Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MILF: SoCot People’s Organizations receive livelihood support from PLEDGE

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 25): SoCot People’s Organizations receive livelihood support from PLEDGE

SoCot People’s Organizations receive livelihood support from PLEDGE

The People’s Organizations from Barangay Koronadal Proper, Polomolok, South Cotabato look forward for better income with the recent livelihood support they received from Programme for Local Economic Development through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE) implemented by Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

After series of community consultation and workshops in line with the guidelines from PLEDGE, the POs’ finally obtained the materials and equipment they need to start up their livelihood activities.

For the PO engaged in catering services and food processing, various cooking materials were turned over from PLEDGE.

The program also provided a set of farm equipment were given to the group who chose to increase rice and corn production.

Another PO engaged in banana processing enterprise received set of equipment that includes oven, blender, mixers and other pertinent materials.

With the International Labor Organization as the Trust Fund Recipient, PLEDGE is in pilot implementation at Koronadal Proper. 

The program is the economic and livelihood component of Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program (MTFRDP) administered by the World Bank.

It is supported by international donors like the European Union (EU), DFAT Australia (then AusAID), Canadian International Development Agency, New Zealand Aid for International Development, Sweden International Development Agency, United States and the World Bank.

The program aims to contribute to confidence and peace building efforts through local economic development and sustainable livelihood creation in conflict affected areas in Mindanao. (With report from BDA)

Book launching to mark Bangsamoro peace deal's first anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Book launching to mark Bangsamoro peace deal's first anniversary

A compilation of peace essays, speeches, and statements bound into two books and a magazine will be launched on Friday to coincide with the commemoration of the first anniversary of the signing of the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will hold the book launching at the Baluarte de San Diego Gardens, Intramuros, Manila. The event is open to the public.

Entitled “Getting to Peace: Opening Statements from the GPH-MILF Peace Talks (2011-2014),” the book is a compilation of statements that were delivered by the chief negotiators – Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal -- during the formal peace negotiations under the Aquino administration.

The book “In Defense of the Bangsamoro Basic Law: Selected Essays,” is composed mainly of speeches and essays articulated in several peace forums and discussions on the southern Philippines peace process.

The authors are Ferrer, peace panel member Senen Bacani, GPH Technical Working Group head Jose Luis Martin Gascon, the head of peace panel’s legal team Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman, University of the Philippines College of Muslim Affairs Dean Julkipli Wadi, retired Justice Adolf Azcuna, and the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Along with the books, the “Kababaihan at Kapayapaan Magazine” will also release its third edition with stories of women advocating peace in the country.

The launching of the books comes with a renewed sense of commitment to ensure the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to cap the years of negotiations for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, Coronel-Ferrer said.

She noted that proponents of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF want to reaffirm their commitment to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s declaration at the signing of the CAB a year ago to “not let the peace that we have all worked for be snatched from our people again.”

Coronel-Ferrer added that the event is likewise a call to the Filipino people to support the peace process.

“We want to emphasize that while the congressional deliberations have been delayed by the Mamasapano incident, the peace process continues. We are confident that members of our Congress, with the commitment of its leaders, would ensure passage of the BBL in line with their own commitment to the success of the peace process,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

MILF: Int’l, local peace monitors support passage of BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 25): Int’l, local peace monitors support passage of BBL

Int’l, local peace monitors support passage of BBL

Officials of an International peacekeeping organization and members of Local Monitoring Team (LMT) expressed their support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which could bring peace in Mindanao.

“The passage of the BBL is the most crucial opportunity,” Georgi Engelbrecht, Head of Field Office of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in South-Central Mindanao said.

In an interview, NP Country Director Paul Fraleigh said BBL is very important in pursuing peace in Mindanao and it should be acceptable to all. 

Datu Ruben Ampatuan, Chairman of LMT – Sultan Kudarat said the BBL is the best option for peace. He warned that if BBL will not be realized, there shall be more untoward incidents that may result to loss of lives.

Ampatuan hoped the BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission which is now in Congress for deliberation and ratification will not be diluted.

Julian Montemayor, Chairman of LMT – Sarangani, cited the importance of BBL in finding solution for conflict in Mindanao. 

However, he said “BBL is not a guarantee for peace and stakeholders must continue working for peace even if the BBL will be passed.”

Chairman of LMT-South Cotabato, Board Member Agustin Demaala Jr. said BBL should be passed for it embodies a law attuned to the culture of the Muslim Filipinos. 

Should BBL has provisions that are questionable, Demaala proposed it should be ironed out by the lawmakers for the swift passage of the measure.

Peace Advocate Jocelyn Lambac-Kanda urged Congress to deal with the Mamasapano incident and the BBL separately for they are “two different matters.”

She said on deciding the fate of BBL, the lawmakers must set aside emotions brought by the Mamasapano debacle where 44 police commandos were killed in clash with the Moro rebels and other armed groups.

“Our lawmakers must be objective because BBL is a most appropriate formula that could bring peace in Mindanao,” she stressed. 

The LMT members and representatives from other organizations working for peace and development in Socsargen gathered at the NP Office in General Santos City for a farewell lunch on March 24. NP will transfer its office to Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

NP is a nonpartisan unarmed peacekeeping organization with the goal to protect civilians and reduce violence in areas affected by armed conflict.

The group has deployed internationals to work with local peacekeepers, contribute to their safety, help to maintain ceasefires and advance the peace process.

