Saturday, February 7, 2015

MILF: Banner: Keep Calm and No to War, Yes to Peace

Posted to the MILF Facebook page (Feb 3): Banner: Keep Calm and No to War, Yes to Peace

MILF: Video -- Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces Rehearsal drilling

Video posted to the MILF Facebook page (Feb 7): Video: Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces Rehearsal drilling

Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces
Inner Guard Base Command, Inner Defense Brigade, Headquarter Battalion Rehearsal drilling at Camp Darapanan

MILF: “Junking BBL is like throwing a tub of water and the baby as well”: Cardinal Quevedo

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 8): “Junking BBL is like throwing a tub of water and the baby as well”: Cardinal Quevedo

“Junking BBL is like throwing a tub of water and the baby as well”: Cardinal Quevedo

Influential Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo said on February 2 that “junking the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is disastrous and 'is like throwing away the tub of water and the baby as well'.

He said that congress should continue deliberating on the proposed law despite the ongoing investigations of the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and 18 combatants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), including several civilians.

Cardinal Quevedo is not alone in calling for the passage of the BBL. Recently twelve (12) Muslim solons urged their colleagues in the House of Representatives not to let the incident affect the enactment of the Bangsamoro Law. The Embassies of Turkey, Switzerland also stressed the importance of continuing the deliberations of the BBL and its immediate passage so that peace can be finally achieved in war-thorn Mindanao.

The Mindanao Business Council, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), non-government organizations and civil society groups expressed support to the resumption of the peace process and enactment of the proposed law saying the unfortunate incident in Mamasapano should not be a hindrance at finding lasting peace in Mindanao. The CBCP said that the Mamasapano incident “should not end the peace process”.

“The future is represented by the BBL. If it falls by the wayside, the future is unthinkable. Where else can we go without its promise of a just and lasting peace? Where else do we go after many, many years of discussion”?, Cardinal Quevedo asked.

The BBL is a product of agreements between the GPH and MILF Peace Panels, crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as mandated by Executive Order No. 120 signed by President Benigno Aquino III. Once passed by congress, signed by President Aquino and ratified by the people in the core territory, six municipalities in Lanao Del Norte and 39 villages in North Cotabato, the law shall entrench the new political entity Bangsamoro in 2016. Upon its ratification, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall take over the helm of governance of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by mid-2015.

MILF: Bangsamoro youth attend 12th WAMY Conference in Morocco

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 7): Bangsamoro youth attend 12th WAMY Conference in Morocco

Bangsamoro youth attend 12th WAMY Conference in Morocco

Three Bangsamoro youth had attended the 12th World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) Conference held in the city of Marakkech, Morocco on January 29-February 1, 2015.

The three Bangsamoro delegates were Camarodin Abdulbayan, President of Philippine Students’ Association in Cairo, Margany Gumander, Chairperson of Bangsamoro Assembly of Muslim Youth based in Cotabato City, and this author which is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Muslim Youth Society of the Philippines.

The conference pooled organization representatives from 80 countries at the historical Moroccan city to learn from speakers the large number of topics and issues related to the present and future of Muslim youth around the globe.

The activity which was themed “Muslim youth in a changing world,” also gave the participants the opportunity to share their experiences in addressing issues affecting the young Muslims in their respective states.

Presenters identified poverty, westernization, and drugs are among the concerns greatly affecting the young generation of the followers of Islamic faith.

Dr. Saleh bin Sulaiman Al-Wohaibi, WAMY Secretary-General, reported the accomplishments in implementing programs that includes training, scholarship, research, relief, support to orphans, mosque construction, youth empowerment, media, and publications.

WAMY is also a member of the UN NGOs whose mission is to care for the advancement of the youth through programs run by the workers and volunteers specialize in youth affairs.

Al-Wohaibi said that the welfare of the youth on all fronts is central to WAMY’s role in drawing up its strategy and implementation of these programs.

WAMY’s total executed programs in the 11th Session reached to 47 programs with the cost of SR1,504,566,448 covering the period 2011-2014.

Active member organizations of WAMY also elected their new Board of Directors for the 12th Session. Al-Wohaibi was re-elected to the same position.

The Secretary-General looks forward for continuous collaboration between WAMY and its member organizations in addressing the issues affecting the Muslim youth.

China’s mischief: Expansion, reclamation

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 7): China’s mischief: Expansion, reclamation

Map showing the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (south China Sea), including the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal. AFP

Map showing the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (south China Sea), including the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal. AFP

China has deployed a dredging ship at the disputed Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) and is doing “substantial” reclamation in the partially submerged area, signaling Beijing may be preparing to expand its facilities there, according to the military command that is directly in charge of securing the country’s maritime interests in the West Philippine Sea.

China has been earnestly conducting dredging activities at Panganiban Reef—a Philippine-claimed area in the Spratly group of islands, which Beijing occupied in the mid-1990s —similar to earlier reported land reclamation work in other areas of the Spratlys, said Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, chief of the Western Command (Wescom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We don’t know what they plan to do in Mischief. It is already a garrison to begin with and far from being just a fisherman’s shelter, which was what (China) claimed when they first occupied it,” Lopez said.
Aerial photos

Lopez did not say when China started the dredging work or give any details on the extent of reclamation at Panganiban Reef, saying only the work had been “substantial.”

He said the Navy has taken aerial photographs of the reclamation activities at Panganiban Reef but that his command was not authorized to release those photos.

But Lopez said the physical change in Panganiban Reef since the dredging “has been substantial.”

He said Panganiban Reef has been functioning as a base for Chinese frigates that have been patrolling the area.

Note verbale

Panganiban Reef, one of the rocky islets in the Spratlys archipelago that is being claimed by the Philippines as it lies just 135 kilometers southeast of Palawan and within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and its continental shelf, was taken over by the Chinese in 1995 over the protests of the Philippines even as Beijing claimed that they only intended to build shelters for Chinese fishermen that visit the area.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said it has already lodged a protest with China concerning the land reclamation activities at Panganiban. It said the protest was included in the note verbale that it handed last Wednesday to Chinese Embassy representatives which also expressed the Philippines’ strong objection to the stepped-up Chinese building activities at Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), also part of the Spratlys, accusing China of planning to build an airstrip on top of land dredged from around the area, in violation of previous international agreements.

“China’s reclamation activities constitute a flagrant violation of [the Philippines’ exclusive right to authorize construction of artificial islands, installations or other structures in the vicinity of Panganiban Reef under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and increase tensions in the region,” the DFA said.

China has claims on almost the entire South China Sea, which is believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all have sovereignty claims on the sea and its mostly uninhabited islands that is a marginal part of the Pacific Ocean where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade pass every year.

6 other reefs

Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to set Southeast Asian minds at ease over the country’s regional ambitions, but Beijing’s reclamation work in the Spratlys underscores its drive to push claims in the South China Sea and reassert its rights.

