Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Basilan cops nab 4 Abu Sayyaf men

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Basilan cops nab 4 Abu Sayyaf men

The police have arrested four suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits, including a militiaman, involved in the Vietnamese bulk carrier’s hijack last year off Basilan province, an official disclosed Tuesday.

Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, Basilan police director, said the suspects were arrested Monday afternoon in Barangay Ulame, Lamitan City.

Muksan said the suspects were identified as Taha Upao, Bryan Upao, Ibrahim Akhmad and Ibno Akhmad, a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

He said investigation showed the suspects were allegedly involved in the hijacking of M/V Royal 16, a Vietnamese bulk carrier, on November 11, 2016 near Sibago Island, Mohammad Ajul, Basilan.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits, aboard a speed boat, have seized six people when they hijacked M/V Royal 16 while the vessel was passing near Sibago Island, Mohammad Ajul town.

Three of the six remained in captivity since the Abu Sayyaf bandits killed by beheading two of the Vietnamese on July 5 while another managed to escape on June 16.

Troops continue to scour the hinterlands of Basilan in search for the three remaining Vietnamese hostages in the province.


Marine soldier wounded in Palawan roadside explosion

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Marine soldier wounded in Palawan roadside explosion

An improvised explosive device (IED) that was detonated on a roadside early Tuesday afternoon by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bataraza town in southern Palawan injured a Marine private, a military official told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

MBLT-4 commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Danilo Facundo said the injured Marine soldier, who is now in stable condition at a hospital in nearby Brooke’s Point municipality, is one of four from the 24th Marine Company of his battalion.

The commanding officer did not say the name of the soldier who was hurt by shrapnel in the left foot, claiming his family has to be informed first.

Facundo said the roadside explosion happened around 1:00 p.m. when his team was passing through Sitio Tagbituka, Barangay Tarusan to go to Barangay Rio Tuba – both in Bataraza.

The troops were traveling from Barangay Bono-Bono aboard a M35 truck when the incident happened.

“It’s possible that they are retaliating because taking over their training camp in Barangay Samariñana (Brooke’s Point) had really hurt them,” said Facundo when asked of the possibility that the roadside explosion was a NPA retaliation move.

Mayor Abraham Ibba, whose team was in the area as first responder following the roadside explosion, said Tarusan, a quiet barangay in Bataraza that is home to Del Monte’s banana plantation and pineapple farms, was where he was ambushed too, in 2015.

“The site is where I was also ambushed before. It’s characterized by hilly areas, and some parts are densely wooded,” said Ibba.

He added that his office has also received reports that some armed NPAs have been sighted in the borders between Bataraza and Rizal in Barangay Culandanum, but cannot confirm if the roadside bomb explosion was caused by them.

In June, the MBLT-4 was part of a joint task group that scored big time against the NPA when they snatched control of a 12-hectare hinterland area the communist terrorists are using as refuge and drill camp.

Facundo, in an interview then, said: "This enemy training camp of the Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC) served as breeding ground to sow terror in Palawan. We have unmasked their feeling of invincibility because the AFP has the capability to locate enemy camps and neutralize them anywhere, even in mountainous areas.”


Cafgu slain, 5 PSG men hurt in NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Cafgu slain, 5 PSG men hurt in NPA attack

A militiaman was killed while five members of President Duterte’s security personnel were wounded in an ambush staged by the New peoples’ Army in Arakan, North Cotabato early Wednesday.

A police asset was also abducted by the communist rebels, police said.

Senior Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, North Cotabato police director, said members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), led by T/Sgt. Ferbello Galleno, and nine others were on board two vehicles heading for Cagayan de Oro City when they noticed a checkpoint manned by men in military uniform.

Sensing something wrong, the two-vehicle convoy stopped but was fired upon by armed men at around 6:16 a.m. The men in fatigue had displayed Task Force Davao road signage and later turned out to be NPA guerillas at a checkpoint in Barangay Katipunan, Arakan.

Peralta said the NPA rebels, numbering about 100, traded shots with the elite presidential guards, triggering an hour gunbattle until government reinforcements from 7th Infantry Battalion and Arakan municipal police office came.

