Friday, January 27, 2017

Abu Sayyaf implicated in 2000 Sipadan kidnapping nabbed

From the Philippine Star (Jan 27): Abu Sayyaf implicated in 2000 Sipadan kidnapping nabbed

A suspected Abu Sayyaf member facing 87 counts of kidnapping was captured past midnight Thursday in a coastal village in Zamboanga City, a security official said.

The suspect, identified as Faizal Jaafar, was arrested about 12:30 a.m. at Barangay Cawit by police and naval intelligence operatives, said City Police Office Intelligence Branch head Chief Inspector Edilberto Alvarez.
Jaafar also uses the aliases Jaafar Mundi, Abu Jaafar, Aren, Ben and Abu Raba, according to Alvarez.

Alvarez said operatives of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - National Capital Region, Naval Intelligence Service Group, 4th Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and his team from the city police office intelligence branch moved to arrest Jaafar following tips and monitoring on the presence of the suspect.

He said Jaafar was arrested on the strength of a warrant of arrest for kidnapping with serious illegal detention in connection with the 2000 Sipadan kidnapping incident.
Alvarez said the suspect was also charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms.

It will be recalled the Abu Sayyaf group seized 21 people -- 10 Europeans, 9 Malaysians -- and two Filipino resort staff from Sipadan dive resort in Malaysia and held them in Jolo in April 2000.

The victims were released in batches following payments of hefty ransoms.

The police said the suspect is expected to be transferred to Bicutan jail in Taguig, where most of the suspects involved and implicated in the incident have been detained.

Duterte assures troops full medical care if wounded in battle

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): Duterte assures troops full medical care if wounded in battle

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines -- President Rodridgo Duterte on Friday assured soldiers in central Mindanao of utmost medical care if injured in clashes with terrorists and drug traffickers.

Duterte made the promise before hundreds of enlisted personnel and officers of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division while at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on Friday afternoon.

Duterte came to pin merit medals on 12 soldiers wounded in firefights with the group of wanted Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki in a hinterland in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao on Thursday.

Sangki, who was elected mayor of Ampatuan in May 2016, is included in Duterte’s list of politicians allegedly involved in the trafficking of narcotics.

Duterte said all of the government’s fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters can be used anytime to airlift wounded soldiers from the field to any hospital anywhere in the country.
“Don’t worry about me, for I can take commercial flights. You can use even the presidential choppers,” he told the personnel of 6th ID during a traditional military “talk to the men” session.

While at Camp Siongco Hospital, Duterte lauded physicians, nurses and Army medical attendants for taking care of soldiers wounded in combat.

No fewer than a hundred soldiers from different units of the 6th ID have been wounded in recurring encounters since 2010 with members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in areas supposedly covered by the government’s ceasefire accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The BIFF, an outlaw group not covered by the ceasefire pact, boasts loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The group, which splintered from the MILF in 2010, uses the black ISIS flag as banner and has been enforcing a ruthless Taliban-style justice system in isolated areas. Muslim residents reject the practice for being obsolete and barbaric.

Duterte told soldiers at Camp Siongco the spread of local groups with “ISIS ideology” is a problem his administration is trying to address effectively.

He also implored the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- rebel groups that the government has signed peace pacts with -- not to give members of terror groups sanctuary in their camps and communities.

Revival of joint Singapore, Philippines military training eyed

From Update.Ph (Jan 28): Revival of joint Singapore, Philippines military training eyed

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they are seriously considering the revival of joint military training with Singapore. Formerly dubbed as Anoa-Singa, the joint military training started in 1994 after the Philippines and Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding in 1993.

It was however stopped in 1996 due to the lack of a formal agreement between the two military forces.

Lorenzana said the DND is interested in reviving this partnership as the country can learn a lot from Singapore, especially in the development of its defense industries.

“Singapore is a very small country, (with) 6 million people, an area of 675 sq. km. — very small, but they have also developed their defense industries,” he added.

Lorenzana said the Singaporeans are producing their own artillery and the Terex, an infantry fighting vehicle that is of their own design.

What Singapore is lacking is an area where they can hold military exercises, hence it conducts its training and drills in Australia, Taiwan and other countries in Southeast Asia.

Lorenzana said he will discuss the revival of the Anoa-Singa with his Singaporean counterpart within the year.

Duterte: Use presidential aircraft for wounded troops

From Update.Ph (Jan 28): Duterte: Use presidential aircraft for wounded troops

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) can use the presidential aircraft to airlift their personnel who were wounded during operations.

“I can take commercial plane, you can use the presidential chopper, that is not mine, that is owned by the government,” said President Duterte who visited wounded soldier of Philippine Army 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco Station Hospital, Camp Siongco in Awang, Maguindanao.
The 250th Presidential Airlift Wing (250PAW) is operating presidential aircraft.

The Presidential Airlift Wing provides aircraft and aircrew for airlift of the President, immediate members of his family, visiting Heads of State and other VVIPs.

The air force wing could also perform other functions as directed by higher Headquarters.

Duterte to MNLF, MILF: No peace talks if you protect terrorists

From Rappler (Jan 27): Duterte to MNLF, MILF: No peace talks if you protect terrorists

If the two rebel groups harbor terrorists like the Maute Group, 'you might as well forget about peace talks,' says President Duterte in a speech in front of soldiers

PEACE FOR MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte talks to Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari at Malacañang Palace on November 3, 2016. Photo by King Rodriguez/ Presidential Photo

PEACE FOR MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte talks to Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari at Malacañang Palace on November 3, 2016. Photo by King Rodriguez/ Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte pleaded with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) not to "provide sanctuary" to terrorists or else he would be forced to end peace talks.

