Thursday, January 29, 2015

When military knew of SAF presence, 'it was too late' - officers

From InterAksyon (Jan 30): When military knew of SAF presence, 'it was too late' - officers

When the command group of the Special Action Force operation to get two wanted terror suspects in Mamasapano, Maguindanao informed the military of their presence, not only was it too late, they were apparently not yet aware that their men were already being slaughtered.

These new details of Sunday’s deadly carnage were disclosed Thursday by military officers involved in an internal investigation into the Armed Forces’ response to the disastrous operation that saw 44 SAF commandos killed in clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during the attempt to capture Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman, both known expert bomb-makers with links to international terrorist networks.

The officers, one from the 6th Infantry Division, the other from AFP General Headquarters, spoke on condition they not be identified.

Based on the account by the 6th ID source, “6:05 (a.m.) sila (SAF command group) nag-text na mag-conduct sila ng operation, pero nalaman ng commander ng SAF around 6:15 na binubugbog na pala ‘yung tropa nya sa baba (At 6:05 they sent a text that they were conducting an operation, but the SAF commander only knew around 6:15 that his men were already being pummeled below).”

By all accounts, the SAF launched their operations more than two hours earlier, at 4 a.m.

This was borne out by the GHQ source, interviewed independently, who chalked it all down to “poor planning,” “kaya nu’ng nagkaroon ng situation ay hindi nila na-mitigate ‘yung pangyayari (so when the situation developed they could not mitigate the succeeding events).”

The GHQ source said, “there was a delay in the transmission (of information from the SAF) kasi nu’ng nagpuputukan mga alas kwatro pero saka lang sinabi na merong pulis du’n sa loobtapos nu’ng nalamanhindi naman alam kung nasa’n silasino ‘yung dapat (tulungan), sa’n sila tutulong, so nagmo-monitor, naghihintay kung anong gagawinkasi kakulangan ng impormasyon kasi hindi nga naplano maayos (because when the fighting started around 4 it took some time before they said there were policemen in the area, then even if this was known, we didn’t know where they were, who we were supposed to help, where to send the help, so the troops monitored and waited for what to do, because there was insufficient operation because it wasn’t properly planned).

As soon as the troops in the area realized the gravity of the situation facing the SAF, the 6th ID source said, by 6:30 a.m., the Army brigade responsible for the area and 6th ID headquarters were already mobilizing troops to assist the beleaguered policemen.

The division’s reconnaissance company deployed six armored vehicles “na pinapasok pero hindi makapasok dahil naka-block ‘yung kalaban du’n sa route papasok sa 36 na namatay (we sent in but could not enter the area because the enemy was blocking the route to where 36 had died),” referring to the 55th Special Action Company, which suffered the heaviest losses among the units involved.

The official toll shows the 55th SAC losing 30 men, including three officers.

Aside from the gunmen blocking the route, he said, “hindi namin alam ‘yung exact location ng ire-reinforce. ‘Yun pala, patay na lahat ‘yung 36 (we didn’t know the exact location of the troops we were reinforcing. As it turned out, all 36 were already dead) …”

By the time the Army troops reached the site where the policemen had died, he said, it was already 10 a.m.

On another end of the battlefield, where the 84th SAC, Seaborne had maneuvered, the unit was pinned down by BIFF fighters, he said.

By the time they linked up with the unit, it was running low on ammunition and had already lost, by the official tally, nine dead.

Mabuti’t nakadikit ‘yung recon company namin so buhay silakaya lang may patay na sila (Luckily our recon company linked up with them so they survived, although by then they had suffered casualties already),” he added.

Both officers stressed that had the military command in the area been informed, they could have provided support or sent help earlier.

“I understand that we were kept in the dark until it became something that we did not want to happen,” the GHQ source said. “Nu’ng nalaman natin (By the time we knew), it was too late.”

For his part, the 6th ID source said, “Pa’no ka mag-reinforce kung hindi mo man lang alam ‘yung concept of operation at sinabihan kami engaged na silaDapatbago pumasok nag-coordinate na para alam namin kung sa’n kami pupunta kung mabulilyaso silaalam namin kung sa’n kami magpapabagsak ng kanyonkung nasa’n silakasi may protocol kasi ‘yan e (How can you send reinforcements if you don’t even know the concept of operation and we were informed when they had already engaged? They should have coordinated with us before they entered the area so we would know where we needed to go if they ran into trouble, we would know where we should sight our artillery, where they were, because there are protocols for this).”

Asked if the military probe was also intended to pinpoint lapses in their response, the 6th ID source replied: “‘Yung sa aminwala naman talaga kaming lapses, ‘yung amin lang is tinitingnan namin ‘yung mga gaps, ‘yung mga flaws para maayos natin o hindi na ‘yan maulit (On our part, there really were no lapses, what we’re looking at are the gaps, the flaws to ensure this doesn’t happen again).”

US would welcome Japan air patrols in South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Jan 30): US would welcome Japan air patrols in South China Sea

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's PC3 surveillance plane flies around the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in this October 13, 2011 file photo. REUTERS

The United States would welcome a Japanese extension of air patrols into the South China Sea as a counterweight to a growing fleet of Chinese vessels pushing China's territorial claims in the region, a senior US Navy officer told Reuters.

Regular patrols by Japanese aircraft only reach into the East China Sea, where Japan is at loggerheads with China over disputed islands. Extending surveillance flights into the South China Sea would almost certainly increase tension between the world's second- and third-largest economies.

"I think allies, partners and friends in the region will look to the Japanese more and more as a stabilizing function," Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet and the top US navy officer in Asia, said in an interview.

"In the South China Sea, frankly, the Chinese fishing fleet, the Chinese coastguard and the (navy) overmatch their neighbors," Thomas said.

China's foreign ministry said it had no immediate comment on the interview.

Thomas's comments show Pentagon support for a key element of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push for a more active military role in the region. That is crucial because US and Japanese officials are negotiating new bilateral security guidelines expected to give Japan a bigger role in the alliance, 70 years after the end of World War Two.

"I think that JSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces) operations in the South China Sea makes sense in the future," Thomas said.

Japan is not party to the dispute in the South China Sea where China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims. But the waterway provides 10 per cent of the global fisheries catch and ships crossing it carry $5 trillion a year in cargo, a large portion to and from Japan.

A Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman was not available for comment. Japan has never indicated any intention to patrol the South China Sea.

The ministry routinely declines to comment on any changes to guidelines being discussed with the United States. It calls for peaceful solutions to disputes and for all countries to follow international law and conventions.

‘More robust and proactive’-

Abe is pushing for legislation later this year that would allow Japan's military to operate more freely overseas as part of a broader interpretation of the self-defense allowed by its pacifist constitution.

Those changes coincide with the deployment of a new Japanese maritime patrol plane, the P-1, with a range of 8,000 km (5,000 miles). That is double the range of current aircraft and could allow Japan to push surveillance deep into the South China Sea.

"This is a logical outgrowth of Abe's push for a more robust and proactive military. It is also a substantial departure from JSDF's customary operations," said Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a former US Marine liaison officer to Japan's military.

Newsham said sending surveillance aircraft to the South China Sea would allow Japan to deepen its military ties with countries like the Philippines, one of Abe's goals to counter China's growing naval power.

China has outlined the scope of its claims with reference to a so-called nine-dash line on its maps that takes in about 90 percent of the South China Sea.

