Sunday, July 9, 2017

Shooting holes in the myth of the homemade 'Barrett' sniper rifle

From the Philippine Star (Jul 9): Shooting holes in the myth of the homemade 'Barrett' sniper rifle

A Philippine Marine guards the display of high-powered firearms, ammunitions, uniforms and black ISIS-style flags which were recovered from Muslim militants Tuesday, May 30, 2017 in Marawi city southern Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
The myth of the deadliness of rebel copies of the .50-cal Barrett M82 rifle is just that -- a myth.
Outlawed Islamic militants in Marawi City have been using photos of them carrying improvised "Barrett" rifles for propaganda without even knowing these are not even as good as the bolt-action and self-loading automatic rifles of World War II.
Possession of local Barrett rifles has long been a fad in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a peace agreement with the government, and in the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that splintered from the MILF in 2010.
While there is no data on how many soldiers or militiamen have been killed with shots from afar using home-made Barrett rifles, military and private surgeons and tissue trauma specialists in at least five Mindanao hospitals are certain that no one from among the gunshot patients they have treated in the past five years was injured with a metal-jacketed 12.7x99 millimeter bullet fired from copies of the M82.
“We would know the difference immediately from x-ray films and when we cut through parts of a patient’s body that we need to explore for treatment,” an Army physician told The STAR on Sunday.
Even military embalmers in the Philippine Army’s Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao are sure that all of the soldiers killed in action that they have embalmed in previous years did not die from a .50-cal bullet injury.
“I’m not a doctor but with my almost 30 years experience as an embalmer, I can tell if a soldier was killed by a regular-type of rifle or an explosive,” said a source, a staff sergeant.

'Not a precision weapon'

A trained sniper, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commanding officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, said Sunday that the mythical homemade Barrett rifle cannot be called a “precision weapon” that users can rely on. 
Most of the Barrett rifles recovered during  military and police operations in central Mindanao in the past five years, including those seized in recent weeks from the Maute terror group in Marawi City, do not have helical grooves, or rifling, in their barrels.
The rifling ensures the aerodynamic stability of every bullet that comes out of the barrel towards a target.
Some improvised Barrett rifles are fitted with barrels of genuine .50-cal machineguns trimmed using lathe machines.   
Some locally-produced Barrett rifles now in the custody of different police and Army units have rifling through sharp manual metal tapering tools and extended round files.
“There must also be perfection in the placements of bolt, bullet chamber and barrel and only the original Barrett rifles have that,” Cabunoc said.
The first factory-made .50 caliber M82 Barrett rifles came out in 1982, produced by Ronnie Barrett of the Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, an American gun producer in Christiana, Tennessee. An improved version of the M82, the M82A1 came out in 1986.
Cabunoc has tested in the shooting range several copies of what is most known in Mindanao as “Barrett rifles” and found out that each can definitely kill and maim, but only within a distance of 30 to 60 meters.
“The sniping course is a very difficult course. You include in your sniping science vital studies like wind direction, target acquisition, the effects of rain and drizzle and trajectory scales,” said Cabunoc, who regularly competes in rifle shooting contests.
Another rifle marksman, Lt. Col. Isagani Criste, an Army Ranger, said a sniping rifle and a sniper is a “man and machine tandem” that need years of becoming physically and mechanically correlated with each other.
“I haven’t tested any home-made Barrett rifle yet. All I can say is that engineering precision is so important in rifles. There can never be substitute to the combination of sniper discipline and rifle efficiency in any combat situation. There is this thing called `demands of the machine’ that we should understand in every engagement,” Criste said.
A scout sniper from the Army's First Scout Ranger Regiment. AFP, release