"Pagka magbigay kayo ng teritoryo niyo tapos hindi niyo kami papasukin, protektahan niyo, ibang istorya 'yun. You might as well forget about peace talks," said Duterte on Friday, January 27.
(If you give your territory there and you don't let us in, you protect them, that's another story. You might as well forget about peace talks.)
He was speaking to soldiers at a military camp in Awang, Maguindanao.
"Away na lang (Let's just fight). Then I'll just pray to God na kakaunti lang ang madisgrasya kasi giyera ito (that only a few will die because this is war)," he added.
If the two Muslim groups allow terrorist groups such as the Maute group in their territory, Duterte said he would be forced to send the military and police into their land.
"I am earnestly asking, nakiki-usap ako sa MN pati sa MI na do not provide sanctuary itong mga terorista sa lugar ninyo kasi pagka ganoon then we will be forced to go after them within your territory and that would mean trouble for all of us. Ayaw kong mangyari 'yan," said Duterte. (I am earnestly asking, I am pleading with the MN and MI, do not provide sanctuary to terrorists in your area because then we will be forced to go after them within your territory and that would mean trouble for all of us.)
"Do not allow the Maute and the other terrorist groups to enter and seek refuge in your camps otherwise I'll be forced to tell the Armed Forces and police, 'enter their territory,'" said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Maute group is based in Lanao del Sur and has pledged allegiance to ISIS. (READ: Filipino millennial joins ISIS in Syria)
The President said the government has the right to go after terrorists, wherever they may be, in order to bring them to justice for their crimes.
"Do not provide a refuge there because the government is looking for them because we have a grudge against them. They killed many innocent people," said Duterte.
The MILF is already in peace talks with the Duterte administration. The MNLF has expressed its willingness to participate in talks, though separate from the MILF, its rival faction.
Duterte himself entertained MNLF chairman Nur Misuari in Malacañang last November 2016.
Bringing up Mamasapano
The President's statements come two days after the 2nd-year anniversary of the Mamasapano massacre in which 67 people, including 44 Special Action Force troopers died in an operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir who was reportedly being protected by MILF members in the area.
Duterte mentioned this, saying he would not comment on MILF involvement then because it was a "serious flaw" on the government's part to allow SAF to enter into MILF territory without their permission.
But if the same thing were to happen under his administration, he could not ignore it.
"We never said aything about you. We didn't blame you because there was this agreement that we can't enter except to catch a criminal but you know that's a grey area. We swallowed it, including me," said Duterte.

Filipino millennial joins ISIS in Syria

From Rappler (Jan 27): Filipino millennial joins ISIS in Syria

EXCLUSIVE: Classified documents obtained by Rappler identify the Filipino millennial who beheaded a Caucasian in an ISIS video released in June 2016

 ISIS VIDEO. An Indonesian, Filipino, and Malaysian behead 3 Caucasians and call Muslims to fight the jihad in Syria and the Philippines (screenshot)

ISIS VIDEO. An Indonesian, Filipino, and Malaysian behead 3 Caucasians and call Muslims to fight the jihad in Syria and the Philippines (screenshot)

is a millennial – the only identified Filipino fighting in Syria for ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as IS, ISIL or Daesch.

On June 21, 2016, he appeared in a 20-minute video released on pro-ISIS Telegram accounts, calling on Muslims to join the jihad. The Filipino, along with an Indonesian and Malaysian, spoke in their native languages and urged Muslims to fight in Syria or the Philippines.

“If you cannot go to [Syria], join up and go to the Philippines,” said the Malaysian.

The Filipino urged his “brothers” to be strong.

“Mag-ingat kayo at maging malakas, huwag kayong magpadala sa mapanlinlang na taktika ng bagong halal na … si Duterte. Sumpain siya ng Allah,” he said.

The men then beheaded 3 Caucasian males, whom they claimed were “spies of the crusader alliance.”

Now classified documents obtained by Rappler name the Southeast Asians, including the only identified Filipino fighting in Syria for ISIS. Mohammed Saifudin Faiz is from Indonesia; Mohammed Rafi Udin is from Malaysia.

The lone Filipino is 26-year-old Mohammad Reza Kiram. His passport photo below is verified by the Philippine National Police.

EXCLUSIVE. The passport of Filipino Mohammad Reza Kiram juxtaposed against the Filipino in the ISIS video

EXCLUSIVE. The passport of Filipino Mohammad Reza Kiram juxtaposed against the Filipino in the ISIS video

Born in Zamboanga City, Kiram travelled with his wife and daughter to Syria in 2015, according to a confidential Interpol report dated December, 2016.

Turkish officials confirmed their arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on May 20, 2015. Authorities from at least 3 countries, including the Philippines, say they are now in Raqqa.

Arrests in Malaysia this week spotlight a new ISIS terror cell using Sabah as a transit point to funnel recruits from Southeast Asia and South Asia to the southern Philippines, evidence that Kiram’s rallying cry last June is now being carried out.

Intelligence documents say Kiram was allegedly part of Ansar al-Khalifa, also known as AKP, Ansar Khalifa Philippines, Ansar al-Khilafah or Ansar Khilafah, the latest evolution of a sub-group once part of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

AKP and the death of Tokboy

AKP pledged allegiance to ISIS in a YouTube video in 2015, largely believed to be the group in a video distributed in November 2015 threatening the APEC Summit in Manila. It was globally distributed by ISIS propaganda sites. (READ: ISIS’ global ambitions and plans for Southeast Asia)

Its influential leader, Mohammed Jaafar Maguid or “Tokboy”, was killed in Sarangani earlier this month. Under him, AKP operated throughout central Mindanao and maintained operational links with Indonesian group, MIT or Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, perhaps the most aggressive ISIS affiliate in Indonesia. Both groups once worked together under JI, once al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia.

The Philippine police and military continue operations until today against the AKP and another closely-affiliated group which also pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Maute group.

 MOVEMENT. Hapilon and members of ASG transfer from their base in Basilan to Central Mindanao, allegedly to scout a future Caliphate, according to PH Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MOVEMENT. Hapilon and members of ASG transfer from their base in Basilan to Central Mindanao, allegedly to scout a future Caliphate, according to PH Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

ISIS and the Maute group

The Philippine police verified Rappler's early analysis that the Maute group, led by Abdullah Maute, is behind the September 2, 2016 bomb detonated at a night market in Davao City, killing at least 14 people and injuring at least 70.

An Interpol document obtained by Rappler estimates the Maute group has about “90 members who possess various small arms and – as demonstrated by the Davao City bombing – the capability to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) with military munitions.”

Abdullah’s father, Cayamora Maute, according to military sources, was a senior official of the MILF, the largest Muslim separatist group now involved in peace talks with the government. Philippine military documents show the family has been monitored since 2007, when Maute and his wife sheltered and worked with JI leaders.

That history explains the radicalization of their sons, who criticized the MILF leadership, the peace process, and later pledged allegiance to ISIS.

