Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cop, suspected NPA rebel killed in clash in Agusan Sur – report

 From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): Cop, suspected NPA rebel killed in clash in Agusan Sur – report
A policeman and a suspected rebel were killed in an encounter between lawmen and communist guerrillas in Loreto, Agusan del Sur, authorities said on Tuesday.

Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza identified the slain policeman as PO2 Danny Suhayon of the Agusan del Sur Provincial Public Safety Company.

Otaza told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by text message the firefight erupted as elements of the PPSC and troops from the 131st Regional Public Safety Company under Inspectors Aldrine Camu and Ryan Anthony Ocampo, respectively, were patrolling an area of Barangay (village) Binucayan around 4 p.m. Monday.

He said about 30 gunmen believed to be from the Guerrilla Front 3 of the New People’s Army, led by an alias Rigor, fired at the patrolling policemen, sparking a 30-minute gunfight that killed Suhayon and an unidentified male insurgent.

Otaza, quoting a police report, said another policeman, PO1 Rodnillo Gier, was wounded and rushed to a hospital for treatment.

Lawmen were able to recover several firearms, explosives and rebel-related documents left behind by the fleeing guerrillas, Insp. Aldrin Salinas, Loreto police chief, said.

Pursuit operations have been mounted against the rebels, he added.


From the PCIJ Blog (Feb 11): KIA, ID, IB, AHJAG, WIA?

ID, IB, AHJAG – these were some of the acronyms mentioned by resource persons during the hearings of joint committees of the Senate on the Mamasapano incident. We have compiled the most-repeated acronyms and their meanings.
GPH: Government of the Philippines: It is a presidential, representative, and democratic republic where the President of the Philippines is both the head of state and the head of government within a pluriform multi-party system. The government has three interdependent branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.
IMAGE FROM www.gov.ph
PNP-SAF: Philippine National Police-Special Action Force: It is the country’s commando unit tasked to conduct operations as a Rapid Deployment Force anywhere in the country. Its functions include counter terrorism operations against local and international terrorist groups, hostage rescue operations of national or of international significance, search and rescue operations in times of calamities, disaster and national emergencies, and civil disturbance management (CDM) during mass actions in support to local police units.
IMAGE FROM www.saf.pnp.gov.ph
AFP: Armed Forces of the Philippines: Formally organized during the American Commonwealth era through the National Defense Act of 1935, the AFP is composed of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. It is a volunteer force, in that its manpower is derived from volunteers rather than by conscription or mandatory service.
IMAGE FROM afp.gov.ph
ID: Infantry Division: An infantry division is a large military unit or formation. This formation consists of between 10,000 and 30,000 soldiers. A division is composed of several regiments or brigades. Several divisions make up a corps.
IB: Infantry Brigade: This is a line unit under a division of the Philippine Army. This unit typically consists of about 1,500 to 4,000 soldiers.
MILF: Moro Islamic Liberation Front: A breakaway group of the Moro National Liberation Front in 1977, this organization was formally established in 1984. It originally demanded independence from the government of the Philippines but on September 23, 2010, Mohagher Iqbal modified the groups demand to a Muslim substate, likened to a United States state-system.
The group is currently negotiating with the GPH.
BIAF: Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces: This is the armed-wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Under the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the MILF has agreed to decommission this unit.
BIFF: Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters: This is a Muslim militant organization based in Mindanao. It splintered from the MILF after the Philippine Supreme Court nullified the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. Ameril Umbra Kato founded the organization since he wants full independence and disagrees with the MILF’s acceptance of autonomy.
CCCH: Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities: This is a mechanism under the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and composed of representatives from both the GPH and MILF. It is tasked to oversee that both parties “shall desist from committing any prohibited hostile and provocative acts.”
AHJAG: Ad Hoc Joint Action Group: This group was formed to coordinate and work in tandem with the Joint CCCH. It is composed of representatives from both the GPH and the MILF. It is specifically tasked to implement the isolation and interdiction of all criminal syndicates, kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal groups including the “lost commands” or splinter armed groups operating in MILF areas and communities.
IMT: International Monitoring Team: This team is tasked to monitor the implementation of the Agreement on Peace between the GPH and the MILF.
KIA: Killed in action. Term used by the military to describe the death of their soldiers in the hands of hostile forces.
WIA: Wounded in action. Used to describe combatants wounded while fighting.
HVT: High Value Target: According to the US Department of Defense, defines an HVT as a target the enemy commander requires for the successful completion of the mission. The loss of high-value targets would be expected to seriously degrade important enemy functions throughout the friendly commander’s area of interest.
IED: Improvised Explosive Device: This is a bomb constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action. It may be composed of conventional military explosives, such as an artillery round, attached to a detonating mechanism and can also be detonated through a cellphone.
Sources: www.gov.ph, www.opapp.gov.ph, www.saf.pnp.gov.ph

Philippine Army to receive additional “Humvee” ambulances

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 10): Philippine Army to receive additional “Humvee” ambulances

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be turning over five (5) additional High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) or “Humvee” ambulances to the Philippine Army in support to its Forward Medical Support System.

The additional units are currently under the custody of the AFP General Headquarters’ Supply Unit for final inspection before its  formal turn over to the Army.

According to BGEN Michael BJ Manquiquis, Chief, Office for Defense Reform, a total of 30 units of Humvee  were approved for acquisition to fulfill the Army’s 1 ambulance to 1 battalion ratio.

The five newly acquired Humvee units, in addition to the 23 units initially turned over by the DND to the AFP last January 26, 2015, form part of the 30 units. The remaining two ambulance units are said to be in transit.

The Humvee ambulances were acquired to supplement the existing materiel capability of the Philippine Army in providing adequate and timely medical support to soldiers especially combat casualties.

Humvee ambulances are equipped with life-support systems to provide immediate medical response to combat casualties prior to their transport to the nearest capable medical facility. These ambulances are designed to traverse all road types and are suitable for the rugged cross-country terrain of most conflict-affected deployment areas.

The Bureau of Customs acknowledged the delivery of the 5 ambulance units on February 01, 2015.


Army officer assures public of vigilance amid reports of trained terrorists

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 10): Army officer assures public of vigilance amid reports of trained terrorists

Major Amado Gutierez, Information Officer, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, Camp Lukban, Catbalogan, Samar assured, that their operatives have always kept a closer and heighten alert  against any terror act.

Speaking live in a phone interview over DYVL today, Gutierez  informed that their intelligence operatives in the region never went complacent particularly during this time when reports about the 300 Marwan-trained bombers could possibly wreck havoc elsewhere.

“We are not complacent,  instead, we continue with our intelligence gathering, our men in the field are always alert”, Gutierez said.

The officer also mentioned that the Philppine Army(PA) is in lateral coordination with the Philippine National Police(PNP) that, every time either of them needs support, it is always granted.