Peralta identified the injured PSG personnel as S/SGT Matumhay, Cpl Ayam Alia, S/SGT Lisondor, CPL Rodel Ledesma and SSGT Gerry Tursal.

The slain Cafgu member was identified as Ben Padia. The rebels fled toward the hinterlands of Barangay Gambudes, Arakan, bringing with them, Rogelio Magno, reportedly an agent of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Arakan police.

Pursuit operations are still on going.

The wounded PSG personnel are now safe and were brought to Davao City after receiving first aid from a village clinic.


2 Marines killed in Northern Palawan ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): 2 Marines killed in Northern Palawan ambush

Two Marines were killed in the northern Palawan town of Roxas in a broad daylight attack suspected to be carried out by the New People's Army (NPA) Wednesday morning, a senior police official told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The attack on the two Marine privates, whose names remain confidential for their families, came following Tuesday afternoon's roadside bomb attack that injured one Marine soldier in Barangay Tarusan, Bataraza.

Palawan Police Provincial Director Senior Superintendent Gabriel Lopez told the PNA that the two victims belong to the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 (MBLT-12) stationed in Roxas.

"Our field personnel in Roxas are still investigating in the area, but initial reports said the two Marines were shot around 8:15 in the morning," said Lopez.

He said the they were shot and killed by two suspected NPA members near the Magara Elementary School in Barangay Magara, Roxas.

"The incident was reported to us by a civilian. Apparently, they are on their way back to their detachment in Magara from the public market," said Lopez.

One victim suffered five gunshot wounds in the body, and the other three with one bullet in the head, according to Lopez.

"We're confirming this; their bodies are now in the morgue for autopsy," he said.

The gunmen reportedly ran towards the mountain in the vicinity of Sitio Iraan, Magara.

They were described by witnesses as young and thin in body built.

Lopez said the attack could be a retaliative move by the NPA following the military's capture of their training camp in Barangay Samariñana, Brooke's Point in southern Palawan last month.

"It could be that, or it could also be because of the upcoming state of the nation address (SONA) of President (Rodrigo) Duterte," said Lopez.


Duterte backs creation of genuine political entity for Moro people in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Duterte backs creation of genuine political entity for Moro people in Mindanao

Consistent to his policy to address historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to aggressively push to for the creation of a genuine political entity to fulfill the self-determination aspiration of the Moros.

“I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislation for its consideration,” President Duterte vowed as he received the proposed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in Malacanan on Monday.

Duterte, who hailed from Mindanao, expressed his commitment to shepherd the bill as it undergoes the legislative mill in congress.

"There will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the constitution and aspirations of the Moro people.”

“I am for this, within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” he vowed.

The President said the event “marks a new milestone in our history that stand as proof of our resolve to set aside our differences and stand united to achieve a common goal of peace.”

The BBL is the legal foundation of the future Bangsamoro government in Mindanao that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The bill is part of the political track of the peace deal - Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro - signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The basic law aims to provide a genuine political power for the Bangsamoro people to govern over their ancestral lands in Mindanao. The marginalization of the Moros over their territories is one of the root causes of the rebellion that is besetting Mindanao for decades.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) after working overtime in the span of four months.

BTC chair Ghadzali Jaafar described the new draft as an “enhance” version from the previous one which failed to pass in Congress.

He said provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been included in the new draft.

The BTC has at least three members of the MNLF.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel earlier said that they aim to enact the bill within the year

President Duterte said the passage of the bill “is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust, and injustice that caused and affected the lives the millions of Filipinos.”


SC orders trial, detention of Maute members transferred to Taguig

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): SC orders trial, detention of Maute members transferred to Taguig

The Supreme Court (SC) granted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II's request for the transfer to Taguig City of the cases and detention of the Maute group members and their sympathizers charged with rebellion and other cases for staging attacks in Marawi City.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.

Aguirre earlier requested to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that the Regional Trial Court of Taguig City be designated to hear and decide on all cases and incidents arising from the takeover of the Maute group of Marawi City.

