Friday, February 20, 2015

AFP: 4 soldiers hurt in Davao Oriental clash with NPA guerrillas

From GMA News (Feb 21): AFP: 4 soldiers hurt in Davao Oriental clash with NPA guerrillas

Four Army members were reported injured in an encounter with New People's Army insurgents in Davao Oriental early Saturday morning.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, head of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, said the fighting occured at Sitio Maitum in Barangay Mahayag, in Banay-Banay town at about 6 a.m.

He said a 20-minute firefight occurred as the Army's 28th Infantry Battalion caught up with around 10 NPAs.

At the time, he said soldiers have been pursuing NPA guerrillas who attacked the Mati City police station last week.

Recovered from the rebels were an M-16 rifle, one hand grenade and five backpacks.

Since the attack on the Mati City police station last Feb. 15, two firefights have occurred.

7 NPA rebels killed in Sarangani clash

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): 7 NPA rebels killed in Sarangani clash

Seven fighters of communist New People's Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with soldiers from the Army's 73rd Infantry Battalion on Monday in Alabel, Sarangani province, the military said Friday.

Five of the seven were identified as leaders in different levels of Guerilla Front 71.

The fatalities are:
  1. Tolentino Bariquit alias Kumander Brigol, deputy secretary and political officer
  2. Alias JM – team leader and logistics officer
  3. Alias Jonas/Batot – team leader
  4. Alias Lieutenant – vice team leader
  5. Alias Mark – medic
  6. Angelica Sua alias ka Juday – medic
  7. Alyas Monet – new recruit
Major Alben Naval, executive officer of 73rd IB, said government troops patrolling the area after they received reports about armed men.

A firefight ensued for more than 8 hours between the two sides. Naval said two NPA members were also captured during the encounter.

The two are undergoing interrogation, he said.

Recovered at the encounter site were 6 M-16 rifles, 2 AK-47s, and a baby Armalite.

BIFM-RIB: Clarification

From BIFM-RIB (Feb 20): Clarification

This is a reaction on statements made by one of the MILF senior officials about two weeks ago in an executive senate hearing on fallen 44 SAF commandos at Mamasapano, Maguindanao bloody battle. For the sake of truth and reliable information of all concerned, the Research and Information Bureau (RIB) has come up with this short but comprehensive message.

          This definitely serves as reliable information of all concerned but with specific point to the neo-colonial government of Manila (GPH). The BIFM/BIFF, per statement made by the subject MILF senior official, does not agree on a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in the Moroland. Along with this line, BIFM leadership requests for the rectification of the statement made by the MILF senior official.

          We BIFM are strictly upholding the foot step of the late MILF chairman, Sheikh Salamat Hashim, who said that the “most civilized way of resolving the armed conflict in the Moroland is peaceful political settlement”. So, any individual or a group who opposes this honorable idea of the late MILF chairman goes outside the ambit of Islam.

          Sheikh Salamat Hashim, when he was still the chairman of this organization (MILF) he has severally made pronouncements “that any solution to the armed conflict in the Moroland less than complete independence of the Bangsamoro people and their homeland will never work well. This is what we believe in. Question, can any body justly and correctly says that the BBL will work and serve the Moros in accordance with the supreme objective of Jihad fiy sabiy lillah?

          The BIFF is more than willing to resolves this problem in a peaceful way provided, however that the final agreement reached should not deviate from the establishment of Islamic State. In summing up the above clarificatory points, our position to regain our ancestral homeland is tantamount to the GPH stand “that the Moros claim for their independence is non-negotiable”. 

           Historical facts clearly showed that the Moro homeland was usurped by the two Filipino colonial masters (Spain and America) for the Christianized native (Filipinos). The proof of which is the infamous Agreement between Spain and America, better known in History as Treaty of Paris which was signed on December 10, 1898.

          By virtue of this Treaty, the two Moro Sultanate Territories were treacherously annexed to the Las Islas Filipinos (island of Visayas and Luzon). To the Moros, this considered as an act of usurpation as it lacked the plebiscitary consent of the Bangsamoro people.

BIFM-RIB: BIFF-MILF Relationship worsens today

Posted to the BIFM Research and Information Bureau Website (Feb 21): BIFF-MILF Relationship worsens today

About a week ago or more, the warring groups from BIFF and BIAF still manageable. But by this time it seems no longer manageable. The BIAF now has combined with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Last week, representatives from the BIFM/BIFF and MILF met somewhere in Cotabato City. Both agreed that the ground forces of both groups shall immediately withdraw from their respective positions and this was complied with both parties. 

           Unluckily after few hours the MILF forces under Front commander Jack (Eastern Front Command) attacked the BIFF in their position at several Barangays of Buliok, Barungis etc. Pagalungan, Magunidanao. Now, just this morning at about 5:40 am., AFP founded an accounted nos. of 105 mm. howitzers to the positions of BIFF at Kabasalan, Pagalungan, Maguindanao from the different municipalities of North Coatabato specifically Municipality of Pikit. This situation is no longer manageable, because the MILF has already combined with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Indonesian, 2 other foreigners among those killed by SAF?

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Indonesian, 2 other foreigners among those killed by SAF?

Police killed an Indonesian jihadi in the Jan. 25 clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following the killing of Malaysian terrorist bomber Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

An MILF and BIFF fatality report identified the slain Indonesian as Amir Ibrahim, according to an informed source.

No other record is available on Ibrahim, except that he had helped Marwan and other foreign jihadis train MILF and BIFF fighters in military tactics and bomb-making.

Security forces are also validating reports that two other Western-looking jihadis were killed during the Mamasapano shootout.

Two of the seven BIFF fighters listed killed in the shootout have turned out to be MILF members.

The two are Salah Mahmod, brother of BIFF commander Resbak, and Paglala Kemod.

The commandos also reportedly killed two supposed militiamen: Zaif Alima of Datu Paglas and Bagnal Mukalis of Buluan town.

They were not listed in the roster of militiamen.

Following is the complete list of BIFF fatalities: Mahmod (brother of commander Resbak), Tonton Budsal alias Or, Mursid Saga, Aminudin Akmad, Zacariah Mustapha, Amir Ibrahim (Indonesian), Paglala Kemod (also an MILF member) and the two supposed militiamen (Alima and Mukalis).