“We recognize the importance of  our coordination, so with our communication frequencies that  must be  the same whenever we have tactical operation”, he added.

On February 3,  2015,  a group of Army soldiers encountered a group of  New Peoples Army(NPA) in barangay Imelda, Las Navas, Northern Samar while they were rendering a relief/medical mission.  The incident  captured two NPAs but cost the life of the army officer and team leader.

Asked why there still exist some NPAs when the province had already been declared in the recent past as a development-ready area, Gutierez said,  these are but remnants of the past insurgent force.  They are but few lawless elements who are being hunted down.

“That is why, we continue with our campaign to win the hearts and minds of  these few rebels, our campaign is for them  to join the mainstream society and live peacefully  with their families” Gutierez concluded.


People's organizations in Makilala receive PAMANA projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 9): People's organizations in Makilala receive PAMANA projects

MAKILALA, Cotabato – Two people’s organizations in Makilala town received P450 thousand each for their projects under the government’s PAyapa at MAsaganang PAmayanan (PAMANA) program, an official of the local  government said.

Makilala PAMANA point person Hans Vinluan said that the Kisante Flowers and Growers Association and the Kisante Fisheries Association in Makilala received funding for their projects.

The turnover was held at barangay Kisante, Makilala,  on January 29 and 30.

Mr. Vinluan said that Kisante Flowers and Growers Association was the recipient of the livelihood project on Cut-flower and Flower Garden.  About 30 members of the association received anthuriums cut-flower.

Meanwhile, the Kisante Fisheries Association received aid for tilapia fingerlings and fish feeds project that will benefit the  organizations 30 members.

Vinluan added that for 2014, 38 barangays of Makilala had submitted documentation of their projects.  These barangays are expecting downloading of funds this 2015 for their PAMANA enrolled projects in their respective community.

According to Vinluan, other projects that the local government of Makilala earlier received included construction of two hanging bridges in Purok 4 and 5 of Barangay Bato; revised provision for one unit of traveling rice mill for Barangay Bulakanon and the livelihood project (Bigasan Store) for Barangay Santo Nino.

PAMANA is the national government’s peace and development program that responds and strengthens peace building, reconstruction and development in conflict-affected areas and aims to contribute to lasting peace by reducing poverty and improving the quality of life.
Spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and supported by concerned government line agencies, local government units (LGUs) and civil society groups, PAMANA follows a convergence strategy to close the gaps in development and bring progress to areas, particularly conflict-affected ones, where they are needed the most.


Vigilant battalion conducts indigenous people’s confab in MisOcc

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 10): Vigilant battalion conducts indigenous people’s confab in MisOcc

The 55th Infantry (Vigilant) Battalion, Philippine Army (55IB) initiated recently a Subanen Tribal Leaders’ Peace and Development Forum, here.

The activity was part of the 55IB’s Intensified Stakeholders’ Engagement (ISE) through “Panayam sa mga Lingkod Bayan at mga Katuwang sa (Interview with Government Workers and Partners) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan.”

During the Indigenous People’s Dialogue with the barangay officials and barangay tribal chieftain that followed, lieutenant colonel Gerry M. Besana, battalion commander of 55IB, emphasized the need to address the insurgency problem in the municipality, where they are the primary stakeholders.

“Your action is needed in order to once and for all stop the recruitment of Indigenous Peoples (IP) to join the armed struggle,” the commander of the vigilant battalion explained.

Municipal mayor Juanidy M. Viňa thanked the 55IB for initiating the forum.

The activity was hosted by the Local Government Unit (LGU), in coordination with Dodge L. Cabahug, Board Member, Indigenous People’s (IP) Mandatory Representative of Misamis Occidental and Kirby Caneros, provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the province.

Efforts of 55IB in its focused military operation paved the way for the declaration of Misamis Occidental as a “Conflict Manageable and Development Ready (CMDR) Province.

As such, the province can now intensify the collaboration of efforts for the delivery of the basic social services to the people by the appropriate government agencies and normalizes its peace and security situation and management of peace and order.


6th SF battalion in Tungawan town has new commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 10): 6th SF battalion in Tungawan town has new commander

Lt. Col. Dante T. Bermillo has been installed last Feb. 1 as the new commanding officer of the 6th Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army (PA) based in Barangay Libertad in this muncipality.

The turnover of command was presided by Col. Ronnie S. Evangelista, commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Bermillo, a native of Bicol, replaced Lt. Col. Rosendo C. Abad Jr. who had served the area for more than two years. He will be transferred to the Special Operations Command headquarters in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

In his speech, Abad expressed his gratitude to the local government of Tungawan, religious sectors/groups, media, provincial government of Zamboanga Sibugay, indigenous people of Zamboanga Peninsula, Muslim brothers, business sectors, Philippine National Police (PNP), non-government organization and other stakeholders for the unwavering support they have extended during his time of service.

Abad also lauded the officers and men of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary of the 6th Special Forces Battalion and other maneuver units like 44th and 10th Infantry Battalion, Task Force Zamboanga, 101st and 102nd Infantry Brigade and the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division in contributing to the accomplishment of the units’ mission.

A Military Merit Medal was awarded to Abad for his exceptional leadership and accomplishment in providing administrative control over all CAFGU Active Auxiliary in the whole of Zamboanga Peninsula resulting in the neutralization of lawless elements in the municipality.

The group also participated in quelling the Zamboanga Siege in September 2013.

Bermillo said he is ready to accept additional and bigger responsibility and expressed his commitment to continue the legacy of the unit.

He also emphasized that his unit would not compete with the other battalions, instead, complement the others for the good of the people, whom the military is sworn to serve.”


Army artillery regiment to recruit soldiers

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 10): Army artillery regiment to recruit soldiers

The Army Artillery Regiment (AAR) under the leadership of Brigadier General Leandro Loyao III is now accepting applicants who would like to join the military service.

Major Christopher Onuendo, executive officer of the 1st Cavalry Squadron Batallion, Mechanized Infantry Division said in an interview with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) that the unit was tasked to recruit candidates in its area of responsibility (AOR) to fill up the quota for calendar year 2015.

Onuendo added that the candidates should possess the following basic qualifications such as natural born Filipino citizen, at least 18-26 years old and must not be 27 years old or older on or before the date of appointment as candidate soldier, single and never been married, of good moral character, at least 5’ or 60 inches tall, must have passed the Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery (PAATB) with a score of a least 80, must have passed the AAR pre-qualifying examination and physically and mentally fit for military training.

Other qualifications set are as follows: professionals (doctors, teachers, engineers, etc.); Graduate of MS43 and advanced ROTC; College graduate; with 72 units in college; high school graduate but possessed technical and/or vocational skills needed by the AFP such as: automotive mechanic, embalmer, electrician, carpentry, masonry, welding, driving and etc), technical and vocational skills shall be supported by a certification from the employer of at least one year work experience not including the On-the-job-training.