Shooters weigh in

An Army colonel, who requested anonymity, said he has personally studied the efficiency of homemade Barrett rifles during a friendly shooting competition between soldiers and MILF guerrillas at the former headquarters of the 603rd Infantry Brigade in Camp Iranon in Barira town in Maguindanao.
“There was immense difficulty hitting small targets from a distance of 30 meters using their 'Barrett' rifles,” he said.
It was gunsmiths in the MILF who first produced the homemade Barrett rifles using genuine copies recovered from Army and Marine personnel killed in encounters at strategic stretches of the Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway in the neighboring towns of Kapatagan and Matanog, in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, respectively, during the 2000 “all out war” of President Joseph Estrada against the rebel group.
Just to look good and intimidating, many of the homemade Barrett rifles that can be seen around were fitted with scopes not designed for that kind of firearm.
“Scopes also have specifications. There are scopes for long-range shooting and scopes for average distances. I have fired many captured Barrett rifles and all I can say is that all stories, stating that many of our men killed in line of duty in recent years were felled by enemy snipers using Barrett rifles, are but rumors,” said Col. Markton Abo, civil-military relations officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, who also participates in rifle and pistol shooting competitions, said he tested for curiosity's sake many of the Barrett rifles recovered by policemen in law-enforcement operations and discovered that some fired bullets that tumble while swishing through the air.
“The paper targets and the thin GI sheets we used for testing bore oblong bullet holes,” Tello said.
Even multi-awarded members of the vaunted Cotabato City Pistol and Rifle Association disagree with assertions that the Moro-made Barrett is a deadly weapon of state enemy forces like the Maute terror group and the BIFF.
“Good shooters understand what bullet head weights and distances of targets are all about, the difference between slow and fast burning gunpowder and barrel length and gunpowder compensation,  which cannot be learned overnight. Surely they don’t have that out there,” said a member of the gun club.
Criste said there are also scientific factors that are to be considered in engagements of well-trained snipers in actual combat that can affect their proficiency.
“When you are in actual combat situation, there is tension, noise, heat during the day and cold temperatures at nighttime or when it’s raining. Add to that the pumping of excessive adrenaline in your system. If you can’t stand or overcome all of those, you will never be a good sniper. It takes years to learn how to overcome them,” Criste said.

Visayan Sea security up

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 8): Visayan Sea security up

The Visayan Sea Safety and Security Inter-Agency Task Force has been established to prevent the spread of terrorism and related activities in central Philippines.

Representatives of various security and government agencies signed on Wednesday a memorandum of understanding formally creating the inter-agency task force in Cebu.

Among the signatories were Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the AFP Central Command, and Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, who supervises security operations in Negros Island Region, Western and Central Visayas.

The signing of the MOU aims to strengthen security measures in the Visayan region, in collaboration with often government agencies.

The MOU serves as a framework for engaging various agencies of the government in the preemptive campaign against terrorists and other criminal elements from traversing to Visayas provinces, and to deputize the AFP to provide logistical and manpower support to the civilian components of the task force, including the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as the Maritime Industry Authority, Lactao said.
Lactao has been designated as chairperson of the security task force.

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division also organized task forces in Bohol, Negros,Panay.

The Task Force Buglas in Negros Occidental recently created the task groups to monitor closely the entry points of the province.

On Tuesday, Aying also visited the island-province of Siquijor,in preparation for the creation of a task force that will secure the area from lawless groups.

Top defense officials briefed, assess battle in Marawi

From Rappler (Jul 9): Top defense officials briefed, assess battle in Marawi

The officials and ground commanders assess enemy strengths and weaknesses, and how the military can adjust to these observations

TACTICAL OPERATIONS BRIEFING. AFP chief General Eduardo Año (center) visits Marawi City alongside other top defense officials to discuss the situation with ground commanders. Photo from AFP

TACTICAL OPERATIONS BRIEFING. AFP chief General Eduardo Año (center) visits Marawi City alongside other top defense officials to discuss the situation with ground commanders. Photo from AFP

Top security and military officials visited Marawi City last Friday, July 7, as government troops marked the 46th day fighting terrorists.