List of MILF fatalities: Mahmod (BIFF fighter), Salahudin Salindatu, Esmail Abid, Abdurahim Abdila, Daglala Kahmed, Ali Ismael, Musib Hasim, Omar Dagadas, Rasul Zukarin, Mamarisa Omar, Nadruden Langalem, Ginibn Angkay, Suweb Kemod, Nasrullah Saptula, Salahudin Salindatu, Mahmod Salah, Kaharudin Baluno and Abdulrahim Abdulah.

Military launches ops vs. BIFF

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Military launches ops vs. BIFF

[Video report: Military conducts operation vs. BIFF in North Cotabato]

The military conducted operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in North Cotabato.

The 602nd brigade conducted the focused military operations in Barangay Kabasalan in Pikit at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

According to 602nd Brigade Spokesperson Capt. Calvin Macatangay, the operation was coordinated with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

"Gumalaw na kami at kailangan na kasing pansinin ang BIFF," said Macatangay.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Missry Mama said the mortar shelling was launched in a civilian populace.

The military denied this, however, saying civilians have left the area for more than a week now.

It was in the early days of February when clashes erupted between Moro Islamic Liberation Front and BIFF, causing 20,000 individuals to evacuate from Kalbugan, Bago-Inged, Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Kabasalan, Barongis, Buliok, Bulol and Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato.

MILF ceasefire committee inspects Marwan's house in Mamasapano

From GMA News (Feb 20): MILF ceasefire committee inspects Marwan's house in Mamasapano

A GMA News team managed to visit the house of slain international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) in a secluded part of Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
A report aired on GMA's “24 Oras” program on Thursday said GMA News reporter Raffy Tima and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities had to ride a pump boat to reach the house since there were many rivers in the remote area.
[Lengthy video report on Mamasapanao and the area around Marwan's house. Also contains photo of unidentified white airplane that was reportedly circling the area.]
The group then had to pass through a cornfield where members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force crawled through to  get to Marwan's hideout.
Marwan's hut was surrounded by plants and trees, making it difficult to get a good glimpse of the house.
Signs of struggle like blood and bullet holes could still be seen in various parts of the house.
Just twenty minutes after arriving, the MILF group said it was time to leave since other armed groups had already been spotted moving in the area.
The MILF members of the inspection team agreed to leave, saying they did not have control of the area and the nearest MILF outpost was at least a kilometer away.
A white airplane was also seen circling in the area during and after the inspection team checked Marwan's house. According to the MILF members, the white plane seemed similar to one that they saw during the Mamasapano clash last January.
On January 25, the Philippine government launched a massive operation against Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Of around 400 troopers from the elite police SAF involved in the operation, 44 were killed and 12 were injured after a support unit was allegedly flanked by armed rebels.

Activists hold ‘people's hearing’ on Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Feb 20): Activists hold ‘people's hearing’ on Mamasapano clash

Various activist groups on Friday held its own hearing on the January 25 Mamasapano clash that left 44 elite policemen dead.

But unlike the hearings in Congress, no concerned official attended the “people's hearing,” held at Plaza Miranda in Manila, although they were invited to the gathering, a report on “24 Oras” said.

Instead, the groups only played audio recordings of the testimonies of the police and military officials and other resource persons who attended past hearings.

The groups said unlike the executive sessions in the Senate, the “people's hearing” was open to the public.

According to Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, the statements of the officials clearly showed that President Benigno Aquino III must be held liable for the Mamasapano incident.

“Alam ng pangulo ang nangyaring operasyon. Maaga pa lang alam niyang may bakbakang nagaganap pero wala siya kaagad na ginawang aksyon,” said Reyes in the report.

He also said that American forces were part of the operation — a violation of existing Philippine laws.

Officials have denied the participation of American forces in the operation, their their role was limited to medical assistance to the wounded personnel.

Groups that participated in the hearing were Gabriela, Anakpawis, PISTON, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and League of Filipino Students.

The groups said similar hearings will be held in the next few days.

MILF denies ‘cannibalizing’ SAF firearms

From GMA News (Feb 20): MILF denies ‘cannibalizing’ SAF firearms

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Friday denied removing expensive accessories and other parts from the firearms of slain police commandos surrendered to the government.

In an interview with GMA News, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said his group did not "cannibalize" the weapons of Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members killed in a firefight last January 25.

"As far as I know and the report would show that there is no cannibalizing the firearms," Iqbal said.

He added that some of the firearms' parts may have been dislodged during the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last month involving the MILF, the PNP-SAF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"Ang nakikita ko lang yung isa kalahati naibigay. Ang tantya ko roon ay tinamaan sa barilan, kaya nga hindi na ma-locate iyon," he said.

A PNP-SAF members who survived the Mamasapano encounter earlier said their weapons, which were formally turned over by the MILF to the government this week, had been stripped off expensive accessories and other parts.

The Mamasapano clash left over 60 people, including 44 police commandos and 18 MILF fighters, dead.

The police commandos supposedly entered an MILF-controlled area to arrest Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman and Malaysian terrorist Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who government authorities said was killed in the operation and whose DNA sample was confirmed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government and the MILF have an existing peace agreement signed March last year.

Iqbal earlier said MILF members only defended themselves during the incident. He added that government forces did not inform their group about the operation.

'Call is clear'

In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Usec. Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino III gave a clear statement for the MILF on the return the SAF men's firearms and personal effects.

"I think the call was clear and the call was received also clearly by them. We’ll see what will happen in the next few days," Valte said.

She also maintained that the MILF's move to return some of the SAF men's weapons was a good first step in showing sincerity.

Asked if the MILF plans to turnover more of the slain police commando's weapons to the government, Iqbal said his group is still trying to locate the firearms

"If there are firearms that are in the possession of our commanders and our members, we will definitely turn them over to the government," he said.

Valte, for her part, said the administration was just being "practical" in giving the MILF some leeway in terms of surrendering the weapons.

