Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Beijing builds runways, hangars in South China Sea in 2016 – US Commission

From Update.Ph (Nov 16): Beijing builds runways, hangars in South China Sea in 2016 – US Commission

According to a report submitted to the US Congress by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China’s military buildup in a key international waterway continued in 2016.

China’s military buildup in a key international waterway continued in 2016, with the construction of three new runways and reinforced aircraft hangars on reefs located halfway between Vietnam and the Philippines, according to a report submitted to the US Congress by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“China continued building military and civilian infrastructure on the 3,200 acres of artificial islands it has created since 2013, completing runways and building reinforced aircraft hangars on three outposts,” the report stated on Wednesday.

The latest projects will improve China’s ability to detect and track foreign maritime forces and fishing boats passing through the South China Sea, an international waterway used by nearly half of the world’s commercial shipping, the report explained.

The report also noted Chinese tests of new space launch vehicles and launches of additional intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and navigation satellites in 2016. In addition, the report explained that since late 2015, China has participated in 11 major bilateral or multilateral exercises with other nations.

The Commission was established by the US Congress in 2000 to assess Chinese economic and military developments in reports for lawmakers, government officials and private industry.

US turns over new classrooms to Leyte high school

From the Philippine Star (Nov 14): US turns over new classrooms to Leyte high school

The US government turned over eight new classrooms to the administrators of Tolosa National High School in Leyte during the commemoration of the third anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8.

The classrooms were constructed by the United States Agency for International Development, according to US embassy chargĂ© d’ affaires Michael Klecheski.

The rooms are designed to be typhoon and earthquake resilient, and will provide a safe and conducive learning environment to more than 1,600 students.

Tolosa was among towns in Leyte and Samar destroyed by winds and rains brought by Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013.

“What we have seen here, in the course of this day, is the spirit of strength among the people of this beautiful region. The American people and the rest of the world are impressed with your resilience and hard work,” Klecheski said during the ceremony.

Tolosa Councilor Bob Abellanosa, who represented the provincial government during the ceremony, acknowledged the US government’s contributions to the province’s recovery.

“They have been instrumental in helping our communities and survivors through livelihood programs that truly help. We cannot say thank you enough,” Abellanosa said.

The classrooms are part of the US government’s nearly $143 million assistance to help typhoon survivors recover.

Philippines, US elite troops hold war games

From Rappler (Nov 17): Philippines, US elite troops hold war games

But exercises are limited to follow the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte   

WAR GAMES. Special Operations forces of Philippine and US militaries begin war games this week. File photo by Rappler

WAR GAMES. Special Operations forces of Philippine and US militaries begin war games this week. File photo by Rappler

The month-long Balance Piston war games, an annual training exercise between a small group of special operations forces from the Philippine and US militaries, begin this week in Palawan. But exercises will be limited to follow the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It will be a one month activity. In line with the guidance from higher headquarters, we reduced live fire exercises. But we will still have marksmanship training inside the camp because you have to improve your marksmanship skills," said Army spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao.

Hao said the annual Balance Piston war games aims to test the basic warfighting skills of the soldiers and to improve the relationship between the two armed forces.

Hao said up to 40 Filipino elite soldiers are participating in the war games. Aside from marksmanship, the exercises will involve combat casualty care, small unit tactics adn riverine coastal environment, maritime interdiction scenario, beach operations, combat swimmer operations, and human rights.

Duterte, who wants to forge better ties with China, has repeatedly threatened to end war games between the Philippines and the US. But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was able to arrange a compromise where some joint activities will continue.

Counterterrorism cooperation will continue, but a number of naval drills will be scrapped. (READ: PH, US war games to continue, EDCA to be implemented)

It means that Balikatan war games will be held next year, but 2 other regular exercises focused on the joint training of the marines and the navies – the Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) – are cancelled.

The chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command hold a yearly Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting to plan joint activities between the two militaries.

This year's MDB-SEB is scheduled on November 22.

Probe urged on whether China weakening US militarily

From InterAksyon (Nov 17): Probe urged on whether China weakening US militarily

A US advisory commission warned on Wednesday that China's growing military might may make it more likely to use force to pursue its interests and called for a government probe into how far outsourcing to China has weakened the US defense industry.

