Sunday, September 13, 2015

Editorial: Who really killed Marwan?

Editorial from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 14): Editorial -- Who really killed Marwan?

THE RUMORS had been circulating for some time, but President Aquino established it as fact: The government was investigating the possibility that Malaysian terrorist bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, was killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January not by Philippine National Police Special Action Force troopers but by other persons, perhaps his own aides. The possibility that there is, in the President’s words, an “alternative truth” to the Mamasapano clash deserves a closer look—and demands that the PNP Board of Inquiry and the three Senate committees on public order, on peace, unification and reconciliation, and on finance reopen their respective investigations.

Speaking at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Tuesday, the President said he had not yet closed the book on the Mamasapano tragedy. “Do I have closure? I still have quite a number of questions, and there are various agencies of government tasked to ferret out the truth of exactly what happened in its entirety. There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny.”

He noted, in particular, that the photo of a dead Marwan which the Inquirer published a few days after the operation raised disturbing questions. “There are certain quarters who did point out certain questions that arose from viewing that picture. Does this support the so-called official version of what transpired? Now, if it doesn’t support [the official version], can it be explained or not? That is an ongoing process. There is no conclusion at this point.”

Some critics of Mr. Aquino immediately attacked him for what they say is an attempt to change the official version of events. The President’s popularity took a serious hit because of the Mamasapano crisis: from the way he allowed a suspended PNP chief to get involved in the operation, to his perceived delay in ordering a rescue of the trapped troopers, to the insensitive decision to skip the arrival honors for the dead troopers in favor of a previously scheduled event at a car manufacturing plant. The attempt to focus attention on an “alternative truth,” his critics charged, was an effort to rewrite the Mamasapano story, to place him in a better light.

But this criticism does not make sense. The President’s survey ratings have recovered from the lows of the first quarter of the year; and the possibility that the SAF did not kill Marwan undermines his own decision to entrust the entire operation to the elite police force. In other words, a finding that aides-turned-government-informers had killed Marwan throws into question not only the operational plan itself, but the choice of the unit to execute the plan. There is no way that President Aquino can distance himself from the original and controversial decision to send the SAF in.

But if the controversial photo does raise questions—for instance: Does the pool of blood under his head indicate that he was shot from behind? Does the apparent lack of large bullet wounds signify the absence of a firefight? Does the mere fact that the photo was taken at all suggest that there was in fact no exchange of gunfire?—it is in the nation’s best interest to find the answers, wherever they may lead.

The investigation by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front concluded that Marwan was shot at close range—but that conclusion was seen then, when the report came out, as a necessarily biased view.
Some of the points the MILF investigation raised were based on a visit to Marwan’s hut: Only a few bullet holes on the walls of the hut, none at all on the floor, etc. Unfortunately, even when the military had established a virtual lockdown on the area, government investigators were never able to inspect the hut. And the hut burned down in February, torched, it was said, by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The President’s admission that the official version might be inaccurate means that the MILF report must be revisited, and that the official government inquiries be resumed—even if it means that tougher questions must be asked, of the MILF, the SAF, and even the President himself.

Rights group dared to seek justice for NPA ’victims’

From the Manila Times (Sep 13): Rights group dared to seek justice for NPA ’victims’

INSISTING that accusations of leftist groups against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are mere propaganda, a military official on Sunday challenged human-rights group Karapatan to also seek justice for lumad (indigenous people) allegedly killed by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the past.

Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service (CRS), said the killing of a school teacher and two leaders of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur two weeks ago was a result of a tribal war and the military has nothing to do with it.

“The AFP is not connected to any group involved in the tribal conflict now happening particularly in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and will not tolerate any group espousing violence in any community,” Kakilala added.

“The AFP condemns in the strongest terms the killings of our lumad brothers or any innocent civilians more so if [they are] outside of the legal framework and existing laws by any group,” he said.

Karapatan on Saturday formally asked the United Nations to intervene and investigate what it calls the murders of the three tribesmen.

Kakilala said the AFP welcomes Karapatan’s move but pointed out that the group should be fair by also seeking justice for tribal people killed by NPA rebels.

“We call on them to seek justice for all including the 357 lumad [whom] the NPA remnants killed in Southern Mindanao from 1998 to 2008. In 2009 alone in Southern Mindanao, the NPA killed 83 civilians, 24 of them were lumad, let Karapatan also seek justice for them,” he added.

The AFP official cited in particular the killing of the Tulang brothers in 2010 in Davao City by the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Company 1 under the late Leoncio Pitao alias Commander Parago.

According to Kakilala, the elder Tulang was shot in the head, his two siblings were left to bleed to death after the rebels slit their necks.

All three brothers, he said, were hogtied and bore torture marks.

“Let Karapatan fight for all the atrocities committed by any group, not just alleged crimes committed by one while turning a blind eye on the heinous crimes committed and publicly admitted by the NPA,” Kakilala added.

Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the military has expected the move by Karapatan to internationalize the issue, describing it as an effort to destroy the AFP and the government.

“The attempt to internationalize the issue and demonize the government and the AFP in regard to the matter is always an expected move on their part. It is obviously part of their agenda to hurl all accusations and blame everything on the AFP to besmirch the AFP’s reputation,” said Padilla.

He again denied the military’s involvement in the incident and pointed out the AFP is cooperating fully with the Philippine National Police in its investigation of the killings.

According to Padilla, the military is also doing its own internal investigation to ascertain if AFP actions were appropriate relative to the incident.

“We assure the public that the interests of the lumad and our respect for their cultural ways is foremost in our minds,” he said.

