the sacrifice was worth it,” he said, referring to Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.

He described the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s leaders as “cunning” and definitely “not to be trusted.”

Training for torture

SAF commandos undergo physical and psychological hardship as they train like Marines or Scout Rangers on top of learning laws and police operational procedures.

“The formula is this: Special Forces plus Scout Rangers plus Force Recon equals a SAF commando,” Ricky said. The SAF’s idea of introducing a trooper taking a Waterborne course is having the police officer swim one mile into the sea, first in swimming trunks, then in their training uniform with combat shoes. The third part of the course involves a police officer swimming wearing the uniform and carrying a backpack containing 30 kilos of gear and a rifle, all wrapped in waterproof plastic.

An Air-to-Ground Operation Seminar has a SAF police officer jumping from a helicopter about 10 feet off the ground, carrying a 30-kilo backpack and a rifle, then running to engage the enemy as soon as they hit the ground.

Those learning close-quarters battle techniques are grouped into eight-man teams as they go from room to room.

What is not included in the official training courses are tactics to render them inured to torture: making police officers squat and eat meals in a bathroom overflowing with feces; hanging on to a tree branch, enduring being bitten by red ants while clad only in their underwear; being grabbed at night, hogtied and dropped into the sea; and spending the night outdoors, sitting in a drum of water.

Even while drinking, the SAF train their members to remain in control. Someone who becomes “ma-uy,” a quarrelsome, noisy drunk, gets punished, Ricky said.

Among the more common forms of punishment are the “tusok-ulo,” which has a SAF member assume a pose similar to yoga’s downward dog, except that the head, not the hands touch the floor; and the “kaldag,” a quick, hard jab to the solar plexus.

Going for a ‘walk’

Ricky said SAF police officers receive their mission orders through verbal commands or through text messages, with code words used. These code words are unique to each team or battalion.

Directions on paper leave these orders vulnerable to being intercepted by criminals or terrorists, he said.

Once they receive their mission orders, each police officer usually calls or sends text messages to their loved ones, saying “May lakad kami (We are going for a walk).”

According to Ricky, SAF members simply tell their loved ones they will contact them when they get back. No goodbyes, lest they be permanent, he said. Missions can sometimes last as long as three weeks, with no contact between SAF members and their families, he said. SAF members who are about to get or just got married or celebrate their birthday are excluded from missions, Ricky said, based on a superstition that they are more likely to get killed.

Makeup, panty liners

Real men, according to him, wear makeup and panty liners – just not where people expect. Part of their preparation is wearing shoe polish for night missions so the enemy will not see their faces.

They put panty liners on the soles of their feet, before putting on socks and combat boots, to absorb moisture and prevent fungal infection. Some cases are so bad that there are weeping sores between the toes and toenails fall off, he said.

Panty liners and individually wrapped sanitary napkins are also good for absorbing blood and protecting wounds, Ricky added. Bright and shiny items, like a rifle barrel and jewelry, can get you killed when they reflect sunlight, he said. SAF troopers take pains to dull the shine of metal weapons and avoid wearing even wedding rings during missions. Ricky also said that smoking can kill a SAF trooper – the scent of cigarette smoke alerts those in the area to your presence and the light at the tip of a cigarette means there is a fool at the other end.

“A lit cigarette gives the enemy enough light and makes you a target,” he said.
Those who go on a mission bring enough food, rations and pots and pans to last the duration of the mission. SAF troopers do not accept food or drink from residents of an area when they are on a mission and do not pick fruit or leaves in order to leave less of a path for enemies to follow, according to Ricky. Once a SAF trooper goes on a mission, they cannot use bath and laundry soaps. “Soap bubbles or scent travel through water and may give away your location,” he said, adding that it also means they can’t enjoy a normal bath until a mission is over.

While the public has expressed horror that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters stripped the slain SAF members of their uniform and gear, Ricky said he has seen this many times, and he and their colleagues often try to salvage mobile phones and mementos they keep.

Coming back

Back at police camps, Ricky recalls playing “endless” games of chess, jogging to keep fit, doing target practice and sparring to spend the days between missions. While serving at a camp in Abra de Ilog town in Occidental Mindoro, he witnessed one SAF member run amok, threatening their commander with a grenade, after the official refused to allow him to visit his family.

The same official was reportedly co-opted by a local politician to compel his men to serve as a private army.

Ricky said the long periods of separation take a toll on marriages: one SAF member’s wife had a nervous breakdown and remains unable to function, while others have had wives call or send them messages to tell them they found another man.

Others come back from visits home only to tell that they have been cuckolded, that other men have taken their place, even as they continued to send money home, he added.

SAF members treasure laptop computers and “time-share” them with colleagues so they can view photos of loved ones on social media websites, according to Ricky.

Food, glorious food

Ricky said while he understands that each police camp has been allotted funds to buy food for its personnel, he and other police officers assigned in provincial camps have had to contribute P500 each payday just to get barely enough food to eat.

In Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, he said that for their contribution, they get a cup of rice and two pieces of sardines, a matchbox-sized piece of chicken or a cup of vegetable stew at each meal. “Eggs, pork and beef are dreams best left to those assigned to police camps in urban areas,” Ricky joked.

Sometimes, for variety, they buy tuna from the local wet markets using their own money, he said.

For the simple chore of buying food, toiletries and other supplies outside the police camp, SAF police officers go in teams and are armed, alert for ambushes, according to Ricky.