The annual report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission pointed to a growing threat to US national security from Chinese spying, including infiltration of US organizations, and called on Congress to bar Chinese state enterprises from acquiring control of US firms.

The release of the report to Congress comes a week after Donald Trump won the US presidential election. Trump, an outspoken Republican who has vowed to take a tougher line in trade and security dealings with China than President Barack Obama, will take office on January 20.

The panel is a bipartisan body set up in 2000 to monitor the national security implications of the US trade and economic relationship with China and to make recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action.

Its report also called on Congress to back more frequent US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest trade routes where China's building of artificial islands with military facilities has raised concerns about future freedom of movement. Beijing and its neighbors have conflicting territorial claims there.

The commission said ongoing reforms of the People's Liberation Army would strengthen Beijing's hand and noted that China was close to completing its first domestically produced aircraft carrier.
"China’s pursuit of expeditionary capabilities, coupled with the aggressive trends that have been displayed in both the East and South China Seas, are compounding existing concerns about China’s rise among US allies and partners in the greater Asia," the report said.

“Given its enhanced strategic lift capability, strengthened employment of special operations forces, increasing capabilities of surface vessels and aircraft, and more frequent and sophisticated experience operating abroad, China may also be more inclined to use force to protect its interests,” it said.

The panel said that US responses to the threat from Chinese intelligence gathering had suffered from a lack of a coordinated effort by US intelligence agencies.

It said Congress should also direct the US Government Accountability Office to prepare a report "examining the extent to which large-scale outsourcing of manufacturing activities to China is leading to the hollowing out of the US defense industrial base."

"This report should also detail the national security implications of a diminished domestic industrial base (including assessing any impact on US military readiness), compromised US military supply chains, and reduced capability to manufacture state-of-the-art military systems and equipment," it said.

The commission's report also recommended that Congress call on the US State Department to produce educational materials to alert US citizens overseas and students going to China to the dangers of recruitment efforts by Chinese agents.

4 torching incidents by NPA recorded in just 1 week: army

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 17): 4 torching incidents by NPA recorded in just 1 week: army  

THE 10TH Infantry Division is strengthening security measures, especially in the areas of Matanao in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato following a series of burning incidents in just a week.
Speaking on yesterday’s AFP-PNP press conference held at Royal Mandaya hotel, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th ID, told reporters that they are concerned about the attacks by armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army.
“We hope so that we will prevent this with our ongoing strengthening of security measures and to include other areas of 10th ID,” Batchar said.
They have already recorded a total of four burning incidents starting last week.
The latest one was on Monday when more or less 50 armed men and women burned one road grader owned by T-Square Construction owned by Engr. Tycho Tan at Purok 2, Barangay San Jose in General Santos City around 11:30 p.m.
The perpetrators withdrew toward the direction of Sitio Bagong Silang of same barangay after the incident.
Based on the investigation, the foreman of the company, identified as Ismael Tungpalan Llamelo, revealed that he and the other workers were sleeping in the bunkhouse when the group arrived and herded them in the compound.
The armed men then torched the heavy equipment before they escaped.
On Nov. 9 around 3 p.m., one dump truck and backhoe of J.Y. Enterprise, owned by Jun Yi at So Riverside, Barangay Alegria, Alabel in Sarangani Province were also burned by more or less 10 fully armed men believed to be members of Platoon North GF 71.
At around 10 p.m., another 10 men burned the engine of the Canter truck owned by Councilor Melanie Maniapao of Matanao, Davao del Sur near her residence at Crossing Buri, Barangay Manga, Matanao. After the incident, the said armed group immediately withdrew using four motorcycles.
Meanwhile, one Yellow Bus Line with body number 77 was burned by seven unidentified armed mean in Barangay Kablon, Tupi, South Cotabato. The perpetrators fled east after the incident on Nov. 13 at 4:15 a.m.
Batchar said they are still waiting for the results of the investigation of the police in relation to the torching incidents. He said management of the bus line already denied receiving any extortion demands from any group.
Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of 10th Infantry Division, has already directed the commanders of 27th IB in Tupi, South Cotabto and 73rd IB in Matanao, Davao Del Sur  and the other battalions to cooperate with the local PNP to secure business establishments, contruction projects and vital installations.

