Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Former soldier convicted in senior officer’s killing in Cebu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 29): Former soldier convicted in senior officer’s killing in Cebu

CEBU CITY – A former soldier who killed his senior officer inside Camp Lapu-Lapu here six years ago was convicted by the trial court Monday.

Jesusito Bayang was found guilty of homicide and was meted the penalty of imprisonment from six to 12 years.

Judge Estela Alma Singco of the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 also ordered Bayang to pay the victim’s family P38,405 in actual damages, P75,000 in civil indemnity, P50,000 in moral damages, and P20,000 in attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses.

Bayang was accompanied by his lawyer Rameses Villagonzalo when the verdict was read in open court past 8 a.m. yesterday.

Villagonzalo, in an interview, said they would appeal the verdict before a higher court.

“We’re actually expecting an acquittal. But that’s the decision of the court. We respect it although we will be filing an appeal before the Court of Appeals,” he said.

Bayang, now 38 years old, was unhappy with the court’s ruling but said he will try to move on.

“Unsaon na-disgrasya man gyud. Dawaton na lang nako. (What I else can I do? The incident had happened. I just have to accept its consequences),” he told the Inquirer.
Bayang, who has two children aged 10 and 8, has been working as a farmer in his hometown in Surigao del Norte since being expelled from the military in 2010.

“Mo-uli lang usa ko sa amo. (I’ll return home from here),” said Bayang who is out on bail from the time the charges against him was filed in court.

Bayang admitted to shooting to death his senior official, Staff Sgt. Romeo Mendez, whom he said bullied him for five years.

But the accused had argued that he acted in self-defense when he sensed that Mendez was about to kill him.

Mendez was the supply sergeant of the 7th Finance Service Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Central Command headquarters in Cebu City, while Bayang served as driver, mess sergeant, and cook.

On Sept 4, 2009, at around 5 a.m., Bayang said he was asleep in his quarters when Mendez woke him up by pulling his legs, and compelled him to clean the surroundings.

Bayang said he got a broom to obey Mendez’s order, but he decided to return to the room since it was still dark outside and he could hardly see the area to be cleaned.

Cleaning the surroundings of the military headquarters was scheduled at 6 a.m.

Bayang said he told Mendez to treat them properly since they are no longer trainees but enlisted personnel of the AFP.

From there, he said Mendez went to a locker, and although he didn’t see any firearm, he heard the cocking of a gun.

Afraid of what might happen to him, Bayang got his firearm.

He said he proceeded to the mess hall to drink coffee but Mendez, who was in the place, allegedly confronted him. As Bayang attempted to leave, he said Mendez banged the table.

Bayang said he then immediately got his gun and shot Mendez five times. The victim died on the spot, while Bayang immediately surrendered to the military police.

In her ruling, Judge Singco said the defense failed to prove that Mendez was armed when the confrontation took place.

“Aside from the alleged cocking sound of a gun that the accused heard, it was not shown that the victim was actually armed. The belief on the part of the accused that victim intended to harm him existed only in his imagination,” she said.

While Bayang claimed to be bullied by Mendez for several years, Singco said the defense did not present any witness to prove the accusation.

“In any event, such does not in itself establish the legal right of accused to kill the victim, otherwise retaliation and not self-defense is committed,” the judge said.

Singco said that the number of wounds sustained by the victim negates claims of self-defense.

“The number of wounds, five in all, indicates that the act of the accused was no longer in self-defense but a determined effort to kill the victim,” she said.

Bayang was originally charged with murder but the Cebu City Prosecutors’ Office downgraded it to homicide based on the evidence submitted to them.


AFP troops start receiving 'fixed' new M4 rifles

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): AFP troops start receiving 'fixed' new M4 rifles

President Aquino presides over ceremonial turnover of M4 rifles, the procurement of which was marred by the discovery of units with sight and barrel defects. Photograph from Malacañang Photo Bureau.

Military personnel in the Visayas and Mindanao have started receiving their so-called brand new but refurbished M4 rifles after the United States-based supplier – Remington Outdoor Company – fixed units with sight and barrel defects.
President Benigno Aquino even presided over the ceremonial distribution of the rifles, only for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) to discover that the rifles' sight mechanisms and barrel grooves were defective. 

Remington had won the bidding in October 2013 to supply the AFP with 50,629 brand new M4 rifles worth some P2.1 billion.

Of the total number of rifles, 6,443 are destined for the Marine corps.

The government had appropriated a total of P3.3 billion to buy new rifles, and the AFP indicated earlier that it had saved P1.2 billion and will use the savings to buy additional rifles.

The firearms procurement is part of the Joint Philippine Army–Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifle Acquisition Project.

The rifles are intended to replace early models of M-16 and M-16A1 rifles, the majority of which were as old as the Vietnam War era and are already in poor condition.

According to the Phil. Army spokesman, Col. Benjamin Hao, the AFP has already taken delivery of 24,300 rifles, which are currently being distributed to the troops in Mindanao.

He added that a total of 19,866 rifles are "still undergoing ballistic tests by the Philippine National Police".

"[The] M4 rifles {are) part of the 44,186 rifles that are now on hand in Army arsenal," Hao said. "For this year, also, the Army expects the delivery of more armored personnel carriers, protective gear for individual soldiers, and radio communication equipment."

According to Phil. Army Logistics Officer Col. Pio Diñoso, "Priority recipients are the troops assigned in Mindanao. However, due to our favorable logistics distribution schedule, especially with the availability of our C-130s cargo aircraft, the troops in the Visayas and Cotabato received their rifles in advance."

Meanwhile, just recently, the Army received and successfully tested the initial six of the 28 M11A32 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) that the US Army donated through grant. Elbit Systems Land and C4I of Israel refurbished the tanks with technology and the weapons systems by Australia.

The Army is set to receive 114 more tanks of same model from the US Army.


Interview: A Philippine Perspective from the Middle of the South China Sea

From The Diplomat (Sep 29): Interview: A Philippine Perspective from the Middle of the South China Sea

The Diplomat talks with Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon about governing an area in the middle of the South China Sea disputes.

Interview: A Philippine Perspective from the Middle of the South China Sea

A view of a Chinese vessel taken from a convoy the mayor was in on the way to Pag-asa in October 2012.  Image Credit: Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon
Eugenio “Jun” Bito-onon is the mayor of Kalayaan municipality, which comprises six islets controlled by the Philippines in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the islands are claimed by several other countries including China. These islets include Pag-asa Island, which houses nearly 200 inhabitants. During his recent visit to Washington, D.C., Bito-onon spoke with The Diplomat’s associate editor Prashanth Parameswaran about his perspective on the South China Sea. An edited version of that interview follows.

