Monday, May 4, 2015

B’laan Datu Antonio Kinoc, MILF peace panel member, passes away

From MindaNews (May 3): B’laan Datu Antonio Kinoc, MILF peace panel member, passes away

Antonio “Tony” Kinoc, a B’laan Datu who served as alternate member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel representing Indigenous Peoples, passed away shortly after midnight on Sunday, his daughter announced through Kinoc’s Facebook wall.

“I lost my daddy last nite at 12:36,” AnneQueen Kinoc wrote a little past 5 a.m. Sunday.

While designated as “alternate member,” the 66-year old Kinoc was a constant presence in the MILF peace panel’s negotiations under the Aquino administration, in Kuala Lumpur and in the Philippines, and in the public hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). He also served as consultant of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the 15-member joint Government-MILF body that drafted the BBL.

The BTC extended its “deepest sympathies and condolences” to Kinoc’s family. The MILF peace panel has yet to issue a statement on Kinoc’s demise.

“Datu Kinoc or Sir Tony as we fondly called him was a B’laan tribal leader, a member of the MILF Peace Panel and a consultant to the BTC. He was a champion of peace and a friend to the Bangsamoro people,” the BTC said.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) and the Coalition of Development NGOs (Code-NGO), said they are “saddened by your passing.”

“Thank you for your valuable contribution to the peace talks!,” Sarenas said.

Kinoc was familiar with the Bangsamoro struggle as he worked as a staffmember of a brother who was a member of the Regional Consultative Commission (RCC), the body that drafted the proposed law that would govern what would be the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the late 1980s. He also served as a member of the Consultative Assembly of the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD), set up after the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberaiton Front (MNLF).

Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus said Kinoc “will be a big loss to the peace process and especially for the Indigenous Peoples whom he had valiantly fought for, not only in words but with persistent, consistent and dedicated acts of service.”

Arnado recalled that just before Kinoc fell ill, “Datu Tony proudly told me he was able to have perfect attendance in the public and committee hearings on the BBL.”

She noted how Kinoc, during public consultations would often say: “I am a living witness of the fact that the MILF will not compel people to become Muslims. I have worked with them all these years in the negotiation and they have always respected and recognized my own identity and faith.”

Arnado said words are “not enough to honor and pay gratitude to this person.”

“We can only repay you Datu by working doubly hard to ensure that what you fought and worked for will become a reality for every Bangsamoro and indigenous people in Mindanao. Salamat Datu, we will miss you dearly,” she said.

Kinoc was articulate in narrating the Moro and IP struggles for self-determination.

His sense of humor helped ease tension in the peace negotiations. He never seemed to have run out of jokes.

Quel Valencia, who used to work with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and a member of the secretariat of the government panel during negotiations in Kuala Lumpur wrote on Kinoc’s Facebook wall that Kinoc was “One of — if not the most — cheerful figures in the peace process.”

Cess Nagtalon Kinoc posted on her father’s Facebook wall how he was “always ready with his jokes.”

“He was classy, well-versed, and he listened very well to what everyone had said before he made his speeches,” she said.

She also shared with her father’s Facebook friends that her father “taught us to speak English, he never tried to hurt us, he was always ready with his jokes which were always so witty. He wasn’t strict, but he always made sure we knew what was right. He turned us to movies and music and books because he said there was a lot to learn from these. He loved the classics so much he could quote every John Wayne film in John Wayne’s voice. I loved listening to his stories: he told the history of the world as bedtime stories, but never tarnishing the manner of how it was written. He told them as it is. He loved his people and fought for them each time. He was proud of us as his kids even though we failed so many times, he took them as his mistakes.”

“I could ask him almost about everything. He’s the reason why I never get lost anywhere in the Philippines. He may be Datu Kinoc, a leader to the Bla’ans, but to us you’ll just be that loving, humble and unselfish father,” she added.

http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2015/05/03/blaan-datu-antonio-kinoc-milf-peace-panel-member-passes-away/

UH-1 supplier uses PAF hangars for ‘free’

From the Manila Times (May 3): UH-1 supplier uses PAF hangars for ‘free’

BLACKLISTED helicopter supplier, the joint venture Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copter Ltd., has been using facilities of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for the refurbishment of UH-1 helicopters since last year and the company has not paid the military a single centavo, a source said on Sunday.

The source codenamed “Joey” disclosed that PAF, through instructions of an official of the Department of National Defense (DND), allowed RASI to use three of its hangars at Clark Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, without executing a contract.

“RASI has been using three bays in Clark Air Base Bay-1, Bay-2 and a fixed hangar since June last year for the refurbishment works on the UH-1 helicopters,” he said.

The choppers were part of the P1.2-billion UH-1 helicopter project, between the DND and RASI under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the acquisition of 21 refurbished UH-1D helicopters.

“Joey” said RICE started using the hangars on June 22, 2014 upon arrival of the first four helicopters in Manila.

The source noted that the use of hangars alone is already a violation of the helicopter contract because it was specifically stated in the agreement that it should be “delivery at place.”

It means that the helicopters must already be operational and ready for test flight upon delivery, removing the need for the contractor to use the PAF hangars and conduct refurbishment works, “Joey” explained.

“Even if the units were semi-knockdown, it would only take the supplier two to seven days to assemble the units. However, RASI used the hangars for several months,” he said.

The worst part, “Joey” added, is that RASI was able to use the facilities for free because there was no contract executed regarding the use of the hangars.

According to him, the Air Force, upon the instructions of the DND official, entered into a deal with RASI, allowing the supplier to use the hangars for a fee.

For unknown reasons, however, no contract was signed.

Besides the hangars, RICE also used the machine shop and some equipment of PAF.

But when the Air Force tried to bill RASI for the use of the facilities, the supplier refused to pay.

“Since there was no contract, the PAF cannot oblige the RASI to pay. PAF could have earned P3 million to P5 million from rental fees,” “Joey” pointed out.

Even with the recent decision of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to terminate the helicopter contract with RASI, according to the source, the supplier still continues to use the hangars.