"The alleged nine-dash line, which doesn’t comport with international rules and norms, standards, laws, creates a situation down there, which is unnecessary friction," said Thomas.

The Scarborough Shoal near the Philippines is one flashpoint in the South China Sea. The Philippines complains that China has kept its fishermen from waters around the shoal. Thomas said Japan could help the Philippines with equipment and training.

"For the Philippines, the issue is one of capacity. For the Japanese that is a perfect niche for them to help, not just in equipment, but in training and operations," he said.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Tuvera Gazmin met Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on Thursday, and they signed a memorandum on cooperation that includes military exchanges, training and defense technology and equipment.

Gazim told Nakatani that "common security concerns provide an opportunity to deepen defense cooperation".

Nakatani said the agreement had "taken defense ties to a new level". He declined to say if China's presence in the South China Sea and East China Sea had been discussed.

Centered around the USS George Washington carrier battle group with its home port in Japan, the US Seventh Fleet includes some 80 vessels, 140 aircraft and 40,000 sailors making it the most powerful naval force in the western Pacific.

‘Let us end the war in Mindanao together’ – MNLF

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): ‘Let us end the war in Mindanao together’ – MNLF

A Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group chaired by former ambassador Datu Abul Khayr Alonto yesterday reiterated its solidarity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it called for sobriety over what it called “regrettable incident” on Sunday in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“Let us end the war in Mindanao together, let us accept that we are two distinct people with two different histories but of the same Malay race, under the same Philippine flag and facing the same destiny,” Alonto said.

In a related development, a Moro civil society organization (CSO) added its voice against another all-out war which ousted former President, now Manila, Mayor Joseph Estrada is suggesting against the MILF.

“It is sad to think that because of the Mamasapano ‘misencounter,’ it could result in scuttling the peace process between the government and the MILF,” said One Bangsamoro Movement (1Bangsa).

The Moro CSO vehemently opposed Estrada’s call for new all-out war, saying the one he launched in 2000 resulted in thousands of people being killed and the destruction of the livelihood of the Moro people.

Estrada’s all-out war showed that war is not the solution to the Mindanao conflict, the group said, as it expressed its condolences with the PNP-SAF men’s families.

Alonto called for an immediate investigation on the incident that killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), five MILF combatants, and one civilian.

“The real enemy is the selfishness and insatiable greed of men, not the MILF who simply defended their community, and much less, the PNP-SAF men who merely followed order from a ‘superior,’” he said in a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin.

Alonto cited the mechanisms already established by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF in the course of their 17-year negotiations, such as the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), the Local Monitoring Teams (LMTs), and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

“Regardless of the veracity of the report on the presence of those two alleged JI (Jemaah Islamiyyah) terrorists in that area, the cardinal rule was violated, there was no proper coordination,” he said.

Alonto lamented the fact that some sectors, which he did not identify, who “see peace in Mindanao as the end of their lucrative business, are insidiously portraying the incident as a massacre.”

The MNLF leader said he did not believe it was a massacre as reported by his men on the ground.

He urged the Bangsamoro people and their fellow Filipinos to not to surrender to the age-old biases and prejudices from the country’s colonial past.

He also called for the completion of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) legislation.

2 NPA fighters yield in Agusan del Sur

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): 2 NPA fighters yield in Agusan del Sur

Two regular fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) voluntarily surrendered to field units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Agusan del Sur, a regional Army spokesman said yesterday.

Maj. Christian C. Uy, regional spokesman of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) said the two regular fighters of the NPA initially gave themselves up to Veruela town Mayor Salimar T. Mondejar before  they were presented to 401st Infantry (Unite N’ Fight) Brigade Commander Col. Alexander Macario.

He said the two were members of guerilla-Front Committee 3 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Party Committee (NMRC).

Their identities were temporarily withheld for security reasons. One of  the two who surrendered is a resident of Barangay Liwanag, in Monkayo town, Compostela Valley and the other one is a resident in a remote village in Veruela town, Agusan del Sur.

Maj. Uy said the rebel returnees are set to receive assistance through the government’s Comprehensive Local Government Program (CLGP).

“They yielded to the government because of hardship in the mountains and lack of logistical support,” said Maj. Uy, quoting the statement of the rebel returnees.

Early this week, during a 1st Joint Security Peace and Coordinating and Provincial Peace and Order Council at Provincial Capitol Training Center here,  Maj. Gen. Oscar T. Lactao, commanding general of the AFP’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division asked the governors and mayors to help convince the remaining NPA rebels to come down and avail of the government’s livelihood, peace and development program.

Meanwhile, in that same meeting, the military and PNP announced that “no tactical movement of government troops is allowed or no deployment of soldiers from  Regions 10 and 13” to central Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The military and PNP in the Regions 10, 13 and Xl are in full alert status after the recent Zamboanga City bombing incident and bloody incident in Masasapano, Maguindanao province.

Deles says peace talks still on

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): Deles says peace talks still on

The government is not inclined to wage an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and abandon the Mindanao peace process despite the group’s involvement in the death of 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the government remains steadfast in pursuing “justice and peace” as she tried to allay concerns of some groups about the fate of the Mindanao peace process.

“Let us continue to find the way forward without losing sight of our ultimate goal of bringing just, inclusive and enduring peace that our people have been longing for and which our people – especially our children – deserve,” Deles said.

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has lamented the death of the elite police commandos in Mamasapano insisting that the MILF can no longer be trusted.


Estrada reportedly emphasized that an all-out war against the MILF was the only solution to end the alleged violence perpetrated by the MILF in recent years. When he was president back in 2000, Estrada declared an all-out war against the MILF after the rebels attacked a civilian community in Lanao del Norte.

The bloodbath in Maguindanao, meantime, has forced some lawmakers to withdraw support from the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, raising doubts on the sincerity of the MILF to the peace process.

The peace measure – a priority bill of President Aquino, seeks to create a Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was a result of a peace agreement signed by the govt and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The BBL once passed would be legal backbone of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF signed in March 2014.

Deles however appealed to leaders of Congress to reconsider their decision against the BBL and instead support “our work for peace.”

She said it was a duty not only to the fallen PNP elite force in Mamasapano but all lives lost in the Mindanao conflict to pursue justice and peace.

“To sacrifice both will be to jeopardize the future of our nation and throw away what we have achieved over the years,” she added.

Seize ex-AFP chief’s P11-M properties, Sandigan urged

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): Seize ex-AFP chief’s P11-M properties, Sandigan urged

After the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed with finality on his forfeiture case, state prosecutors asked the Sandiganbayan to issue an order for the seizure of P11 million worth of properties of retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Lisandro Abadia.

State prosecutors have submitted before the Sandiganbayan Third Division a Motion for Execution that sought that the court issues a writ of execution.

“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that this motion be granted and that a writ of execution be issued for the implementation of the Decision dated 05 June 2013,” stated Assistant Special Prosecutor II Charmaine Calalang in the motion that was sent last Tuesday.

Last June 5, 2013, the Sandiganbayan Third Division issued a decision in favor of the government over the forfeiture case against Abadia who was found to have unexplained wealth amounting to P11,262,876.01.

State lawyers informed the Third Division its Decision became final and executory after the Supreme Court upheld and affirmed it in the Entry of Judgment dated March 28, 2014.