2016 was a busy year for the Maute group:
  • From February 20 to March 1, the group attacked a military camp and established 3 strongholds in Lanao del Sur, displacing nearly 30,000 people. It took 10 days for the military to regain control.
  • On April 21, a Facebook account posted two photos showing the Maute group beheading two sawmill workers in orange jumpsuits, like ISIS public executions.
Rappler exclusive: Facebook screen shots April 21, 2016

Rappler exclusive: Facebook screen shots April 21, 2016

  • On August 27, 50 men led by Abdullah Maute freed 8 of their members and 20 other prisoners from a Lanao del Sur jail.
  • On August 29, an ISIS propaganda arm claimed ISIS was behind that prison raid in Marawi.
  • On November 26, the Maute group occupied Butig, Lanao del Sur again. They removed the Philippine flag from the old town hall and replaced it with the ISIS flag.
  • On November 28, an IED was discovered near the US embassy in Manila. Two suspects linked to the Maute group were arrested shortly after. An Interpol report says, “the foiled bombing in Metro Manila was meant to distract the attention of the authorities and relieve the pressure on the Maute group from the military authorities surrounding them in Butig, Lanao del Sur.”

  • PNP SKETCH. Components of bomb used in Davao City night market bombing
    PNP SKETCH. Components of bomb used in Davao City night market bombing
    Philippine authorities also said the IED from Manila was similar to the one used in Davao City in September.

    Caliphate in Mindanao?

    Which brings us back to the sole Filipino identified with ISIS in Syria. A little more than 6 months ago, Mohammad Reza Kiram’s video appealed to Muslim recruits to join the jihad in the Philippines.

    Operations in Southeast Asia intensified since then, with ISIS setting up transit cells and conduits to bring foreigners to the Philippines.

    Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research, said at least 10 Malaysian terrorists are in the Philippines and have established Katibah Al Muhajir or Battalion of Migrants in the Philippines.

    Gunaratna said the new battalion, composed of Malaysians and Indonesians, was created because Southeast Asian recruits couldn’t travel to the Middle East.

    Filipino intelligence sources say this group is working with Isnilon Hapilon, the senior ideological leader of the Abu Sayyaf.

    Last year, Isnilon became the consolidated leader of at least 4 groups that pledged allegiance to ISIS. (READ: ISIS to declare a province in Mindanao?)

    "While it has not been formally declared as a province or wilayat, ISIS has endorsed an Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, as amir for Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asians in Syria have pledged their loyalty to him," stated an October report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Confict (IPAC).

    On Thursday, January 26, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a press conference that ISIS is communicating directly with Hapilon, who moved from his base in Basilan to Central Mindanao last December, joining the Maute group and AKP there. Operations intensified this week.

    "Mayroon silang contact ngayon (They've made contact). One of the leaders in Basilan, Isnilon Hapilon, moved to Central Mindanao allegedly on the behest of ISIS people in the Middle East to find out if Central Mindanao is more conducive to the establishment of their wilayat (province)," Lorenzana said.

    Still, there are victories.

    On January 13, 2017, Malaysian police announced the arrest of a 31-year-old Filipino watch seller and his Malaysian co-conspirator and fiancée from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. That uncovered a terrorist cell allegedly receiving orders from the southern Philippines.

    According to a press statement by Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, the Filipino was the cell’s chief recruiter, taking instructions from Hapilon and a Malaysian with him, Dr Mahmud Ahmad.

    A former Universiti Malaya lecturer, Ahmad trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in the late 1990s and is now deeply entrenched with the ISIS, according to Malaysian officials. He recruited and arranged for Malaysians to fight in Syria as early as March, 2014, including Malaysia's first suicide bomber, Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki.

    “With these arrests, the Special Branch crippled a new Daesh terror cell that planned to make Sabah a transit point for terrorists from Southeast Asia and South Asia to infiltrate into the Philippines,” Khalid said, referring to ISIS as Daesch, its Arabic acronym.

    “ISIS seems to be everywhere,” President Duterte told me at the end of last year, warning that the group is focusing on Southeast Asia as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq.

    Duterte is the first president to admit the presence of ISIS, a stark contrast to the repeated denials of the military and the past administration.

    He warned of recruitment from schools, saying he feared some of his own relatives may have been lured by ISIS. The recruitment is backed by the research of Indonesia's IPAC.

    "There is some evidence that the Maute group and the AKP have been able to use the appeal of the ISIS brand to attract university students. The more extremists in Mindanao can attract educated and computer-savvy cadres, the greater the likelihood of cross-regional contact," the IPAC report stated.

    Kiram is a cautionary tale: a Filipino millennial now fighting in Syria with ISIS.

    Photo: Wounded in Action

    From MindaNews (Jan 28): Photo: Wounded in Action

    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte awards medals to wounded soldiers during his visit to Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Maguindanao on January 27, 2017. ROBINSON NIÑAL/Presidential Photo

    Military offensive underway for top terror suspect Hapilon

    From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): Military offensive underway for top terror suspect Hapilon

    Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año. PHOTO FROM AFP's FACEBOOK

    Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año. PHOTO FROM AFP’s FACEBOOK

    The Philippine military chief says troops have launched airstrikes and ground assaults against one of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terror suspects who is trying to establish a new base for an alliance of armed groups backing the Islamic State group.

    Gen. Eduardo Año says airstrikes targeted the group of elusive militant leader Isnilon Hapilon on Wednesday and Thursday. Hundreds of troops began pursuing him and allied militants in the mountainous hinterlands of Butig town in southern Lanao del Sur province.

    Ano said Friday that Hapilon, who is on the U.S. Department of Justice list of most-wanted terrorists, moved to Butig from his stronghold on southern Basilan island a month ago to look for a base for his new alliance of small extremist groups.

    Philippines evaluates Russian Kilo-class submarines

    From IHS Jane's 360 (Jan 27): Philippines evaluates Russian Kilo-class submarines

    The Philippines is considering procuring diesel-electric Kilo-class submarines from Russia, Philippine defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on 26 January.

    In comments published by the Philippine government's news and information bureau, Lorenzana said the Department of National Defense (DND) is currently assessing the submarines in terms of Philippine Navy (PN) requirements. However, he also indicated that funds to support the procurement would be a key factor in any acquisition.

    Quoting Lorenzana, the bureau said that the DND is "now determining on whether these specialised ships are essential for the modernisation needs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and whether the country can afford to acquire and maintain such an expensive weapons platform".

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    PH won’t buy Russian rifles, after all

    From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): PH won’t buy Russian rifles, after all

    The Department of National Defense is no longer interested in acquiring assault rifles from Russia as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has recently acquired 50,000 units of brand new Remington M-4 carbine for soldiers.

    Instead, it plans to buy specialized military equipment,  such unmanned aerial vehicles or drones and sniper rifles that can bend, which Russia was also offering.

    Speaking at a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the AFP has recently replaced with Remington M-4 carbine the older M-16 automatic rifles which are now stored at its various armories.