On visits home from his assignments in Mindanao, Ricky said he gorges on pork adobo, beef nilaga, freshwater fish such as tilapia and bangus, and as much fried chicken as he can eat.

One of the dead

Before he was transferred four years ago, he had been angling to be assigned to the police camp in Maguindanao. “The conditions there are better than in Jolo and Tawi-Tawi,” Ricky said. “If I had not been transferred, I could have been one of the dead.”

He shakes his head as he remembers why he had asked for a transfer: his daughter was growing up and he wanted to get to know her in person, rather than as a voice on his mobile phone.

Ricky said he started working toward a transfer after two of his “brothers” were killed protecting a politician in Sulu. “I saw rifle bullets rip their bodies apart,” he said, adding that one colleague, who was 27 years old, was about to go home and see his newborn baby after that mission.

AFP chief knew Mamasapano operation since November

From the Philippine Star (Feb 4): AFP chief knew Mamasapano operation since November

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. admitted that he was instructed to coordinate with the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force regarding the operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao but he was not informed of the actual date of the attack.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday admitted that the lack of tactical coordination caused the failure of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force's (PNP-SAF) operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

In a television interview, the AFP chief confirmed that President Benigno Aquino III informed him of the said operation as early as November 2014 and instructed him to coordinate with the PNP-SAF.

Catapang also said that PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr. did not coordinate with the AFP on the day of the assault.

"Ni-launch po yung operation without us being informed," Catapang said, adding that the coordinates of the SAF's whereabouts were not given when they asked for help.

He added that the AFP was also not informed about the exact date of the SAF operation to capture wanted terrorists Zulkifli "Marwan" Hir and Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

"We can't do anything if the SAF refused to share more information with us. We think we just did what was necessary at that point in time," the AFP chief said.

Catapang said that it was unfair to accuse the AFP of not sending reeinforcement.

"Nandoon po kami when they needed us most and ang problema nga too little too late na yung coordination. Kung kailan na po nagbabakbakan saka po hiniling yung aming reinforcement," Catapang explained.

The AFP would have suggested a night attack if there was enough coordination, which would have made the operation more effective, Catapang added.

The military is set to submit the report of its fact-finding committee to the PNP Board of Inquiry.

AFP report on Mamasapano clash now confidential

From the Philippine Star (Feb 4): AFP report on Mamasapano clash now confidential

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. File photo

A day after the military vowed transparency on its probe on the Mamasapano clash, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the report of their fact-finding committee on the encounter has been made "confidential."

Catapang said the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry would be the one to declassify the report, which dealt with the Army’s actions during the gun battle.

“I think this report is confidential. That’s why we are here to tell you what really transpired just to keep the public informed on how come the armed forces were not able to immediately respond to the call for reinforcement,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Catapang said the report has also been submitted to President Aquino.
The military fact-finding committee report said the Army had provided enough assistance to Special Action Force (SAF) members who clashed with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Army ground commanders should not be blamed for the delayed deployment of reinforcements to the beleaguered police commandos, the committee said.

According to the committee report, the Army’s 6th division formed a quick reaction force and started supporting the SAF at 6 a.m. or an hour after being informed of the encounter. The assistance was extended until the early morning of January 26, when surviving SAF members were brought out of the encounter site, the committee report said.

On Tuesday, Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the full report of the fact-finding committee would be released to the public in the spirit of transparency.

The military, however, changed its tune when Catapang said that only the chronology of events would be distributed to the media.

“I think we have to respect the board of inquiry. They will be the one to declassify it because this report is considered confidential,” the military chief said.

Catapang insisted that they are not hiding anything about the bloody encounter, which claimed the lives of 44 SAF commandos.

“We are not hiding something. We are telling you what happened. This is the report, the chronology of events,” he said.

“This is something that has to be submitted to the Board of Inquiry and we will not publish it in as much as this is a confidential report to the board of inquiry,” he added.

CPP: Unite to hold the US and Aquino responsible for Mamasapano carnage

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Feb 4): Unite to hold the US and Aquino responsible for Mamasapano carnage

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on all sectors to unite to hold the US government and military, Benigno Aquino III and his key security officials responsible for the carnage in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25 which left almost 70 people killed, including scores of elite police troopers, Moro fighters and civilians.

The January 25 operation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) was part of the US-directed Operation Wolverine assassination operation against Zulkipli Bin Hir (Marwan) who carries a multi-million dollar bounty on his head. The US military forces in the Philippines fed intelligence information to the Aquino regime, which in turn, dutifully mobilized its troops to serve the US plan.

The CPP condemns US military interventionism in the Philippines and elsewhere. Not only did the US instigate and direct the January 25 Mamasapano operation, it also deployed troops in the area of operation where residents saw at least one American soldier killed and whose corpse was immediately collected by a US helicopter.

Operation Wolverine and clandestine operations of the US make a complete mockery of Philippine national sovereignty. The Obama government has perpetuated the US war of terror that justifies interventionism, foments racism and religious prejudices with the US employing lethal force and weapons of mass destruction against both armed and unarmed dissenters, thus causing a spiral of armed violence and counter-violence.

There is widespread hatred for the US military for grave violations of human rights and national sovereignty as it drops bombs, deploys armed troops, arms and trains pro-US groups, arms and finances pro-US governments, conducts drone surveillance, collects private electronic data and spies on its own people.

As in similar assassination operations of the US in the past, the US military instigated the Aquino regime to conduct the Mamasapano operation in complete disregard for human rights, rules of war and outstanding humanitarian conventions when it targeted civilians and killed at least seven unarmed residents, including a young girl. Similarly, several civilians were killed in February 2012 when the US directed Philippine Air Force units to drop so-called “smart bombs” in Jolo, Sulu, which the AFP then claimed to have killed Marwan.

