Saturday, April 29, 2017

PNP says no evidence ISIS behind Quiapo blast

From Rappler (Apr 30): PNP says no evidence ISIS behind Quiapo blast

Metro Manila police say ISIS is only claiming responsibility for the blast to 'promote their cause and interest, and gain global recognition'

QUIAPO BLAST. Police process the scene of the blast in Quiapo, Manila. Photo by Ezra Acayan/Rappler

QUIAPO BLAST. Police process the scene of the blast in Quiapo, Manila. Photo by Ezra Acayan/Rappler
Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde on Sunday, April 30 said police will not comment on reports that the terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for a April 28 blast in Quiapo, Manila “until we confirm with certainty that such claim was really made by them.”

Still, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO)’s top cop insisted that “there are no confirmed reports on any presence of members of ISIS in the country.” The PNP in the past has said that the “ISIS-inspired” Maute group was already in Metro Manila.
On Friday evening, April 28, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in a commercial area in Quiapo, Manila, the same day regional leaders flew into the country for the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila.
Police immediately ruled out any possibility of the blast being a terror threat, saying it was the result of a local scuffle.

Albayalde himself insisted the blast “has nothing to do with the ASEAN Summit. This has nothing to do whatsoever. This is not a terror attack.”

At least 14 people were injured by the blast, although a bulk of those have since been discharged from the hospital.

On Saturday, April 29, SITE Intelligence Group said the ISIS-run Amaq News Agency “reported that the group is responsible for a bombing in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.”
Albayalde said that based on evidence on-hand, “there is nothing to indicate or show that the Quiapo explosion is connected with any terrorist or threat group.”

“We maintain that this incident is nothing but a local peace and order concern involving feuding gangs or persons in the Quiapo area. As in the past, several similar incidents transpired in the said area already,” he added.

A minor had apparently been beaten up by 3 individuals on April 26. Initial police investigations point to the blast being an act of “revenge” from the minor’s father.

“It would also appear, that again, as in several instances of acts of violence or disruption of peace and order in other countries, the ISIS is grabbing the opportunity to promote their cause and interest, and gain global recognition by claiming outright responsibility for the said explosion,” said Albayalde.

Engine spares needed for 4 of PAF's brand-new AW-109 attack helis

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): Engine spares needed for 4 of PAF's brand-new AW-109 attack helis

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is looking for suppliers capable of supplying it with spare parts needed for the maintenance of the engine system of its four brand-new AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters.

The above-mentioned aircraft are in the thick of the fight against lawless elements and terror groups in Mindanao, supporting the older McDonnell Douglas MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopters and Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" light bombers in their closed-air support missions.

Budget for the project is placed at PHP11,155,000. Parts are for the AW-109 attack helicopters with tail numbers 816, 819, 820, and 821.

Pre-bid conference is slated on May 5, 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

While bid opening is on May 23, 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The first two PAF attack AW-109s were commissioned last Aug. 17, 2015 while the remaining six were formally accepted for PAF service on Dec. 5 of that year.

The Philippines signed an eight-unit attack AW-109E order with AgustaWestland in 2013 for PHP3. 44 billion.

Chinese naval contingent now at Sasa Wharf

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): Chinese naval contingent now at Sasa Wharf

The three naval vessels of the China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Task Group 150 has arrived in Sasa Wharf, Davao City Sunday.

The goodwill visit of these ships started Sunday and will end on Tuesday.

Lt. Jetmark Marcos, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao public affairs office chief, identified the visiting Chinese ships as the guided-missile destroyer Chang Chun (DDG-150), guided-missile frigate Jin Zhou (FFG-532) and Type 903 replenishment ship Chao Hu (890).

The visit is aimed at expanding communication, promoting cooperation and improving friendship of the Philippine Navy (PN) and PLA Navy, and foster camaraderie and mutual understanding of the two navies through naval diplomacy.

Marcos said the flotilla is commanded by Rear Admiral Shen Hao, East Sea Fleet deputy commander and head of Navy Task Group 150.

The Chinese naval contingent was met by the BRP Nicolas Mahusay (PC-119) for the customary meeting point procedure at the vicinity north of Davao Gulf and escorted the vessels to its designated berthing area.