    The older weapons, he said, could still be given to reserve military and militia units whenever necessary because the Government Arsenal was producing enough ammunition for the AFP.

    Rushed talks
    President Duterte earlier expressed his preference for Russian assault rifles which he said were among the best in the world. Russian military officials have rushed talks with their Philippine counterparts and offered to sell naval vessels, aircraft, helicopters and even diesel electric submarines.

    Lorenzana said the AFP was still evaluating these offers to determine if the country was capable of using, maintaining and operating these equipment in the long run.

    He said he had explained to the President that the rifles needed by the AFP were very much different from those of the Philippine National Police.

    “We will look into these things because we should buy in accordance with our modernization plan. We will buy smart, we will buy things with quality and will suit the needs of people on the ground,” he stressed.

    He said the President repeatedly reminded him to involve the people who will use the equipment in the evaluation process prior to purchase.

    “We cannot just buy equipment in a random thought when the people who will be using them don’t like them. So that’s our track in our modernization program,” he said.

    Military engagement

    In terms of defense cooperation, Lorenzana said that he would accompany the President in his visit to Russia sometime in April this year to sign a memorandum of agreement for a military to military engagement between the two states.

    Such engagement, he said, would be in the form of allowing Russian military visitations and observations of troops as well as Russian ship visits and exchange of military students.

    He did not discount the possibility that both militaries would also venture into joint military exercises in the future.

    In the case of China, Lorenzana said there were no strings attached to its $14-million grant to the Philippines for the AFP’s weapons system.

    He said the Chinese government did not impose any conditions for the grant which will be followed by soft loans.

    Lorenzana said the AFP had expressed interest in acquiring fast boats, unmanned aerial vehicles, “flexible” rifles which can shoot around corners, sniper rifles and automatic bomb disposal equipment.

    He said the Philippines was just awaiting China’s reply to the Philippine government’s list and quantity of weapons to be given.

    Troops arrest ASG sub-leader in Zambo City

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Troops arrest ASG sub-leader in Zambo City

    Joint police and military operatives arrested Friday a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) facing 87 counts of kidnapping charges in this city.

    Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, identified the arrested ASG bandit as Faizal Jaafar, who carries the aliases of Jaafar Mundi, Abu Jaafar, Abu Aren, Abu Ben and Abu Raba.

    Beltran said Jaafar was arrested around 12:30 a.m. in Barangay Cawit, some 13.35 kilometers west of City Hall.

    Beltran said Jaafar was arrested in a law enforcement operation by way of serving warrant of arrest for the crime of 87-count kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

    Beltran said Jaafar was involved in the 2001 kidnapping of 21 people, mostly Europeans, in Sipadan, Malaysia.

    He said that Jaafar has also standing warrants of arrest for murder and illegal possession of firearms, issued by the courts of Isabela City, Basilan and Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, respectively.

    He said Jaafar was placed under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-9 (CIDG-9).

    Beltran lauded and commended the operating police and military units for a job well done and for their utmost efforts that resulted to the arrest of Jaafar.

    He urged the general public to continue to support and cooperate with the police by providing timely and relevant information on any wanted person and terrorist who may be hiding in their respective places.

    “Report any suspicious persons to the nearest police station or to PRO-9 Hotline 0917-577-19-97,” he added.

    Photo: Pres. Duterte visits soldiers wounded in action

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Photo: Pres. Duterte visits soldiers wounded in action

    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte interacts with health workers taking care of soldiers wounded in action during his visit at Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Awang, Maguindanao on Friday (Jan. 27, 2017).(Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/Presidential Photo/PNA)

    Photo: President Duterte arrives at 6th ID camp in Maguindanao

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Photo: President Duterte arrives at 6th ID camp in Maguindanao

    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is welcomed by 6th Infantry Division Commander Brigadier General Arnel dela Vega upon his arrival at the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Siongco to vist wounded soldiers in Awang, Maguindanao on Friday (Jan. 27, 2017). (Photo by Kiwi Bulaclac/Presidential Photo/PNA)

    Photo: President Duterte awards medals to wounded soldiers in Maguindanao

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Photo: President Duterte awards medals to wounded soldiers in Maguindanao

    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte personally awards medals to the soldiers wounded in action during his visit at Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Awang, Maguindanao on Friday (Jan. 27, 2017). (Photo by Karl Norman Alonzo/Presidential Photo/PNA)

    Duterte asserting rights to West Philippine Sea in own diplomatic way -- Palace

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Duterte asserting rights to West Philippine Sea in own diplomatic way -- Palace

    Malacañang on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte continues to assert the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea although in his own diplomatic way.

    In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella stressed the President has always maintained that “he is not giving up our claims in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone] according to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).”

    The Palace official made the assurance in the wake of a Pulse Asia survey which showed that 84 percent of Filipinos think the government should uphold its rights in the disputed region as stipulated in the July 12, 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that ruled in favor of the Philippines.

    The survey was conducted from Dec. 6 to 11, 2016, two months after Duterte’s state visit to China.
    “What the President is doing is asserting it but in a different diplomatic style,” Abella said.

    Citing a statement made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the matter, the Palace official said that as it happened, the Chinese government has already reclaimed three of the islands in the disputed area and also have a presence in Scarborough when the PCA ruling was announced.

    “The [Defense] Secretary has stated in the dialect, ‘Wag na nila tayong gawing proxy.’ It is because, if you remember, when the ruling was promulgated in July 12, we got a lot of bragging from countries around that we should forcefully assert the ruling in favor of the Philippines,” he said.

    “But our government shows instead a soft landing. The President chose to have a bilateral talk with the Chinese government, which gave as some advantage,” Abella said.

    In October 2016, Duterte went to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and business leaders.

    The President’s four-day state visit yielded USD15 billion in investments and another USD9 billion in credit facilities.

    “In other words, what the President is doing is he’s asserting it. But in a different diplomatic style,” Abella said.

    Lorenzana says Congress needs to boost Defense budget

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Lorenzana says Congress needs to boost Defense budget

    There is a strong need for the House of Representatives to increase the budget of the Department of National Defense (DND) to enable it to acquire modern equipment for the military.

    This was disclosed by DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a press briefing Thursday.

    "You know I have been talking to some of the congressmen, I told them, we should increase our budget, we have been underfunded for the past 50 years so that we cannot buy modern equipment," he said in Filipino.

    Lorenzana cited the case of Singapore, which is a relatively small country compared to the Philippines and yet spends around three percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) for its defense needs.