In addition, Aguirre further requested that the SC allows the conduct of the hearing of the cases at an appropriate venue inside the premises of the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) located inside the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to ensure the greater security of the Maute detainees.
”The Court, in a Resolution dated June 27,2017, acted on two letters of the Secretary of Justice dated 13 and 14 June 2017, noted the same, and designated the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region stationed in Taguig City, instead of the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, to speedily act on all prosecutions and incidents arising from the violent incidents in Marawi City involving the Maute Group,” Te told reporters during the press briefing held in SC.

In the resolution, Te said that the Court also designed the SICA located along Camp Bagong Diwa instead of Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City, as the temporary detention facility of any suspects, subject to its instruction to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to expedite the relocation of any suspects to a suitable detention facility.

Aguirre welcomes the decision of SC because of members of judiciary and national prosecution service fear their safety in the conduct of inquest, preliminary investigation and trial of the cases involving the Maute group.

”That is great news for DOJ and its panels of prosecutors in CDO. It will solve a lot of problems like where the detainees are to be confined and whether we are going to rent a new place to hold the inquests and conduct preliminary investigations,” Aguirre said sought fro a comment.

Last June 28, Aguirre II said that 30 prosecutors in Metro Manila will undergo training on the possible continuous trial on the cases filed against members and supporters of the terrorist group Maute in connection with the Marawi City seige.

He added that once completed, the 30 prosecutors will be divided into two panels of 15 members each headed by a senior state prosecutor.

Under the continuous trial system, postponements of hearings are prohibited unless on exceptional grounds and direct the courts to promulgate the decision to not later than 90 days from the submission of the case for decision.

Also under the set-up, the trial of cases will be held from Monday to Thursday starting at 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then at 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The implementation of the continuous trial system is part of the initiatives set forth by Chief Justice Sereno when she assumed the top SC post to enable the speedy disposition of cases and decongest the country’s courts.

Earlier, the DOJ has already indicted several arrested members and supporters of Maute - including Cayamora Maute and Ominta Romato Maute, alias Farhana, parents of the Maute brothers who led the group behind the attack in Marawi City last May 23.
Also charged with rebellion before the Cagayan De Oro RTC were former Marawi City Mayor Fajad Salic; Mohaamad Maute, alias Abu Jadid, alleged bomb maker of Maute Group; and Faridah Pangompig Romato, Aljadid Pangompig Romato and Abdulralman Dimakuta Sevad.

Rebellion is a non-bailable offense.

Over 300 individuals identified as members of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf group, and their sympathizers earlier ordered arrested by the government for the crime of rebellion.


Security officials to brief senators on Marawi situation Wednesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Security officials to brief senators on Marawi situation Wednesday

National security officials are set to apprise senators on the developments in Marawi City on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Vicente Sotto III, Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito and Sherwin Gatchalian confirmed the scheduled meeting in separate interviews.

Sotto earlier said that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, in a recent meeting, mentioned that he wanted to extend martial law to another 60 days.

Ejercito and Gatchalian were both privy on details.

Gatchalian, however, said that there will be a joint session in Congress on Saturday.

He said that the Senate will also find out the scope of martial law on Wednesday.

The neophyte senator, meanwhile, allayed fears that martial law could be extended to Visayas.

Last May 29, the Senate and some national security officials met in a close-door meeting to discuss Pres. Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. attended the Senate plenary session which was adjourned quickly to make room for the close-door meeting.


Duterte wants martial law extended till end-2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Duterte wants martial law extended till end-2017

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to extend the period of Martial Law in Mindanao until the end of the year, Malacañang said Tuesday.

At a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that in the letter sent by the President to the leaders of Congress Monday evening, the extension was called for as the “existing rebellion in Mindanao will not be quelled completely by the July 22,” the expiration of the 60-day period of the initial martial law proclamation.

“Upon a thorough personal assessment of the current situation in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao and taking into account the reports and recommendations of the Secretary of National Defense as martial law administrator, the chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as martial law implementor and the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), I have come to the conclusion that the existing rebellion in Mindanao which prompted me to issue Proclamation 216 on 23rd May 2017, will not be quelled completely by the 22nd July 2017 -- the last day of 60-day period provided under Section 18 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution,” President Duterte said in the letter read by Abella.

“For this reason and because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st December 2017 or for such a period of time as the Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao,” the President’s message said.