BIFF: Video shows white male among the dead in Mamasapano

From GMA News (Feb 21): BIFF: Video shows white male among the dead in Mamasapano

Video footage showed a male Caucasian as among those killed in the Mamasapano operation, a spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters told GMA News Online on Friday.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said the man was definitely a foreigner based on his physical attributes.
“Hindi ako mismo ang nakakita [doon sa lugar] pero may video ang mga bata (BIFF members) na pinakita sa akin na puti talaga. Hindi ko lang alam kung American, Arabian, German o kung ano man basta foreigner at matangkad,” Mama said in an interview.
Mama said the BIFF's video footage showed the man lying lifeless along with members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force who died in operation.
Mama also said it was not unusual for a foreigner especially Americans to be involved in the Mamasapano clash since they were interested in the bounty on Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan, an international terrorist and Malaysian bomb expert with a $5 million bounty was the primary targets of the PNP-SAF's operation during the Mamasapano clash.
Marwan was reportedly neutralized while the other target, Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman escaped and is said to be nursing a shoulder gun wound.
Earlier, Party-list Gabriela cited civilian accounts of recovery operations following the incident saying that a body of a Caucasian was retrieved along with those of the slain SAF members.
But the US Embassy has repeatedly denied the allegations that some of their nationals were involved in the Mamasapano operation.
On Jan. 25, the PNP-SAF launched a massive operation against the terrorists in alleged Moro Islamic Liberation Front territory in Mamasapano.

Forty-four policemen died in the misencounter with the rebels, with whom the government has an existing peace agreement. The MILF claims 18 died from among its ranks.

The MILF also figured in a firefight with the BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF.

PMA ’81: The class that rules the Philippines

From Rappler (Feb 21): PMA ’81: The class that rules the Philippines

As of today, Class ’81 appears to be the favored class of President Benigno Aquino III

'LOWEST LIFE FORM.' The plebe year is the worst year for PMA students

'LOWEST LIFE FORM.' The plebe year is the worst year for PMA students 

They remember it as the shot put incident.

On February 13, 1978, plebes belonging to the Bravo Company lay on their backs as their upperclassmen dropped heavy metal balls on their stomachs. On that day, Cadet 4th Class Manuel Salas died in the worst case of hazing in Philippine Military Academy (PMA) history.
Three other plebes were rushed to the hospital. Then Cadet 4th Class Alan Purisima almost died of internal hemorrhaging. He would become chief of the Philippine National Police 3 decades later.
“Four of us were rushed to the hospital. My case wasn’t so serious. But Alan nearly died. He was cut open from top to bottom,” retired Major General Domingo Tutaan, former internal auditor and spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), recalled in an interview with Rappler.
It happened only 4 days before the most awaited Recognition Day – the end of the plebe year characterized by crying cadets relieved that months of hazing is over, turned more emotional that year by the loss of a mistah (classmate).
It was the first crisis for what would become a very powerful class that has ruled the country's 120,000-strong military and 150,000-strong police since 2013.
CHIEFS. PMA '81 controls the country's police and military beginning 2013
CHIEFS. PMA '81 controls the country's police and military beginning 2013

Dimalupig Class
In PMA, the class had always set itself apart from the rest through luck and determination. The first class to graduate after Martial Law was lifted broke the tradition of adopting a class motto that starts with the letter M.
"We had to be different. We had to spell the difference," Tutaan said.
Literally, "Dimalupig" set them apart after 11 years of Magiting (1970), Matatag (1971), Masigasig (1972), Maagap (1973), Marangal (1974), Makabayan (1975), Magilas (1976), Masikap (1977), Makatarungan (1978), Matapat (1979), and Mapitagan (1980).
The class valedictorian was a Thai, now General Thawip Poonsiri Netniyom of the Royal Thai Armed Forces. In the Philippines, 88 more of the total 180 class members also reached the rank of general.
While other classes could only dream of having just one of them get the most coveted highest rank of 4 stars, 4 members of Class ’81 have it:
  • AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr
  • Royal Thai General Thawip Poonsiri Netniyom
  • Resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima
  • Retired AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista
As of today, Class ’81 appears to be the favored class of President Benigno Aquino III.
He put them in power since 2013 as they helped him in that year's back-to-back tragedies: the Sabah crisis, Zamboanga siege, Bohol earthquake, and Super Typhoon Yolanda. They led the military and the police establishments as Aquino dealt with natural disasters, China's incursions into the West Philippine Sea, and the security nightmare caused by the recent visit of Pope Francis.

The current vacuum in the PNP because of Purisima’s resignation over the deadly police operation in Maguindanao could, ironically, mean a promotion for another mistah.

If the President continues to favor the class, PNP OIC chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina or Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo may take over his post.
Asian cruise and future coup plotters
"Magagaling talaga kami (We're really good)," teased retired Police Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr, who was PNP's Number 2 when he retired in December 2014.
They're either special or lucky or both.
In 1979, when the Philippine Navy was still better than most of its counterparts in the region, the entire class was hauled into two ships to join naval exercises in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
"Before us, the only other class that did that was Class '71," said Rojas. It was the first overseas trip for most of them.
PMA Class '71, of course, is best remembered for being the core group of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), the backbone of the military revolt that eventually led to the People Power Revolution of 1986 that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Some '81 members joined RAM during those years, including the current AFP chief.
CHANGE OF COMMAND: Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang (left) and retired General Emmanuel Bautista in the change of command ceremony in July 2014
CHANGE OF COMMAND: Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang (left) and retired General Emmanuel Bautista in the change of command ceremony in July 2014

Because promotions are ultimately political decisions, Catapang made the right decision to join RAM when it toppled Marcos, then leave the group later during the Cory Aquino administration. While many RAM members continued to plot against Cory Aquino, Catapang stayed with the chain of command.
Cory Aquino's son would not forget this. He named Catapang chief of staff in July 2014.
But it was Purisima who found himself on the best side of history. He wasn’t even among the smartest in class, but the bloody coups that beset the first Aquino administration forged a strong friendship between the young lieutenant and the young Noynoy Aquino, the future president who would favor him above all else. (READ: Aquino, General Purisima and the past that binds them)
General Bautista’s appointment was a compromise between competing interests surrounding Aquino. He took the helm of the military on January 17, 2013, besting more senior commanders.
He worked with Aquino in the aftermath of the back-to-back disasters of 2013 and would gain the trust of the President who immediately gave him a position in Malacañang. He is now the executive Director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace.
The class valedictorian, Thai General Netniyom, was not to be out of fashion. He also took a prominent role in the 2006 bloodless coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Cooperation, rivalry
The PMA culture – the plebe year most of all, the endless marches on Borromeo Field, the square meals, and the honor code – binds mistahs together in a way civilians will never understand.
They got each other’s back. They offer financial assistance to mistahs in need. Those who find themselves on the good side of commanders push for their mistahs so their careers will rise together. They exhaust their contacts when one of them gets into trouble.
When they found themselves on opposite sides of the political fence during the Marcos years, a mistah said they respected each other. It's the same attitude the class took when retired Colonel George Rabusa rocked the military with damning revelations on the corrupt pabaon system (send-off money) for retiring generals.
Former AFP chief Angelo Reyes Jr, whom he accused of receiving a P50-million pabaon, committed suicide at the height of the controversy.
The brotherhood can make their jobs easier. When Catapang was Northern Luzon Command chief and he received reports that the Chinese ships he had been watching in Scarborough Shoal had gone missing, he only had to call Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero – commander of the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) before transferring to the Western Mindanao Command (WesMincom) – to check if the ships had moved to the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. (The Scarborough has since been transferred to the Wescom area of responsibility.)
THE OLD ORDER. PMA '81 mistahs Marcelo Garbo, Felipe Rojas Jr, Alan Purisima, and Leonardo Espina
THE OLD ORDER. PMA '81 mistahs Marcelo Garbo, Felipe Rojas Jr, Alan Purisima, and Leonardo Espina