    In contrast, he said the Philippines is only spending some 1.2 percent of its GDP for defense.

    "That's why (Singapore) has more aircraft, more ships, they have more of everything, including 50 urban protection vehicles which they bought in France for 3 million Singaporean dollars each. They also have tanks. Their only problem is that they don't have any area for exercises," Lorenzana said.

    Due to low budget for DND for decades, he said the Philippine military is very far behind its Southeast Asian neighbors.

    Lorenzana said that allocating 2.4 percent to 2.5 percent of the GDP for defense expenditures will be fair.

    "Well we are now (spending) maybe 1.2 percent, if they will double that to 2.4 percent or 2.5 percent, we'll be very happy with that," he said.

    Pres. Duterte appeals to MILF, MNLF not to give sanctuary to terrorists

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Pres. Duterte appeals to MILF, MNLF not to give sanctuary to terrorists

    President Rodrigo Duterte appealed on Friday to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) not to provide refuge to terrorists in their areas.

    "I am earnestly asking, I’m appealing to the MILF and also to the MNLF not to provide sanctuary for these terrorists in your area," President Duterte said during his visit to wounded-in-action (WIA) soldiers in Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Awang, Maguindanao.

    The President said the government forces will be forced to enter within the MNLF and MILF territories if they will provide refuge to the terrorists.

    "We’re running after them. They killed so many innocent people, bombing and all," Duterte said.

    "If you provide them your territory and then you will protect them and you will not allow us to enter, that’s another story. Forget about peace. Then I’ll just pray to God that there will be only few casualties because war…but I will use the might of the Republic of the Philippines to impose our stand," he warned.

    President Duterte cited the Mamasapano encounter where 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) were killed when they entered the MILF territory without the group’s blessing to go after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

    Marwan was killed in the operation called Oplan Exodus but it ended in a nine-hour encounter between the SAF troopers of the Philippine National Police and the MILF fighters, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups two years ago.

    "There was a serious flaw. The government made mistake and allowed that to happen. We’re not blaming you because there was this agreement that we cannot enter except really to catch a criminal. But you know that’s a grey area," the President said.

    "So parang we swallowed it, pati ako. You heard nothing. But you know this time, I am pleading. Do not allow the Maute and other terrorist groups to enter and seek refuge in your camps," he added.

    Aside from Maute groups, Abu Sayyaf Group is doing kidnapping and other terroristic acts in Mindanao.

    The President said he will pursue peace with the Moro rebels, saying the economy will suffer if there will be war in Mindanao.

    "I am pleading that I still want peace. I am ready to talk. I hate war. I’m old already," the 72-year-old Filipino leader said.

    Duterte honors wounded soldiers in Maguidanao

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Duterte honors wounded soldiers in Maguidanao

    President Rodrigo Roa Duterte honored 12 wounded soldiers at Camp Siongco Station Hospital during his visit to Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on Friday.

    The soldiers, who belonged to 6th Infantry Division of Philippine Army, got injured in a clash with lawless armed group in Ampatuan town on Thursday, while acting as support to law enforcers serving a search warrant against the town mayor, Rasul Sangki.

    President Duterte awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal to the following army troopers:

    SSG Manuel T. Asana
    SSG Arvin C. Esperanza
    SGT Elmer P. Pelle
    SGT Leonardo C. Remulta
    CPL Raffy B. Matingkal
    PFC Jerusel D. Castañeda
    PVT Alden D. Cahoy
    PVT Eldie T. Mallorca
    PVT Erwin S. Mistoso
    PVT Harold John N. Dionisio
    PVT Cresaldy O. Coronado
    PVT Vincent John M. Gregorio

    "I was shown the map where the encounters were. I am earnestly asking, nakikiusap ako sa MN pati MI na do not provide sanctuary itong mga terorista sa lugar ninyo.

    Kasi pag ka ganon, then we will be forced to go after them within your territory," the President asked members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    "Kasi may atraso sila. Marami sila pinatay na inosente, bombing, and all," the Commander In Chief added.

    The President was all praises to the gallant soldiers who risked their lives in law enforcement operations.

    "I'm glad that I am here with you. I awarded the wounded personnel medals to all," he said.

    President Duterte assured the military of his administration's full support as long as he is president.

    "You can have the resources of government to make yourself comfortable and in the years to come, makukuha ninyo lahat 'yung kailangan ninyo. And I will see to it that you are a soldier of this Republic, comfortable with your vocation," the President said.

    US amphibious transport dock goes on patrol mission

    From Update.Ph (Jan 27): US amphibious transport dock goes on patrol mission

    Forward-deployed United States San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) departed its base in Sasebo, Japan, January 25 for a routine patrol in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the US Navy said.

    Moreover, the said American warship and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will participate exercises and training with regional allies to increase combat readiness and enhance partnerships.
    “Embarking, training, and operating with the 31st MEU remains our number one priority,” said Captain Nathan Moyer, Green Bay’s commanding officer. “As we soon embark our Marines, I look forward to seamless integration as we train and work together while building stronger ties with partners in the region.”

    In 2016, prior to returning to its homeport in Japan, USS Green Bay participated in Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2016, the 33rd iteration of PH-US PHIBLEX.

    Philippine-made Multi-mission Offshore Vessels nearing completion

    From Update.Ph (Jan 27): Philippine-made Multi-mission Offshore Vessels nearing completion

    An update on ongoing construction of first two Philippine-made 50.5-meter Multi-mission Offshore Vessels (MMOV) for Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) was shared by MaxDefense Philippines Thursday, January 26.

    “Based on the photo provided to us, it appears that the hulls of both vessels are now almost complete, and could be launched very soon,” MaxDefense said in its social networking page.
    Construction of the said vessels started in January 2016. These will be first in their class to be built in the Philippines. Each vessel costs PhP 178.5 Million.

    “A 50m multi-mission monohull patrol vessel for illegal fishing with the flexibility to lead in disaster relief and/or rescue operations, as well as to serve as a platform for research,” Designer Incat Crowther said.

    BFAR said the design was created by Incat Crowther, a reputable ship designer based in the United States. The vessels are being built at Josefa Slipways, a medium category local shipyard in Navotas City.

    “These vessels are made in the Philippines, made by Filipino, and funded using our own money, the taxpayers’ money,” the former BFAR Director Asis Perez said.

    BFAR is planning to build four more vessels of same class.