Army reports weakening rebel forces in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14): Army reports weakening rebel forces in Leyte

The Philippine Army’s 802nd Brigade based in Leyte reported that rebel groups operating in the province have been weakened, but their presence can still be felt in some communities.

"Insurgent activities in the province are limited to critical acts with minimal presence of at least 30 armed insurgents. They have low capability to initiate violent attacks, and sporadic occurrences of violent incidents,” the 802nd Brigade reported during the recent provincial peace and order council meeting.

Most of the rebels are operating in the upland villages of Carigara town and Ormoc City. Their presence can still be felt in the towns of Kanangga, Jaro, Capoocan, Albuera, Burauen, Baybay City and McArthur.

Leyte province, which was already declared as conflict manageable and ready for development area, but even with this status, sporadic presence of communist group remained.

"They will exert efforts to recover their lost mass bases and recruit and train to fill-in their ranks. Likewise, they will take the campaign period for election as an opportunity to generate several firearms and increase their finances thru permit to campaign and permit to win," said Lt. Torino Inso of the 802nd Brigade.

Citing intelligence reports, communist members have been targeting members of indigenous people living in remote areas as target for recruitment.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen kill Sulu town treasurer

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14): Motorcycle-riding gunmen kill Sulu town treasurer

Government authorities are conducting a thorough investigation to establish identities of the riding in tandem gunmen behind the killing Monday of a town treasurer in Sulu.

Repeatedly shot and killed was Arsenio Marzo, 58, the OIC-treasurer of the municipality of Maimbung, Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said Marzo was shot around 7 a.m. Monday in Sitio Barrio, Barangay Asturias, Jolo, the capital town of Sulu.

Arrojado said Marzo was just standing in the area when two men riding tandem on a motorcycle arrived and open fire.

Arrojado said Marzo was rushed to the Sulu Provincial Hospital but was declared dead on arrival by the attending physician.

He said military and policemen conducted pursuit operations but the suspects were already gone.

He said all possible motives behind the incident are being looked into aimed at unmasking the identities of the gunmen.

2 ASW helicopters included in 33 projects given go-ahead

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14): 2 ASW helicopters included in 33 projects given go-ahead

Two proposed anti-submarine (ASW) helicopters, which will be operated by the Philippine Navy (PN), is included in the 33 projects given the green light with the signing of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Law last July.

This was disclosed Monday by Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary for Finance, Modernization, Installation and Munitions Fernando Manalo in a message to the PNA.

President Benigno S. Aquino III signed the law last July 22, he added.

However, Manalo said bidding for the two ASW helicopters will go the bidding stage once the Php18-billion frigate program gains momentum.

These ASW assets will be based on the two proposed frigates which are capable of firing anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine missiles and weapons.

The ASW helicopters are worth Php5.4 billion.

Also included in the 33 projects are the missile-firing frigates, long-range patrol aircraft, surveillance radars and close-air support aircraft program, which will now move their next respective bidding phase.

Manalo earlier said that these projects "were held in abeyance" last May pending the signing of Revised AFP Modernization Law.

The DND is seeking Php158.8 billion budget for 2016.

This can be broken down into Php63.5 billion for territorial defense, security and stability; Php1.5 billion for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; Php667 million for international engagements and peace support missions and Php93.1 billion for force level support and training.

The latter amount is also inclusive of pensions.

SoKor’s defense minister arriving tomorrow for security talks

From the Philippine Star (Sep 13): SoKor’s defense minister arriving tomorrow for security talks

South Korea’s defense minister will be in the country tomorrow to discuss prevailing regional security and defense issues with his counterpart, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Director Arsenio Andolong of the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, Department of National Defense (DND) said South Korean Defense Minister Han Minkoo will be at Camp Aguinaldo Monday morning.

The visit of Minkoo comes as President Aquino has recently approved funds for stalled key defense projects such as the acquisition of two new frigates and other big ticket items.

A press conference will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Aguinaldo Room of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Commissioned Officers’ Club.

Andolong did not discuss the details of the visit but insiders hinted that high on the agenda is the AFP modernization program.

South Korea has been a major source of the country’s defense equipment, aside from being an ally in major disaster undertakings.

The Korean troops were the last to leave Yolanda-hit Leyte to help typhoon victims. They stayed for a year around.

“It’s already expected,” the source said, adding that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is expecting delivery of two of 50 FA-50 fighter jets the government has acquired from South Korea on a government-to-government contract by yearend.

The multi-role fighter jets, manufactured and supplied by Korea Aerospace Industries, are now undergoing a series of routine flight tests in South Korea.

The acquisition of the jets signals the military’s shift from internal to territorial and external defense in response to the growing security concerns due to China’s aggression in the Kalayaan Island Group.

Beijing is currently building naval and air bases on three of seven man-made islands out of the formerly obscure maritime features they have occupied in the Spratlys archipelago.

Aside from fighter jets, the DND is also eyeing two new missile-firing frigates from South Korea to boost the Philippine Navy’s maritime defense capabilities.

South Korea has been supplying the AFP with thousands of medium-size military vehicles to replace the United States’ military Humvees.

Key role of US in Exodus bared

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 14): Key role of US in Exodus bared


Operation Plan Exodus that hunted international terrorist Marwan, contrary to claims of President Aquino that it was a success and was a purely Filipino operation, was a failure and was heavily participated in by American forces, a Sept. 10 Los Angeles Times (LA Times) report quoting US military officials said.

“It was a bungled operation and it has had major fallout,” the LA Times report quoted David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel who commanded the U.S. special operations force in the Philippines in 2006 and 2007, as saying.

The report made an account of the January 25 incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on the perspective of American military officers who were involved in Philippine anti-terror operations.