Nonviolent Peaceforce Philippines Project objectives include:

•Enhancing the work of local peace teams through its presence and by reporting to the outside world;

•Contributing to the maintenance of the ceasefire(s) and working to prevent new violence;

•Supporting human rights reporting mechanisms in remote conflict areas;

•Assisting and connecting local and international advocacy groups;

•Ensuring grassroots conflicts are resolved through dialogue at the local level and do not grow into larger crises

Also present at the gathering were members of the International Monitoring Team-Team Site 4 based at Lagao, General Santos City, comprised of Indonesian, Brunei and Malaysian contingents.

IMT and LMT has the primary task which is to monitor the ceasefire accord between the government and MILF. NP is part of the IMT in-charge for the Civilian Protection Component.

MILF: Napeñas violated ceasefire agreement in Mamasapano incident – MILF

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 25): Napeñas violated ceasefire agreement in Mamasapano incident – MILF

Napeñas violated ceasefire agreement in Mamasapano incident – MILF

Relieved Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Getulio Napeñas violated the Ceasefire Agreement and the Terms of Reference calling for coordination in operations against lawless elements, the Moro Islamic Liberato Front (MILF) said yesterday as it maintained it was guiltless in the Mamasapano incident.

The embattled Moro group maintained it does not bear responsibility for the death of the 44 members of the SAF of the Philippine National Police on January 25 in Maguindanao.

It laid the blame solely on Napeñas who, it said, disregarded the ceasefire mechanisms agreed upon by the Philippine government and the MILF.

In its online portal, the MILF said that the implementing guidelines of the Security Aspect of the two parties’ agreement signed in Tripoli, Libya, on August 7, 2001, stipulated that the government would continue to undertake police and military actions and administrative/logistics activities throughout Mindanao and the entire country.

 “Clearly, it is shown here that he (Napeñas) willfully and deliberately violated the ceasefire agreement and the TOR (terms of reference) of the AHJAG which requires the GPH to punish him on the basis of these obligations,” the MILF said. AHJAG stands for Ad Hoc Joint Action Group.

The agreement calls for the Philippine government and the MILF to coordinate in the isolation and interdiction of lawless elements in Mindanao, the MILF said.  The MILF maintained the coordination covers “operations even against high-value targets.”

It also noted that Napeñas, during the Senate hearings, regarded the MILF as “enemy forces” during the planning of the operation against Malaysian militant Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan) and his understudy, Filipino Abdul Basit Usman. This is a “willful and deliberate” violation of the ceasefire accord, the MILF said

 “On the part of the MILF, when we signed agreements with the GPH, we signed them with honor and commitment to abide by them,” the former separatist revolutionary group said.

Thus, it said, “the blame must be put entirely on the initiator, which is the PNP-SAF.”

The MILF considers itself in “aggrieved party” in the Mamasapano incident that also killed 17 MILF rebels and five civilians, including a baby girl.

The Moro group seemed to believe the US$5-million reward for Marwan could be a reason why the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF were kept off from “the loop.”

DND issues partial notice of termination for 21 'Huey' combat utility helicopters

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): DND issues partial notice of termination for 21 'Huey' combat utility helicopters

For failing to deliver the 21 UH-I "Huey" combat utility helicopters on the stipulated time, the Department of National Defense (DND) issued a notice of partial termination to suppliers Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. on Wednesday.

The two companies earlier formed a joint venture to supply 21 UH-I helicopters to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for PhP1,263,600,000.

"In compliance with Section 88, Rule XXII of the IRR of Republic Act No. 9184 (Philippine Procurement Law), the contract agreement between the DND/AFP and the Joint Venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. for the supply and delivery of 21 UH-I helicopters for the PAF with corresponding contract price of PhP1,263,600,000 shall be partially terminated for exceeding the ten percent maximum liquidated damages," the DND order signed by Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

The letter was sent to Robert Rice Jr., the representative of the joint venture.

"Liquidated damages" refers to "at least equal to the one-tenth of the one percent of the cost of the underperformed portion of every day of delay."

And once the "cumulative amount of the liquidated damages reaches 10 percent of the amount of the contract, the procuring entity shall rescind the contract without prejudice to the other courses of action and remedies open to it," DND said.

It added that maximum liquidated damages was reached last Jan. 31.

“You failed to comply with the agreed schedule of requirement of the contract agreement, which provides that the delivery should be within 180 calendar days upon opening of the Letter of Credit… The deadline for the delivery for the contract is on 23 September 2014,” the DND stressed.

It added that eight out of the 21 choppers were only delivered as of Wednesday.

Rice and its joint venture partner were given seven days to respond to the termination letter.

MILF: MILF submits its Special Investigative Report on Mamasapano incident to IMT & Senate

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 25): MILF submits its Special Investigative Report on Mamasapano incident to IMT & Senate

MILF submits its Special Investigative Report on Mamasapano incident to IMT & Senate

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) submitted its Special Investigative Commission Report on Mamasapano incident to the Head of the Mission of International Monitoring Team (IMT) on March 22, 2015.

The MILF also furnished Senator Grace Poe with the copy of said report in response to the Senator’s request dated March 9, 2015.

The report was done by Special Investigation Commission members namely Hussein Moñuz, Toks Ebrahim, Von Al Haq, Ustadz Abu Ubaidah Agkong, and Ustadz Said Abdulsalam.

The report said the Mamasapano encounter last January 25, 2015 started when the SAF forces fired upon first the members of 105th Base Command who were on their way to Sitio Amilil to check local clashes (Rido). Two MILF combatants were killed in the assault.

The report said the BIAF members were justified in fighting back after it was fired upon first by the SAF commandos in Tukanalipao.

The report further stated there were 17 killed and 25 wounded Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members. Three civilian casualties were identified as Badrudin Langalen (21), Sarah Pananggulon (8) and Mohamad Ambilang (33).

Langalen left his house early morning of Janauary 25 to charge his celfone at Tukanalipao market. He never got to return home and was later found dead with hands tied behind his back and with multiple gunshot according to the report.