The source named Col. Florante Amano, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Logistics (A4) as among those who knew about the deal and could shed light on the issue further.

“The absence of a contract on the hangar deal between PAF and RASI is highly suspicious and it should also be tackled in the Senate investigation. That is disadvantageous to the government, and a violation of existing laws,” “Joey” said.
 
The Senate blue ribbon committee will start its investigation of the controversial chopper deal on May 4 (Wednesday) in a bid to determine if procurement deals are in accordance with the AFP modernization program.

http://www.manilatimes.net/uh-1-supplier-uses-paf-hangars-for-free/180501/

Former AFP-CRS chief dies in Laguna car crash

From InterAksyon (May 4): Former AFP-CRS chief dies in Laguna car crash



Retired Major General Nestor Sadiarin. FROM THE CRS PHOTO GALLERY

A former general and chief of the Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) died Sunday in a car accident in Los Banos, Laguna, a report from the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) said Monday.

PMAAAI said Major General Nestor Sadiarin (retired) was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

“Maj. Gen. Nestor Sadiarin died in a vehicular accident at around 3 p.m. today (Sunday),” a text message sent by a member of the PMAAAI to InterAksyon.com said.

The remains of the general will be brought Monday afternoon to the Heritage morgue at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Sadiarin was a member of the PMA Masikap Class 1977 and served as CRS chief during the latter part of the administration of former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sadiarin became controversial when he made public his initiative in conducting a survey among soldiers what they thought about the candidacy of then detained Navy lieutenant junior grade Antonio Trillanes IV, who was elected senator in 2007.

The survey did not sit well with some members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) resulting in the deferment of the general’s one-star rank promotion.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/109916/former-afp-crs-chief-dies-in-laguna-car-crash

Panay Balikatan ends

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 4): Panay Balikatan ends

Roxas City, Capiz, May 4 (PIA) – The Balikatan Exercises in Panay Island has officially ended.

Public Affairs Office head Major Ray Tiongson of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division disclosed that the month-long Philippines and United States Balikatan Exercises in Panay Island, particularly in Capiz culminated, April 27, with the turn-over of a school project.

Tiongson said that the PH-US Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Exercise here concluded with the formal turn-over of the completed two-classroom concrete school building at Don Joaquin Artuz Memorial School in Taft, Tapaz town.

He said that the ceremony was attended by top officials of the Armed Forced of the Philippines and United States, local government officials of Capiz, municipality and barangay as well as officials of the Department of Education, students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders.

Among those who graced the event were PH-US Balikatan 2015 Exercise Director Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, US Naval Facilities Engineering Command of the US Pacific Command Rear Admiral Bret Muilenberg,  AFP Central Commander Lt Gen Nicanor Vivar, 3ID Commander Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero,  Philippine Army’s 53rd Engineering Brigade Commander Colonel Arnold Rafael Depakakibo, Governor Victor Tanco, Tapaz Mayor Rosemarie Gardose and Capiz Schools Division Superintendent Miguel Mac Aposin, he said.

Tiongson said that aside from the construction of the school building in barangay Taft, the team likewise repaired and repainted the classrooms of San Nicolas National High School in San Nicolas, Tapaz town.

Part of the Balikatan exercise here was the conduct of disaster response and preventive health seminars in order to empower local communities in disaster preparedness, response, relief and rehabilitation.

Earlier, some members of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, military personnel from the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and reservists from the 6th Regional Community Defense were trained by the troop on Basic First Responders Training.

A similar training was likewise conducted for health personnel, social workers, barangay volunteers and some residents of barangays San Nicolas and Taft in Tapaz town.

On the other hand, government and school officials, including the parents and students have expressed profound gratitude to the US and Philippine military troops their humanitarian assistance for the people here.
http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/991430294965/panay-balikatan-ends

45% of Filipinos prefer peace talks than war with MILF

From Rappler (May 4): 45% of Filipinos prefer peace talks than war with MILF

In contrast, a survey shows 20% of Filipinos believe that the government should undertake military operation against the MILF

PUBLIC SENTIMENT. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak witness the exchange of documents following the signing of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on March 27, 2014. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

PUBLIC SENTIMENT. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak witness the exchange of documents following the signing of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on March 27, 2014. File photo by Dennis Sabangan/EPA

Months after the Mamasapano tragedy, many Filipinos still believe that talking peace rather than waging war is a "more effective" way of dealing with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey finding released Sunday, May 3, found that nearly 5 in 10 or 45% of Filipinos prefer peace negotiations with the MILF while only 20% believe that the government should undertake military operations against the group.

Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 10 or 35% of those surveyed said military operations and peaceful negotiations are "equally effective."

While the survey showed that more Filipinos continue to back the peace process, support for the peace negotiations took a hit after the Mamasapano tragedy that killed at least 66 Filipinos.

SWS found that those who believe in talking peace with the rebel group went down by 17 points from 62% in March 2014, the same month when the peace agreement between the MILF and the government was signed.

Meanwhile, war drums beat louder, the survey showed, as those who said that military offensives were more effective rose by 11 points from 9% in March 2014.

Those who believe that talking peace and conducting military offensives also increased – by 6 points from 19%.

Survey timing

The survey was conducted among 1,200 adults nationwide on March 20 to March 23, days after the police Board of Inquiry and the Senate released their respective reports on the botched police raid in Mamasapano to capture 3 high-value targets.

The Senate cast the "first sin" on the MILF for allegedly coddling terrorists while the BOI report found that the 44 elite cops who died in the clash were shot at close range. The MILF, meanwhile, said the clash was a "misencounter" and maintained it denounces terrorism as an organization. At least 17 Moro rebels and 5 civilians also died in the incident.

The bloody outcome of the operation caused public outrage that threatened to derail the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. (READ: Senate, House leaders differ on key BBL provisions)

SWS said the question on how MILF should be dealt with is part of a more comprehensive survey on Mamasapano and the BBL conducted in partnership with international non-governmental organization, The Asia Foundation. Full results of the survey will be released on May 15, SWS said.

