Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NPA launches attacks in support of Moro struggle

From the pro-CPP Online publication Bulatlat (Mar 18): NPA launches attacks in support of Moro struggle

The New People’s Army in Bukidnon launched five military actions in three days, offensives which, they say, are meant to support the Moro people.

The NPA said their recent offensives “paralyzed seven hauler trucks, killed five reactionary armed troops while wounding many others.”

“This is in response to the call of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines to extend support to the Moro people who are now being victimized by the Philippine Armed Forces’ vicious all-out war,” said NPA spokesperson Allan Juanito in a statement.

On March 8, around 5:00 a.m., Juanito said an NPA platoon stopped seven hauler trucks along the national highway in Brgy. Palacapao, Quezon, Bukidnon. “These were carrying products of multinational companies like Nestlé, and those of big comprador-owned enterprises such as Lucio Tan’s Asia Brewery and Danding Cojuangco’s Purefoods, all infamous for their anti-labor and anti-people operations,” Juanito said.

An NPA team harassed the soldiers and CAFGUs in the 84th IB detachment in Sitio Kipulot, Brgy. Palacapao, who were just about to respond to the said attack. “Enemy casualties have not been accounted but they were not able to leave their camp afterwards,” Juanito said.

Around 7:00 am on the same day, the NPA employed a command-detonated explosive (CDeX) against a vehicle carrying responding troops of the 103rd Regional Public Safety Battalion in Brgy. Palacapao. One policeman was killed while seven others were wounded.

Col Jess Alvarez, Commander of the 403rd Brigade based in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, reported that a 30-minute fire fight ensued after the pursuing troops were fired upon by the NPAs.

“They were on their way to verify the report on the presence of an armed group in the area when they were fired upon,” Alvarez said.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson Col. Romeo Brawner said the encounter resulted to the recovery of two M16 rifle, one AK 47, radio, various ammunition and the killing of an NPA member.

On March 10, around 2:00 am, an NPA guerrilla platoon engaged in a three-hour skirmish the troops of the 84th IB operating in Upper Minalong, Brgy. Kahusayan, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. Two soldiers were killed and an undetermined number were wounded, Juanito said.

“Two Red fighters heroically gave their lives and three of our rifles were seized,” he said.

At around 6:00 in the morning, a team of NPA detonated the CDeX towards enemy operating troops in Log Deck 6, Brgy. Linabo, Quezon. Two were reported killed and an undetermined number of soldiers were wounded.

“All five offensive actions were jointly launched by Front 6 of the NPA-North Central Mindanao Region and Front 53 of Southern Mindanao Region,” Juanito said.

Meanwhile, on the evening of March 14, military troops from the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion also figured in a firefight with the NPAs in Los Arcos, Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur.

In a statement last Sunday, Lt General Aurelio Baladad, commander of Eastmincom, said the military convoy is composed of two KM250 and three KM450 trucks who were on their way to respond to a reported presence of NPAs “when they were landmined and ambushed by undetermined number of NPAs.”

The incident resulted to the killing of three soldiers and the wounding of five others whose identities are being withheld pending the notification of their families.

The armed forces were able to recover an undetonated landmine after a 30-minute exchange of fire with the NPAs.

In a separate incident, policemen of Cortes Municipal Police Station, Surigao del Sur on board a patrol car escaped an ambush staged by the NPA along Brgy. Tigao.

The ambush resulted to the wounding of one policeman identified as PO1 Boado.

Juanito said the NPA offensives are part of the “conscious effort to extend support and sympathy to the Moro people who are being victimized by the AFP’s all-out war against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), now running more than three weeks.”

As of Thursday (March 12), reports from local government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said a total of 93,402 persons or 19, 075 families have evacuated from 12 towns in Maguindanao as the offensive of the armed forces against the Moro fighters continue.

“We encourage the oppressed and exploited Moro people to persevere in their struggle for the right to self-determination and against the fascist government under the reins of US imperialism and local ruling classes. We must both launch armed resistance for the realization of our goals, national liberation and democracy,” Juanito said.

Juanito said they are reminding the contractors of hauler trucks to refrain from forging contracts with foreign companies who are “targets of the revolution.”

“We call upon Filipino entrepreneurs to treat their workers fairly by giving them fair wages, good working conditions, benefits and a guarantee to their right to union. We hope they will not lay the blame on the ordinary truck workers and lay them off as punishment for the incident,” he said.


Military sued for rights violations before UN

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 17): Military sued for rights violations before UN

A GROUP championing indigenous peoples (IPs) rights has brought a case of human rights violations before the United Nations (UN) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), accusing the military of harassment, providing arms to IPs, and forming paramilitary groups.

Pasaka or the Confederation of Indigenous People in Southern Mindanao Secretary General Kerlan Fanagel, in an e-mailed statement to Sun.Star Davao, said the case was submitted to the Asia Indigenous People's Pact (AIPP), a UN panel, during a gathering at Siem Reap in Cambodia recently.

Fanagel cited the alleged abuses committed by the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Caraga and Davao Regions. He said that most of the cases involved the setting up of military encampments near schools and barangay establishments as well as the red-tagging or accusing IPs as members of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

The IP leader said the EastMinCom provided arms to some IPs and recruited them as members of paramilitary units.

He said the military is using the Maggahat, based in Agusan del Sur, and the Alamara, which is based in Davao del Norte, in operations against the NPA as well as their fellow tribesmen.

The Alamara is said to have threatened teachers and students of a community-based school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The Maggahat unit, meanwhile, had similar cases as they also declared was on their fellow tribesmen who have been supporting communist rebels.

"We will not confine ourselves to resolving these cases with our national government knowing the rotten justice system we have in our country, it is obvious we can’t get justice in the Philippines," Fanagel said.


Another NPA man captured

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 18): Another NPA man captured

 A COMMUNIST rebel who was left behind by his comrades after he was wounded in an encounter was captured by government troops in Compostela Valley Monday.

The rebel, who has not been identified by the military, was being treated at a hospital.

The Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, Lt. Vergel Lacambra, said a patrol from the 25th Infantry Battalion fought with a group of 30 New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Brgy. New Manay, Maragusan town.

