Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Navy allocates Php8.1 million for machinery, structural repair of naval tanker

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): Navy allocates Php8.1 million for machinery, structural repair of naval tanker

The Philippine Navy (PN) has allocated Php8.179 million for the machinery and structural repair of the M/T Lapu-Lapu, one of the naval tankers in its service.

Interested bidders must deliver the above-mentioned services within 30 days.

The PN has up to six naval tankers which deliver fuel and lubricants to other vessels of the Philippine fleet.

Army chief conducts 2-day visit to 3rd Infantry Division units

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 11): Army chief conducts 2-day visit to 3rd Infantry Division units

To determine the exact conditions being experienced by troops in the field, Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri conducted a two-day visit to various units of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division.

This started Feb. 10, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said.

Iriberri was warmly welcomed by 3rd Infantry Division officers and troopers headed by Major Gen Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

“We are greatly honored for the visit of our Commanding General of the Philippine Army who took his time to meet and talk with our troops in the field,” he added.

Guerrero briefed the Army commander on the updates of the 3rd Infantry Division’s internal peace and security efforts in its area of responsibility and the unit’s thrust in the implementation of the Army Transformation Roadmap.

Iriberri congratulated the 3rd Infantry Division for its strong commitment to the Army Transformation Roadmap after it was conferred with the Compliant Status in the Army Governance Pathway last Jan. 30.

He also discussed about the current thrust of the Philippine Army, specifically the capability upgrade under the ATR such as the procurement of new rifles, modern communication equipment, Army vehicles, field ambulances, modern armored vests, helmets and combat boots among others.

Looking into the professional growth of the soldiers, Iriberri stressed the programs to be implemented in order to improve the individual readiness, performance, development, capability, and capacity of every Army soldier.

Iriberri also met with various 3rd Infantry Division field commanders (brigade and battalion commanders) in Panay and Negros.

He also took time to discuss the issues and concerns of the units in the ground and look into the morale and welfare of the troops.

PNP, AFP affirm support for passage of Bangsamoro law

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): PNP, AFP affirm support for passage of Bangsamoro law

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have affirmed support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) even with the outrage over the unfortunate incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Expressing the apprehensions of people from Mindanao that the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be delayed or scrapped off in the wake of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, House of Representatives' Deputy Speaker and Lanao del Sur second district Representative Pangalian Balindong asked top police and military officials if they support the passage of the BBL as a way forward in achieving peace. ‎

To this, both PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina and AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang responded "Yes" and affirmed their support to the passage of the BBL during the HOR's first public hearing Wednesday on the incident that claimed lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) policemen, armed rebels and civilians.

Balindong, a Muslim, appealed that the “peace process should continue so our (referring to the people of Mindanao) hearts may be at ease.”

He urged the conduct of an “uninterrupted review of the BBL” parallel to the Congressional probe on the Mamasapano incident.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said the passage of the BBL is‎ really in the hands of Congress and expressed her respect to the power of the body to legislate a law that will address the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

The passage and ratification of the BBL shall establish a Bangsamoro government that will exercise genuine autonomy, and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The BBL is the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liebration Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014. The CAB also provides a normalization process that includes decommissioning of the MILF weapons and forces, simultaneous to the establishment of the Bangsamoro.

Earlier, Espina emphasized in a very emotional manner that, "we (the PNP) are for peace, we are first and foremost your peacemakers. Whatever it takes to attain the peace, let us do it po‎."

Implication of non-passage of BBL

In response to a question from Caloocan City second district Rep. Edgar Erice on what will be the effect on the ground if the BBL will not be passed into law, Catapang pointed out the security repercussions.

According to the AFP chief, government forces and MILF had a zero skirimish record for three years since 2012 until this year when the tragic incident in Mamasapano happened due to the ceasefire accord.

However, Catapang noted that in the past, encounters between the government and MILF forces from 2001 to 2012 resulted to: 491 deaths among AFP and PNP; 841 deaths among civilians; and 1,267 deaths among MILF members. The record for the wounded were 1,089 among AFP and PNP; 1,673 for civilians; 237 for the MILF.