The disastrous operation was undertaken by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) which lost 44 of its members to Muslim rebels who engaged them in a firefight including elements from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that the government is negotiating peace with. The report confirmed that “five or six U.S. counter-terrorism advisors assisted from a police command post nearby, tracking the assault team in live video from a U.S. surveillance aircraft circling overhead. 

“Their main role was to provide tactical, live intelligence,” the report said quoting a Philippine officer who was present in the operations.

The training of the SAF commandos were supervised by the Americans.

U.S. military advisors supervised training of the police unit at a seaside resort and in the jungles of Mindanao before the raid. They also provided night-vision goggles, maps and a hand-held retinal scanner to confirm Marwan’s identity,” the report said.

“After a firefight, the American-trained team rushed in and radioed ‘Bingo, Mike One’ to the command post. ‘Operation Exodus’ appeared a success. The wispy-bearded target (Marwan) was dead,” the report said.

“But his death came at a dreadful cost: 44 police commandos and four civilians were killed, along with 17 militants, in a fierce daylong battle after the initial assault,” it said.

The bloodshed triggered bitter recriminations in one of America’s closest allies in Asia, and put sharp new strains on Manila’s security relationship with Washington, the report said.

The report attributed to the botched operations the decision of the US government to withdraw elite forces stationed at the U.S. Special Operations Command in Zamboanga and end its 13-year operations.

The US military mission peaked at 600 personnel and worked with Southeast Asian allies to degrade regional terror networks linked to al Qaeda since 2002 or shortly after the tragic 911 attacks in New York.

“It had been sent to the Philippines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and had become a model for U.S. counter-terrorism teams later deployed around the globe,” according to the report.

The report noted the debacle marked an inglorious end to a little-known 13-year U.S. military advisory operation in the Philippines, an effort credited with improving its army and police and with reducing the number of insurgent groups.

At its height, five years ago, more than 600 U.S. special operations troops deployed to Muslim-dominated Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines, according to Maj. Karolyn McEwen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific.

It added that President Aquino’s government delayed plans to give U.S. troops, warships and aircraft wider access to military bases that the Obama administration sought for its strategic “pivot” to Asia as a result of the incident.

“The planned expansion has been stalled since,” it said.

It added the botched raid also left a landmark 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the MILF in tatters, sparking a renewal of violence by insurgent groups.

The report said while the Americans avoided a direct role in the fighting, they instead trained police and army units, advised them on counter-terrorism operations and ferried them around, sometimes in aircraft flown by U.S. contractors.

“Over time, the U.S. focus increasingly turned to trying to capture or kill Marwan, who was believed hiding in western Mindanao. He became “HV1,” the highest value target in the Philippines,” it said.

Helping the local forces to find “the bomb maker proved maddening for the Americans. Security forces had launched nine unsuccessful operations against Marwan since 2006. But he got away each time,” the report said.

“On the night of the assault, some of the police officers fell behind in crossing rivers and trekking down dark jungle trails. Only a third of the assault team had reached Marwan’s hut when the shooting started about 4 a.m.,” the report said.

It added that the commandos “eager to get out . . .skipped the retinal scanner and cut off a finger instead, sticking it in a Ziploc bag.”

“But hundreds of Islamic fighters from other villages soon joined the battle. They pinned down the assault team and 350 other police officers who had deployed in the jungle to guard their escape,” it said.

U.S. advisors, relying on aerial video, helped some commandos “elude large enemy formations, thereby avoiding further casualties,” the report said quoting a police investigation.

After the 14-hour battle, a Black Hawk helicopter flown by Pentagon contractors landed and U.S. Army medics helped treat the wounded and collect the dead, U.S. officials said.

“A few days later, Philippine police turned over the finger to an FBI agent in the city of General Santos on Mindanao. He rushed it off to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.,” it added.

“Two weeks later, the FBI issued its result: ‘After a thorough review of forensic data and information obtained from our Philippine law enforcement partners, the FBI has assessed that terrorism subject Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as Marwan … is deceased’,” the report said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a report submitted to a Senate panel investigating the incident said that based on their discussions with the United States authorities, they were able to ascertain that the planning and the execution of the Oplan Exodus were 100 percent Filipino planned and implemented.

‘Alternative’ version on Marwan slay

A Senator, meanwhile, branded as a slanderous claim that if proven to be untrue, the damage to reputation of those involved will be irreparable, the supposed new leads that President Aquino claimed the government is pursuing over who gets credit in the killing of Marwan.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto issued this warning yesterday amid the latest twist in the controversial Mamasapano incident where the subject slain international terrorist, Malaysian national Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was supposedly killed not by the elite police troopers but by his own aides.

The latest theory came following President Aquino’s statements last week saying that he’s pursuing a new lead on the Mamasapano debacle after what he claimed an “alternative version of events” surfaced recently.

The said incident left 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) dead.

“The people may not be forgiving of those who vilify the valor of those who gave up their lives for the country. They were not given posthumous honor, and now they are being made to suffer posthumous insult,” Recto said in a statement.

“If unsupported by facts, the claim is slanderous. It has the effect of devaluing the heroism of the SAF 44. Those who are peddling a revisionist take on what happened in Mamasapano should come up with solid proof,” he said.

Recto demanded a full disclosure of the details surrounding the said incident last Jan. 25, including the declassification of some highly-sensitive information if only for the truth to come out and address the issue on who really took down Marwan.

Video operations, if there’s any, should be made public now especially if there’s a footage showing that indeed it was the SAF membes who killed Marwan, he said.