The rebels retreated after 40 minutes, abandoning one of their members who was shot in the stomach, Lacambra said.

"The soldiers gave him first aid and brought him to hospital. No one was hurt from the government side," he said.

The rebels left behind a rifle, four improvised landmines and personal belongings.


Phil. Army's 7ID celebrates Women's Month

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Phil. Army's 7ID celebrates Women's Month

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija --The Philippine Army 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division (7ID) under the leadership of Major General Glorioso V. Miranda honored Monday the women sector in line with the National Women's Month celebration.

Miranda said this year's celebration aims to pay tribute to all women leaders who passionately led and continue to advance women’s advocacies.

He said the women's key roles and accomplishments in leadership, power and decision-making was highlighted in order to influence and break the conservative mindset and belief that politics and leadership are not for women.

Capt. Mark Ruelos, 7ID information officer, said the program was anchored on the objectives of this year’s celebration which are as follows: to recognize and highlight women’s key roles and accomplishments in leadership, power and decision-making; to increase awareness on engaging women to participate at all levels of policy and decision-making; and to share strategies and best practices women have employed to become successful leaders.

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, in his written message to the military here, asked the soldiers to “sustain the momentum.”

Gazmin said the Department of National Defense has been working with great importance to gender and development programs.

"Opportunities are given to women to become part of every level of policy and decision making process, and they fully recognize the benefits in empowering women," Gazmin said in his message.

Col. Dionisio Baudin Jr., Chief of Staff of the 7ID, said that “This year’s, celebration of Women’s Month will pay tribute to the strong and resilient Juanas who brought inspiring changes here in the country and across the globe."

"After the recent geological, socio-economic and political upheavals that shook the country last year, this year, is the best time to highlight the drivers of change. This celebration recognizes the role of women in the rehabilitation process and their over-all contributions to progress.” Baudin added.


Basilan jail mulls transfer of 18 Abu Sayyaf inmates to Manila

From the Philippine Star (Mar 17): Basilan jail mulls transfer of 18 Abu Sayyaf inmates to Manila             

The Basilan Provincial Jail (BPJ) confirmed the plan to transfer 18 Abu Sayyaf members, who are among its inmates, to Manila.

Provincial Jail Warden Abdulhussin Atalad said they are just waiting for the court order to transfer the inmates to Manila.

The BPJ is supervised by the Basilan provincial government but is under the control of the Bureau of Corrections.

The transfer of the Abu Sayyaf detainees comes after the escape of eight prisoners, including an Abu Sayyaf member, late January from the island prison facility.

Atalad said the transfer plan of the Abu Sayyaf detainees has been requested previously but there was no court order yet submitted to him for the transfer.

“It is the court that knew about the plan. There has been no order that reached my office,” Atalad said. 
The city jail has also called for the transfer of suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, including three known leaders identified as Bensar Indama, Patek Samson and Dan Hajirul.

The request was made following foiled attempts of the Abu Sayyaf group to rescue its detained comrades by staging bombings to distract government security forces.


AFP condemns NPA move to derail peace, development program in CamNorte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): AFP condemns NPA move to derail peace, development program in CamNorte

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has branded the recent attack on a road construction project in Camarines Norte as a desperate move of the communist rebels to derail the peace and development program of government.

“We are saddened by this violent incident that we condemn as a distressed move by the communist terrorists against a public project being implemented under the peace and development program of the national and local government,” Major Gen. Yerson Depayso, commanding general of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, said in a statement reaching here Tuesday.

He was referring to the burning of a cement mixer and messing up of the road concreting project site in Barangay Tamisan, Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, reportedly done by a band of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Saturday afternoon.

The project being implemented by the Camarines Norte provincial government is under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a peace and development program of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Placed under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), PAMANA is a priority government program being undertaken towards the attainment of economic progress in conflict affected areas in line with the administration’s peace agenda directed toward ending internal armed conflicts.

Projects under this program are conceived to communicate effectively among communities the initiatives of government in building the culture of peace and development in the countryside to make them resilient against the anti-government whims of the insurgency being carried out by the NPA.

To build resilient communities in these areas, PAMANA focuses on empowering households and communities through the delivery of basic services through community-driven reconstruction, development and livelihood interventions.

It underscores that building resilient communities is one of the two tracks of the Aquino administration in its pursuit of a just and lasting peace, the first being the negotiated political settlement of all armed conflicts through formal peace talks.

This approach is designed to close the gap between what happens on the negotiating table and the realities on the ground as they also serves as a guide for national and local government agencies, international donors and non-government organizations in providing various interventions to address conditions that create unpeace.

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

Last year, an additional allocations worth Php81 million were released to the province under the same program covering five municipalities of the province -- Basud, Capalonga, Labo, Mercedes and Sta. Elena which as of early this year were 30- to 90-percent completed.

This year, an amount of Php139.5 million is also assigned for more projects in the province, also under PAMANA.

An assessment recently conducted by the an inter-agency team led by the OPAPP revealed that all completed PAMANA projects in Camarines Norte were observed to be responding well to peace-building, reconstruction and development in the province.

The attack on the Jose Panganiban project came following the recent proclamation by the AFP of the province as “peaceful and ready for further development” area based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its potential support system in the barangays and its failed recovery efforts.

With this declaration, the military emphasized the need for more socio-economic and development projects that the civil government should implement with the support and protection of the military so that the peaceful communities grow with people having a space where they feel safe.

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was forged between the AFP and the Camarines Norte provincial government to formalize such declaration that describes the province as a “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development” area.

The signing of the MOA signaled the "shifting of effort" from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role.

It emphasizes the “shifting of effort” from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation to implementation of more socio-economic and development projects as a reverse role that the civil government will implement with the support and protection of the military.

Depayso said that although the Saturday attack is considered an “isolated case” as its purpose was only to harass the provincial government into the NPA’s extortion demand for “revolutionary tax”, still the act is worth condemning as it is a senseless move that sows fear among the civilian populace in the area.