PN delegates accorded the visiting navy a welcome ceremony upon arrival followed by a port briefing for security and health aboard one of the PLA Navy vessels.

This goodwill visit is the first for China for this year and the first in the recent years since their last visit on April 2010 when missile frigates Ma’anshan, Wenzhou and comprehensive supply ship Qiandaohu were also warmly welcomed at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila after a completing a 128-day escort mission in the Gulf of Aden.

Army expands peace initiatives in Kidapawan

From MindaNews (Apr 29): Army expands peace initiatives in Kidapawan

KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion wants to expand its Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) to five more barangays that it considers as “rebel hotspots” after claiming success in at least 10 barangays here.

The city, comprising 40 barangays, is adjacent to Magpet town where, two weeks ago, one of its villages was raided by an estimated 100 guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) clad in full-battle gear. The rebels carted away at least 32 high-powered firearms and ammunitions from the barangay officials, village guards, and civilians.

The city is considered by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) as part of its Guerrilla Front 53 under the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command.

1st Lt. Silver Belvis, spokesperson of the 39th IB, had earlier told reporters they now consider the 10 barangays “NPA-free” six months after it launched its PDOP there.

Among these barangays are San Roque, San Isidro, and Santo Nino, which are near Barangay New Cebu in President Roxas, North Cotabato, also considered ‘highly influenced’ by the communist guerillas.

The Army’s PDOP aims to bring the military and the government closer to the people and protect them from the so-called, “infiltration” and “exploitation” of armed threat groups, particularly the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA.

Buried drum yields firearm; NPA sightings more frequent

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 29): Buried drum yields firearm; NPA sightings more frequent

Operating troops belonging to the army’s 50th Infantry Battalion (50th IB) discovered a drum buried in the ground that contained an armalite and subversive documents of New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Apatan, Pinukpuk, Kalinga province yesterday morning.

Major General Paul T. Atal, commander of the army’s 5th Infantry Division (5ID), said troopers were on security patrol at 6 a.m. when they discovered the drum believed buried by members of the Komiteng Larangan Guerrilla Baggas, a local guerrilla unit of NPA that operates in the area.

Apart from an M16A1 rifle, the drum also contained detonating cord, detonating fuse and subversive documents.

In a related development, the Cagayan Police Provincial Office (PPO) recorded 989 sightings of NPA rebels in the 12 towns of the province.

Chief Inspector Santos Valdovizo said there are two main groups of communist rebels operating in Cagayan – the west committee led by Christina Garcia, and the east committee headed by David Soriano. Together, their members are scattered over 89 barangays in the province.

Infamous Abu Sayyaf Leader Killed

From the Maritime Executive (Apr 29): Infamous Abu Sayyaf Leader Killed

Philippines army

Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya, also known as Abu Misaya, was reportedly killed in a military operation on Friday night in Parang town in the province of Sulu in the Philippines.

Three of the group’s most notorious pirate leaders have now been killed in April alone, as the nation’s military strives to meet the June 2017 deadline for eradicating the Abu Sayyaf set by its Commander-in-Chief, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Misaya was known as the Abu Sayaf’s bomb expert. He was reportedly responsible for a series of bomb attacks as well as maritime piracy in the Philippines.

Reports of Misaya’s death coincide with the four-day ASEAN summit held in Manila where leaders expressed concerns on the growing maritime piracy and terrorism in the ASEAN region. Prior to the ASEAN summit, Duterte sent at least 10,000 highly trained soldiers to Basilan and Sulu to finish off the Abu Sayaf.

The death of Misaya came barely three weeks after the death of another Abu Sayaf sub-leader Muamar Askali, also known as Abu Rami. He was killed in the Central Philippines after a fire-fight encounter with joint police and military forces in the province of Bohol. Rami and 10 fighters had sailed from Sulu to Bohol to target Western tourists for their kidnap for ransom activities. (Bohol is home to the Loboc River, which is frequented by Western tourists taking ferry cruises.)