In a press release on Sunday, July 9, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief General Eduardo Año "received an extensive briefing" from Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, Joint Task Force Marawi and Army 1st Infantry Division commander, during the visit to the war-torn city.

Lorenzana and Año were accompanied by all of the AFP's major service commanders as well as top defense department officials. Also present were National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr and Presidential Assistant for Military Affairs Arthur Tabaquero.
Military and police commanders on the frontlines also joined the briefing.

"After the 25-minute briefing, a thorough deliberation and assessment followed unhampered. Secretary Lorenzana and General Año each had the opportunity to appreciate, inquire about, and provide inputs on the ends, ways, and means of the ongoing operations. Adjustments necessary to enhance the concepts of operation and lines of effort to end the 46-day-old crisis were discussed," said the AFP.

The military also said the top officials assessed enemy strengths and weaknesses, and talked about how the military can adjust to these observations.

Fighters and sympathizers of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups attempted to take over the Lanao del Sur capital on May 23, following an operation to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The two groups earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). Hapilon is supposedly the "emir" of ISIS in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of families have been forced to flee Marawi City due to the clashes. Residents have been living in evacuation centers and in the homes of friends or relatives in nearby towns.

The clashes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which gives more leeway for soldiers and police to conduct warrantless arrests.

Martial law has also resulted in the issuance of arrest orders against alleged leaders and members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, as well as personalities believed to be sympathetic towards them.

"We have the momentum; we dictate the operational tempo; we have the support of the people at large. Thus we are confident that the triumph of the forces of good against that of evil is irreversible. It is just a matter of time," said Año.

TOP OFFICIALS. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana get a briefing from ground commanders on the 46th day of the Marawi crisis. Photo from AFP

The military, however, has already missed several self-imposed deadlines for the conflict in Marawi City. Air strikes and clearing operations continue as fighters continue to control parts of the city.

"We are constantly and daily gaining battle space while the terrorists' grounds recede by the day as our troops press on relentlessly with their advance," said Año.

Lorenzana has since refused to give another deadline for the end of the conflict, but promised evacuees that the government is already working on rehabilitation and reconstruction plans for the Islamic City.

The AFP said 367 terrorists have been killed and 367 firearms recovered as of Saturday, July 8. At least 39 civilians have been killed by the terrorists.
Another 1,722 civilians who were either trapped in the main battle area or taken hostage by the terrorists have since been rescued by both government and non-governmental groups.

Martial law will be in place for 60 days or until July 22. But Duterte can ask Congress, which is dominated by his allies, for an extension.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa earlier said they are inclined to recommend that martial law be extended, given the situation on the ground. Dela Rosa said martial law could also be used to make the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City easier.

AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla earlier said the military is finalizing its recommendation and could submit it to Duterte as early as the week of July 10.

The President himself has said that he will not lift martial law by the time he delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

3 Abu Sayyaf members killed in clash with soldiers in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Jul 9): 3 Abu Sayyaf members killed in clash with soldiers in Sulu

Three members of the Abu Sayyaf local terrorist group were killed in an encounter Saturday in Sulu Province, as troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu continue to besiege the lairs of ASG remnants, the Western Mindanao Command said in a report.
Soldiers of the 21st Infantry Battalion headed by Major Christopher Genzola engaged in an hour-long fierce firefight with heavily armed ASG under Almujer Yaddah at Sitio Darayan at the boundary of Barangay Danag and Barangay Buhanginan, both of Patikul, Sulu at 8:45 a.m. Saturday.

One soldier was killed in the clash.

During clearing operations, troops recovered one unidentified body of the enemy from the encounter site.

“Our operating troops were also able to see the bandits dragging two bodies of their companions who appeared to be already lifeless,” said Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, Commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu.

Troops were acting upon information initially taken from the two recovered kidnap victims Friday afternoon in Daang Puti, Patikul, Sulu.