AFP: All-out offensive vs. BIFF nearing end; 117 rebels killed

From GMA News (Mar 17): AFP: All-out offensive vs. BIFF nearing end; 117 rebels killed

After the arrest of former Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter vice president and Justice for Islamic Movement founder Mohamad Ali Tambako, the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday said the all-out offensive in Maguindanao is nearing its end.
At a press briefing, AFP public affairs chief Lt. col. Harold Cabunoc said that compared to the past few weeks, the rebel side has lessened their aggresiveness against the military.
"Sa observation ng ating ground commanders, hindi kagaya dati na nakikipagsabayan sila sa automatic fires, at hindi kagaya dati na umuulan ng bala, 'yung rifle grenade, maging ang kanilang mortars, wala na," he said.
"Paisa-isang putok na lang, and small groups na lang sila umaatake, nagtitipid ng bala," he added. "Indikasyon ito na pahina nang pahina na sila."
He, however, did not specify as to when the all-out offensive will end. But he noted that after the clearing operations, they will conduct "holding operations."
"Iyan 'yung pag-return ng mga residente sa kani-kanilang tirahan," he explained. "Ang local government ang magde-decide kung safe na silang bumalik."
Meanwhile, Cabunoc said that as of Tueday, 117 rebels have been killed in the ongoing operations, with 47 of them identified. He added that 53 BIFF members are also wounded.
Among those killed was a BIFF member, identified as a certain Karie Uga Dia, 18 years old.

Cabunoc said the rebel died in an encounter with the Philippine Marines in Barangay Pusao, Sharif Saidona Mustapha, Maguindanao at 6:15 p.m. on Monday.
The rebel was later claimed by his parents Kagi Dia and Kalimadak Uda Dia, he added.
The military has launched offensive operations against Basit Usman and the members of the BIFF involved in the Jan. 25 encounter with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town. The encounter cost the lives of 44 SAF troopers.
The target of the operation was to arrest suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman. Marwan was believed to have been killed during the operation but Usman managed to escape.
The military offensives are being conducted in four towns in Maguindanao: Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, or the “SPMS box,” where BIFF members are believed to have retreated with Usman. 

MILF respects Senate Mamasapano report, but insists on independent probe

From GMA News (Mar 18): MILF respects Senate Mamasapano report, but insists on independent probe

The chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Wednesday said that while they respect the Senate report on the bloody Mamasapano clash, they would rather have an independent group to look into the incident which left over 60 people dead.

At the same time, Mohagher Iqbal insisted that the MILF fighters involved in the clash acted on their own and without the approval of the MILF leadership.

“We respect the results of the Senate investigation but we maintain our position that there should be an independent group which will conduct an impartial and objective probe,” Iqbal said.

A total of 44 elite police commandos, 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were killed during the clash.

At the time, the police commandos were out to serve an arrest warrant against two high value targets. Suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) was killed although Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman was able to escape.

Among the findings mentioned in the Senate report is that the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups murdered and robbed the PNP Special Action Force personnel.

The Senate recommended that charges of murder, frustrated murder and robbery be filed against those responsible for the massacre.
But in maintaining that the MILF combatants acted on their own, Iqbal said it was human nature for anyone to react violently if violence is brought to his backyard. The MILF has refused to identify its fighters who engaged the police commandos.
Iqbal and other MILF officials attended the Senate inquiry in aid of legislation during which he stressed the MILF fighters did not fire the first shot in observance of the existing ceasefire agreement with the government.
The MILF earlier said it will submit its report on the Mamasapano incident to Malaysia, which acts as the facilitator in the ongoing peace negotiations.

NPA fighter killed, 6 weapons seized in Agusan del Norte clash - Army

From InterAksyon (Mar 17): NPA fighter killed, 6 weapons seized in Agusan del Norte clash - Army

 The weapons seized from the NPA following a clash in Agusan del Norte (photo from 4ID public affairs office)

An alleged New People’s Army fighter was killed and six high-powered firearms recovered by government forces following a clash in Barangay Hinimbangan, Kitcahrao, Agusan del Norte on Monday.

“Our troops recovered one dead rebel after 20 minutes of firefight,” Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, deputy chief of the 4th Infantry Division’s public affairs office said.

They also recovered an M203 grenade launcher, three M16 and two AK 47 rifles, undetonated improvised explosive devices, and backpacks.

He said the joint operation of the 29th Infantry Battalion and 13th Regional Police Service Battalion chanced on more than 30 rebels of Guerilla Front 16 of the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee at around 8:20 a.m. Monday.

29th IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Adonis Ariel Orio said the rebels were preparing to commemorate the NPA’s 46th anniversary on March 29.


NPA member killed, another captured

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 16): NPA member killed, another captured

A NEW People's Army (NPA) rebel was killed while another was wounded and captured on separate clashes in the hinterlands of Agusan, a top military official said Monday.

Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, said troops from the Army's 29th Infantry Battalion and Regional Public Safety Battalion-13 were checking on the reported presence of NPA rebels when a clash ensued around 8:20 a.m. Monday in Barangay Himbangan, Kicharao, Agusan del Norte.

The rebels were reportedly on extortion mission when the clash happened and lasted for about 30 minutes, resulting in the death of one NPA member.

Baladad said the troops have recovered three M-16 Armalite rifles, two AK 47 rifles and an M-203 grenade launcher at the clash site.

The other clash broke out around 8 a.m. Monday at Sitio Kagumay in the village of Sta. Cruz, Rosario, Agusan del Sur, when civilians informed the Army's 75th Infantry Battalion personnel about the rebels' presence in the area while on security patrol. Captured during the incident was the other rebel.

The slain and captured rebels have yet to be identified.

Baladad said his command appreciates the cooperation of the community, "as we continue to work for peace to reign in their midst."


Alert up in General Santos, nearby areas after Tambako’s arrest

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Alert up in General Santos, nearby areas after Tambako’s arrest

Authorities raised the security alert in this city and the neighboring areas following the capture on Sunday night of a former ranking leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and four of his men.

The Police Regional Office 12 and the Army’s 1002nd Brigade placed all their units in the area under heightened alert in the wake of possible retaliatory terror attacks from supporters and followers of former BIFF vice chair Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako, who was arrested in Barangay Calumpang here along with four of his men.