Also, Recto said all communication logs including audio recording between SAF and forward bases must be revealed as well alongside the terminal ballistics report, to determine the type of weapons used, the report of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the death of Abdul Basit Usman, the medico-legal and autopsy report on Marwan to determine his cause of case, including the proximity of weapon discharge and point of entry and exit of bullets.

“Was the operation monitored in real-time by a satellite or drone circling above? Also the report on post-incident investigation of the PNP-SOCO, if there’s any, should now be revealed,” he added.

“Because if what they are alleging will be later proven false, the damage to their reputation will be irreparable. The people will find them guilty of this crime : character assassination of the dead. Dead heroes tell no tales but they leave behind traces of the truth,” Recto said.

The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs is now considering the reopening the probe on the Mamasapano incident in the light of the developments on the case.

“I am interested to hear what this alternative version is all about and allow the men and officers involved to give their own assessments,” Sen. Grace Poe, committee chair said, adding that what everybody wants to know is the truth.

Lawyers group backs IP cases

From Business World (Sep 13): Lawyers group backs IP cases

A group of Mindanao-based lawyers are helping members of indigenous peoples (IP) communities in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon, where separate killing incidents took place two weeks ago.

About a hundred lawyers, paralegals and law students belonging to the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) gathered in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend to gain public support against the crimes allegedly perpetrated by military and paramilitary groups.

At the same time, UPLM expressed support for the filing of criminal complaints by the witnesses and families of the victims in the shootings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“UPLM is fully behind its member-lawyers who have promptly offered their services voluntarily to the bereaved families and filed the case a week after the incident,” UPLM Secretary-General Beverly S. Musni said.

On Sept. 1 at 4:00 a.m., armed persons opened fire at Manobo residents along Kilometer 16 Han-ayan in Lianga, killing Dionel Campos and his cousin Juvello Sinzo.

Mr. Campos was the chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa mga Sumusunod, an IP organization.

Around the same time, the office of another IP group, the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) located just a few meters nearby, was also attacked.

Alcadev Executive Director Emirito Samarca was reportedly told by the armed men to stay behind and neighbors later found him dead with his hands and feet bound with rope, throat slit open, face bruised, and with gunshot wounds on his chest and stomach.

Both incidents have forced members of the affected IP communities to flee their homes.

The UPLM points to members of civilian militias organized by the military as suspects and condemned President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s inaction on lifting the 2006 Executive Order 546, which allows the arming of paramilitaries.

“As peoples’ lawyers, we will surely take (Mr.) Aquino to court for these dastardly acts, including before international human rights bodies and the international community,” Ms. Musni said.

The nongovernment organization Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, has already asked the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to conduct an investigation.

“We want international bodies to know what is happening in Mindanao -- that the Lumad (IPs), in defense of their land, are being killed and forced to leave their communities,” Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

The group sent letters to Dr. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur (SR) of the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons; Christof Heyns, SR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Michel Forst, SR on Situation of Human Rights Defenders; and Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, SR on Rights of the Indigenous People’s.

“We are asking the UNHRC to investigate and recommend actions to the Philippine Government on these issues,” Ms. Palabay added.

MILF: I CAN sponsors Seminar-Workshop on “Conflict Transformation and Peace” at BLMI

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 13): I CAN sponsors Seminar-Workshop on “Conflict Transformation and Peace” at BLMI

I CAN sponsors Seminar-Workshop on “Conflict Transformation and Peace” at BLMI

To further hasten its efforts and mandate in peacebuilding education, the International Children’s Action Network (I CAN) in congruence with Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) conducted anew Seminar-Workshop on “Conflict Transformation and Peace” with the theme Towards Bangsamoro’s Quest for Right to-Self-Determination” at BLMI Training center at Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 9-11. 2015.

The 3-day program was attended by thirty (37) participants from areas as far as Tawi-Tawi province. They represented different Moros Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Mindanao. 

“Imparting deeper understanding of “self as Peace-builder” one’s style in responding to conflict and to enhance the capacity of participation in conflict transformation and peace-building” were the program’s objectives. I CAN and BLMI staff facilitated the program. 

Program introduction and overview were presented by Mr. Edwin Antipuesto, I CAN Team leader. He stressed the program’s core objectives and it related concepts.   

Mr. Jess Torreto. I CAN Program Officer gave lecture on “the Person as Peace-builder”, where he emphasized the significant mechanisms of Peace-building. As Peace-builder, knowing the pertinent elements of Peace-building is necessary before involving oneself in Peace-building endeavor, he said.

While Ms. Ching Ayupan, I CAN Project Officer touched on personal styles in handling and responding to conflict. She gave further emphasis on its relevant application on certain scenarios.

The following day, Mr. Antipuesto lectured on the basic concepts of Conflict, Violence and Peace and how the situation takes place and its corresponding approaches. “Inner transformation and readiness to undertake must be firstly established within oneself and in organization before proceeding to external and wider engagement”, Antipuesto stressed. 

The participants likewise explicated their own understanding and handling skills on such situation based on their actual experience and scenarios. 

In the afternoon,  I CAN Project Manager Ms. Akiko Matsuura arrived and witnessed the flow of the activities. She gave motivating message to the participants. As Peace Advocates, you are in a right position to bridge the gap that will lead to peace. Let us be an Agent of Peace in order to attain harmony, Ms. Matsuura said. 

Ayunan on her part emphasized conflict transformation and its four dimensions, such as Personal, relational, structural and cultural. Looking into the problems in a broader perspective and what is beyond the present problem. There are always challenges in Peace-building effort, networking and pertinacity in advocacy effort must not be derailed by any temporal upsets until we succeed, she stressed.