But in a story that is all too common among mistahs, there have been occasions when competition reared its ugly head. Hanggang major at colonel lang naman ang tulungan. Brasuhan din sa promotion (We only help each other at the major and colonel level. We also fight over promotions),” said one member of the class who refused to be identified for this story.
The rivalry has been more pronounced in the PNP where the mistahs competed and are competing for the top post. In the military, the competition has been between different PMA classes.
Camp Crame is rife with stories about mistahs pulling each other down with allegations of illegal activities as they wrestled for the top posts in the PNP. And when Purisima became chief, his mistahs resented how his attitude changed and treated them as underlings he can "bull out."
Younger officers in Crame have described Purisima as an insecure and jealous PNP chief. It’s a tension worsened by the rift between Purisima and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, both very close to the President.
Judge its leadership
At the height of its power, the class finds itself again in the middle of national controversy. Members of the class maintain they will continue to respect each other in the midst of the Mamasapano tragedy that has pitted one mistah against the other in the blame game that follows the death of 44 elite cops. (READ: Mistahs of PMA '81 and the Mamasapano tragedy)
To this day, the class members regularly meet every month. They call themselves the Mackerel Club, a tribute to humble beginnings when reunions meant a boodle fight over rice and sardines.
“After everything is said and done and the smoke clears, it will all normalize. We will all go back to Borromeo Field,” said another mistah interviewed by Rappler.

On February 21, the active officers will wear their stars. Those who have retired from service have decided to wear suits. If they all attend, Catapang, Purisima, Bautista, Netniyom, and Espina will lead the class as they march in the all too familiar field.
The people will judge if the class members have served the country well but certainly on Borromeo Field on Saturday, no other class can outshine their stars.
How long will PMA '81 reign? It depends on Aquino. The youngest among them are not retiring until next year. But the other classes are also waiting for their turn to rule.

Search on for 4 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 20): Search on for 4 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members in Zamboanga

The police and military intelligence communities here and in Western Mindanao are now in search of four suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members that allegedly arrived through the so-called backdoor last year.

Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, the city police director, told the Inquirer that all four were Malaysian citizens.

“Their plan was to go straight to Basilan, then board a plane from Zamboanga to Manila and then to the Middle East,” he said, quoting an information provided by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) in Tawi-Tawi.

Casimiro said based on what the BID had told them, Malaysian authorities also provided details on the four Malaysian nationals.

After their arrival here during the first quarter of 2014, Casimiro said the four foreigners went to Basilan to join the group of Puruji Indama, a Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf sub-leader.

“We suspect that they went to Basilan either to train Abu Sayyaf members in bomb-making or as students of Indama,” Casimiro said.

The Aviation Security Group, port security and those manning bus terminals had been provided copies of photos of the four Malaysian JI members because there were also reports they were moving in and out of Basilan to other Western Mindanao areas, he said.

But Casimiro also admitted that “we don’t have warrants of arrest for these overstaying Malaysians."

MILF: MILF has no gun factory in Maguindanao, the one at Camp Abubakar already demolished: Prof. Ferrer

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 20): MILF has no gun factory in Maguindanao, the one at Camp Abubakar already demolished: Prof. Ferrer

The Chief Negotiator of the Government of the Philippines (GPH), Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said on Thursday that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front does not have gun factory in General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao.
Prof. Ferrer also said that the MILF main gun factory in Camp Abubakar was already demolished during the time of President Estrada when he declared all-out-war with the Moro front.

Prof. Ferrer also said that the GPH panel had conducted an investigation after Senator Alan Peter Cayetano claimed the MILF has a weapons factory in barangay (sitio) Katol, General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao.

"It's not there. We know, we have checked the area. We did our own checking and what we found out is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has its own improvised explosive device (IED) factory in the area," she said.

The chief peace negotiator said the government is not negotiating with the BIFF simply because the latter group does not want peace.

The MILF tried but failed to convince the BIFF leadership to stay with the group and forge a lasting peace deal with the government.

The BIFF now categorized as a terrorist group is pursuing the independence of Mindanao and create an Islamic State.

"Right now, they do not want to negotiate with us. They are doing all these things, sniping our military forces. The conditions are not there to negotiate with them and the conditions actually require that we incapacitate them," she said.

2 wounded Army soldiers get medals for fighting vs Abu Sayyaf in Basilan

From the Zamboanga Today Online: 2 wounded Army soldiers get medals for fighting vs Abu Sayyaf in Basilan

Two Philippine Army soldiers who suffered bullet wounds during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan received Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) on Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. Orlando De Leon, Western Mindanao Command deputy commander, pinned the medals to Privates First Class Melchor  Solayao, Jr., and Reynaldo Taroy.
Solayao and Taroy were wounded in the encounter against undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf group in Barangay Kuhon, Albarka town, Basilan Sunday morning.
At least two bandits also were reportedly killed and undetermined number others injured in the ensuing firefight.
Government forces were implementing a military operation against members of the ASG led by a certain Bashir Kasaran in Barangay Kuhun in Al-Barka.
Al-Barka is the same town where almost 4 years ago, 19 soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces were killed by forces from the ASG and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It would be the worst operational blunders in the Army’s recent history. Officers from the AFP were court-martialedover the incident.
Two were found guilty while the other two, acquitted before a military court.
In 2007, some 23 troops from the Marines were also killed in Al-Barka during skirmishes with the MILF.
The MILF and the Philippine government have recently signed a peace deal that would pave the way to the creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
However, the death of at least 65 individuals including 44 elite cops during a police operation gone awry in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, have put the peace process at risk.