The third Abu Sayaf sub-leader killed this month was Joselito Melloria, a Muslim convert and a native of Bohol. Four other fighters were also killed in that week-long military encounter in Bohol.

The group’s overall leader, Radullon Sahiron, is now the only top leader left, and with the continuous military pressure, he has reportedly sent out surrender feelers to the military.

Raking in the Money

Through the operational leadership of Rami and Misaya, the Abu Sayaf has raked in at least $12 million since 2012 from kidnap, piracy and extortion activities.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella was quoted by media outlet Rappler saying that the death of Misaya is a “big blow to the notorious kidnap-for-ransom terrorist group.” He also reminded communities that fighting terrorism is a “shared responsibility.”

Duterte visited Basilan in July last year to offer peace talks with the Abu Sayaf, but the latter rejected the offer. Upon learning of the rejection, Duterte warned them he would eat them alive with vinegar on their flesh.

Who is Abu Misaya?

Aside from his bomb expertise, Misaya was known as the most notorious leader of Abu Sayaf. He was responsible for kidnappings and maritime piracy around the Southern Philippines and Malaysia border. A self-styled spokesman, he led a group that abducted Indonesian, Vietnamese and Malaysian sailors.

Misaya’s group demanded money from their captives’ relatives, and those captives whose relatives failed to deliver their ransom on time, were killed, often by beheading.

Misaya, as a new Abu Sayaf recruit in 2002 was reportedly involved in the 2002 bomb attack in a U.S. military facility in Zamboanga City that killed a U.S. serviceman and wounded 23 others. Misaya earned the respect of his colleagues and eventually became the leader of the kidnapping and piracy wing of the group. The U.S. government announced a $15,000 money reward for information leading to his arrest.

Abu Rami was a Teacher’s Son

The death of Rami will leave a leadership vacuum in the kidnapping operations of the Abu Sayaf. Son of a police officer and a teacher, he was schooled in Notre Dame, a Catholic School in Jolo, and later was groomed to be one of the most feared maritime piracy leaders in the Philippine-Malaysia border.

Military reports confirmed that Rami reportedly shared some of the money ransom from kidnapping and maritime piracy activities with residents of the village protecting him from pursuing police and military authorities. The Armed Forces of the Philippines had difficulties arresting Rami as the community would not cooperate with the military officials pursuing him.

Philippines completes scientific survey in South China Sea

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 28): Philippines completes scientific survey in South China Sea

The Philippines has completed an 18-day scientific survey in the South China Sea to assess the condition of coral reefs and draw a nautical map of disputed area, a top security official said on Thursday.

Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool/File Photo / MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Two survey ships, including an advanced research vessel acquired from the United States, conducted surveys around Scarborough Shoal and on three islands, including Thitu, in the Spratly group, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said.

“This purely scientific and environmental undertaking was pursued in line with Philippine responsibilities under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea to protect the marine biodiversity and ensure the safety of navigation within the Philippines’ EEZ,” Esperon said in a statement.

He gave no details of the findings from the reef assessments and nautical mapping of the area done from April 7-25.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, but it appeared to have allowed the survey. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the strategic waterway.

Other countries in the region were regularly making scientific surveys in the area, said a navy official who declined to be named.

The navy official told Reuters the Philippines also conducts marine survey from time to time, but this was its first major undertaking since 2011, when a Chinese patrol boat harassed a survey ship hired by an Anglo-Filipino company to explore for oil and gas in the Reed Bank.

Esperon said researchers from the environment ministry, the country’s premier university and the navy took part in the expedition.

“This is the first leg of the expedition,” he said, adding the government also plans to conduct research in Benham Rise, part of the Philippines’ continental shelf, in the Pacific Ocean.

Hague ruling not mentioned: Absent China gains from watered down ASEAN chairman statement

From the Philippine Star (Apr 29): Hague ruling not mentioned: Absent China gains from watered down ASEAN chairman statement 

 This photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of part of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly islands on April 21, 2017. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana flew to a disputed South China Sea island on April 21, brushing off a challenge by the Chinese military while asserting Manila's territorial claim to the strategic region. Ted Aljibe/AFP
President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday is set to weaken Southeast Asian resistance to Chinese expansionism in the contested South China Sea as he hosts a regional summit, diplomats said.
Duterte is expected to release a chairman's statement at the end of the one-day Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) leaders meeting that ignores an international tribunal ruling rejecting China's sweeping claims to the strategically vital waterway.