The Asia Foundation country representative Steven Rood is part of the Third Party Monitoring Team on the government-MILF peace deal. Prior to joining the group, he was part of the International Contact Group, a team of foreign observers to the peace talks.

Months after the Mamasapano tragedy, many Filipinos still believe that talking peace rather than waging war is a "more effective" way of dealing with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey finding released Sunday, May 3, found that nearly 5 in 10 or 45% of Filipinos prefer peace negotiations with the MILF while only 20% believe that the government should undertake military operations against the group.

Meanwhile, nearly 4 in 10 or 35% of those surveyed said military operations and peaceful negotiations are "equally effective."

While the survey showed that more Filipinos continue to back the peace process, support for the peace negotiations took a hit after the Mamasapano tragedy that killed at least 66 Filipinos.

SWS found that those who believe in talking peace with the rebel group went down by 17 points from 62% in March 2014, the same month when the peace agreement between the MILF and the government was signed.

Meanwhile, war drums beat louder, the survey showed, as those who said that military offensives were more effective rose by 11 points from 9% in March 2014.

Those who believe that talking peace and conducting military offensives also increased – by 6 points from 19%.

Other surveys

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF started in 1996 – the same year when the Ramos administration signed a peace accord with MILF's rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front.

Talks would go on for another 18 years. Before a peace accord was signed in March 2014, the process was interrupted by the Estrada administration's all-out war policy and the declaration of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Arroyo administration as unconstitutional.

The peace process in Southern Philippines is now in its second stage - the passage of the proposed law implementing the peace deal in Congress and in a plebiscite.

In March, Pulse Asia released a survey that asked a related question and found a different response. The survey found that 44% of Filipinos are opposed to the passage of the BBL, with 62% of those surveyed in Mindanao sharing the same sentiment.

Meanwhile, an April SWS survey found that the satisfaction rating of President Benigno Aquino III plunged to its lowest after Mamasapano.

The SWS media release publicized on Sunday included more details on the satisfaction rating survey. It showed that the largest declines in satisfaction with the President were on aspects that were related to the peace process:

Defending the country's territorial rights: +22, down from +40

Reconciliation with Muslim rebels: -3, down from +15

Reconcliiation with Communist rebels: +17, down from -3

Fighting terrorims: +6, down from +15

Resolving the Maguindanao massacre case with justice: -50 from -41

http://www.rappler.com/nation/92065-sws-survey-peace-war-milf

Gunmen raid tourist island in Zamboanga Norte, seize 3 people

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 4): Gunmen raid tourist island in Zamboanga Norte, seize 3 people

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE – Gunmen raided a tourist island in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Philippines and seized 3 people before dawn Monday, police said.

Police said at least 15 armed men swooped down on Aliguay Island near Dakak Resort in the historic city of Dapitan and took two unarmed Coast Guard personnel – Gringo Villaruz and Rodlyn Pagaling – and then seized the island’s chieftain Roberto Buligao and sped off on two motorboats.

Insp. Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman, said they have alerted police units in the province and that security forces were tracking down the abductors, who fled toward the southern part of Zamboanga del Norte.

He said the gunmen were all clad in camouflage uniform. “The incident transpired around 1.50 in the morning. Roberto Buligao, the village chairman, and two Coast Guard personnel were abducted by more or less 15 unidentified men wearing camouflage uniform, and with long firearms on two white motorized boats,” Samuddin told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abduction. The island is just 45 minutes by boat from Dakak Resort and is a favorite destination of local and foreign tourists.

The abductions occurred a day after 4 gunmen also seized a finance officer of a mining firm in Tawi-Tawi’s Bongao town. The victim, Nonong Garcia, was abducted by masked gunmen from the Beachside Inn in Simandagit village, according to a report by television giant GMA News.

http://mindanaoexaminer.com/gunmen-raid-tourist-island-in-zamboanga-norte-seize-3-people/

Photo: Maritime cooperation

From the Manila Standard Today (May 5): Photo: Maritime cooperation



Admiral Yuji Sato (right), commander of Japan’s Coast Guard, walks with senior Philippine coast guard personnel during arrival honors at the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Manila on Monday. Sato is set to meet with his Philippine Coast Guard counterpart Admiral Rodolfo Isorene on the 5th Maritime Law Enforcement exercise to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.  AFP

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/05/05/maritime-cooperation/

MILF coddled Usman all along, says general (Photo of dead Usman)

From the Manila Standard Today (May 5): MILF coddled Usman all along, says general

MILITARY officials admitted on Monday that the killing of Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman on Saturday was a “passport for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress,” but it also showed that the Usman was being coddled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

End of the road. This undated photo released on May 4 by the Armed
Forces of the Philippines shows the body of Abdul Basit Usman, a
Filipino on the US list of most wanted terrorists, after he was killed
in Maguindanao while being escorted by fighters of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front. AFP
“The truth is, Usman and his men were being coddled in MILF territory at the time of his death. That is a fact,” said a general staff officer, who asked not be named for fear of official sanctions.

The officer made the remark as military chief Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang told reporters that Usman was killed by his own men because of the $1 million bounty that the United States government offered for his capture or death.

“Another truth is that Usman is Wahid Tundok’s ticket to freedom,” the general said, referring to the commander of the MILF 118th Base Command, which took responsibility for Usman’s killing and brought Usman’s body to the MILF’s Camp Dirapanan for burial.

The general said Tundoc is one of the MILF members who was allegedly involved in the Mamasapano incident and the MILF was very concerned that he was facing criminal charges so it was decided that he lead his men in an operation to kill Usman.

The general said it was agreed that if Tundoc could present Usman as a “gift,” the government may reconsider the charges that are being prepared against him and allow him re-join society upon the approval of the BBL.

Tundoc was listed as among the MILF fighters facing criminal charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for their involvement in the killing of 44 SAF commandos at the cornfield in Mamasapano town.