Duterte has also called on Congress to convene in a special session Saturday to deliberate and consider his request.

In the meantime, Abella said that “the primary objective of the possible extension of martial law is to allow government forces to continue with their operation, unhampered by deadlines and to focus more on the liberation of Marawi and its rehabilitation and rebuilding.”

He also clarified that it is up to Congress to decide on the actual duration of the extension.

“Ito po ‘yung sinabi ng sulat, ‘yan po ang nire-request niya (Duterte) -- until 31st of December or for such period of time as the Congress may determine. Nasa Kongreso po in order to decide,” Abella said.

President Duterte declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao last May 23 following an attack by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

According to the latest update provided by Malacañang on the Marawi siege, 413 militants have been killed while 511 high-powered firearms have been recovered from the terror group.

In the meantime, 98 government forces have died in fighting while 45 civilians have so far been confirmed to have died in the hands of the terrorists.


Enemy snipers biggest threat in Marawi City fighting

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Enemy snipers biggest threat in Marawi City fighting

Enemy snipers carefully concealed in Marawi City's buildings and other urban features are causing most of the casualties of military units tasked to neutralize the remaining Maute Group terrorists.

"(The fighting) in Marawi City can be considered as urban fighting and in urban warfare, snipers can cause a lot of casualties (as they can conceal themselves in the buildings and houses)," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in Filipino late Monday.

He added that a few snipers, placed in strategic locations, can slowdown or immobilize a company or even a battalion of troops.

"(If the conflict) is in the jungle, I believed we would have not incur such losses as we are used to fighting there," Arevalo stressed.

But he clarified that counter-sniping of the AFP is starting to bear fruit as Maute Group terrorists are now being encircled by military units.

As of 7 p.m. Sunday, number of troops wounded in the ongoing conflict in Marawi City is now at 852

This was offset by the number of lawless elements killed which is now placed at 411, the military added.

Troopers killed in action was placed at 97 along with 45 civilians.

Number of recovered firearms is placed at 511 while civilians rescued from the clutches of the terrorists is pegged at 1,723.

A soldier is also reported missing-in-action as of this time.

Fighting broke out in Marawi City after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia last May 23.


Duterte turns over 3,000 pistols to AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 18): Duterte turns over 3,000 pistols to AFP

In fulfillment of his promise to Filipino soldiers, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday turned over 3,000 units of caliber .45 pistols to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a simple ceremonies held in Malacañang.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año received the A2 Tac Ultra FS-Armscor pistols on behalf of the military.

According to a Palace press release, the pistols were acquired through the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management under the negotiated procurement mode with ARMSCOR Global Defense Inc., pursuant to Section 53.2 (emergency cases) of the revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act. No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

Duterte has promised during his visits to various military camps throughout the country that he would provide pistols to the 120,000 soldiers of the AFP within his term.

The President has repeatedly emphasized the need for military personnel to have handguns that they can use to protect themselves and their families from threats coming from the enemies of the state, especially after actual military operations or whenever they are outside military camps and even during their authorized rest and recreation period.

In his speech during the turnover rites, Duterte said he wanted uniformed personnel of the AFP to have pistols aside from their rifles to be on equal footing with the enemies of the state, even when they are outside the military camps.

“Noon pa nakikita ko, I was just wondering, bakit ang Army walang baril na sidearm? Maliit pa ako, I’m just wondering. And I would speculate what will happen if the rifle jams or pagka nasira. For whatever reason, anong gagamitin nitong mga ‘to?” the President said.

He said that even during his 23 years as mayor of Davao City, he had observed that soldiers are not allowed to bring their firearms outside of the camp.

“Ang problema kasi nitong military, unang- una, though no fault of yours, labas kayo ng kampo, wala man kayong baril. Then you go to the town proper, you go there, maybe you drink and you enjoy. Pag-uwi ninyo, inaabangan kayo ng mga NPA (New People’s Army),” the President said.

“Ang ayaw ko doon, ‘yung patayin nila ang tao na walang armas. Walang kalaban-laban. So sabi ko, hindi pwede ito. Kailangan ko talaga to place my soldiers on equal footing with them. Kasi sila (rebels), nakakadala ng armas, sidearms. Eh maiwan nila (soldiers) ‘yung M16 nila. So, I decided, sabi ko na bigyan ko kayo lahat ng sidearms,” Duterte said.