Ahead of the summit Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop Chinese artificial island building in areas they claimed, so there was no point protesting against it at diplomatic events such as Saturday's summit. Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop Chinese artificial island building in areas they claimed, so there was no point protesting against it at diplomatic events such as Saturday's summit.   
"It cannot be an issue anymore. It's already there. What would be the purpose also of discussing it if you cannot do anything," Duterte told reporters on Thursday.Duterte told reporters on Thursday.

China has been turning reefs and shoals in areas of the sea claimed by the Philippines and other nations into artificial islands, and installing military facilities there.

The United States has criticized the construction work, warning against militarization in the waterway where $5 trillion in annual trade passes.

ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the sea, but China insists it has sovereign rights over nearly all of it, even waters approaching its neighbors' coasts.

The Philippines, under previous president Benigno Aquino, had lobbied hard at ASEAN summits for the bloc to voice its strong opposition to the Chinese expansionism, and official statements at those events often reflected that.

Aquino also filed a case at a UN-backed tribunal asking it to reject China's claims and artificial island building.

The tribunal last year ruled largely in the Philippines' favor. But the ruling came after Duterte, who favors much closer ties with China, took power.

China win
Duterte steadfastly refused to use the verdict to pressure China, instead pursuing warmer relations and billions of dollars' worth of trade and aid.

Duterte's chairman's statement, which is meant to reflect the views of all ASEAN leaders, will not mention the international tribunal ruling nor China directly, according to a draft obtained by AFP.
"We shared the serious concerns expressed by some leaders over recent developments and escalation of activities in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region,"
the draft statement said.

China, through its ambassador to Manila, had this week been heavily lobbying Duterte to weaken it further and drop any reference to international law, delegates and diplomats told AFP.

China had been calling for ASEAN to remove a reference to "respect for legal and diplomatic processes", the diplomats said, adding Duterte was likely to acquiesce.
"The lobbying is quite intense. They (China) want it further watered down," one diplomat told AFP.

Filipino diplomats said the phrase was important because "legal and diplomatic processes" encompassed the entire process of the filing of the case in the tribunal until its resolution.
"In diplomatic terms it can also refer to the tribunal ruling," another diplomat said.

Filipino diplomats had fought hard for its inclusion in the previous statement as a compromise to mentioning the ruling.

An excerpt of an updated copy of the chairman's statement showed the key wording had been dropped, replaced with: "respect for the full supremacy of the law".

The ASEAN leaders are due to begin talks at 10:30 a.m. and will conclude with a dinner in the evening.

The event is also being closely watched for how Duterte, who has shocked with curse-laden tirades against the United States and other critics of his deadly drug war, handles hosting his first major diplomatic event.

Duterte's drug war, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to warnings by rights groups about a possible crime against humanity, has been widely condemned in the West.

But he has enjoyed support from some of his Southeast Asian guests this week, including Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Duterte, Indonesia's Widodo to step up joint counter-terrorism efforts

From Rappler (Apr 28): Duterte, Indonesia's Widodo to step up joint counter-terrorism efforts

The two leaders agree to conduct, this year, a joint working group to address a common scourge: terrorism and violent extremism

PARTNERS VS TERRORISM. President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes President Joko Widodo at Malacañang. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

PARTNERS VS TERRORISM. President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes President Joko Widodo at Malacañang. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo intend to ramp up cooperation between their countries in addressing common security threats: terrorism, piracy at sea, and crimes like illegal drug trafficking.

The two leaders mentioned this shared commitment in their press statements on Friday, April 28, delivered after their bilateral meeting at Malacañang Palace.

"We recognized the need to address both traditional and emerging threats and expressed readiness to step up cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, piracy at sea and transnational crimes, including the trade of illicit drugs," said Duterte.

The two agreed to start a joint working group this year to fight terrorism. Both their countries have had to deal with terror threats by extremist Muslim groups.