“It was a betrayal,” said Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front, citing field reports from their commanders.

Cerveza said MNLF commanders have issued alerts to their units in view of the unfolding events in Mindanao, especially since they are expecting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to retaliate against the government because of Usman’s killing.

“The MNLF had reacted to the death of Usman, especially on the actions made by the MILF against their former comrades in the underground organization,” Cereveza said, adding that Usman’s killing will likely spark hostilities between the MILF and the BIFF.

“This will ignited a complex problem. War could erupt,” Cerveza said, adding that the MILF may have decided to have Usman killed to erase the culpability of the MILF in the death of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

“It’s a game play,” Cerveza said, expressing doubt that the killing of Usman would erase public doubts on the MILF’s sincerity in relation to the BBL.

“The issue of passing the law in moot and academic. The law will be passed, but as to whether the law will satisfy the MILF, whether the law is acceptable to the MILF, that is a big question,” Cerveza said.

“The MILF is only being used by the military,” Cerveza added. “The military is using the MILF as front against rebel groups, a tool to divide and rule.” Cerveza said.

A Filipino on the United States’ list of most wanted “terrorists” has been killed in a firefight in the southern Philippines, Muslim rebel leaders and the military said Monday.

Earlier, MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar confirmed that Usman was killed in a remote mountainous area while being escorted by MILF members.

 “We can confirm that Usman is dead and his body was buried in accordance with Muslim tradition,” Jaafar told AFP, but he refused to say who killed him.

The MILF is seeking to finalise an accord, signed last year, with the government to end four decades of fighting in which about 120,000 people have died.

Security forces had been hunting Usman since he escaped from a January police raid that killed Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, an alleged bomb maker who was the subject of a $5-million US government bounty.

Usman, accused of repeated bomb attacks in the southern Philippines, was the subject of a $1-million US bounty.

The January raid, conducted in MILF territory, also led to the death of 44 police commandoes as rebels fought back, setting back efforts to finalise the peace deal.

The MILF has since then been under intense political pressure to show it is a reliable peace partner.

Jaafar said Usman was killed as MILF rebels were escorting him to the group’s leaders to surrender, adding that he probably did not know he was being taken back to the MILF leaders.

“There was a firefight along the way. Usman could have sensed that he was being double-crossed,” Jaafar said.

However he refused to give any more details as to who killed Usman, saying only that the circumstances of the firefight were under investigation.

Military chief General Gregorio Catapang said Usman had been killed, but that it remained unclear as to who killed him.

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/05/05/milf-coddled-usman-all-along-says-general/

‘MILF role in Usman death to favor Bangsamoro’

From the Business World (May 4): ‘MILF role in Usman death to favor Bangsamoro’

A MORO rebel group’s role in helping neutralize Abdul Basit Usman is a “concrete” reason for the public and lawmakers to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), MalacaƱang said yesterday.




“We understand that our beloved lawmakers and citizens have been searching for a concrete manifestation that will prove the strong working relationship and cooperation of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in promoting the peace process,” Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma told reporters in Filipino during a press briefing in MalacaƱang on Monday. “During this time, this is what the different stakeholders are looking for.”
Mr. Coloma was referring to reports that Usman, a Filipino on the United States’ list of most wanted terrorists, was killed in the fire fight while being escorted by members of the MILF, its vice-chairman Ghazali Jaafar said in a report by the Agence-France Presse.

“We can confirm that Usman is dead and his body was buried in accordance with Muslim tradition,” Jaafar told AFP, but he refused to say who killed him.

The MILF is seeking to finalize an accord, signed last year, with the government to end four decades of fighting in which about 120,000 people have died.

Security forces had been hunting Usman since he escaped from a January police raid that killed Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, an alleged bomb maker who was the subject of a $5-million US government bounty.

Usman, accused of repeated bomb attacks in the southern Philippines, was the subject of a $1-million US bounty.

The January raid, conducted in MILF territory, also led to the death of 44 police commandos as rebels fought back, setting back efforts to finalize the peace deal.

The MILF has since then been under intense political pressure to show it is a reliable peace partner.

USMAN KILLED WHILE BEING ESCORTED BY MILF

Jaafar said Usman was killed as MILF rebels were escorting him to the group’s leaders to surrender, adding that he probably did not know he was being taken back to the MILF leaders.

“There was a fire fight along the way. Usman could have sensed that he was being double-crossed,” Jaafar said.

However, he refused to give any more details as to who killed Usman, saying only that the circumstances of the fire fight were under investigation.

Mr. Coloma also said that the MILF’s role in neutralizing Usman will add further to the confidence-building measures between them and the Philippine government.
“This will help because there is something we can look back on wherein there were opportunities in the past where the MILF showed they can be a trusted partner of the government in the peace process,” he said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr. said Usman had been killed, but that it remained unclear as to who killed him.

“Basit Usman is dead, as to the circumstances of what happened during that encounter, it’s up to (the investigation),” Mr. Catapang told reporters.

The military said five of Usman’s followers had also died in the battle, and that some of his own men may have double-crossed him.

The alleged shoot-out occurred “Sitio Takeneken, Barangay Muti, Guindulungan, Maguindanao.” This was said to be “near the vicinity of Camp Afghan,” a temporary relocation site for MILF members who voluntarily vacated their as the military was conducting operations against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in February.

MILF members at the camp reportedly “discovered the dead bodies” and recovered an M60 general purpose machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade and a caliber 5.56 mm bushmaster rifle, according to the AFP.

Military sources on the ground “believe that there was infighting among Usman’s followers fueled by the tussle for the huge monetary reward that was put on his head.”

Asked if they were able to obtain DNA samples, Mr. Catapang said “that will be confirmed by Major General Edmund R. Pangilinan.” Mr. Pangilinan is the commander of the 6th Infantry division. Mr. Catapang said that Mr. Pangilinan has been instructed to conduct an investigation regarding Usman’s death.

Security forces accuse Usman of carrying out at least nine bombing incidents in the south, including an attack in the port city of General Santos in 2002 that killed 15 people and wounded 60 others.