Much has been written about China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and its impact on claimants like the Philippines over the past few years. You have personally had encounters with Chinese warships in the South China Sea. Can you tell us a bit about your experience, and how that has informed your view on the issue and China’s role in it?

I have had several experiences with Chinese vessels at sea. One incident happened on October 8, 2012. This was during the maiden voyage of the MV Queen Seagull, a wooden hull cargo and passenger boat owned and operated by Kalayaan municipality. The MV Queen Seagull had set sail from Puerto Princesa City port for a routine delivery of supplies to Pag-asa Island, and it was joined by three other boats in Bancalaan Island, an island located at the southernmost tip of Palawan.

map of kalayaan islands
A local government map of the Kalayaan Islands including Pag-asa Island. (Photo Credit: Provincial Planning and Development Office).

After the convoy had passed by Second Thomas Shoal and stopped to take shelter at Sabina Shoal due to inclement weather, we departed from Lawak Island early on October 8 a few hours before dawn. When we had passed Likas Island (West York Island) for about an hour while heading west to Pag-asa, the boat captain in the MV Queen Seagull spotted a fast approaching vessel heading directly for it.

When the radio operator informed me and mentioned that the approaching vessel had not responded to calls, I immediately said that it must be a Chinese vessel with a crew not comprehending English. When I came out of the cabin, I discovered that it was a warship, silver gray in color with bow number 995 heading northward. I shouted for anybody with a camera to take pictures and video footage and someone successfully did it, with the pictures indicating a date and time of October 8 at 13:00 hours (the picture is shown above). I used this evidence in my report to the Western Command and the National Security Administration, and I also told the story to local radio and friends in the national media.

Though I had initially thought that the warship was just passing by on its way to China, at 16:00 hours, with just an hour left to Pag-asa, it crossed our convoy again between the third and last boat. I noticed that it slowed down and was lying tow within viewing distance left of our convoy. Meanwhile, to the right side of our convoy, a wide reef 5-9 kilometers from Pag-asa Island was billowing with smoke coming from the exhaust of numerous Chinese diesel-engine sampans used to dig giant clams, which I also took pictures of from a distance. It dawned on me that if these boats were to be apprehended, a repeat of the Scarborough Shoal incident would occur. It would be a tough job to drive and prevent them from destroying the coral reef.

In August 2014, I took Asahi Shimbun and Asahi TV to Second Thomas Shoal. While approaching the southern part of the feature at 8pm, we were suddenly blocked and harassed by a Chinese coast guard vessel. We were streamed with strong search light and blared with horn. But our boat captain prevailed by going around the rear part of the big boat until we got into the shallow area and the lagoon.

There were several other experiences as well. But all of them led me to believe that what I have read and heard about China’s aggression is related to its dream of taking the whole of the South China Sea in disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which she is a signatory. I am made to believe that the oil and gas in the Reed Bank is its main target of China after learning that the Department of Energy has extended the exploration contract of Forum Energy for another three years because of China’s harassment.
As someone who is on the front lines in the South China Sea, what is your assessment of the approach that the current government, led by President Benigno Aquino III, has taken on the issue?

I think the best move that President Aquino did was the filing of the arbitration case. I fully appreciate and support the filing of the arbitration case to once and for all resolve the issues and problems. I believe it will provide permanent solutions to the messy situation that we are in today. As mayor of a local government unit with a handful of constituents but gaining consistent support from the national government in terms of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) funds, we can still be patient enough to wait for the results of case.
Pag-asa Island, which you govern, has nearly 200 inhabitants. Can you give us a sense of how is it sustained as an entity that supports civilian life? And how is it governed and secured?

Well, the municipality continuously receives support from the national government in terms of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). For 2016 for instance, the forecast of IRA for Kalayaan municipality is 59 million pesos. The funds, which other municipalities and cities in the Philippines also receive, are governed by certain policies and laws which determine how they ought to be spent. For example, for a fifth class municipality like Kalayaan, a maximum of 55 percent of it is allowed for personal services, 20 percent for development, 5 percent for calamity, and so on.

That being said, there are some steps that we take to account for the unique nature of Pag-asa Island. Due to a lack of arable land, the municipal government ensures food security by providing a month food subsidy consisting mainly of 14 kilograms of rice per adult resident. To facilitate the processing of financial transactions, the local government of Kalayaan has set up an Extension Office in Puerto Princesa City.

In terms of governance, there are two administrators who assist me in handling daily affairs – one based in Pag-asa and another in Puerto Princesa City. The municipality also owns and operates a marine transport vessel to ensure it can conduct basic tasks – like transporting construction materials for projects – on its own without relying on the military. Nonetheless, in most cases the military is very supportive and graciously extends accommodation or transportation services or assistance to the municipal government and its constituents in between quarterly municipal trips.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deploys units to all the islets and several branches of AFP are present in Pag-asa Island for defense and security purposes. Peace and order is taken care of by our police from the Philippine National Police and the Barangay tanods (community peace keepers).

Aerial view of Pagasa Island

An aerial view of Pag-asa Island taken back in 2014. (Photo Credit: Armed Forces of the Philippines).

You have proposed an eco-tourism zone (ETZ) in the Kalayaan Islands. Can you briefly outline the rationale for this, and what it would entail?

The Ecotourism Zone Proposal is a municipal government initiative intended to serve as a peaceful solution to the increasing militarization in the Kalayaan islands. It is designed to show the direction and the aspiration of the municipal government. It actually started from the concept of “Tourism for Peace” which envisions future cooperation and bringing people together, learning about their culture, enhancing connectedness, and providing relevant job and livelihood opportunities. With ecotourism comes adequate environmental and ecological protection of certain areas zoned for tourism investment.
How has your proposal been received by the Philippine government thus far?

Because of the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) Program, funds have been allocated by several national government agencies for our access, and it is in this context that we have proposed our tourism-related projects. This year, we have signed several agreements regarding counterparting of funds with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the acquisition of a steel boat, and with the Department of Tourism for the construction of a souvenir or coffee shop to serve as a passenger lounge in Pag-asa and the preparation of Kalayaan Tourism Master Plan in 2016. I think the timing is good and things have started this year while awaiting the final results of the arbitration case.
The proposal for an ETZ is still a work in progress. But how have the Chinese government as well as various Chinese entities and interests responded to economic initiatives like these over the past few years?