To pursue the US plan, the Aquino went to the extent of usurping the police chain-of-command in order to directly order PNP Special Action Forces (SAF) units through its commander, and reportedly, through the suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, his favorite lackey police official.

The operation required penetrating an area considered armed base areas of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF) hostile to the PNP and AFP. The special force unit of the PNP served as cannon fodder in an operation that would have ended in a carnage, either which way, with or without coordination with the AFP.

In exchange for US financial support, the Aquino regime is blindly serving the US war of terror by allowing the US military to maintain and expand its presence in the country and conduct surveillance and combat operations. The US is using its vast resources to portray itself as a humanitarian force in order to conceal its interventionist operations that violate human rights and national sovereignty and perpetuate US neocolonial dominance in the country.

Troops clash against ASG in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Troops clash against ASG in Sulu

Government forces clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the hinterlands of Sulu, a military official said Thursday.

Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the clash broke out around 9:10 a.m. Thursday at Sitio Kan Udang, Barangay Taglibi, Patikul, Sulu.

Muyuela said the troops from the Joint Task Group Sulu headed by 1Lt. Dennis Arado were conducting law enforcement operation when they clashed with the ASG led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

Sawadjaan is one of the mid-level ASG leaders based in Sulu province.

Muyuela said there was no casualty reported on both the troops and the ASG militants as the “firefight is ongoing” as of press time.

She said the law enforcement operation is a joint effort of the military and police aimed to neutralize the ASG and other lawless groups.

5,000-strong Army unit in Bicol gets a ‘mother’

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): 5,000-strong Army unit in Bicol gets a ‘mother’

The first-ever lady Sergeant Major in the history of the Philippine Army (PA) has assumed the post to serve as “mother” to the 5,000-strong male-dominated military contingent in Bicol.

Wearing a shoulder rank of master sergeant, Army enlisted woman Rosa Maria Lanila recently took over the post in the PA’s 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based at Camp Elias Angeles here from a male counterpart -- Senior Master Sergeant Alex Allejos.

Allejos served the position for six years and retired last Jan. 16 after 36 years in military service.

The latest to be declared as already “peaceful and ready for further development” is Camarines Norte, where the military has claimed a momentous victory in its decades of fight against communist insurgency in Bicol by neutralizing the NPA and restoring peace in the province.

“We want to provide the rest of the region a space where the people can feel safe and grow as progressive communities just like what these two provinces are now enjoying, and Sergeant Major Lanila will play a crucial role in this aspiration,” 9th ID commander Maj. Gen. Yerson Depayso said on Tuesday.

The sergeant major is a unique non-commissioned rank in the PA held by a senior enlisted member appointed to serve among other inherent tasks as a spokesperson to address the issues of enlisted soldiers to the higher command.

As such, Lanila would be spending much of her time traveling throughout the units comprising the 9th ID that include three infantry brigades composed of eight infantry battalions and seven support units.

The position would be a big challenge to her being a woman who has to look after the morale, discipline, living conditions in camps and welfare of the about 5,000 Army enlisted personnel or non-commissioned officers (NCOs) mostly men belonging to all these units, according to Depayso.

“She needs to act like a ‘mother’ and 'guiding light'” to these men in maintaining high standard of morale and discipline so that they remain the strong backbone in Bicol of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from whom their commanding officers draw all-out support in safeguarding the peace and tranquillity of the Bicolanos,” he said.

As their “mother”, Lanila should lead by example in the efforts of the entire organization to uphold military discipline and promote positive values and attitude which are determining factors if these NCOs are on their right track while serving the country as professional soldiers, Depayso said.

Lanila’s assignment to the post, he said, is part of the PA’s policy of giving female soldiers who, aside from being tasked for office and administrative works, are also being given the chance to be assigned in the frontlines for an opportunity to be able to serve civilian communities.

“The presence of the female soldiers somehow softens the aggressive and masculine perception of the people regarding the members of the Armed Forces,” he added.

For her part, Lanila said, she is very much honored with her new assignment which she considers as “very challenging,” given the fact that it carries with it the task of looking after the welfare of her fellow NCOs as what a mother does to her children.

“I don’t find it a difficult job as all I have to do is continue what my immediate predecessor has started -- work on the accomplishments of his unfinished works and sustain those that have been gained,” she explained.

Cops, Army troops uproot P700,000 worth of marijuana plants

From the Philippine News Agenc (Feb 4): Cops, Army troops uproot P700,000 worth of marijuana plants

Joint elements of the Danao City Police Station and the Philippine Army Tuesday uprooted more than 4,000 marijuana plants worth some P700,000 in the hinterland barangay of Lawaan, Danao City.

Police operatives and the 5th Special Forces Company, 2nd Forces Battalion, Airborne Special Operation Command of the Philippine Army conducted a joint preventive patrol in Sitio Panaliwad-on, Lawaan because of the reported sightings of armed men.

The barangay is situated 20 kilometers away from the city proper.

SPO3 Ildefonso Prucia, Danao City Police Station desk officer, said the operation was led by Supt. Elmer Lim and 2nd Lt. Al-Qatar Kamlian.

Upon reaching the area, the operatives noticed the marijuana plants.

But cultivator or caretaker was found in the area.

The joint police and army team uprooted 3,236 fully grown marijuana plants and 1,000 seedlings with an estimated market value of P747,250.