China has already undertaken reclamation work on six other reefs it occupies in the Spratlys, expanding land mass five-fold, aerial surveillance photos show. Images seen by Reuters last year appeared to show an airstrip and sea ports.


IHS Jane’s said in November images it had obtained showed the Chinese-built island on the Kagitingan Reef to be at least 3,000-meters long and 200- to 300-meters wide.

Surveillance photos that were taken of Panganiban Reef last October showed no reclamation work in the area.

The photos, seen by Reuters, showed two structures, including a three-story building sitting on an atoll, equipped with wind turbines and solar panels.

In 2002, Southeast Asian states agreed with China to sign an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea to stop claimant states from occupying and constructing garrisons in the disputed Spratlys.

Last year, the Philippines and Vietnam protested China’s reclamation work as a violation of the informal code.

PH fishing boats rammed

Just last Thursday, the Philippines accused China of ramming Filipino fishing boats off the disputed (Panatag Shoal) Scarborough Shoal, north of Panganiban Reef, and demanded that Beijing respect its sovereignty over the potential flash-point territory.

The DFA said it had sent two notes of protest over the Jan. 29 incident off Panatag Shoal, as well as the removal of critically endangered giant clams by Chinese fishermen in the area a week earlier.

China’s foreign ministry immediately fired off a stern rebuke and defended the actions of its coast guard vessel, claiming that the Filipino fishing vessels were “illegally lingering” in the waters surrounding Panatag Shoal, prompting its coast guard to send a dinghy “to drive them away and slightly bumped one of the fishing vessels.”

A Philippine military spokesperson, Col. Restituto Padilla, described China’s action as “alarming” saying the local fishermen were trying to seek shelter due to bad weather.
Creeping invasion

China has controlled Panatag Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the South China Sea (referred to as the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines) 220 kilometers west of Luzon, since 2012 following a tense standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese maritime patrol vessels.

The Philippines has alleged that China’s actions in the South China Sea were part of a creeping invasion and has asked a United Nations arbitration panel to rule on its maritime disputes with Beijing which has refused to participate in the proceedings.

China occupied Panganiban Reef in 1995, building makeshift huts, which Beijing claimed provided shelter for fishermen during the monsoon season. But it later built a garrison in the area, deploying frigates and coast guard ships.

“China intends to seize as much of the South China Sea as possible,” said Michael Tkacik, a security specialist with the Texas-based Stephen F. Austin State University, in a security forum in Manila on Wednesday.

Sparring over islands, shoals and outcrops might drag China into conflict with another superpower, the United States, a longtime military ally of the Philippines, he warned.

Marwan was ISIS conduit

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 8): Marwan was ISIS conduit

Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was the conduit for Southeast Asia of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that his death cut off an important line to the extremist group, a major score in the war against global terror.

“We must understand the role of Marwan. Aside from his previous involvements in numerous activities such as the Bali bombing and the other bombings in southern Philippines, he had a very important role as the facilitator of the movement of some people to ISIS,” National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia told the Inquirer a day after the US confirmed Marwan’s death.

Marwan, a member of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, was killed by members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) in a dawn raid on his lair in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

An expert bomber, Marwan was dubbed the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.

Aside from masterminding several terror attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombing, Marwan was “a facilitator of a loose network of jihadists in the region,” Garcia said.

Garcia said Marwan had been recruiting Malaysian, Indonesian and “maybe some Filipinos” to join the ISIS in the Middle East.

There were three Filipinos who “might have gone” to the Middle East to join ISIS, Garcia said.

“The number of recruits is few and far between. We haven’t really established if they had joined ISIS. But two of (the three Filipinos) are Fil-Europeans. They were born in Europe and one of the parents is Filipino,” he said.

Hataman: Normalcy returning to Maguindanao clash site

From the Manila Times (Feb 8): Hataman: Normalcy returning to Maguindanao clash site

MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao: Normalcy is slowly returning to this devastated community in Maguindanao with regional government agencies attending to the needs of affected families, Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Sunday said.

To prove that, Hataman brought his “special guests” – action star Cesar Montano and TV commedin Giselle Sanches here over the weekend.

“We would like to dispel some media reports that Maguindanao is one community that should be avoided, Cesar and Giselle saw for themselves the area is peaceful and people live simply,” Hataman told reporters in a pep talk as the group returned to Cotabato City.

Hataman said he brought Montano and Sanchez in the village of Tukanalipao, site of bloody encounter on January 25 that left 44 elite police force, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians as part of psycho-social intervention on the locals who have been traumatized by the conflict.

In that encounter, government forces killed Malaysian Zulkifpli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” but his Filipino aide Basit Usman escaped.

“People smiled, welcomed and satisfied seeing personalities they only see on television,” said Hataman.

The two performed during the Friday night “Kantakapayapaan,” a peace concert organized by Hataman in his efforts to normalize the situation and continue pushing for peace.

Both expressed opposition to calls by some sectors for an all-out war in Mindanao.
“Walang mabuting maidudulot sa atin ang giyera, kailangan tayong mag-usap (War does not bring us anything good, we need to talk to resolve misunderstanding),” Montano told the Tukanalipao crowd.

Sanchez said she was sad children in Tukanalipao and nearby communities have to live in the midst of conflict. “I hope peace talks will continue,” she said.

MILF, Army fight Abu bandits in Basilan

From ABS-CBN (Feb 8): MILF, Army fight Abu bandits in Basilan

Troops from the Philippine Army helped Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who encountered Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sumisip, Basilan on Saturday morning.

Soldiers from the Philippine Army's 64th Infantry Battalion, under the 104th Infantry Brigade, reinforced MILF fighters when the latter encountered about 50 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Kaumpamatsakem village at around 10 a.m.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits were allegedly led by Radzmil Janatul alias Khubayb, Juhaibel Alamsirul alias Abu Kik, and Pasil Bayali.

Upon being alerted of the incident, three platoons of 64th IB led by Lt. Col. Raymund Recaido, proceeded to the encounter site.

The 64th soldiers were accompanied by MILF fighters.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits retreated to Barangay Baiwas after being outnumbered. An Abu Sayyaf bandit was reportedly killed during the encounter.

Government troops conducted pursuit operations against the withdrawing Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The 64th IB troops rescued wounded MILF fighter, identified as Sahid Liberal a.k.a. Balinting. Liberal was brought to Basilan Community Hospital for treatment.

The soldiers and the MILF fighters were able to clear Abu Sayyaf camps.

Rebels say Usman 'still hiding in Mamasapano'

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): Rebels say Usman 'still hiding in Mamasapano'

Usman, an ethnic Maguindanaon and an accomplice of the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was reportedly wounded in his arm when operatives of the police’s Special Action Force raided their hideout in Barangay Pidsandawan here before dawn of January 25.