Onuendo announced that the registration/pre-admission started on the 2nd week of January and will end on February 10.

Onuendo said a pre-qualifying exam would be conducted to the CS applicants on February 17, 2015 at 1pm at the headquarters 1st Field Artillery Battalion, Kuta Major Cesar Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan.

“The pre-qualifying exam will be a 100 item math heavy exam (basic high school mathematics): 75 items will be devoted for mathematical examination and the 25 items will be for indicative or analytical exam,” he explained.

“The examinees are allotted only two hours to answer the test questions,” he added.
In consonance with the Philippine Army’s vision of becoming a world-class army that is a source of national price, Onuendo said it seeks to recruit new breed of soldiers, choosing the “best and brightest” among aspiring applicants.

“The Artillery Army Regiment (AAR) Recruitment Board will select the best and brightest among aspiring applicants,” he explained.

Those who will be absorbed in the AAR will enjoy the benefits and privileges such as: stable job, high pay and allowances, local and foreign schoolings, and will get a chance to serve the country and fellowmen, he concluded.


BIFF: We will seize more gov't firearms

From Rappler (Feb 11): BIFF: We will seize more gov't firearms

Unlike the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters say they will not return the weapons of SAF troopers as these were 'seized in a legitimate encounter' in Mamasapano town

RENEGADE. Ameril Umbra Kato, leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. File photo by Agence France-Presse

RENEGADE. Ameril Umbra Kato, leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. File photo by Agence France-Presse

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has rejected calls to return the firearms they had seized from Special Action Force (SAF) commandos killed in a clash with rebel forces in Mamasapano town.

The splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through spokesman Abu Misry Mama, also threatened to capture more weapons from government troops in future encounters.

"We have no plans of returning the firearms. Why would we? In fact, we will seize more firearms and ammunitions from government forces in future operations," said Mama.

He made the statement as the MILF yielded to the government demand to return the firearms and "retrievable personal effects" of SAF troopers seized by its fighters in the January 25 clash where 44 elite cops were killed. (READ: MILF: We will return SAF firearms, personal items)

Mama asserted that the SAF weapons were "seized it in a legitimate encounter" and that in the context of an armed conflict, it is normal practice to "clean up" after the opposing force.

Mama said that the BIFF's 1st Brigade recovered at least 10 weapons from the SAF – a baby Armalite, 4 M16s, one Bushmaster, two baby Armalites with M203 grenade launchers, one M16 with M203 grenade launcher and a 90mm recoilless rifle during the 11-hour firefight.

'Why blame us?'

Mama said the BIFF is undeterred by the threats made by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and several senators at the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano clash, that charges will be filed against the group over the firefight.

"The SAF intruded our area and attacked us. Why blame us for it? They failed in the operation so it is their fault," Mama said.

He also shrugged off the accusation of Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano that the MILF and the BIFF should bear the burden of the bloody incident for allegedly providing refuge to Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as "Marwan," one of two targets of the SAF operation.

Marwan was killed in the operation, but the other target, Filipino bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman, escaped.

"They cannot say that Marwan is really inside the MILF territory the same way that they cannot say that he is inside our territory," Mama said.

He added: "Mamasapano is a huge town with several barangays. There are MILF, BIFF, soldiers, local government, and even cops in Mamasapano. These groups co-exist in this area. Now how can they say who is protecting who?"

'Focus on getting Usman'

Mama said that the government should concentrate on nabbing Usman, instead of pointing fingers at the rebel groups.

Sources said Usman was allegedly in the same area when Marwan was killed and tried to fight back to repel the SAF commandos.

"If the government knows where Usman is, then they should get him immediately. Instead of doing that, they point their fingers against other groups like the BIFF," Mama said.

Mama claimed that they had never provided shelter to Usman in their camps after they broke away from the MILF. The BIFF does not favor a peace agreement with the government.

"There are many Usmans in Maguindanao but no one is named Basit. I have a cousin who is Usman but he is not a bomber," Mama said.

President Benigno Aquino III had asked the MILF to "surrender" Usman if he is in their territory.

In his first national address on the Mamasapano clash on January 28, the President demanded two concrete actions from the MILF to manifest its sincerity in the peace process – the return of the SAF weapons, and not to get in the way of government operations against Usman in MILF territory.

The MILF had insisted that it does not coddle terrorists. (READ: MILF: We didn't coddle Marwan, Usman)


Army troops clash with rebels in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Feb 11): Army troops clash with rebels in Southern Philippines

Government troops clashed with New People’s Army rebels on Tuesday in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, officials said.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting in the village of Sumalili in Arakan town lasted 20 minutes. 

He said there were no casualties on both sides, but troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion have recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, a .45-caliber pistol, two fragmentation grenades, three magazines and ammunition for M16 automatic rifle, and a rifle grenade, including 10 jungle packs and a medical kit.

Balagtey said the soldiers were patrolling the village when they ran into a group of communist rebels and a firefight ensued. 

He said General Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, vowed to pursue the rebels unless they surrender peacefully. 

“We will not allow them to continue intimidating the communities and launch anti-development atrocities that will hamper the delivery of development and socio economic growth in the countryside,” the spokesman quoted Baladad as saying.

The NPA has been waging a separatist war for many decades now in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state in the country.


Task Force Davao assures security measures against threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): Task Force Davao assures security measures against threats
The Task Force Davao has further strengthened security measures in the city and remain on heightened alert regardless of what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Military troops are enforcing strict policy and guidelines in checkpoints and other vital facilities in order to secure the safety of all Davaoenos.

So far, no alarming text is reported pertaining to terroristic attacks in the city, neither recorded any plans to conduct atrocities nor entry of threat elements or groups into the city. The unit’s security measures are on top of priorities.

TFD Commander Col Macairog Alberto had assured the public that “we will do our best for the safety of everyone. As of now, we are on high alert status and we impose double effort especially on foot patrols.”

He further encouraged the public to be vigilant and be alert of suspicious items left in public areas and to call Central 911 or the nearest police and military posts.

“We need the help of the community for the betterment of our society. We need to cooperate and support the authorities for the convenience of everyone,” he said.

“We would like to ask the public, not to be alarmed of any text message circulating in regards to terrorism in the city. Our troops are ready and on call 24/7 in times of disaster, emergency and calamity,” he added.

Meanwhile, Task Force Davao had conducted a “Test Fire and Maintenance Procedure” on three SIMBA Light Armor War Fighting Vehicles playing a crucial role as support asset to the current security measures of the unit.


Senior House member calls on AFP, PNP to conduct joint intel workshop to identify Marwan’s student

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): Senior House member calls on AFP, PNP to conduct joint intel workshop to identify Marwan’s student

A senior member of the House of Representatives on Tuesday called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to conduct a joint intelligence workshop to determine the number and identities of Moro extremists who were trained by Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in the art of bomb-making.