DND pushes for P650 million veterans’ hospital in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 17): DND pushes for P650 million veterans’ hospital in Northern Mindanao

Veterans in Northern Mindanao and neighboring regions will soon benefit from the establishment of veterans’ hospital to be built at the PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority (PIA) Estate in Misamis Oriental-Special Economic Zone.

In his message during the Veterans Event 2016 held in Cagayan de Oro, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said its department has included in its 2017 budget for the construction of a 250-bed hospital at the PHIVIDEC which will primarily caters to veterans and retirees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) residing in Northern Mindanao including those in Southern Mindanao, Central Mindanao and Southern Visayas.

However, Sec. Lorenzana said, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has not included this in 2017 but still they have included it in the proposed 2017 budget and submitted to the Congress’ Committee on Appropriations for consideration.

PHIVIDEC Board has approved in 2014 the donation of a five-hectare parcel of land for the establishment and construction of veterans’ medical center.

Lorenzana likewise reported DND-PVAO with the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) initiatives in improving the lives of the veterans for their welfare and well-being.

According to him, DND, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Department of Health have forged an agreement in 2014 to revitalize the Veterans Hospitalization and Medical Care Program (VHMCP) to benefit half a million beneficiaries nationwide.

“The agreement aims to improve your access to quality healthcare, including your qualified dependents, especially majority of you reside in the provinces,” said Lorenzana.

He also said the VHMCP is DND’s initiative that leads to ‘no veteran should pay for their own medicines adding that “Dili mo magkuha sa inyo bulsa bayaran na sa gobyerno (You don’t have to pay with your own pocket. The government will pay it.”

“The VHMCP is seen as immediate and temporary solution to concerns of veterans and their families. ‘Kay sa ato pa kung naa ka sa probinsiya ang atong usa ka problema nga…ang para sa’ (if you reside in the province one of your problems is on) medical attention. So ‘kini gitukod sa’ (this was conceptualized by) DND with the PVAO and VMMC so that ‘kamo dili na malisdan’ (so you would not have a hard time) especially those who are residing in the provinces for convenient access to the VMMC,” the secretary said.

He further said it is being implemented in partnership with 70 hospitals under DOH and 531 government hospitals under the local government units. At present, select private tertiary hospitals have also been designated.

Meanwhile, the overall budget of VHMCP has increased to P50 million in 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA). For 2017, DND has proposed an additional amount of P 20 million for a total P70 million for the program.

Lorenzana also said PVAO statistics says that as of October 2016, there are about 8,769 living World War II veterans with 45,676 living spouses; there are 32,036 post World War II veterans with 52,286 living souses and an estimated 12,754 minor pensioners who are entitled to avail of hospitalization.

For the Total Administrative Disability (TAD) of PVAO, Lorenzana reported that a total of P4.773 billion fund was released on Sept. 13, 2016 for the veterans as directed by Pres. Duterte to cover the payable TAD arrears of 21,683 surviving widows of World War II veterans and 4,232 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) retirees who are 80 years old and above.

As of end of Sept. 2016, P2.247 billion was already remitted to 13,847 beneficiaries of deceased World War II veterans and 4,232 AFP retirees.

Lorenzana said members of the AFP who had served the AFP for at least six years or more, upon reaching age 65, are entitled to a monthly pension of P5,000. Those who reach age 70 and above receive an additional P1,700 as they are considered totally “administrative disabled.” Their widows are entitled to the same benefits. Generals and enlisted men receive the same amount of monthly PVAO pension.

DND-PVAO joined the veterans in the region in celebrating its Veterans Day, an annual event spearheaded by the PIA to honor veterans and to provide venue for their fellowship.

Lorenzana graced the event as the guest of honor and led the awarding of five oldest veterans in the region: Manuel Cunada, 93; Sulpicio Cabasan, 94; Aligondo Dagondon, 94; Marciano Avila, 99; and Marcelino Polonio, 104.