It is believed that he stumbled with the men of 55SAC. His body was found in the site encounter together with the bodies of 55SAC.

Sarah was sleeping in her house in SItio Inug-og, Brgy. Pembalkan, Mamasapano in the early morning of January 25, 2015 when they roused from their sleep by the bursts of gunfire. They moved out of the house with her parents and siblings in order to escape. However Sarah’s body was hit by bullet and died.

The report points out SAF survivor PO2 Christopher Lalan for commission of human rights violation when he killed four MILF men sleeping inside the Langgal (small makeshift mosque) who were in no position to defend themselves.

The MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) undertook steps to effect ceasefire and prevent bloodshed, however it was hampered by weak celfone signals in the encounter site or by drained battery due of the power outage the night before.

The report said fierce fighting was ongoing when the CCCH and International Monitoring Team intervened and despite heavy fighting, MILF Base Commander Ustadz Wahid Tundok arrived at the encounter site to talk to some of the forces to cease firing before 1:30 in the afternoon. 

“However, most of the SAF’s 55 SAC had already been killed in the course of the intense fighting even before the order for a ceasefire was received in the ground,” according to the report.

The Special Investigation Commission found the following undisputed facts:
1.The PNP SAF did not coordinate their entry and operation in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano with the existing coordination mechanisms such as AHJAG and the CCCH of the Peace Panels.
2.The BIAF forces residing in Mamasapano were not informed of the PNP SAF operation conducted on January 25, 2015.
3.The MILF CCCH was the first to inform their counterparts in government of the unfortunate encounter in Mamasapano on the said date.
4.The MILF CCCH was the first to suggest to their counterparts in the government to immediately proceed to the encounter site to find ways to effect ceasefire and disengage the fighting forces.

The report said the MILF forces saw the bodies of the 55th SAC members were purposely piled which suggests they were used as human shields. As for use of unnecessary force, the report said the fighting became so intense at some point adverse forces were shooting at each other with only 3 to 4 meters distance between them.

It recommends MILF’s filing of protest regarding the violation of ceasefire by the PNP-SAF. Armed confrontation between the two forces would be inevitable without coordination. The SAF should also be held liable for the deaths of civilians Badrudin Langalen and Sarah Pananggulon.

PA to declare Iloilo City as peaceful and development ready

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): PA to declare Iloilo City as peaceful and development ready

Iloilo City will be formally declared as peaceful and ready for development area by the Philippine Army (PA).

Lt. Col. Enriqueto R. Deocadez Jr., battalion commander of the 82nd Infantry Battalion (82IB) of the Philippine Army, said a memorandum of agreement will be signed between the PA and the city government here during the regular meeting of the Iloilo City Peace and Order Council (ICPOC) next month.

He explained that the agreement will serve as documentary evidence of the peaceful condition of the city.

"We could show the document to those who are interested to invest in the city," he added.

Meantime, he stressed that the presence of the Philippine Army in the city is meant for development initiatives as part of their mission under the civil military operations (CMO).

He added that they are trying to coordinate efforts of the government to address issues that are present in villages where they are holding civic missions.

Gazmin visits Lubang Island ahead of radar installation

From the Business Mirror (Mar 24): Gazmin visits Lubang Island ahead of radar installation

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin has visited the Gozar Air Station in Occidental Mindoro, one of the three military monitoring stations in the country that would soon be fitted with an Israeli-made radar equipment under the ongoing modernization of the Armed Forces.
Gazmin’s visit into the Philippine Air Force Air Defense Wing’s Gozar station over the weekend in Lubang Island was in preparation for the expected installation of a brand-new radar from Israel, which is being negotiated through a government-to-government contract.

“We give primacy to the enhancement of our capability to monitor and secure our territory. Gozar Air Station will play a major role as we shift our focus from internal security operations to territorial defense,” Gazmin said.

The radar facility was named after Lt. Jose “Pepe” P. Gozar, who served as instructor in the Flying School at Zablan Air Field until the outbreak of World War II and was subsequently cited for his acts of heroism during the war.

Nene: Malaysia bad choice as mediator in MILF talks

From the Business Mirror (Mar 25): Nene: Malaysia bad choice as mediator in MILF talks

FORMER Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., said Malaysia should not have been chosen as mediator in the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Malaysia should not have been a mediator because of our standing claim over Sabah and because it had also supported the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao,” Pimentel said.

He added that Malaysia is also interested in developing the Liguasan Marsh because of its potential as a source of hydrocarbons.

If he had his way, Pimentel would want Indonesia to be the mediator in the peace talks because, despite having the largest concentration of Muslims in Asia, “Indonesia had never meddled in the conflict between the government and the Muslim rebels.”

When asked who should decide if Malaysia should be taken off the list as mediator, and replaced with another, Sen. Chiz Escudero said it should be the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp).

“Only Opapp can change Malaysia as mediator if they decide to do so,” Escudero said.

Malacañang continues to push through a final agreement with the MILF, hoping to have it signed before the end of this year, despite the massacre of 44 police commandos by MILF gunmen in Maguindanao on January 25. 

However, the Senate said it wanted to know more about the complete report of the National Police’s Board of Inquiry that was created in the wake of the carnage before committing itself to the peace agreement.

“There are so many unanswered questions about the Mamasapano incident, there is no way that the peace talks can proceed until we know all the answers,” Escudero added.

The Liguasan Marsh holds a huge reservoir of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari.

Misuari said the Bangsamoro people could become one of the richest people if this area is placed under the control of the MNLF.

Misuari based his statement from an American oil engineer who told him about the abundance of natural gas in the Liguasan Marsh, the country’s largest  wetland.