The US State Department’s Web site describes him as “a bomb-making expert with links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf Group terrorist organizations” leading him to be considered a threat to American and Filipino citizens and interests.

As part of the peace pact, the MILF agreed to give up its independence ambitions in exchange for an autonomous homeland.

The government and the MILF are racing to finalize the accord by the middle of next year.

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=&145milf-role-in-usman-death-to-favor-bangsamoro&8217&id=107320

China offer to allow use of reclaimed area ‘insincere’

From the Business World (May 4): China offer to allow use of reclaimed area ‘insincere’

CHINA’S OFFER to allow the United States and other nations to use islands it reclaimed at the disputed South China Sea has been dismissed by the Philippines as “insincere” and an “attempt to deflect international criticism.”



A satellite image of what is claimed to be an airstrip at the top end of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. -- AFP
 
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made these remarks after China’s Defense Minister Admiral Wu Shengli was quoted to have said last week that Beijing “welcome[s] international organizations, the US and relevant countries to use [the] facilities, when conditions are ripe, to conduct cooperation on humanitarian rescue and disaster relief.”
The US has rejected the offer.

According to DFA Assistant Secretary Charles C. Jose, China’s suggestion only came after it got flak from international community, particularly from the G7 foreign ministers and US President Barack Obama.

“We can say that [the offer is not sincere] because it came out after the G7 statement, and especially after (President Barack) Obama gave a statement. [Only after did] they come up with these things, like offering to use these facilities. We think that’s only attempt of China to deflect international criticisms of the aggressive behavior that they’re doing right now in South China Sea,” Mr. Jose said in his regular briefing.

The DFA spokesperson also took the offer as an effort to move the attention away from the damages caused by the China’s reclamation work to the biodiversity of the contested islands.

“We should not be distracted by these things. Instead we should focus on the core issues. The most recent of this and most serious one is the reclamation work that they’re doing because of the massive and irreparable damage this is causing to the environment and ecosystem,” Mr. Jose explained.

Marine resources -- including coral reef ecosystems -- destroyed by China’s reclamation activities in the disputed West Philippine Sea have reached $109.55 million, a national scientist of the Philippines claimed last month.
 

Mining exec abducted in Tawi-Tawi

From ABS-CBN (May 4): Mining exec abducted in Tawi-Tawi

TAWI-TAWI -- A mining firm officer was abducted in Bongao town in this province on Sunday evening.

Capt. Zosimo de Guzman, commanding officer of Joint Task Group Tawi-Tawi, identified the victim as Nonong Garcia, a native of Pangasinan.

De Guzman said Garcia had been staying in a beachfront inn in Barangay Simandagit to look after the company's mining operation in the province.

De Guzman said Garcia was outside the inn at around 10:30 p.m. when he was abducted by about four armed men. The victim was forced to board a motorized pump boat, which allegedly headed towards Languyan town.

It was already late when the policemen and barangay officials arrived in the area.

De Guzman said they immediately conducted a search and rescue operation after the abduction.

The Tawi-Tawi provincial police office is now looking for witnesses who may be able to identify the abductors.

On Monday, two Philippine Coast Guard personnel and a barangay chairman in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte province were also abducted by armed men.

Meanwhile, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay mayor Gemma Adana remains in the hands of her abductor.

Adana was snateched by armed men from her residence in Barangay Taytay Manubo lasy April 6.
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/05/04/15/mining-exec-abducted-tawi-tawi

MILF says AFP, PNP had no role in Usman's death

From ABS-CBN (May 4): MILF says AFP, PNP had no role in Usman's death

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed that wanted terrorist Abdul Basit Usman is dead.

MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar told ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao on Monday that they received the report on Usman's death yesterday but it took time them time to confirm it.

Jaafar also confirmed that Usman died in Barangay Muti in Guindulungan. However, Jaafar said the MILF is conducting its own investigation as to how exactly Usman died.

Jaafar said the MILF received two different stories regarding Usman's death. The first one is that Usman died during an encounter between his followers and MILF fighters.

The second version was that Usman was arrested by the MILF's 118th Base Command but the wanted terrorist and his followers resisted, resulting in a firefight that caused his death.

Jaafar said he is more convinced with the second version. He said the MILF Central Committee had a standing order to all commanders on the ground that Usman be brought before the MILF's central leadership once he is arrested.

"Meron kaming utos. Titingnan ng Central Committee at kakausapin. Iyan lang muna. As to the reason, hindi namin pwedeng sabihin," Jaafar said.

The MILF also said there were no military or police forces involved in the death of Usman. Jaafar also denied that Usman was seeking refuge in an MILF area.

Jaafar also stressed they are not and will never be interested in the $1 million bounty on Usman's head. He said the MILF leadership will not also allow MILF commanders and members to go after the reward money.

"Not interested sa reward money. Hindi rin namin tatanggapin. Hindi namin papayagan ang mga commander namin na gawin iyon," Jaafar said.

The MILF reiterated that it remains committed to the peace process despite what happened during the January 25 Mamasapano raid.
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/05/04/15/milf-says-afp-pnp-had-no-role-usmans-death

Video: Why Basit Usman's death raises questions?

From ABS-CBN (May 5): Video: Why Basit Usman's death raises questions?

[Video report: Why Basit Usman's death raises questions?]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVyGNxpwB4w

The timing when the terrorist Basit Usman was killed is dubious. According to the militant group Bayan, the government can use this to promote Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The Senate and Congress agrees that they will prioritize the BBL if it will arrive at the plenary.