Catapang expressed “Pahihintulutan po ba natin na mangyari at maulit ito kung hindi natin itutuloy ang national endeavour na magkaroon ng kapayapaan? (Do we allow this to happen again if we do not continue the national endeavour of achieving peace?)”‎

Deles on her part said, “Your honor we already know what the situation is when there is no ceasefire. I thank Gen. Catapang for already having stated that. I think your honor it also has some implications on what we tell our people about our capacity to be able to make peace. What it tells our people about our capacity to fulfill a constitutional mandate on autonomy.”

She cited the wisdom of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Fourteen surviving members of 1986 Constitutional Commission signed last February 9 a statement supporting the creation of the Bangsamoro, as consistent with the constitutional mandate to create an autonomous region in the south. With this Deles said, ”I think we disappoint ourselves, I think we fall down on ourselves, if we cannot show that we can rise to that (constitutional mandate).”

Wounded Usman hiding in Maguindanao – Gov. Mangudadatu

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 12): Wounded Usman hiding in Maguindanao – Gov. Mangudadatu

Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman is wounded and hiding in the hinterlands of Maguindanao, according to Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

“Nandiyan lang yan,” Mangudadatu told reporters during the ongoing celebration of the 4th Sagayan Festival that formally opened Monday and winds up on Saturday in Buluan town.

Usman reportedly got a bullet in the arm during the encounter with Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation in Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano town last January 25 that killed wanted Malaysian terrorist and bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan”.

The SAF commandos were serving a warrant of arrest on Marwan and Usman when Marwan shot it out with police troops. Usman, however, managed to escape to another marshy area in Mamasapano under cover of darkness.

Mangudadatu said he received information from villagers that Usman is hiding in the hinterlands of Maguindanao.

The governor called on the rural officials and villagers to “help save the Mindanao peace process” by informing authorities of any high-profile criminals and suspected terrorists in their midst.

“Huwag po kayo matakot na isumbong sa mga autoridad ang pananatili ng sino mang kadudaduda sa mga lugar niyo. Handa ang kapulisan at militar na protectahan kayo (Don’t be afraid to tell authorities about the presence of suspicious individuals in your area. The police and the military are ready to protect you),” Mangudadatu said.


Sources claimed to have known Marwan and Usman only as “Ibs” and “Teng” before the police raid. Mangudadatu said civilian residents or even members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should help quell the entry to Maguindanao of high-profile criminals because “we cannot afford a repeat of the bloody encounter in Mamasapano.”

The clash martyred 44 SAF commandos and wounded 14 others.

The MILF claim 18 rebels and five children died in the clash with scores wounded.
But SAF troopers who survived the carnage claim to have killed no less than 200 rebels during the daylong firefight.

Mangudadatu said Maguindanao has yet to “fully overcome the adversities of the massacre of 52 people in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009” when the Mamasapano clash erupted.

The governor who lost his wife and relatives in the 2009 incident confirmed that foreign investors are eyeing  additional P14.5-billion investments on infrastructures and agro-industries, but security concerns could derail the projects.

Army troops clash with rebels in North Cotabato

From the Manila Times (Feb 11): Army troops clash with rebels in North Cotabato

Government troops clashed with New People’s Army rebels in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, officials said Wednesday.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting occurred in Barangay Sumalili, Arakan town and lasted for 20 minutes.

He said there were no casualties on both sides, but troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion have recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, a caliber .45 pistol, two fragmentation grenades, three magazines and ammunition for an M-16 automatic rifle, a rifle grenade (including 10 jungle packs) and a medical kit.

Balagtey said the soldiers were patrolling the village when they ran into a group of communist rebels and a firefight ensued.

The NPA has been waging a separatist war for many decades now in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state in the country.

Policeman, rebel commander killed in encounter

From the Manila Times (Feb 11): Policeman, rebel commander killed in encounter

GOVERNMENT troops and a group of alleged Communist rebels clashed anew in a remote village in Agusan del Sur on Monday afternoon killing one police officer and an alleged rebel commander, police reports said on Wednesday.

Reports reaching the PNP national operations center in Camp Crame said the encounter between troops of the 131st Regional Public Safety Company (RPSC) and about 35 lawless elements took place at about 3:15 p.m. on Monday at Sitio Union in Brgy. Binucayan, Loreto town.