I think the Chinese government has been eager to negotiate with the Philippines about cooperation in ecotourism and fisheries. It is the Philippine government that is hesitant and it has been insisting that this should not occur until the arbitration case is over. So, no matter what kind of economic engagement is offered by any Chinese entities in the area of the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines is overcome with great doubt over their intentions. The local government cannot act on its own on this issue. Instead, it takes advice from relevant national agencies especially the Department of Foreign Affairs and Office of the President.
You are now in the midst of a public awareness campaign to the United States until early October. What more do you think the United States can do in assisting the Philippines in the South China Sea?

I learned that there have been many conflicts in the world that were eventually resolved peacefully. There are scholars and scientists who have been advancing ideas on how to promote peace in the South China Sea. For example, I learned of John McMannus’ proposal to pattern the resolution of the problem in South China Sea after the Antarctica model. I think that without a capable and interested arbiter(s) or negotiator(s) that could intervene in the situation, China will continue to bully and harass weaker states in the South China Sea considering that it has already dwarfed all other occupants with its man-made islands. The United States can come to the aid of weaker and smaller countries as an intervenor or broker.


Sulu claimant against Manila's claim

From the Daily Express (Sep 29): Sulu claimant against Manila's claim

Kota Kinabalu: A so-called crown prince of the Sulu Sultanate on Monday pledged to end the Sulu claim over Sabah and "liberate" his fellow countrymen in Sabah under an independent monarchy called Sulu Darul Jambangan in the Southern Philippines.

Datu Khudar S.J Kiram II, 59, who claimed to be the direct descendant of the second son of Sultan Jamalul Alam, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, promised to free Sabah. He did not elaborate. Jamalul Alam was the sultan who signed the lease agreement with Baron Von Overbeck and Alfred Dent on Jan. 22, 1878 in Sulu and Datu Khudar claimed he is in possession of the Sabah grant.

He said once he returned to Manila next week he will call for a press conference to reiterate that the Sulu Sultanate will stop the claim over Sabah, adding that the Philippines Government will no longer have the right to interfere in the affairs of the Sulu Sultanate.

Furthermore, he said doesn't want anything to happen to Sabah because he had spent his years growing up in Sabah but maintained he would still prefer to be a Filipino citizen.

Coming from a lesser known Sulu Sultanate family lineage, Khudar who is now residing in Manila in the Philippines, said his family line had always been supportive of Sabah joining Malaysia, saying he doesn't want Sabah to fall under the Manila "Christian Government."

"We all wanted Sabah to remain a Muslim country…during the declaration on Sept. 1963, my father Sultan Jamalul Kiram II was on stage behind Tun Mustapha, and I was also on stage.

"I was probably around six years old at the time but as I understood Sabah could not enter into Malaysia without the nod of the Sulu Sultanate, which came from my father," he told reporters.

He said until today his family had become the backbone of Sabah, although unhappy that many people are also claiming the Sultanate lineage, with some having launched hostile campaigns to reclaim North Borneo over the years.

According to Datu Khudar, his brother, Sultan Rodinhood Kiram II, is the present and rightful reigning Sulu Sultan but had no interest in running the kingdom, and hence, all the administrative duties come under him. Khudar's claim comes following the death of Esmail Kiram II on Sept. 25 due to kidney failure, with reports of the next in line being Raja Muda Datu Phugdal Kiram, 75.

But unlike Esmail who succeeded the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, the self-styled leader who launched a military campaign to take over Sabah in March 2013 in Tanduo Lahad Datu, Khudar said he wants to put an end to this claim over North Borneo and restore the Sulu Sultanate name after being shamed by Kiram III.

And any future attempt to intrude Sabah, he said, will have to go "over my dead body," and put a stop to individuals who also claimed to be Sulu Sultans from conferring the "Datu" title to Malaysians.

His reasons were he had seen the changes and development brought by the government and peace-loving Sabahans.

"Firstly we and the rest of the family are deeply saddened by the incursion in Tanduo, Lahad Datu. Many people died in the incursion, including my fellow countrymen.

"We do not condone or were involved in the incident which was carried out by a bunch of rebels and destroyed the good name of the Sulu Sultanate and the people of Sulu themselves," he said. He said he is familiar with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman who was also his school prefect, while Datuk Seri Anifah Aman was his schoolmate and Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak was his classmate in Form One, when he was schooling here at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sembulan, Sabah College and thereafter in Kuala Lumpur, when he was still staying in Sembulan years ago.

Besides, he said the Kiram family was not hostile, pointing out the actions of the self-styled Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who had no sovereign rights had desecrated his family name.

Datu Khudar said the late Kiram III came from the descendant of a younger sibling of his great grandfather, Sultan Nawalil Wasit and that his family had insulted his father who refused to be part of the nine claimants to Sabah.

He revealed the actions of Kiram III in 2013 were fuelled by funds from "outsiders."

"Although some of his men are now being captured and tried in the court, I will not help his men. If I found any of my subjects are doing drugs, I will cooperate with the police and tell on them.

"Kiram's men have created their own mess. If they want out they could ask their own leader. They are not my subjects," said Datu Khudar and revealed he won't get involved in the campaign for the release of kidnap hostages, saying that "it's just a crime committed by a bunch of gunmen trying to make a living."

He said the kidnappers are forced to carry out such acts due to the expensive prices of goods in Tawi-Tawi and had to resort to the crimes to survive.

DATU Khudar, he has bigger plans in mind and that is to create his own self-governing nation called the Sulu Darul Jambangan.

He claimed he has close to a million subjects with MyKads currently residing in Sabah and plans to call them back home to the Southern Philippine region of Mindanao to rebuild this nation.

Datu Khudar said he was saddened at times at how his subjects with MyKads are being treated like "toilets" by politicians in Malaysia who used them mostly for political mileage and to win elections.

"I'm truly sorry but this is the truth. Each time there is an election some parties insulted my people and also use them to win votes but after winning the election our contributions are not remembered," he said.

But he said he has no qualms with the politicians and instead continued to advise his people to continue to support the Barisan Nasional Government as the leaders have allowed them to live here in peace and also to prosper.

"I have told them not to bite the hands that feed you and want them to continue to support the government until my nation is created," he said.

Datu Khudar said if all goes well he will call for their return in August next year and will declare the nation's independence on Aug 8, coinciding with his father's birthday.

Towards this end, he also promised to return the Sabah Grant back to the State Government and put an end to all future claims over Sabah by the Sulu Sultanate relatives.

Datu Khudar said his plan is supported by one of the Philippines Presidential candidates who goes by the name of Maruas who is expected to be one of the opponents of Senator Bong Bong Marcos in the election run next year. According to him, the Philippine Government now is willing to listen to their demands due to the killing of 44 Filipino soldiers by alleged Muslim separatists, although such claims had never been proven in court.