Gatchalian said it is important that the PNP and AFP get their acts together in going after local terrorists trained by Marwan. A prerequisite to this is good intelligence build-up and close coordination between the intelligence units of the two government agencies.

“A joint intelligence workshop attended by intelligence officials of both the police and the military is crucial in establishing the identities and background information of the Marwan-trained bombers so that AFP and PNP operatives can effectively work to neutralize them,” said Gatchalian who is eager to neutralized Marwan’s students before they can make another terror attacks elsewhere.

Military authorities in Mindanao had revealed that Marwan was able to train bombers and instructors in his years of hiding in different locations in Mindanao. The military, however, could not give an estimate on the number of people trained by Marwan explaining that the group was careful in its security protocols.

The Malaysian bomb expert was said to have trained in small groups of about five people.

“It is really alarming to learn that Marwan was able to train Moro extremists in the art of bomb-making. Unfortunately, some of those trained by Marwan have become capable of teaching bomb making. These instructors are now well-versed in improvised explosives devices which they teach to other extremists in Mindanao,” Gatchalian pointed out.

Gatchalian said equally alarming was the revelation of relieved Special Action Force (SAF) Police Director Getulio Napeñas during the Senate hearing that Marwan had planned to bomb the convoy of Pope Francis during the pontiff's visit to the Philippines last month.

In his speech during the Senate hearing on the January 25 Mamasapano clash, Napenas said the SAF received “unconfirmed” information that the Jemaah Islamiyah, in coordination with Marwan, was planning to device a bomb that will be detonated as the papal convoy drove from T.M Kalaw Street in Manila on Jan 18, 2015. Pope Francis held a Mass at Quirino Grandstand on January 18, an event attended by an estimated six million Catholic devotees.

Napeñas also said that a couple of days ago, there were reports that not less than 30 of Marwan’s students were roaming around Central Mindanao, “ready and willing and able to create widespread fear and terror, panic to our countrymen though the use of improvised explosive device.”

“While we commend that gallantry of the 44 SAF commandos who gave their lives to neutralize Marwan, the fact remains that he was able to train many bombers who may avenge their mentor’s death by conducting a bombing campaign not only in Mindanao but also in Metro Manila,” warned Gatchalian.

The veteran solon said this scenario is not far-fetched since Jemaah Islamiyah was also behind the Rizal Day bombings on Dec. 30, 2000 that resulted to several deaths in the five bombing incidents that included the Light Railway Transit (LRT). The bombings were said to be in retaliation to then President Joseph Estrada’s all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

PNP reports said Marwan has been involved in multiple bombing incidents including the deadly Bali, Indonesia bombing in 2002 that killed 202 civilians. In the Philippines, Marwan was tagged in the death of 44 civilians due to bombing.

Another international terrorist, Basit Usman was a key commander in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is a breakaway group from the MILF. He was also a bomb-making expert, and trains his members in assembling and planting bombs. He faces a number of arrest warrants in connection to bombing incidents that killed at least 17 people.

Marwan and Usman are listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as among the most wanted international terrorists in the US. Marwan carries a USD5 million bounty while Usman has a USD2 million reward for his capture, dead or alive. Marwan was the target of the January 25 SAF operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Though government authorities claim Marwan was neutralized in the SAF operation, 44 elite policemen were also killed when the police team engaged in a firefight with MILF and BIFF who were holding camp in the area.


Napenas admits US troops participated in medical evacuation during Mamasapano encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): Napenas admits US troops participated in medical evacuation during Mamasapano encounter

Philippine National Police Former Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) chief Director General Getulio Napenas on Tuesday admitted that the United States participated in the medical evacuation during the Mamasapano encounter that left 44 SAF commandos dead on January 25.

Testifying at the resumption of the Senate inquiry into the bloody Mamasapano encounter, Napenas said that he requested for the US medical evacuation assistance after learning that his men on the ground have also suffered casualties.

”I took the initiative to ask for assistance from the US based in Zamboanga to provide us medical evacuation using their helicopters,” Napenas answered queries by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto.

Napenas explained the US has its own protocol to provide medical evacuation to police and military personnel involved in the operation against terrorism.

”I was asking about the role of the US or the FBI in the intelligence, planning of the operation an extraction because there is reward money, drones, choppers and index finger (Marwan) has been given to FBI instead to the PNP,”

Napenas clarified that he has no knowledge whether the US knew about the operation dubbed as ‘Oplan Exodus’ aimed at capturing two high-profile terrorist Marwan or Zulkifli bin Hir and Basit Usman.

I have no knowledge if the FBI knew about this operation earlier. It was already during the time that we are receiving reports of casualties that I requested for medical evacuation,” Napenas said.

Senators Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero and Loren Legarda inquired Napenas why the SAF sent Marwan’s finger to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation if the US had no knowledge about the operation to get Marwan and Usman.

This time, Napenas requested for an executive session upon advise by his legal counsel.

Marwan’s index finger was cut off by the SAF men after they killed the Malaysian bomb expert and the US FBI reportedly confirmed the death of Marwan through DNA tests.

Napenas reiterated that he had no direct order from President Benigno Aquino III to proceed with the operation.

However, he claimed the President was present when he handed the mission update to former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima on January 9 at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacanang.

”Your honor if there was a direct order from the President that the mission is a go, that would have been a very good opportunity to me and a situation where I could break a chain of command considering that order would have come from the president,” Napenas.

Napenas said it was his judgment call to inform Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina, former PNP chief Alan Purisima and even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) about the operation time on target.

The relived SAF chief, however, admitted that he got advice from Purisima not to inform Roxas and Espina ahead of time.

Meanwhile, Espina clarified the PNP and the AFP has vibrant relationship, saying the non-coordination was isolated in the ‘Oplan Exodus’.

”Honestly, the relationship of the whole AFP and the PNP is vibrant. There might some misunderstanding on the ground on this particular case,” Espina explained.

During the hearing, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV defended the decision of Philippine Army 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan to stick to military protocol by not giving immediately to request for artillery fire.

”What if they broke the protocol and they fire artillery and that killed our SAF troopers and civilians, that would be more difficult to accept. It’s not that simple. It is very complex,” Trillanes, a former Navy officer, said.

Napenas has said he inform the 6th ID about the encounter at 6:18am but reinforcement arrived only after seven hours, resulting to heavy casualties in the operation that has not been coordinated with the AFP.

Napenas said the SAF troops, specifically the members of the 55th Company, have ran out of ammunition during the entire day of encounter with the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).


Military foils rebel attack on Bukidnon-Davao Road

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 10): Military foils rebel attack on Bukidnon-Davao Road

Troopers from the 84th Infantry Battalion, deployed to secure the Bukidnon-Davao Road, have successfully foiled New People's Army (NPA) fighters out to wreck havoc on the construction site in Arakan town, North Cotabato Tuesday morning.