A wounded foreign-trained bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman is just hiding in a marshy area in Mamasapano, Maguindanao and is planning to escape to the northern part of the vast Liguasan Delta, rebel sources said on Saturday.

Usman, an ethnic Maguindanaon and an accomplice of the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was reportedly wounded in his arm when operatives of the police’s Special Action Force raided their hideout in Barangay Pidsandawan here before dawn of January 25.

“Marwan was killed in that raid while Abdul Basit, who was in another house about 60 meters away, was wounded when he and his companions engaged the SAF team when they heard gunshots and saw the policemen around,” a rebel, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said in the local vernacular.

Neighbors of Marwan said he was known in the municipality as “Ibz” and not by his original alias.

“People here knew him as `Ibz' and not as Marwan,” another source pointed out.
Usman was more popular here as “Teng” and not as Abdul Basit, the source added.

Villagers identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Marwan was not buried at a graveyard near an old mosque in the center of Barangay Tukanalipao as reported by a national television network.

Clerics residing around the centuries-old mosque refuted the reports purporting they facilitated Marwan's burial in a Muslim cemetery just meters away from the worship site.

“He was buried not far from his hideout, in an unmarked grave,” a driver of a passenger vehicle said.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for his being related by blood with certain commanders of the MILF here, said Marwan died from gunshot wounds in the chest.

“The SAF team that raided his house was composed of about 30 men. They were able to kill him immediately. Usman and his companions fired at another group near them, precipitating an encounter,” narrated the source.

"The wounded Usman managed to escape," the source said.

Barangay folks said Usman has still been hiding in a marshy area in Mamasapano, ready to leave if he would have the chance.

“He and Marwan stays in one house most of the time but that time he (Usman) slept in another house just near the house where the SAF members killed Marwan,” said one of them.

An owner of a small dry goods store here said Marwan had the habit of occasionally moving around Barangay Pidsandawan and deeper into the nearby Liguasan Delta at the tri-boundary of the adjoining North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, to avoid detection.

“We are convinced that there were people in the MILF that helped the police track him down because the raid was carried out at a time when he was in Barangay Pidsandawan,” the merchant pointed out.

Usman was also known here as Marwan’s interpreter and occasional “bagman.”
“Sometimes it was Usman who kept the money of Marwan,” a peasant in Barangay Pidsandawan said.

Errands of Marwan and Usman occasionally bought for them food and other provisions at the public market in Sharif Aguak, the former provincial capital, which is near the main office of the Maguindanao provincial police and the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade.

A peasant claiming to be a relative of Usman said he first went underground after working for several years in the Middle East as an electrician and an appliance repair man.

“He studied in a government technical school before he worked abroad,” the source said.

He said Usman returned to the country just as government forces were liberating MILF camps from rebel occupation after then President Joseph Estrada declared an all out war against the secessionist group.

Usman, while an OFW, was said to have undergone training in handling of explosives and fabrication of improvised bombs using materials available in guerilla arsenals such as mortar projectiles and anti-tank rockets.

He is known here for his skill in fabricating improvised blasting contraptions for home-made explosives.

“He perpetrated deadly bombings in retaliation for the military’s takeover of rebel territories in 2000,” another source said.

Rebel sources said there were talks in the past about Usman’s having been involved in the detonation in June 2005 of a vehicle packed with explosives, while parked along a busy stretch of a national highway in Sharif Aguak, as the convoy of then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who was hostile to local MILF commanders, passed by.

The governor survived the attack unscathed, but eight others, who were riding in vehicles trailing his bullet-proof car, were killed in the explosion.

Usman was also implicated in a roadside bombing in nearby Datu Piang town, also in Maguindanao, on December 23, 2002, which killed Ampatuan’s son, Mayor Datu Saudi Ampatuan and more than a dozen others.

Barangay folks also hinted that Usman was also behind the setting off of a multi-cab vehicle carrying explosives at the Maguindanao airport in Awang District in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in February 2003, just days after soldiers liberated from rebel control the 3,000-hectare Buliok Complex at the border of Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato.

The military’s clearing of Buliok Complex from occupation by rebels, dubbed "Oplan Alab Lahi," forced the MILF’s founder, the Egyptian-trained cleric Salamat Hashim, to abandon his house in the area and relocate to Butig town in the second district of Lanao del Sur, where he died of a cardiac ailment several months later.

AFP pursues 100 Abus in Sulu clash

From the Philippine Star (Feb 8): AFP pursues 100 Abus in Sulu clash

The military continues to pursue the more than 100 Abu Sayyaf bandits that its troops encountered last Friday in Patikul, Sulu.  Thirteen soldiers and eight bandits were wounded in the firefight.

The wounded soldiers have been airlifted to a military hospital here. One of them was reported to be in critical condition.

“The ground forces have sustained its operation against Abu Sayyaf bandits it encountered Friday. There is a continuous pursuit operation,” Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command, said.

Troops under the Joint Task Group Sulu were pursuing at least three combined groups, one of which was led by Radulan Sahiron, the most senior militant leader in Sulu, Muyuela said.

She said there was no information if Sahiron was among the fatalities during last Friday’s encounter, which broke out at about 11:50 a.m. in Barangay Buhanginan.

Aside from the eight fatalities, reports from the ground troops said several bandits were wounded in the clash.

The Sulu provincial government said the ongoing military offensive did not displace any civilians as the area of operation is far from residential communities.

Provincial information officer Sonny Abing said the local government was ready to extend assistance to civilians once the offensive escalates.

Meanwhile, authorities foiled an attempt by Abu Sayyaf bandits to bomb an oil depot in Isabela City, Basilan yesterday.

Police said a bandit hurled a bomb into the compound of Island Petroleum Corp. located in Barangay Tabuk at about 6:45 a.m.

City police chief Superintendent Albert Larubis said one of the depot workers found a plastic bag believed to contain the bomb.

A team from the Army’s K-9 unit and Explosive and Ordnance Division inspected the package and confirmed it contained an improvised explosive device (IED).

The bomb squad defused the IED, which was composed of a non-electric blasting cap, time fuse, and ammonium nitrate fuel oil.

Investigation showed the bomb try could be part of the bandits’ extortion activity.

Marwan e-mails dying declaration

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): Marwan e-mails dying declaration

Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir reportedly wrote his brother in 2006 instructing him to dispose of his inheritance from their father and give them to his two children if he died “as a martyr.”

Zulkifli had e-mailed his elder brother Rahmat, a naturalized US citizen currently serving sentence for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

“If I died as a martyr, and if there was some inheritance from the sale of dad’s land, please don’t forget about my two children here. Please don’t forget to transfer them into the same account that you’ve been using,” Zulkifli, also known as Marwan, wrote his brother in July 2006.