He said for funding to rebuild the nation he had received a court order to release the sovereign gold which belonged to his father, without elaborating where the wealth was kept.

Datu Khudar said he will also advise his siblings to drop any plans to reclaim Sabah once he secures the sovereign wealth for the creation of his new nation.


New Maguindanao Islamic school nears completion

From the Philippine Star (Sep 29): New Maguindanao Islamic school nears completion

The Madrasah Islamic school building being built by soldiers in Barangay Kulasi in Gen. S.K, Pendatun town using funds from the provincial government of Maguindanao is expected to be completed within October 2015. Philstar.com/John Unson

Army carpenters are sure they can finish in October another Madrasah building for Islamic theology students in a village covered by a 17-year interim ceasefire between Moro rebels and government forces.
The building is being constructed inside a small Islamic school campus in Barangay Kulasi in S.K. Pendatun town in the second district of Maguindanao.
Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said the two-classroom building, whose construction is being funded by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, can accommodate a hundred more students.
The project is being implemented by carpenters from the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) and the 601st Brigade, both component units of 6th ID.
Soldiers had constructed a Madrasah school building in the same campus last year, also built using funds from the office of Mangudadatu.
The provincial budget officer, Lynette Estandarte, said Pangilinan and Mangudadatu had set October 31 as deadline for the completion of the second school building.
“But it seems the project will be done, completely accomplished sooner because there is good weather in the project site and the soldiers building the classrooms are zealous, apparently due to the hospitality of the local folks,” Estandarte said.
Lt. Col.Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of the 33rd IB, said his men will do their best to finish the project in the next three weeks.
Bunayog said he is thankful to residents of Barangay Kulasi for treating soldiers involved in the project as real members of the community despite their being in the Army.
Pangilinan said the school building project helped improve the cordiality between the military and local forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF and the government have a standing non-aggression security pact meant to prevent conflicts in potential flashpoint areas.

MNLF won’t coddle Samal abductors

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 30): MNLF won’t coddle Samal abductors

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group of chairman Nur Misuari yesterday vowed it will not coddle the kidnap group holding three foreigners and a Filipina, who were abducted from Samal Island, as it expressed readiness to assist government authorities in addressing the kidnapping issue.

Rev. Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the MNLF-Misuari group, vowed they will never condone bandits.

“As a gesture of goodwill, we are prepared to extend our assistance in addressing the matter, if we are requested to do so,” Cerveza told The Tribune.

“We want to emphasize that we will neither condone these criminal acts nor the bandits responsible for the kidnapping,” he added.

Cerveza said that the MNLF will not allow the kidnap group into their camps.
“We assure that no MNLF camps will take these bandits,” Cerveza said.

The Palace welcomed the MNLF initiative to provide aid to the government in rescuing four tourists abducted in Samal Island.

“The government accepts the help of organizations or individuals to solve a crime,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “It’s better that we find where the perpetrators are.”

There were reports stating that Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Filipina Maritess Flor have been sighted in Sulu, a known stronghold of the MNLF-Misuari group.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier had said that the victims were taken to Sulu via Glan, Sarangani.

Cerveza admitted there were information saying that the victims were brought in Sulu by their captors by such information remains unverified.

“We have received information to that effect but they are not validated,” Cerveza said.

Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group-Sulu, said that there is no confirmation that the victims are now in Sulu.

“There are a lot of reports coming in but there is no photo evidence,” Arrojado said.

“No lull time. We have been operating for eight days now in Patikul and Talipao areas. Sorry but there is no confirmation through photo or video evidence…all reports are still for validation,” said Arrojado.

The three victims were abducted by gunmen from the posh Ocean View resort on Samal Island in Daval del Norte last Sept. 21.
There were reports tagging the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group as behind the daring kidnapping, staged barely two months before the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila in November.

Unconfirmed reports tagged the group of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf leader Muammar Askali as behind the abduction.

Police and military authorities, however, maintained there are still no validated reports that Abu Sayyaf Group is now holding the four hostages.

Authorities are also mum as to where the ongoing search and pursuit operations are being conducted.

Cerveza branded the law enforcement operation as good indicator on the location of the victims.


Sulu datu to drop Sabah, claims support from ‘Maruas’

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 30): Sulu datu to drop Sabah, claims support from ‘Maruas’

A self-proclaimed “Crown Prince” of Sulu informed Malaysian media yesterday that the Sulu Sultanate will drop the claim on the Malaysian state of Sabah and it will instead seek independence from the Philippines.

An article from Malaysian daily Free Malaysia Today said “Crown Prince” Datu Khudar S. J. Kiram II, 59, who claims to be a direct descendant from a second son of Sultan Jamalul Alam or Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, told Malaysian media that he will call for a press conference in Manila next week and announce the dropping of the Sabah claim. “The Philippine Government will no longer have the right to interfere in the affairs of the Sulu Sultanate,” according to Kiram.

Another Malaysia newspaper Daily Express said Datu Khudar claimed that his plan is supported by one of the Philippines’ presidential candidates “who goes by the name of ‘Maruas.’”

Jamalul Alam was the Sultan who signed the “lease” agreement to parts of Sabah with Baron Von Overbeck and Alfred Dent on 22 January, 1878 in Sulu. Khudar claims that he has the Sabah grant in his possession and pledged to hand it over to the Sabah Government on August 8 next year, the birthday of his late father, when he plans to declare an independent monarchy in the southern Philippines called Sulu Darul Jambangan.

The acknowledged head of the Sultanate, Sultan Esmail Kiram II, who staged a 2013 invasion of the Sabah state in Malaysia died of kidney failure last Sept. 20.

The claimant to the Sultanate title said he has the Sabah grant in his possession and pledges to hand it over to the Sabah Government on August 8 next year, the Malaysian paper quoted Kiram as saying.

“I have also obtained a Court order to release the sovereign gold which belonged to my late father and it will be used to build the Sulu nation,” Kiram was quoted as saying.

Kiram pledged to liberate his one million countrymen in Sabah, who have MyKads, through the independent monarchy.

“I am sad how my countrymen in Sabah are treated like ‘toilets’ by the politicians who only want their votes,” he charged. “I am sorry but this is the truth.”

“Each time there’s an election, some parties insult my people, while others just want their votes. After the elections, they are forgotten.”

“My brother, Sultan Rodinhood Kiram II, is the rightful reigning Sulu Sultan but has no interest in running the kingdom. Hence, all administrative duties are under my direction,” he added.

Pro-Malaysian Kirams

Daily Express quoted Kiram, who resides in Manila, as saying that his family line has always been supportive of Sabah joining Malaysia, saying he doesn’t want Sabah to fall under the Manila “Christian Government.”