The firefight lasted for 25 minutes. Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Ezra Balagtey said troops were dispatched after receiving reports that the construction site in Sitio Puting Bato, Barangay Sumalili was under attack by the rebels.

He added that the rebels retreated to different directions leaving behind the following weapons and equipment:

One AK 47 rifle; a Colt .45 pistol; two hand grenades;a rifle grenade; 10 jungle packs; one medical kit and three short magazine assembly for M-16s with ammunition.

No casualty was reported on both sides during the encounter.

"We will not allow them to continue intimidating the communities and launch anti-development atrocities that will hamper the delivery of development and socio economic growth in the countryside," Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

In another related development, security forces discovered and disarmed two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on Monday.

Balagtey said the first IED was recovered around 3:00 p.m. when a concerned citizen informed the New Bataan Municipal Police Station and 66th Infantry Battalion regarding an IED discovered planted beside the national highway of Purok 1A, Bantacan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

He added that the recovered IED weighs around six kilos with estimated 75-meter wire and a blasting cap.

In Paquibato District, Davao City, another IED was recovered by operating troops of 69th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Pala, Barangay Sumimao in Paquibato District, Davao City.

Both IEDs were successfully dismantled and brought to New Bataan Municipal Police Station and 69th Infantry Battalion headquarters for proper disposition.


MILF still hiding Usman

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 11): MILF still hiding Usman

Rival MNLF says terror suspect in rebel area

FILIPINO bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman is still hiding inside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s territory in Maguindanao even as security forces on Tuesday launched a joint operation to capture him after he eluded the police operation on Jan. 25 that resulted in the death of 44 police commandos.

“The MILF can’t deny that Usman is within their territory,” said Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

He said Mindanao residents had expressed alarm over the operation to capture Usman for whom the US government has offered a bounty of $1 million.

“Where will they look for Usman? There are only two other armed groups [since] Usman will not hide with the New People’s Army,” Cerveza said. “So it’s either with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or the MILF.”

Cerveza made his statement even as Rasid Ladiasan, head of the MILF’s Coordinating committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, on Tuesday said the MILF was not a terrorist group and was not associated with the BIFF.

He made the statement after Senate Majority Leader Peter Cayetano told the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano debacle that the MILF was coddling terrorists, including Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman.

“We are not terrorists, We have been fighting terrorism in all its forms through the peace process,” Ladiasan said.

The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, wanted to clear some legal issues with the Foreign Affairs and Justice Departments to know what court issued arrest warrants on Marwan and Usman with a bounty of $5 million and $1 million, respectively.

The agency said the origin of the warrants could be material evidence of human rights violations in its 90-day probe of the Mamasapano clash.

Ceveza said Usman, a member of the Abu Sayyaf group, was trained by the Jemaah Islamiyah and that had endeared him to the BIFF and radical elements in the MILF. But he had also been linked to some groups in the MNLF.

“If the BIFF will try to bring Usman to the MNLF, that is their choice, but as far as we are concerned, we are not going to accept, we don’t want to coddle Usman,” Cerveza said.

While the pursuit operation is under way, Cerveza is hopeful that the military will not violate their rights.

“The military should also respect our rights in our camps,” Cerveza said.
He said additional government forces had been sent to Central Mindanao for still unknown reasons.

“They have sent military components here in Minadanao. We are not sure what the plans are, but we have instructed our people to avoid confrontation with the military,” Cerveza said.

“However, if we cannot avoid them, then they [MNLF commanders] will be told to defend themselves,” Cerveza said.

The military and the police have launched a joint operation to capture Usman, who eluded arrest by Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ public affairs office, said on Monday the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Police Regional Office in Maguindanao had started tracking down Usman.

“We have ongoing joint operations in Maguindanao to capture Usman. We have information that he is still in the area,” Cabunoc told reporters.

Usman is the Filipino deputy of Malaysian terrorist Marwan who was killed by SAF commandos in an assault on their hideout in Mamasapano early on Jan. 25.

Usman’s escape was aided by an attack by guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Forty-four SAF troopers, 18 MILF guerrillas and five civilians were killed in the 12-hour gun battle in Mamasapano.

AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang said despite the lack of coordination between the AFP and the Philippine National Police in the operation against Marwan and Usman, relations between the two services remained professional.

Catapang expressed hope that the word war between the sacked SAF commander, Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and the AFP would not affect the good relations and close cooperation between the two institutions.

Meanwhile, Usman has reportedly formed a new group from former officers and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a security and intelligence expert said.

Usman reportedly calls his new group the Bangsamoro Justice Movement, retired police general Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza, who is now president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said.

Mendoza, who once headed the Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police, is credited with cracking “Oplan Bojinka,” an al-Qaeda operation acknowledged to be the precursor of the 9/11 attacks on the US.


Infographic: Profiling Marwan and Usman, the bomb-making ‘trainors’

From GMA News (Feb 9): Infographic: Profiling Marwan and Usman, the bomb-making ‘trainors’

The PNP-Special Action Force was supposed to serve arrest warrants for suspected terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman during the Mamasapano operations, where the elite police unit lost 44 of its members.
While it came with a terrible loss for the police force, authorities have called the operation "mission accomplished," with the reported killing of Marwan, a wanted international terrorist. 
The hunt is still on, however, for Usman, who was said to have escaped. 
The government has underscored the importance of capturing Marwan and Usman, who were reportedly sharing their expertise with various groups they are affiliated with. An official from the Philippine National Police even said Marwan seems a "professor... teacher, trainor in bomb-making."
Meanwhile, Usman's laptop that the military managed to seize in June 2014 contained videos of him giving lessons on shooting and making homemade bombs.
Check out the profiles of these "high-value targets" from the PNP Board of Inquiry, in this infographic produced by GMA News Online. 

Marwan’s wards expanding terror network in Mindanao —report

From GMA News (Feb 10): Marwan’s wards expanding terror network in Mindanao —report

Foreign terrorists associated with Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan continue to expand their network in southern Philippines as they continue to roam freely in Mindanao, an exclusive report on GMA News "24 Oras" said on Tuesday.
According to Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, a security analyst and executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, the suspected terrorists are behind the terrorist group the Khalifa Islamiya Mindanao or the Black Flag Movement.
The group reportedly aligns itself with the ISIS.
Along with Marwan, who was said to have been killed in a police operation on Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the suspects planned the bombing of the motorcade route of Pope Francis when the pontiff visited the Philippines in Jan. 15 to Jan. 19.
The report identified them as Mawiya, a Singaporean; Amin Baku, a Malaysian; and Abdul Basit Usman, a Filipino who also has links with the dreaded Jemaah Islamiya.
  "A lot of terror plots in the southern Philippines, itong tatlong ito they were involved. Kasi they work together as a team because they believe in establishing an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia," Banlaoi said.