The Americans estimated total earnings from the natural gas of Liguasan, once explored, will amount to $580 billion, Misuari said.

On the other hand, the Philippines continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Malaysia after it promised to hold in abeyance its claims to North Borneo.

The Philippines, presenting itself as the successor state of the Sultanate of Sulu, retains a “dormant claim” on Sabah on the basis that the territory was only leased to the British North Borneo Co. in 1878, with the sovereignty of the Sultanate (and subsequently the Republic of the Philippines) over the territory that was never relinquished either by the Sultanate or the government.

However, Malaysia considers this dispute as a “non-issue” as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and that it deems that the residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self-determination when they joined to form the Malaysian federation in 1963.

Malaysia, however, continues to pay annual dues to the Sultanate for occupying Sabah.

Hundreds refuse to go home after clash of MILF, Ilonggo farmers

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 24): Hundreds refuse to go home after clash of MILF, Ilonggo farmers

Matalam, Cotabato – At least 615 residents from two of the remotest barangays here continued to languish at the evacuation sites located at the town’s center after Moro rebels, believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), clashed three days ago with armed farmers, some of them members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team.

Chief Insp. Elias Colonia, chief of Matalam Police, said the firefight transpired at Purok-4, Barangay Estado, Matalam, between members of the MILF under Kagui Mansur Imbong, deputy brigade commander of the 5th Brigade under the 108th base command, and Ilonggo farmers from Barangay Estado, also in Matalam, around 9:30 a.m. last March 20.

Three Ilonggo farmers were wounded during the firefight identified as Herman Marcos Berto, 39, of Midsayap, Cotabato; Antonio Banoc Degamo, member of CAFGU under 52nd North Cotabato Civilian Active Auxiliary Company of the Bravo Company of the 38th Infantry Battalion; and Robin Daruca Pajes of Barangay Estado, Matalam.

Of the wounded, Pajes sustained severe injuries and was rushed to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City for further treatment, Colonia said.

The police officer said that to pacify the two warring factions and prevent breakdown of peace and order in the affected areas, they immediately proceeded to the village.

Colonia said they first tried to negotiate with the MILF rebels but their leader Imbong refused to heed their calls since he had already carried out a plan to retaliate and attack a group of Ilonggo farmers at Barangay Estado, allegedly led by Barangay Estado chairman Ernesto Doong.

The warring groups claim that while they were harvesting corn they were fired upon by their enemies which resulted in the exchange of gunfire.

Both sides also claimed they rightfully own the lands.

Colonia said that around 8 a.m., on Saturday, Habib Guiabar of the MILF Local Monitoring Team informed him that a ceasefire was already pronounced by the MILF command in Barangay Estado.

Yet, despite the local truce, evacuees have expressed fears to go back to their homes.

SP endorses Army’s community immersion, civic actions in Iloilo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): SP endorses Army’s community immersion, civic actions in Iloilo City

The city government here through the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council) has expressed its support to the community immersion and civic actions of the 82nd Infantry Battalion (82IB) of the Philippine Army in 20 villages here.

In today’s appearance before the regular session of the SP, Lt. Col. Enriqueto R. Deocadez Jr. said that they are purely into civil military operations (CMO) as part of their Internal Peace and Security Efforts (IPSE).

A criteria was set to identify the 20 target villages namely Bitoon, Tacas, Tabuc Suba, Democracia, Sambag, Dungon A, Dungon B, Punong, Progreso, Sinikway, Ingore, Lapuz Norte, Calajunan, Navais, Sooc, San Antonio, San Pedro, Bonifacio, Sto. Nino and North Baluarte.

Deocadez stressed that they have just kicked off their activities last March 10 and they were still on the assessment stage of the five initial villages. It was temporarily put on hold four days ago amid questions that were raised as to their presence in the city.

Among the activities that they are supposed to undertake are immersion, area assessment, community assistance, school activities, education, empowerment of the populace, assistance to law enforcement activities and other activities related to disaster preparedness.

Meanwhile, councilor Jason Gonzales who sponsored the resolution of support said the initiative of the Philippine Army is "a very commendable peace time activity" especially that they have considerable resources that they can use in the effort.

Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo also lauded the Philippine Army saying that they are putting to good use their time.

Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog also welcomed their presence as long as they “follow the rules and regulations of the city.”

Deocadez was requested by the city council to explain following a privilege speech by councilor Joshua Alim last week questioning their presence in the city.

The battalion commander added that they will seek representation during the regular meeting of the Iloilo City Peace and Order Council next month so they could resume with their activities.

CHR insists Mamasapano incident was a 'misencounter'

From the Philippine Star (mar 25): CHR insists Mamasapano incident was a 'misencounter'

The Commission on Human Rights will release its report on the Mamasapano investigation by the second week of April. AP, file

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday maintained that the Mamasapano incident was a "misencounter" and not a "massacre."

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, CHR Chair Loretta Rosales said that the term "misencounter" was more appropriate for the incident since neither the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) nor the Special Action Force (SAF) intended to assault each other.

Rosales clarified that the CHR is for everybody and that the agency is willing to assist both the government troops and the Moro rebels if they ask legal assistance.

"This is the process of peace negotiations. You are dealing with elements that are outside the law, it's not easy. You have to take the extra mile," Rosales said.

She added that the peace process requires the government to look into the perspective of the rebels.

"Don't behave as if they were your soldiers because they are outside the law, they're not part of it," Rosales said.

Contrary to relieved SAF Director Getulio Napeñas's earlier statement that Oplan Exodus was successful, Rosales noted that the operation was defective from the start.