Supt. Rolly Octavio, deputy city police director for administration, said Tuesday they increased their presence in various strategic areas in the city in a bid to thwart any movement of Tambako’s group.

He said they also intensified their intelligence monitoring and related security operations for the presence of Tambako’s other followers in the area.

“We’ve set up additional checkpoints to properly monitor people who are entering and leaving the city,” Octavio said.

On Monday, police operatives recovered several bomb-making materials in a raid on a house in Dona Soledad Subdivision in Barangay Labangal that was previously rented by Tambako, who was tagged as the founder of supposed BIFF splinter group Justice for Islam Movement.

The raiding team led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Region 12 specifically found detonating cords, improvised circuit boxes, blasting caps, blasting powder, switches and batteries.

The team raided another house in the same village that was supposedly rented earlier Tambako but it yielded negative.

“We mainly foiled their plan to stage terrorist attacks in the city with their arrest,” a police official said.

Meantime, Lt. Col. Ronald Jess Alcudia, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said they are closely monitoring parts of South Cotabato and Sarangani Provinces for possible movements of Tambako’s group.

He said they specifically stepped up their security operations in the municipalities of Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim in Sarangani.

The hinterlands of Maasim in Sarangani Province is a known entry and escape route of armed groups, among them the BIFF, operating in the province and nearby areas in the past several years.

The BIFF had staged several attacks in the Maasim town in the last three years and used upland villages as escape route.

“We’re currently on high alert as it (Tambako’s arrest) could lead to retaliatory attacks in our area of responsibility,” he said in a radio interview.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the provincial government is also monitoring closely the area’s security situation in the wake of Tambako’s capture.

The governor said she temporarily cancelled her trips outside the province due to the volatile situation.

Western Visayas seen to be declared ‘peaceful-ready’ before year ends

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Western Visayas seen to be declared ‘peaceful-ready’ before year ends

Western Visayas is seen to be declared “peaceful and ready for further development” before the end of the year, according to the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The 3rd ID, headed by its commander Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, had last week joined the Police Regional Office-6 and the Province of Iloilo in declaring Iloilo as “peaceful and ready for further development.”

The signing of the declaration was witnessed by Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces; and by Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, commander of the AFP Central Command.

The provinces of Guimaras, Aklan, Antique and Capiz had earlier been declared as such by their respective provincial governments, with the Army and the Philippine National Police.

Guerrero said Negros Occidental is the remaining province in Western Visayas to be declared “peaceful and ready for further development.”

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade aims to declare the entire province of Negros Occidental as “peaceful and ready for further development” by June.

The fourth district Negros Occidental, composed of the cities of Bago and La Carlota, and the municipalities of Pulupandan, Valladolid, San Enrique, and Pontevedra had also been declared as such.

Others also declared are Cadiz City, Sagay City, Isabela, Calatrava, Toboso, and Hinigaran towns.

In Iloilo, Guerrero said the joint declaration is a manifestation that the collaborative efforts of the AFP, PNP and Iloilo provincial government have successfully prevented and denied the insurgents of their expansion and immensely contributed to keeping the peace and order in the province.

“Our gains in peace and security efforts must be sustained. We will work even harder together with all stakeholders for the sake of peace and progress,” he added.

Last year, the 3rd ID also declared Negros Oriental as “manageable conflict-affected and development-ready” after military units in the area successfully neutralized insurgent forces in the area.

The issuance of the declaration is a manifestation that the level of insurgency in the province has dwindled in the past years due to the continuous decrease of their manpower, firearms, affected barangays and activities.

The 3rd ID said the rebel threat has been reduced to a minimal level that it can no longer pose a serious threat to peace and order in the province.


Video shows Marwan and Usman in alleged terror hideout

From GMA News (Mar 16): Video shows Marwan and Usman in alleged terror hideout

International terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, the main target of the Mamasapano operation of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force on Jan. 25, was planning a series of bomb atttacks in North Cotabato, GMA News' "24 Oras" reported on Monday.

The same report showed a video of Marwan in his hut with suspected Abu Sayyaf Group bandit Basit Usman.

The video, taken by a civilian informant, showed the suspected Malaysian bomb maker in a casually clad in a sleeveless shirt and grey pants.
The footage also showed Usman and cables placed on a table. It wasn't clear what the wires were for. A solar panel in the video indicated that Marwan had electricity even if his hut was off the grid.
Marwan reportedly planned to bomb M'Lang and Midsayap in North Cotabato together with Singaporean Jemaah Islamiyah member Muawiyah and another foreign jihadist. 
According to sources in the military, Marwan at 4 a.m. of Jan. 14 met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Special Operations Group, said to be a rogue faction of the MILF, and Pentagon Kidnap for Ransom Group in General Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao.
Marwan and his companions reportedly brought three improvised explosive devices during them meeting.

[Video report: Marwan at Usman, Nakunan ng Video
Ilang Araw Bago Silo Tugisin ng PNP-SAF]
In a confidential report that GMA News was able to read, it was clear that Marwan had close ties with the MILF-SOG. 
In 2014, Marwan and other Arab and Afghan instructors led five-session training on bomb-making in Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, and Maguindanao. 
Their students were chosen members of the MILF-SOG and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. 
The test missions of the students involved detonating IEDs in South Cotabato and General Santos City. But these terror plots were thwarted when Marwan was killed during SAF's Oplan Exodus. 
Weeks before he was killed, a video taken by SAF's civilian asset also showed Marwan together with another terrorist subject to SAF's January 25 operation, Basit Usman, who remains at large.

BIFF is now weak, disabled with the fall of Tambako - Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): BIFF is now weak, disabled with the fall of Tambako - Army

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The military here said the arrest of Mohammad Ali Tambako has weakened a faction of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an Army spokesperson said.

Captain Joann Petinglay, speaking for the Task Force Central (TFC), a military-led task force tasked to neutralize the BIFF which the Army said has been providing haven for suspected international terrorists in Maguindanao.