The report also stated that PO1 Rodnillo Gier of the 131st RPSC was wounded in the incident.

The policemen were reportedly doing a combat patrol operation in Loreto when it chanced on some 35 members of the Guerilla Front 34 resulting into a firefight.

The police fatality was identified as PO2 Danny Suhayon while the rebel commander was identified only as a certain ‘Jaguar.’

Recovered from Jaguar’s possession were three magazines for an AK-47 assault rifle, two improvised explosive devices (IED), several subversive documents and some personal belongings.

Marwan’s death will not stop terrorist recruitment

From the Manila Times (Feb 11): Marwan’s death will not stop terrorist recruitment

THE death of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan will not stop his followers and supporters from expanding their terror network in Mindanao, a source from the intelligence community said on Wednesday.

Marwan, who carried a $5-million bounty on his head, was reportedly killed by Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.

The Manila-based intelligence source who uses the codename Pokemon on Wednesday said Marwan, a member of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), had aligned himself with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and recruited hundreds of Muslims in Mindanao in southern Philippines to join his terror group.

ISIS is an offshoot of the al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden and has been expanding its territories in Iraq and Syria in its desire to establish an Islamic State in the Middle East.

Marwan was aided by fellow JI members Indonesian Amin Baco alias Abu Jihad and Singaporean Mawiya in recruiting young Filipino Muslims to become followers of ISIS.

“The death of one doesn’t mean an end to their cause of establishing their own Pan-Islamic State in the Southeast Asian region. Somebody will come forward to take his place,” Pokemon said.

The source said Marwan’s followers are actively recruiting in Central Mindanao, the turf of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“Whoever will become the husband or partner of Zainab Dongon will be the next ‘amir,’” said Pokemon. Dongon is Marwan’s widow.

Sen. Loren Legarda on Tuesday said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should find out what happened to the hundreds of bombers trained by Marwan.

Suspended Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas earlier told senators that Marwan trained 300 local jihadists on bomb-making and detonation.

“No one pursued it, what happened to the 300 trained bombers of Marwan? I want to know,” Legarda said.

Meanwhile, the Board of Inquiry (BOI) that was created by the Philippine National Police to investigate the Mamasapano incident released its initial findings also on Wednesday.

The BOI chairman, Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said the BOI’s findings were based on 319 sworn statements.

Magalong added that the BOI is yet to take statements of three key personalities of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and from the Police Regional Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The BOI found out that there was a gap between the plan and the actual operation.
“The other units, with the exception of the 84th SAC (seaborne unit), did not reach their designated positions,” the report said.

Departure of the support groups, including the 55th SAC, was delayed because the plan called for the synchronization of their movements with those of the seaborne unit.

Notwithstanding the delay, the seaborne unit was able to reach its objective and neutralized Marwan,” it added.

Magalong said the BOI will visit and the area where the operation was executed.

“There will be no let-up in the inquiry. With the support of the CIDG and Internal Affairs Service, we will continue taking depositions, identifying and locating other witnesses who can provide additional information on the incident,” he added.

Magalong said the BOI doing its best to complete the probe and submit its final report on February 25.

‘Plain, simple murder’

From the Manila Times (Feb 11): ‘Plain, simple murder’

A video that has gone viral and showing members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) finishing off wounded members of the Special Action Force (SAF) proved that their actions were “plain and simple murder” the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday.

The six-minute video uploaded in Facebook and other social networking sites showed how the MILF separatist rebels shot the SAF police commandos at close range.

Supt. Rey Arino, commanding officer of the 5th SAF Company, confirmed that one of the commandos being shot by a rebel in the video was a member of the 55th Special Action Company, the SAF unit that served as a blocking force.

The video, believed recorded from a cell phone by one of the attackers, showed only his hand holding a .45-caliber pistol and shooting at a fallen police commando until he was dead. The wounded man’s patch and uniform identified him as a member of the elite SAF.

The unidentified gunman then went on to strip other dead policemen of their combat equipment and gear as he shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

The clip also showed other gunmen taking turns in stripping more fallen commandos of their weapons and uniforms while shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they ran toward river banks where the sound of automatic gunfire intensified and slowly faded after several minutes.