BIFF won't return SAF weapons without a rematch

From ABS-CBN (Feb 20): BIFF won't return SAF weapons without a rematch

[Radio DZMM interview with BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama]

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has no intention of returning the weapons of slain Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano "without a rematch."

Speaking to radio DZMM, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said the SAF weapons were not "borrowed" but taken from the slain commandos.

"Yung nakuhang 10 armas, mahirap nang isauli ang armas dahil hindi namin hiniram sa kanila," he said.

"Kunwari sa boxing, knockdown yung kalaban kaya yung mga baril na nakuha namin hindi namin ibibigay hanggang may rematch."

Elements of the BIFF joined Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in fighting SAF commandos who raided the hideout of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

The encounter led to the deaths of 44 police commandos and 18 Moro rebels, sparking widespread condemnation.

The MILF has blamed lack of coordination for the encounter, saying that government forces usually give a heads-up of any law enforcement operation in MILF territory.

During the interview, the BIFF spokesman confirmed that BIFF forces recently engaged in a battle with fighters of MILF's Eastern Mindanao Front led by Commander Jack Abas.

[Video report: BIFF denies viral video came from their Camp]

Two BIFF men were killed and 7 others hurt in the encounter.

He said the BIFF is not fighting the entire MILF but just the commander, who is allegedly being supported by a local official to drive away the BIFF.

Abu said a viral video showing the killing of a SAF trooper during the Mamasapano encounter did not come from their group. "Wala kaming video na sa amin galing," he said.

He also denied that the BIFF was coddling both Marwan and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman, saying the two are not on the list of BIFF elements.

The spokesman said the BIFF does not believe that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will solve the problems of the Bangsamoro people. He said the BIFF will only join peace negotiations with the government if it leads to the establishment of a separate Islamic state or independence.

BIFF to gov’t forces: ‘We’ll use SAF guns against them’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 20): BIFF to gov’t forces: ‘We’ll use SAF guns against them’

In this picture shows Abu Misri Mama (left), the spokesman of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, at their camp in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.  PHOTO BY JEOFFREY MAITEM / INQUIRER MINDANAO

In this picture shows Abu Misri Mama (left), the spokesman of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, at their camp in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. PHOTO BY JEOFFREY MAITEM / INQUIRER MINDANAO

Kumbaga sa boxing, knockdown sila. Kaya sa amin yun (If we talk about boxing, they were knocked down. So that’s ours,” he said.

“Ibabaril namin sa kanila (We’ll use it against them),” he explained when asked what they will do with the 10 firearms confiscated from the fallen Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers.

The BIFF was among the groups that clashed with the SAF last January 25 during an operation against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

Unlike the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BIFF has refused to return the weapons and equipment taken from the 44 policemen killed in the alleged misencounter.

 The MILF already returned 16 firearms but the government is asking for more, including the prosecution of those involved in the slaying of the policemen.

No casualties

Mama boasted that their fighters were veterans.

“Sa aming panig noong kasagsagan ng laban ay walang namatay (From our side, at the height of the battle, not one died),” he said.

He said it was the SAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that are terrorizing Mindanao.

“Kulang pa sa kanila yung mga narecover namin na mga baril (The firearms we recovered from them are not even enough),” he said.

Is Marwan still alive?

Mama also denied that they knew about Marwan.

“Hindi ko alam kung buhay si Marwan dahil wala akong kilalang Marwan (I don’t know if Marwan is alive because I don’t know anyone by the name of Marwan),” he said when asked about rumors that Marwan was still alive.

Earlier reports said Marwan’s finger was cut off to serve as DNA sample. It was the US Federal Bureau of Investigation that confirmed that the DNA sample was from Marwan.

No war with MILF

Mama pointed out that it was not true that they are being pursued by the MILF. He said it was only Commander Jack Abas who is targeting them, following the orders of North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza.

“Kasi ito’y politically motivated ni Governor Lala Mendoza. Binayaran nya si Commander Jack ng MILF para patalsikin ang mga Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters sa area,” he said.

(This is politically motivated by Governor Lala Mendoza. She paid Commander Jack of the MILF to expel the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters from the area.)

Mama said BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato personally wrote to MILF chair Al Haj Murad to stop the fighting. Murad reportedly “welcomed” the letter although Abas has yet to stand down.

But MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in a separate interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, said their fighters are engaging the BIFF because of a territory dispute.

“Actually ang naging ugat ng problema na yan nagpapalawak ng teritoryo ang BIFF. Kahit na yung teritoryo ng MILF ay gusto nilang pasukin (Actually the root of the problem was the BIFF’s plan to expand its territory. They want to enter even the territory of the MILF),” he said.

The BIFF is the armed group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, which broke away from the MILF at the height of the peace talks. However, the two groups were accused of working together during the bloody clash in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, which left 44 policemen, 18 MILF fighters and at least five civilians dead.

The MILF was accused of coordinating with the BIFF during the said clash but Mama denied this. He said they are neither enemies nor allies of the MILF.

He insisted that what they wanted was an Islamic state and not the autonomous political entity proposed in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Philippine Military Wants US Drones

From The Diplomat (Feb 20): The Philippine Military Wants US Drones

The Philippines is eying U.S. drones following the recent policy shift by the Obama administration to ease restrictions on their export and sale, local media reported February 18.

According to ABS-CBN News, military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said that the while Philippines did not want armed drones, it would be interested in drones that could be used for intelligence and surveillance operations.

Meanwhile, BusinessWorld, a leading Philippine business newspaper, reported that Harold M. Cabunoc, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that while the drones would indeed give the military “an edge in information gathering and in armed confrontations,” the country’s interest is primarily in their potential for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

National Defense Public Affairs Service Chief Arsenio R. Andalong also confirmed to BusinessWorld that the military’s primary interest in acquiring drones would be for HADR operations.

“In general, drones will certainly enhance any country’s defense posture. In our case, however, their potential contribution to HADR is probably more important,” Andolong said.

