Sunday, April 5, 2015

Aying gets promotion

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 6): Aying gets promotion

The much-awaited promotion of Army Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander in Negros Occidental, to brigadier general has finally been approved, and took effect on March 21.
Aying, who has been commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade for almost two years, now joins other members of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1984, including his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, 4th Infantry Division commander, and Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, who are now generals in the Philippine Army.
While Aying was promoted, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, Assistant Division commander of 3ID, retired from the military service on April 4.
Patrimonio (PMA Class 1982), was given a testimonial parade on April 1 at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, three days before he retired from the military service.
It was not determined yet if Aying will succeed Patrimonio as 3ID assistant commander to continue and finish his massive peace and development activities in Negros Occidental, which he has targeted to be declared as peaceful and ready for further development by June this year.
Aying and Lactao have been instrumental in the peace and development activities in the conflict=affected communities in Negros Occidental, through the effort also of Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. and the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit with Provincial Planning Development Officer Ma. Lina Sanogal as action officer.
Fourteen towns and cities in Negros Occidental have been declared as peaceful and ready for further development by the Philippine Army as concurred by their concerned local government executives, as of this time.
Col. Noel Buan, deputy of Aying, is reported to be among those being groomed to be the next 303rd Infantry Brigade commander. He also belongs to PMA Class 1984, and is a recipient of the Medal of Valor.

DND exec chopper deal ‘brains’ – Joey

From the Manila Times (Apr 5): DND exec chopper deal ‘brains’ – Joey

A senior official of the Department of National Defense (DND) who attempted to rush the delivery of 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopters from a “favored” American bidder by getting the US Air Force into the picture was on Sunday tagged as the brains behind the controversial deal.

The DND official got the US Air Force involved on the pretext that the aircraft will be used for relief and rehabilitation operations in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, a source told The Manila Times.

The source, who wanted to be identified as “Joey,” claimed that DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo was the “author” of the deal because he knew from the very start that Rice Aircraft Services was going to acquire the helicopters from Germany.

The source added that although a notice dated March 25, 2015 showed that eight units were delivered, only seven were actually shipped.

“Seven units pa lang ang na turn over sa PAF. Pinapalusot pa ni (Defense Secretary Voltaire) Gazmin yung isa pa kaya eight ang inilagay. Kasi mas maraming units na nabayaran, mas malaki ang commission na masisingil (Only seven units have been turned over to PAF. Gazmin is working for the delivery of another unit because the more units that were paid, the bigger the commission),” the source said.

In a letter dated November 27, 2013 and addressed to the US Secretary of State through the US Ambassador in Manila, Manalo reiterated his request “to have the most number of helicopters delivered at the soonest possible time to augment the air assets being used in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of the recent super typhoon that struck the provinces in the Central Philippines.”

Manalo signed the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, in his capacity as chairman of the Special Bids and Awards Committee 1. The letter was coursed through Col. Rocky L. Carter, chief of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) based in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Interestingly, Manalo kept mentioning that the deliveries would involve “UH-1H” choppers. The negotiated contract, sealed with Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and its Canadian partner, Eagle Copters Ltd., was for the delivery of “UH-1D” helicopters that were manufactured by the defunct Dornier of Germany.

“In the letter dated November 15, 2013, this department requested for [sic] your assistance in facilitating the immediate delivery of available refurbished UH-1H helicopters, through the US Air Force, in the event that the declared lowest calculated responsive bidder will be from any of the four US companies who signified to compete for the project,” Manalo said.

The DND official who, according to informed sources had a previous engagement with RASI involving a Philippine Air Force helicopter bearing “tail number 122,” followed up his “presumptive” letter with the information that “On November 21, 2013, the Joint Venture of US Companies (RASI) and Eagle Copters Limited was declared as the Single Calculated Bidder during the Bid Opening of 21 Refurbished Helicopters.”

“With the said declaration, this department will negotiate with RASI and Eagle Copters Limited to expedite the processing of the documents and the helicopters due for delivery,” Manlao told the US officials.

“In this regard, we are reaffirming our request for your support for the speedy delivery of the UH-1H helicopters. These aircraft are very much needed in alleviating the sufferings of our typhoon victims as well as in delivering the basic services to speed up the recovery of the typhoon-devastated areas,” he said.

The P1.26-billion negotiated deal with RASI was sealed in late December 2013, or a month after Manalo sent his request to US officials. Despite the DND official’s attempts to have the helicopters delivered early, the aircraft were shipped in mid-2014. So far, nine helicopters have been paid for but only two could actually fly. These two, however, have issues concerning safety and capability.

Gazmin “partially terminated” the contract with RASI on March 25 and gave the company seven days to justify why the deal should not be fully terminated.

The DND is yet to issue an official statement on the fate of the controversial deal that began in 2012, when Gazmin attempted to secure the approval of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to acquire the 21 helicopters through a negotiated contract.

The GPPB, under Executive Order 645, should approve a negotiated deal as an alternative form of procurement for projects worth P500 million and above.

The board, through a resolution issued on October 25, 2012, only approved negotiated deals for the procurement of 10 attack helicopters and three naval helicopters. The same resolution affirmed the GPPB’s earlier decision dismissing the request of the DND to acquire the 21 Hueys through negotiation.

Last week, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he will look into the details of the GPPB deliberations concerning the Hueys.

Abad heads the GPPB, the highest policy-making body in government procurement as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and Executive Order (EO) 645.

DND insiders said officials may have violated RA 9184 and EO 645 when they insisted on acquiring the helicopters despite repeated warnings by the GPPB in 2012.

A source of The Manila Times at DND claimed that the officials involved in the procurement of the helicopters were reviewing taped SBAC deliberations on the deal that may be subpoenaed by the lawmakers once congressional inquiry into the controversy is launched before the end of April.