The police are still conducting investigation to identify the cultivator and the owner of the lot.

3ID strengthens commitment to Army transformation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): 3ID strengthens commitment to Army transformation

Geared to attain the vision to be a world-class Army that is a source of national pride by 2028, the 3rd Infantry “Spearhead” Division (3ID) has further strengthened its commitment to the Philippine Army’s journey towards genuine reform and transformation.

Just recently, the 3ID was awarded the Compliant Status in the Army Governance Pathway (AGP) during the Army Governance Forum held at the Philippine Army Officers’ Clubhouse in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila.

Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Commander of 3ID received the recognition conferred by General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Chief of Staff, AFP and assisted by Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, a news release Wednesday said.

The 3ID was one of the successful Army major units to achieve the Compliant Status or the 2nd stage in the four stages of the AGP, the news release added.

The four stages of the pathway towards a systemic governance approach are the Initiated, Compliant, Proficient and Institutionalized.

An institution must first be initiated before it can move to the next stage of the governance pathway, the media release said.

Prior to this achievement, the 3ID received the recognition of Initiated status on June 13, 2014. The hallmarks of this stage are the Charter statement which defines the 3ID vision, mission, core values and core purpose; the Strategy Map which defines and communicates priorities and focus; and the Performance Governance Scorecard which measures performance against priorities.

A major pre-requisite to attain the Compliant stage is a multi-sector governance coalition, or the participation of the external stakeholders in promoting good governance in the organization and share responsibility in pursuing transformation initiatives.

On the part of the 3ID, a Multi-Sector Advisory Board (MSAB) was launched September 9, 2014, hence, became operational as a functional board that provides external advice in the implementation of the 3ID Transformation Roadmap.

The 3ID MSAB is composed of distinguished representatives from key sectors all over Western Visayas. It is currently chaired by Rep. Jerry Treñas of the Lone District of Iloilo City.

The validation of the 3ID Performance Governance Scorecard and the Subsidiary Scorecards of the Infantry Brigades and Battalions under 3ID and post units of the command also paved the way in the attainment of the Division Compliant Status.

The ultimate objective of the 3ID in its scorecard is to have a normalized security environment in its area of responsibility where the local government units (LGUs) are taking the lead in advancing sustainable development and a just and lasting peace.

Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero said, “With this achievement, the 3ID will continue to work together with its stakeholders in attaining good governance and performance excellence in the entire organization in order for us to realize our vision to be a reliable, committed, disciplined and capable unit that is a source of pride and a partner in nation-building in the Visayas.”

DA-12: PAMANA projects aim to uphold peace efforts in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): DA-12: PAMANA projects aim to uphold peace efforts in Mindanao

The national government has earmarked huge amount for agricultural development in Region 12 to help uphold efforts in achieving peace in Mindanao, a ranking agriculture official on Thursday said.

Under the national government’s PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA), Region-12, composed of the provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal and Gen. Santos City, has received a total budget allocation of Php471.215 million, part of it are projects in former communist guerillas’s communities in Sultan Kudarat province.

PAMANA program is a national government's initiative that extends and delivers development interventions to remote, hard-to-reach, and conflict-affected communities in the country.

Anchored on the Millennium Development Goal (MGD) under its Poverty Reduction component, this special program endeavors to re-strengthen peace building, reconstruction and development of identified conflict-vulnerable areas.

Datukan said of the total allocation of Php471, 215,000, South Cotabato received the highest chunk of Php125.03-M; Sarangani (Php119.05-M); North Cotabato (Php87-M); Sultan Kudarat (Php32.6-M), including the P107.5-M proposed projects for the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front (CNN) in North Cotabato.

It covers 21 local government units, including the towns of Carmen, Pikit, Midsayap, Banisilan, President Roxas, Matalam, Kabacan and Makilala, Columbio, Isulan, Kalamansig, President Quirino, Lebak, Bagumbayan, Esperanza, Lutayan, Palimbang, Glan, Maasim and Malapatan and T’boli.

“These funds will be automatically downloaded to these LGU-recipients that will implement various livelihood, farm-to-market roads, and other infrastructure projects identified by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPPAP),” Datukan said.Fe Ybanez, DA-12-PAMANA focal person and currently the region’s operations division chief, reported that out of the total 91 projects, 23 projects are now underway.

Soldier killed, 2 rebels captured in Northern Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): Soldier killed, 2 rebels captured in Northern Samar clash

A soldier was killed while two armed rebels were captured in a 15-minute fire fight on the outskirts of Las Navas, Northern Samar on Tuesday.

Lt. Raphael Vincent Cubillan, a 2014 Philippine Military Academy graduate was seriously wounded during the encounter, but succumbed while being airlifted to a military hospital in Samar province.

Two members of New People’s Army (NPA) left behind by their comrades are now in the custody of the AFP and will be handed to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The encounter happened in a remote area of Imelda village, Las Navas town early morning of Feb. 3, according to information released by public affairs office of the 8th Infantry Division base in Camp Lukban, Catbalogan City, Samar.

Initial report from Lt. Col. Edgar R. Delos Reyes, commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Battalion, government troops were conducting peace and security operations when a concerned citizen informed them about the presence of NPA rebels in the remote village of Imelda.

Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, 8ID Commander, expressed his condolence to the bereaved family of the slain soldier and also expressed his appreciation to the efforts of other troops involved in the operation.