    Navy gets help from Manila City in recruiting technically-inclined, skilled individuals

    From Update.Ph (Jan 27): Navy gets help from Manila City in recruiting technically-inclined, skilled individuals

    The Philippine Navy is getting the support of Manila City government for its recruitment drive. “The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday, January 26, signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) together with the city government of Manila in the efforts of recruiting more personnel to join its rank in a simple ceremony at Manila City Hall,” the Philippine Navy said.

    Navy Flag-Officer-In-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph S. Mercado and Mayor Joseph E. Estrada inked the agreement representing the Navy and Manila City government, respectively.
    “The MOA signing was part of the continuing initiative of the PN to intensify its recruitment drive by exploring different colleges and universities within Metro Manila as potential sources of future Sailors and Marines,” the Philippine Navy said.

    The Navy earlier signed similar agreement with Adamson University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Technological University of the Philippines, and the local government of Quezon City.

    “The PN is committed to gain technically-inclined and skilled personnel to further enhance its core of professionals and attain its vision of a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation can be proud of,” the Philippine Navy said.

    FA-50PHs, attack helicopters launch surgical airstrike against terrorists

    From Update.Ph (Jan 27): FA-50PHs, attack helicopters launch surgical airstrike against terrorists

    Making true to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Año’s order to bring all the best troops and war-fighting equipment to Mindanao for fight against terrorism, the Philippine Air Force, with its newly acquired FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” jets, have conducted airstrike in Butig, Lanao Del Sur midnight between Wednesday and Thursday, 25th and 26th.

    Attack helicopters of the Air Force also joined the operation. Troops then conducted ground operation after the airstrike.

    “The terror groups are reported to have sustained a major casualty with a number of them dead or seriously wounded after a midnight surgical air strike and a well-directed and observed artillery rounds accurately landing in the identified locations of the terror groups,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

    “They are now cautiously advancing to their designated objectives – the location of ASG leader Isnilon Hamilon, his select group, and the Brothers Abdullah, Omar, and Otto Maute, and possibly other foreigners joining their notorious group,” Colonel Arevalo. “We will await the validated details of the results of this operation as soon as we get confirmations from our troops now on the ground.”

    Philippine military and defense community said Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) senior leader Isnilon Hapilon is in Lanao Del Sur to establish a “wilayat” or an Islamic State.

    “We know he is there so we are conducting operations against them in Lanao Del Sur, near the Butig area, just beside Lake Lanao, we’ve have been there before with the President sometimes last November or December, so we continue to operate against the ASG,” Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

    MILF: Commentary- Mind da News: Bangsamoro: On the Level Lang!

    Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 20): Mind da News: Bangsamoro: On the Level Lang! (By Patricio Diaz)

    GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 18, 2017 – President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed last January 9 the appointment papers of the members of the new 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). MindaNews reported this January 13. MILF’s Luwaran echoed the news on the same day. No national media reported the news.
    The report, an answer to an information hiatus long overdue, elicited some questions.

    MindaNews headline, counting“2 months after signing EO, Duterte finally appoints BTC members”, subtly asked: “Why has it taken this long to appoint the members?”
    But the delay is much longer. The new BTC members could have been appointed last September at the latest – not four months after.

    The BTC membership was expanded to 21 in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR) which President Duterte approved on July 18, 2016 to enhance inclusivity in the redrafting of the Bangsamoro basic law. Subsequently, the GPH and MILF negotiating – now “implementing” – panels accepted BPDR in their meeting in Kuala Lumpur on August 14. The executive order creating the new BTC should have been issued in the next two weeks of August and the members appointed immediately.

    QUESTIONS: Why was this not done? EO No.O8, s, 2016 was issued more than two months after, on November 7. Why that long? It took two more months to sign the appointment; yet, no names of the appointees have been released. What’s keeping this? The release, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews, will be done “shortly”. How long is “shortly”?

    Dureza also said that the BTC has to hit the ground running as soon as the appointment papers are released and the members have taken their oath”; it has to submit the enabling law draft to the Congress in July 2017 as set in the BPDR and before President Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 24. When will it hit the ground?

    The Secretary was aware of the short time the BTC has – just about six months or less counting from February if it is installed this month – to draft the enabling law. Likened to the Marines scrambling down their helicopters hitting the ground running, the undaunted BTC members will have to do overtime to beat the deadline. No worry. All will be well.

    Good picture to see. Is it an honest depiction of the Bangsamoro scenario? 

    What the picture hides are the diversion in the roadmap and the consequences vital to the fate of the Bangsamoro due to the emergence of Chairman Nur Misuari, the founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front -- the acknowledged prime mover of the Moro liberation movement. For all its apparent sincerity, the Duterte government is not on the level with us – not much different from the past governments.

    The BPDR envisioned a single-track roadmap where the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)-led BTC with members from all MNLF factions, the IPs (Indigenous People) and the LGUs (Local Government Units) of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) will consolidate or converged in the new basic law draft all the past peace agreements of the Moros with the government and the relevant existing laws. This is the side of the picture being shown.

    But Misuari refused to join the MILF-led BTC on the BPDR. He has his own “Roadmap to MNLF-Duterte Government Peace Talks (RMDGPT)”. This is the second track in the over-all roadmap. The Duterte Government has accepted it. In fact, knowing Misuari, it must have delayed the issuance of EO No. 08 until his meeting with the President to have his position known. The EO, almost completely without reference the BPDR, came out four days after Duterte-Misuari in Malacañang on November 3. Just coincidental? 

    This is the side of the picture the Duterte government has to clearly show but seems loathe to.

    Secretary Dureza has said this much: The BTC will draft a law to create the Bangsamoro to replace the ARMM as agreed in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsmoro; the MNLF-Misuari panel will have RA 9054 amended to enhance the ARMM in accordance with the 1996 Final Peace Agreement – a contradiction: one, to abolish the ARMM; the other, to keep it.

    As Dureza told MindaNews on November 3, the GPH-MILF (MILF-led BTC) and the GPH-MNLF (Misuari) peace tracks “will somehow converge in Congress without converging in the process”. This means a U-turn away from the original BPDR plan to submit to the Congress only one basic law draft converged in the process of drafting. In the revised scenario, two drafts will be submitted for the Congress to converge.

    How can this be done? The Duterte government is not on the level with us.

    First, will the two drafts be in the Congress on or before July 24, 2017? Scrambling and running hard on hitting the ground, the MILF-led BTC may be able to. Can the same be said of the GPH-MNLF (Misuari)? Dureza told MindaNews, it is supposed to do so “by July this year”.