MILF: Normalization process vital to success of any conflict resolution: international expert

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 5): Normalization process vital to success of any conflict resolution: international expert

 “Normalization process is vital to the success of any conflict resolution program such as the ongoing peace process in Mindanao”, Stravros “Aki” Stavrou, an expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) said in a forum on Bangsamoro peace process on Saturday (April 4).

"The normalization phase is the time to plant the seeds of development. However, this can only happen when we treat our partners from across the negotiating table with the same respect we'd afford ourselves”, Stravou also said.

An Annex on Normalization is one of the signed agreements between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) in the 17-year peace process. The annex contains decommissioning of forces and weapons, and the conversion of former MILF camps, including Camp Abubakkar As Siddique into a zone of economic development.

“Providing stability and sustainability to former combatants will help ensure that they will no longer be enticed to return to armed radicalism, Stravou further said.

He said "the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants -- that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict."

"If you are able to attract the most number of combatants possible in the process, then you are in a good position to prevent ISIS-like elements from emerging. But if you don't deliver, you will definitely see resistance," he added.

Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, psycho-social interventions are equally important, Stavrou stressed.

He said the communities must also be involved in the process. They should be sensitive to acting immediately or preventing a situation that would make ex-combatants return to their old ways.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) incorporates the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in 2012 and separate annexes on revenue generation and wealth sharing, normalization, power sharing, and transitional arrangements.

The CAB becomes the basis for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) crafted by the Bangsamoro transition Commission (BTC), which will pave the way for the creation of new political entity called Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

BIFF denies kidnapping 4 in Maguindanao

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 5): BIFF denies kidnapping 4 in Maguindanao

THE Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) denied it kidnapped four men in Maguindanao last March 29.

Jayson Cababayao, Raulito Suyom Jr., Francis Wong and Rho Steven, all residents of General Santos City, were earlier reported abducted by gunmen in Sharif Aguak town.

Police said the four were going to Cotabato City for a meeting with a client when their pick-up truck was stopped by armed men.

Rumors spread a P10-million ransom was being demanded for the four, but there has been no official confirmation from authorities.

Relatives of Cababayao reportedly said somebody called them and introduced themselves as members of the BIFF.

But BIFF Spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied it was their men who kidnapped the four.

3 soldiers wounded by roadside bomb in Compostela

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 5): 3 soldiers wounded by roadside bomb in Compostela

THREE soldiers were wounded in an explosion in Compostela Valley after midnight Friday.

They were identified as Staff Sergeant Perlito C. Mayuga, and Privates First Class Jay L. De Emoy and Phevien Jay B. Delada, all from the Army's 66th Infantry Battalion.

The soldiers were returning to camp after a five-day operation when they were hit by an improvised explosive device in Barangay Ngan, Compostela.

Air Force disaster response units ready

From Ang Malaya (Apr 5): Air Force disaster response units ready

Philippine Air Force Mobile Disaster Response Unit based in Villamor Air Base had been alerted and assembled since April 3 in anticipation of Typhoon Chedeng which was expected to affect parts of Norther Luzon Saturday late evening, PAF said.

Air Force disaster response unit is composed of search and rescue, medical, engineering, communication, security and public information teams.

PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Jeffrey F. Delgado inspected the readiness of the Mobile Disaster Response Unit based Villamor Air Base on Saturday, April 4 at around 8 a.m.

The team with their equipment and vehicles such as ambulance, commo-van, skid-steer loader can be immediately deployed via C-130 Hercules and the brand-new C-295 aircraft.

All Luzon-based Disaster Response Units at Basa Air Base and Clark Air Base, Pampanga; Fernando Air Base, Lipa City; Maj Danilo Atienza Air Base, Cavite and Col Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay City composed of around 800 personnel with their equipment were also put on standby alert for Chedeng, the Air Force added.

Philippine Air Force commander visits Japan

From Ang Malaya (Apr 5): Philippine Air Force commander visits Japan

Done as part of confidence building measures and finding opportunities for training and information exchange, Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Jeffrey F. Delgado, had a four-day official visit to Japan accepting the invitation of his counterpart Japan Air Self Defense Force Chief of Staff General Harukazu Saitoh from March 25-29, 2015.

Gen. Delgado’s visit was an important foundation as the PAF develops its capabilities to strengthen its air defense roles aligned with the PAF Flight Plan 2028, the Philippine Air Force said.

Japanese air force is set to conduct capacity building assistance for members of Philippine Air Force as agreed on the recently signed Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges between Philippines and Japan.

Intel agents track down BIFF as offensive ends

From the Philippine Star (Apr 4): Intel agents track down BIFF as offensive ends

The military on Friday dismantled security roadblocks on highways criss-crossing Maguindanao province but intelligence operatives will continue to scour town centers to monitor presence of Moro bandits.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, on Saturday said they have deescalated their offensives against the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in seven Maguindanao towns, but Ranger teams and Reconnaissance experts will continue to track down BIFF forces that have fragmented into smaller bands.

"Our operations now would tactically be 'focused operations,' meant to continue decimating the capability of this group to launch attacks while, at the same, time ensuring the tranquility in areas where they once had encampments that are now secured by government forces," he said.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu ordered on Wednesday the mayors in seven towns where the military and the BIFF have had a four-week face-off to immediately act on any detected presence of bandits in their respective municipalities.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, said the seven mayors are empowered to initiate police actions against bandits in their towns as provided for by the Local Government Code.

Three soldiers—Cpl. Gracia, Pfcs. Catayong and Lazo—were injured Tuesday when BIFF bandits shot with shoulder-fire 40 millimeter projectiles a small building of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Barangay Pagatin in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

The building, constructed by the DSWD in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is where relief workers attend to the needs of thousands of evacuees in school campuses nearby.

The grenades, launched from east of the building, landed on nearby positions of soldiers guarding the barangay.

Local officials said the bombardment was an apparent retaliation for the deaths of 12 BIFF, among them senior bandit gang leaders Yusoph Abisalih, most known as "Bisaya," and siblings Norodin and Salahudin Indong, who were killed by soldiers in running firefights last week.