According to Rosales, it was not enough that Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias "Marwan" was arrested because the SAF should have done more intelligence work on the ground.

"It was a botched operation," Rosales said.

The CHR is scheduled to release its investigation report on the Mamasapano operation by the second week of April.

The Board of Inquiry, Senate committee and the MILF have already submitted their reports on the said incident which led to the death of 44 SAF commandos during an armed encounter with Moro rebels.

Palace mum on MILF report justifying SAF slay

From the Philippine Star (Mar 25): Palace mum on MILF report justifying SAF slay

In its 35-page report submitted to the Senate on Tuesday, the MILF effectively justified the killing of the SAF commandos and the looting of their firearms, equipment and personal belongings.

Malacañang won't comment on the report of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the January 25 Mamasapano encounter that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead.

"We leave it to [the Department of Justice] to determine how the MILF report will be relevant to their investigation," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told Palace reporters in a text message on Wednesday.

The SAF troopers launched the operation to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The police commandos clashed with MILF rebels, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups that led to the deaths of 44 SAF men, 18 rebels and five civilians.

In its 35-page report submitted to the Senate on Tuesday, the MILF effectively justified the killing of the SAF commandos and the looting of their firearms, equipment and personal belongings.

The MILF insisted that the rebels only defended themselves since the SAF troopers fired first and broke the ceasefire between the Moro group and the government.

The MILF also claimed in its report that they did not coddle Marwan and Usman and that no unnecessary force or methods against international rules on warfare were used against the SAF troopers.

U.S. Embassy launches e-learning center in Zambo Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): U.S. Embassy launches e-learning center in Zambo Sur

Top government officials and representatives from U.S. Embassy led the opening Wednesday of an E-Learning Center for women and girls in Barangay Dao, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

The U.S. Embassy said the E-Learning Center will benefit 850 women and girls, and 2,500 households in 10 municipalities and one city in Zamboanga del Sur.

Zamboanga del Sur has 27 towns and one city--Pagadian--the capital of the province.

The E-Learning Center will also benefit the women and girls from nearby Zamboanga Sibugay province, which is formerly the third congressional district of Zamboanga del Sur.

The U.S. Embassy said the E-Learning Center is equipped with computers and internet connection for use by the beneficiaries during weekend classes with Xavier University Agriculture Extension Service (XAES) staff.

The classes will include topics on peace and gender issues, including sustainable development, family and community health, enterprise development for women, environment and climate change, English literacy, and communications and computer literacy.

Meanwhile, seven additional E-Learning Centers will open this year with support from the U.S. government through the Department of State’s Office of Global Women Initiatives, in partnership with XAES.

School buildings, mosque to rise in Mamasapano

From the Philippine Star (Mar 25): School buildings, mosque to rise in Mamasapano

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (center), military officials and local leaders officiate Wednesday's symbolic launching of a Mosque project in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Officials on Wednesday launched the construction of P49.8 million worth of school buildings and a mosque in the surroundings of Mamasapano, Maguindanao where policemen and Moro rebels figured in bloody firefights on January 25 which shook the nation to its core.

The hostilities, now known as the "Mamasapano incident," also challenged the peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which started in 1997.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the 6th Infantry Division, and ARMM’s public works secretary, Hadji Emil Sadain, jointly led the symbolic groundbreaking rite for the projects, in the presence of local officials and barangay leaders.

The proposed Islamic worship site, located along a newly concreted farm-to-market road in Barangay Tukanalipao in west of Mamasapano, will be built by uniformed, but non-combatant engineering  personnel of the 6th ID.

Pangilinan said he will personally monitor the construction of the mosque, to be bankrolled by the Hataman administration.

Lynette Estandarte, chief budget officer of the Maguindanao provincial government, said Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has promised to construct a covered court in the same barangay.

"The covered court can be used as a venue for activities of local folks, for peace dialogues and religious gatherings," Estandarte said.

Estandarte represented Mangudadatu in the launching of the ARMM government's infrastructure projects in Mamasapano.

Sadain said some of the projects will be funded out of the savings generated by the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways in the past two years.

Hataman said the Department of Education will finance the construction of eight of the nine school buildings the ARMM government will construct in different areas in Mamasapano, now secured by combined Army and Marine units.

In a message, Hataman said the involvement of Pangilinan and his men in the implementation of the ARMM's initial infrastructure projects in Mamasapano is meant to prove to local Moro sectors that the 6th ID supports the Mindanao peace process.

"This will also show to you that the 6th ID is for the peaceful resolution of security problems in this municipality," Hataman told Mamasapano residents during a 30-minute inaugural program attended by the town mayor, Benzar Ampatuan, and local executives from nearby Maguindanao towns.

Local officials also provided with hand tractors and newly assembled passenger tricycles the families of the civilians killed and wounded in the January 25 encounters between policemen and soldiers in Mamasapano's adjoining Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Pimbalayan, where the MILF has enclaves.

Pangilinan was the deputy commander for the southern peace process of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City prior to his assumption last year as commander of the 6th ID, which covers the adjoining Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Sadain said the ARMM government will launch next week the replacement of the wooden footbridge linking the opposite banks of a river near a cornfield where policemen and members of the MILF figured in a 10-hour firefight last January 25, with a P17-million concrete structure.

Hataman said they will invite Pangilinan and representatives of the MILF to the April 1 symbolic start of the bridge project.

Sadain said they will also construct an 880-meter road that would connect the proposed concrete bridge to the center of Barangay Tukanalipao.

Barangay Tukanalipao, a known bastion of the MILF, is about two kilometers northeast of Barangay Pidsandawan, where members of the police’s Special Action Force had killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, in a dawn raid on January 25.