"In combating transnational crimes, we also agreed to conduct a joint working group on counter-terrorism this year," said Widodo.

They also intend to expand a 2014 memorandum of understanding between their countries on counter-terrorism cooperation, with the goal of strengthening "intelligence information cooperation," said the Indonesian leader.

The need to combat piracy at sea was another point where the two saw eye to eye. Given their countries' desire to open up new maritime trade routes between them, addressing piracy has become even more important.

The two agreed to launch, "as soon as possible," an Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines maritime patrol to safeguard ships plying their waters, said Widodo.

In a chance interview earlier that day, Duterte said he suggests a "multinational task force" that will accompany boats plying commercial routes between Southeast Asian countries, specifically the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines Eastern ASEAN Growth Area).

"If there’s a commercial route there, you have to consider also the security concerns. So maybe we’ll have to agree to provide escorts in the meantime,"
he said.

He has suggested this to Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who visited the Palace on Thursday.

Mary Jane Veloso
Neither Duterte nor Widodo mentioned jailed overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso in their press statements.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said her case was not discussed during their expanded bilateral meeting.

However, it may have been mentioned during the restrictive meeting between only Widodo and Duterte.

"It will be preemptive to say as well if it was discussed during their private meeting," said the spokesman.

The previous day, Duterte said he might bring up her case with Widodo but would first ask the Indonesian leader if he would be willing to discuss the issue.

In the chance interview before Widodo's arrival, Duterte was asked if he would ask for clemency for Veloso, who is on death row after an Indonesian court accused her of being a drug mule.

"Those are one of the things that are there...As a Filipino, I have a stake there also," he said.

"But I’d like to thank them in advance for the reprieve. Maski ‘yan na lang muna (Maybe that is all for now)," he said.

Duterte did not elaborate on this mention of a "reprieve" as there was not enough time. The welcome ceremony for Widodo was about to start.

He only briefly repeated previous statements that he will respect Indonesia's laws.

"I said that I will honor what the laws are in their country. We will not impose. We will not demand. Nothing," he said.

Cops ask MILF to settle 'infighting' among its members in N. Cotabato village

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): Cops ask MILF to settle 'infighting' among its members in N. Cotabato village

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- Police have asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders to convince its men to put an end to their fighting in interior villages here, which sent residents to flee their homes on Friday.

About 100 families have fled to safer grounds when armed men started engaging in a firefight in the village of Kabasalan.

As of Friday night, the tension has slowed down but residents still refuse to return home.

Chief Inspector Donald Cabigas, Pikit town police chief, said involved in the clashes were families of Kedtag and Buaya, both belonging to the MILF 118th base command and MILF National Guards unit.

"This is a long standing rido (family feud) involving MILF leaders," Cabigas said. "They quarrel over ownership of a vast farmlands in Barangay Kabasalan."

No casualty was reported as of posting.

Cabigas said local Muslim officials were trying to resolve the conflict with the help of Muslim religious leaders of Pikit.

The military's 602nd Brigade, which has jurisdiction over Pikit and neighboring towns in North Cotabato, has asked the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee to help defuse the tension.

The local government of Pikit has already extended emergency aid to the affected families who fled to nearby villages.

Riding-in-tandem gunmen kill barangay exec in Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): Riding-in-tandem gunmen kill barangay exec in Zambo City

The local police have activated a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) to conduct an in-depth probe over the killing of a barangay official in this city.

Chief Insp. Salvador Galvez, Police Station 1 chief, made the announcement on Saturday several hours after riding in tandem gunmen killed Eduardo Caloyloy, 52, Licomo barangay chairperson.

Caloyloy was shot to death around 7:30 p.m. Friday in front of a community store in Barangay Licomo.

Galvez said Caloyloy was fatally shot by an unidentified gunman aboard a motorcycle who stopped in front of the store near the barangay hall of Licomo as the victim and his friends were about to go home after having a drink.

He said another gunman stood nearby as lookout. Both unidentified suspects boarded the motorcycle and fled from the crime scene.

He said all possible motives are being looked into to solve the killing of Caloyloy, who is on his second term as village chief of Licomo.