RELATED: Kin of slain gang leader warn of BIFF revenge plot

Army intelligence officials said there are also indications that the BIFF was responsible for the foiled attempt to set off an improvised explosive device along a busy section of the Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City.

The improvised explosive device, fashioned from a live 60 millimeter mortar rigged with a blasting device that can be detonated from a distance, was identical with what the BIFF had used in recent bombings in Central Mindanao, including last year's deadly attacks in North Cotabato's adjoining Pikit, Kabacan and Mlang towns.

Pangilinan said their units scattered in Central Mindanao are now initiating backdoor dialogues with the business, religious and political communities to maximize public cooperation in preventing possible retaliations by the BIFF.

Pangilinan said Army Ranger teams have continued patrolling in secluded areas in the seven Maguindanao towns where soldiers and BIFF bandits met in more than 20 gunfights in the past five weeks.

Pangilinan said Army units that fought BIFF forces in recent weeks are now helping in the relief operations of the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the office of the provincial governor.

Philippine Army bodybags one communist rebel

From Ang Malaya (Apr 5): Philippine Army bodybags one communist rebel

Troops from 31st Infantry Battalion under the 9th Infantry Division of Philippine Army had an encounter with New People’s Army in Barangay Tagas, Magallanes town in the Province of Sorsogon.

According to 31IB commander Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino his men conducted a security operation, April 2, against a group of at least ten communist rebels who were conducting extortion activities in the said location.

The encounter resulted to the killing of one communist rebel and wounding of Private First Class Richard G. Tablate.

PFC Tablate sustained a gunshot wound on his left shoulder, he was given first aide before he was brought to Sordoc Hospital in Sorsogon City.

Government forces recovered 2 M-16 rifles and five back packs.

Pursuit operation against fleeing rebels is ongoing. Meanwhile, 903rd Infantry Brigade Commander Colonel Cesar Idio urges remaining rebels give up their armed struggle and avail of the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

Army tells war evacuees BIFF gone, safe to go home

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): Army tells war evacuees BIFF gone, safe to go home

The military has urged civilians displaced by its all-out offensive against renegade Moro rebels, which started Feb. 25, to return home as it is now safe for them to do so.

During his visit to Maguindanao on Monday last week, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said to boost the confidence of displaced residents about returning home, soldiers will remain in villages freed from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

At least 123,000 people fled their homes in 15 Maguindanao towns, including Mamasapano, when the military launched an all-out offensive against BIFF.

Catapang said after suffering heavy casualties and being pushed outside of their camps, BIFF is now on the run.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said with the expected return of the displaced residents, the military will start the development phase of its operation in Maguindanao.

She said the second phase of the military operation includes the deployment of troops to areas once held by BIFF.

“We will start the development phase of our campaign,” Petinglay said.

Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan said some 100 families have already returned to their homes.

Ampatuan said some families, however, are still afraid. “Others return at day time (to their homes), but to be safe go back to evacuation sites at night,” said the mayor.

Catapang said the military offensive has led to a “50-percent” decline in BIFF capacity to sow terror.

The military, he said, is now shifting to “focused operations.”

“Focused military operation would mean when we spot the enemy, we will operate,” said Catapang.

“But it would not be like sending brigades to operate. The Rangers will operate. We will make sure that there is no collateral damage or human rights violation,” he said.

Catapang said the military will also work with local government units in convincing civilians to go home and “put up their own village security.”

The offensive, however, has not resulted in the capture or killing of Basit Usman, a Filipino terrorist who had taken shelter with Indonesian al-Qaida operative Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano.

MILF vows to help search for 4 ‘kidnapped’ in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): MILF vows to help search for 4 ‘kidnapped’ in Maguindanao

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday said it would help look for four people from General Santos City whom a police official said had been abducted in Maguindanao.


This developed as friends of Francis Wong – one of those reportedly kidnapped – said on Facebook that he had not been returning calls or answering text messages since March 29.

BACKSTORY: Pentagon Gang strikes again, takes 4 captives

On his Facebook wall, Wong’s friends said they were hoping he and his companions had not been harmed.

 Another friend urged the four to just follow what their captors tell them to do.

 Cotabato City police director Senior Superintendent Roland Balquin identified Wong’s companions as Jason Cababayao, a member of a family owning the J Trade Concrete Products and Construction Supply in General Santos City; architect Raulito Suyom Jr.; and Rho Steven.

The four are partners in a construction business who were on their way to this city to meet a client when abducted in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, said Balquin.

The police official said he could not provide more details on the kidnapping as the police’s anti-kidnapping task force had taken over the case.

Von Al Haq, chief of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, has told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone they would mobilize their men to locate the victims.

He said the MILF would work with the government through the Adhoc Joint Action Group (Ahjag).

“We are going to help. We will coordinate with our counterparts for the safe release of the victims,” he said.

Balquin said the kidnappers have contacted the victims’ families based on reports they were getting but that these were still being double-checked.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway rebel group from the MILF in Maguindanao, denied any involvement in the kidnapping.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said he only heard of the kidnapping on the radio and could not say whether it actually took place.

As of Sunday, authorities had not identified any group behind the kidnapping but previous abductions here and in Central Mindanao were pinned on the so-called Pentagon Gang, which has links with the Abu Sayyaf.

The Pentagon Gang was founded in the 1980s by former Moro National Liberation Front commander Faisal Marohombsar, who was later slain in a clash with government troops. It operates through smaller cells that are spread throughout Mindanao.

Among the gang’s previous victims included Italian priest Fr. Giuseppe Piarantoni, who was snatched on Oct. 17, 2001, while celebrating Mass in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur.

The group was also blamed for the 2001 kidnapping of five Chinese engineers working on a government irrigation project in North Cotabato.