On the other hand, President Duterte said that while he wanted soldiers to carry pistols outside of their official duty, he reminded them to always practice discipline.

“I am not in favor of the rule that you cannot bring your sidearm outside of your camp residence. I will overrule that kind of regulations because it is stupid,” he said.

“Ang panlaban lang talaga ninyo is not to let anybody know na may baril ka. Huwag mong i-display ‘yan kasi kukunin talaga ‘yan sa iyo. Sa mga NPA ‘yan --- ano ‘yan eh, parang irresistible force. Hahanapan ka talaga ng paraan niyan,” Duterte said.

He also urged them not to use their guns on fellow security forces and on civilians.

“At huwag kayong makipag-away --- ‘yang mga kapulisan diyan kay numero uno rin ‘yan. Walang ginawa kung hindi mag-inom diyan sa bar…. I hope that this would go a long way para magbuo ‘yung maski saan. Just do not use it against innocent civilians,” Duterte said.


Duterte: No peace talks if hostilities continue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Duterte: No peace talks if hostilities continue

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, July 18, met with officials and members of the government peace panel to discuss the possible signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement with communist rebels.

During their meeting held at Malacañan Palace, the President directed the government panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) not to resume formal peace talks unless the Reds agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao.

The government panel, led by chief negotiator Secretary Silvestre Bello III, is set to conduct backchannel talks with the NDFP to discuss the resumption of formal negotiations between the two groups.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza said the resumption of formal talks would depend on the rebel group’s commitment to follow certain guidelines for a possible ceasefire deal with government.

This includes suspending operations against the military and the police and stopping all their extortion activities on the ground, among others.

President Duterte, for his part, stressed that the Reds really need to stop engaging the military in Mindanao if they want to continue the peace negotiations, adding that the government has always dealt with the communist rebels in good faith.

The government panel also plans to discuss the possible inclusion of socio-economic provisions in the interim peace agreement with the communist group.

They stressed that the NDFP needs to order its armed wing to halt all offensive operations against government troops in order to pursue their shared goal of sustaining economic development throughout Mindanao.


Duterte meets GPH-MNLF implementing panels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): Duterte meets GPH-MNLF implementing panels

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, July 18, met with the Government of the Philippines-Moro National Liberation Front implementing panels to discuss the Mindanao situation.

In his message to the President during the meeting at Malacañan Palace, MNLF chairperson Nur Misuari said he came to Malacañan representing the Muslims in Mindanao particularly those from the Sulu archipelago.

He said his meeting with the President is in compliance with their previous meeting for future engagements with the Armed Forces to eventually find lasting peace in Mindanao.

In response, President Duterte said he is ready to craft the federal setup of government for the country that he believes will correct the historical injustice in Mindanao and bring lasting peace to the region.

Among those present during the meeting were Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Chairman Misuari, on the other hand, was accompanied by his wife, Tarhata Misuari, MNLF Vice Chairman Abdulkarim Misuari, and MNLF Secretary General Murshi Ibrahim.


7 PSG personnel hurt in N. Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 19): (1st LD) 7 PSG personnel hurt in N. Cotabato ambush

Seven members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were wounded in an ambush by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Arakan, North Cotabato on Wednesday.

PSG Spokesperson Col. Mike Aquino said the incident occurred at 6:15 a.m. when the PSG convoy consisting of two vehicles passed through a fake military checkpoint at Barangay Gambudes along the Davao-Arakan route.

The PSG personnel were on their way to Cagayan De Oro City from Camp Panacan in Davao City.

“More than 50 armed men wearing military uniform were in the checkpoint in the area bearing the ‘Task Force Davao’ sign. They posed as soldiers,” Aquino said in Filipino.

The PSG spokesperson said security personnel, doubting the identities of the men who were wearing military uniform, stopped before reaching the checkpoint. This was then followed by an exchange of fires.

The wounded PSG personnel were immediately brought to the nearest hospital.

The military has launched a pursuit operation to hunt the gunmen responsible for the ambush.