MILF unit in PNP-SAF killings has violent history

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 29): MILF unit in PNP-SAF killings has violent history

The 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been the unit most involved in armed clashes in Maguindanao and has blocked the arrest of wanted fugitives before.

The unit, headed by Ustadz Zacaria Guma, would not even think twice on engaging fellow MILF units that it tags as “munafik” or hypocrites.

Recently, a small group of the MILF 105th Base Command, rescued a suspect wanted for murder and arson in Shariff Aguak town.

Information gathered by the Inquirer showed that police armed with a warrant of arrest and assisted by the MILF’s 118th Base Command were about to capture the suspect when men from Guma’s command arrived which led to the escape of the fugitive.

The 118th Base Command is under Ustadz Wahid Tondok.

In 2012, the 105th Base Command came to the rescue of one of the two parties in a standoff in Lamud, South Upi, Maguindanao. Guma’s men intervened upon learning that the other side, led by Hadji Mama Binangon, was supported by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Guma’s unit was also recently embroiled in armed conflicts stemming from a clan feud in the boundaries of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, and Upi, Maguindanao.

Last month, the group, combined with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), stormed the town of Rajah Buayan, where the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion was securing a highway concreting project.

The combined MILF-BIFM forces, respectively under Guma and Kagi Karialan, engaged the soldiers in a nightlong firefight in Rajah Buayan, sending hundreds of civilians, many of them women, fleeing.

Residents said the BIFM wanted to retaliate against the Army unit, which Karialan accused of raiding his house in nearby Kabalukan Hills, while nobody was there.

Aside from the “common enemy,” the 105th Base Command has also fought comrades in the MILF.

An MILF commander, who did not want to be identified, said he nearly lost his family to members of the unit, who wanted to confiscate his firearm.

The MILF commander said he swore to his “visitors” that the firearm they wanted was not owned by the organization, but that he bought it personally.

Guma’s men eventually settled for the vehicle of a relative of the commander, he said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chief, was quick to dismiss allegations that the 105th Base Command operated alongside the BIFF.

In the clash Sunday (January 25, 2015) in Mamasapano town, where 44 members of the police Special Action Force were killed, MILF and BIFF forces reportedly worked together in surrounding and attacking government troops.

Jaafar said they “see no political and military gain in cooperating with the BIFF.”

“The 105th Base Command will not cooperate with the BIFF because in the first place, the BIFF does not like us. Second, we also do not agree with the activities of the BIFF. And third, the 105th Base Command and the entire MILF would not do anything that would violate any provisions of peace process,” he said.

But as far as the BIFF was concerned, there was no clear distinction between its forces and that of the 105th Base Command.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said members of both organizations were friends and relatives, and that no other identities prevailed.

“Except that we are all family,” he said.

BIFF on MILF unit: ‘We’re all family’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): BIFF on MILF unit: ‘We’re all family’

Spokesman says rebs, renegades in clash with SAF are friends, relatives
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) unit that clashed with police commandos out to get international terrorist Marwan shares an affinity with renegade guerrillas that a renegade guerrilla spokesperson said was akin to the two guerrilla groups being part of a family.

“We are all family,” said Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), describing the BIFF’s relationship with the MILF’s 105th Base Command, headed by Ustadz Zacaria Guma.

BIFF is a guerrilla group that spun off the MILF over differences in peace talks with the government.

Guma’s group is being tagged as the MILF unit responsible for many of the casualties suffered by a 300-member team of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) that was on its way to capture or kill Marwan in a village in the town of Mamapasano in Maguindanao province, a known MILF bailiwick.

The 105th Base Command, according to reports gathered by the Inquirer, is no stranger to clashes that are defiant of top MILF leaders.

According to Mama, there is no clear distinction between BIFF guerrillas and members of Guma’s unit.

Mama said BIFF guerrillas and members of Guma’s unit are either friends or relatives.

According to sources in the know, Guma’s unit would even engage fellow MILF units over clan feuds and other disputes.

Guma, the sources said, is known to treat with disdain some MILF units that Guma considers as “munafik,” or hypocrites.

In one of the recent clashes it had been involved in, a small group in Guma’s unit rescued a man being arrested for murder and arson in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao.

The man was being arrested with the help of another MILF unit, the 188th Base Command headed by Ustadz Wahid Tondok, when Guma’s group interceded, allowing the subject of the arrest warrant to escape.

In 2012, Guma’s unit also came to the rescue of a group of MILF men caught in a standoff in Lamud, South Upi town in Maguindanao with a group of Moro National Liberation Front members, led by Hadji Mama Binangon.

Guma’s men were also recently involved in clashes stemming from clan feuds in the boundaries of the towns of Lebak, Sultan Kudarat and Upi in Maguindanao.

Last month, Guma’s group, with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), stormed the town of Rajah Buayan, where the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion was securing a highway concreting project. BIFM is the group that has control of BIFF.

The combined force of Guma’s unit and the BIFM group, under Kagi Karialan, clashed with soldiers in Rajah Buayan town, sending hundreds of civilians fleeing.

Aside from targeting the military and other government forces, Guma’s group had also clashed with comrades in the MILF.

An MILF commander, who asked that he not be identified, said he nearly lost his family in a raid by members of Guma’s unit, who wanted to seize his guns.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chief, was quick to dismiss allegations that the 105th Base Command operates alongside BIFF.

US agents paid cash for info on terrorists

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): US agents paid cash for info on terrorists

In a meeting held at the headquarters of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police in Parang town, Maguindanao province, sometime in September last year, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ranking Filipino police officials planned a secret operation aimed at getting a notorious international terrorist, a source who declined to be identified told the Inquirer.

The source said the target was on Washington’s list of priority terrorists: Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” who had a $5-million price then on his head. The bounty was later raised to $6 million.

The Inquirer source, a former ranking police official in Central Mindanao, claimed that during the meeting, which he attended, the FBI agents shared an intelligence report on the exact whereabouts of Marwan and another terrorist, Filipino Abdul Basit Usman.

The source said the Americans were certain about their intelligence data because it was provided by a mole from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
To prevent leak

“They were paid cash in exchange for the information,” the source said.

The source said the FBI agents validated the information relayed to them by their mole through the use of “drones and global positioning system.”

“We can even see the hideout of their target,” he said.

During the meeting, it was decided that those involved in the operation would not share information with any other government agencies “to prevent a leak of the plan.”

“They will only coordinate with other government troops—posted along the highway—on their way to their mission,” he added.

The source said, however, that the glaring failure on the part of the police commandos who went to Tukanalipao, a village in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, controlled by the MILF, was going in without back-up hardware and reinforcements.

Capt. Jo-anne Petinglay, spokesperson for the military’s 6th Infantry Division, admitted that US forces “come and go.”

“They are based in Manila and Zamboanga. We don’t have US troops [based] here [in Maguindanao],” she said.

As to the alleged involvement of US troops in the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) operation on Jan. 25 that cost the lives of 44 police commandos, Petinglay said she was not aware of it.

She said what she knew was that US forces helped extract injured SAF commandos using a helicopter.

The Inquirer saw this helicopter, a white and green chopper manned by four Americans.

In Davao City, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao said it wanted to know the role of the US military in the SAF operation.

Bayan spokesperson Sheena Duazo said the SAF operation was possibly a joint covert-operation with the United States.

“The unfortunate members of the police operation seem to be victims of the latest US-directed antiterror operation sanctioned by President Aquino’s government,” she said.