“We all wanted Sabah to remain a Muslim country…during the declaration on Sept. 1963, my father Sultan Jamalul Kiram II was on stage behind Tun Mustapha, and I was also on stage,” he added.

“I was probably around six years old at the time but as I understood Sabah could not enter into Malaysia without the nod of the Sulu Sultanate, which came from my father,” he told reporters.

Kiram said until today his family had become the backbone of Sabah, although unhappy that many people are also claiming the Sultanate lineage, with some having launched hostile campaigns to reclaim North Borneo over the years.

And any future attempt to intrude Sabah, he said, will have to go “over my dead body,” and put a stop to individuals who also claimed to be Sulu Sultans from conferring the “Datu” title to Malaysians.

“Firstly we and the rest of the family are deeply saddened by the incursion in Tanduo, Lahad Datu. Many people died in the incursion, including my fellow countrymen,” he said.

“We do not condone or were involved in the incident which was carried out by a bunch of rebels and destroyed the good name of the Sulu Sultanate and the people of Sulu themselves,” he said.

He said the Kiram family was not hostile, pointing out the actions of the self-styled Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who had no sovereign rights had desecrated his family name.
Datu Khudar said the late Kiram III came from the descendant of a younger sibling of his great grandfather, Sultan Nawalil Wasit and that his family had insulted his father who refused to be part of the nine claimants to Sabah.

He revealed the actions of Kiram III in 2013 were fueled by funds from “outsiders.”

He claimed he has close to a million subjects with MyKads currently residing in Sabah and plans to call them back home to the Southern Philippine region of Mindanao to rebuild this nation.

Datu Khudar said if all goes well he will call for their return in August next year and will declare the nation’s independence on Aug 8, coinciding with his father’s birthday.

Toward this end, he also promised to return the Sabah Grant back to the State Government and put an end to all future claims over Sabah by the Sulu Sultanate relatives.

Kiram was quoted as saying the government now is willing to listen to their demands due to the killing of 44 Filipino soldiers by alleged Muslim separatists, although such claims had never been proven in court.

He said for funding to rebuild the nation he had received a court order to release the sovereign gold which belonged to his father, without elaborating where the wealth was kept.
Datu Khudar said he will also advise his siblings to drop any plans to reclaim Sabah once he secures the sovereign wealth for the creation of his new nation.


MILF: League of Bangsamoro Organizations holds Induction of Officers

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 29): League of Bangsamoro Organizations holds Induction of Officers

League of Bangsamoro Organizations holds Induction of Officers

Cotabato City— A composition of determined and inspired men and women that will administer and govern the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) was inducted to office last September 26 at the DepEd Conference Hall, Notre Dame Village, Cotabato City.

Mr. Hashim Manticayan, President of the Muslim Youth Brotherhood (MYB) heads the LBO as Secretary General. His two deputy Secretary-Generals are Dr Ombra Imam, President of National Association for Bangsamoro Education Inc. (NABEI), for Internal Affairs, and Mr. Yusoph Lumambas, Secretary General of the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), for External Affairs.

Manticayan, Imam and Lumambas are members of LBO Executive Committee.

The LBO’s Supreme Council is chaired by Emran Mohamad, President of the Bangsamoro Communication Network (BCN) and Abdulnasser Binasing also from the UNYPAD is the Chairman of Board of Disputes.

The officers took their oath of office pursuant to their vision of “One Society of Bangsamoro Organizations for 2024”, thus attaining peaceful and developed Bangsamoro Society.

Dr Rahib Kudto, President of UNYPAD and over-all Chairman of LBOs ‘AHWA’, reminded his co-officers on leadership in Islam and said, “It is not a profession, a position nor a privilege but it is a social responsibility.”

Dr. Danda Juanday, head of the Bangsamoro Medical Society (BMS), in his message, said “We are rallying towards one direction, leading on how we unite Bangsamoro organizations.”

Dr Bai Cabayan D. Bacar, Al Hadja of the Maguindanaon Professionals and Employees’ Association of the Philippines (MAPEA) Inc., who graced the occasion said that her group will support the LBO in its quest of attaining one direction for all Bangsamoro organizations in the Philippines and abroad.

To date, the League of Bangsamoro Organizations is composed of 57 member-organizations representing various sectors.


Philippine Fleet, Marine troops raid shore in Amphibious Exercise

From Ang Malaya (Sep 29): Philippine Fleet, Marine troops raid shore in Amphibious Exercise

Philippine Navy’s Philippine Fleet and Philippine Marine Corps conducted an amphibious raid simulation applying maneuver principles from the sea to transition their ready-to-fight complements to the shore last September 24, the Navy said.

The simulation was held as part of five-day Fleet-Marine Amphibious Exercise with codename PAGSISIKAP 2015 held from September 22 to 27 at the shores of Cavite and waters of Manila Bay.

The Naval Public Affairs Office said the amphibious raid was a combined special operations designed to put into test, evaluate and further enhance the capability of the Fleet-Marine personnel in the conduct of an integrated attack from its initiation from the sea through naval platforms, to the insertion of troops and infiltration into the hostile terrain, to demolition raid and close-quarter combats and finally to the extraction of hostages from the enemy-laden environment.

PAGSISIKAP 2015 is the 12th iteration of the annual Fleet-Marine amphibious exercise being conducted to develop and achieve an amphibious-capable and credible force and enable the Fleet-Marine forces to assert more efficiency in the conduct of its mandated task.

It also aims to put emphasis on Naval Roles of Defensive Force Projection and Maritime Security in support for the government’s effort in securing the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit 2015, the Navy said.


Obama, Xi discussed West Philippine Sea

From Ang Malaya (Sep 29): Obama, Xi discussed West Philippine Sea

United States President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping discussed the issue of maritime disputes in East China Sea and West Philippine Sea during a meeting at White House last week.

“We did have candid discussions on the East and South China Seas, and I reiterated the right of all countries to freedom of navigation and overflight and to unimpeded commerce,” the US President said in a joint press conference with the Chinese leader September 25.

“I indicated that the United States will continue to sail, fly and operate anywhere that international law allows. I conveyed to President Xi our significant concerns over land reclamation, construction and the militarization of disputed areas, which makes it harder for countries in the region to resolve disagreements peacefully,” Obama added.

He added that while US is not a claimant nation, “rules of the road” must be upheld in solving and dealing with disputes.

The Chinese President said China is committed in peaceful development, however, reiterated his country’s sovereignty over West Philippine Sea island and features which include the Spratly Islands.

“Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are China’s territory,” Xi said. “We have the right to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime rights and interests.”