“The group has been weakened, even disabled with the arrest of Tambako because he was the one sourcing funds for the group’s terror activities,” Petinglay said of Tambako’s group – the United Justice for Islamic Movement (UJIM).

Citing intelligence information, Petinglay said Tambako and his men left Maguindanao probably on the second week of the three-week old massive law enforcement operations in what the Army termed as “SPMS box.’

It refers to the four adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona, all in the second district of Maguidnanao.

With Tambako in the hands of the government, TFC will continue to hunt down Amin Baco, another trusted man of Tambako and Filipino bomb expert Basit Usman and the remnants of BIFF still in Maguindanao.

Tambako and his about 100 armed followers were believed to be among the armed men who clashed with Police Special Action Force on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The police commando succeeded in neutralizing suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” but lost 44 policemen.

Tambako, alias “Ali,” and four of his men were arrested in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City on Sunday night following a week-long surveillance and information provided by police informants and some Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) religious leaders.

Joint police and military agents also seized three hand grenades and two hand guns from them, according to Colonel Renato Padua.

Colonel Padua, commander of Joint Task Force GenSan (JTFG), told DXMS Radyo Bida, Tambako’s group was surprised that they failed to put a fight or resistance.

About 60 police and military personnel surrounded the three tricycles at past 9 a.m. along a road leading to the General Santos City seaport.

An Army intelligence officer said a police asset who knew Tambako’s movement was in the arresting team when the UJIM leader was arrested.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the lead team in capturing Tambako, was armed with a warrant of arrest issued by RTC-15 Judge George Jabido. Tambako was tagged in the beheading of farmer Ricardo Dionio in Midsayap, North Cotabato in 2013 when his group attacked three adjoining villages and held hostage, later released, 13 teachers.

Petinglay said despite the arrest of Tambako the TFC will continue its law enforcement operations against high-value terrorists in Maguindanao until all of them are neutralized.

Earlier, AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, said once the operations are completed, the TFC will proceed to the next phase of the operation which is focused on peace and development of the affected communities.

To date, at least 20,000 families or about 120 families have been in 72 evacuation sites in Maguindanao’s 13 municipalities.

The government is attending to the needs of IDPs, according to Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has administrative supervision over Maguindanao.


Off Subject/But of General Intelligence Interest: How empirical studies of political violence (can) help policymakers

From the Washington Post (Mar 16): How empirical studies of political violence (can) help policymakers

U.S. and British soldiers talk at the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Jan. 5. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Where Terrorism Research Goes Wrong,” social psychologist Anthony Biglan argues that, given the importance of antiterrorism programs and the huge resources devoted to them, far too few are subjected to randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating their efficacy. To his knowledge only two such studies have been undertaken: one evaluating the effects of aid in Afghanistan, the other evaluating the effects of an anti-violence campaign preceding a Nigerian election. While we heartily agree with his appeal for more RCTs, his evaluation of the state of the field is inaccurate, and it’s worth discussing why.

As members of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC), a research collective dedicated to the study of violence and what can be done to reduce it, we agree with Biglan’s central thesis. If a larger portion of antiterrorism budgets were devoted to evaluation, we would have better information to guide policymakers and a better chance at decreasing violence. Also, since rigorous evaluations can identify cheaper interventions that outperform more expensive ones, funding more of them might save money in the long run – and hopefully save lives, as well.

But as an overview of the field, Biglan’s count of RCTs is simply off the mark. First and foremost, breaking off “terrorism research” as a field distinct from broader research into political violence is like studying diabetes without thinking about peoples’ eating habits. Most terrorism happens within the context of broader conflicts and is often fed by them. The complex web of interconnections between the Afghan civil wars, terrorism in Pakistan, and the threat of transnational terrorism being organized in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is but one example of these links.

And once we widen our scope beyond the strict boundaries of terrorism studies, then, as readers of the Monkey Cage well know, there is more RCT-based work. Chris Blattman has used randomized trials in such countries as Liberia to study policies intended to keep former combatants from returning to crime and violence. Michael Callen and James Long successfully used one to demonstrate how to reduce corruption in Afghan elections, and in a recent follow-up (with Eli Berman and Clark Gibson) showed how that intervention improved attitudes toward the government. Christine Fair, Neil Malhotra and Jake Shapiro have worked with coauthors to conduct surveys and experiments in Pakistan, which address the complexity of local attitudes towards militancy, as have Jason Lyall and colleagues in Afghanistan.

These results should be celebrated rather than overlooked, given the logistic and bureaucratic difficulties in implementing RCTs and primary data collection conflict-affected environments. Implementers and funders often resist evaluation and the provision of data to academic researchers – typically citing security concerns when they do so. Government agencies also regularly argue that research could endanger human subjects and staff, or that uncertainty about the security environment could shut down studies before they are completed and thus resist starting them.

To be sure, sometimes implementer resistance is well founded. Ethical guidelines of RCTs can be hard to meet when assessing programs intended to combat terrorism. Still, these challenges can and should be overcome by incorporating good research design into costly programming. At one point Biglan asks, “Do we know whether drones are increasing or decreasing the rate of terrorists’ attacks?” To use a randomized trial to find out would be impossible for scientific and ethical reasons. Scientifically, the drone program is designed to impact a small number of outcomes: attacks by al-Qaeda and the small number of other targeted groups. In medical terms the number of doses is large, but it all goes to a few patients, thus we have an insufficient sample to establish the treatment contrast.

Ethically, the proposal to use RCTs here is even more dubious. In medical trials, it is considered unethical to withhold a drug from the control group not receiving it once one believes the treatment would work. The U.S. government is not capacity constrained for drone strikes, at least not once the target is under sufficient surveillance to decide a strike is worthwhile, and officials do not order strikes unless they strongly believe the target is valuable. Withholding them for research purposes necessarily fails a basic ethical test. But as Patrick Johnston and Anoop Sarbahi show, there are quasi-experimental routes to better understanding how drone strikes work.