Did MILF coddle Marwan? Police, military chiefs differ

From Rappler (Feb 10): Did MILF coddle Marwan? Police, military chiefs differ

Answering questions from Senator Recto, PNP OIC Leonardo Espina says the MILF provided haven for the terrorist, while AFP chief Gregorio Catapang Jr says the group didn't

Was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) coddling expert Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir known as Marwan, and another terrorist, Filipino Abdul Basit Usman?

The heads of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gave different answers to senators investigating the deadly January 25 encounter that sparked a blame-game, and renewed rivalry between the two uniformed forces.

AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr said it was only the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) opposed to the peace process that coddled Marwan.

Yet PNP Officer in Charge Leonardo Espina told senators in a hearing on Tuesday, February 10, that the MILF also provided safe haven to Marwan, who had evaded arrest in the Philippines since 2003.

Espina said “granted” that Marwan stayed in a BIFF area, the site was just a few kilometers away from MILF territory.

Senator Ralph Recto asked Espina: “So walang duda sa inyo, kinukupkop both ng BIFF at MILF si Marwan at Usman?” (So there is no doubt in your mind that both the BIFF and the MILFF coddled Marwan and Usman?)
Espina responded, “Yes, sir.”

Recto followed up, “Tine-training both?” (Marwan and Usman were training both groups?)

Espina said, “Highly possible.”

Espina also answered in the affirmative when asked if both the MILF and the BIFF killed the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members who attempted to arrest or kill Marwan and Usman on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a known territory of the MILF.

Rashid Ladiasan, the MILF representative in the hearing, denied Espina’s claim.

“It’s not true that we coddled Marwan and Usman. They are not stationary,” Ladiasan told Recto.

The Senate is probing the encounter that also killed at least 17 MILF members and some civilians. The clash raised questions about the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process with the government as Congress deliberates a law to create an expanded autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. 
The clash also revealed the complex web of relationships between the MILF, BIFF, and other armed groups, as some MILF members are relatives of BIFF forces.

AFP not sure about MILF-Marwan ties

Recto earlier asked Catapang the same questions, but the AFP chief was more guarded in his response.

The military general said that when troops hunted down Marwan and Usman, the bomb makers were “accommodated” in the place of the BIFF.
Catapang said, in exchange, the terrorists gave BIFF training in bomb making and terrorist activities.

When asked if Marwan was also training the MILF, Catapang said, “No, your honor.”

Recto said, “So you believe their (MILF) statement that they did not know Marwan was [in Mamasapano]?”

Catapang said, “We are receiving information, but we are not sure.”

The contrasting answers show the PNP and the AFP’s different views of the MILF, following pronouncements from police commanders that they did not coordinate the operation with the military for fear the information will be leaked, and Marwan would be tipped off.

Relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas was quoted in reports as saying that he does not trust the MILF, while the AFP has been working with the MILF in maintaining a ceasefire under the government-MILF peace process.

In the first hearing on Monday, Catapang said the AFP considered the peace process in responding to the SAF’s requests for reinforcements. Police officers lamented that the military was slow to respond to its requests for back-up.

The MILF used to allow members of al-Qaeda and the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to train in its camps. Their ties go back to the Afghan war in the mid-'90s. Yet in 2005, the MILF decided to prepare for peace talks, cutting ties with the terror groups, and expelling them from its camps.

The Mamasapano incident sparked questions about the MILF’s relationship with terrorists and the BIFF, which broke away from the MILF in 2011.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has denied his group coddled Marwan. He also said the MILF cannot surrender Usman.

Iqbal said on January 31, "I do not want to sound philosophical, but you cannot turn over something that is not in your possession."


Catapang to Senate inquiry: AFP had own missions vs. Marwan

From GMA News (Feb 10): Catapang to Senate inquiry: AFP had own missions vs. Marwan

The Armed Forces of the Philippines had its own operations against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, AFP Chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. admitted during a senate hearing on Tuesday.
According to Catapang who was being questioned by Senate fact finding panel member Senator Loren Legarda, these operations were named operation plan Psalms and coplan Stalker which focused on Marwan's neutralization.
“We have a list of intelligence projects that included this (Psalms and coplan Stalker) but may I request that we be given an opportunity to provide an answer in an executive session,” Catapang said.
He then cited “security implications” as the reason for the brief answer which was granted by Legarda.
Catapang also clarified that the AFP had no involvement with operation plan Wolverine and Exodus which was under the Philippine National Police.
Meanwhile, sacked PNP Special Action Force head P/Dir. Getulio Napeñas Jr. during the same session said he wasn't aware of operation plan Psalm.
“What I'm aware of is oplan Wolverine which was executed on April 25 of 2014 and the Exodus which was executed on January 25, 2015,” Napeñas said.
“Operation plan Wolverine was approved by Police Dir. General [Alan] Purisima when he was then the Chief PNP in the early part of April,” he added.
Napeñas said that these operational plans were presented in an executive session he attended with Purisima, President Benigno Aquino III, Interior Government Secretary Mar Roxas and former ARMM police director Supt. Noel Delos Reyes.
Late request
In the same session, Catapang said the PNP-SAF was too late in asking for reinforcements.
According to Catapang, the PNP-SAF mostly kept them in the dark with their operation in Maguindanao against two international terrorists including Marwan.
“Wala silang utos na be prepared to reinforce us... So lahat po ito ay hindi napagplanuhan ng maigi kaya nang nagsimula na sila humingi ng reinforcement ay napapabakbak na po sila,” Catapang said.
The AFP has recently been receiving flak from the public following allegations that they had a lapse in sending reinforcements to back up the members of PNP-SAF of which at least 40 were killed.
For his part, Major General Edmundo Pangilinan who heads the AFP's 6th Infantry Division stationed in the area of operation supported Catapang's statement during the senate session.
“'Yung kauna-unahang text message na aking na receive about the encounter was 6:18 a.m. [on January 25] but it is just an information that they (PNP-SAF) are being encountered [by armed groups],” Pangilinan said.
He then said his ground commander who was constantly coordinating with the operations officer of the PNP-SAF finished their exchange of information around 7:28 a.m. afterwhich reinforcements was requested.
But Pangilinan said they were still able to deploy reinforcements including armored vehicles even though they were missing vital information and the request was a short notice.
He also denied when asked by Legarda that someone higher than him ordered the AFP to stand down and not send reinforcements.
“There was no such order,” Pangilinan said.
Meanwhile, Catapang clarified that the AFP knew as early as 5:30 a.m. that PNP-SAF was conducting an operation but emphasized there was no request for backup during that time.
“Indeed, we were just informed 0530 but there was no request for reinforcement but we were just informed that they were conducting operations,” he said.
On January 25, the Philippine Government launched a massive operation against two notorious international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which was a known moro rebel stronghold.
Some 400 elite lawmen from the PNP's SAF branch conducted the operation but at least 44 were killed and 12 were injured after a support unit was allegedly flanked by armed rebels.