Marwan repeatedly emailed his brother detailing the firefights between the Philippine military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Two martyred, 20 troops died. From here, the location is about six or seven hours away on foot. The fighting is still going on until now. I can hear it from my location. It started early morning from 6 o’clock until evening. I think it has been going on for eight days now. Earlier today, a helicopter was flying back and forth over in that area. You can hear it from here,” Marwan told his brother in an email on June 30, 2006.
Marwan said 27 government troops died in the battle against five in the MILF. He did not say where the fighting took place.

“My friend was just telling me again that there are four martyrs now. He is in the field right now. The other day, two of my friends from here (they’re about five kilometers from my location) went out to reinforce. He wanted to join the battle. In the future, I want to go when there is need for reinforcement. I can’t go by myself. I must have a local guide with me,” Marwan said.

In several email messages, Marwan detailed how it was to live among “martyrs.”
He also mentioned the involvement of the US government in the battle of the Philippine government against Muslim rebels.

He said the US military is using Orion spy planes and Predator drones to help Philippine troops monitor the movements of the Muslim rebels.

Marwan also mentioned a “J” among them, apparently referring to a member of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

The JI was tagged in the 2002 Bali bombings where 202 people were killed.

“J” could also mean “jihadist,” someone engaged in a holy war against unbelievers of Islam.

In another email, Marwan said, “On July 10, 2006 approximately ten days after the death of A. Hashim, one squad of Special Action Forces (SAF) commandos, around 15 people, armed with M-4s, mini-M-60, 9mm pistols, 45 caliber pistols, night vision, and guided by government assets (spies) surrounded Lagu’s home with objective of capturing him (maybe alive).

“His house was broken into and the door got torn off. His wife and child were able to get out before the exchange of fire. Three of Lagu’s neighbors with Armalite rifles were able to assist until the attacking commandos withdrew. As a result, two commandos died, including team leader. One M-4 Armalite, one Taurus 9mm pistol, one .45 Norincol pistol, one night vision, one led diode flashlight, two M-60 belts with 200 rounds were seized.

“Lagu was asleep already in the house, protected by Allah. The people there took all of the spoils of war. Man! The rifles were new, the latest,” he said.

Rifles for sale

On Sept. 1, 2006, Rahmat reportedly wire transferred to Marwan the amount $5,500 through a Maybank account in the name of Minah binti Aogis Abd Aziz.

On or about Sept. 30, 2006, Zulkifli sent email to Rahmat, “If you have some available, please send a little bit more.”

“Over here people are ready to go to war. The US Orion spy plane has been circling the sky around the areas here during these past 3 to 4 days.”

Again Marwan wrote to his brother on Nov. 9, 2006, “We will know whether there will be a war or not by the 16th of November that would be the deadline for the Philippine government to submit the counter proposal to the MILF.”

Marwan also revealed corruption in the Philippine military.

“Commander A. Wahid says that there is a soldier who wants to sell a new .50 caliber for US$5,000. He said that he can only afford $2,000 and asked to find the remaining $3,000… The government assets (spies) at Pikit are regular people, not commanders. Among the five assets the other day, two of them died. One died three days after the Aug. 10th incident for stealing a motorcycle. He was caught by the locals and beaten to death. The other one died around two or three days before the Raya celebration, shot by an Armalite. The shooters were friends of Lagu’s neighbors,” he said.

On Feb. 9, 2007, Marwan sent Rahmat an email saying how some MILF commanders have double loyalties.

“Adan Abdula is the base commander of division 106. He has his left foot on the MILF, and his right foot on Datu Andal. When they have battle with Amer Umra Kato from division 105, his troops become Andal’s dogs merged with Andal’s troops. Was shot by someone...” Marwan said in referring to Andal Ampatuan, one of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 and Kato, the leader of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that vowed to go against the peace negotiations of the MILF with the Philippine government.

On March 6, 2007, Marwan sent an email to Rahmat telling him he was constantly on the run.

“The latest update I heard was that 17 died as martyrs and more than 60 soldiers were killed. The American soldiers operated unmanned Predator spy plane, which has been hovering around more than four times above Bngla’s house. I am currently mobile, moving from one place to another.”

Marwan later sent an email saying US spy planes were hovering over his area.

“Spy planes have been hovering over this area these past two days. There is a big (US Orion). There is a small one that looks like an eagle (Predator). This FM radio receiver has been picking up American voices during these past two days: ‘We are ready to launch.’”

Marwan said the Americans have joined the Filipino troops for joint exercise in his area.

“Do you still have the radio scanner that you used to have? How much does a set cost? The latest update is that more than twenty died as martyrs, more than 70 soldiers killed, and more than a hundred injured,” Marwan told his elder brother.

DNA sample

Zulkifli and Rahmat were charged in violation of a 9/11-inspired International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) in the US.

Under this law, the US President has authority to “investigate, regulate, or prohibit” transactions involving “any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

On Sept. 23, 2001, President George W. Bush, based on IEEPA, issued Executive Order No. 13224, entitled “Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit or Support Terrorism” to address “the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon committed on Sept. 11, 2001” and “the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on US nationals or the United States.”

Without naming Rahmat as Zulkifli’s relative, the FBI could have used the DNA of Rahmat to match his brother’s based on the sentencing guidelines pronounced by Judge Jeremy Fogel of the US District Court in Northern California.

Fogel had ordered Rahmat to “cooperate in the collection of DNA as directed by the probation officer.”

The DNA sample provided by Rahmat was used to compare the biological sample supposedly taken from Zulkifli’s body in the Philippines.

Following a 20-minute hearing on Aug. 26, 2010, Fogel sentenced Rahmat to spend 120 months in a federal prison, three years’ supervised release and $100 special assessment fee.

Rahmat had pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in the offense and dismissed the rest of the indictments returned by a grand jury on Aug. 1, 2007.

Had Rahmat gone to trial, he would have faced 15 years in prison and $250,000 fine if he were convicted on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Because Rahmat is “not considered a threat the United States,” Fogel said he “should be housed accordingly” and be “remanded to the Custody of the US Marshal” and his “appearance bond is hereby exonerated.”

Since Rahmat could not be deported because he is a US naturalized citizen, Fogel also ordered him to a three-year supervised release and report to the probation office in the district of release within 72 hours from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.

Rahmat was also ordered to “not unlawfully possess a controlled substance” and “shall submit to one drug test within 15 days of release from imprisonment and two periodic drug tests.”

However, the “drug testing condition is suspended based on the court’s determination that the defendant poses a low risk of future substance abuse” and the “defendant shall not possess a firearm, ammunition, destructive device, or any other dangerous weapon.”

Rahmat, 51, is currently detained at the Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc, a low security institution in Lompoc, California. He is scheduled to be released on April 18, 2016.