Rocabo and Leones specifically pinpointed the locations of the targetted Abu Sayyaf group who were keeping captive other kidnap victims, including some Vietnamese crewmen. The ASG last week beheaded two of their Vietnamese captives.

“As we speak, skirmishes are still ongoing as our troops are going after the tracks of the withdrawing bandits,” said BGen Sobejana.

“The soldiers are very careful in their movements since it is believed that the Abu Syayaf group is still carrying with them around 6 to 7 kidnap victims.

“During the course of encounter, one soldier died and 15 others were slightly wounded. All WIA [wounded in action] were safely evacuated and are already being treated at the Kamp Teofilo Busbos Hospital in Jolo, Sulu, while the body of the dead soldier was brought to the military mortuary in the JTF Sulu headquarters,” Sobejana said.

“The family of the fallen soldier will immediately be notified and will receive all compensations due to the family of a hero.

“Forces of the JTF Sulu are in still in the area pursuing the bandits who left several blood stains on their tracks. We will continue pressing them on until these terrorists are all neutralized and the KVs rescued,” said Sobejana.

NDF: Political prisoners’ release highlights continuing struggles

From InterAksyon (Jul 8): NDF: Political prisoners’ release highlights continuing struggles

Emeterio Antalan freed political prisoner

Detail from a poster featuring Emeterio Antalan. Photograph from SELDA

In a statement attributed to Alan Jazmines, Vice-Chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, the NDFP welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent move to release 10 political prisoners.

“This is a step in the right direction, despite being quite partial and belated, and should immediately be followed up with the soonest release of more than 400 other political prisoners, some of whom have long been imprisoned,” NDFP said, pointing out that the demand for the immediate release of political prisoners has long been a nagging issue of justice, of human rights, and of the peace talks “and should be undertaken immediately, free from the whims of GRP officials, and without at all imposing conditions on the NDFP.”

NDFP added that among the long-held political prisoners the NDFP has been pressing to be immediately released by the GRP are NDFP peace consultants Leopoldo Caloza, Ferdinand Castillo and Eduardo Sarmiento. “Like newly-released Emeterio Antalan, who had been a staunch advocate of and fighter for comprehensive agrarian reform before his arrest and even while in prison, the imprisoned NDFP consultants could significantly contribute in the current talks on socioeconomic reforms given their decades of leadership in the struggles of peasants and workers in the country.

“It is only right that they should be immediately released, together with hundreds of other political prisoners.

“Many among the newly-released political prisoners, like Manolito Matricio, are also farmers, who were imprisoned just because of their struggle for land. They attest to the fact that the demand for genuine land reform, a priority in the ongoing talks on socioeconomic reforms, has been a long-standing demand the mass of our farmers will continue to stand up and fight for.”

At the press conference held by the newly-released political prisoners, Matricio declared his staunch support for the continuation of the peace talks and the forging of a comprehensive socioeconomic agreement that would include a genuine land reform program.

Matricio is a member of the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and part of the “Mamburao 6” group of farmers who were imprisoned for resisting land grabbing in Mamburao in Mindoro Occidental.

“The political prisoners’ cause and activism for land reform show that the peace talks between the NDFP and GPH must indeed continue and succeed.

“With the resumption of the stalled 5th Round of the peace talks, the NDFP RWC-SER is intent on again urgently bringing to the table this very basic demand for genuine land reform and other proposals for socioeconomic reforms.

“We expect that, this time around, substantial gains for the benefit of the Filipino people will be achieved,” NDFP said.

Three Army militiamen abducted by suspected NPA guerillas in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur

From  (Jul 9): InterAksyon (Jul 9): Three Army militiamen abducted by suspected NPA guerillas in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur

NPA Surigao del Sur

NPA guerillas operating in Surigao del Sur on the move along the San Miguel and Marihatag border. Photographed by Erwin M. Mascariñas, News5 | InterAksyon

The Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion (36IB) reported that three members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (CAA) have been abducted by alleged members of the News People’s Army (NPA) in the town of San Miguel in Surigao del Sur Saturday morning.