More broadly, while we can celebrate of the quality of evidence randomized trials have been producing in the field of economic development, they are by no means giving a comprehensive picture of how development works. Several years ago we conducted a survey of all the randomized trials of social programs conducted outside the US and either published in top journals or still underway. The 640 we came up with can be considered a representative undercount. Strikingly, 30 percent took place in only three countries (India, Kenya and Mexico) suggesting how scholarship gravitates toward poor but research-friendly nations. Only 20 percent of studies took place in autocracies, although 35 percent of the world’s population lives in such countries.

This is not surprising; people in power in autocracies and conflict-ridden countries make it difficult to conduct studies and produce reliable results. To begin with, they tend to be resistant to share data. Their budgets for evaluation and after-the-fact learning are tiny. And these are precisely the leaders and countries we would need to work with to conduct randomized controlled trials of antiterrorism programs.

There are serious questions about how much randomized trials of social programs tell us about how a program that tests successful will work on a bigger group (say, if it is rolled out nationwide) or a different group (say, if it is exported to a different country). Trials conducted in collaboration with researchers, as they usually are, often work much differently when taken over by government ministries. In counterterrorism extrapolation is even more suspect, since organizations are both heterogeneous and strategic: when air travel was secured after a wave of hostage taking in the 1970s, they switched to other kinds of attacks; as profiling of terrorists improves at our borders they switch to recruiting within our borders.

Luckily, strict randomization is not the only way to establish causal links. “Natural experiments” are created when an outside force creates assignment into treatment and control groups that is independent of programs’ expected impacts. For example, Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian published a study last year where they used random fluctuations in US wheat production to show that, broadly speaking, food aid can stoke violence in conflict-ridden countries. David Yanagizawa-Drott used the distribution of preexisting geographical features that blocked radio transmissions to quantify how hate-mongering broadcasts fueled the Rwandan Genocide.

In the Philippines, our group exploited the government’s arbitrary poverty threshold that determined communities’ eligibility for a community-based aid program. Aside from being just-eligible or just-ineligible, the villages we examined showed no major differences. This, along with detailed conflict data from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, allowed us to show how the influx of targeted development projects into communities affected violence in several dimensions – against whom and at whose hands.

If you widen the horizon beyond randomized or quasi-randomized trials, you’ll find even more interesting research that exposes causal relationships behind insurgent violence and the programs which could combat it. Reed Wood in Africa, Oeindrila Dube and Juan Vargas in Columbia and Oliver Vanden Eynde in India have shown how economic fluctuations affect conflict. Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi and Esteban Klor have shown how punitive home demolition affects suicide bombings in Palestine and which kinds of terrorist get sent against which targets. Melissa Dell has shown how changes in government policy affect gang violence in Mexico. Jeff Clemens has illuminated the role of opium eradication policies in stoking the Afghan insurgency, and Jason Lyall has demonstrated how indiscriminate violence by government forces can sometimes quell violence in some places even as it stokes civilian sympathy with insurgents in others.

Perhaps most of these studies go beyond Biglan’s strict requirement of randomized evaluations as the evidentiary standard, but they all meet high standards for program evaluation. Until governments and aid organizations make the right move and attach evaluation budgets to more programs and provide the quality of data necessary for this research, an ad hoc scholarly effort may have to do. And while it is a second-best to what could be done with systematic support from implementing agencies, this body of work should be recognized.

As in other fields of research, RCTs alone cannot address our crucial questions. If we want to know “what works” in terms of violence reduction in fragile and conflict affected states we need to thoughtfully triage between experimental and observational work.

[Eli Berman is a professor in the department of economics at the University of California at San Diego. Joseph Felter is a senior research scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Ethan B. Kapstein is the Arizona Centennial professor at Arizona State University and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and the UK Department of International Development. Jake Shapiro is associate professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. The authors direct the Empirical Studies of Conflict program, a research initiative based at Princeton, UCSD and Stanford funded by grants from a range of organizations including the U.S. Department of Defense through the Minerva Research Initiative.]


Armed Forces of the Philippines: We treat all Moro Islamic Liberation Front splinter groups as terrorists

From Ang Malaya (Mar 16): Armed Forces of the Philippines: We treat all Moro Islamic Liberation Front splinter groups as terrorists

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is treating all breakaway groups of Moro Islamic Liberation Front as terrorist groups, AFP Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang said in a press conference at Villamor Airbase following the arrest of former Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters leader and United Islamic Movement for Justice (JIM) founding leader Mohamad Ali Tambako.

“It’s great accomplishment because we were able to ‘nip in the bud’ this alleged new group, a breakaway group from the BIFF. Lahat ng mga breakaway group from the MILF, we consider them as terrorists. This only shows that the government is firm in putting a stop in terrorism,” General Catapang said.

The top military official added that Tambako has an established international network. “He has established network of contacts of Islamic terrorists around the world. He is reported to be coddling five foreign nationals who are trained in bomb-making.”

General Catapang said that Tambako can shed light on the current condition or whereabouts of Basit Usman. This is if Tambako will cooperation in the ‘question and answer portion’.

Moro rebels from the group of Tambako, Kagi Karialan’s BIFF group and MILF’s 105th Base Command under Zacaria Goma were among the armed fighters who fought with PNP-Special Action Force leading to the death of 44 troopers.


Young-looking rebels execute anti-crime busting group member

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Young-looking rebels execute anti-crime busting group member

Five young-looking New People's Army (NPA) rebels executed a member of a crime-busting group in Barangay Valparaiso, San Fernando, Masbate, at about 6 a.m. Monday.

A police report identified the victim as Daryl Crisostomo, 33, a member of the group called the Magic 5 Fraternity and a resident of the area.

The report said Crisostomo, his wife and his son were still asleep when five youthful-looking armed men barged into their house and searched for a gun.

Unable to find one, the rebels tied Crisostomo's hands, brought him to a distance of 50 meters from their house and shot him on the head and different parts of his body despite the pleading of his wife and son.

The suspects then casually walked away.

Responding government troopers were not able to catch up with the fleeing rebels.

Neighbors said the rebels suspected the victim of being a military and police informer on their activities because earlier, a team of military soldiers patrolling the area passed by Crisostomo's house.