6,000 US troops

“We want to know what really happened, and why US soldiers are seen with the dead bodies of the PNP-SAF. Are they here just to help the wounded and carry the dead, or is this another one of their botched operations, similar to many of their operations in the Middle East? Is this another case of an imperialist country providing a pretext for its further involvement in local conflict, even if it means death to our fellow Filipinos?” Duazo asked.

Duazo said the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement have ushered in “increasing US military intervention in the Philippines.”

“The 6,000 or so US troops currently deployed in Mindanao may be doing more things on the island that the Filipino public has no knowledge of. President Aquino’s government owes the public [an explanation],” she added.
‘Normal practice’

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said it was “normal practice” for the United States to assist in evacuating policemen or soldiers wounded in battle.

Gazmin was commenting on newspaper photographs showing Caucasians evacuating wounded SAF commandos after the clash in Mamasapano on Sunday.

The pictures showed the Caucasians helping Filipino soldiers and policemen in the air evacuation using a civilian helicopter.

“I cannot confirm that but I saw the pictures. But that is a normal practice whereby we ask assistance from the US forces to evacuate our wounded,” Gazmin said, adding that the United States has all the assets to provide medical evacuation.

But US forces are not allowed in combat operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said.

Asked if the AFP would seek US assistance to verify the remains of Marwan whom the police claimed was killed in the SAF operation, Gazmin said it would through DNA testing provided the government could submit sufficient data.

Reports said the civilian helicopter captured on photographs was traced to Evergreen Helicopters, reportedly a contractor of the US defense department.

Gazmin flew to Mindanao to get an accurate report on what happened in Mamasapano.

President Aquino has blamed the police commanders for the absence of coordination with the military in the area, which resulted in the heavy losses for the SAF.

Gazmin said the 6th Infantry Division dispatched troops from the Division Reconnaissance Company more than two hours after receiving a request for assistance from the SAF personnel who were under rebel fire.

Short notice

“Why it took too long? Because the coordination was made [only] while [the SAF] were on their way to the target,” Gazmin said.

He said the SAF coordinated with the military battalion deployed in the area to guard main supply routes and detachments.

“It should have been in the division level so that it could be planned better. As the President said, their coordination was too late,” he said.

Gazmin said the targeted areas was a big camp of the MILF, and that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters also had a camp there.

This means, he said, that the SAF needed a much bigger force.

“In this kind of major operation, you need to plan very well,” said Gazmin.

Gazmin also said that the President as Commander in Chief had been informed of operations against high-value targets but the go-signal to proceed was the call of the ground commander.

In Malacañang, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said he had no information about American soldiers being present during the operation to get Marwan.

Coloma said he also had no information that Marwan was killed in the SAF operation.

Kenney cable

A classified document published by Wikileaks showed that the US Embassy in Manila sent a cable regarding Marwan on Oct. 17, 2006, to the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of the Treasury, Joint Chiefs of Staff/National Security Council, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States Pacific Command.

Former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, in the transmitted message, requested the inclusion of Marwan in the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice list.

“We recommend up to $5 million as a reward for information leading to his arrest or capture,” Kenney said.

Described as a senior figure in the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Marwan was allegedly involved in “plotting attacks on the USS Blue Ridge, and was centrally involved in hiding ammonium nitrate for planned JI attacks against US facilities in Singapore.”

He had been directly linked to al-Qaida operative Hambali and was an intimate associate of JI operative Dulmatin, Kenney added.
High-value target

Kenney also described Marwan as the former head of the JI-linked Kumpulan Militant Malaysia and was wanted by the Malaysian government for his alleged involvement in the assassination of former Perak State Assembly member Dr. Joe Fernandez.

“Zulkifli is considered a high-value target by the Department of Defense, and is on its Rewards list. On Sept. 9, 2003, he was named by Executive Order No. 13224 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Individual,” Kenney said.

Kenney said Marwan relocated to Mindanao in early 2002 and was believed to have sought shelter in North Cotabato with the help and protection of members of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

“He is believed currently located in Pikit, Cotabato, where he is receiving support from elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front 105th Base Command. Zulkifli is the senior JI trainer in the Philippines and continues to engage in terrorism financing activities. He has been connected to multiple terrorist incidents here, including the 2003 Davao bombings,” Kenney said.

The cable corroborates the SAF information that Marwan was in the camp of the 105th Base Command during the operation in Mamasapano.
Terrorists take advantage

Two days after Kenney visited the main camp of the MILF in Camp Darapanan, Maguindanao, on Feb. 19, 2008, she sent another wire stating that Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair, admitted that terrorists were taking advantage of them.

“But more than just concluding the deal, it was equally important to ensure that implementation of the peace accord was successful. Much was at stake, and improving the prosperity of Mindanao depended on improving security in the region. The MILF had a major role in this, not least in denying sanctuary and transit to terrorists. These extremists were no friends of Mindanao in achieving peace or prosperity. As Murad acknowledged that ‘the terrorists take advantage of us,’” Kenney said.

“It was vital for the MILF to work with the Philippine government and the international community to clear up this terrorist threat. The MILF had important information that could help alleviate this serious problem, and the USG would welcome discussions on this and other points with MILF representatives. Progress on eliminating terrorists would be extremely helpful in moving toward peace,” Kenney added.

Marwan finger cut off for DNA

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): Marwan finger cut off for DNA

THE END OF THE ROAD  Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (also known as “Marwan”) lies dead in his hut, his possessions in disarray after a surprise raid by members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) on Sunday morning. Caught unaware in his hideout, the bomb expert with a $6-million reward on his head shot it out with the raiding team and was killed. But the gunfire alerted Marwan’s security and other Moro rebels in the area who ended up killing 44 members of the PNP-SAF in an 11-hour firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

THE END OF THE ROAD Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (also known as “Marwan”) lies dead in his hut, his possessions in disarray after a surprise raid by members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) on Sunday morning. Caught unaware in his hideout, the bomb expert with a $6-million reward on his head shot it out with the raiding team and was killed. But the gunfire alerted Marwan’s security and other Moro rebels in the area who ended up killing 44 members of the PNP-SAF in an 11-hour firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Where is Marwan’s body?

The Malaysian terrorist whose real name was Zulkifli bin Hir was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police commandos in Pidsandawan village in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, early on Sunday.

And the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) cut off one of the fingers on his right hand to make sure they got the DNA of the most wanted terrorist in Southeast Asia.

Supt. Raymond Train, the highest ranking officer on the SAF raiding team, wanted his men to bring Marwan’s body as the group withdrew after killing the terrorist in a brief exchange of fire.

But the gunfire roused Marwan’s security and soon the commandos came under fire.

Carrying Marwan’s body was now out of the question. The commandos decided to cut off a finger from the terrorist’s hand.

This reporter initially received two versions of the DNA extraction, the first saying the commandos had beheaded Marwan, and the second, cut off his finger.

But Police Director Getulio Napeñas, the SAF commander who was sacked because of the big number of lives lost during the operation, and an official from the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) confirmed that the commandos cut off one of the fingers of Marwan.

“Finger, a finger from the right hand,” said the PAOCC officer, who is from the PNP.

Train took the finger to Camp Awang in Maguindanao for DNA tests, the report said.