The SAF commandos were maneuvering their way out of Barangay Pidsandawan when they encountered MILF members residing in peasant enclaves nearby and a third group, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

At least 44 SAF operatives, 17 MILF rebels and five civilians were killed in the ensuing firefights, which waned only after members of the joint ceasefire committee and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team arrived and intervened.

Hataman and Pangilinan both said they are expecting local residents, mostly identified with the MILF, to help in the implementation of the initial infrastructure projects intended to improve living conditions in Barangay Tukanalipao and nearby villages.

House warns of MILF 'creeping expansion'

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Mar 25): House warns of MILF 'creeping expansion'

The military should scour Mindanao for hidden camps allegedly being set up by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as part of the latter's ''creeping expansion'' in areas not under its control, the chairman of the House panel deliberating on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) said yesterday.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member ad hoc committee on the BBL, said the discovery of an MILF training camp in Iligan City early this month is alarming and does not augur well for peace initiatives set back by the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident.

There has been significant loss of trust in the MILF after the Mamasapano incident and these reports of MILF training camps outside their region will add to that,” Rodriguez told The STAR.

Special Action Force (SAF) commandos on a mission to arrest high-value terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 clashed with MILF guerrillas while leaving the village after killing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. The fighting killed 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF guerrillas and five civilians.

Rodriguez said the MILF’s putting up camps or similar facilities outside areas under its control does not only violate the ceasefire agreement with government but also validates fears that the rebel group is taking advantage of some provisions in the BBL to expand its territory.

He said a provision in the BBL stipulates that 10 percent of the population of a contiguous area may call for a referendum for inclusion in a Bangsamoro autonomous region that the BBL seeks to create.

He said training camps or similar installations could be used to influence or even coerce residents in contiguous area into joining the autonomous region.

The House leader said several members of the ad hoc panel, including Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, are seeking the removal of such a provision on the grounds that it can cause instability.

He said the provision is now a contentious issue because of the discovery of the training camp.

“We call on the MILF to desist from putting up such camps or influencing people,” Rodriguez said.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should immediately dismantle MILF installations found outside the boundaries set by the ceasefire agreement.

The House leader also chided the military as well as the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process for failing to monitor and report the existence of the MILF camp in Iligan.

Rodriguez said he expects AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. to report to the panel the existence of MILF training camps when the committee resumes deliberations on the BBL on April 27 to 30.

He said the committee plans to put the BBL to a vote by May. Leaders of the chamber said they aim to approve the BBL by June or before Congress adjourns.

Army in Western Visayas on alert for NPA’s 46th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Army in Western Visayas on alert for NPA’s 46th anniversary

As part of its routine operations, the Philippine Army in Western Visayas goes on alert for the 46th anniversary of the New People's Army (NPA) on March 29.

"It has been a routine and it's nothing new because even without the anniversary, the rebels are doing atrocities to the people. However, whole year round, the Army is doing its role as guardian of the people," said Major Ray Tiongson, head of Public Affairs Office of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Tiongson said the 3rd ID has been intensifying its focus on military operations in its area of responsibility to deny the NPA from their terroristic acts against the people.

"We urge the remaining NPA members who have been misled into lawlessness to abandon the armed violence, live a peaceful life, and join us in bringing peace and development to the communities," he said.

Tiongson said the Bayanihan activities of the Army in the hinterlands continues in coordination with the local government units, other government agencies, and community stakeholders.

Latest records show that 20 NPAs in Western Visayas have surrendered, including seven from Panay, and 13 from Negros.

Recently, 35 more former rebels in Southern Negros Occidental also surrendered. Eleven NPA rebels killed in action during encounters.

MILF report says fighters obeyed ceasefire call during Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Mar 25): MILF report says fighters obeyed ceasefire call during Mamasapano clash

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insisted in its 35-page report to the Senate that MILF fighters had immediately obeyed a ceasefire call during the January 25 misencounter with Special Action Force (SAF) police officers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The MILF Special Investigative Commission report, submitted to the Senate on Tuesday, said that the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF), the MILF’s 105th Base (BC) specifically, immediately ceased firing on the SAF troopers after they received a ceasefire order from the Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).
The report went on to explain that CCCH chair Ustadz Wahid Tundok arrived in Sitio Amelil, Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town before 1:30 p.m. on January 25, and ordered the BIAF to stop shooting.
Fighting was heaviest in Sitio Amelil, where the SAF’s 55th Special Action Company (SAC) found itself engaged by both the MILF-BIAF and gunmen from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“From this account, it is clear that the 105th BC (Base Command) upon receipt of the order to stop firing, immediately ceased shooting at the 55th SAC. There were no lapses in heeding the call for a ceasefire,” the report claimed.
“Unfortunately, it was already too late as most of the SAF 55th SAC had already been killed in the course of the intense fighting even before the order for a ceasefire was received on the grounds,” the report added.
This MILF report's findings were contrary to the claim of relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas, made during a Senate hearing, that only SAF commandos obeyed the ceasefire call.
“Unilaterally huminto po talaga ang SAF… but based on our monitoring of the situation on the ground, hindi po sila tumigil. Tuloy-tuloy po sila sa pag-engage sa troops natin hanggang 6 p.m.,” Napeñas had said.
The MILF maintained that it was even the MILF members of the CCCH who first informed its counterpart in the government about the encounter. It was even the MILF member who first suggested to its counterpart in the government “to immediately proceed to the encounter site to find ways to effect the ceasefire and disengage the fighting forces.” 