    “Supposed to” means “unsure but hoping”. Where are the panels? What are the talking agenda and the mode? There are none to see. Where is Misuari now? Last December 14, he was reported on his way to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to “seek advice” from the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) heads of state concerning the peace talks. Is he back? No report. If not, when?

    Second, granting the two drafts will be in the Congress on time, MNLF spokesman and head of the MNLF-Misuari panel had warned that converging the two drafts would be a disaster.

    Third, how can the ARMM be abolished and retained at the same time as proposed in the contradictory drafts revealed by Secretary Dureza?

    This impossible scenario could have been avoided had President Duterte persuaded Misuari to sacrifice his “principles” and bitterness against the MILF and the other MNLF factions for the sake of the Moro unity and the Bangsamoro. He is the only person who can especially with the help of the OIC – a help that has been given.

    The OIC, in a statement dated November 11, 2016 and appearing in its official website, commended the decision of President Duterte in releasing Prof. Nur Misuari as “another manifestation of the positive approach of the current administration towards the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people”.

    In that Statement, the OIC acknowledges Misuari’s role in the peace process; supports the MILF, its Chairman Al Hajj Murad and the CAB; and avows its desire for the MNLF and MILF to close ranks, merge the two peace tracks and converge all the gains in all peace treaties. The OIC position is clear: It does not favor either the MNLF or the MILF; above all, “it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”
    In Jeddah, did the OIC advise Misuari in accordance with its November 8 Statement? If he is back in the Philippines, will President Duterte persuade him to follow the OIC’s avowed desire and position? If he will not, Why NOT.

    The Duterte government must be on the level with us. If it cannot persuade Misuari to follow the single BPDR peace track, presenting the MILF-led BTC side of the picture only is pointless. We all know that is not the whole picture. That is not how to solve the Moro Problem. 
    [Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at .]

    MILF: UNYPAD conducts 2nd Collaborative Peace Advocacy

    Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 27): UNYPAD conducts 2nd Collaborative Peace Advocacy

    UNYPAD-Pikit Chapter through the initiative of its Barangay Nunguan Chapter in collaboration with BLGU Nunguan, BDA, SWC-Pikit and MILF Pikit Municipal Political Committee conducted peace advocacy on January 25, 2017 at Sitio Ganasi, Nunguan, Pikit, North Cotabato.

    Mustapa Sanduyogan, Chairman of UNYPAD Pikit Chapter said that he felt happy and comfortable that at least the 2nd Peace Advocacy 2017 has been realized in accordance to their  formulated plans.

    Sanduyogan appreciated the support of their partners such as BDA catalyst, SWC, PolCom and the Barangay Nunguan local officials for without their support they may not be able to attain their target number of participants numbering 200 plus, mostly from the women sector.

    Guiamaludin Sampulna, BDA Provincial Manager of Liguasan gave inputs on the importance of blood donation.

    Yusoph S. Lumambas, Secretary General of UNYPAD gave updates on the GPH - MILF Peace Process. Ust. Nasrudin Musa lectured about Islamic Context of Peace Process.

    Ustads Hamsa Landayan, Chairman of UNYPAD North Cotabato Cluster 2 gave message that focused about UNYPAD.

    Kagawad Datu Musa Enged delivered the Welcome Address, YDP Catalyst BDA Pikit Ahmad Gayak, delivered the Open Remarks. The rationale was given by Datu Albasser Mangelen, BDA Municipal Chairman of Pikit 1, North Cotabato.

    50 families forced to evacuate as gov't. forces, bandit group clash in N. Cotabato town

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 50 families forced to evacuate as gov't. forces, bandit group clash in N. Cotabato town

    Matalam, North Cotabato: Some 50 families here were forced to evacuate after a firefight erupted Friday between authorities and a lawless armed group in two remote villages here.

    The displaced families were from Sitio Imelda, Barangay Taguranao and adjacent Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Tamped, in this municipality.

    Chief Insp. Sunny Leoncito, Matalam police chief, said joint elements of police’s elite Special Action Force and Public Safety Company, together with personnel from the Army's 7th Infantry Battalion were conducting a law enforcement operation against fugitives from the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) who bolted out last Jan. 3 when met by resistance from an armed group in the border of the two villages.

    According to Leoncito, some of the 50 armed men they encountered were fugitives of the NCDJ who joined the bandit group of Commander Derby operating in the area.

    Derby himself was an escapee from the NCDJ in 2015.

    Earlier this month, Derby’s group stormed the NCDJ in a bid to set free notorious cohorts in the penitentiary.

    Although the armed group failed in their mission to set free their imprisoned comrades, 158 other inmates joined in the escape that was described as the biggest jailbreak so far in Philippine history.

    Nearly a hundred escapees were recaptured in subsequent pursuit operations but over 60 others remain at- large.
    Mayor Cheryl Catamco has temporarily suspended classes in Tamped and Taguranao, which included its neighboring villages of Sta. Maria, Kabulacan, and Ilian.

    Police blames BIFF in Maguindanao clash; displaced families get aid

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Police blames BIFF in Maguindanao clash; displaced families get aid

    Police authorities in Maguindanao on Friday blamed the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for the armed hostilities during the supposedly peaceful serving of search warrants against Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki in a remote village here Thursday dawn.

    Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao's provincial police director, said the armed hostilities in Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan, Maguindanao sparked fierce firefight that left four suspected BIFF fighters killed and seven soldiers injured.

    Police and the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion were helping the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM) in locating Mayor Sangki, one of the local executives publicly named by President Duterte as among the narcopoliticians in Maguindanao.

    Sangki vehemently denied he was a drug lord and offered to be investigated to clear his name.

    Tello said the BIFF, belonging to Kagi Karialan faction, ambushed government forces as they entered the village. Karialan’s group admitted they fired at the approaching lawmen but denied they suffered four fatalities.

    Speaking for Maguindanao PNP, Senior Insp. Rasul Pandulo said police and military forces have put up blocking force as military manhunt operations continue Friday.

    Both Tello and the CIDG could not say whether Mayor Sangki, now a fugitive, was with the group or not.

    Barangay Saniag is about five kilometers east of Barangay Salman, site of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

    Tello said another hostilities ensued in the village of Salman when followers of Sangki, armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers, opened fire on government forces who tried to encircle their hideout to serve him a warrant of arrest.

    Tello named the wounded infantrymen as Sgt. Remulta, Cpl. Raffy Matingkal, and Privates Eldie Mallorca, Erwin Mistoso, Alden Cahoy, Harold John Dionisio, and Jerusel Castaneda.