Navy to acquire 3,780 rounds of CTG 25mm HEI

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18): Navy to acquire 3,780 rounds of CTG 25mm HEI

The Philippine International Trading Corporation announced that it is acquiring 3,780 rounds of CTG 25mm HEI (high explosive, incendiary) for all Filipino naval vessels mounting the 25mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannon.

Budget for this project is placed at Php36,346,136.40.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 240 calendar days upon receipt of notice to proceed.

The "Bushmaster" cannon is the secondary armament of the three JCPV (Jacinto Class Patrol Vessels) and two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates currently in Philippine Navy service.

Prospective bidders should have completed at least one single contract of similar nature amounting to at least twenty five percent of the contract within the last five years of submission of years from the date of submission and receipt of bids.

Bid opening and submission will be held this coming March 27, 10 a.m. at fifth floor conference room, NDC Building, 116 Tordesillas Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.


Another BIFF member killed in military offensive in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Another BIFF member killed in military offensive in Maguindanao

Government forces on Tuesday retrieved the remains of a suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Colonel Emmanuel Salamat, commander of 1st Marine Brigade, said the remains of an unidentified BIFF member was brought to the Marine base for his relatives to claim.

"We retrieve the remains on Monday afternoon, we have turned him over to a Muslim religious leader," Salamat told reporters as the military operations continue.

He said the slain BIFF was among the 30 armed men sighted in Barangay Pusao, a marshland in Shariff Saydona town, following intensified air and ground assaults.

The military-led law enforcement operations entered its 19th day Tuesday.
The operations already claimed the lives of about 120 BIFF men and wounded 39 others while the Army suffered six deaths, including an Army captain and has 31 wounded, according to Army Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of Task Force Central.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's (ARMM) humanitarian arm, the Humanitarian Emergency Action and Responste Team (HEART) has recorded 24,714 internally displaced families or 123,507 individuals in 11 towns of Maguindanao.

Salamat said the Marines also seized in Barangay Pusao an M-79, three M-203 ammunition, wires for Improvised explosive devices, BIFF cellphones, documents and other bomb-making materials.


PAF to overhaul engine assembly of F-27 aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): PAF to overhaul engine assembly of F-27 aircraft

The Philippine Air Force (PAF)) is allocating the sum of Php21,910, 350 for the overhaul and repair of the engine assembly of one of its Fokker F-27 "Friendship" transport aircraft.

Submission and opening of bids is scheduled for March 24, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF is known to operate three units of the F-27 for transport missions.


2 more BIFF members killed in series of Maguindanao encounters

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): 2 more BIFF members killed in series of Maguindanao encounters

Marine units engaged in clearing operations killed two more Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members during a series of encounters in Barangay Pusao, Sharifff Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said Tuesday.

With this development, the number of BIFF dead recorded since the start of the Feb. 25 offensive has now reached 127, with another 63 wounded.

Cabunoc said the body of one of the slain BIFF members was turned over to the Maguindanao police at 6:15 p.m. Monday. He was later identified as Karie Uga Dia, 18 years old.

"Not long after, he was claimed by his parents Kagi Dia and Kalimadak Uda Dia," the AFP public affairs office chief added.

Meanwhile, at 10:30 a.m. Monday, combined elements of the Intelligence Security Group of the Philippine Army, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Explosives, Ordnance and Demolition Team of the Philippine Army conducted search operations in the house which was occupied by Filipino extremist leader Mohammad Ali Tambako in Doña Soledad Subdivision, Barangay Labangan, General Santos City.

The government forces found bomb-making materials, including detonating cords, assorted wires, blasting caps, Christmas light bulbs, SIM cards and improvised circuit boxes.

It was believed that Tambako and his men were planning to carry out bombings in the said area.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has commended the AFP and PNP troops for the successful operations against the BIFF.


Nograles: Iqbal and Murad had no travel records outside PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Nograles: Iqbal and Murad had no travel records outside PHL

Davao City Congressman Karlo Alexei Nograles on Tuesday said that based on records of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), both Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim and Mohaguer Iqbal have no travel records outside the Philippines.

"It is hard to believe they did not travel because as I recall both Murad and Iqbal went to Malaysia and Japan to meet with our government counterparts in the peace panel. But as far as the Bureau of Immigration is concerned those two have no travel records outside the Philippines. So they must be traveling under different names", Nograles said.

The House senior leader said that the national government is placed at a disadvantage under the peace agreement, as those who signed on behalf of the MILF were people signing under illegitimate names without any accountability.

"Is it legally binding on the MILF if their representative signs with a fake name? What other concealment, deceptions and hidden secrets are behind the peace agreement? No wonder our officials in the Bureau of Immigration could not find any travel records belonging to Mohagher Iqbal because that is not his real name. So please tell us for the sake of transparency what is the real name of Mohagher Iqbal?" Nograles said.

Nograles said that if Murad and Iqbal used false identities in signing an official government document, this was a gross and serious misrepresentation that rendered the peace agreement highly questionable and fraudulent.

He said that apart from entering into a peace agreement with foreign nationals, what's even more disturbing is the revelation by no less than government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer that the government has been dealing all along with people who are carrying fictitious names.

If this is true, the chairman of House committee on Labor said the peace agreement that was signed by government peace negotiators and their counterparts from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not legally binding because the name of MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal is fictitious and non-existent.

"It is very discomforting to be told by no less than the government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer that government has always known that Mohagher Iqbal is not a real name," Nograles said.

"Are you implying that Congress has always known this? Are you saying Congress is estopped? We do not agree. I'm sorry to say but for most if not all of my colleagues in Congress this is a new revelation. And for the general Filipino public we have always in good faith believed that when our government peace panel say that they are dealing with someone named Mohagher Iqbal we take that as a guarantee that this is his real name," he said.

Usman still in Maguindanao - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Usman still in Maguindanao - AFP

Despite the arrest of Justice for Islam Movement founder Mohammad Ali Tambako Sunday night in Gen. Santos City, there are still no indications that Filipino terrorist Basit Usman have penetrated the military cordon in Maguindanao.

"Yes, he is still there (Maguindanao)," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said Tuesday when asked if the military was aware of Usman's whereabouts.

Kakilala declined to comment further more on the matter as doing so could compromise ongoing operations.