Tarlac Provincial Intelligence Branch ranks No .1 in PNP's UPER 4th Quarter CY 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Tarlac Provincial Intelligence Branch ranks No .1 in PNP's UPER 4th Quarter CY 2014

CAMP MACABULOS, Tarlac City -- The Provincial Intelligence Branch of the Tarlac Provincial Police Office (TPPO) ranked no. 1 in the Unit Performance Evaluation Rating (UPER) during the last quarter of 2014, based on the result released by the Regional Intelligence Division.

Senior Supt. Alex B. Sintin, provincial director of Tarlac PNP, cited the good performance of the PIB Tarlac by awarding them plaque of commendation in a simple rite held Tuesday here as witnessed by various groups such as the Tarlac Citizen Eyewatch, an anti-crime organization based in this province.

The UPER have segregated their evaluation rating into five categories namely, intel-admin (11 points); intel-reseach (38 points); counter-intel (49 points), intel-operation (45 points) and foreign liaison (6 points) for a a total of 155 points.

Bulacan came in second ranking, followed by Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Olongapo City, Angeles City, Zambales, Aurora, and Bataan.

Meanwhile, the Tarlac PIB was also the champion in the recently-concluded basketball tournament.

"For the first time, we are the champion in the basketball tournament, Supt. Miguel Guzman, chief of the Tarlac PIB, said.

After the awarding ceremony, Guzman invited Sintin for a simple ribbon cutting ceremony of their newly renovated office.

Gazmin lauds WESCOM’s effective management of troops, assets in West Philippines Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 25): Gazmin lauds WESCOM’s effective management of troops, assets in West Philippines Sea

Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin lauded Tuesday the Western Command (WESCOM) in Palawan for its efficient and effective deployment of “limited troops and assets in various critical operations in the vast area of the countries national territory in the West Philippines Sea.”

Gazmin, whose speech did not dwell much on the issue involving the disputed region, said this on the occasion of the 39th WESCOM Founding Anniversary in this city.

He furthered that “this is characterized in the proper handling of WESCOM of delicate situations and issues concerning the Philippines’ sovereignty, the integrity of the national territory, and the protection of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ)” in the disputed area.

“This is especially true in the difficult job of providing security to the Kalayaan Islands Group, and the provision and maintenance of our security elements on Ayungin Shoal aboard the BRP Sierra Madre,” he said, adding the role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is clearly governed by its constitutional mandate to help in the resolution of territorial dispute and conflicts, adherence to international law, and the policy of peace.

“Essentially, the employment of our troops in the Western Command is to protect its citizens from the enemies of the state, to secure them from natural and man-made threats, to safeguard human rights, and to ensure the delivery of basic necessities and services to the needy and far-flung communities,” he said.

The defense secretary said too, that WESCOM’s theme, which literally means “Armed Forces that Join and Unite together for a Peaceful, Progressive, and Strong Palawan,” is a wellspring of hope and inspiration for the Philippines’ peace-loving people amidst the difficult challenges it is courageously confronting today,” he said.

This, according to him, effectively reflects the essence of unity and solidarity of WESCOM in the pursuit of peace, progress, and stability for Palawan and its people.

Gazmin said the WESCOM has done well in the accomplishment of its mission and firm commitment in the execution of the constitutional duty of the armed forces as the protector of the people and state.

In his speech, he commended Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez for the “sustained standard of discipline, training, and performance of the officers, men, and women of Western Command.”

He said “these are the attributes of the troops in the profession of arms; these are the standards that have been exemplified by WESCOM, and should be emulated by other commands and units” in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

”I have high confidence in the professional capabilities of WESCOM. Dynamic as it is, its leadership has strictly adhered to the prescribed standard of our profession of arms in leading its personnel to the avenue of genuine service for our nation and people,” he said.

The defense secretary said that the current peace-loving, peace-keeping role of WESCOM for the Philippines’ national security endeavors is of primordial importance in the pursuit of the implementation and success of the internal peace and security plan Bayanihan, which is delicate that requires utmost respect for human rights.

WESCOM’s obedience to it, he said, has been highly instrumental in significantly reducing internal security threat that led to the “official declaration of Palawan as Zone of Sustained Peace, Development and Prosperity.”

Lopez in his speech credited the hard work of the officers, men, and women of the Command for its achievements in 2014.

These are the peaceful surrender and re-integration to society of 23 members of the communist-terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) in the province through the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) in the 1st Quarter of 2014, which reduced internal threats; the declaration of Palawan as a conflict manageable area, and a sustained peace and development zone in the 2nd Quarter; and defended the country’s right to sustain forces in Kalayaan and showed operational readiness through the conduct of bilateral exercises with the allies of the Philippines, such as the Marine Corps Amphibious Landing Exercise, and the Marine Tactical Warfare Simulation Exercise in the 3rd Quarter.

In the 4th Quarter, he said the WESCOM strictly implemented the “One AFP Team Concept” and structured the Command’s organization into an all trend task force for greater mission effectiveness.

In anticipation, he said, of potential crisis and disasters, WESCOM also initiated the creation of a joint and inter-agency task force on integrated crisis assistance and response to emergencies, or iCARE.

Napeñas refutes MILF findings on Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Mar 25): Napeñas refutes MILF findings on Mamasapano clash

Relieved Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) chief Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. on Wednesday belied some of the findings of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) regarding the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

In a television interview, Napeñas said there was no truth to the MILF's claim—as mentioned in its 35-page report submitted to the Senate on Tuesday—that the SAF violated the ceasefire agreement between the government and the rebel group when it conducted an operation in an MILF-controlled area without informing the group.

Napeñas said based on a joint communique on the guidelines for the ceasefire agreement signed by the government and the MILF on May 6, 2002, coordination with the MILF is not required when it comes to arresting high-value targets in an MILF-controlled territory.

Napeñas said the communique was supplemented by Joint Operational Guidelines of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) signed by the military and police on July 23, 2013.