BIFF sighted in North Cotabato, Maguindanao border, Army deployed

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): BIFF sighted in North Cotabato, Maguindanao border, Army deployed

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- Military forces here have been deployed to the periphery of this town after villagers saw armed men in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato Wednesday.

Capt. Calvin Macatangay, spokesperson of the military’s 602nd brigade based in Carmen, North Cotabato, said residents of Barangay Kabasalan, a villager bordering with Sultan sa Barongis and Mamasapano towns in Maguindanao, reported to 7th Infantry Battalion personnel about sightings of armed men.

Macatangay said the armed group belonged to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and part of the lawless group that clashed last January 25 with the PNP Special Action Force.

We believe they belonged to BIFF, led by commander Karialan, we were told the MILF wanted to host a dialogue in the area but Karialan allegedly opposed and he sent troops,” Macatangay said.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, admitted that the group of Karialan was in Barangay Kabasan, Pikit.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the military is ready to respond should the BIFF harass communities.

”We have deployed ample Army personnel backed by military hardware around the marshland,” Petinglay said.

The Army spokesperson also said that normalcy has slowly restored in Maguindanao following the January 25 debacle.

”But we remained on alert,” she said.

AW-109s provided night-time air cover for Pope Francis - PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): AW-109s provided night-time air cover for Pope Francis - PN

While the Air Force was the primary military unit tasked to provide day-time air cover for Pope Francis during his January visit to the Philippines, Navy AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters were the aircraft assigned to protect the Pontiff during the night-time.

This was disclosed by Philippine Navy (PN) public affairs office chief Cmdr Lued Lincuna in an interview with the PNA Wednesday.

He added that this was made possible as the AW-109s were equipped with FLIR (forward looking infra-red) pods and night-vision equipment making it capable detecting hostile movements and targets during the night-time.

FLIR uses an imaging technology that senses infrared radiation.

The sensors installed in forward-looking infrared cameras—as well as those of other thermal imaging cameras—use detection of infrared radiation, typically emitted from a heat source (thermal radiation), to create a "picture" assembled for video output.

Lincuna declined to give specifics on how the AW-109s operated during Pope Francis' Jan. 15 to 19 visit to the Philippines but said that all three "Power" helicopters were constantly up in the nigh-time during the five-day papal visit.

But sources said that operations of the AW-109s may have primarily focused on securing the airspace of the Apostolic Nunciature in Taft Avenue, Manila, the Pontiff's temporary home while in the Philippines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

801st Infantry Brigade gets new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): 801st Infantry Brigade gets new commanding officer

The 801st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army got a new commanding officer early this week in the person of Col. Leoncio A. Cirunay.

He replaced Brig. Gen. Wilson M. Leyva who retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

The change-of-command ceremonies took place at the 8th Infantry Division headquarters at Catbalogan City, Samar.

The 801st Infantry Brigade is tasked to secure from external and internal threats the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar.

Prior to taking the helm of the 801st Infantry Brigade, Cirunay was the deputy brigade commander of the Lumban, Laguna-based 202nd Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Relatedly, Leyva was given a traditional testimonial parade and review in honor of his 31 years of the honorable service to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

8th Infantry Division commander Major Jet Velarmino, in his message, acknowledged the contribution of Leyva to the relative peace that Samar and Eastern Samar provinces are now experiencing.

At the same time, he urged Cirunay to continue the plans and programs initiated by Leyva that fit the current situation and work hard toward the realization of “Insurgency-Free” Samar and Eastern Samar provinces.

It can be recalled that Samar and Eastern Samar were declared as Peaceful and Ready for Further Development (PRFD) Provinces in March 2013 and December 2014, respectively.

The PRFD status is one step below the insurgency-free category.

“I commend Brig. Gen. Leyva for his immeasurable contributions to the accomplishments of 8th Infantry Division mission. With Col. Cirunay as the new commander of 801st Infantry Brigade, I know it is in good hands as I am aware of his past designations where he performed well. I know he will do the same in the duties and obligations that he is assigned with right now," he said.

Coup rumors has no basis -- AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Coup rumors has no basis -- AFP chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Wednesday denied reports that there are segments of the military planning a coup d' etat against President Benigno S. Aquino III.

He said AFP intelligence units are still to confirm this report.

"We are still to verify that (coup) report," Catapang stressed.

Coup rumors started to float after some sectors demanded the resignation of President Aquino in wake of the bloody Mamasapano town, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 which resulted in the death of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members.

Catapang stressed that the Chief Executive must be allowed to finish his term as President Aquino is a duly-elected public official.

"I think the President has a mandate with the people and the election is coming soon so I think it's better to... we have to allow the President to finish his term because he is the duly elected, duly constituted authority of the country," the AFP chief said.

Joint military-police operations against rebels in Agusan Del Norte yield 12 firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Joint military-police operations against rebels in Agusan Del Norte yield 12 firearms

Joint elements of 29th Infantry Battalion and 13th Regional Public Safety Battalion have recovered 12 high-powered firearms and other equipment during routine security operations in Barangay Rojales, Carmen Agusan Del Norte Wednesday noon.

Major Ezra Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said security troops were patrolling to respond to the reported New People's Army (NPA) extortion activities in the area when fired upon by the rebels, triggering a 15-minute skirmish that resulted to the recovery of the following:

- Three M-16A1 rifles, - Three AK-47 rifles, - One US carbine caliber.30, - One M-203 grenade launcher, - Two two homemade guns, - Two .45 caliber pistols, - Several Rifle Grenades, - Several 40mm ammo, - Assorted ammo and magazine of rifle, - One IED, - One cellular phones, - One handheld radio, - Several back backs, and - Different documents.