Before withdrawing, a commando took pictures of the dead Marwan, sources said. The body was left in the hut.
Death confirmed

President Benigno Aquino III, in a nationally televised address to the nation on Wednesday, reported the death of the bomb expert from the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Earlier, Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), confirmed in a radio interview in Cotabato City that Marwan, who had a $6-million price on his head, was killed in the police operation in Mamasapano.

It has been six days since that deadly “Oplan Wolverine” carried out by the SAF but the government has not produced Marwan’s body.

A classified report submitted to the PAOCC headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said Marwan’s body was immediately buried not in Pidsandawan but in a nearby village controlled by one Ali Tambako of the Justice for Islamic Movement.

According to the report, Marwan’s wife, Joromee Dongon, informed her relatives of her husband’s death hours after hearing about it from the terrorist’s men.

Dongon used to be the wife of Khadaffy Janjalani, leader of the militant group Abu Sayyaf who was killed by government security forces in Sulu province on Sept. 4, 2006.

Was the body buried in Tambako’s village really Marwan’s?

The results of DNA tests will provide the answer.

Less than 15 minutes

Train’s 37-member team shot its way out of Pidsandawan, losing eight men. A second, bigger SAF team that served as a blocking force was attacked by guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the sources said.

Guerrillas from the MILF, which has its 105th Base Command in Mamasapano, were drawn into the fighting, which went on for 11 hours until the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee stepped in to stop it.

Forty-four SAF commandos were killed and 16 others, including three civilians, wounded in the fighting. The government and the MILF are separately investigating the incident to determine what really happened.

Train’s team walked for hours early on Sunday to get to Marwan’s hideout. But it took them less than 15 minutes to kill him, sources said.

Napeñas confirmed the information in an earlier interview, saying the assault force was able to enter Marwan’s hut, but the terrorist was awakened and shot it out with the commandos, getting killed in the exchange of fire.

Napeñas said Marwan was alone in the hut, but the report submitted to the PAOCC said the terrorist had two companions and they were wounded in the gunfight. They were identified as Ben Said, a Tausug, and one Saad, believed to be a Malaysian.

The report said the Jan. 25 operation was the culmination of the intelligence buildup on Marwan that started in October of 2013. The operation was described as a “Complete Intelligence Package.”

The team leader

Train, who led the assault team, served as the intelligence officer of the operation. He is a member of the Philippine National Police Academy Class 2005.

“The participation of a superintendent or colonel in the actual assault proves that what we did was a command commitment,” Napeñas said.

“Think of it, a colonel as part of the assault team? But that was our stand. We were sure of our intelligence information, that’s why we acted on it at once,” he said.

Napeñas described the Mamasapano operation as similar to “Oplan Neptune Spear,” the covert US Navy Seals operation that got al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in March 2011.

The Abbottabad operation was CIA-led and while there was no official statement from Napeñas or from any other officer or office involved in the operation to get Marwan, the mission was based on the declaration of the CIA and the US Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Asset Control, declaring Marwan one of the most wanted terrorists in Southeast Asia with $5 million offered for his capture. The reward was later raised to $6 million.

Reward is for informers

Napeñas said the operation was the SAF’s inherent duty as law enforcer and was the execution of a continuing operation, not motivated by the reward.

“No government troops, police or military, will get that reward. That reward is for civilians who would provide intelligence information that would lead to the capture or killing of [Marwan]. What we did is part of our inherent job as law enforcers. We don’t stand to benefit from that reward,” he said.

Mission successful

Napeñas said the operation was launched without informing his superiors, the military and the MILF to ensure the fall of Marwan. He informed Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina about it just as the commandos were attacking Marwan’s hideout.

The mission was successful, as would be shown by the results of the DNA tests, he said.

But Napeñas lost 44 of his men. In an interview with the Inquirer late on Tuesday, he said he was taking full responsibility for what happened.

Backhoe bombed by suspected Abu Sayyaf men in Basilan town

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 29): Backhoe bombed by suspected Abu Sayyaf men in Basilan town
Suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits staged an attack in the center of Albarka town in Basilan by bombing a piece of construction equipment on Wednesday evening, the police said Thursday.

Senior Supt. Mario Buyuccan, the Basilan police director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that an unidentified number of bandits planted and exploded an improvised explosive device on a backhoe parked near the Albarka townhall around 11 p.m.

The backhoe was among the pieces of equipment being used in the road construction in Sitio Pagtawanan in Barangay Magcawa, he said.

“The backhoe was destroyed,” he said.

Buyuccan said they were looking at extortion as a possible motive in the attack.

He said to prevent similar incidents, authorities had deployed forces to secure other equipment and also construction workers.

The road project is part of the infrastructure development program of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the said town.

Recently, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he has committed P400 million for road projects in Albarka.

MILF: Call for war should remain a final option: CJ Sereno

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 29): Call for war should remain a final option: CJ Sereno

“A call for war and retribution should never be made lightly and should always a final option”, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said.  She called for sobriety in the wake of the killing of at least 44 policemen, wounding of 12 more and killing of 5 MILF combatants in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
In a statement on Tuesday, January 27, Sereno said: “We call for sobriety as we all await the full report on the investigation. During this time, we must ascertain facts to avoid confusion and acknowledge the complexities of the situation to allow for the rule of law to truly prevail."

On January 25, about 400 Police Commandos attacked a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in search of a top terrorist that the police suspect has been hiding in the area.

The ensuing firefight turned out to be the Philippines' bloodiest police operation in recent history which the MILF blames for ‘lack of coordination’. The PNP sacked the commander who ordered the operation, saying he did not clear it with his superiors.

"I and my colleagues on the Supreme Court express our deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of our injured and fallen policemen," Sereno said in a rare media statement. "We deeply mourn for those killed, and weep with their families as we would weep for our own kin. No words are enough to console the families for their loss, perhaps even the promise of earthly justice will sound hollow at this time. But I ask them now to cling to the hope that there is always the eternal realm."

"A call for war and retribution should never be made lightly and should remain always a final option," Sereno said. "It should certainly not be made in the heat of the moment and in the face of, as yet, unclear facts and confusing narratives. Let us instead all contribute to our nation's search for just and lasting peace by encouraging all parties to bring any conflict to the table of peace instead of the battlefields of war."

"Let us not add to the darkness but to the light. It is the only way that we ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen policemen would not be in vain” she added.

MILF: Mamasapano clash Not MILF’s fault

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 29): Mamasapano clash Not MILF’s fault

“The bloody encounter between Police Special Action Force and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao was not the fault of the rebel group, said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“I lament the needless loss of lives,” Duterte said, “I share the grief of the nation because I know this is hurting us, but you also cannot just take revenge against the MILF or the guys there inside the territory.”

The ‘misencounter’ as both the MILF and DILF Sec. Mar Roxas described it resulted to the death of 44 SAF members including 5 officers, wounding of 12 more and death of 5 MILF combatants. About three civilians were also killed in crossfire.

The police commandos were supposed to arrest Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli Bin Hir and Abu Sayyaf Group member Basit Usman but while retreating they intruded into a MILF controlled territory thus they exchanged fire resulting to the heavy toll. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who also has a camp in the Tukanalipao area joined the firefight.

Both the government and the MILF said the incident was a case of “misencounter”  due to absence of proper coordination.

Duterte said it was the government troops that entered the territory of the rebels, saying it was a violation of the agreement between the MILF and the government.