AFP Medical Corps chief is new military hospital chief

From InterAksyon (Apr 5): AFP Medical Corps chief is new military hospital chief

The military's premier hospital has a new chief effective Monday, replacing an Air Force general whose watch was tainted by accusations of irregularity but was later cleared in an investigation.

Air Force Colonel Joseph Acosta, current chief of the Medical Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the new chief of the AFP Medical Center at V. Luna Road in Quezon City, the military’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) announced Sunday.

At Monday's (April6) turnover, Acosta will be taking over the helm of the hospital from retiring AFPMC chief Air Force Brigadier General Normando Sta. Ana.

Several months of investigation into alleged corruption involving P80 million worth of medical supplies that reportedly did not undergo public bidding turned up nothing, and Sta. Ana was absolved by the AFP leadership.

Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. earlier relieved Sta. Ana from his post last year amid media reports of the alleged corruption.  Sta. Ana, a product of the AFP’s Officer Candidate School, is an adopted member of Catapang’s batch at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Dimalupig” Class 1981.

Also sacked from their positions were former special disbursing officer Lieutenant Colonel Florencio Ritchie I. Capulong, former Management and Fiscal Office chief Major Neil D. Bugarin, and former acting ACS for Logistics Colonel Rogelio S. Del Rio.

Subsequently, however, the AFP leadership absolved Sta. Ana after months of investigation and Catapang ordered his reinstatement as AFPMC chief.

Sta. Ana implemented a sweeping revamp at the AFPMC on his return: sacking officers, staff and even civilian employees whom sources said he suspected as having had a role in leaking the corruption allegations.

The case first arose from a complaint filed by a certain Renato Villafuerte before the Office of the Ombudsman, asking Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate the alleged irregularity in the procurement of medical supplies - in violation, he said, of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003.

Photo: Shaky pact

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): Photo: Shaky pact

An armored personnel carrier   traverses  a road in Maguindanao, an area where clashes between military and Muslim rebels have become more frequent.  President Benigno Aquino has called on lawmakers to pass a bill endorsing a pact aimed at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion, warning them they would otherwise start counting “body bags”. Aquino had wanted the bill, which would give autonomy to the majority Catholic nation’s Muslim minority in the south, passed this month. AFP

Two AFP officers cleared of coup

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): Two AFP officers cleared of coup
The Court of Appeals has exonerated two officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines of coup d’état charges  in connection with their participation in the June 27, 2003  Oakwood mutiny.

The court said their action “was a valid and legitimate exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.”

In a 21-page decision, the CA’s Ninth Division through Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes reversed the judgment rendered by the Makati City Regional Trial Court, Branch 48, which found 1Lt Lawrence San Juan and 1Lt Rex Bolo guilty of the crime of committing coup d’état and sentenced them to  six years up to 12 years of imprisonment.

San Juan and Bolo were not among the military officers belonging to the Magdalo group who applied and granted amnesty during the term of the President Arroyo  and later the Aquino   administration.

In absolving the two military officers, the appellate court gave credence to their arguments that the prosecution failed to prove the presence of all the elements of coup d’ etat and that their constitutional right to equal protection was violated when Senator Gregorio Honasan II was exonerated by the DOJ and they were not.

Honasan allegedly instigated the young military officers to launch the mutiny.

San Juan also asserted that the denial by the trial court of his plea bargain of pleading guilty to the crime of conspiracy to commit coup d’ etat, which was denied by the RTC does not automatically prove that the crime of coup d’ etat was committed.

The CA ruled that the third and fourth elements of the crime of coup d’état are not present in the case.

The third element requires that the attack be “directed against duly constituted authorities of the Republic of the Philippines or any military camp or installation, communication networks, public utilities or other facilities needed for the exercise and continued possession of power.”

It noted that the  Oakwood Premier Hotel (now Ascott Makati) is a first class hotel , in the commercial district of Makati City.

“It is not a military camp or installation, not a form of communication network, not a public utility or a facility needed for the exercise and continued possession of power,” the appellate court stressed.

The CA also said the fourth element which requires “that the purpose of the attack is to seize or diminish state power” is also absent.

“Moreover, the trial court itself found that the accused only called for the resignation of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other key officials of the government. The trial court failed to point out in the assailed decision any showing that the appellant indeed planned to arrogate state power upon themselves or diminish state power,” the appellate court ruled.

According to the CA, the actions of the two soldiers can be considered as a valid exercise of their right to freedom of speech and expression.

“Freedom of speech and of the press means something more than the right to approve existing political belief or economic arrangements, to lend support to official measures and to take refuge in the existing climate of opinion on any matter of public consequence,” the appellate court stressed.

The  CA ordered the lower court to release the bail bonds posted by the two military officers for their provisional liberty.

On June 27, 2003, over 300 junior officers and enlisted men of the AFP  led by then Lt Sg. Antonio Trillanes IV and now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV went to Oakwood Premier Hotel in Makati City to air their grievances against the Arroyo government.

The mutineers eventually surrendered and were charged with the crime of coup d’ etat penalized under Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code.

After conducting a preliminary investigation on the case, the Department of Justice (D)O) issued a resolution on October 30, 2003 finding probable cause to indict 31 out of the 300 original accused for the crime including San Juan and Bolo.

Some of the Magdalo soldiers were granted conditional pardon by Mrs. Arroyo under General Order No. 10 dated May 12, 2008, while others benefitted from Proclamation No. 75 issued by President Aquino granting amnesty to active and former personnel of the AFP and Philippine National Police who participated in the Oakwood mutiny, the Marines stand-off at Fort Bonifacio in 2006 and the Manila Peninsula incident.

3 soldiers killed in Surigao blast

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): 3 soldiers killed in Surigao blast

Three people were killed while six others were wounded in  an  ambush followed by landmine explosions along provincial road in Sitio Ban-as, Barangay Mahayag, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur  in the  evening of Holy Wednesday, the military said.