No one was reported to be hurt during the skirmish as of this posting.

Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command head, lauded the joint effort of the police and military on the ground that lead to successful operations.

"With our joint mechanism working well rest assure that we will continue to work hand in hand in providing a safe and secure communities in Eastern Mindanao," he said.

"Aside from good working relation, the support coming from the communities specially information is a manifestation that the bandits are losing support," Baladad said.

Military has limited role in SAF law enforcement operation -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Military has limited role in SAF law enforcement operation -- AFP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, on Wednesday said the military has a limited role in the Jan. 25 "law enforcement operation" to bag two notorious terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

At that time, SAF members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) conducted an operation to serve arrest warrants against Jemaah Islamiyah bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" and Filipino bomber Basit Usman who was able to escape in the ensuing firefight. Marwan was reportedly killed but still subject to DNA testing.

During a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Wednesday, Catapang said the military's role in the operation to neutralize Marwan was only limited to support, as the activity is considered a "law enforcement operation".

"We will just be prepared to, if in case they need reinforcements or help from us," Catapang clarified.

In the Jan. 25 clash between the SAF troopers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the military was able to extricate several SAF members to safety.

The AFP chief added that he became aware of the Mamasapano operation last November. But due to apparent lack of coordination, the military was unaware of the location of SAF members when the embattled operatives needed support during the hours-long firefight.

Catapang added that military helicopters cannot be deployed to help extricate the beleaguered SAF members as the encounter scene was all "marshland" and not fit for landings.

"We cannot do that because there was a firefight, they might think that we are reinforcing the SAF and then our choppers will be shot at, so we will have to make sure that a ceasefire will have to be implemented," Catapang stressed.

Under the ongoing ceasefire, a mechanism is in place to prevent cases of mis-encounters between the MILF and government forces.

Military relief force only meant to extricate SAF men, not engage in pitch battle -- AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Military relief force only meant to extricate SAF men, not engage in pitch battle -- AFP chief

While stressing that it did everything it can to succor the beleaguered Special Action Force (SAF) troopers during the Jan. 25 encounter with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Wednesday said that their responding forces were only out to extricate the hard-pressed police officers from the contested area and not engage MILF and BIFF forces in a pitch battle.

"Yes we came there to reinforce them, but the reinforcement was to extricate them not to join the fight with the MILF or BIFF or whatever combat units they were engaged," Catapang clarified.

He also said that responding military forces had difficulty in penetrating to the area the SAF men were cornered it as they were not aware of the unit's exact location.

Adding to their difficulty is the fact that the MILF and GPH, under the ongoing peace talks, have agreed to install a mechanism to maintain order and prevent misencounters between soldiers and Muslim militiamen.

However, Catapang did not give details if this mechanism was used during the bloody Jan. 25 battle in Maguindanao.

However, he clarified that the ongoing peace talks with the MILF does not prevent the military from operating.

"What is important here is we have to coordinate (with each other when conducting operations)," the AFP chief stressed.

He also said that certain rules must be followed if the Philippine National Police will operate as part of the joint AFP-PNP force or a single force in the conduct combat operations

This rules are as follows:
-When operating jointly with AFP, tasked PNP units shall be attached or placed under operational control of the AFP with the operational responsibility of the area of operations,
-When operating independently as a single force, PNP units shall take orders from their parent unit but must coordinate with the nearest tactical unit of the AFP to ensure a coordinated and focused operations in a particular area,
-The AFP unit that has operational responsibility over the area of operations shall be furnished by the PNP of the unit's operational plan and after operations report.

During the SAF operation, an all out military response could have destabilized ongoing peace talks between the two parties.

Forty-four SAF men were killed in the day-long battle which began with the operation to neutralize Malaysian terror bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan."

The AFP chief also said that in the case of the Maguindanao clash last Jan. 25, there is urgent need of coordination as the area of SAF operation is a known a MILF enclave with camps of the 105th, 106th and 1118th Base Commands along with the BIFF, Moro National Liberation Front and private armed groups.

Participating in the mission were troopers from the 45th, 55th and 84th SAF Companies.

SAF men from the 84th SAF Company were the ones who neutralized Marwan while the 55th and the 45th SAF Companies acted as the escorts of the attacking unit.

Most of the casualties were incurred by the 55th SAF Company who were overwhelmed by MILF and BIFF troops during the course of the day-long fighting.

And had there been coordination, Catapang stressed that they could have given appropriate support which include units of the 45th Infantry Battalion and artillery support from their firebases near the encounter scene.

The AFP chief stressed that records will show that on 9: 20 a.m. of Jan. 25, troops from the 23rd and 14th Mechanized Battalion and 62nd Division Reconnaissance had already linked up with the elements of the SAF positioned at Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town.

He also said that reinforcing military elements were even fired upon by still unknown groups on their entry, preventing them from immediately linking up with the hard-pressed SAF men.

Wheels of the responding V-150 "Commando" armored personnel carriers were holed as the result.

Catapang also said that supporting military units were only able to construct a "tactical command post" at 2:30 p.m. in the above-mentioned area.

And until that time, the AFP chief added that they have no communications with the SAF troopers.

He said full extraction took place 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 25

AFP commends successful military, police joint ops against rebels in Agusan Del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): AFP commends successful military, police joint ops against rebels in Agusan Del Norte

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) commended troopers of the Eastern Mindanao Command and Philippine National Police for their successful operation against the New People's Army (NPA) in Agusan Del Norte which resulted to the capture of 12 high-powered firearms and assorted equipment Wednesday noon.