The event was highlighted with a medical outreach mission wherein PVAO put up a help desk and distributed ambulatory and reading devices to veterans.

Medical services tops government’s peace and development caravan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 17): Medical services tops government’s peace and development caravan

Rural folks of Barangay Tigbawon, Bato, Apolonia and Pagsaugon in Paranas crowded the corner that offers medical and dental services in Barangay Tigbawon, today.

It is rare that such services reach the barangays, so that they are prioritized, said an elderly.

“Kinahanglan namon pamasahe para magpa-check-up,” said elderly Casilda Bachicha who started waiting at seven in the morning for the Peace & Development Caravan.

Other residents were busy checking on the different services offered.

There were corn and vegetables seeds distribution, vaccines for farm animals, rabies vaccination for dogs along with consultation with representatives of the different national and municipal offices.

But nothing beats the crowd that wait in line for medical check-up.

A Tigbawonon needs at least P50.00 for the trip to get medical care, very few can afford, says Barangay Chairperson Magdalena Bacaycay.

The army’s 87th Battalion Commander, Lt Col Miguel Ceballos urged the rural folks to avail themselves of the different services. He thanked the crowd for coming and showing their cooperation with the local government. He also appealed to them to maintain the peace and order prevailing in the barangay.

The 87th IB along with its LGU partners has set weekly Peace and Development Caravans in their area to reach out to as many people so that they will feel that the government cares.

Philippine Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion orients students on AFP programs and thrusts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 17): Philippine Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion orients students on AFP programs and thrusts

Initiated by 43rd Infantry (We Search) Battalion, 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army, “Lakbay Kapayapaan Information Patrol (LAKIP) reached Lope de Vega National High School, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar recently.

This initiative aimed at educating students on the current programs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines specifically on Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), Army Transformation Roadmap, among others.

The students were also informed on the qualifications and requirements on how to apply and enrol in the Philippine Military Academy, Officer Candidate Course, Officer Preparatory Course and Candidate Soldier Course, by 2Lt Prince Dominic L Calmada, Acting Civil Military Operation (CMO) Officer.

Speaking before more than a thousand senior and junior high school students, Lt. Col. Reymondo A Delgado, Acting Commanding Officer, 43rd IB said that the LAKIP is a strategy in keeping the youth well informed and one of the units’ efforts to counter the insurgency problem in the area.

As a recipient, Dr. Noralyn Casco, Office-In-Charge of Lope de Vega National High School expressed gladness and gratitude to the 43rd IB for imparting to the students the programs of AFP and by choosing the school for the event.

No suspects yet in burning of 4 heavy equipment

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 16): No suspects yet in burning of 4 heavy equipment

DAVAO. Philippine Army 10th ID Spokesperson Captain Ryan Batchar in Wednesday's AFP-PNP press conference at the Royal Mandaya hotel said the Army will not speculate on what group is involved in the burning incidents under their areas of responsibility saying they are still investigating these. (Christian Mark Lim)

THE military and police are hunting down suspects behind the four successive burning incidents in Davao and Soccsksargen regions wherein four heavy equipment and one bus were totally damaged.

Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar said the latest incident happened around 11:30 p.m. Monday at Purok 2 in Barangay San Jose, General Santos City.

According to witnesses, about 50 armed men burned a grader of the T-Square Construction owned by a certain Engr. Tyco Nonoy Tan in General Santos City. Of the 50 armed men, three are women.

Batchar said the armed group also torched one Yellow Bus Line with body number A-77 at Sitio Punulongin, Barangay Kablon in Upi town in South Cotabato at around 4:15 a.m. on November 13, Sunday.

The other incidents took place on November 9 in Barangay Alegria, Alabel, Sarangani where one dumptruck and one backhoe were burned while and one canter truck was also burned in Matanao town in Davao del Sur.

"We are worried about these successive burning incidents, particularly in Region 12. We are coordinating with the police to see to it kung ano ba ang affiliation nitong grupong ito dun sa biktima nila," Batchar said.

The Army official said authorities have no suspects yet. He added that they cannot just speculate any group behind the burning incidents as they need to be certain, thus, the military and police are conducting investigation.