Apart from the two dead soldiers, a civilian    also was killed while a companion  was  wounded as the NPA rebels ambushed  a military  convoy  and detonated landmines.

 In an official report filed by 401st Infantry Battalion Public Affairs Officer Captain Jasper T. Gacayan,   the  soldiers belonging to 41st Division Recon Company and 4th Field Artillery Battalion were  on a  convoy of four military trucks when an  undetermined number of NPA rebels  attacked   them.

Gacayan said that as the military trucks stopped  to assess the damage, the rebels fired on the convoy, killing two soldiers and wounding  five others. The rest of the soldiers  disembarked and engaged the  NPA rebels in  a firefight.

Dead on the spot were Army Sgt. Luisilo Pastor, Army Corporal Rey Esmalde Gerzon and a civilian  Danilo Sumaoy Bendanillo.

Five other soldiers   were critically wounded.

Gacayan said the NPA rebels planted landmines which violated the United Nation’s recognized (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

In Gingoog City, a council member and four other people were killed during a Holy Week violence in Misamis Oriental,  police said.

Councilor Mark Bagaipo, 43, was shot by an unidentified assailant.

Four other persons were shot in a spate of violence with the gunmen using .45 caliber pistols, police said.

Police were looking into the series of killings.

Retired Marine officer taken by Abus in Sulu

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): Retired Marine officer taken by Abus in Sulu

A retired Marine officer who operates a passenger boat was abducted Sunday by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Pantukan Island in Barangay Panglima Tahil, Sulu, according to report released by Task Force ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi).

The task force, a unit led by Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander Rear Admiral Yoma, identified the victim as Master Sergeant Renato Fernandez.

It said five armed men who posed as passengers of Fernandez’s M/L RJ Express seized him while aboard the water craft.

Fernandez’s wife,  Embraida Usman Fernandez, confirmed to authorities that her husband had been abducted.

According to Embraida, the former Marine left Jolo pier aboard their own boat around 9:15 a.m. going to Pangutaran Island. The boat had around 40 passengers.

“At around 10:30 a.m., while sailing, three of his passengers took their hidden long firearms and immediately seized Fernandez,” the task force’s report said.

Two pump boats with a pair of armed men approached the boat and the abductors transferred with their victim. They sailed towards the area of Barangay Buton Mahablo, Parang, Sulu.

Armed men abduct retired master sergeant in Sulu

From GMA News (Apr 5): Armed men abduct retired master sergeant in Sulu

Armed men abducted a retired soldier off Patukunan Island in Tahil town in Sulu province on Sunday morning, Sulu police said.

The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m., GMA News correspondent Peewee Bacuño reported, citing initial reports from the Sulu police.

Initial information identified the victim as Master Sergeant Renato Fernandez, supposedly of the Philippine Marines.
peewee bacuño   
isang retiradong sundalo, dinukot ng armadong grupo sa panglima tahil, sulu @gmanews @dzbb

BATCH 90 FOUNDERS OF MNLF TRAINED IN KL ‘Malaysia fuels strife for Sabah’

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 6): BATCH 90 FOUNDERS OF MNLF TRAINED IN KL ‘Malaysia fuels strife for Sabah’

The Sultanate of Sulu accused Malaysia of having planted “the seeds of Mindanao conflict” by aiding Moro rebels since 1970 as part of its supposed attempt to weaken the Philippines’ claim over Sabah.

The Sulu Sultanate claims to be the real owner of Sabah which Malaysia considers as a member of its federation of states.

Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, said that Kuala Lumpur is responsible for training the so-called “Batch 90” composed of Filipino Muslim fighters that eventually became the founders of the Moro National Liberation front (MNLF).

“The Mindanao conflict started in 1972 on the belief of liberating the Muslims, who started to call themselves Bangsamoro, from political, economic and cultural bondages but it was aimed at protecting Malaysia’s illegal administration of Sabah,” he added.

However, Idjirani said that tribal differences among MNLF leaders led to split of the Group — that led to the organization of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Idjirani said that the Sultanate of Sulu, led by Sultan Esmael Kiram II, continues to hold sovereign authority over Sabah as Malaysia only inherited rights from Great Britain in 1963.

“Malaysia’s continued payment in the small amount for a territory of 30,000 square miles is hiding the truth in the comfort of its citizens always creating a political scenario to prevent the Philippine government and the Sultan of Sulu in working closely to strengthen the Philippine position to repossess Sabah,” Idjirani told The Tribune.

Idjirani said that the Sultanate of Sulu and the administrations of President Diosdado Macapagal and President Ferdinand Marcos have worked closely to re-claim Sabah until the eruption of the supposed “Jabidah Massacre” in 1968.

The late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. branded the “Jabidah massacre” as a hoax, citing his own investigation that discovered 24 of the supposed victims came out alive in Sulu.

Idjirani said the Jabidah fiasco opened up the gate for Malaysia to indirectly intervene in affairs of the Muslims in the Philippines. It began with Malaysia’s giving the Muslim Filipino patriots in 1969 to take up their training in Pangkor Island, Johor, Malaysia.

“The training of Muslim Filipino patriots known as the Batch 90 planted the seed of what blossomed into a MNLF in the Malaysian soil and elected Prof. Nurullaji Misuari as its founding chairman with a mission to secede Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan from the Republic of the Philippines,” said Idjirani.

“Affected by strong sense of tribal and cultural influence, internal power struggle came to divide the MNLF as the core of Muslim revolutionary front, Muslims of mainland Mindanao headed by Ustadz Hashim Salamat formed the MILF as a separate Muslim revolutionary group in 1976,” said Idjirani.

Meanwhile, Idjirani said that the Sultanate of Sulu is thankful that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified that the country’s claim over Sabah remains.

The DFA also cited that Malaysia is paying rent to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu up to now despite reported dismissal of Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman of the Philippine claims over Sabah.