Caloyloy had just reported back to his official work last month after a three-month suspension on illegal drug use charge.

He was found positive for illegal drug use when the barangay chairpersons of this city submitted themselves for surprise drug tests.

In February, Caloyloy was charged for illegal possession of explosive after a grenade was found on his motorcycle while parked near Licomo barangay hall.

He strongly denied that the grenade was his citing it was placed by his political opponents out to destroy or eliminate him.

3 hurt in series of NPA attacks against Lapanday in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): 3 hurt in series of NPA attacks against Lapanday in Davao

A security guard and a fish vendor were injured in series of attacks launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) in three areas of Davao early morning Saturday.

The Provincial Police Office in Davao Del Norte reported that heavily armed NPA rebels more or less 100 boarded two 10 wheeler-trucks and burned the Macondray Plastics Incorporated (MPI) in Barangay Tagpore, Panabo City around 3:30 a.m.

Tagpore is a boundary area between Panabo and Davao City.

MPI, formerly Agro Plastics, Inc., supplies the requirements of the banana companies under the Lapanday Group.

This was followed by the burning of Lapanday box plant and plastic plant buildings along Tigatto road in Buhangin that resulted to the wounding of security guard Reynaldo Talamaque on his shoulder and stomach.

Buhangin Police Station commander Sr. Inspector Milgrace Driz reported that at

At around 6:00 a.m., the security guard of Lorenzo Farm, Rico Truz Badil, Jr, appeared before the Calinan Police Station, this city, with a lone injury in the buttocks. Badil told police that at around 3:30 a.m., an encounter occurred in Lorezo Farm, Barangay Pangyan, Calinan where he and three other security guards were attacked by the NPA rebels.

The rebels took away four shotguns and one M16 rifle.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the attack was part of the NPA’s extortion activities. He said Lapanday management had been receiving extortion letters from the communist groups.

He said the incident could not be connected to the brewing issue between the Lapanday Foods Incorporated (LFI) and the MARBAI farmers over a 145-hectare land previously awarded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1996.

While the land was successfully turned over by DAR to MARBAI farmers last December 19, according to reports the farmer-beneficiaries were driven out of their own land.

In a press statement released on Saturday, NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operational command spokesperson, Rigoberto Sanchez owned up the attacks. He said the three simultaneous tactical offensives against the Lorenzo-owned companies and ranch started at around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday.
“The PBB's (Pulang Bagani Command) coordinated offensives served as punitive action against the Lorenzos for their numerous crimes against agricultural workers, peasants and Lumad,”
Sanchez said.

Manhunt on for gunmen of Maguindanao town councilor

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): Manhunt on for gunmen of Maguindanao town councilor

A manhunt has been launched by Tacurong City police and military forces against two men who shot dead a Maguindanao town councilor while attending a Muslim wedding here Saturday morning, police said.

Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, Sultan Kudarat provincial police office director, said Councilor Norhasim Ulangkaya, 28, of Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao was shot as he entered Lady Shims Restaurant in Barangay Calean at 10:00 a.m.

Another guest, Norma Karatuan, 52 of Barangay Dalagdagan, Mangudadatu town, also in Maguindanao, was hit by stray bullets.

They were rushed to St. Louis Hospital but Ulangkaya was pronounced dead on arrival by attending physicians. Karatuan was critically injured.

Witnesses told police investigators that the two gunmen were seen at the entrance of the restaurant pretending as guests before the arrival of Ulangkaya.

Ulangkaya arrived at about 10:00 a.m., entered the venue but was shot from behind by one of the two suspects. As the crowd took cover, the suspects fled on board a motorbike.

Palace lauds ‘neutralization’ of notorious ASG leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): Palace lauds ‘neutralization’ of notorious ASG leader

Malacañang on Saturday lauded the killing of notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya in a military operation Friday even as it called on citizens to fully cooperate with the government in its efforts to finally end the threat of the bandit group.

In a statement, Presidnetial Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the death of the extremist commander dealt “a big blow to the notorious kidnap-for-ransom terrorist group.”