"Through effective coordination between the two agencies, the Bravo Company, 29th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division headed by Major Gen. Oscar T. Lactao and 13th Regional Public Safety Battalion of PNP responded to civilian complaints regarding extortion activities perpetrated by New People’s Army bandits in the town of Carmen, Agusan del Norte," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

While approaching the area at around 12 noon, the combined law enforcement elements encountered around 15 NPA fighters at Barangay Rosales triggering a firefight that lasted for 15 minutes, after which the rebel force quickly retreated.

No casualties were reported on the government side while an undetermined number of rebels were either wounded and killed in the encounter.

Cabunoc said joint military-police operatives also recovered three M-16 rifles; three AK-47 rifles; one US carbine caliber 30; one M-203 grenade launcher; four other firearms; assorted ammunition; improvised explosives and personal items.

PHL files protest against China for harassment of Filipino fishermen and poaching in Bajo de Masinloc

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): PHL files protest against China for harassment of Filipino fishermen and poaching in Bajo de Masinloc 

The Philippines on Wednesday protested China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen and Chinese poaching activities at a Philippine-claimed Bajo de Masinloc.

In a statement Wednesday night, the DFA accused China of “intentionally” ramming three Filipino fishing vessels at the shoal, stirring tensions anew between the two neighbors locked in decades-long territorial rifts over resource-rich areas in the South China Sea.

Manila likewise protested China’s harvest of endangered giant clams in a separate incident on Jan. 22 at the shoal, also known by its international name, Scarborough Shoal.

Chinese embassy representatives were summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs to receive the two diplomatic protests.

The DFA said three Philippine-flagged fishing vessels, F/V OG Barbie, F/V Ocean Glory 2, and F/V Ana Marie, were rammed on purpose by Chinese Coast Guard Vessel 3412 on Jan. 29 at the shoal, “causing damage to the vessels and endangering the lives and safety of the Filipino fishermen on board.”

China asserts ownership over nearly the entire South China Sea even as it overlaps with the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines.

The shoal, the site of a dangerous maritime standoff between the Philippines and China in 2002, is located 124 nautical miles from Masinloc town in Zambales and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest landmass in Hainan.

It fell under Chinese control on the same year and has since blocked Filipino fishermen and Philippine patrol vessels access to the area.

“The Philippines strongly protested China’s continuing actions to harass and prevent Filipino fishermen from legitimately pursuing their livelihood in that area,” the DFA said.

“Chinese fishing vessels were likewise spotted transporting collected giant clams to other Chinese fishing vessels. The act of harvesting giant clams, which are among the most endangered marine species, entails the crushing and destruction of surrounding corals which result in the permanent destruction of the reef itself,” the DFA said.

China, it said, has violated its obligations under a 1982 United Nations maritime accord and other international laws for the protection of endangered species.

Coordination with MILF not needed in pursuing "high-priority targets" -- former peace panel chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Coordination with MILF not needed in pursuing "high-priority targets" -- former peace panel chief

Government law enforcement agencies need no prior coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in hunting down "high priority targets," the former top government peace negotiator said Wednesday.

Former Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, who also served as chairperson of the government peace panel talking peace with the MILF, said he and MILF current chair Al Haj Murad, then chair of the MILF military, signed in 2002 a document stating that government law enforcers need no coordination in effecting arrest against high value targets.

The document also created the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) composed of representatives from the government and the MILF to help the police and military authorities interdict criminals and terrorists in areas covered by the 1997 agreement on the general cessation of hostilities.

This agreement was signed in Cagayan de Oro City by MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar and then Executive Sec. Ruben Torres during the time of President Fidel Ramos.

Dureza said the documents stated clearly that “except” for police or military operations against "high priority targets,” government law enforcement activities need to be properly coordinated with the MILF through the AHJAG and government peace panel 24 hours before the actual operation.

Dureza told reporters that there was the word "except" in the document both signed by the GPH and MILF.

The January 25 operation against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias "Marwan" and his Filipino cohort Abdul Basit Usman, known bombing primary suspects, was an exception.

Both Marwan and Usman were "high priority law enforcement targets," said Dureza, who served as presidential adviser on the peace process during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term.

Dureza said the contents of the document he and Murad signed was reaffirmed in a revised joint AFP-PNP operations guidelines signed by now retired AFP chief Emmanuel Bautista and suspended PNP chief Allan Purisima on July 23, 2013.

Forty-four SAF members, 18 MILF and five civilians perished during the the carnage in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

PNP-OIC appeals to let BOI probe on Mamasapano clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): PNP-OIC appeals to let BOI probe on Mamasapano clash
Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina on Wednesday appealed to let the Board of Inquiry (BOI) determine the truth on the Mamasapano, Maguindanao clash that resulted to the death of 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) last Jan. 25.

"A BOI was created for purposes of meeting the objective in knowing what I and the SILG (Secretary of the Interior and Local Government) Mar Roxas, and everybody in the hierarchy would like to know what really happened. The BOI (would) cover the police ops (operation) that transpired,” Espina said during a press conference held in Camp Crame.

He added that they have now the statements and continues to interview men and women involved for the ongoing investigation regarding the incident.

”As of now, hindi ko talaga alam mga nilalaman lahat ng mga statements but they have taken 293 statements from a possible 420 plus or more to be interviewed so that we achieve the objective to know what really happened from start to end, and we were given one month,” he noted.