“Sultan Esmael Kiram II appreciated very much the DFA stand to tell the truth the Malaysian foreign minister that Malaysia is paying the rent to the Sultan of Sulu. The DFA’s position confirmed that what Great Britain transferred to Malaysia in 1963 was lease rights delegated in 1878 to the British North Borneo Company by the Sultan of Sulu in whom sovereignty remained vested,” said Idjirani.

The MILF, meanwhile, told a Davao City publication that it is willing to accept amendments to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) only as far as the changes are done “for improvement and enhancement.”

“For improvement and enhancement, yes we could accept it. They have to remember that BBL is based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Davao Today quoted MILF Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying.
Iqbal said “diluting the BBL would not address the Moro insurgency in Mindanao.”

Iqbal said the provisions contained in the proposed BBL were the “aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for a just and lasting peace.”

“We trust the Congress that a BBL that could enable peace to exist and prosper in Mindanao shall be passed,” Iqbal said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman, also said that BBL will “help build a strong nation that will provide benefits to the people in Mindanao.”

Both the Senate and Congressional hearings on the BBL hit a snag in the wake of Mamasapano incident that claimed the lives of 44 PNP’s elite cops after a tragic law enforcement operation.

The constitutionality of the BBL has been questioned by some lawmakers from both the Senate and Congress urging the proponents of the bill to weed out unconstitutional provisions.

“We are for peace and we do hope that they are with us in achieving this dream for our people,” Iqbal said.

Espina: Marwan death confirmation is honor to SAF44

From ABS-CBN (Apr 5): Espina: Marwan death confirmation is honor to SAF44

Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. File Photo

Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina declared a “mission accomplished” as the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed that international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan is dead.

On behalf of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in the aftermath of the operation, Espina said: “As OIC of the PNP, I declare that Marwan is dead. Mission Accomplished.”

He said this confirmation adds to the honor of the SAF men.

“Based on this new evidence provided by modern science, there is no doubt that the PNP-SAF indeed got their man, as they always do. This fact should add to the glory and honor of the 44 brave young men who offered the supreme sacrifice to get the job done,” he said.

The FBI confirmed on Friday the death of the Jemaah Islamiyah-linked Marwan, one of the US’ most wanted.

“These conclusive findings effectively dismissed any and all doubts about the death of one of Asia's most wanted and dangerous terrorists,” Espina said.

The Mamasapano operation targeted to neutralize Marwan and another bomb maker, Basit Usman, but ended in the death of 44 SAF troopers, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and several civilians.

The SAF men were already retreating when armed groups, including the MILF, engaged them in a firefight. Later investigations showed the lack of coordination between the government and the group with whom it is negotiating a peace agreement.

DND indefinitely suspends purchase of Navy vessels

From ABS-CBN (Apr 5): DND indefinitely suspends purchase of Navy vessels

The Department of Defense (DND) is indefinitely suspending the procurement of three additional vessels for the Navy, worth P270 million, in the absence of a revised AFP Modernization Program.

“The procurement process relative to this project shall resume once the revised AFP Modernization Program is approved and funds for the purpose are released by the Department of Budget and Management,” DND Special Bids and Awards Committee vice chairman Patrick Velez said in a supplemental bid bulletin.

The deadline for the submission and opening of bids was scheduled for Monday. The vessels that the Defense department seeks to acquire are those capable of rough sea conditions sans system degradation.

The vessels will also “be fitted with provisions for installation of advanced weapon systems”, specifically remote weapons system as well as missile launch system which will be acquired through another project.”

The revised AFP Modernization Program, which calls for a P75 billion funding, was passed in Congress in 2012.

Aquino has yet to approve the release of the funds.

Despite this, Aquino has already given the go signal to several modernization projects, such as the acquisition of 12 FA-50 fighter jets from the Korean Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion and procurement of two frigates for P18 billion.

Businessman, 2 others shot dead by unidentified armed uniformed men

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Businessman, 2 others shot dead by unidentified armed uniformed men
AROROY, Masbate -- A known businessman in this town and his companions were shot dead by still unidentified armed men in uniform Sunday morning.

Police identified the victims only as Ka Isong Amaro, an Iglesia Ni Cristo member, one Boyet Amaro and his bodyguard.

Amaro was a known local financier of small-scale miners in this town .

Reports from Barangay Luy-a residents where the victims resided said that at around 4:00 a.m., a band of armed men barged into the house of Amaro and shot the three victims dead.

Weeks before the incident, it was learned that Amaro’s residence was fired at with explosives by unknown suspects.

Police are yet to find out the motive behind the killings.

MNLF official calls for unity of Mindanao Moro leaders

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): MNLF official calls for unity of Mindanao Moro leaders

A leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) today urged Mindanao Moro leaders, particularly fellow MNLF to unite and support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

”We will reap nothing if we keep disunited,” Uttoh Salem Cutan, an MNLF leader from Southern Mindanao, said.

He said the BBL is not for single group only but for all the sectors in Mindanao, including Christians and Indigenous Peoples.

“Let’s give peace a chance,” Cutan, also former Executive Director of the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), appealed.

“Rest assured, everybody will be part of the BBL,” Salem said, adding the law will also protect the peace agreement the MNLF signed with the government in 1996.

He said the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 GPH-MNLF Peace Agreement will be incorporated with the BBL.

The draft BBL which is now in Congress for deliberation is hoped to be passed into law by June this year.

Peace Advocates and various groups from different sectors have been urging the lawmakers to pass the BBL.

Cutan, which also currently serves as the vice-chair of the Local Monitoring Team-Sarangani, noted the effort of the government to resolve the Mindanao problem.

He urged other Moro leaders to heed to the call of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the unity of the Bangsamoro.

The OIC, an influential pan-Islamic body comprised of 57 member states which facilitated the GPH-MNLF peace process also hosts the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum aimed to bring together the MNLF and MILF to discuss issues and find common ground between the peace pacts they separately signed with the government.

On Tuesday, more than 500 constituents of Sarangani and nearby towns joined the peace forum organized by the Office of the Governor through its Sulong Sarangani Program.