Mr. Koji Matsuura, I CAN Adviser also visited the training center and shared his experience on how to handle conflict situation explained what is Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) and I CAN Foundation all about, and its implemented project in some part in Mindanao.

I CAN is not “for” the People, but “with” the people and hoping the participants can relay the knowledge acquired in this Seminar to their respective communities, Mr. Matsuura said.  

Topic focused on Conflict transformation and Peace building during the last day. Mr. Antipuesto accentuated its principles and mechanics on Nexus / strategic paths and integrated network. 

“As Peace-Builder, we must have clear insight to picture out the future situation in a broader perspective with long term vision which may bring positive changes and social benefits to all”, Mr. Antipuesto expounded. 

The participants were also engaged in workshops that touched on conflict transformation case studies, analysis and planning.

In their culminating messages, the participants expressed their gratitude to I C.A.N, J-BIRD, the resource persons, BTC and BLMI for the opportunity and knowledge imparted to them. 

Sheikh Madmod S. Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director conveyed his heartfelt appreciation to I CAN and the individuals and entities for their initiatives and efforts extended to Bangsamoro. 

On the part of I CAN Foundation, Ms. Akiko Matsuura expressed her appreciation to the responsive and enthusiastic participants, the BTC and BLMI for their warm facilitation and congruency and looking forward to more cohesive partnership with the institutions  on matters relative to Peace-building Educatio

MILF: Palace urges congress to pass a Bangsamoro law consistent with Gov’t-MILF Peace agreement

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 12): Palace urges congress to pass a Bangsamoro law consistent with Gov’t-MILF Peace agreement

On Friday, September 11, Malacañan urged Congress to pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is consistent with the peace agreement signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this in reaction to the MILF’s statement that the decommissioning of arms will not push through if a watered-down BBL is passed.

The Senate and House of Representatives are still deliberating on their respective versions of the Malacañan-MILF drafted law.

“The relationship between the normalization process and the passage of the BBL is clear in the CAB,” Valte said, referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The original draft BBL was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that operationalizes the CAB. The CAB is the final peace accord signed between the government and the MILF on March 27, 2014 at Malacañan Palace.

“That is why we are working hard on the passage of the BBL that is consistent with the CAB,” Valte said. “We are confident that Congress understands the importance of this.”

The decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons is provided for under the security aspect of the Annex on Normalization.

The security aspect also includes policing, redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from or within conflict-affected areas, and the disbandment of private armed groups.

Under the peace agreement, there will be four phases of the decommissioning process, the first of which was a ceremonial turnover concluded last June at the administrative base of the MILF at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao where 145 MILF firearms were turned-over to the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) in the presence of President Benigno Aquino III, cabinet officials; officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP and representatives of international and local non-government organizations.

Board of inquiry: SAF troops killed Marwan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 14): Board of inquiry: SAF troops killed Marwan

MILF’s version of death disputed

Benjamin Magalong

Director Benjamin Magalong, the former chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who headed the board of inquiry that investigated the botched SAF operation, said Sunday he was standing by the police finding that Marwan was killed by the police commandos. JULLIANE LOVE DE JESUS/ FILE PHOTO

The Philippine National Police insisted Sunday that commandos from its Special Action Force (SAF) killed Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in a raid on the Malaysian terrorist’s lair in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in January.

Several PNP officials disputed the findings of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) investigative team that Marwan, for whose capture dead or alive the US government had offered a reward of $5 million, was most likely executed by his own aides.

It was unclear whether the MILF findings, some of which were quoted by the Inquirer in a report published Sunday, were the “alternative truth” that President Aquino said, in a talk with this paper’s editors and reporters last Tuesday, the government was investigating.

Director Benjamin Magalong, the former chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who headed the board of inquiry that investigated the botched SAF operation, said he was standing by the police finding that Marwan was killed by the police commandos.

Magalong said the board, upon its creation a day after the clash, immediately opened an investigation and inspected the battlefield.

“Based on the evidence that we gathered, our SAF teams killed Marwan. They sacrificed so much and risked their lives. The SAF truly deserves the credit and all the honors,” he said.

No exchange of fire

The MILF report, however, indicated that Marwan was already dead when the SAF strike force arrived at his hut in Pembalkan village early on Jan. 25.

Contrary to the SAF’s report that Marwan was killed in an exchange of fire with the commandos, the MILF said there were no indications of a gun battle inside or outside the hut.

Its report said bullet holes on the hut’s walls were roughly 46 centimeters above the floor. Marwan could not have been hit if he was lying down. If he was standing, he would have been hit in lower parts of his body, not in the chest.

A picture of the dead Marwan published by the Inquirer on Jan. 30 showed him half-naked, with a bullet wound on his chest and his head lying on a pool of blood, which, according to the MILF report, indicated that Marwan was shot in the head, most likely from behind and as he lay face-down on the floor.

2 aides

Who shot Marwan was never officially established by both police and MILF investigators.

But the Inquirer learned from a source in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and another from the MILF that Marwan’s aides, Datucan Singgagao and Candao Langalan, were the ones who killed him.

Their names do not appear in any investigation documents, according to the sources, but they said the secret SAF operation employed two government assets—Singgagao and Langalan—who were followers of Mohammad Ali Tambako, leader of a group that broke away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

A splinter group of the MILF, the BIFF has been identified as the coddler of Marwan and his Filipino aide, Basit Usman.

Tambako was arrested by police and military operatives in General Santos City in March, while Usman was killed, reportedly by MILF guerrillas, in Guindulungan, Mamasapano, in May.