The area was believed to be in the village of Tukanalipao in Maguindanao’s Mamasapano town where 44 police commandos died fighting MILF and BIFF rebels on January 25 while they were on a mission to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.

“[What you will see in the video is not pretty]. We are still investigating [if the video that has gone] viral [is part of the] Mamasapano incident. But as it is, it is plain and simple murder,” PNP spokesman and Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said.

According to Cerbo, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group is coordinating with the PNP’s anti-cyber crime group to authenticate the video.

The official said the video added injury to the already bruised feelings of the PNP, which up to now is mourning the loss of the 44 SAF troops.

“Personally, yung effect ng video na yun ay masakit. Dapat may managot dito [That video really hurt us. Someone should answer for this],” Cerbo added.

The Department of Justice also directed the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Cybercrime Division to validate the authenticity of the video.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the video could be used as evidence once it was validated.

“Kung totoo na SAF yan and ganun nga ang ginawa sa kanila, certainly, kailangan talaga imbestigahan nang husto at panagutin, alamin kung sino-sino ang may kagagawan nyan [If it is true that the SAF commandos were treated that way, it certainly has to be investigated and make those responsible for such acts answerable] because acts of cruelty or acts of atrocities at any setting are quite condemnable, completely unacceptable and, therefore, must be dealt with severely by our laws especially penal laws,” de Lima added.

She said even if the government and the MILF are in a peace process, it does not mean that those who cruelly killed the SAF commandos cannot be prosecuted.

Col. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), agreed that the SAF members were brutally and mercilessly finished off based on the video.

“It is very disturbing to say the least. It is clear proof of the brutal execution of the police officers. We appeal to the public to be circumspect and respect the grieving families whose feelings we should be mindful of,” Padilla said in a statement.

The elite police team was part of a secret mission to capture Marwan in his hideout deep inside MILF territory.

Marwan was killed by the commandos.

The team was heading back to rejoin over 300 other commandos deployed outside the village when MILF forces attacked them, sparking a daylong battle that also left 18 rebels and seven civilians dead.

Internet rage

 The video shared by Zaldy Balds Suson on his Facebook page went viral on Facebook and drew angry comments from those who watched the clip.

It was unknown how Suson got hold of the clip but other Facebook accounts also posted the same video.

“And you say you want peace? You don’t even respect humans and you don’t act like humans. No wonder your place is like hell,” wrote Son Retamalliv.

WinYeon Nam said: “Sana sa susunod na bumagyo, Jan sa mga bwisit na lungga ng mga yan! Tamaan pa sana ng kidlat. Mga dimonyo [I hope that the next typhoon will drive the rebels to their rat holes. I also hope that lightning will strike them. They are devils].”

The MILF did not issue a statement about the video clip.

MILF, BIFF clash for 2nd time in a week

From the Philippine Star (Feb 11): MILF, BIFF clash for 2nd time in a week

BIFF member was killed while two others were wounded Monday in a two-hour firefight with MILF guerillas in Barangay Kalbugan. File photo

Rival forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters again traded shots on Wednesday at the border Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces, the second MILF-BIFF encounter in the area since Monday.

Lt. Col. Audie Edralin, commanding officer of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said the latest hostilities in Barangay Kalbugan, located at the border of Pikit, North Cotabato and Maguindanao’s Pagalungan town, erupted when BIFF forces led by Gani Saligan and Muhidin Animbang intruded into a village controlled by MILF members led by Jack Abas.

Abas is a senior MILF leader whose followers reside in the adjoining Pagalungan and Pikit towns and in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Edralin said exchanges of automatic gunfire were heard in villages around Kalbugan, a known gateway to the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta, a known lair of rebel groups, some led by radical jihadists.

A BIFF member was killed while two others were wounded Monday in a two-hour firefight with MILF guerillas in Barangay Kalbugan.

The firefight erupted when members of the outlawed BIFF, led by Gani Saligan, attacked from different directions an MILF enclave in the area.
The MILF members, led by Commander Falcon, returned fire and engaged the bandits in a running firefight, killing one of them and wounding two others.