Government Chief Peace Negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Senen Bacani, GPH Panel Member, were the resource persons in the peace forum.

More development projects up in North Cotabato as MinDA pushes Mindanao 2020

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): More development projects up in North Cotabato as MinDA pushes Mindanao 2020

More projects are up in North Cotabato as the implementation of various programs and projects in pursuit of the strategies under the Mindanao 2020 Peace and Development Framework Plan or “Mindanao 2020,” officials announced today.

In a statement released today by the office of North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, it said that Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Sec. Luwalhati R. Antonino revealed this during her meeting with the provincial governor.

“The Mindanao 2020 is designed to respond to the need for a better future for Mindanao and its people. The programs and projects are intended to develop many communities through infrastructure, tourism, business, livelihood and others which include agriculture,” Antonino said.

The official also said that Mindanao 2020, which MinDA, spearheads since 2010 contains a blueprint of fora, workshops, focus group discussions, interviews, surveys and consult of writings in various forms, all aimed to strengthen support as well as commitment of many sectors to program implementations.

Antonino presented to Mendoza and other provincial officials a power-point slide of the programs and projects MinDA has commenced in other provinces which now play important role in the economic development in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Compostela Valley, South Cotabato and Sarangani.

She also gave status report on the multi-million peso projects implemented by MinDA in Cotabato which include major roads and bridges (Davao-Cotabato road widening), secondary and local roads (Banisilan-Guiling-Alamada-Libungan road; Kidapawan – Kalunasan, M’lang road; Noah, Magpet – Doroluman, Arakan – Greenfield, President Roxas road; Paco, Kidapawan-Pres. Roxas-Arakan Valley road and Dualing-Baliki-Silik, Pikit road); flood control and irrigation (Libungan flood control project, Malmar Irrigation Projects) and M’lang airport on-going development).

MinDA projects in the province also include tourism roads (concreting of road leading to Asik-Asik falls in Dado, Alamada and road leading to Tausuvan falls in Bongolanon, Magpet) and Lake Agco development in Ilomavis, Kidapawan City.

“If there’s one thing that we need to develop more here in Cotabato, it’s the tourism industry,” Antonino noted during the provincial government’s radio program “Serbisyong Totoo.”

“We know the predicament in some parts of the province as to peace and order and we need to work harder to overcome those with positive development in the tourism aspect of Cotabato,” she explained further.

Antonino further discussed with the provincial officials other important matters such as the policies that bring impact to the development of Mindanao, investment opportunities on renewable energy and eco-tourism and Mindanao-wide security coordination.

She noted the high potential of growing cacao in some parts of the province and the intention for Cotabato to become a leading cacao and cocoa supplier and discussed it with the local chief executives and the personnel of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG).

Antonino stressed that with coordination and proper implementation of the stakeholders, Mindanao 2020 will connote a clear vision for the future, although difficult because of the context of the people’s long history of peculiar differences and challenges but is totally achievable.

North Cotabato has been focusing on tourism development because the province hosts several tourist destinations.

DND postpones bid opening for missile-armed MPACs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): DND postpones bid opening for missile-armed MPACs

Bid opening and submission for the Department of National Defense (DND)'s missile-equipped MPAC (multi-purpose assault craft) is postponed until such time the Department of Budget and Management has released the funds needed for the project's implementation.

Funding for this program, which is called MPAC Acquisition Project (Lot 1 - Platform), amounts to PhP270-million.

"The procurement process relative to this project shall resume once the revised AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Modernization Program is approved and funds for the purpose are released by the Department of Budget Management," DND Assistance Secretary Patrick Velez said in a supplemental bid bulletin.

Velez is the vice chair of the DND's Special Bids Awards Committee-1, the group tasked to supervise the bidding and eventual acquisition of the missile-armed MPACs.

Bid opening was originally scheduled for April 6 at 10 a.m. at the DND-Bidding and Awards Committee Conference Room, DND Building., Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Pre-bid conference took place last March 23 at 10 a.m., at the same venue.

The DND earlier said that the PhP270-million contract includes mission essential equipment and initial integrated logistics support packages.

"These new set of seagoing MPAC shall be capable of operating at sea state 5 without systems degradation and shall be fitted with provisions for installation of advanced weapons system (remote weapons system as well as missile launch system—Lot 2)," it added.

The Philippine Navy is currently operating six MPAC units.

Mission essential equipment package to be installed shall be composed of, but not limited to, day/night electronic navigation system, communications suite, safety-of-life-at-sea equipment, propulsion system, and seamanship /shiphandling equipment and gears.

The craft shall be built in-country and in accordance to the approved technical specifications of the Philippine Navy.

Delivery of the goods is required within a period of 365 calendar days from the receipt by the supplier of the Notice to Proceed (NTP) or the date provided in the NTP.

Interested bidders should have completed, within 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.

PAF Aero Commander 690 to undergo maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): PAF Aero Commander 690 to undergo maintenance

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated PhP4,445,305.11 for the procurement of spare parts needed for the maintenance of its sole Aero Commander 690 surveillance aircraft.

Submission and opening of Bids is scheduled for April 14 at 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.

AFP honors senior defenders

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): AFP honors senior defenders
With the nation starting its observance of Philippine Veterans Week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) offered its most snappy salute to the country's senior defenders on Sunday.

This took place during the “Review in Honor of the Veterans” held at at the Hunters-ROTC Guerrilla Field Headquarters, Philippine Army Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

A battalion-sized contingent from the AFP performed the review wherein the veterans paraded and were accorded honors at par with high-ranking military officers and visiting dignitaries who are entitled to such honor.

The review had four elements: the formation of troops, presentation and honors, ceremonial inspection (passing around the troops), and march in review where the veterans-leaders stood in front of the stage to acknowledge the parading troops.

Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr., AFP chief-of-staff as military host, led the review.