The Army's 10th Infantry Division commander Major General Rafael Valencia, meanwhile, directed the commander of the battalions assigned in affected areas to coordinate with police and intensify security measures.

Army unit celebrates 31st anniversary in Ifugao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 16): Army unit celebrates 31st anniversary in Ifugao

The 54th Infantry (Magilas) Battalion under the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based at Tiger Hill this municipality joyfully celebrated its 31st anniversary recently.

With the theme "54IB @31 Years: Continuing the Legacy of Honor, Patriotism and Duty,” the event was well  attended by Army personnel led by its commanding officer ,Lt. Colonel Nicolas Quemado, Jr. and other stakeholders.

The activity started with a religious service and a program with Governor Pedro Mayam-o represented by his executive assistant Rodolfo Ngilangil as guest of honor and speaker.

In his message read by Ngilangil, Mayam-o congratulated the 54th IB for their dedication in safeguarding the peace and security of the province. He enjoined them to continue the legacy of honor and patriotism for the benefit of every Filipino.

Quemado informed that the 54th IB is one of the maneuver units of the Philippine Army with the advocacy of bringing peace and order in the country.

“When I assumed command of this unit, I emphasized that my priority is the morale and welfare of personnel for I believe that the human resource is the most important component of an organization,” he said.  A unit composed of people with high morale is a unit that could maximize the potentials of the personnel to become prolific, he added.

How Philippine militants’ internal conflict affects peace

From the Asia Times (Nov 16): How Philippine militants’ internal conflict affects peace

The recent armed conflict between two groups within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is sending the Philippine government a message: Even within the group’s hierarchy, internal conflicts could erupt anytime. The Philippine government should prepare mechanisms on how to prevent internal armed conflicts within the MILF organization before it signs a peace pact with the country’s largest militant organization.

This week’s series of armed encounters in Maguindanao in the Southern Philippines erupted from a land dispute between two groups belonging to the MILF’s 105th Base Command. It killed at least four MILF fighters. Dozens of public school teachers were trapped in the crossfire where heavily armed MILF fighters exchange bullets from assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades.

Military sources confirmed that two MILF commanders Jabick and Mulato are squabbling to control strategic patches of lands in the area that evolved their dispute to armed conflict displacing more than 200 Muslim ethnic families.

While President Rodrigo Durterte signed a presidential policy to expand the membership of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from 15 to 21 seats, the Philippine government should also study of establishing mechanisms of settling internal conflicts within the MILF organization. The BTC is a panel of negotiators representing both the government and the Bangsarmoro, the group that will represent the, MILF, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro civil societies and the lumads.

The Commission’s primordial duty is to draft the law that will create a proposed Islamic government within the Philippine government with the principle that providing self autonomy among the Muslim population will provide lasting peace in the restive region.

But the next challenge of the Duterte administration is how to disarm the 15,000 MILF fighters which have been part of the MILF’s historic political struggle for independence. Many analysts also believe that as long as the MILF fighters are heavily armed, there will always be temptation for internal armed conflict that will promote clan wars within the organization.

Dean Julkipli Wadi of the Philippine Institute of Islamic Studies and a Muslim scholar said to CNN that the MILF as a revolutionary force will find it hard to surrender their arms and because of the gun culture in Mindanao, there is no assurance that the decommissioned members will no longer keep guns in their homes.

“In a land rife with conflict, owning a gun ensures safety and security,” Wadi added.

Even the Philippine military is helpless to intervene to prevent the ongoing conflict from escalating because of the ongoing ceasefire and peace process between the Philippine government and MILF.
The Philippine military prefers for MILF commanders to settle the conflict on their own to avoid complication of the armed conflict in Maguindanao, a known stronghold of the MILF.

Philippine military Major Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which provides security over Maguindanao’s 36 towns, earlier told the Philippine Star that the government wants internal armed conflicts among Moro commanders settled amicably by the ceasefire committee of the MILF.

The Duterte government should also learn from history that some disgruntled militants might have the tendency to form a new organization if they find the terms of the Philippine government unacceptable to them. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) used to be the largest revolutionary organization in the 1970s but when it started to engaged peace talks with the Philippine government, a group of disgruntled MNLF leaders defected and eventually formed the MILF.