He added that construction activities in Spratly Islands “do not target or impact any country, and China does not intend to pursue militarization.”


Bayan, Karapatan slam DFA for blocking UN look-see into Lumad killings

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): Bayan, Karapatan slam DFA for blocking UN look-see into Lumad killings

Internally displaced lumads staying temporarily in Tandag, Surigao del Sur. Photographed by Erwin Mascarinas, InterAksyon.com

Human rights organizations, such as Bayan and Karapatan, on Tuesday slammed the Aquino administration for getting in the way of an invitation for United Nations special rapporteurs to visit the country and look into the spate of killings of Lumad leaders in Mindanao.

The slain lumad leaders have been tagged by some sectors of the military and law enforcement establishments as sympathizers of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

"Why is the government refusing to allow the sending of invitations to relevant UN rapporteurs who want to look into the spate of Lumad killings in the Philippines? What is the government trying to hide?" asked Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

On Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose had said the government cannot accommodate such request a this year for the UN special rapporteurs to come and investigate the reported killings of the tribesmen.

Jose made it clear that government is letting its relevant agencies to do the investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"What is the DFA doing that is so important that it cannot accommodate requests by international human rights defenders who are alarmed by the extrajudicial killings committed by the AFP and paramilitary groups?" Reyes shot back.

"By refusing to issue invitations to relevant UN bodies, the Aquino regime is continuing its official cover up of the gross human rights violations under its watch. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) investigations will amount to nothing," he added.

After Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay made public their request for UN special rapporteurs to help them investigate the Lumad killings, AFP spokesman Colonel Resituto Padilla immediately slammed the group for attempting to "internationalize" the issue.

Padilla said efforts by left-leaning groups, such as Karapatan and Bayan, among others, are meant "to vilify" the AFP in particular and the government in general.

He said groups tagged the military as the "monster" behind paramilitary groups that they allegedly formed, trained, and armed to harass and kill if necessary "pro-NPA tribesmen" as part of the AFP's counter-insurgency program dubbed Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) "Bayanihan".

But the killings of the lumad leaders in Mindanao have not only alarmed local and international human rights groups but also the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), as well.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has formed a DOJ-National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team to probe the killings.

CHR Chairman Chito Gascon debunked the claim of the military that the lumad killigns reportedly perpetrated by para-military groups such as the Alamara, Magahat, Bagani, Bolo Battalion, among others, were but a case of "tribal war".

In the wake of the move by DOJ-NBI to investigate the matter, Karapatan and Bayan feared a possible whitewash because De Lima is already set to leave her post to pursue her aspiration to run for a Senate seat in 2016 under the slate of administration presidential bet Mar Roxas.

Reyes also slammed CHR, especially its representatives sent last week to Mindanao to investigate the killings, for not delving into the incident of killings but just on the reported presence of NPA rebels in Lumad communities.

"The CHR probe also appears to be a disappointment for the Lumad victims," Reyes said.

"The results of the DOJ-NBI probe remain uncertain at this point, now that De Lima is on her way out. In any case, the presence of international investigators will strengthen the cause of human rights. It will be most helpful for the Lumad victims. Alas, that is not the concern of this government," he added.


China completes Fiery Cross reef airstrip; building 2nd aircraft carrier

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): China completes Fiery Cross reef airstrip; building 2nd aircraft carrier

US Navy handout photograph shows analyst pointing at screen showing Chinese construction activities at Fiery Cross Reef. REUTERS

China may soon carry out military air patrols over the West Philippine Sea following the completion of its airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands.

According to IHS Jane's Defense, surveillance photos taken by Airbus Defense and Space Satellite last September 20, 2015 show that the construction of the 3,125 meter long runway is complete.
The photos showed the presence of helipads and the workers had painted the bearings 050° at one end the runway and 230° at the other end.

"The completion of the runway, which previous imagery suggest only occurred in recent weeks, will enable China to accelerate construction of infrastructure and potentially start air patrols over the Spratly islands, which are claimed and occupied by a number of countries," IHS Jane's said.

Fiery Cross Reef is now China's largest base and its first operational combat airstrip in the disputed zone. China is also building two other airstrips at Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. All three reefs are within the area claimed by the Philippines. Photograph below is another handout from the US Navy, released through Reuters news service.

Philippine Defense officials had admitted that the Chinese airstrips can be used by China to enforce an Air Defense Interdiction Zone (ADIZ), where it could control air traffic over the West Philippine Sea.

Surveillance photos also show construction workers continue to build more structures on Fiery Cross Reef, including a seawall and road networks. A significant feature is the dumping of topsoil along the side of the runways – the topsoil is landscaping to grow food on the island and prevent erosion.

IHS Jane's points out Fiery Cross Reef is the "most extensive landmass" built by China in the Spratly islands, noting that this is the "future hub for (Beijing's) operations in the southern reaches of the South China Sea."
Meanwhile, China has apparently begun construction of its second aircraft carrier – which will be the first one built by China.

IHS Jane's said surveillance photos taken last September 22, 2015 show an unidentified ship hull under construction at the Dalian shipyard.
IHS Jane's pointed out the hull was in an advanced state of construction in the dry dock used by China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. The Liaoning is a Soviet- era Kuznetzov class carrier which Beijing bought from Ukraine.

The hull construction started in March 2015 and has been lengthened and widened. IHS Jane's concedes there can be no conclusive indenfication until the upper decks and the flight decks are built.

However, it noted, the "slow pace of assembly and outline suggests a military hull is under construction."


Police source: Samal hostages guarded by as many as 200 ASG in Parang, Sulu

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): Police source: Samal hostages guarded by as many as 200 ASG in Parang, Sulu

The three foreigners and Filipino woman kidnapped from Samal Island last week are being guarded by a so-called "composite" unit of as many as 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters under the command of various sub-leaders in Sulu, a police intelligence source said.
Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, and Hall's Filipino partner Marites Flor, were seized on Monday night last week from the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort.

The source, who spoke to InterAksyon.com on strict condition of anonymity, cited informants as saying the hostages were moved from Barangay Tanum in the town of Patikul to Barangay Silangkan in Parang, at the extreme western coast of Sulu, on Saturday, September 26.
The information jives with reports that an outrigger canoe powered by twin engines was found in that village on that day. See: Police: Samal kidnappers could be the same group that abducted German couple in 2014

Earlier, the source disclosed that intelligence data from the field indicated the hostages were likely taken to Patikul, Sulu, where a white speedboat was seen docking past noon the next day: Samal kidnap victims brought to Sulu - military source.