The rival groups of Saligan and Commander Falcon, who belong to the MILF’s 108th Base Command, are locked in squabbles for control of strategic areas in the Liguasan Delta at the marshy border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Saligan and his men are based near Mlang town in west of North Cotabato.

MILF: Shooter in Mamasapano viral video not ours

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 12): MILF: Shooter in Mamasapano viral video not ours

Despite denials from Palace, AFP

Secret US Embassy cables leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 detail the US government’s heavy involvement in counter-terrorism efforts targeted particularly against Jemaah Islamiyah members, including Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, who was the subject of the botched operation in Mamasapano on Jan. 25, resulting in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and its partner-rebels Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gory slaughter of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.

“A careful perusal of these cables reveals how deep US involvement in the covert counter-terrorism efforts in Mindanao runs.

“From funding to intelligence gathering and actual operations, we can trace Washington’s shadow movements in the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) through these cables,” Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said Wednesday.

The cables, which range from 2005 to early 2010, show how the US government planned to “embed” secret agents and operate covertly within the ranks of Philippine forces, Ridon said.

In one cable, details of US government funding for counter-terrorism operations in the Philippines was also revealed.

Covert operations

The US Pacific Command (PACOM) started exploratory talks with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine government on the possibility of “developing a range of enhanced US-GRP counter-terrorism scenarios” back in 2004.

In cable 05MANILA286, it was shown that US forces intended to engage in a range of “combat-related activities,” including providing “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to the AFP.”

Washington also contemplated on “revamping the PNP” to make it a useful player in the Global War on Terror.

In cable 05MANILA1614 classified as “secret,” the US embassy asked the Federal government for funding to cover a “comprehensive “Management Assessment of the Philippine Police,” which involved providing “embedded US government analysts at a single GRP counterpart agency.”

By June 2005, cable 05MANILA2590 marked as “secret” reported that US military assistance to the AFP and the PNP has been “making a difference” and has resulted in several successful operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

“US counter-terrorism assistance, ranging from operations/intelligence fusion support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to RMAS’ involvement with the Philippine National Police (PNP), has helped the Philippines register some counter-terrorism successes in 2004 and 2005. While we have tremendous access here, continued, sustained engagement is needed if we want to ensure that the GRP turns the corner on terrorism,” the summary of the said cable read.

“These cables confirm what has long been suspected – that counter-terrorism efforts, especially in Mindanao, are directed and spearheaded by the US. It comes as no surprise then that the Mamasapano operation was also directed by US forces,” Ridon said.

“In other words, these assaults against suspected terrorists - including Marwan - are carried out always and always with US forces,” he added.

Apart from providing technical and tactical support during counter-terrorism campaigns, the US also has a program of embedding Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel in the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), a US military unit representing the PACOM to help the local forces battle terror activities.

“The trial initiative to embed two FBI agents with Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines is nearing the end of its first 90-days. The concept works. We ask the Department to convey our appreciation to the FBI for its support and to urge that the program be continued,” secret cable 06MANILA4378 stated.

The JSOTF-P, which was set up in 2002 with its main base stationed inside the Western Mindanao Command in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga, is also reportedly involved in the Mamasapano clash.

“The FBI is the department that offered reward money for Marwan and Usman. The presence of embedded FBI agents in the JSOTF-P is relevant as it may help explain where ‘actionable information’ on Marwan has been coming,” Ridon said.

The US embassy first requested that Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan be included in the “Rewards for Justice List” back in 2006, leaked cables also reveal.

“A senior figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist organization, Zulkifli has been implicated 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 has been directly linked to al-Qaida operative Hambali and is an intimate associate of JI operative Dulmatin,” former US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in secret cable 06MANILA4388.

“The announcement of a new high-value reward, and subsequent publicity, will attack the web of social, religious, and cultural ties upon which Zulkifli has relied for his safety and freedom. The Rewards for Justice program has already helped restrict the movement of the JI terrorists Dulmatin and Umar Patek, and could have a significant impact on Zulkifli’s freedom of action and ability to conduct JI activities in central Mindanao,” Kenney explained.