When the MILF opened their doors to the Philippine government to start the peace negotiating process, a disgruntled group of MILF sub commanders led by Commander Bravo defected from the MILF and formed its own revolutionary group, the BIFF or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Philippine government peace negotiator Irene Santiago cited that the Philippines is currently 139th out of 163 states and territories in the Global Peace Index but if all sectors “work as system” to construct the eight pillars of Positive Peace, perhaps the Philippines will be in the top 10 of the most peaceful countries in the world by 2022.

The eight pillars of peace are a well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with our neighbors, sound business environment, high levels of human capital, equitable distribution of resources, and free flow of information.

The Philippine government will need to make a good offer and develop strategic mechanism to end once and for all insurgency and militancy that have been troubling the Philippines for over four decades. The Duterte administration is virtually negotiating on three fronts, the MILF, the MNLF and the New People’s Army whose peace talks are going on.

Surprisingly, the Duterte administration is also presently studying the possibility whether or not to initiate peace talks with the Isis-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). ASG was tagged by the FBI as a terrorist organization and the Philippine laws have a pending no negotiation policy with terrorists.
The ASG has been involved in Kidnap for ransom activities victimizing both ASEAN and Western nationals, the recent of which is a German national on board his yacht cruising the Southern Philippines.

Despite the complexities of the peace process, many Filipinos still believe Duterte, who still enjoys a high level of public trust, has the capability to forge a peace pact with these revolutionary organizations. If he succeeds, he will be the first Filipino president to end all insurgencies in the Philippines since 1970. But one question that is still far from answer is, are the revolutionary fighters ready to drop off their sophisticated firearms when they sign the peace pact with the government? Philippine negotiators then have to lobby well.

Informant gets proof of life of Abu Sayyaf's German captive

From the Philippine Star (Nov 16): Informant gets proof of life of Abu Sayyaf's German captive

Germans Jurgen Kantner and Sabine Merz had been cruising off neighboring Malaysia’s Sabah state. Kantner was held captive by the Abu Sayyaf while Merz was shot and killed on their yacht by the terror group after she resisted. File

Security forces intercepted a photo of a captive German sailor in what was described as proof of life of the victim held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the mountain of Sulu.
A security source disclosed that the picture of the victim Juergen Kantner was taken by an informant last November 11 about 7:40 a.m. somewhere in the mountain of Sulu.
The photo showed a barefoot Kantner, 70, wearing a maroon t-shirt and gray jogging pants while lying on a plastic canvass colored black sprawled on the ground.
According to the source, Kantner appeared to be resting and nobody is seen around him unlike in the previous pictures of hostages released by the ASG where the victims are surrounded by the militants.
“It could be a proof of life of the victim,” the source who asked not be named as he is not authorized said.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said they heard about the photo of Kantner but could not consider it yet as proof of life as they are still assessing the material.
He said they cannot ascertain yet the condition of the victim just by basing on the picture. He said they have not seen any dated newspaper beside the victim or being held by the victim.
“Nevertheless, we are hoping it is true that he is still alive and that we have the chance to rescue him and see him safe once again,” Tan said.
The military official also added that they already have leads about the possible place where the victim was brought but could not divulge the information because it could compromise their operation.
“The safety of the victim and our ground troops running after are always of utmost concern,” Tan said.
Kidnap victims believed to be held in Sulu have currently increased to 22 people, according to Tan. These include 16 foreigners — a Dutch, a German, two Indonesians, five Malaysians, a Korean, six Vietnamese — and six Filipinos.
He said the other two captive Indonesians are still subject to confirmation.

Police arrest Abu Sayyaf bandit in Zambo Norte

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Nov 16): Police arrest Abu Sayyaf bandit in Zambo Norte

THE police have arrested an alleged Abu Sayyaf bandit in a remote village of Zamboanga del Norte, an official said Wednesday, November 16.

Zamboanga del Norte Police Director Edwin Wagan identified the arrested bandit as Abdul Nasser Julpai, 32, a resident of Nonoyan village in the town of Baliguian.