    About 50 families belonging to Teduray tribe fled toward the Poblacion gymnasium Thursday morning.

    The displaced families have already received relief assistance from ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART), according to Myrna Jo Henry, HEART spokesperson.

    She said the region’s relief organization also put up a community kitchen where the internally displaced persons can cook food.

    Police arrest KFRG member in Zamboanga del Sur

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Police arrest KFRG member in Zamboanga del Sur

    Government intelligence operatives have arrested a member of a kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG) in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, a top police official announced Friday.

    Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre, Zamboanga del Sur police director, identified the arrested KFRG member as Benhar Abdusalam, who carries the aliases of Jaylene, Helen, and Rajak.

    Ecaldre said Abdusalam is a member of the Zamboanga Sibugay-based Abdusalam criminal group that is engaged in kidnapping for ransom, extortion and other criminal activities.

    Ecaldre said Abdusalam was arrested around 10 a.m. Thursday at the municipal gymnasium of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur.

    He said Abdusalam is facing charges for the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 12 in this city.

    Abdusalam, according to Ecaldre, is listed as number 12 in the Abdusalam criminal group and has a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

    He said Abdusalam was taken to the Region Intelligence Unit-9 headquarters in this city.

    GRP, NDFP conclude 3rd peace talks in Rome; commit to move the process

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): GRP, NDFP conclude 3rd peace talks in Rome; commit to move the process

    Peace negotiators of the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) concluded the third round-of-talks as both parties agreed to further discuss contentious issues on bilateral ceasefire, amnesty and releases, the Socioeconomic Reforms (SER) and the Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) in succeeding meetings.

    In an eight-page Joint Statement signed by the chief negotiators Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the GRP and NDFP chair Fidel Agcaoili and members of their panel, both parties remained committed to pursue the peace process.

    While both parties were not able to seal a joint bilateral ceasefire, they however agree that ceasefire committees would meet separately to discuss the issue next month.

    The NDFP ceasefire committee has formally acknowledged receiving the GRP draft Agreement on an Interim Bilateral Cessation of Hostilities between the GRP and the NDFP.

    The NDFP promised to seriously study the proposal and provide an updated version. The ceasefire committees have scheduled to meet on February 22 to 27 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

    On the issue of releases, both parties agreed to continue to study the issuance of an amnesty proclamation consequent to the substantial progress of the peace negotiations with GRP panel assurance to facilitate the release of the three remaining NDFP consultants Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza through presidential clemency and other legal modes.

    The GRP likewise committed to expeditiously process the release of all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP starting with the 200 qualified prisoners either through bail, recognizance, pardon or other legal processes in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and to allow them to participate in activities and mechanisms of the peace process.

    The government panel will also worked on the extension of the temporary liberty of the NDFP consultants and staff who were granted bail and released on August 2016 allowing them to continue participate during the duration of the peace negotiations.<>On top of the commitments to move forward the issues of the bilateral ceasefire and releases, both parties have also set the ground rules for the conduct of the formal meetings between the panels of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) SER.

    The RWCs-SER agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers as part of the governing framework of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on SER).

    They also created bilateral teams to help reconcile contentious provisions in the GRP and NDFP drafts. In the next round of talks, the RWCs-SER will discuss the remaining issues under the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, National Industrialization and Economic Development, Environmental Protection, Rehabilitation and Compensation and the outputs of the bilateral team.
    On the other hand, the Reciprocal Working Groups (RWGs) on PCR formally exchanged full drafts of the tentative agreement on PCR based on the common outline agreed upon during the last round of talks last October 2016.

    One of the issues tackled in the meeting of the RWG during the third round is the federal form of government and the need for certain constitutional guarantees and safeguards demanded by the people.

    Bello said the joint statement adopted by both panels reflects their unwavering commitment to the peace process with an agreement to hold the fourth round-of-talks on April 2 to 6 back in Oslo, Norway.

    Bello said the third round saw both panels drawn to their task of bringing the negotiations to logical conclusion of lowering, if not ending, violence and of finding a closure to the armed conflict.
    The past five days of the talks, Bello said the panels were not deterred from exploring new ways and other platforms to advance the talks.

    “Our search for common ground on contentious issues such as the release of prisoners and bilateral ceasefire, were spirited by the counsel of our third party facilitator,” Bello said, quoting a line from the speech of Norwegian Special Envoy for the GRP-NDFP peace talks Elisabeth Slattum that the peace process is not a zero sum game where there is one winner and one loser, rather one where both parties come out with the winning side.

    Bello credited members of both panels for their diligence and patience in holding the talks as these added building blocks on moving the talks forward.

    Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Jesus Dureza hoped to see the fruition in the government's towards achieving a just and lasting peace.

    Dureza said the third round has been a marathon seven-day parallel long session between the two panels. Already, he said, the peace roadmap is there.

    "The road to peace is not always smooth. There are always humps and bumps along the way but it is very important that we keep the course together," he said.

    10th ID condemns NPA execution of 2 civilians in Davao City

    From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 10th ID condemns NPA execution of 2 civilians in Davao City

    The Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division on Friday strongly condemned the New People's Army (NPA) for killing two innocent civilians whom they claimed were military stooges and drug dealers.

    The first such killing took place on Jan. 16, when an NPA liquidation squad shot and killed Alberto T. Sablada in Paquibato, Davao City, while the second incident took place on Jan. 23 in Calinan, where rebels gunned down Alfredo Bondoc.

    "The 10th Infantry Division takes strong offense on the unfounded allegation of the NPA-SMRC (Southern Mindanao Regional Command) spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez that an NPA liquidation victim Alberto Sablada was a 'stooge' of the 73rd Infantry Battalion and that the NPA killing was a 'dispensation of justice'," 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Rhyan Batchar said.

    He also contested Sanchez's claims that Pondoc is a drug trader as the latter is known to be only a farmer in the Calinan area.

    "The 73rd Infantry Battalion is not or any way connected to Sablada as 'stooge' or to any Alamara group, if there is such, as claimed by Sanchez. Currently, the 73rd Infantry Battalion holds as its area of responsibility the Provinces of Davao Occidental, Davao del Sur and Sarangani and does not operate in Calinan, Davao City," Batchar said.

    He added that warrants of arrest can only be implemented by duly authorized authorities such as the PNP or other law enforcement agency as ordered by the court, he added.

    He stressed the NPA is not a legitimate law enforcement unit. As such, their actions are criminal.

    "The NPA is Never a People's Army, they are a bunch of bandits wantonly killing innocent civilians," Batchar concluded.