New AFP-CRS chief, General Kakilala, combines brains and rich combat experience

From InterAksyon (Feb 10): New AFP-CRS chief, General Kakilala, combines brains and rich combat experience

File photo of Brig. Gen. Joselito “Jokakz” Kakilala as a resource speaker during an international forum on Islam radicalism at a hotel in Pasig City. JAIME SINAPIT, InterAksyon.com

One of the military's most noted intellectuals but also a veteran combat officer, Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, is taking over the helm of the Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Kakilala, known for his exploits as strategic thinker and civil-military operations planner and implementer, assumes the CRS post Wednesday (Feb. 11) but will keep in concurrent capacity his position as chief of the Special Studies, Strategic Management Office (OSSSM), an office under the auspices of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans (J5).

The AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. John Bonafos will preside at the CRS turnover.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Maharlika” Class 1984, Kakilala is replacing as CRS chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Gan (PMA “Matikas Class 1983).

Gan was recently designated commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division based in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

Experienced in fighting insurgents

When he commanded the 903rd Infantry Brigade, Kakilala and his men were credited with the neutralization of key communist leaders and cadres - notably Frankie Joe Soriano alias Greg Bañares, spokesman of the Bicol region's Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (NDFP), operating in his area of jurisdiction.

Kakilala is a recipient of the The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers award for deserving soldiers (in 2008) given by the MetroBank Foundation.

On the eve of his installation to the CRS, Kakilala was described thus by AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. “Brig. Gen. Kakilala earned a reputation characterized by successful stints in combat and administrative leadership and academic excellence. He had also previously served in the CRS as its Chief of Staff, providing him with the wealth of experience needed by a Commander.”

Kakilala's outstanding military track record and upright service reputation were recognized not only in the military organization, but also in other government and civil society organizations, making him a credible choice for the CRS.

Impressive combat record

Before being named to his current post as Chief of the AFP Strategic Studies and Strategy Management, Kakilala saw action as combat officer in Central Luzon and Bicol Region. The 45th Infantry Battalion and the 903rd Infantry Brigade thaht he led were cited as the Best Battalion in 2006 and Best Brigade in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

His anti-insurgency campaign in the Bicol Region as Commander of the 903rd IB netted ranking NPAs of the Bicol Regional Party Committee.

 Before Bicol, he chalked up extensive experience as a young officer in the hinterlands of Basilan, Surigao, and Agusan Provinces - all of which honed his skills and expertise in tactical operations.

Decorated officer

Kakilala has received numerous awards and recognition for his professionalism and commitment to public service.

In 2011 he received the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award in 2011 for upholding the highest moral standards, professionalism, and commitment to public service.

Kakilala also received the highly coveted Cavalier Award for Army Operations in 2009 from the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc.

In 2008, Kakilala was selected as one of the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) by the Rotary Club of Makati Metro and Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

In 2014, he also received the Award for Continuing Excellence and Service from the Metrobank Foundation, an award given to TOPS winners who have continued to stand out in their positions.

The incoming CRS Commander is also a recipient of three Distinguished Service Stars; one Gold Cross Medal, which is the third highest award for bravery; four Bronze Cross Medals; several military merit medals; wounded personnel medal; and various awards and decorations.


Mamasapano mayor disputes Napenas' claim on MILF casualties

From InterAksyon (Feb 10): Mamasapano mayor disputes Napenas' claim on MILF casualties

Mamasapano Mayor Ampatuan at the Senate hearing February 10, 2015. Photgraphed by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com

Mamasapano Mayor Datu Benzar Ampatuan on Tuesday disputed the claim of sacked Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio P. Napenas that at least 250 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) died during the Battle of Mamasapano.

Mayor Ampatuan told journalists that there were no bodies to support Napenas' claim. He said this after attending the second public hearing of the Senate committee on public order chaired by Senator Grace Poe investigating the Mamasapano incident.

"It's difficult to tell. We didn't see that many bodies of the MILF, so we find it hard to validate the claim that 250 MILF fighters died," Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan said that he would tend to stand by the official report by the MILF Committee on Cessation of Hostilities who was on the ground during the extraction of the dead SAF commandos. "The official MILF count was 18 dead and 14 wounded."

Napenas, in his testimony last Monday, indicated that the combined MILF-BIFF forces suffered no less than 250 dead.

"When we finally made it to the battle site, the MILF casualties have already been cleared from the scene; only the bodies of the SAF commandos remained," Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan relayed to the Senate panel the chronology of events on the part of the local government unit from the time they first learned about the incident as reported by the barangay chairman of Barangay Tukanalipao.

In his testimony, Ampatuan said that the villagers first heard shots from the area controlled by MILF at around 5 a.m. of Sunday, January 25.

The barangay captain rushed over to inform the municipal government about the armed clash.

"Around 7 a.m. on that day, representatives from the military and police came to the municipio of Mamasapano to inform the local officials of the operation ostensibly to arrest Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known by the moniker "Marwan," Ampatuan said.

The mission used unmarked or private vehicles and there were no marks to identify them as SAF units, Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan said that they tried to stop the clash but the fighting was too intense at the area of the clash.

"No civilian could safely approach the scene of the firefight from morning up to about 1 p.m.," Ampatuan said. "Napakalakas ng putukan sa loob baka tamaan sila ng stray bullets (the firing was so intense there was a chance you'd be hit by stray bullets)," he added.

At around 1:30 to 2 p.m., members of the Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCH) from both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) arrived to accompany the local officials in entering the area.

"Around 3 p.m., they (CCH) updated us regarding arrangements for the ceasefire and at around 5:30 p.m., we started to extricate the bodies. We requested the PNP and the AFP units not to come along in order not to inadvertently provoke a flareup of hostilities that might jeopardize the lives of any survivors, if any," Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan said that aside from the members of CCH, the ceasefire team was accompanied by representatives of the International Monitoring Team from Malaysia, Indonesia and Norway to retrieve the remains of 44 SAF members.

Mayor Ampatuan, when asked by Senator Pia Cayetano during the hearing, explained that, in the initial hours after combat died down at the scene of the encounter, there was no definitive indication yet that Marwan was among casualties of firefight.

Even before the encounter, Mayor Ampatuan shared, the alleged safe-house used by Marwan was in a remote spot that was not easily accessible. That, coupled by the intense firefight raging throughout the morning until past noon, made it difficult to gain access to the site of the battle.

"The site is isolated by two rivers that also had islets, which you had to pass through in order to get to the site. It is difficult to negotiate."