Kaduda-duda umano ang timing ng pagkakapatay sa teroristang si Basit Usman. Sabi ng grupong Bayan, pwedeng gamitin ito ng pamahalaan sa pagsulong ng Bangsamoro Basic Law. Nagkasundo naman ang Senado at Kamara na bibigyang prayoridad ang BBL kapag dumating ito sa plenaryo. I-Bandila mo, Zen Hernandez. Bandila, May 4, 2015, Lunes

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/video/focus/05/04/15/why-basit-usmans-death-raises-questions

Abu Sayyaf kidnap, behead man in Basilan

From ABS-CBN (May 4): Abu Sayyaf kidnap, behead man in Basilan

 

Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded telecom worker Jeffrey Tagle, police say

Abu Sayyaf Group bandits have abducted and beheaded a man in Basilan, police said Monday.

The victim, 23-year-old Jeffrey Tagle, was killed in Brgy. Tuburan proper, Hadji Mohammad Ajul town, in Basilan last May 1.

He was mistaken as military informant, police said.

A source gave ABS-CBN News photos of the victim's remains.

Investigators said the said victim, an employee of a telecommunications company, was on en route to check a cellular phone site when he was attacked.

Police and relatives of the victims have recovered the victim's remains.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/05/04/15/abu-sayyaf-kidnap-behead-man-basilan
From Ang Malaya (May 4): Raytheon’s first Defense Threat Reduction Agency project in Southeast Asia inaugurated in PHL

The National Coast Watch Center at Philippine Coast Guard Headquarters in Manila was formally inaugurated last week, April 28. The center will coordinate and implement the whole of government efforts to protect the Philippine national interests against security threats, enforce national sovereignty and sovereign rights, and fulfill international responsibilities and obligations throughout the maritime jurisdiction of the country.

Establishment of the NCWC will promote maritime safety, enforce maritime laws, protect the marine environment and contribute to economic development.

“It shall be equipped with the needed capabilities to achieve maritime situational awareness, coordinated inter-agency response, and disposition in accordance with the rule of law. This will be done in phases until full-mission capability is achieved,” said Undersecretary Jose Luis M Alano, NCWC Secretariat. The center is on its initial phase.

The government of United States provided $20 million for the said center.

“Maritime domain awareness is crucial for the Philippines as it increases its abilities to thwart smuggling, illegal fishing, other criminal activities as well as improving defense capacity,” the US Embassy in Manila said.

US firm Raytheon won the contract in August 2013 to design and construct the National Coast Watch Center. The contract included support integration of data from various agencies into the NCWC; and provide acquisition, installation and training on an automatic identification system as well as radio communications for the Government of the Philippines.

The NCWC is the first Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) project of Raytheon in Southeast Asia.

http://www.angmalaya.net/nation/2015/05/04/10708-raytheons-first-defense-threat-reduction-agency-project-in-southeast-asia-inaugurated-in-phl

AFP chief confirms death of Basit Usman, five other terrorists in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): AFP chief confirms death of Basit Usman, five other terrorists in Maguindanao

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Monday confirmed the death of Filipino terrorist and bomb-maker Basit Usman and five of his followers who were reported killed following a shootout with fellow brigands in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao before noon Sunday.

"I am confirming the death of Basit Usman, the terrorist-bomber who is responsible for the countless deaths of civilians in a series of bombings in Mindanao," Catapang added.

Based on reports reaching AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Usman and five of his unidentified cohorts were killed in a shootout allegedly with fellow members of his group in Sitio Takeneken, Barangay Muti, Guindulungan, Maguindanao 10 a.m. Sunday.

"The encounter site is near the vicinity of Camp Afghan, a temporary relocation site for MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) members who voluntarily vacated their homes during the conduct of law enforcement operations against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in the last week of February 2015," Catapang disclosed.

MILF members who are temporarily staying at the camp rushed to the scene and discovered the dead bodies along with the recoveries including an M-60 general purpose machine gun, one RPG and a 5.56mm Bushmaster rifle.

Sources in the ground believe that there was infighting among Usman's followers fueled by the tussle for the huge monetary reward that was put on his head amounting to almost USD1 million.

"The AFP is validating the reports that Usman became distrustful of some of his own men after the series of encounters between the AFP and his group in the past two months," Catapang said.

Photos of Usman's dead body will be taken to show proof about his death, he added.

"The AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) forces had been pursuing the small band of terrorists led by Basit Usman who continuously eluded the government troops for more than two months since the launching of the 'all out law enforcement operations' against the BIFF in Maguindanao," he said.

On May 2-3, the government forces maintained its security patrols, sensing that Usman and his group were just nearby.

Usman's group occasionally goes near to MILF communities in an effort to divert their pursuers.

"A final version of the military report will be released to the public once the After Operations Report related to this incident will be submitted by our line units," according to Catapang.

"I want to convey my warm congratulations to the MILF and the government forces (both the AFP and PNP) who worked together in neutralizing this notorious terrorist," he added.

Catapang also said that it is very important to note that aside from helping the government in neutralizing Usman, the MILF provided valuable information that led to the arrest of prominent BIFF leaders such as Mohammad Ali Tambako and Esmael Pagao.

"Through the MILF's cooperation and support, we have also succeeded in uprooting the bomb factories and terrorist hideouts near their communities," he said.

The recent accomplishment shows the MILF's sincerity in supporting the peace process by actively helping the government in flushing out the terrorists from their former safe havens.

It can be recalled that the MILF relocated from their communities inside "SPMS Box" since the last week of February 2015 in order to give way to the joint law enforcement operations of the AFP/PNP against the BIFF and Usman's group.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758432

Peace more attainable in Central Mindanao with Usman's death, says Catapang

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Peace more attainable in Central Mindanao with Usman's death, says Catapang

With the neutralization of Basit Usman and five of his followers in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao Sunday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said that peace will be more attainable in Central Mindanao.

Usman and his followers were reportedly gunned down by his fellow terrorists due to differences.

He also said that more work needs to be done to make this a reality.

"(To win the peace), we will have to win progress and prosperity for the people of Mindanao, so now we are bringing in peace and developments, put up roads for peace, put up bridges for peace, hospital and school buildings for peace," Catapang said.

This is on top of neutralizing the peace spoilers and terrorists known to be operating in the area.

Catapang also downplays fear of possible retaliatory attacks from Usman's remaining followers, as the late terrorist has now run of followers and bodyguards.