Espina also said that he was informed by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) head Director General Benjamin Magalong that they are still waiting for the report from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"The other day, we met with our AFP counterparts (and) they assured us (that) they will give full cooperation with the BOI. We will base all conclusions on facts and not conjectures or hearsays,” he said.

The PNP-OIC also reacted to the statement of former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas who earlier admitted that he was reporting directly to suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima.

Purisima was suspended on December 2014 due to alleged questionable transactions.

The sacked PNP-SAF chief also admitted that Purisima told him not to inform PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina about the operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

"Hindi ako puwedeng dumiretso kay (DILG Secretary) Manuel Roxas II kasi ma-violate ko ang chain of command," Napenas said in a separate press conference when asked if Purisima also ordered him not to tell Roxas.

The relieved PNP-SAF commander also maintained that their mission was successful and offered to resign if the DNA test on the samples collected by the commandos during the operation proved they had missed Jemaah Islamiya (JI) Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

"Magre-resign na ako kung hindi si Marwan ang target. Malaki ang kredibilidad na siya ‘yung target at namatay sa operation (I will resign if the target was not Marwan)," he said.

For his part, Espina said he has no knowledge if it's true that Napenas reports directly to Purisima.

"But strictly speaking, (sa) chain of command natin I stand as OIC, I should have been informed," he added.

Espina also maintained that the PNP as peacekeepers still backs the peace process with the MILF.

"We behave according to the protocol of the discussion. We expect the other party to behave," he said.

The PNP OIC also called on the Moro troops to return the weapons and equipment they took from the slain 44 SAF men.

"To the..... who encountered my people and who have our equipment, isoli ninyo. Pinatay ninyo na lahat ng tao ko pati equipment namin kukunin ninyo. May usapin tayo. That's not yours, don't sell that,” he said.

DNA tests confirm Marwan's death

From Rappler (Feb 4): DNA tests confirm Marwan's death

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation 'has evidence that supports the claim' that it was top terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir who was killed on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, according to a police report

MOST WANTED: Top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist 'Marwan' is the target of the PNP-SAF operation in Maguindanao
MOST WANTED: Top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist 'Marwan' is the target of the PNP-SAF operation in Maguindanao

After years of manhunt and a number of botched military and police operations, the Philippines finally got top Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as "Marwan."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to match the sample obtained by the police Special Action Force (SAF) in the January 25 operation in Mamamsapano Maguindanao with the DNA of his brother who is detained in the US, according to a report obtained by Rappler from two separate police sources.
"Based on preliminary test results the FBI has evidence that supports the claim that the DNA sample provided by the Government of the Philippines (GOP) on 27 January 2015 is related to the currently incarcerated subject Rahmat Abhdir," read the report obtained by Rappler. (Read more about Marwan, his brother and activities in the Philippines in this exclusive Rappler report.)
"Preliminary testing indicates Rahmat Abdhir and the DNA sample provided by the GOP are consistent with coming from siblings and sharing the same paternal heritage (i.e. same biological father)," the report added.

A SAF commando told Rappler they knew as early as 3 days after the January 25 operation that the FBI confirmed the DNA match. The final confirmation was relayed to him on Wednesday, February 4. He said he believes relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas Jr already had the information before he held a press conference Wednesday where he threatened to quit if it wasn't Marwan the SAF killed in Mamasapano.

A military intelligence officer is the third source to separately confirm that Marwan was killed in the January 25 SAF operation.
The 84th Special Action Force (SAF) company killed Marwan inside his hut in barangay Pidsandawan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Unable to carry his body, they cut his finger for DNA matching. (READ: Inside Mamasapano: When the bullets ran out)
Another team of SAF commandos that was supposed to serve as their blocking force were engaged in a firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Muslim rebel group that is in control of the area. A total of 44 SAF commandos were killed in the operation.
This ends the years-long hunt for the member of the JI central command, the group that is responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.
He is one of the most wanted terrorists of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. He carries a US$5 million bounty on his head.
In his speech last week, President Beningno Aquino III also highlighted the importance of getting Marwan. He cited a series of acts of terrorism in the Philippines that he is responsible for. He said he also worked with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Umbra Kato.
Marwan has been the target of a number of police and military operation. He was also the target of a military airstrike in Sulu in February 2012. The Philippines announced back then that he was killed in that operation and did not make a correction until two years later. (READ: After 2 years, PH military says 'killed' terrorist leader likely alive)
A US-trained engineer, Marwan also heads the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia or KMM. He has reportedly conducted bomb-making training for terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group of the Philippines.
He was believed to have been living in the Philippines since 2003. He was indicted by a US court in 2007 for, among other charges, providing material support to terrorists.
Aquino said there are at least two outstanding warrants of arrest against Marwan.
Here is FBI's description of Marwan:
'Zulkifli Abdhir is thought to be the head of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) terrorist organization and a member of Jemaah Islamiyah's (JI) central command. It is alleged that he is a supplier to terrorist organizations and also conducts bomb-making training for terrorist organizations, specifically the Abu Sayyaf Group. Abdhir was indicted on August 1, 2007, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, and charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, contributing goods and services to a specially designated global terrorist, and making false statements.'
“Marwan is the most important Malaysian terrorist,” Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research in Singapore and the author of Inside al-Qaeda, told Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa in a previous interview.
“He has worked very closely with Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement, the Abu Sayyaf and the MNLF factions. He’s on the radar of many organizations,” Gunaratna added.