Rahmat was indicted by a grand jury based on records unsealed on Aug. 1, 2007.
The indictments were based on a series of exchanges of email messages between Rahmat and Marwan “beginning on a date unknown and continuing through at least August 2007 in the Northern District of California and elsewhere.”

In sending terrorism materials, Rahmat used his sender’s names as “Sean Kasem, Sean Kalimin, Roy Kalimin and Salam A. Jabar” while he addressed the packages to his younger brother under the aliases as “Zulkifli Bin Abdul Hir, Hulagu, Holagu, Lagu, Marwan, Kulon, Musa Abdul, Musa Abdul Hir, Zulkifli Abdul Hir, Zulkifli bin Hir, Abdul Hir bin Zulkifli, Abdulhir Bin Hir and Bin Abdul Hir Zulkifli.”

Rahmat used his email address of and sends his email to his brother under the email handles, and

In their email exchanges, Marwan wanted Rahmat to send him “accessories for firearms, backpacks, Insignia two-way radios, knives and publications about firearms” to the Philippines, using such codes as “iron” for firearms, “dogs” for government agents and “prizes and presents” for bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

Zulkifli was either born on Jan. 5, 1966 or Oct. 5, 1966 in Muar, Johor, Malaysia. He speaks Malaysian, English, Tagalog and Arabic. He was an engineer trained in the US. Zulkifli was said to be the head of Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) terrorist organization and a ranking member of JI central command. He trained terrorist organizations in bomb making, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf shot dead by comrade in Basilan

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Feb 7): Abu Sayyaf shot dead by comrade in Basilan

A member of the Abu Sayyaf group killed his comrade last month in the town of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan Province, according to a belated reported of the military.
Ralphy Lahanan, 20, of Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip, was shot to death by a follower of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Furudji Indama in barangay Baguindan Jan. 31.
Capt. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) headquarters public information officer, identified the suspect as Parung Tedie, alias Abusay.
She said Lahanan was shot to death by Abusay while on board his XRM motorcycle bearing plate number JQ3763.
The victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the different parts of his body that caused his instantaneous death, according to Muyuela.
“Motive of the incident is still being determined as the AFP and PNP continue to intensify intelligence monitoring and law enforcement operations to expedite the arrest of lawless elements in the area.”

63 Marwan bomber associates still on the loose

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 8): 63 Marwan bomber associates still on the loose

The government has to hunt down not only Basit Usman (shown in photo) but more than 60 other bomb experts after taking down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”

The government has to hunt down not only Basit Usman (shown in photo) but more than 60 other bomb experts after taking down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
One down. Sixty-three to go.

The government has to hunt down not only Basit Usman but more than 60 other bomb experts after taking down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”

Documents obtained by the Inquirer, including one stamped with the logo of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and marked confidential and “Special Operation Group (SOG) bomb experts,” showed that Marwan had 63 associates, all trained by Indonesian bomb expert Dulmatin, who was killed by police in Jakarta in 2010.

Dulmatin was a senior figure in the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah who was one of the brains behind the bombings of two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly Australian tourists, and wounded 209 others, mostly foreign tourists, on Oct. 12, 2002.

Attack on PH envoy

He also took part in the Jemaah Islamiyah car-bomb attack on Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Leonides Caday in Jakarta on Aug. 1, 2000.

Caday was injured in the explosion. Two people were killed and 21 others injured in the midday attack in Jakarta’s Menteng district.

Dulmatin was killed by officers from Indonesia’s counterterrorism police in a raid on his hideout on the outskirts of Jakarta on March 9, 2010.

The MILF list of SOG bomb experts is topped by Marwan, who was killed by commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.

The list, dated June 28, 2008, is signed by one Jamir M. Bansil. It contains the names of 38 bomb makers.

A second list, dated Aug. 2, 2008, contains the names of 26 bomb experts.

Usman is third on the first list. A Filipino bomb maker for the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, Usman escaped from the SAF commandos, who lost 44 of their own in gun battles with guerrillas from the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

President Aquino, under heavy public criticism for the deaths of the policemen, demanded that the MILF, which signed a peace agreement with the government in March last year, to surrender Usman, if they had him, or help the government find him or step aside to allow government security forces to get him.

The United States has offered a $3-million reward for the capture of Usman.

Extortionists’ group

On the list is Abdul Jabedi Bedz, a leader of the local terrorist group Al-Khobar, which authorities say is behind a series of bombings in Central Mindanao that started two years before the list was made.

More than 30 people have been killed in those bombings.

Based in the marshlands of Maguindanao, Al-Khobar is a group of extortionists who use bombs to scare businessmen into paying up, according to authorities.

Authorities say Al-Khobar was formed in support of Jemaah Islamiyah and foreign jihadist groups.

The government is offering a P3.3-million reward for information that would lead to Bedz’s arrest.

The list shows that some of the bomb experts are also assigned as organizers, logistics and supply officers.

Some of the people on the list are described as “instructor for jihad and bombs.”

Several of the people listed as organizers are linked to Al-Khobar.

The list includes the aliases of the bomb experts, including Zulkifli’s, which is the same as the alias Marwan that appears on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of most wanted terrorists.

MILF informant

The Inquirer obtained the documents from a source who claimed he got the papers from an MILF informant in exchange for “some consideration.”

“These documents show that the MILF had been using the expertise of Marwan and the others as early as 10 years ago,” the source said.

The source said Dulmatin trained the 64 men on the list in bomb-making.

“They were the core group that also trained others,” the source said.

He said the training included making improvised explosive devices using locally available materials.

Marwan’s students

The military is verifying reports that Marwan trained 300 people, including female fighters, not only in bomb-making but also in using guns.

“We received information that some of the students are hiding in Mamasapano and nearby areas, and are constantly on the move. But we are still validating this,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the public affairs office of Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Cabunoc asked the public to help in monitoring Marwan’s students because the military has no list of their names.

“We have seen the evil effects of bombing, especially on defenseless civilians,” Cabunoc said, adding that knowledge of bomb-making is dangerous in the hands of radical, angry civilians.

“That is very serious. If someone knows how to make a bomb, anyone can be a victim,” he said.

Cabunoc said the military had asked the MILF for help in hunting down terrorists like Usman, and that it was one way for the rebels to prove themselves serious in pursuing the peace process despite the Mamasapano incident.

“If the MILF themselves turn over the terrorist to us, then trust might be restored. They should prove that they are worth trusting and believing,” Cabunoc said.

At China Sea Impasse, Manila Bolsters Navy

From Voice of America (Feb 6): At China Sea Impasse, Manila Bolsters Navy

FILE - The Philippine Navy is upgrading its fleet amid growing maritime disputes. Here, one of its troops fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, June 29, 2014.