He said that this is the military's way of paying tribute to their forebears and the country’s senior defenders –- the Filipino war veterans who brought to the fore the Filipino’s peculiar brand of heroism and love for country.

Catapang said the review is a time-honored annual tradition of the AFP whereby men and women in the uniformed service show their respect to veterans for their unparalleled services, selfless sacrifices, numerous accomplishments and the distinct values which shaped the Armed Forces into what it has now become -- a more capable, more professional and more reliable Armed Forces serving the Filipino people.

Rep. Leopoldo N. Bataoil of the 2nd District of Pangasinan and the Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs was the special guest and keynote speaker in the event.

He is a nephew of a World War II veteran, his namesake, who was missing-in-action in Bataan during World War II.

Bataoil was introduced by retired Major Gen. Raul Z. Caballes, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office deputy administrator, who is also a son of another World War II veteran, the late Col. Mauro S. Caballes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1945 who fought under the Marking’s Fil-American irregular troops.

Bataoil read the privilege speech originally made by Rep. Herminia B. Roman, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which narrated the continuing appeal to the legislative body for the overdue increase in benefits and services to veterans and their beneficiaries.

Senior veterans were awarded with plaques and medals in recognition of their wartime services and honorable performance of duties during World War II.

The living awardees are Col. Francisco T. San Miguel, Sgt. Jose Felix F. Caparas, Sgt. Manuel C. Carpio, Col. Francisco S. Tamondong, Pfc. Pilar Hipolito De Ocampo, Maj. Jesse M. Baltazar, Pvt. Manuel T. Cannu, Pfc. Valentin R. Ege, TSgt. Silvestre D. Sarmiento, and Col./Atty. Catalino D. Ibañez.

Likewise, the posthumous awardees were: Pvt. Francisco S. Cordoba Sr. (the award was received by his grandson, Atty. Gamaliel A. Cordoba); Lt.Cmdr. Vicente A. Perez (award received by his wife, Lucila Santiago-Perez); Sgt. Domingo G. Padiernos (received by his sons Col. Justino Padiernos and Gen. Romeo Padiernos); MSgt. Jesus V. Delos Santos (received by his son, LtGen. Jaime Delos Santos); Lt. Col. Saturnino R. Silva Sr. (received by his daughter, Marie Vallejo); Major Gen. Calixto M. Duque (received by his daughter, Suzanne Duque); and 3Lt Leopoldo G. Bataoil (received by his nephew, Rep. Leopoldo N. Bataoil).

PNP-OIC delares mission accomplished as FBI confirms death of Marwan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): PNP-OIC delares mission accomplished as FBI confirms death of Marwan

Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), on Sunday announced that the operation against Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias "Marwan" in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in Mindanao last Jan. 25 is mission accomplished.

Espina said this was after the the result of the confirmatory DNA tests and further investigation conducted by the US FBI that established with certainty the identity of international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan as the person who was successfully neutralized by the PNP-SAF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

"These conclusive findings effectively dismissed any and all doubts about the death of one of Asia's most wanted and dangerous terrorists," he noted.

"Based on this new evidence provided by modern science, there is no doubt that the PNP-SAF indeed got their man, as they always do. This fact should add to the glory and honor of the 44 brave young men who offered the supreme sacrifice to get the job done," he added.

The the Mamasapano incident last Jan. 25 which led to the deaths of international terrorist Marwan and 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF)

"On their behalf, as OIC of the PNP, I declare that Marwan is dead. Mission Accomplished," Espina said as Marwan was one of three high-value targets of the SAF operation.

In a statement, David Bowdich, assistant director in charge at the FBI Los Angeles Field office said the agency has now taken bin Hir off its Most Wanted Terrorist list and thanked the Philippine police.

"Once again, the men and women of the FBI express sincere condolences to the brave officers of the Special Action Force who lost their lives while attempting to apprehend this dangerous fugitive," Bowdich said.

The Mamasapano assault became an hours-long firefight between the elite police force and members of the MILF, its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other private armed groups.

A total of 67 people died in the Mamasapano clash, including 44 SAF officers, 18 MILF members, and five civilians.

Cardinal Quevedo convenes "Friends of Peace"

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Cardinal Quevedo convenes "Friends of Peace"

A group of independent peace workers in Mindanao and other parts of the country have joined together to promote and foster harmony among Mindanawons.

Calling itself “Friends of Peace (FFP),” the group was convened by His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato in partnership with civil society organizations from across the country.

Quevedo said in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy and the stalled momentum in the peace process, the Friends of Peace, a group of peace advocates across the country, have come together to reflect on events and offer insights to our leaders, constituents and communities on the need to move forward, give meaning to the sacrifice of those who have fallen and find solutions to achieve durable peace.

"The many initiatives done in response to calls for truth and justice, for rebuilding of trust and confidence amongst our people, and many such peace activities are already contributions towards finding the road to peace once more," he said.But Quevedo, believing anyone can make a difference by working for peace and in the spirit of shared responsibility, is inviting stakeholders to the FFP launching.

At 1 p.m. on Monday, April 6 at Function Rooms 1-4, Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Conference Center, Manila Benavidez cor. Trasierra Sts. Legaspi Village, Makati City, Friends of Peace will be officially launched followed by a press conference.

FFP is an independent group of peace workers convened by Cardinal Quevedo from the ranks of civil society for the common purpose of fostering harmony among Mindanawons (Muslims, Lumads, Christians, and members of other religious traditions).

It also engages with the primary political actors and key stakeholders to promote peace through dialogues and consultations in support of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the consolidation of peace in Bangsamoro and the wider Mindanao area.
The FFP’s vision goes beyond the implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and into the formation of a human ecology of harmony and peace among various ethnic groups and religious traditions.

Quevedo said the launch is also an opportunity "to reaffirm our commitment to the continuing task of strengthening the peace fabric. I hope that our efforts will help build the legacy of sustained peace and development in our homeland."