The carnage could have been avoided if only the government respected the agreement to not encroach MILF territories while a ceasefire is being observed.
“The loss of lives was really terrible,” he said. “Nanghinayang ako (I feel bad about it), because it was needless. But you can’t just enter that territory.”
Asked who is to blame? Duterte said “I am not going to blame the MILF because definitely it was in their territory, where we were not supposed to enter.”
 “There is war and we are fixing it,” he said. “That is the reason (why the government gave the MILF its territory).”

The mayor also said that it would be very dangerous if the government and the MILF will end up abandoning the peace process following the carnage.

And declaring war against the MILF is like “creating a monster.” “We can’t just abandon the peace process because of the faux pas,” he said.’s-fault

Tension high as MILF, BIFF add forces in Maguindanao town after clash

From GMA News (Jan 28): Tension high as MILF, BIFF add forces in Maguindanao town after clash

Tension is still high in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters adding forces in the area.
In his live report on Unang Balita on Wednesday, GMA News' Chino Gaston said the groups deployed additional forces should the government launch a pursuit operation related to the gun battle on Sunday, where 44 members of the police's Special Action Force were killed.
[Video report]
But according to Brigadier General Carlito Galvez of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, military and police forces were pulled out of Barangay Tukanalipao, where the day-long clash happened. Checkpoints have also been removed.
The committee is also speaking with MILF commanders, asking them not to add reinforcement so fear would not spread to other parts of Maguindanao.
It also asked the group's leaders to understand the situation and appease their members who may have lost loved ones in the battle.
In his report, Gaston also said, "Nakumpirma natin na walang ikinakasang operasyon laban sa BIFF o sa MILF dahil sa insidente."

“We call for sobriety as we all await the full report on the investigation. During this time, we must ascertain facts to avoid confusion and acknowledge the complexities of the situation to allow for the rule of law to truly prevail,” Sereno said in her statement.

In voicing their condemnation of the incident, Senators JV Ejercito and Alan Peter Cayetano both withdrew as co-authors of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law currently being deliberated in Congress.

MILF probes clash

The MILF, meanwhile, has formed its own investigating body to look into Sunday's deadly encounter, which occurred despite the peace agreement signed by the group with the government in March last year.

“Our concern is the truth,” MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said in an undated statement posted on the group's official website. “There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland.”

The group also extended its condolences to the family of the 44 SAF members who were killed in the clash.

“In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again. To this end, the MILF is convening a Special Investigative Commission (SIC),” Murad said, adding the mandate of SIC “is to gather as much reliable information and interview witnesses to establish the truth.”
‘Secret’ mission
Meanwhile, relatives of the slain elite police officers were pained further by a report that the forces were tortured as they were dying. Their guns and other possessions were also reportedly taken.
BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied this, saying the injuries that killed the police officers were obtained during the clash.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the province said all police officers have been accounted for, with the number of fatalities at 44, the report said.
Some relatives said the elite police kept the operation a secret, even to those with family members in the police and military.
"Palaisipan pa sa kanila kung sino ang nagbigay ng utos," Gaston said in his report.
Members of both military and the police are waiting for the national address that President Benigno Aquino III is expected to make on Wednesday night.

The names and faces of the PNP-SAF's Fallen 44 heroes

From GMA News (Jan 29): The names and faces of the PNP-SAF's Fallen 44 heroes

These are the names and faces of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force's fallen heroes. They were killed in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao last Sunday during a clash with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The elite cops' mission was to serve arrest warrants to two suspected terrorists—Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman.


DNA samples sent to FBI to confirm if terrorist killed by PNP-SAF was Marwan

From GMA News (Jan 29): DNA samples sent to FBI to confirm if terrorist killed by PNP-SAF was Marwan

DNA samples from the alleged body of Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan have been sent to the United States to verify whether the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) indeed killed the suspected terrorist during the operations in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.
A source of GMA News confirmed that samples were already sent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis and confirmation, a report on "24 Oras" said on Thursday.
A PNP-SAF operation this past weekend to serve arrest warrants to the Malaysian Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman resulted in the death of 44 elite police commandos, who were trapped in a firefight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Earlier on "Unang Balita", former PNP-SAF chief P/Dir. Getulio Napenas said the SAF was testing DNA samples allegedly from Marwan and had photographic evidence of the corpse's identity.
"Nakita ninyo 'yung picture ni Marwan na patay na. Ang kailangang confirmation kasi, 'yung picture niya noon at ngayon, medyo nagka-edad na. Mayroon 'yung DNA sample na kinuha ng ating kapulisan at tine-testing pa," Napenas said.
He added that Marwan's body could not be retrieved due to intense crossfire during the clash.
An earlier GMA News report quoted a source as saying that the body identified as Marwan's actually belonged to one of his aides.
If the body is proven to be Marwan's, an informant of the PNP-SAF is bound to get the $5 million bounty on the suspected terrorist's head.

MILF denies harboring Marwan, Usman

From GMA News (Jan 29): MILF denies harboring Marwan, Usman

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has denied that it had been harboring two terrorists that were the targets of a PNP Special Action Force operation that resulted in the death of more than 40 troopers over the weekend.
In a report on "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho" aired Thursday evening, Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said, however, that Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli Bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Abu Sayyaf member Abdul Bassit Usman may have gotten assistance from relatives in the MILF or the breakaway Bangamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. 
"Maaring ganun ang nangyayari minsan, nagtutulungan sapagkat blood is thicker than water," he said.

Jaafar said the MILF deployed a ceasefire committee as soon as they found out about the clash but that it took time to calm things down.
"Merong bakbakan sa field. Mahirap ihinto agad sapagkat magkabilang panig ay nagpapaputok ng baril," he said. 

Investigation panel formed
The MILF central committee, which met at the group's Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao for the first time since the firefight in Mamasapano town, has already formed a seven-man team to investigate the clash between MILF members and the PNP-SAF. 
He said the MILF is committed to pursuing peace in Mindanao and that the firefight, which the government has dubbed a "misencounter", will affect the peace process.
"Sapagkat ngayon, iba't ibang pananaw, iba't ibang accusations, allegations," he said. He said it is too early to tell what the investigating team's findings will be.

On Wednesday evening, President Benigno Aquino III said in a televised address that the PNP-SAF operation to serve arrest warrants on Marwan and Usman was done with little coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF.

The deaths of the SAF troopers will be marked with a national day of mourning on Friday even as panels on both sides have been created to investigate the clash that led to the biggest number of casualties suffered by Philippine security forces in a single day.