Ridon pointed out that reports showing that the US government funded the Mamasapano operation and other operations that targeted Marwan may indeed be authentic, given the fact that Washington allots millions of federal funds for covert operations in Mindanao annually.

Secret cable 09MANILA2271 detailed US government financing of counter-terrorism operations in the Philippines.

In the said cable, the US embassy in Manila endorsed for approval $34.1 million budget from the US government for counter-terrorism operations in 2010. Details include:

1. Equipment to Support Close Air Support (CAS) Operations ($8m)
Project Description: Provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines with critical components required to augment current AFP systems and allow a precision-guided munitions (PGM) capability, including laptop computers loaded with software to program and control the weapons systems; a wireless link to the weapon guidance systems for bombs; Rockwell/Collins TALON V / UHF radios for aircraft; upgraded equipment and training for AFP Forward Air Controllers (PFAC) to support CAS operations. By providing a common, secure communication link between AFP aviation assets fitted with precision guided munitions and PFACs, the armed forces will be able to independently develop and respond to real-time actionable intelligence with their airborne weaponry. The proposed program would provide the AFP with critical components required to augment current systems to attain PGM capability, while keeping US control of sensitive technology.

2. Force Reconnaissance Battalion Marine Strike Company ($9.3 m)
Project Description: Increase the ability of the AFP’s Force Reconnaissance Battalion (FRBn) to fully integrate and operate as one of the premier Tier 1 Coast Watch South (CWS) interdiction units. Currently, the FRBn does not work with the Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) or CWS, although they are outfitted with a fleet of Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) and are tactically and doctrinally matched with the JSOG mission.

3. Equipment for Naval Special Operation Units ($6m)
Project Description: Increase the ability of the AFP’s Naval Special Operations Units (SOUs) to fully integrate and operate with the AFP’s Joint Special Operations Group and as one of the premier Coast Watch South interdiction units. Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) will provide a flexible, inexpensive and easily maintained platform from which naval SOU’s can conduct near-shore interdiction and vessel boarding search and seizure, combined reconnaissance and surveillance, and littoral insertion and extraction. CRRC’s are easily integrated into the current Philippine Navy 78-foot Patrol Craft platform for rapid deployment and increased range of operations. Integrated weapons, navigation and communications equipment will make the naval SOU’s extremely effective interdiction and apprehension platforms.

4. Inshore Boat Battalion ($10.8 m)
Project Description: Provide US Marine Corps Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC) for riverine and inshore patrols, insert and extract operations, and blockade missions to the Inshore Boat Battalion (IBBn). The IBBn is primarily deployed to the Western Mindanao Command. The SURC will allow IBBn to operate in two feet of water and land Marines onshore or conduct intercept and boarding operations in Sea State 3. The package will include crew served weapons, night vision, GPS and radar navigation, secure communications and personal team equipment.

“This cable clearly shows that the US government is financing all counter-terrorism efforts, especially against JI, in Mindanao. Remember that this cable only reveals the budget for 2010. We believe that funding has continued in the subsequent years,” Ridon said.

“This budget proposal from the US embassy also confirms that there are drones, precision-guided munitions and other hi-tech equipment in Mindanao, equipment which was supposedly used in the Mamasapano operation,” Ridon said.

“These cables reveal Washington’s longstanding intervention in the affairs of the Philippine government, especially in peace and internal security. It also provides compelling evidence that the US is capable and may indeed have spearheaded the operations against Marwan. It substantiates reports that the US is liable for the botched operation and responsible for the deaths in Mamasapano,” Ridon said.

Noy denies US funding, purpose of Zambo visit

Earlier reports said that President Aquino was in Zamboanga in a US base drone facility where he was watching the SAF operations in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in real time. But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday blasted allegations of Aquino’s purpose of being in Zamboanga in time for the operations of the SAF against Indonesia bomber and top terrorist Marwan, saying they are “downright malicious.”

Lacierda said Aquino’s purpose was to check the security in the area as only two days earlier a deadly car blast left two people dead and hurt 52 others in the city.

“Those kinds of allegations are malicious. President Aquino was there precisely to discuss the Zamboanga bombing. That’s a very scurrilous accusation which has no basis and truth,” he said.