Foreigners involved
The military and MILF sources said Singgagao and Langalan were recruited not by the SAF but by a foreign agency that had a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The plan was to get Marwan through the two assets. We know because the project was initially offered to us, but the consequences and the risks were too high that we did not take the mission,” the military source told the Inquirer.

The government and the MILF are observing a ceasefire. Mamasapano delayed the completion of a peace agreement that they signed last year.

The SAF accepted the mission because of the high level of confidence of its chief at the time, Director Getulio Napeñas, and that was because the SAF was armed with “precise intelligence information,” the source said.

The plan, the source said, was for commandos from the SAF’s 84th Seaborne unit to enter the hut in Pembalkan and find Marwan dead. But the plan changed, the source said.

When they got to the hut, the commandos executed their assets, but an aide to Marwan got away and alerted Usman, whose hut was less than 100 meters away. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” the source said.

Missing information

The military source said there was “vital information” that did not appear in any documents on the investigation: One of Marwan’s wives was in the hut.

“The truth is that Marwan was asleep, as he just had sex with his wife, when he was shot by his aides. This explains the MILF finding that he was shot at close range, and why he had no pants,” the source said.

The MILF source said his group had no information about Marwan’s wife, whether she was in the hut when the terrorist was killed or whether he just had sex with her when he was killed.

“What is clear is that Marwan did not die the way the SAF reported his death,” said the MILF source.

Magalong said the board of inquiry did not receive any evidence from the MILF that would support its claim about Marwan’s death. “Anybody can simply generate claims, allegations or false information and make it appear to be true,” he said.

“The burden of proof lies with that person who is making the claim,” said Magalong, who now heads the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, as he challenged those claiming that the SAF did not kill Marwan to show evidence.

He said the MILF never mentioned its findings at the Senate and House inquiries into the Mamasapano clash.

‘Only one truth’

In a recent interview with the Inquirer, Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the MILF, said in reaction to the President’s report of an “alternative truth” about Mamasapano, there was only one truth and it was in the MILF’s investigation report.

Napeñas, who did not give the MILF a heads-up on the SAF operation to keep it secret, a decision that backfired on the mission, also disputed the MILF’s findings.

“The only truth is Marwan was killed by the SAF and we have solid and very credible pieces of evidence and personnel who collected these are honorable and very credible officers,” he said in a telephone interview with on Sunday.

Napeñas, who was sacked after the Mamasapano debacle and had since retired, challenged Iqbal to prove that Marwan was already dead when the commandos arrived at his hut.

“It is for the MILF and Iqbal to show [the] evidence. After all, they were the ones who were claiming that it was the aide who killed Marwan,” he said.

Director Virgilio Lazo, the new SAF chief, said the MILF report ran counter to the accounts of the commandos who survived the mission. “We are a little sad,” he said, referring to the survivors.

Insult to SAF 44

Magalong said that apart from being an attack on the PNP’s credibility, the claim that the SAF was not the killer of Marwan was an insult to the 44 police commandos who died in the daylong gun battle with Moro rebels, including fighters from the MILF, that followed the unraveling of the mission in Pembalkan.

“It was a very sincere effort on the part of the SAF. They sacrificed so much,” he said.

But Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the PNP, said that the police would comply with the President’s directive to “ferret out the truth in the Mamasapano incident.”

“What is contained in the [board of inquiry] report is reflective of its findings [at the time of the investigation],” Mayor said.—

Abductee’s parents suffer sleepless nights

From The Star Online (Sep 13): Abductee’s parents suffer sleepless nights

[Video report: Sandakan hostage's parents speak up for help
After rounds of plea to the Government for help, now the parents of Bernard Then who was kidnapped by Filipino militants in May come forward to ask for help with ransom and Then's release]

PETALING JAYA: Vera Yam cannot sleep well at night. Nightmares cause her to shout and cry during her sleep.

She also has high blood pressure and can’t eat properly.

Yam, 72, cannot stop thinking about the fate of her son Bernard Then Ted Fun who was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan.

Then is now being held hostage in Jolo, southern Philippines.
“We are waiting for him to come home but we don’t know when.

“We are always thinking of him. We don’t understand what happened to him,” said Yam between sobs.
Distraught: Then’s parents Yam and John haven’t been able to sleep properly since he was abducted by militants in May. Chan (right) received a call last month from the kidnappers.
Distraught: Then’s parents Yam and John haven’t been able to sleep properly since he was abducted by militants in May. Chan (right) received a call last month from the kidnappers.

Bernard, 39, was kidnapped along with restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, on May 14.
The abduction has been a tough test for his parents.

“Bernard is in our thoughts every minute and every second,” said his father John Then.

“My wife has high blood pressure. Because of her sleepless nights and worries, she has been given a double dose of medication by the family doctor.

“She has bad dreams at night. She screams and sometimes she even cries in her sleep,” he said.

He said Yam’s condition worsened since the threat of beheading by Abu Sayyaf gunmen last month.

Bernard’s wife Chan Wai See had received a call last month from the kidnappers, who threatened to behead him if ransom was not paid.

The last time the family saw Bernard, the youngest of four siblings, was during Chinese New Year in February.

John said the last time he spoke to his son was a day before he was kidnapped. He had told his son over the phone that Sabah was safe to visit.

“When we heard the news, it was like the sky falling down,” he said, adding that Bernard was a very good son who took care of his parents.

John said his family members and friends from all religions had been praying for his son’s safety.
He also appealed to the Government to help them secure a safe release for his son and Thien.

“We only want him to come back to his family. Please end our torture. Nobody else can help us except the Government,” he said.