“The military has confirmed the death of Misaya, considered the most notorious kidnapper in the ASG,” he said.

“We call on all citizens to remain vigilant, alert and watchful in cooperating with security forces to end the menace of this bandit group. As government holds them accountable for their brutal and senseless crimes, let us cooperate to have safer and more secure communities. This is our shared responsibility,” Abella said.

Marine units have shot and killed Misaya, one of the most notorious ASG sub-leaders wanted for several counts of kidnapping and bomb attacks, during operations in Indanan town, Sulu province Friday night.

According to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, The operation that neutralized Misaya took place at about 9:35 p.m. in Barangay Silangkan.

The AFP official said that no other details could be provided as follow-up operations are ongoing.

Padilla added that focused military operations targeting local terrorist groups in all other areas are continuing as well.

Misaya was a Sulu-based ASG sub-leader and a native of Barangay Bunot, Indanan, Sulu.

He has a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom.

A bomb expert, Misaya was also tagged in many ASG bombing attacks that included the October 2002 Malagutay bombing that killed US serviceman Sgt. Mark Jackson and the wounding of 23 others, including another US serviceman; the January 2009 bombing of the Salaam Bridge in Barangay Bato-Bato, Indanan, Sulu; and the March 2011 bombing of Dennis Coffee Shop at Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo, Sulu that killed four civilians and injured 11 others.

9 Army execs charged over unreturned cash advances

From the Philippine Star (Apr 29): 9 Army execs charged over unreturned cash advances

The Army officers were accused of “inducing or influencing” seven other Army members not to return the cash advances they each received for a cancelled official mission to the United States. photo

Retired and incumbent officials of the Philippine Army are facing graft charges over their alleged failure to return the cash advances they received in 2002 for a cancelled mission to the United States.
In separate case information sheets filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan, retired Army Colonels Arnolfo Palmea and Rommel Cordova were charged with seven counts each of violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Palmea and Cordova were accused of “inducing or influencing” seven other Army members not to return the cash advances they each received for a cancelled official mission to Anniston, Alabama in America but instead deposit the amounts to their private bank accounts with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Savings and Loans Association Inc. (AFPSLAI).
Facing one count each of violation of Section 3 (a) of RA 3019 were Army members Master Sergeant Godofredo Juguilon Jr., Staff Sergeants Marcelino Cuevas, Lorenzo Bassig and Joseph Balazo, Techical Sergeant Simplicio Tagara Jr., Sergeant Ely Amar and Seaman First Class Alain Polancos.

Palmea, meanwhile, is solely facing one count of malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

Based on the information of the cases, Palmea and the seven Army members each received P563,406 cash advances from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Finance Center for an “official mission” to Alabama.

The mission, however, was cancelled on March 27, 2002.

Palmea was the leader of the eight-man team for the supposed mission, while Cordova was at that time assigned at the Philippine Army's Strategic Management Brigade.

The ombudsman said records revealed that the seven Army members deposited their cash advances to their AFPSLAI accounts in November 2002. The ombudsman said this was in violation of Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 97-002, which mandates that a cash advance which has not been used for a period of two months must be returned to a collecting officer or the office that released the amount.
Meanwhile, though there was no allegation that Palmea deposited his cash advances to his AFPSLAI account, the ombudsman said he nonetheless took the amount “for his personal use” as the same was not returned to the AFP Finance Center.

The ombudsman recommended P250,000 and P210,000 bail bond for Palmea and Cordova, respectively.

Meanwhile, P30,000 bail bond was recommended for each of the seven Army members.

Duterte urged: Scrap EDCA, declare ‘Lapu-Lapu’ a hero

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Apr 28): Duterte urged: Scrap EDCA, declare ‘Lapu-Lapu’ a hero

President Rodrigo Duterte urged on Friday to scrap the three-year old Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and to declare Lapu-Lapu a national hero.

The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) in a statement said that it is high time that Duterte should junk the US-Philippine military treaty which was signed under the Aquino administration.

EDCA, according to the group, is a supplemental agreement to the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows American soldiers to use the country’s land and facilities for free.