“[There is] no truth to that. It is provided for in the joint communique between the [government] and the MILF in 2002. This was supplemented by joint directive signed by [ex-PNP chief Director General Alan] Purisima and chief of AFP that in high value operation, communication is not needed,” Napeñas said.

A provision in the 2002 joint communique on the ceasefire agreement states that: “Except for operations against high-priority targets, a list of which shall be provided by the GPH panel to the MILF panel, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) shall inform the GPH and the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) at least 24 hours prior to the conduct of the AFP/PNP operations in order to allow sufficient time for the evacuation of civilians and to avoid armed confrontation between the MILF forces.”

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima had earlier said that such provision in the ceasefire agreement was “vague.”

Oplan Exodus

The SAF operation, dubbed Oplan Exodus, was carried out to arrest alleged Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino terrorist Abdulbasit Usman, who were holed up in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Over 60 people, including 44 SAF troopers, were killed when the operation resulted in a clash with the MILF, its splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other armed groups in the area.

In its report, the MILF said if only the necessary coordination was made, the “unfortunate  and tragic encounter could not have happened and the primacy of the peace process between the GPH and MILF safeguarded.”

The MILF said that while there is an exception in the ceasefire agreement provision with regards to arresting high-priority targets—in which case, coordination can be done for less than the minimum of 24 hours—“the exception pertains only to the number of hours within which to coordinate and not to the requirement for coordination.”


Meanwhile, Napeñas also belied the claim of the MILF in its report that its members just acted in self-defense during the Mamasapano encounter as it was the SAF troopers who first fired shots at MILF fighters.

“From the statement of the lone survivor, it was the MILF who first firedm” Napeñas said, referring to PO2 Christopher Lalan.

“In fact, they (SAF troopers) were reporting in tactical command that they saw a man but they didn’t fire. Then later on, they reported they were being fired upon. This contradicts the report of the MILF,” he added.

Lalan was part of the PNP SAF’s 55th Special Action Company (SAC), which served as the “blocking force” during the Mamasapano operation. Thirty-five of his  comrades in the 55th SAC perished from the encounter.

Pinay graduates from Japan National Defense Academy: Joining PHL Air Force

From Ang Malaya (Mar 25): Pinay graduates from Japan National Defense Academy: Joining PHL Air Force

The first Filipina who studied in Japan National Defense Academy (JNDA) finished her studies and graduated last March 22 in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other dignitaries including Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel M. Lopez.

A day after graduation, “Ambassador Lopez administered the oath-taking and donning of rank of Second Lieutenant Karen Eve E. Mante,” Philippine Embassy in Tokyo said.

Second Lieutenant Mante will join the Philippine Air Force. She “spent a year in the Philippine Military Academy before being sent by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to the JNDA as a full scholar. She spent five years of cadetship training in the JNDA, which since 1953 has produced officers for the Japan Self-Defense Forces,” the embassy added. “She was given an award as an outstanding cadet as well as a badge for excellence in physical training.”

There are currently seven Filipino cadets studying at the JNDA.

Also this month, Rex Eduard Custorio, the first Filipino sent to study in Republic of Korea Air Force Academy, graduated and will also join Philippine Air Force.

Firefight erupts again in Maguindanao

From Rappler (Mar 24): Firefight erupts again in Maguindanao

There are no reported casualties on the government side while the casualties on the rebel side are undetermined

FIGHTING. In this file photo, an Army officer stands beside a house set on fire by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in central Mindanao as fierce gun battles continue. File photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Rappler

FIGHTING. In this file photo, an Army officer stands beside a house set on fire by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in central Mindanao as fierce gun battles continue. File photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Rappler

After a week without fighting, government soldiers once again exchanged gunfire with rebels in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao on Monday afternoon, March 23.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the military's 6th Infantry Division, said government forces were fired upon by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Lower Alonganen at around 5:15 pm.

The rebels are believed to be led by Abunawas Damiog Ibad and Omar Abdulag Sangkong.

There are no reported casualties on the government side while the casualties on the rebel side are undetermined, Petinglay said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made public that it has launched an all-out offensive against the break away group last February 25 and the firefight and tensions spread like wildfire, affecting more than 15 towns displacing more than 100,000 residents.

Earlier, clashes also erupted in the town of Pikit in North Cotabato days after the botched Special Action Force operation against Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano town last January 25.

The fighting in Pikit started as a conflict between the BIFF and a local command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which later was joined by the military using ground assault and artillery missions.

Thousands of families from Pikit were also displaced by the fighting in North Cotabato.

During the peak of the all-out offensive in Maguindanao, human rights groups also reported about civilian injuries and damages to properties allegedly caused by indiscriminate firing and artillery shelling.

The operation, aside from suppressing the BIFF, is also aimed at nabbing Usman, the second high-value target during the botched Special Action Force operation in Mamasapano that left at least 67 people dead, including 44 police commandos and 5 civilians. (READ: Mamasapano report based on 'emotions, not facts')

But unlike the rest of the operations in the past, the present operation is not a campaign to destroy, Petinglay said.

"This operation should finish with development coming in the communities while several of our units will stay within as containment forces. These containment forces will ensure that what is left of the rebels will not be able to move freely," Petinglay said.

Petinglay shared that while ground forces continue to operations, the military is also working with local government units, line agencies and civil-society organizations to ensure the delivery of social services and projects in the affected towns.

"The all-out offensive is not just a military affair. It is about fighting the BIFF and the same time bringing the community to a progressive state," Petinglay said.

But with the end still uncertain, people can only wonder when this conflict will die down so that they can already go back to their villages and resume their daily normal lives.