Philippines, Pacific militaries train in post-disaster communication

From the Philippine Star (Sep 13): Philippines, Pacific militaries train in post-disaster communication

In this photo, partner military communicators from the Asia-Pacific listen to a presentation on a mobile satellite system in Makati City, Philippines, on Sept. 10, 2015. Tech. Sgt. Todd Kabalan/US PACOM

Military representatives from 21 Asia-Pacific nations including the Philippines met in Manila to discuss how to restore communication channels destroyed in disaster situations.

The meeting, part of the United States-led Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015, hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines provided an opportunity for the partner-nations to enhance communication interoperability and learn about the latest trends in satellite technology, broadband global access networks (BGAN) and mobile Internet capabilities.

Disasters usually destroy basic communication infrastructure, including cell towers and Internet providers' facilities.

"Communications people are generally some of the first people on the ground," said Corporal Rochelle Rowe, a Royal New Zealand Air Force communications specialist, and a SatCom Endeavor participant.

"If you can get communications up, even with a small 300k link, that's still something, and getting Internet access is really important to access the rest of the world, to call for help," Rowe added in a statement.

The participants had hands-on training with mobile broadband equipment to quickly set up communication, which is vital to saving lives in post-disaster scenarios.

Experts, like Rowe, urged the use of the BGAN system, a lightweight mobile Internet device, as it can be set up in five minutes and is friendly to first-time users.

"The BGAN gives five or six people that first-in capability to tell their higher headquarters what the ground truth is, so that that higher headquarters can plan and ensure that the right help is going to the right people, at the right time, and the right place," said Major Erika Teichert, a US Marine Corps officer from the Naval Postgraduate School in California.

PH, MNLF set agenda for high level talks in Jeddah

From Rappler (Sep 13): PH, MNLF set agenda for high level talks in Jeddah

REVIEW. The Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front has set the agenda for the ministerial-level tripartite meeting to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by OPAPP)

REVIEW. The Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front has set the agenda for the ministerial-level tripartite meeting to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by OPAPP)

The Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front set the agenda of the forthcoming ministerial level tripartite meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

For the upcoming meeting proposed to be held in November, both the government and the MNLF agreed to revisit agreements on key implementing measures of the 1996 peace pact, signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos and the MNLF.

This peace accord resulted in the expansion of areas covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the integration of MNLF members into the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police, and the establishment of transitory mechanisms and special agencies for the development of Mindanao.

According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, here are the agreements to be reviewed in the upcoming ministerial level tripartite meeting:

1. The Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF), which aims to address the socio-economic issues and needs of the Bangsamoro People. Both the government and the MNLF agreed to follow-up the terms of reference of BDAF with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB
2. Tripartite Implementation and Monitoring Committee, which aims to monitor the implementation of all agreements of the Tripartite Implementation Process.

3. The co-management of strategic minerals in the region.

During the two-day conference in Makati City on September 7 and 8, the two parties also presented their views on the merging of all previous peace accords and expansion of areas covered by the autonomous region.

The government insisted that all gains of the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements with the MNLF and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front “are preserved” in the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law. (READ: MNLF, sultans want out of Bangsamoro)

However, the MNLF maintains the government has yet to fully implement both peace agreements.

There are efforts from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an influential body among Muslim countries, to unite the MILF and the MNLF. The OIC is also the third-party facilitator of the GPH-MNLF peace deal, through its Peace Committee of the Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP).

In a bid to address the grievances of the MNLF, the MILF incorporated aspects of the 1996 peace pact that the MNLF still wants to be implemented in the BBL. These provisions are known as the "42 consensus points."

Lumad killings due to tribal conflict, says army

From Rappler (Sep 13): Lumad killings due to tribal conflict, says army

Any lapses of Philippine troops on the ground that could have prevented their immediate capture of the suspects is under investigation as well

JUSTICE SOUGHT. Indigenous people and religious leaders join a rally to call for justice for the murdered Lumad leaders in Mindanao. Photo by Vincent Go/Rappler

JUSTICE SOUGHT. Indigenous people and religious leaders join a rally to call for justice for the murdered Lumad leaders in Mindanao. Photo by Vincent Go/Rappler

The deaths of 3 civilians and burning of a cooperative store in Surigao del Sur last September 1 was due to a tribal conflict, an Army probe said.

The report was submitted to the Commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID) based in Cagayan de Oro City by the Army Board of Inquiry, which conducted the investigation.

"[T]he incident in Sitio Han-ayan was a tribal conflict within the context of insurgency, that is, one tribal group affiliated with the New People’s Army (NPA) while the other is an anti-NPA tribal group," the Army said in a press release Sunday, September 13, quoting the probe results.

A school director and two community leaders were among the dead.

The inquiry board found that the military was not involved in the killings, said Major General Oscar T. Lactao, the 4ID commander.

Instead, the deaths were attributed to paramilitary group Magahat Bagani force.

The identifiend suspects were named Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero, and Gareto Layno.

Any lapses of Philippine troops on the ground that could have prevented their immediate capture of the suspects is under unvestigation as well, the Army said in its release.

Col. Isidro L. Purisima, the 402nd Infantry Brigade Commander, had been directed by Lactao to "conduct law enforcement operation to capture the perpetrators."

“Magahat force has been known as anti-communist and as such, it is perceived to be closely associated with the government or military,” said Lactao.

“I would like to emphasize that it is the policy of this Command not to condone any illegal armed groups,” he added.

Don't 'assassinate' memory of SAF44, declassify all documents on Mamasapano - Recto to govt

From InterAksyon (Sep 13): Don't 'assassinate' memory of SAF44, declassify all documents on Mamasapano - Recto to govt

Caskets of the SAF44 arrive at Villamor Airbase in this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo from the Official Gazette.