“Our planners would first have to assess the technology’s efficiency and the effectiveness vis-à-vis our capabilities,” he added.

Last week, The Diplomat reported that the Obama administration had established a policy for the export of commercial and military drones – including armed ones – following a lengthy review. The move opens up the possibility of Washington equipping its allies such as the Philippines, even though this would still be done under strict conditions and recipient nations need to agree to certain “end-use assurances.”

The use of U.S. drones in the Philippines is not without controversy. While the two allies inked an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement last year to boost military ties, some voices continue to oppose strengthening links in this dimension. Some Philippine legislators have expressed alarm at the discovery and alleged use of U.S. drones in Philippine operations over the past few years, which they say undermine Philippine sovereignty.

There have also been some media reports suggesting that U.S. drones were involved in the lead-up to a controversial January 25 Philippine police operation to get Malaysian terrorist and bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir – more popularly known as Marwan – who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) most wanted list. As The Diplomat reported previously, though evidence suggests the operation ended up killing Marwan, it resulted in one of the largest single day losses for the Philippine police in the nation’s history and has threatened to undermine a historic peace deal between the government and Muslim rebels.

PMA says no tension during alumni homecoming

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20): PMA says no tension during alumni  homecoming

Philippine Military Academy information officer Maj. Fara Krishna Candelaria  said PMA is not worried about clashing ideologies or controversial issues during the annual  alumni homecoming  which is expected to draw  more than 4000 cavaliers on Saturday, February  21.

“It will be a festive mood,” said Candelaria adding there is no tension despite  the  recent  Mamasapano incident  putting some  police and Armed Forces of the Philippines officers who  are  PMA graduates, in  the  center of the controversy with  the  death of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force members.

“For many cavaliers, this event has become their way of renewing and strengthening the sense of patriotism and idealism that the academy has imparted to them. To some it is a time to unwind and reacquaint with their mistahs or classmates,” Candelaria said.

For Atty. James Valeros, a member of PMA Class of 1964, the PMA Alumni homecoming is an event where each PMA graduate forgets issues and controversies and just have a good time of bonding and friendship between and among their classmates and other PMA graduates and their families as well.

“Pagdating ng homecoming, nakakalimutan lahat yang mga issues at problema, ang nagyayari kwentuhan at kumustahan na lang,” Valeros added.

Starting Friday, around 4,000 cavaliers and their families will return to their alma mater here in the city of Pines for the annual homecoming event.

On Feb. 21, Saturday, the activity will be highlighted by the alumni parade and program with Eduardo Oban, Jr., a member of PMA Class of 1979, the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and now the executive director of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces as the guest speaker. It will be followed by the traditional picnic and other activities by the respective PMA classes.

Special recognition will be given to the members of PMA Class 1955 as Diamond Jubilarians (60 years); Class 1965 as Golden Jubilarians (50 years); and Class 90 as Silver Jubilarians (25 years).

Among the highlights include the PMA Alumni Eco Trail Run within Fort del Pilar and the Battle of Classes Golf Tournament at Camp John Hay on Feb. 19; Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the PMA Alumni Memorial, Opening of PMA Football Cup and Leadership Forum for Cadets at PMA Campus on Feb. 20; the traditional “Open House” at the PMA Cadet Barracks on Feb. 21; Arrival Honors for Royal Thai General Thawip Poonsiri Netniyom of Class ’81, and Silent Drill on February 22.

Lead host for this year’s homecoming is PMA Sandiwa Class of 1985.

Other hosts classes  are PMA Magiting Class of 1970, Makabayan Class of 1975, Mapitagan Class of 1980, Bigkis-Lahi Class of 1990, Marilag Class of 1995, Sanghaya Class of 2000, Sanlingan Class of 2005 and Masidlak Class of 2010.

Meanwhile, the PMA and the Baguio City Police Office are working together to  ensure security during the event.

Candelaria said that the PMA will utilize its personnel together with augmentation from the Army and Navy to help secure the academy.

The BCPO is augmented by the Regional Public Safety Battalion and will be deployed at the different strategic areas in the city particularly the roads and areas leading to the PMA and the entry and exit points of the city
The PMA alumni homecoming is part of the month-long Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga.

DSWD to roll out P294-M Kalahi-CIDSS projects in SOCCSKSARGEN

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): DSWD to roll out P294-M Kalahi-CIDSS projects in SOCCSKSARGEN

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato  --   The Department of Social Welfare and Development is gearing up  for  the implementation of  P294-million worth of  development  projects  in various municipalities across  SOCCSKSARGEN Region, an   official of the agency  here  announced.

The  projects,  according to   Regional  Director  Bai Zorahayda Taha,  will be carried out  under the  expansion of the   national  government’s  flagship  poverty reduction program Kapit Bisig-Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS)

Taha said, 16 towns in three provinces  are currently getting ready for the implementation  of  several community projects.

“Beneficiary towns are now in the preparation stages including the conduct of assemblies, workshops, identification and prioritization of community projects, request for fund release and other activities,” she said.

The amount, according to Taha represents the total municipal grant allocation based on the 2010 population census, 2009 poverty incidence survey  and income class of each municipality.

Nine municipalities will be granted with maximum allocation amounting to P20 million each including Pikit  in  North Cotabato;  Glan and  Maasim in  Sarangani;  and Lambayong, Lutayan, Palimbang, Bagumbayan, Isulan and Lebak,  in Sultan  Kudarat.

Other  beneficiaries  and  project allocations are as follows:  Aleosan (P12.51 M), Banisilan (P13.96 M), Alamada (P19.88 M)  in North Cotabato;  Maitum (P14.58 M) and  Kiamba (P19.20 M) in Sarangani, and  Senator Ninoy Aquino (P15.22 M) and Kalamansig (P18.56 M) in  Sultan Kudarat.

On the other hand, municipality of Carmen in North Cotabato is now on the process of enrollment to be the 17th beneficiary town in the region under the Program.

Carmen municipality  will be allotted  P20 million  for various community projects, once the Program starts to roll out in the area.

For the  implementation  of the  projects, recipient  municipalities  and barangays  will   contribute  counterparts in cash and  in-kind,  Taha  added.

Kalahi-CIDSS  is one of the government’s flagship poverty-reduction programs implemented by DSWD.  It has been recognized as an international development program awardee by the United States Treasury.