“Unequal military agreements like EDCA and VFA allow American troops to violate our sovereign and territorial rights as a nation. It also allows U.S. to store its military armaments in our soil, making us a ground zero and vulnerable to attacks by America’s state enemies,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson said in a statement.

Hicap said the President must “put his words into actions by cutting ties with our long-time colonizer and exploiter, the United States of America.”

“Duterte’s previous pronouncements against the U.S. have yet to materialize since he recently allowed another Balikatan exercise between the Filipino and American troops to proceed next month in the guise of humanitarian and civil assistance,” he said.

Hicap perceived the return of U.S bases in the country as the “U.S pivot to Asia” which EDCA apparently became an instrument to allow the installation of military bases across the country.

“The return of U.S. bases and military presence in the country under the EDCA is part of U.S. Pivot to Asia that was a hegemonic strategy introduced by former U.S. President Barack Obama and now adopted and intensified by President Donald Trump,” Hicap pointed out.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also called on the President to declare Lapu-lapu as a hero and declare April 27, the date of the Battle of Mactan as Lapu-lapu  Day.

“In light of the declaration of Pres. Duterte that he will push for an independent foreign policy, it is but right to recognize Lapu-lapu as one of our national heroes in standing up against foreign intervention and invasion. Regardless of the controversies surrounding him, what is unquestionable is that Lapu-lapu is a shining example of patriotism, standing up for our territory and fighting subjugation,” said Zarate.

“Patriotism is much needed now in our country, especially in the so-called age of globalization where powerful countries overtly and covertly dictate the political, economic, military and cultural policies of developing countries like the Philippines. It is high time that the Filipino people should stand up against its present oppressors,” said Zarate.

Sara: NPA is not worthy of my trust, respect

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Apr 29): Sara: NPA is not worthy of my trust, respect

City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio hit out the New People’s Army for torching a plant owned by the Lapanday Foods Corporation.

“We condemn these acts committed by a group that pretends to champion social justice and equality. With its history of carrying out atrocities and its continued penchant for lawlessness and bloodbath, the NPA is an organization that is not worthy of our trust and respect,” Duterte-Carpio said in a statement on Saturday, April 29.

The local chief executive’s statement came after the NPA torched on Saturday two factories and a ranched owned by LFC.

 Earlier, the NPA Southern Mindanao Operations Command Spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said that the communist rebels under the 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion launched three simultaneous tactical offensives in Davao City against the LFC.

Another NPA “assault unit” also attacked the Lorenzo-owned Macondray Plastic Plant in Barangay Bunawan in this city.

Duterte-Carpio described the series of attacks instigated by NPA as “acts of terrorism.” She also took the incidents as a “personal insult” despite the support given by city government on the ongoing peace negotiations between the national government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

It can be recalled that Duterte-Carpio offered to talk peace with the NPA in Davao region but was was deferred awaiting developments on the peace talks between the government and the communist group.

“I would like to assure the people of Davao that our policemen and soldiers are on top of the situation, with the order that the safety of civilians should be ensured and protected at all times. We shall pour all the available resources to achieve this end,” she said.

AFP to give P1-M reward to 3 informants in Bohol clash

From ABS-CBN (Apr 29): AFP to give P1-M reward to 3 informants in Bohol clash

The Philippine government is giving a P1 million reward to 3 informants who tipped off authorities about Abu Sayyaf extremists infiltrating Bohol island earlier this month.

Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao said pursuit operation against the remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters is still ongoing. He assured residents that the 3 remaining bandits are no longer a threat, since they are in survival mode, hungry and on the run.

He thanked residents for being cooperative in helping solve the recent crisis.

A group of about 10 Abu Sayyaf men infiltrated Bohol this month. Western countries have issued travel warnings about visiting the island.

Seven of the extremists were killed, including their leader who had been involved in the kidnap and execution of Canadian and German nationals in recent months, the Philippine military has said.

The military has been struggling to wipe out Abu Sayyaf, which originally had Muslim separatist aims but now engages mostly in banditry and piracy.

The group has been holding more than two dozen captives, most of them Vietnamese sailors, who are easy prey for militants equipped with small, fast boats.