Saying any new Mamasapano theory that "assassinates" the memory of the SAF 44 should be backed by solid evidence, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto Sunday sought the disclosure of at least seven items of documentation that could once and for all tell the full story of what happened on Jan. 25, 2015.

"If unsupported by facts, the claim is slanderous.  It has the effect of devaluing the heroism of the SAF 44," Recto said in a statement, referring to a claim by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that Malaysian terrorist Marwan was killed by an aide even before the police commandos arrived, and, according to an Inquirer source, the SAF raid was just "drama."

Recto said, "those who are peddling a revisionist take on what happened in Mamasapano should come up with solid proof."

If these allegations - reported by the Inquirer days after President Aquino told the newspaper's editors at a roundtable there was an emerging "alternative truth" in Mamasapano are later proven false, the damage to the SAF44's reputation "will be irreparable," Recto said. Those making the claim, he added, will be guilty of "character assassination of the dead."

To settle the matter once and for all, said Recto, the following should be declassified and disclosed to the public now:

1.    Video of the operations. If there is a GoPro footage of the SAF who killed Marwan, it should come out now.

2.    All communication logs including audio recording between SAF and forward bases.

3.    Was the operation monitored in real-time by a satellite or drone circling above? If there is, the footage and any recording of this should be released.

4.    Terminal ballistics report, to determine the type of weapons used.

5.    AFP report on the death of Abdul Basit Usman, the Filipino bomb maker trained by Marwan, who was staying in a nearby hut.

6.    Medico-legal and autopsy report on Marwan, to determine cause of death, including proximity of weapon discharge and point of entry and exit of bullets.

7.    Report on post-incident investigation of the PNP-SOCO, if there’s any.

Those making the claim that something else happened, different from what has so far been revealed in several reports - by a Senate tri-committee inquiry, by the special fact-finding panel of then-CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong, and by a Justice department team - should come up with solid evidence and not resort to leaks, said Recto.

"The people may not be forgiving of those who vilify the valor of those who gave up their lives for the country. Wala na ngang posthumous honor, bibigyan pa ng posthumous insult [It's bad enough the SAF 44 didn't get posthumous honor; it's worse that what they're getting is a posthumous insult]."

The police Special Action Force mission, billed "Oplan Exodus," deployed 300 members of the force past midnight of Jan. 25 to a marshy village within MILF territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, with orders to get Zulkipli bin Abhir (Marwan) and Usman, accused in Philippine courts of engineering several terrorist attacks over a 10-year period.

The SAF bagged Marwan, prompting the SAF's chief Getulio Napeñas to call the mission a success. However, the deaths of 44 SAF members caused an outcry amid reports the government did not move fast enough to extricate them from the "kill zone" after coming under fire, as they exited, from three sides: the MILF, which said it didn't know these were police commandos, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and various other private armed groups.

Usman escaped but was later killed by the MILF as he entered the Moro rebels' lair in another province.

The Mamasapano debacle - called a massacre by some quarters - plunged the Aquino presidency into its worst political crisis, and stalled deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress, where lawmakers demanded to know why the Malaysian terrorist  got sanctuary in MILF territory.

NPAs burn two vehicles in DavOr

From MindaNews (Sep 13): NPAs burn two vehicles in DavOr

Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly burned two vehicles around 7 p.m. Saturday at Sitio Mangway, Brgy. Pintatagan, Banaybanay town, Davao Oriental.

In a phone interview , Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) and spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), estimated that at least 15 rebels, led by alias Bansai or Pakat of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, were behind the burning of an Isuzu “Saddam” truck and a Mitsubishi Delica van owned by Ronaldo Mangosong.

The van worth P300,000 sustained the most damage while only the tires of the truck were burned, he said.

He added that a joint military and Philippine National Police forces have already mounted checkpoints in some areas in the town.

Caber said that authorities are now investigating the incident to determine what transpired as the owner of the vehicles did not receive any extortion demand from the NPA.

No one was hurt in the incident.

In a press statement, Caber said that the owner was saddened by the incident because the vehicles were used for his family’s livelihood.

Caber said that last month, eight trucks were also burned in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Two weeks after, another vehicle was burned in Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Caber has yet to release the total number of vehicles allegedly burned by the NPA this year.

“The Philippine Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion supports the local PNP in its law enforcement efforts,” he added. “Under the International Humanitarian Law, civilians and civilian properties should not be the object of attack,” he stressed.

PH gov’t, MNLF agree on Ministerial-level Tripartite meeting in Jeddah

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 14): PH gov’t, MNLF agree on Ministerial-level Tripartite meeting in Jeddah

The two-day Preparatory Meeting to the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) on the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) ended Tuesday night with a consensus to revisit agreements on the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF), the Tripartite Implementation and Monitoring Committee (TIMC), and the co-management of strategic minerals to be submitted to the Ministerial-level meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Both panels also agreed to follow-up the Terms of Reference of BDAF with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), committed “to coordinate with each other to fast track its review.”

The two Panels also asked the OIC for its “sound discretion to determine its representation” in the TIMC.

With regard to the co-management of strategic minerals, the government and the MNLF “committed to work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on the current status of the implementation of the agreement and submit recommendations to strengthen it.”

They also agreed to look into the provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) relevant to co-management.

During the two-day conference, the two parties presented their individual views regarding the convergence of all previous peace accords and expansion of areas covered by the autonomous region.

However, the government panel in its position, emphasized to the MNLF that all gains of the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, are preserved under the convergence of all peace pacts through the proposed new autonomy law which is the BBL.

The exact date of the Ministerial-level Tripartite Meeting is yet to be determined but will take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (OPAPP)