Our source informed that the four were then moved from Patikul after a meeting in Barangay Tanum between several Abu Sayyaf leaders, after which the gunmen split into three groups led by Hatid Hajan, Radulan Sahiron alias "Putol," and Ustadz Yaser Igasan.

Citing the information received from field assets, the source said the Abu Sayyaf's plan apparently "is to safe[guard] the four [kidnapped subjects] before they raise [ransom] demands."

The gunmen guarding the hostages, he added, are "now evading government forces" who have launched pursuit operations.

Earlier, the source shared the suspicion that the snatch on Samal could have perpetrated by the same group (led by Muamar Askali of Barangay Bunot, Indanan, Sulu) that kidnapped German couple Stefan Viktor Ononek and Henrite Dielen off a yacht last year.


Efforts not enough

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 29): Efforts not enough

Army officer relieved from post, another gets court martial over death of 3 IPs

AN ARMY officer was relieved from his post and another will undergo court martial for reported lapses in securing the area where three Lumads were killed in Lianga, Surigao on Sept. 1.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, Philippine Army chief and former 10th Infantry Division commander, did not reveal the names of the soldiers but he said they were both under the 75th Infantry Battalion based in Surigao Del Sur.

He said the recommendation to relieve the army officer from his post was based on the result of the board of inquiry probe which started immediately after the incident and ended on Sept. 13.

But the report did not find culpability on the two officers on the killing of the Lumads, identified as Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development; Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), a Lumad organization protesting mining operations, and his cousin Bello Sinzo.

“We also imposed sanctions on soldiers whom we think could have done more to prevent that same incident in the area,” he said.

Earlier, AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri said during a guesting on GMA News TV’s episode last week “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie Monsod,” that he would not allow soldiers to use their positions to abuse villagers.

“I will not allow that to happen in my province,” he said.

However, Iriberri reiterated that there’s no such thing as militarization, as alleged by progressive groups like Karapatan.

The military is in the community to protect them from the influence of rebel group,” he said. “We always coordinate when we enter the area. We also try to understand the culture of the IPs.”

Soldiers of 36th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces in Surigao were accused of working in cahoots with a paramilitary group to threaten the Lumad communities in favor of mining companies.

Iriberri also denied the allegation that they are forming a paramilitary group for the Lumads known as “Bagani.” He said the term forms part of the political structure of indigenous people.

Justice Secretary Leilama De Lima earlier created a 16-member team to investigate the alleged systemic attacks against the Lumads of Mindanao, particularly in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

The team was given two months to submit its report and recommendations.

The investigating team is composed of members of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and the National Bureau of Investigation, with NBI Deputy Director Edmundo Arugay, as overall team head.

Last August, armed men torched two cooperativesand killed three in Km. 16, Sitio Han-Ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur in the morning.

Earlier, Rius Valle, spokesperson of Save Our School Network, in a press conference at Haran compound said the victims were killed by paramilitary groups.

However, Capt. Alberto Caber, information officer of EastMinCom, denied the charge.

There are no paramilitary groups,” he said. It’s not true, we only have Cafgu (units).”

Meanwhile, Eliza Pangilinan, secretary general of Karapatan in Caraga, challeged law enforcement agencies to give justice to the victims.

“We call on the law enforcement agencies and the local prosecutors to seriously investigate the increasing spate of killings that are perpetrated by these groups,” Pangilinan told TIMES .

Three other soliders will undergo court martial, this time on the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl from Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Caber, said a hearing will be held at 10th Infantry Division headquarters to administer military justice.

“The AFP is serious in the implementation of laws and it does not condone any violations committed by the soldiers,”Caber said.

General courts martial (GCMs) have the authority to mete punishment that is permissible under the law to include confinement for life without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty in cases where it is authorized.

Additional common GCM punishments include:total forfeitures of pay and allowances, a fine, reduction, and a dishonorable discharge or bad conduct discharge.

Common general court-martial cases include: murder and other levels of homicide, rape and sexual assault, aggravated physical assault and other violent crimes, drug distribution, arson, child sexual abuse and aggravated physical abuse, involvement with child pornography, and high value larceny.

Earlier, Supt. Antonio Rivera, spokesperson of the Davao Police Regional Office, said that one of three soldiers is charged with violation of Republic Act 8353 or “The Anti-Rape Law of 1997,” as the two soldiers were excluded from the case because they already settled with the victim’s family in the presence of Barangay Captain Tagpines of Palma Gil in Talaingod.


Soldier hurt, female partner slain in attack

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 29): Soldier hurt, female partner slain in attack
A SOLDIER was wounded while his female partner died after communist rebels attacked the detachment of 73rd Infantry Battalion in Jose Abad Santos, Davao del Sur at 4 a.m. on Monday.

The soldier was identified as M/Sgt. Ruel Mahilum and his live-in-partner, who was not named in the report.

Col. Rony Villanueva, commander of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said in an interview yesterday that the rebels attacked the detachment to divert the attention of soldiers of 73rd IB who already cornered them in Alabel and Malapatan during pursuit operations.

Meanwhile, troops were able to recover M16 and Carbine rifles with magazines when they encounter at least five NPAs in Sitio Papag, Barangay Manuel Guianga, Tugbok District on Sunday morning.

Lt. Alexandre Cabales, acting public affairs officer of 10th Infantry Division, said the five rebels were part of a larger group encountered by troops two days ago. They were forced to leave their firearms as the soldiers chased them.

Soldiers did not engage killers of Lumads in Surigao Sur to protect hostages – Army

From MindaNews (Sep 29): Soldiers did not engage killers of Lumads in Surigao Sur to protect hostages – Army

The presence of many civilian hostages prevented a military patrol from engaging a paramilitary group that was accused of killing three Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur on Sept. 1, a copy of the Army Board of Inquiry obtained by MindaNews said.

The report said the patrol was only 100 meters from the paramilitary group holding civilians as hostages in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur but could not interfere for fear of harming them.

It added the soldiers could only helplessly watch despite an order from the 75th Infantry Battalion to engage the paramilitary group which residents referred to as Magahat or Bagani.

“We cannot engage the armed elements because of the presence of many civilians including women and children,” the soldiers reported back to their superiors at the 75th headquarters in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

The soldiers reported around 20 heavily armed men were holding around 100 civilians as human shields in Sitio Han-ayan, on Sept. 1.

The same group allegedly paraded Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, both Lumads, around a basketball court before they were gunned down in front of other residents.

The same group was also accused of killing Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, a school for Lumads.

The report said the armed men fired their guns in the air as they retreated from Sitio Han-ayan until the soldiers could no longer see them.

The killings triggered a mass evacuation of some 3,000 residents to Tandag City, the provincial capital, for fear they would be killed too.