FILE - The Philippine Navy is upgrading its fleet amid growing maritime disputes. Here, one of its troops fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, June 29, 2014.

The Philippine Navy is upgrading its capabilities at a time of continuing tensions with China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.  

In recent weeks, an Indonesian naval shipbuilder started work on two "strategic sealift vessels" that the Philippines is acquiring for more than $87 million and expects within two years, said Commander Lued Lincunad, a navy spokesman.

Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea
Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

Each one "will enhance our defense capability and operational capabilities. It has a helipad and can accommodate three choppers at any one time," Lincunad said. Each can be used for command and control, and each "can house a battalion of the marines" and special operations forces.

The vessels represent the navy’s latest efforts to control a resource-rich and strategically valuable expanse of ocean.

As part of a five-year, $1.8 billion military modernization program, the navy already has acquired several big-ticket items, including two frigates that used to be U.S. Coast Guard cutters. The nearly 50-year-old ships, retrofitted with modern munitions and companion helicopters, have been patrolling the archipelago’s shores for the past two years.

Four more frigates are on order and another two navy helicopters identical to the three already in use are expected to arrive by May.

Upgrading resources

The Philippines' annual military spending is $2.6 billion, miniscule compared to China’s $132 billion military budget in 2014. But Manila has focused its resources on improving its capability to monitor and respond to developments in the South China Sea.

China, which claims practically the entire South China Sea, has steadily increased its presence in the contested region in recent years. Now, Chinese construction teams are reclaiming land on outcroppings among some of the Spratly Islands that the Philippines claims.
Chinese surveillance ships have also regularly driven away Philippine vessels from contested reefs and shoals, including Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines says is well within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the resource-rich sea.

Philippines, Japan make pact

Last week, the Philippine Department of National Defense and Japan’s Ministry of Defense for the first time signed an agreement to forge closer defense ties on matters such as joint military drills and cooperation on global security.

Without giving specifics, officials said both countries share the same view on the situations in the South China and East China Seas, where China’s high visibility has raised anxiety among its neighbors.

National defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the Philippines is looking for support from Japan in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "Any of those capabilities where they could probably help us out, that’s what we’re requesting," he said.

The Philippines is building an $18 million coast watch command center. It will coordinate communications among the navy, coast guard, maritime police and other agencies to guard its maritime borders. Lincuna said the watch system includes a network of land- and ship- based surveillance equipment.

Galvez said the country is also looking to Japan for help with humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities.

Show of self-reliance

The Philippines’ small-scale buildup demonstrates to the United States, its only treaty ally, that it is helping itself and not just relying on outside partnerships, said Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia security analyst with the Australian Defense Force Academy.

Now if Filipino warships are attacked, "that triggers consultations with the United States," Thayer said. "It doesn’t mean they [Filipinos] have to be reckless. It means that China now has to take into account those vessels. You call that extended deterrence: You punch the Philippines, you get Uncle Sam behind them."

The Philippines is also keeping up and building strategic partnerships with other neighbors. Last week, the Philippine and Vietnamese foreign ministers held talks on strengthening security ties.

Australia announced last week it will donate to the Philippines two refurbished 40-year-old landing craft vessels capable of transporting "large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment" to hard-to-reach shores.

MILF 'ready to cooperate' in tracking down terrorists

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): MILF 'ready to cooperate' in tracking down terrorists

MILF chief negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal said his group does not sanction the coddling of terrorists.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is ready to cooperate with the government in tracking down terrorists as long as long as the agreements signed by the peace panels are complied with.

Reacting to President Aquino’s second address on the Mamasapano clash, MILF chief negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal maintained that prior coordination is needed before security forces operate in their area.

“As long as signed documents would allow, then we are cooperating fully with the government,” Iqbal said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel anchor Tina Monzon-Palma Friday night.

Iqbal was asked to react to the president’s demand that the MILF do everything it could to help capture wanted terrorist Basit Usman, who managed to evade law enforcers during the operation in Mamasapano.

When asked to comment on Aquino’s appeal for the MILF not to interfere with the government’s pursuit of Usman, Iqbal replied in Filipino: “Indeed but we need to have coordination.”

“The incident on January 25 happened because there was no coordination. We did not want it to happen. The government did not want it to happen,” he added.
With regard to Aquino’s demand for the MILF to surrender Usman in case one of its members is protecting him, Iqbal said his group does not sanction the coddling of terrorists.

“If there is such occurrence, just for the sake of argument, it does not have the blessing of the MILF. If such situation arises, the mechanisms of AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) will operate,” the MILF chief negotiator added.

The AHJAG is a mechanism of the peace talks that was created to isolate and interdict lawless groups and terrorists.

Despite Aquino’s demands, Iqbal described the president’s address as “very fair and objective.”

MILF’s sincerity in talking peace with the government has been questioned after wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or “Marwan” was killed in an area inhabited by its members.

Marwan was killed shortly before 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) died in an encounter with MILF forces in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Usman, a Filipino bomb expert with a bounty of $1-million on his head, was also believed to be in the area but was able to escape. Security officials are now conducting pursuit operations against him.

When asked why the MILF was not aware of the presence of Marwan and Usman in Mamasapano, Iqbal said the area was a community composed of different groups.

“It is a community and not an MILF camp. There are many people and groups there. Besides, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported in 2012 that Marwan was killed in an air raid in Sulu,” Iqbal said.

The MILF’s chief negotiator claimed that the MILF would not gain anything from protecting terrorists.

“These people are being hunted not just by the Philippine government or the international community but also the MILF. We do not want what they are doing and we won’t gain anything from them,” Iqbal said, adding that the terrorists are moving from one place to another.

The military previously admitted that its trust in the MILF has been tainted because of the presence of Marwan in its bailiwick. Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the MILF could regain the trust by assisting in efforts to run after terrorists.

Iqbal said statements reflecting distrust towards the MILF does not bode well for the peace process.

Northern Samar to focus building roads to fight insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): Northern Samar to focus building roads to fight insurgency

The Northern Samar provincial government pushes for the building of more access roads to remote villages to address the old-aged insurgency problem in the province.

Governor Jose L. Ong said 10 percent of the more than 500 villages in Northern Samar were not accessible from the national highway due to absence of access roads.

“I believe that once all the villages will be connected by roads, insurgency will be eliminated since the area is already accessible to government services,” Ong told reporters.

He said the same solution was done in Bohol province, a former hotbed of communist rebels before road networks were constructed.

All 24 towns of Northern Samar, except Silvino Lobos are connected to the national road.

“We are aware that Silvino Lobos is a highly-infested area of insurgency. That is why we are working to concrete the road to the town by the end of this year,” Ong said.

The province needs at least Php 200 million a year to improve road networks, according to the official.