Kalahi-CIDSS utilizes the community-driven development (CDD) strategy proven to be effective in empowering communities, improving local governance and reducing poverty in various communities.

It gives communities control over resources in transparent ways through an inclusive local planning, budgeting, and implementation.

Kalahi-CIDSS expansion is a P43.9 billion Program through a grant from World Bank and Asian Development Bank  and set  for  implement from 2014 to 2019 to benefit 847 municipalities in the country.

PRO 7 intel chief warns cop stations in Central Visayas against rebel attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): PRO 7 intel chief warns cop stations in Central Visayas against rebel attacks
The Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 has ordered police stations in Central Visayas, especially in Negros Oriental, to be on guard against the New People’s Army (NPA) following the attack on a police station in Mati City, Davao Oriental Sunday evening.

Senior Supt. Paul Labra, RID Chief, said the incident in Mati City should be a reminder to all lower units to be always on guard for possible attacks.

Labra said he has ordered police stations in the region to double their security to avoid a repeat of the Mati incident.

Labra said the Mati City attack is a signal that NPAs can still muster forces in Mindanao.

He specifically called the attention of the police stations in Negros Oriental where NPA rebels are mostly sighted.

But he said the reported sightings of the NPA rebels do not pose a huge threat to the security in Central Visayas.

He said police stations have been instructed to implement “target hardening measures.”

He said that although the NPA rebels are relatively weak and cannot wreak havoc in the region, it is still not a guarantee for the police to be complacent.

Negros Oriental was earlier declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be development-ready area, which is one step closer to being insurgency-free.

PNP, Army braces for BIFF harassment

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): PNP, Army braces for BIFF harassment

Police and military authorities here have been placed on heightened alert following public statement by outlawed Moro armed men it will attack the provincial capitol.

Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato provincial government, said all exit and entry points of the province from Maguindanao have been sealed.

“We also increased our intelligence gathering activities because we are not taking any chances,” Peralta told reporters.

Earlier, Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which is locked in an armed conflict with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), accused North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza of bribing the MILF to prevent the BIFF from entering the province.

”Gov. Mendoza is funding Jack Abas of the MILF to attack us,” Mama said.

Mendoza vehemently denied the charges.

”I have no business meddling with the MILF or BIFF,” Mendoza said. “My massive development projects in interior villages of Pikit could have been misinterpreted as a bribe to the MILF,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza was fuming mad when she heard Mama’s allegations. “I have no power over the MILF but my office has been providing livelihood assistance and projects to Muslim communities, including in areas where the MILF operates,” she added.

“We have intelligence information that the improvised bombs set off by BIFF in North Cotabato, particularly in Kabacan and Mlang towns came from the Liguasan marshland,” Peralta said.

Army Colonel Audie Edralin, 7th Infantry Battalion, said the Army is also on alert, providing back up to the local police in every municipality.

Clashes erupted anew between MILF and BIFF armed group in the village of Bulol, Pikit, North Cotabato Friday dawn.

Barangay Bulol was among the three villages considered by local officials as “no man’s land” after the warring groups locked in long standing family feud had been fighting since last week.

The clashes in Barangay Kalbugan, Pagalungan between BIFF and MILF has escalated to other communities in Pikit. Close to 18,000 civilians have been displaced.

The BIFF, MILF clashes which already claimed fatalities on both sides occurred three weeks after the Mamasapano debacle that left 44 elite police, 18 rebels, four civilians and Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” dead.

No ‘loyalty check’ among army ranks in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): No ‘loyalty check’ among army ranks in Eastern Visayas

The Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas will not conduct a “loyalty check” among soldiers, citing the troop’s full support to the Aquino administration.

“The soldiers in Eastern Visayas are all loyal to the republic, so there’s no need for a loyalty check,” said Maj. Amado Guiterrez, spokesperson of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in this city.

The recent rumored coup attempts are all baseless, according to Guiterrez, saying the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a patriotic organization that is “totally respectful to the country’s Constitution and laws.”

He assured the soldiers in the region would do its mandate to protect the Constitution and continue its mission to serve the people in Samar and Leyte.

“We remain partisan-free and professional,” Gutierrez added.

According to the division’s spokesman, the military in the region is fully behind the Aquino government and the people.

He said that the military is thankful that the President fulfilled his promise to modernize the AFP and for recognizing their efforts to maintain peace and order especially here in the Eastern Visayas.

“We put primacy in peace and we have invested so much in peace,” said Guiterrez.

To recall, tensions has escalated in Samar due to successive encounters between soldiers of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) and members of the People’s Army (NPA).

All the time, according to Guiterrez, all soldiers were all advised to always move as an institution.

“Our Constitution puts a civilian in charge of the military and as a result a coup would not be constitutional. You’re not going to see a coup in the military,” Guiterrez stressed.

“The people do not expect another coup. They did not want to see another coup, they all need to support national reform and efforts to introduce true democracy,” he added.

Police on red alert after suspected NPA members torch mining equipment in Quirino town

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Police on red alert after suspected NPA members torch mining equipment in Quirino town

Members of the Philippine National Police here are on full alert status following an arson incident reported on Thursday in sitio Sinagaban, Patungcaleo village in Quirino, Ilocos Sur.

Police report said an old equipment of the South Ocean Mining Corporation owned by a certain Peter Hay, a Chinese National, was burned down at around 1:25 am on February 19 by still unidentified armed men who claimed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Based on the statements of security guard Jose Rapada and caretaker William Ong, an unidentified armed male person entered the premises and ordered them to turn off their cell phones as he introduced himself as member of the NPA. Later on, companions of the alleged NPA member poured gasoline onto the equipment and set it on fire that lasted for more than an hour.

Following the incident, Police chief superintendent Roman Felix, Regional director of the PNP Regional Office 1, directed his men to conduct an in-depth investigation on the matter and ensure maximum security in the said mining area to avoid the same incident happen in the future.

On April 11, 2014, a similar incident occurred in Patiacan village, of the same town where a drilling machine of the Freeport Mc-Moran Phelps Dodge Mining Company was also burned down by alleged NPA rebels.

An intensified security operation is now on-going in suspected red areas in close coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies to ensure public safety.