Details of 'decommissioning' of MILF arms, forces approved in talks in Kuala Lumpur

From GMA News (Jan 29): Details of 'decommissioning' of MILF arms, forces approved in talks in Kuala Lumpur

While Filipinos mourn the 44 police Special Action Force officers who died in a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, government and Moro Islamic Liberation Fund negotiators approved on Thursday the details of how the MILF members' weapons will be decommissioned through a process by which the arms will be “turned in...kept and put beyond use.”
In a statement issued shortly after the signing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  of the “protocol on implementing the decommissioning of MILF arms and forces”, negotiators for both sides said they “support the conduct of investigations by the Board of Inquiry and the MILF's Special Investigative Commission.”
The negotiators also said that despite the Mamasapano clash and its repercussions they “reaffirmed their commitment to peace that has long eluded Mindanao.”
President Benigno Aquino III revealed on Wednesday the creation of and the start of the probe by the BOI on the Mamasapano clash. In a separate press briefing, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad disclosed the formation of the SIC and initial details of its tasks.
Reporting from Kuala Lumpur, GMA News' Joseph Morong said on the newscast "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho" that the protocol lays out the process and steps for the following:
  • MILF inventory of their arms and Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) personnel
  • International Decommissioning Body (IDB) verification of the MILF inventory
  • Ceremonial turnover of weapons
  • MILF submission to IDB of a list on where their BIAF forces are deployed
  • Where and how the MILF arms will be kept and put beyond use.
Joseph Morong also reported that the initial turnover of weapons involves “20 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms” held by the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
[Video report]
In a news release prior to the protocol signing, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) referred to an assurance by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal that the symbolic turnover ceremony of the firearms “will take place (at) the soonest possible time.”
Earlier, the OPAPP also said IDB “will supervise the processing of combatants who will be decommissioned and assisted in their transformation to productive civilian lives.”
Diplomats and experts comprise the IDB, which is led by a diplomat from Turkey and has members from Norway and Brunei, and four other local experts jointly nominated by the parties.
The OPAPP identified the chair and members of the IDB: Ambassador Haydar Berk who formerly served as Turkish representative to the North Atlantic Council (NATO) and current advisor of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs;  Jan Erik Wilhemsen, a retired brigadier general from Norway who was part of UN peacekeeping forces in Honduras, El Salvador, Central Sudan, Nigeria, and Nepal; Major Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim of the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF); and local experts, namely, retired Armed Forces of the Philippines LtGen. Rey Ardo, Dr. Mario Aguja, Von Al-Haq, ‎and Isah Bato.

BIFF’s Kato gave order to ‘kill all’

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 30): BIFF’s Kato gave order to ‘kill all’

IT was Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters founder Ameril Umbra Kato who ordered his men to kill all the police commandos in sight when they came to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir at Mamasapano in Maguindanao last Sunday, a police officials said on Thursday.

“It was Kato who gave the order to his men and members of the MILF involved in the massacre of SAF commandos to kill them all,” said a ranking military intelligence officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Leave no one alive and take all their firearms, ammunition and personal belongings,” the official quoted Kato as ordering his BIFF guerillas.

An Army colonel, who also asked not to be identified, confirmed the information and said some BIFF guerrillas shot dead wounded commandos who were still alive after the government troops withdrew from their encampment.

“[The BIFF] executed them,” the official said. “The barbarism of these men is beyond human nature.”

He said the rebels were “even dancing and firing their new loot in the air if not on the already mutilated bodies of the police commandos.”

“These BIFF and MILF fighters involved in the massacre are brothers, cousins and relatives. They live in one community harboring criminals and terrorists such as Marwan and Usman,” the official said.

Kato, who is believed to be 69 years old, used to be the commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th Base Command, but he and his men splintered from the separatist group in 2008 because they opposed the peace talks the MILF was pursuing with the government.

Kato himself was the subject of a military operation, similar to the Mamasapano debacle, but with less unfortunate results.

On January 28, 2014, the military unleashed artillery fire on Kato’s stronghold in Maguindanao as part of “Operation Dark Horse” which aimed to capture him.

The operation involved the Army’s 602nd, 601st and 2nd Mechanized Brigades, especially 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions, both component units of the 602nd Infantry Brigade.

The operation was launched shortly after the government and MIL signed in Kuala Lumpur an agreement on the normalization annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and the campaign was conducted in coordination with the MILF.

The operation lasted for three more days and 9,465 families, or 35,334 people, were displaced due to the fighting in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Rajah Buayan, Datu Piang in Maguindanao and Pikit in North Cotabato.

This military claimed they had killed Kato in the repeated artillery bombardment, but when it became clear that Kato was still alive and had fled the area, the Armed Forces ended Operation Darkhorse.

Government troops suffered only one fatality and 20 injured while the BIFF sustained 52 fatalities, 49 injuries plus 101 more captured.

Although they did not capture Kato, the military said government troops lowered the BIFF’s morale with the capture of at least four strategic BIFF camps.

DNA testing of Marwan remains sent stateside

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 30): DNA testing of Marwan remains sent stateside

THE Philippines has sent the DNA samples collected from the person tagged as international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, who goes by the alias Marwan, to the United States for confirmation, a source said Thursday.

Hair samples aside, human tissue samples were also sent to the US, the source said.

He said only upon confirmation from the US could the $5-million bounty be released to the informant who had the information on the exact location of the Jema’ah Islamiyah bomb expert.

The Palace has made no categorical confirmation yet that Marwan has indeed been killed. The most that Malacañang has said is that there is a high probability that the terrorist has been neutralized.

Meanwhile, a police official in North Cotabato said the two bombers who died in a premature explosion Tuesday in Pikit town were “graduate students” of Southeast Asian top terrorist and bomb-maker Malaysian national Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino buddy, the Jemaah Islamiyah-trained Basit Usman.

“They were on a test mission when the improvised explosive device made of 60mm mortar round that one of them had been carrying in his knapsack exploded. They were new graduates of Marwan and Usman,” said Pikit chief of police Senior Inspector Sindatu Mundas Karim.

“We based our investigation and claim on the kind of explosive materials the two would have used in the foiled bombing mission in Pikit town,” Karim said.

Asrap Mohamad and Jhomar Palaguyan were on board a motorcycle when the bomb went off. The explosion also wounded a bystander.

“The kind of IED that exploded is a signature of the International terrorists Marwan and Usman.

“We have information the place these IEDs were manufactured was within the Liguasan Marsh,” Karim said.

He said Mohammad was a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Philippine authorities earlier declared Marwan dead in 2012 in a US military-backed airstrike in Jolo.

Malaysia gave DNA samples collected from Marwan’s family, and in August 2014 the military admitted that the terrorist was still alive.

In an earlier interview, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said police commandos were unable to retrieve Marwan’s body but were able to take photos of his remains as well as DNA samples.

Moro National Liberation Front spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla, however, disputed the claim, saying Marwan was still alive.

Fontanilla said the Malaysian bomb expert was not in Mamasapano but in Lanao.

US gave PNoy intel on wanted terrorist

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 30): US gave PNoy intel on wanted terrorist

Purisima verified location of target before SAF raid

THE US government provided President Benigno Aquino III with “actionable intelligence” to pin down the precise location of Malaysian terrorist and bomb expert Marwan, a police general told the Manila Standard Thursday.

The US used drones and satellites in its intelligence gathering while suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima sent “foot soldiers” to verify the intel.

Home again. The remains of 42 of the 44 policemen killed in an
encounter with Moro rebels in Maguindanao arrived  in Villamor Air
Base on Thursday. Sonny Espiritu

“The US intel checked out,” said the source, who requested anonymity.

The police general said Purisima and his US counterpart had been exchanging information since 2005, when Purisima started tracking and following the moves of Malaysian bomb expert Marwan, who was believed to have arrived the country in 2002.

The general said while President Aquino was in Zamboanga on Sunday to closely monitor the developments in Mamasapano, some US troops also stationed themselves in Zamboanga.

“The President even had an advance party of the Presidential Security Group in Cotabato so that he would immediately fly in there to receive Marwan’s turnover. The Americans were also there ready with the $5 million bounty for Marwan’s head,” the source said.

“It was not just coincidental that minutes after the carnage, several US helicopters were already in the area purportedly to transport the bodies,” the general said.