On Dec. 4, 2014, the provincial government and Philippine Army formally declared the minimized threat of New People's Army (NPA) activities in Northern Samar, through a signing of a deal at the Farmer’s Training Center, University of Eastern Visayas campus, Catarman town.

“The declaration of Northern Samar as PDRP (peace and development-ready province) is the latest milestone in the successful implementation of the peace and development efforts in the Eastern Visayas region,” the army said in a statement

Northern Samar is last of the six provinces in Eastern Visayas placed under the PDRP status. On Dec. 10, 2014, the government placed Samar province, formerly the rebel’s hotbed, under the PDRP category.

But despite attaining new status, the clash between government troops and NPA rebels continue. The latest was on Feb. 3 where a fresh Philippine Military Academy graduate was killed and two rebels were captured.

US envoy cites bravery of Fallen 44

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): US envoy cites bravery of Fallen 44

TAGBILARAN CITY -- Visiting US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg cited over the weekend the bravery of the 44 elite troopers of the Special Action Force (SAF), who were killed during a covert operation to arrest long-wanted international terrorist leader Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Murwan, when they clashed with a phalanx of heavily armed Muslim rebels backed by a Moro terror group in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

Goldberg made the statement during his visit to this city to attend the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the government of the City of Tagbilaran designed to create a new growth hub in Central Visayas.

Tagbilaran City was the only recipient of such USAID for the entire Central Visayas region.

Mission Director Gloria Steele signed in behalf of the USAID while Mayor John Geesnell signed for Tagbilaran City.

The MOU is designed to spur a sustained rapid economic reforms and development for the city in the years ahead through infrastructure, small and medium enterprise, education, energy, environment, health and disaster preparedness, and technical assistance in the form of training.

In expressing his grief, Goldbert sent his deep condolences to the bereaved families of the 44 SAF troopers, who were killed during a 12-hour gun battle with joint forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, who ambushed the police commandos on their way back to camp.

In an interview, Goldberg praised the 44 slain SAF troopers for their bravery in “carrying out a mission against an international terrorist,” referring to Marwan, an expert bomb-maker from Malaysia who was responsible for the deadly bombing in Bali, Indonesia more than a decade that killed 200 innocent civilians.

Marwan fled to southern Philippines after the bombing and was wanted by the United States who put a reward of USD 5 million for his capture, dead or alive.

The government claimed that Marwan was killed during the raid by SAF troopers based on the DNA result conducted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Goldberg said that the 44 SAF commandos died an honorable death.

“People should keep in mind that Marwan was an international terrorist of some standing involving the Bali bombing and was involved in many other activities here in the Philippines,” he said.

Goldberg said the Mamapasano incident was “a tragedy,” but added that the killing of Marwan was a “very successful mission and for that reason we too at the US Embassy lowered our flag also to half mast last Friday to join an international mourning.”

“We feel very close to the special operations unit (SAF). We have helped trained them, we worked with them, we know them. They are very honorable and decent people. And so we felt these very strongly as well,” he added.

Goldberg said the SAF troopers died with honor defending the interest of peace.

Photo: Counting Guns

From MindaNews (Feb 6): Photo: Counting Guns

06agusanfirearms (1)

Officers of the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) catalog the firearms and equipment captured from suspected New People’s Army guerrillas inside the RPSB headquarters in Camp Rafael Rodriguez, Libertad, Butuan City, February 5, 2015. RPSB members clashed with alleged rebels in barangay Rojales, Carmen town, Agusan del Norte on Wednesday morning, Feb. 4. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

15 Abu Sayyaf members killed, 13 soldiers hurt in Sulu clash–military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 7): 15 Abu Sayyaf members killed, 13 soldiers hurt in Sulu clash–military
As many as 15 Abu Sayyaf bandits have reportedly been killed in clashes that started Thursday in Sulu, a military spokesperson said.

Thirteen soldiers, including a junior officer, were injured during the clash in Patikul town on Friday alone, according to Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command.

Muyuela said based on ground reports, eight bandits had been confirmed killed on Friday but there were indications that six more have died on that day.

“They were dragged away by their companions,” she said, adding the report on an additional Abu Sayyaf casualty was still being verified.

Muyuela said the soldiers were part of a larger group of government troops conducting combat operation in Patikul town.

She said while the soldiers, under Joint Task Force Sulu, were combing Sitio Kan Islam in Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul around 11:50 a.m. Friday, they engaged the Abu Sayyaf faction headed by Hairulah Asbang and Amlon Abtahi.

Muyuela said the injuries of the 13 soldiers were slight and that they had been evacuated for treatment.

Friday’s clash was the second of such incident that took place in the said province this week, as the military intensified its operation against the bandit group.

On Thursday, a clash also took place in Patikul, during which an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader was killed. Muyuela only identified the slain bandit as a Murasil, allegedly a close aide of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan.

2 militiamen injured in Basilan clash

From the Sun Star (Feb 7): 2 militiamen injured in Basilan clash

Two militiamen were injured in a 45-minute clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in the hinterlands of Basilan province, an official said Saturday.

Senior Inspector Alchmad Alibonga, Sumisip police chief, said the clash broke out around 8:30 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Pamatsaken, Sumisip.

Alibonga identified the wounded militiamen as Sahid Liberal, 24, and Rajim Mampawi, 32. The victims were taken to a hospital for treatment.

Alibonga said the clash ensued when a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Juhaibel Alamsirul alias Abu Kik attacked the residence of Mangal village chief Margem Barillo.

Alibonga said the militiamen who were at Barillo’s residence returned fire that trigged a 45-minute firefight.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits withdrew towards the forested area of Mangal village, Alibonga said.

Cops foil Abu Sayyaf plan to blow up oil depot

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): Cops foil Abu Sayyaf plan to blow up oil depot

Authorities discovered and foiled a plan of the Abu Sayyaf group to blow up an oil depot in Isabela City, Basilan.

Police said the bomb was lobbed by unidentified Abu Sayyaf members inside the compound of the Island Petroleum Corporation Depot located at the coastal village of Barangay Tabuk about 6:45 a.m. Saturday.

Police Superintendent Albert Larubis, Isabela City Police chief, said one of the workers of the oil depot discovered a large plastic bag that contained the a tin can that was believed thrown from the outside of the compound.

The management of the depot immediately reported the discovery to the police, said Larubis.

Elements of the K9 unit of the Army Special Forces and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team were immediately conducted inspection and positively verified the suspicious package was an improvised explosive device (IED).

The bomb squad safely defused the bomb that was composed of a non-electric blasting cap, time fuse and tin can containing a kilogram of ammonium nitrate fuel oil. 

Larubis said post blast investigation also revealed that the bomber lighted the bomb with match stick but failed to ignite the time fuse to trigger the ignition of the bomb detonator.

Further investigation revealed that the bombing attack could be part of the extortion activity of the Abu Sayyaf group to force businesses to heed their monthly monetary demand for protection.