PA, PNP arrest armed NPA in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): PA, PNP arrest armed NPA in Masbate

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – Joint operatives of the Philippine Army and Masbate Provincial Police Office arrested a New People’s Army member who they also found bearing a short firearm and ammunition in Barangay Macabuhay, Cawayan, Masbate, on Wednesday, a report reaching the PNA said Friday.

The report named the arrested NPA man as Gilbert C. Henoguin and confiscated from him one cal. 9mm pistol and ammunition, three cell phones, seven simcards and anti-government documents.

The report added that the government troopers were serving a warrant of arrest to a wanted person who was able to escape.

While running after the subject, the law enforcers chanced upon Henoguin, who was armed at that time.

They brought the suspect to the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for the filing of appropriate charges.

The PA and PNP have intensified their enforcement of the law, especially against wanted persons with cases, in the province of Masbate.

Army camp to rise in Iloilo town

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Army camp to rise in Iloilo town

LEGANES, Iloilo -- The 3rd Infantry Division (3ID, PA) of the Philippine Army with its base in Western Visayas, Camp Macario Peralta located in Jamindan, Capiz has found a second home in this bustling municipality which is at the outskirts of the provincial capital, Iloilo City.

This ,after a sweetheart deal was recently forged between the local government of Leganes under incumbent Mayor Adolf Jaen and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Maj. General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the 3ID, PA said an Advance Command Post of the 3ID Spearhead Division is set to rise on a 10-hectare fish pond in Brgy. Nabitasan, the site having a panoramic view of the sea and will be named after the town's first mayor, Martin Jaen, Jr.

The proposed camp has the primary objective of serving as military logistics and tactical operations center of the AFP in times of emergency situations and during calamities, performing civil operations like humanitarian search and rescue missions.

The contract drawn up by the parties specifies that the 3ID, PA is entitled to 25 years of uninterrupted stay in the place, and this early, Mayor Adolf Jaen predicts a surge in economic activity in his town, especially for coastal villagers who would have first-hand opportunity to cut business deals with members of the military camp.

Aside from the perceived economic benefits, Jaen sees the presence of the 3ID in the locality as a security booster for the rest of Iloilo.

The proposed military camp will also be home to satellite offices of the 3ID Camp Macario Peralta, and will be equipped with high end communication facilties. However, Gen. Guerrero made no mention regarding formal start of construction.

3 rebels surrender to pursuing government troops in Sarangani

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): 3 rebels surrender to pursuing government troops in Sarangani

Three New People's Army (NPA) fighters, who earlier traded shots with government forces in Sarangani last Feb. 16, voluntarily surrendered to pursuit troopers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion last Feb 18 and 19.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said that these very same rebels were part of the NPA force whom Army troopers encountered in Alabel town last Feb. 17.

In the same encounter, seven rebels were killed while nine high-powered weapons were seized.

Brawner said that these NPA fighters surrendered to 73rd Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac on Feb. 18 and 19.

The rebels opted to surrender due to intense pressure brought about by pursuing government troops.

Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command head, reiterated his call to the rebels to surrender.

"We are calling on our deceived brothers who are still with the NPA to lay down your firearms and live peaceful lives. You may approach your local executives like your mayors, who can assist in facilitating your surrender and start a new life," he added.

Meanwhile, the surrenderees will be enrolled at the Sarangani Province Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (CLIP) as part of the effort to reintegrate them into mainstream society.

On the other hand, Baladad vowed to continue to intensify the efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people in EMC area of responsibility.

Military allays fear of MILF attack in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): Military allays fear of MILF attack in Northern Mindanao

The military on Friday has allayed fears of an impending attack by elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Lanao Del Norte.

Army Captain Frank Suelto, spokesperson of the army’s 1st Infantry Division in Western Mindanao, has denied the report of an impending attack although the military is on standby alert.

He said that the military and the MILF are communicating directly and are closely coordinating with each other as part of the protocol under the Framework Agreement.

Suelto said that everything is normal in the provinces of Lanao Del Norte, home to the second largest MILF command based in Mindanao, next to the MILF camp in Nort Cotabato.

For the past days, there have been persistent reports about an impending MILF attack in Iligan City and the neighboring province and city of Misamis Oriental sending apprehensions among residents in the area.

Suelto said that transportation has remained normal in the area and there is “nothing to worry about.”

However, he said, it is a standard operating procedure for the military to be on standby alert, particularly the army’s 2nd mechanized battalion in Iligan City. The army air support units are also on high alert.

Maj. Christian Uy, of the army’s 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan De Oro City, said that the military is always on standby alert.

“We have deployed our forces in coordination with the local law enforcement group in the four corners of Northern Mindanao in anticipation of any terror attacks,” Uy said.

He said that the army is always prepared to ensure the safety and security of the civilian populace.

NPA denies firefight with government troopers

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20): NPA denies firefight with government troopers

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) on Friday denied an armed engagement with government troopers while a group of foreigners was in Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon.

Alan Juanito, the spokesperson of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Committee, said that the NPA rebels were constrained to issue the statement to the local media after the military has issued a press release that its troopers had engaged the NPA in a firefight in Mt Kitanglad sometime in the morning of Feb. 13, 2015.

Army Maj. Christian Uy, of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that one was wounded when a group of foreigners was caught in the crossfire between the government troopers and the NPA guerrillas in Mt. Kitanglad.

Uy said that the military was pursuing a group of armed men believed to be NPA members when the firefight occurred in the village of Dalwangan, part of the Kitanglad mountain range, where a group of seven foreign environmentalists were on a “birdwatching” trip in the area.

Village officials have reported that Carlito Gayamara, the foreigners’ guide, was wounded in the firefight as the foreigners scampered for safety. The foreigners were later safely evacuated to the nearby city of Malaybalay.

Juanito said that the NPA has denounced the military’s propensity of putting the blame on the communist guerillas by concocting a scenario of armed skirmishes that have never taken place.

“It was ridiculous that out of their (military) folly, they would blame the attack on the NPA. It was really slapped on the military’s taunted professionalism, much less, involving the elite force of the army rangers,” Juanito said in a statement to the local media.

It also lamented that the military has not taken care of Gayamara, the lone victim who suffered gunshot wounds during the military’s invented armed encounter, Juanito said.

He said that Gayamara, who is confined in a hospital in Valencia City in Bukidnon, has been made to pay his own medical bills without getting any assistance from the military.

Uy, however, said that the military has extended medical assistance, particularly in the medical operation of Gayamara.