Mayor Ampatuan also remarked that the terrorist bands were quite elusive, especially with government security forces hot on their trail. "They moved very fluidly, not staying in one place for very long. We did not have definitive information about the possible presence of Marwan in our municipality."

He did acknowledge, though, that the safe-house where Marwan allegedly got cornered was roughly 500 meters from the house being occupied by a local MILF commander.

He also disclosed that there was an "eroplanong puti" [white airplane] flying overhead, adding quickly that he wasn't sure if what was seen was a conventional aircraft or a drone.


Maranaos donate money to MILF martyrs during pro-BBL rally

From MindaNews (Feb 10): Maranaos donate money to MILF martyrs during pro-BBL rally

At first, the money came in trickles. Coins, P20 bills, then P50 bills.
Then as suddenly as it started, everyone was throwing bills of P100, P500 and even P1,000 to the striped blue, green and white tarpaulin laid on the ground of Plaza Cabili in Banggolo in the heart of downtown Marawi.

As a group of women hurriedly counted the money, cries of “Allahu Akbar” rang through out the park by hundreds of young boys, girls and residents who have trooped to the plaza to participate in the Bangsamoro National Day of Mourning rally on Tuesday.

“They are our Shaheed (martyrs). They died for us and the Bangsamoro,” rally organizer Achmad Lao said of the 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and four civilians who died in the Mamasapano clash, wherein 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers also died.

Lao said they collected P50,000 and several thousands more in pledges during the three-hour rally.

He said a similar fund drive was simultaneously launched in the nearby town of Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

“Kahit piso-piso lang we can gather enough money to the families of the slain MILF fighters and civilians who died in the Mamasapano clash,” Lao said, pointing to a group of children giving their “baon” to the cause.

“We cannot afford the millions that is given to the SAF 44 but we want to tell the families of our martyrs they are not forgotten,” he said.

Lao said they will also give money to the two slain members of the raiding PNP-SAF team who are Muslims.

Hundreds of Marawi residents participated in the peace rally.

Speaker after speaker urged for Congress to hasten the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which they said has became one of the casualties of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash.

“This is our last stand to peace. We urge Congress to hasten the passage of the proposed BBL. It should not be a casualty of the Mamasapano incident,” Marawi community leader Agakhan Sharief said. Sharief has earned the moniker “Bin Ladin” not just because of his moustache and beard, but also because of his stance on issues confronting the Moro people.

He warned that the delaying of the passage of the BBL will further increase the prospects of a full-blown war between the military and the MILF.

He said the BBL is the only chance for peace and they appealed to Congress to see its reason.

Sharief and other leaders also reiterated that Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was not hiding in Lanao del Sur as alleged by the police and military.

Sultan Nasrodin Adu, of the Royale house of Mindanao, said the PNP-SAF came to their town in Butig, Lanao del Sur in 2013 but did not find Marwan.

He said he is saddened with the wave of anti-Muslim sentiments following the clash in Mamasapano.

“We also lost a few. The SAF was not alone,” Adu said.

Simultaneous rallies urging Congress to pass the BBL were held in the key Mindanao cities of Tacurong, Cotabato, Davao and General Santos. Similar rallies were also held in the towns of Pikit in North Cotabato, Baloi in Lanao del Norte, Bongao in Tawi-tawi, and Jolo in Sulu.


BBL supporters go to streets, plazas

From MindaNews (Feb 10): BBL supporters go to streets, plazas

As the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano carnage began, throngs of Bangsamoro people and representatives of civil society organizations went to the streets and plazas in Mindanao Tuesday to reiterate calls for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Rallyists gathered at the Cotabato City plaza to air their desire for the passage of the BBL.

The rally from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. was organized by the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP). There were simultaneous rallies in Pikit in North Cotabato, General Santos City, Marawi City, Isabela City, Pagadian City, Bongao in Tawi-tawi, Jolo in Sulu, Davao City, Quezon City and Tacurong City.

The scheduled rally for Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat was transferred to Datu Paglas in Maguindanao after the group failed to secure a permit in Tacurong. Meanwhile, a caravan heading for Zamboanga City was stopped by policemen as the city government strictly enforced the no-permit no-rally policy.

“At least one million people are in attendance in various rally sites,” claimed Raby Angkal, of MAP.

Streamers calling for the passage of the draft law littered around downtown where the assembly was held.

The group said it is opposed to plans to water down the bill. It also urged the country’s lawmakers to continue the BBL deliberations according to the road map of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF).

BBL ang susi sa pangmatagalang katahimikan sa Mindanao. Isabatas na!” (BLL is the key to lasting peace in Mindanao. Pass the law!) a streamer said.

Angkal also urged legislators not to sacrifice the gains of the 17-year-old peace process and asked them to conduct separate probe of the Mamasapano carnage.

“The people of Mindanao are tired of war. They are tired of evacuation and the cycle of violence. This can only stop if the BBL is approved and implemented,” Rangkal said.


MILF, supporters hold peace rally in Tawi-tawi to support BBL

From MindaNews (Feb 10): MILF, supporters hold peace rally in Tawi-tawi to support BBL

About 300 members and supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Tawi-tawi staged a rally in the capital municipality of Bongao this morning as part of the simultaneous move to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the military reported.

The gathering – which include men, women and the youth – began at 8:15 a.m. as participants assembled at the Department of Education compound. They then staged a peace parade in downtown Bongao and dispersed 30 minutes later.

Peace marches and rallies are also expected in other parts of Mindanao to express peacefully the MILF and its supporters’ common stand to seek for the passage of the BBL.

The BBL is viewed by the MILF “as the solution to Mindanao conflict” and the “way to lasting peace and prosperity.”

Deliberations in the House of Representatives, however, have been suspended following the incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Forces (SAF) were killed in clashes with the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Military reports said that in a dialogue that followed at the DepEd compound in Bongao, seen as key participants were
In the dialogue that followed at the DepEd Compound, seen as among the key participants were former chancellor Eddie Alih of the Mindanao State University Bongao campus and a certain Commander Sakili, one of the MILF leaders among the Sama tribe. The military has noted however the absence of MILF Tawi-Tawi base operations commander Abdurahman Dakula.

The police, meanwhile, reported that a similar peace rally was staged in downtown Ipil, the capital municipality of Zamboanga Sibugay.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga City, which is still recovering from the September 2013 attack of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is under red alert. Classes in some private elementary schools such as Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Pilar College, Zamboanga Chong Hua High School, and Ferndale International School have been suspended at noon, and the City Hall is fully guarded.

The City Information Office issued a statement that Zamboanga “implements the legal mandate of no permit, no rally/caravan within the territorial jurisdiction of the city … in response to the planned caravan in Zamboanga City by a group of civil society organization supporting the (passage of the) Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

“We are firm in our resolve to ensure the security, peace and order and tranquility of the city,” the statement said.