He also said that locations of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters commanders Karialan and Bongos, whom Usman allegedly linked up with to escape military pressure, were still somewhere in the Maguindanao marshland.

Kakilala said Usman made the alliance with Karialan and Bongos last Thursday shortly after his nephew was killed by military forces during the ongoing offensive against them.

Both BIFF leaders have an estimated 200 to 300 fighters.

President Aquino visits, thanks soldiers wounded in clashes with rebels in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): President Aquino visits, thanks soldiers wounded in clashes with rebels in Mindanao

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday visited and thanked a number of soldiers who were wounded in recent encounters with rebels in Maguindanao, Sulu and Basilan, for their service to the country.

The President, who was accompanied by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr., also handed over to the soldiers a monetary assistance from the President’s Social Fund in recognition of their gallantry and bravery.

Those who sustained major injuries received Php100,000 while those with minor injuries were given Php50,000.

President Aquino visited the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City on Monday afternoon to check on a number of wounded soldiers, then proceeded to the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, where 11 soldiers have been admitted.

The troopers were injured in separate encounters with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, and the Abu Sayaff Group in Jolo and Basilan in the all-out offensive launched by the military against lawless elements in Mindanao.

Among those wounded in clashes with the BIFF were Private First Class Rolito Gumapac, 43, and Private First Class Noli Gumisad, 28.

During his visit, the President briefly spoke to each soldier, thanking him for fulfilling his duties and wishing him a speedy recovery.

From the Army hospital, President Aquino proceeded to the Fort Bonifacio Naval Station to visit the wake and recognize the heroism of two marines killed in encounters with BIFF rebels.

The Chief Executive personally extended his condolences to the relatives of slain Marine Corporal Josen Mias, 29, and Sergeant Francis Jeffel Flores, 31, whose remains lie at the naval station’s mortuary.

The President paused at each of the two flag-draped coffins and offered prayers. He also spoke to the relatives of the deceased and handed each family a Php250,000 cheque. The financial assistance also came from the President's Social Fund.

President Aquino left the Bonifacio Naval Station at 9:30 p.m.

On February 25, General Catapang ordered the Western Mindanao Command to conduct all-out offensive operations against the BIFF, among those blamed for the death of 44 members of the police’s elite force who were on a mission to neutralize two terrorist suspects.

Senate finds Mamasapano incident a clear ‘massacre’

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 17): Senate finds Mamasapano incident a clear ‘massacre’

Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday released a committee report which found the Mamasapano incident as a clear ‘massacre’ that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead last Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

” The Mamasapano incident is clearly a “massacre,” not simply a so-called “encounter” or “misencounter,” Poe said in a press briefing where she showed to the media a 120-page report of 5 public hearings, 5 executive sessions and 73 hours of full discussion attended by 37 resource persons in the Senate.

Poe, chairperson of the public order, said ‘concerned members’ of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other armed groups have murdered and robbed the 44 SAF commandos.

”Survivors recount how their companies were surrounded and decimated – even wounded SAF soldiers were fired upon,” Poe said in the executive summary of the report.

Poe said the assailants cannot validly claim that its fighters acted in self-defense because of the absence of the element of unlawful aggression on the part of the SAF troopers.

”The MILF’s claim of self-defense is, therefore, unavailing,” Poe said.

Although the Senate leaves the responsibility of identifying the particular assailants to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Poe said the murder and frustrated murder chargers ‘may be instituted against the MILF fighters as well as the BIFF and other armed groups involved in the massacre of the SAF 44.

Poe said former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima committed “usurpation of authority or official functions,” violating Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code when he involved himself in the Oplan Exodus despite his preventive suspension by the Ombudsman.

”In addition, an administrative complaint may be filed with the Ombudsman against Purisima for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” Poe said.

As for former SAF Chief Getulio Napenas, Poe said the relieved SAF official committed “grave misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties and for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service” under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in Civil Service.”

Poe said President Benigno Aquino III “must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of the official functions by Purisima.

”As to the President, he is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission,” Poe said.

”He assented to Purisima’s unlawful exercise of official functions, particularly the latter’s “usurpation of authority or official functions,” she added.

Under the committee report, Poe said the President must “display unquestionable leadership, be forthright and candid with our people, accept the responsibility for decisions made, and mistakes perhaps, along the way. Nobody is infallible.”

” The President and other high-ranking government officials, could have done more under the circumstances to prevent or minimize the number of deaths that jolted the nation,” Poe said.

Poe said had the President and key security officials who were with him in Zamboanga City, discussed the incident and shared information clearly and openly in the early stages of the tragic day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives could have been lost.

The President was with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Pio Catapang in Zamboanga in the morning of January 25.

”Since he was familiar with the plan, the President might have stepped in and displayed stronger positioning leadership regarding the rescue operations if he was given the proper information,” Poe said.

”As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President wields great power and has vast resources at his disposal. The decision of the President and his men not to use those resources immediately to prevent the carnage must be explained,” Poe added.

The lady lawmaker said there were indications that the planning and execution of the botched mission “were not 100-percent Filipino-planned and implemented.”

”US personnel played a role in the training for and monitoring of the said operation,” Poe said.

”The Committees found that the United States substantially invested in the entirety of Oplan Exodus. They provided equipment, training and intelligence. However, this raises the question of whether the PNP leadership would have entered into such a risky and hazardous operation without the support of the United States and the million reward offered for Marwan’s capture,” Poe said.

The Senate panel also recommended that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) should pursue peace with justice.

”The peace that we seek must be based on justice, where the rule of law reigns supreme, and where violators are brought before the bar of justice. The blood and heroism of the SAF 44 must not be dis-honored. Our people will accept no less,” Poe said.

Poe said the 120-page committee report has yet to be signed by the other senators.

”Other senators may introduce amendments,” she said.

Senator Ralph Recto commended Poe’s report, saying the lady lawmaker ‘correctly pointed out when the command structure fractured.”

”My first impression is that it, the report , is FPJ – fair perceptive and judicious,” Recto said, adopting the monicker of Poe’s father, the late movie actor FPJ or Fernando Poe Jr.