Wagan said Julpai was arrested around 8:45 p.m., Tuesday at his residence in the village of Nonoyan.
The police official said Julpai was caught in possession of a hand grenade when arrested on complaint of alarm and scandal filed by his neighbors.

Wagan said they discovered that Julpai is a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group during the tactical interrogation at police station.

He said the suspect was detained while appropriate charges are set to be filed against him.

AFP acknowledges receiving tip about ASG holding Vietnamese cargo vessel crew

From InterAksyon (Nov 16): AFP acknowledges receiving tip about ASG holding Vietnamese cargo vessel crew

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said it has received reports that six Vietnamese seamen abducted by armed men who stormed their cargo vessel in Basilan Friday last week are now in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

According to Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, reports were received from field units that the Vietnamese crew are now at the hands of the ASG, although it still has to be confirmed whether or not they are being held at the island province of Basilan off Zamboanga.

Arevalo stressed, though, that the reports are still subject for their further verification, "because we do not want to preempt any further follow-up action that might be taken on the matter."

He elaborated, though, that, as part of the military's standard operating procedure, a team has already been dispatched to look into the abduction of the Vietnamese.

Arevalo said he believes there is now coordination between the AFP and the Vietnamese embassy. An interpreter has been provided to facilitate possible opportunities for communicating directly with the hostages.

He also told journalists that, as of Tuesday, the vessel was still in Zamboanga waiting for a replacement set of crew to arrive and resume the vessel's journey to Davao City.

More names included

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 15): More names included

CIDG adds 14 respondents in Roxas blast

THE CRIMINAL Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has added 14 respondents in the Roxas night market bombing case.

Four of the respondents were those arrested in the two separate but joint operations in Cotabato City on Oct. 29.
Prosecutor Jay Karel Sanchez, spokesperson of the City Prosecution Office, identifies the four individuals as Mohammad Lalaog Chenikandiyil aka Datu Boi, Jackson Mangulamas Usi aka Abu Mansor/Jam, Zack Villanueva Lopez aka Haron, and Ansan Abdulla Mamasapano aka Abu Hamsa.
Sanchez, however, declined to name the 10 other respondents because they are still at large. She said they sent subpoenas to them yesterday.
The prosecutor said she is not also certain if the 14 new respondents include those eight unidentified suspects who were earlier charged last Sept. 14.
With the additional names, Sanchez said they are asking time to resolve further case.
Sanchez said they already have a resolution on the case but has to put it hold pending the new development.
“We hold the abeyance of the issuance of the resolution,” Sanchez said.
The group of the suspects arrested in the Oct. 29 operation was the third batch of suspect.
Police initially filed multiple murder and frustrated murder charges against nine still-at-large suspects – including eight other unnamed persons and a man whose identity was withheld – on Sept. 14.
Just as the panel of prosecutors handling case was about to release it resolution, police filed on Oct. 4 additional affidavit to add the second batch of suspect.
Named as respondents in the second batch are TJ Tagadaya Macabalang aka Abu Tufael, Wendell Apostol Facturan aka Muraimin and Musali Mustafa aka Mus.
They were arrested on Oct. 4 in Cotabato City in a police-army checkpoint for carrying firearms and explosives in Cotabato City as they were boarding a motorcycle without a plate number.
In another development, Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Jill Jaugan-Lo has granted the petition of the writ for habeas corpus filed by the wife of Chenikandiyil against the Davao City Police Office (DCPO).
In the petition filed by lawyer Wilmer Donasco, the wife, name not released to the media, said her husband was arrested without a warrant last Oct. 29 by government agents inside their home in Cotabato City.
The petition said there were no charges filed against Chenikandiyil and his companions, and that their detention has exceeded the maximum period of 36 hours as allowed by the Revised Penal Code.
Chenikandiyil’s continuous detention, the complainant said, is a violation of his constitutional right.
Assuming that a criminal case has already been filed, the same does not justify the continued detention of Mohamad Chenikandiyil and his companions considering that no inquest proceeding was taken against them,” Donasco said in the petition.
Prosecutor Sanchez said Judge Lo’s decision granting the writ for habeas corpus has no bearing the resolution of the case.