He also said that the military will remain in the area to ensure the peace.

"We will stay in the area, as this the second phase of our Internal Peace and Security Peace 'Bayanihan' campaign, right after we win the peace, we will move forward for peace and development projects, we will stay there, in time for (the) projects to come in," he said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758520

AFP supportive of peace overtures being made by CPP-NPA-NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): AFP supportive of peace overtures being made by CPP-NPA-NDF

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Monday said that the entire military is supportive of the peace overtures being made by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

This is despite the fact that the AFP's "Bayanihan" strategy is working well against the rebels as attested by the increasing number of NPA surrenderees in the past few months.

The latter strategy seeks to defeat NPA influence by bringing in development to the countryside.

"We are supporting the continuance of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF," Catapang said.

In fact, the AFP is willing to talk peace provided that the rebels don't make any demands.

"There are a lot of surrenderees, we are declaring one after another almost all the provinces of the country as peaceful and ready for further development, I think the country is now claiming the peace, so hopefully the CPP-NDF-NPA will join hands in claiming the peace for our country," the AFP chief pointed out.

At present, there are less than 20 provinces with known NPA presence.

These are mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao, Catapang said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758539

Death of Usman will bring back trust to MILF -- Drilon

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Death of Usman will bring back trust to MILF -- Drilon

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Monday said the death of long-wanted suspected terrorist Basit Usman will definitely bring back the trust of the people to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

”Assuming it's true, if Usman is really dead, this will certainly help in bringing back the trust,” Drilon said in a media interview.

Usman, an expert bomb maker, was reportedly shot dead by MILF commander "Barok" of the 118th Base Command last Sunday in Maguindanao.

Usman was commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which is a breakaway group of the MILF. He has publicly expressed his opposition to the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF.

The BIFF commander was one of the two targets of the Oplan Exodus carried out by the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to neutralize Usman and Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" last January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Marwan, an international terrorist with US$ 5 million bounty on his head, was killed but Usman, who was wounded, was able to escape in the bloody operation that left 44 SAF members dead after an almost 11-hour firefight between the combined forces of the MILF and BIFF and the PNP-SAF troopers.

The Mamasapano incident has delayed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) hearings both in the Senate and the House of Representatives to give way the series of investigations on the incident.

The bloody encounter prompted some lawmakers to withdraw their support on the passage of the BBL, some of them accusing the MILF of protecting Marwan.

Drilon said the BBL, a piece of legislation that will provide for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao, is still the top priority agenda of the Senate in the six remaining weeks of the second regular session of the 16th Congress.

”That (BBL) is on top of our priority agenda once it (BBL committee report) is submitted at the plenary,” Drilon said.

The Senate president earlier said the target to pass the BBL is before the sine die adjournment on June 11.

The BBL was the result of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and MILF in March last year.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758507

Marwan's son escaped special operations that neutralized Usman, five followers

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Marwan's son escaped special operations that neutralized Usman, five followers

Only the 15-year-old-son of Zulkipli bin Hir alias "Marwan," the Malaysian bomb-maker killed during the Mamasapano, Maguindanao incident last Jan. 25, survived the special operation that neutralized Filipino terror leader Basit Usman and his five followers in Guindulungan town before noon Sunday.

This was stressed by a government source who also claimed that Usman and his men were gunned down by "assets" while waiting for the radio broadcast of the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout last May 3.

He added that the "assets" were embedded in Usman's group.

The source further said that these operatives were responsible for giving security forces exact location and disposition of the bandit leader's group.

With this information, government troops were able to foil and attack Usman's group, causing casualties to the latter.

The source also stressed that the "assets" literally decided to jump the gun on Usman and his followers after seeing the latter slumped down, listening to the radio, waiting for the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout at 10 a.m. Sunday.

"All of them, Usman and his five followers, were killed on the spot when our 'assets' decided to fire on them," he stressed.

Of Usman's group, only Marwan's 15-year old son managed to escape despite being wounded.

After making their kill, the "assets" then fled into a government safe house as nearby Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters arrived at the scene and fired indiscriminately, in a bid to scare would-be attackers or ambushers.

"The 'assets' will definitely (be) given the US$ 1-million (placed by the US State Department) and the Php6.3 million placed on Usman's head," the source said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758565

MILF’s role in Usman’s death shows its commitment to Mindanao peace process -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): MILF’s role in Usman’s death shows its commitment to Mindanao peace process -- Palace

Malacanang believes that the neutralization of alleged terrorist bomber Basit Usman signifies the determination and commitment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to continue the Mindanao peace process with the government.

Usman was reportedly killed by members of the MILF in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao before noon Sunday.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the MILF showed its being “reliable partner” of the government in peace process.

Coloma said the Moro group has been helping the Philippine government in several law enforcement operations.

“At bago nga naganap ‘yung firefight sa Mamasapano ay matagal na panahon na napanatili ‘yung katahimikan doon sa lugar na sakop ng Bangsamoro na siya namang nilalayon ‘nung Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Kaya patuloy ‘yung pagsisikap na maging makabuluhan ‘yung partnership between the government and the MILF,” he noted.

On January 25, over 44 officers from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao firefight.

Coloma underscored the MILF’s sincerity to the peace process as lawmakers work on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

He said stakeholders are looking for concrete manifestation that can attest the stability of the agreement and solidarity of the government and MILF to pursue the peace process.

“Sa aking palagay ay ginawa po nila at ginagawa naman nila ang lahat para po matugunan ‘yung tanong ng taumbayan, kasama na ang ating mga mambabatas, para ipakita sa kongkreto ‘yung kanilang buong determinasyon at commitment na maipagpatuloy at maganap ang prosesong pangkapayapaan,” he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=758630

Gunmen seize barangay official, 2 PCG men in Dapitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Gunmen seize barangay official, 2 PCG men in Dapitan City

The local government of Dapitan City of the nearby Zamboanga del Norte province has activated a Crisis Management Committee (CMC) to address the abduction of a barangay official and two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel in that city.