Military intelligence chief in Northern Mindanao Lt. Col. Arlino Sendaydiego, completed the Army Board of Inquiry Report on Sept. 6 on orders from Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division.

A copy of the report was given to Sen. Teofisto Guinona Jr., chair of the Senate peace, unification and reconciliation committee who will conduct a public hearing on the incident and Lumad killings in Tandag, Surigao del Sur on Thursday.

The same Army report said the armed men also torched several buildings in Sitio Han-ayan.

Police have filed multiple murder, arson, robbery and grave threats at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Lianga against Bobby Tejero, his older brother Oloy alias Abab, Gareto Layno, and several John Does of the Bagani paramilitary group who were held responsible for the killings.

Lactao placed under court martial proceedings the Army platoon leader, a fresh graduate from the Philippine Military Academy, and reprimanded his company commander.

An Army major who served as the officer of the day of the 75th IB was also relieved.

4ID spokesperson Capt. Patrick Martinez said the Army officers maintained they were exercising their “judgment call” as the events leading to the killings of the school director and his two companions unfolded.

“The young Army officer is now confined at the 4ID headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City,” Martinez said.

But he withheld the identity of the officer pending the outcome of the court martial.


3 people killed in Sultan Kudarat strafing

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 29): 3 people killed in Sultan Kudarat strafing

Three people were killed when gunmen attacked a village in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines, police said Tuesday.

Police said at least 30 gunmen were involved in the attack which occurred late Monday near President Quirino town. Among the dead was a four-year old boy and his family is said to be working as caretaker for a private palm plantation in the area.

A five-year old boy and an adult were also wounded in the strafing and police said all the victims belong to a single family.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but it was the second time that gunmen attacked the victims that also left one person dead in the past. Police said the violence may be connected to a clan war.


Lanao leaders convince warring families to end bloody clan wars

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Lanao leaders convince warring families to end bloody clan wars

After about a month of back-channel talks, local officials in Lanao del Sur succeeded in bringing warring families to the negotiating table and let them sign peace covenant to end their clan war, officials said Tuesday.

Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the peace covenant signing was forged between two Maranao clans in Balabagan in Lanao del Sur's second district.

Through the efforts of Lucman and Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., the Mangadang and Masbud families swore before the Holy Qur'an to end decades old "rido" (clan war) in the presence of local officials, military and police representatives.

For several years, the Maranao families have engaged in shooting war every time their paths crossed in the town of Balabagan and nearby municipalities. Lives and properties from both sides have been lost in the course of the armed conflict triggered by land dispute and territorial disagreements.

Both sides belonged to or affiliated with either the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

However, Lucman and Adiong told reporters that it was not an organization fight involving Moro rebel groups but "they are just affiliated or have relatives with either of the two groups."

According to Lt. Col. Mike Santos, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Battalion whose unit covers the towns of Balabagan, Malabang and Calanogas, the local officials' efforts to reconcile warring families will help bring about development in the communities.

Edna Sampiano, mayor of Balabagan earlier sought the help of provincial and regional officials in her reconciliation efforts ahead of next year's elections to help ensure peaceful balloting.

The Mangadang and Masbud families have last fought in May along portions of the Cotabato-Marawi City highway which resulted in the closure of the national highway. Several families have also fled for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Lucman lauded the contribution of Muslim religious leaders in the successful peace covenant signing.

Clan war is among the major concerns of local leaders as this is seen as barrier following the successful ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

Santos said with the closure of clan wars, the Army will now shift its focus on helping communities through public works and peace related advocacy in the coastal towns of Lanao del Sur.


Ilocos Norte hails outstanding Ilocano soldier

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Ilocos Norte hails outstanding Ilocano soldier

An Ilocano soldier who hails from Pasuquin town was hailed by local residents and officials here for being cited as one of the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) this year.

Master Sergeant Arnel Guerrero Cariaga received this prestigious award early this month, along with nine other soldiers at the Metrobank Plaza Auditorium, Makati City.

In Ilocos Norte, Governor Imee Marcos and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Monday handed a resolution of commendation to Cariaga for bringing pride and honor to the Ilocanos.

Aside from participation in military intelligence operations, continuous community development contribution and extraordinary innovation, TOPS is the highest civilian award given to military personnel which seeks to recognize the courage and nationalism of modern-day heroes in the military.

Now on its 16th year, the award is conferred by the Metrobank Foundation together with AFP and Rotary Club of Makati.

The governor said the province of Ilocos Norte is proud of Cariaga for upholding the leadership, heroism and excellence inherent to every Ilocano.

“Kakaiba ang galing ni Apo Sergeant Cariaga at itinuturing na natin siya ngayong bagong modelo para sa ating kasundaluan lalung-lalo na sa ating mga kabataan,” said Marcos.

While he did not expect to receive the award, Cariaga is grateful for the support of Governor Marcos and the entire province of Ilocos Norte.

“Firstly, I dedicate this award to my fellow Ilocanos. Through this, I renew my commitment in supporting the government and to strive for excellence in work for the greater benefit of our community in Ilocos Norte and the whole nation,” said Cariaga.

With both of his parents Ilocano, Cariaga revealed that he was able to survive all the challenges as a soldier because “Ilocanos are naturally persevering, committed and stoic.”

Growing up in coastal Pasuquin town, he wanted to become an engineer when he was a child instead of being a soldier.

“Wala sa ambisyon ko ang magsundalo. Noong nag-aaral ako sa Pasuquin, ang gusto ko talaga ay maging licensed electronics and communication engineer,” revealed Cariaga.

However, with dedication and hard work, Cariaga has achieved his dream of becoming an engineer while serving in the military.

As a radio technician, he was able to contribute to the operations of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by manufacturing inexpensive VHF Radio Repeaters which are used during intelligence activities to neutralize lawless elements.

He has also been cited for his innovation in developing “a system that is now used to enhance situation awareness especially during military’s disaster and relief operations in the wake of natural calamities.”

As part of the Geospatial Intelligence Group of AFP, Cariaga was deployed in a United Nations National Command in South Korea to help stabilize peace and security in the Korean peninsula.

Most importantly, Cariaga is also engaged in community development with his project dubbed as "Kalkal" where he collected segregated recyclable materials.

“From selling the collection, I was able to help the G2 Village in Makati to finance the improvement of the barangay’s street pavements,” he said.

Cariaga who is now in the military service for 27 years, encourages young Ilocanos to join AFP.

“I know Ilocanos will have more innovative and great ideas that they can contribute to AFP which will help us preserve the peace and security and contribute to the building and development of our nation,” he said.