“The Americans were on standby,” he said.

Told that the US Embassy explained the presence of the American choppers was due to the request made by the Philippine government for transport, the source said the military has its own helicopters that can be tapped anytime.

“The Philippine government could not simply fly choppers over areas where the ceasefire is in effect and this could be misconstrued as a violation of the ceasefire agreement,” the source said.

“The Americans were only too willing to accede to President Aquino’s request,” the source added.

The police general said the drones that were discovered in various parts of the country, particularly in most parts of Mindanao, had been used by the US to scour the area and pinpoint the place where Marwan was believed to be in hiding.

“If the drone would detect the presence of Marwan, the US would immediately relay the information to Purisima, who would deploy men to verify the intelligence report,” the source said.

“Satellites and drones had been used in tracking the movements of Marwan. The US provided that to the Philippine government considering that Marwan was among the most wanted terrorist in the US,” the source said.

Asked how Purisima and the US intelligence officials would exchange information, the source said they either met to discuss the information or they used a courier or satellite phones.

Pressed if Purisima and the US officials continued to meet after he was suspended, the source had this to say: “That’s when President Aquino came in, but after he was briefed by Purisima.”

In Congress, Nationalist Peoples Coalition stalwart and Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian urged President Aquino to make a full disclosure of what he knew about the “top secret operation.”

Gatchalian said it was imperative for the President to make a full disclosure in the wake of reports that he was on top of the operation, with Purisima directly reporting to him as the proponent and implementor of the intelligence project to to arrest most wanted terrorist and Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Commander Marwan.”

“As commander-in-chief, it is the prerogative of the President to order a top secret operation to bag international terrorists. However, it is also his duty as the Chief Executive to make a full disclosure to the Filipino people on the SAF operation that resulted in a fiasco with 44 of its personnel being killed by elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said he received information from unimpeachable sources that the SAF operation was funded by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on orders from President Aquino.

PAOCC, which has an annual budget of P500 million, is headed by Ochoa.

The same sources told Gatchalian that the neutralization of Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, who has a $5 million bounty for his capture, has long been a project of the SAF beginning in 2005 when SAF personnel almost bagged him somewhere in Mindanao.

The US government has long been seeking Zulkifli, who is on Washington’s list of most wanted terrorists. Filipino Basit Usman carries a $2 million bounty because of his involvement in terrorist activities.

Gatchalian confirmed the Manila Standard report and said he was informed that Napenas was directly reporting to Purisima in the White House in Camp Crame, where the suspended PNP chief holds residence.

“It was General Napenas who was briefing General Purisima, who in turn, reports directly to the President to brief him about the progress and developments in the top secret SAF operation to arrest Commander Marwan,” said Gatchalian.

Roxas later relieved Napenas because he did not follow the chain of command and blindsided the Interior secretary and Espina.

Gatchalian said Ochoa and Purisima should be summoned by Congress to the scheduled investigation of the failed SAF operation since they are the ones who can provide details of the operation from the planning stage up to the implementation.

“Since President Aquino cannot be summoned by Congress, it would do him good if he can make a full disclosure of what he knew about the operation, especially since he was in Zamboanga City a day before the SAF operation started,” Gatchalian said.

Also on Thursday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the entry of a US air asset to extricate the dead police commandos was “but a normal practice.”

He said, however, that US service are not authorized to participate in any operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It is normal practice for government authorities to seek assistance from the United States during a medical evacuation,” Gazmin said.

He could not confirm, however, if US troops were present during the evacuation of wounded SAF members.

Video footage aired hours after the Mamasapan fighting showed Caucasian men with sidearm pistols helping Filipino soldiers evacuate wounded policemen using a blue and white Bell-type civilian helicopter.

“I cannot confirm that (the presence of US helicopter) but I saw the pictures. That is a normal practice whereby we ask assistance from the US forces to evacuate our wounded,” said Gazmin in a radio interview over dzRH.

“That is not part of the operation but we ask help because they have all the assets to provide the medical evacuation,” added Gazmin.

Gazmin also explained the delay in the military’s response to the SAF’s call for help.
He said the Army’s 6th Infantry Division was indeed able to send armor and troops from Division Reconnaissance Company at about 8:20 a.m. Sunday after receiving a request for assistance from the SAF.

Gazmin said the reinforcements arrived after the initial phase of the fighting between the MILF and BIFF between 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m.

“Why did it take so long? Because the coordination was made while they (SAF) were on their way to the target,” said Gazmin.

Gazmin said that the SAF coordinated with the battalion deployed in the area to guard main supply routes and detachments, but this should have been done at the division level so that the action could be well planned.

The defense chief also noted the targeted area was a big camp of the MILF and there were also Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters present.

“In this kind of major operation, you need to plan very well,” said Gazmin.

CPP/NDF: Hugo’s Arrest Another Block on the Peace Process

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 29): Hugo’s Arrest Another Block on the Peace Process

Maria Roja Banua
NDFP Bicol Chapter
The National Democratic Front- Bicol (NDF-Bicol) would like to clarify that the arrest of Mr. Reynaldo Hugo by joint operation of Criminal Detection Investigation Group Region 4 (CIDG) and military forces of Armed Forces Philippines accordingly on January 27 2015 was illegal. Reynaldo Hugo’s was an NDFP Peace Consultant and has been issued NDFP Document of Identification Number ND978239 under the assumed name Orgel Dimaaano. He has been issued a corresponding Letter of Acknowledgment signed by GRP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Silvestre H. Bello III. The Aquino government must respect and comply its obligation in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by both negotiating panels and approved by their respective Principals in 1995.

The time Mr. Hugo was arrested by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and military forces of AFP at Cabuyao, Laguna last Tuesday 27January 2015 undergoing medication treament due to nerve and kidney problem suffering since 2010. The NDF-Bicol demands the release of Reynaldo Hugo together 15 other illegally detained NDFP Consultants. The Aquino government must respect and comply with its obligations arising from the JASIG, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and other binding bilateral peace agreements.

Intrigues sowed by Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command Spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman and Command Chief Major General Ricardo Visaya over the said that “internal disputes on the whereabouts of extortion money led some NPAs to pinpoint Hugo to authorities” was a pure lies. Rather it was an intense surviellance operation for promotion sake and syndicate character of AFP to disclose information the seized of P1.4 million CPP-NPA organizational funds on Hugo’s possession.

The charges of multiple murder and frustrated murder against Reynaldo Hugo’s citing ten (10) incidents of ambush, raid and punishment against mining companies were all legitimate tactical offensives and punishment action launched by New People’s Army Units. Waging war against exploitative and oppresive system is a righteous act, the past NPA tactical offensives violated any in the rules of war and therefore hugo sholud not be liable for criminal offenses.

However, we assure Hugo’s arrest would not significantly affect the New People’s Army operations in the region. All commanders and cadres at the regional, provincial and front level have all the capacity, scientific knowledge and determination to wage protracted people’s war up to the gateway of strategic offensives. The basis to wage and onward the revolution is always an urgent call to change the exploitative and oppressive system perpetrated by — the U.S. government, big comprador bourgeoisie, the big landlords and corrupt bureaucrats— which Aquino is the ultimate puppet of U.S. imperialism and the great defender of bureaucrat capitalists.

Hail the CPP and NPA on its 46th Anniversary!
Long live the Filipino People and the Philippine Revolution!