This as policemen in coordination with the military forces are tracking down the whereabouts of the victims namely Roberto Bulagao, barangay chairman of Aliguay, Dapitan City; SN1 Rod Pagaling and SN2 Gringo Villaruz, both PCG members.

Aliguay is an island barangay of Dapitan City. It is located 10 nautical miles from the city’s mainland.

Supt. Divin Ceriales, Dapitan City police chief, disclosed the victims were seized by six gunmen clad in fatigue uniforms around 1:45 a.m. Monday in Aliguay.

The gunmen forced the victims to board on one of the two motorized bancas that sped towards the direction of Dipolog City, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte province.

Pagaling and Villaruz were temporarily detailed in Aliguay Island purposely to monitor the arrival and departure of motorized bancas ferrying tourists. All of the victims were unarmed.

The Island barangay of Aliguay is one of the tourist destinations of Dapitan City, dubbed as the Shrine City in the Philippines.

Ceriales said the motive of the abduction could be in retaliation to the strict campaign by the victims against illegal fishing near Aliguay Island.

Dapitan City Mayor Rosalina Jalosjos has convened the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) as well as the CMC to address the abduction incident.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=758482

126 PNP Scouts turned over to the 13th RPSB

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4): 126 PNP Scouts turned over to the 13th RPSB

A total of 126 members of the Philippine National Police Scouts,who had just ended their PNP Scout Training, were turned over to the 13th Regional Public Safety Battalion at their headquarters at Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez on Monday.

Supt. Martin M. Gamba, in an interview, said that the PNP Scouts finished their 45-days training at the Regional Special Training Unit at Santiago town, in Agusan del Norte on April 29.

The PNP Scouts were received by Sr. Supt. Joseph D. Plaza, battalion commander of the 13th RPSB, from the RSTU Training Director Sr. Supt. Adolph Almendra.

Gamba said that the newly-trained police scouts would be at the 13th RPSB regional headquarters for a period of briefing and orientation before turning them over to the lower units such as the 131st Regional Public Safety Company, 132nd Regional Public Safety Company and the 133rd Regional Public Safety Company based in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, Carascal, Surigao del Sur and Cutlog, Barobo also in Surigao del Sur.

The 13th RPSB and the RPSCs are the mobile units of the regional police, Gamba said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=758591

Army's 1st ID celebrates 79th founding anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Army's 1st ID celebrates 79th founding anniversary

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur, May 4 (PNA) -– The Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division is celebrating its 79th founding anniversary Tuesday with simple but meaningful rites.

Lt. Col. Audie Mongao, 1st Infantry Division public affairs officer, said the celebration will start with an interfaith prayer.

It will be followed by wreath-laying, arrival honors and parade in review, awarding ceremony and inauguration of projects.

Mongao said the celebration’s guest of honor is Maj. Gen. Demosthenes Santillan, the vice commander of the Philippine Army.

Mongao said that a series of activities was also held starting on April 23 in line with the founding anniversary of the command.

These activities include a medical and dental outreach mission, bloodletting, “Operation Tuli” or circumcision and harelip operations that benefited mostly indigent residents within the area of responsibility of the command.

Mongao said that sports fest and fun games were also held from April 30 to May 4 at the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division.

He said there will be also Testimonial Golf Tournament Tuesday afternoon and dinner and socials in the evening.

Invited to attend Tuesday’s event are local government executives from the areas covered by the 1st Infantry Division command.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=758633

Army spokesperson says bounty triggered infighting, killing of Basit Usman

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): Army spokesperson says bounty triggered infighting, killing of Basit Usman

The Army's 6th Infantry Division on Monday said "infighting" triggered the killing of bomb making expert Abdul Basit Usman in Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infnatry Division, said Usman and his men figured in a shootout in Sitio Talanaken, Barangay Muti, Guindulungan at past 11 a.m. Sunday.

She said the area is near the relocation site of the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who were temporarily transferred from their communities during the conduct of the military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"MILF members rushed to the area of the encounter after hearing the exchange of fires and found the dead bodies as well as the firearms scattered in the area upon arrival," the 6th ID said in a separate statement.

Petinglay said prior information received by the Army showed that there had already been misunderstanding and mistrust among Usman and some of his members after continuous military operations were conducted for the past months which gave pressures to the group.

Reports manifest that the infighting among Usman’s followers was fueled over burned out locations and operations of the group to military forces and for the tussle for the huge bounty that was put on his the head.

Maj. General Edmundo R. Pangilinan, 6th ID chief, lauded those who exerted efforts to put pressure on the group of Usman that resulted in his demise.

He said the security sector and the MILF had played a huge role in the success of the mission to get Usman into this situation.

The MILF in particular had shown sincerity in supporting the peace process by voluntarily moving out from their homes and communities during the conduct of the all-out operation against the BIFF and for not allowing the BIFF to join and hide in MILF areas, he said.

The MILF group also actively helped the government in flushing out terrorists such as Usman’s group from their former safe havens making them vulnerable to security forces detection.

Further, Petinglay said, the MILF had previously been providing information to security forces which led to the arrest of prominent BIFF leaders such as Mohammad Ali Tambako and Esmael Pagao.

She said the death of Usman was a huge set back to the BIFF and to terrorist groups that are still operating within the area of 6ID.

It is expected that more of the BIFF leaders will be taken down in the coming days.

An MILF official who asked not to be named to reporters that Usman was considered a 'martyr' by some extremists in Guindulungan.

“For some people, he was a ‘martyr.’ Some even wanted to acquire custody of his cadaver because they knew of the reward money," the MILF official sid.

The source said officials of the MILF’s 105th, 106th and 118th Base Commands agreed not to bring Usman’s cadaver to the town hall of Guindulungan as requested by the mayor for fear groups interested in the bounty might clash and triggered more shootout.

MILF's sub commander Barok and Commander Marlboro both belonging to the 118th base command were believed responsible for neutralizing Usman.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=758665