“We were informed by our patrol unit based in Barangay Bitaugan that three members of our CAA unit were abducted by armed men at around 4:00 in the morning of July 8. We believe that members of the NPA Guerilla Front 21 carried out the abduction, initial information from the ground indicated that around 27 of them took the unarmed CAA members from their respective houses,” said Captain Francisco P Garello Jr, Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the 36IB.

Garello identified the abducted militiamen as CAA Jerry Quillano, a 40-year old resident of Purok 8; CAA Mama B. Abao, 24; and 19-year old CAA Aljhun P. Miñano, both from Purok 6 and all from Barangay Bitaugan.

“The NPA rebels first went to Purok 6 and took Abao and Miñano. They then proceeded to the adjacent Purok 8 and took Quillano in front of terrified family members. Reports from residents also suggest that the NPA who led the abduction were identified as Joven Agustin, Alvin Maca and Alyas Arby,” said Garello.

Lt. Col. Randolph P. Rojas, battalion commander of the 36IB, condemned the action of the NPA, citing that such abductions amounted to nothing more but acts of terrorism.

“The members of the CAA were unarmed and abducted while inside their homes. We condemn such actions as it only shows their lack of compassion for the civilian populace, and this is a clear act of terrorism. We are calling out to everyone to help our soldiers and police officers hasten the process of justice needed by those who were abducted,” said Rojas.

When the abduction took place, soldiers were conducting military operation in several parts of Surigao del Sur to implement the Brigade’s response to what they perceived as a threat from the NPA, as intelligence reports indicated that the armed group apparently intended to heighten its tactical offensive on both military and government installations.

Last May 17, 2017, the NPA abducted CAA Jerimeas E. Estrada in Purok Lansones, Barangay San Agustin Norte, Tandag City in the province of Surigao del Sur. The CAA was released six days later at Palo Cinco, Barangay Buenavista of the same city.

The NPA has yet to issue a statement on this latest abduction.

NPA guerillas operating in Surigao del Sur on the move along the San Miguel and Marihatag border.

AFP to create unit to defend PH military cyberspace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 9): AFP to create unit to defend PH military cyberspace

With the Internet now being used as a platform for attacks by various threat groups natiownide, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday announced that it will build up a capable "cyber workforce" that will secure and defend the military’s information networks and systems.

This was announced by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo as the military concludes its Cybersecurity Summit which is aimed at educating and informing its members about the latest trends in cybersecurity.

It tapped partners from the information and communications technology sector to impart knowledge and strategies on how to address the latest cybersecurity threats.

“It is high time that the AFP raise awareness for a secure and resilient AFP cyberspace as we adapt to the rapid technological advancements brought by the digital age,” Arevalo stated.

The two-day summit was spearheaded by the Office of the Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Communication Electronics and Information System (CEIS).

It took place last June 28 to 29 at AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

It gathered some of the military’s information technology experts as well as representatives from the CEIS offices of the AFP Major Services and Unified Commands, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard.

Resource persons from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, National Privacy Commission, and other partners from the private sector attended the event.

Among the topics discussed in the summit were the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022, Data Privacy Act of 2012, Cyber Crime and Prevention, and Cyber Threat Awareness and Updates.

During the summit, AFP deputy chief-of-staff for CEIS Major Gen. Jose Tanjuan, Jr. , announced that his office has been developing a strategic plan specifically to enhance the military's cyberspace capabilities.

“The development of the AFP Cyberspace Strategic Plan is one of the thrusts of the AFP in attaining information security. It will provide the Armed Forces with a roadmap that will lead us to the realization of a fully cyberspace-capable organization by 2022,” he added.

The AFP Cyberspace Strategic Plan is expected to be finalized within the third quarter of 2017.