Video: MILF vows to support gov't efforts to capture Usman

From ABS-CBN (Feb 7): Video: MILF vows to support gov't efforts to capture Usman

[Video report]

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal believes President Aquino's speech Friday in connection with the Mamasapano encounter was fair and objective.

Iqbal said they appreciate Aquino's reference to MILF leaders as "brothers."

He vowed to support government efforts to capture another terrorist, Basit Usman.

He also remains optimistic the peace process will not be affected by the Mamasapano incident.

Abu bandit killed in clash with MILF in Basilan

From ABS-CBN (Feb 7): Abu bandit killed in clash with MILF in Basilan

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit was killed in an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in Sumisip, Basilan on Saturday.

According to Romeo Amsala, consultant of the said municipality, the encounter occurred past 12 noon on Saturday and lasted for a few minutes.

The encounter also left MILF fighter Sahid Balinting injured.

Balinting is now recovering in a private hospital in Zamboanga City.

The attack was allegedly led by ASG member Abu Kikik.

Another soldier wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From GMA News (Feb 7): Another soldier wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

The number of government casualties in a clash with suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu climbed to 14 on Saturday after another soldier was reported wounded.

A report on GMA News TV's News TV Live quoted Ens. Chester Ramos, spokesman of Joint Task Force Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi), as saying the government troops were conducting a "law enforcement operation" when they encountered about 100 members of the bandit group.
Initially, authorities said 13 from the government side were wounded in the firefight Friday morning.
Based on initial information, Ramos said eight members of the Abu Sayyaf group were also wounded in the encounter, which lasted for an hour and a half. However, authorities are still veryfing this.
The Abu Sayyaf, believed to have been led by Radullan Sihiron, Hairulah Asbang and Amlon Abtahi, dragged their wounded comrades in the direction of Sitio Kantitap, Ramos said.

AFP on coup rumors: We will not participate in political exercises

From GMA News (Feb 7): AFP on coup rumors: We will not participate in political exercises

Both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense dismissed rumors of a coup d'etat that have been spreading through text messages.
In a text message to GMA News Online, AFP public affairs head Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said there is no truth to these rumors.
"The AFP is a professional organization which is committed to perform its constitutional mandates," he added. "We will not participate in any political exercises."
DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez, in a text message, said: "There are indeed rumors, but that's all they are — rumors."
He also urged the public not to spread unconfirmed information.
"This is why we are calling on our people not to fall prey to such gossip by passing on text messages and posting the rumors, thus becoming unwary instruments of disinformation," he said.
The rumors of a coup floated after 44 police Special Action Force troopers were killed in a firefight with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25.
The police officers were supposed to serve warrants of arrest against Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman.
Earlier this week, PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said there is no need for a loyalty check within the police force despite reports of low morale after the deaths of their colleagues.
On Sunday, a grieving SAF member voiced his displeasure over the deaths of the 44 policemen, who were also SAF members, by saying that the country “is not worth dying for.”
“This country is not worth dying for sir, kung ang gobyerno natin, sir, hindi kami kayang protektahan," the elite police officer told Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in an open forum at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
Espina said he reminded PNP personnel to remain professional despite the bloody clash.
PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. also dismissed the rumor.
"We have no intel on that," he said. "We have nothing, even by any stretch of imagination, that will suggest such a plot."

Wanted NPA leader from Region 10 falls

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 7): Wanted NPA leader from Region 10 falls

The secretary of the New People’s Army in Region 10, tagged as the most wanted person of Misamis Occidental, was arrested at Rizal-Lacson streets in Bacolod City, at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Miguel Omayao Jr. had pending warrants of arrest for multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property, police records show.
A P550,000 cash reward was given to the informant in the arrest of Omayao, by the Department of Interior and Local Government, the police said.
Omayao was nabbed on the strength of an arrest warrant issued on Dec. 29, 2011, by Misamis Occidental Regional Trial Court, Branch 36 Judge Bernadette Paredez-Encinareal, who did not recommend bail for him, police records show.
Omayao had been presented to the issuing court in Misamis Occidental yesterday, a source told the DAILY STAR.
The arrest of Omayao was a joint operation of the Philippine National Police Internal Security Operations Division, Administrative Resource Management Division, Regional Intelligence Unit-6, and Criminal Investigation and Detective Unit-National Capital Region, police records show.

US envoy urges 'resilient' village folks to sustain projects in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): US envoy urges 'resilient' village folks to sustain projects in Bohol

United States ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg on Friday has appealed to village people of Villarcayo of this town, about 55 kms. north of capital Tagbilaran City, to take care of the development projects being implemented for their own good and those of their children.

It’s not only the duty of the government “but you owe it to yourselves and the future to maintain and safeguard the use of these facilities,” Goldberg said in his short speech before the barrio folks, schoolchildren, public school teachers and visitors during his visit here Friday.

The ambassador inaugurated and met the beneficiaries of a one-classroom school building sub-project funded by the US government’s $ 434-million Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact in the Philippines.

It was learned that the barangay people are the ones who chose the school building sub-project as priority considering that they lack classrooms “to accommodate the growing number of enrollees in this barangay.

He said that the “participation and sacrifice of community volunteers in preparing, developing and implementing and monitoring the sub-projects based on identified needs should be commended.”

Citing the "bayanihan" (teamwork/cooperation) of the barrio folks, the ambassador said he saw the cooperation and resiliency of the townsfolk in the completion of the building.

“I have seen Bohol to rise by the earthquake in 2013. It has changed the lives of Boholanos but what I have witnessed so far is a kind of change that is transformation and demonstrates the resilient nature of the people of this province.”

The school building completion was possible under the Kapit-Bisig laban sa Kahirapan- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, a project of the DSWD. The MCC supported the Kalahi-CIDSS through a $ 120 million grant supervised by Millenium Challenge Account-Philippines.

MCC has provided a total of Php125,801,639 for Bohol’s 12 towns with completion of 232 basic infrastructure sub-projects. These include the farm-to-market roads, water systems, schools that benefited more than 5,000 households in 22 barangays in this town, the ambassador said.

Goldberg led the ceremonial unveiling of the school building marker along with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Governor Edgardo Chatto, Mayor Ricardo A. Toribio, and other officials.

Kalahi-CIDSS is a community-driven development project that aims to strengthen and empower communities by involving them in the entire project completion process. It allows them to prioritize their community’s needs and take responsibility for the management of funds, procurement of resources and completion of a sub-project.”

The ambassador hastened to say: “Kalahi-CIDSS principles resonate well with the US government’s standards of inclusiveness, participation, transparency and accountability.”

A day before, Goldberg witnessed the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that picked Tagbilaran City under the Cities Development Initiative (CDI). City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II and country mission director Gloria Steele of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed the MOU.