The Palace official said that the the President was there to assure the people of Zamboanga. Lacierda added that “to impute any other motive is downright malicious.”

He also denied allegations leveled by Congressman Ridon that the Mamasapano operations – which led to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos – was funded by the US government.

Malacañang denied Ridon’s accusations, anchoring on the representative’s lineage with the Makabayan bloc in Congress, which Lacierda claimed to always be against the government.

“Congressman Ridon is coming from the Makabayan bloc which obviously has a retried (spiel) that is very polarized. That is the purpose of the inquiry in the House, that is the purpose of the inquiry in the Senate, that is the purpose of the Board of Inquiry, where you can ask any questions,” Lacierda said.

The Palace executive simply dismissed the statement of Ridon, saying it is “mere” personal opinion on the matter as there are no findings to the effect of his statements, despite the evidence of the leaked Wikileaks cables.

According to reports, the US military had drones flying around the area of the Mamasapano clash during the exact incident. The US government has continually denied involvement with operations in Mindanao.

MILF: Shooter in Mamasapano viral video not ours

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): MILF: Shooter in Mamasapano viral video not ours

A top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front believes the man who shot a Special Action Force trooper as seen in a viral video is not a member of the MILF.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the video only shows the arm but not the face of the shooter.

In the video, a SAF trooper is shot twice by an unknown assailant at a cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano.

"Dapat ang sagot ay dapat supported by hard facts. Hindi ako naniniwala na yan ay pwedeng gawin ng miembro ng MILF o legitimate na elemento ng Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters dahil mahigpit ang leadership ng MILF and the general staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces na sundin ang lahat ng paraan, rules of engagement in battle," he said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.

He said one prohibition in the rules of engagement is the mutilation of bodies or to keep shooting a person who is already dead.

The MILF is still investigating the incident wherein a total of 44 SAF police commandos and 18 Moro rebels were killed in a firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

Officials have said the SAF mission targeted Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and terror suspect Basit Usman.

On Wednesday, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina condemned the "overkill" of his men, saying some of the warriors were shot in the head - indicating that they were executed.

For his part, Jaafar condemned the killing of the SAF trooper, adding that a thorough investigation must be done to identify the killer.

He said members of the Bangsamoro are hurt by the pronouncements of some lawmakers who are condemning Muslims for the carnage in Mamasapano.

"Feeling ng Bangsamoro people ngayon ay naghihinakit sila sapagkat duon sa mga pronouncements ng mga lawmakers natin, mga congressmen at senators, para bang ang intindi ng mga Bangsamoro people all over the Philippines pati sa Maynila para silang hindi citizens of the republic. Kahit na pinapatay e kino-condemn pa rin sila," he said.

He said one sentiment that has arisen among Muslims is that "there is a different standard of justice for Christians and Muslims."

"Ang tingin po sa kanila, sa mga lawmakers, ayon sa interpretasyon:
ang mga Muslim ay masama, walang karapatan, mga kriminal. Hindi naman. May mga karapatan sila as citizens of the republic. Ayan ang sinasabi namin na hindi maganda," he said.

Jaafar said the public should be reminded of the very real cost of the decades-long war in Mindanao. Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Catapang earlier said the war in Mindanao has led to the deaths of 491 police and military, 841 civilian, and 1,267 MILF from 2001 to 2012.

The MILF leader also challenged the public to make a decision if the Mamasapano incident "really shows that the MILF is insincere."

"Ang tanong po namin: dahil ba sa isang insidente dito sa Mamasapano, e ang husga po ng mamamayan ay hindi sincere ang MILF? Hindi serious ang MILF? Sa loob ng 18 years, serious ang MILF sa negotiations. Tinupad ng MILF ang lahat ng kanyang obligations under the terms and conditions and provisions ng iba't ibang agreement na nilagdaan ng MILF with the government of the Philippines kabilang na ang mechanisms," he said.

Jaafar said government forces in coordination with the MILF were able to rescue kidnap victims in the past several years.

He also said the MILF even allowed the military to pass through two MILF camps after proper coordination was done.

The MILF official also challenged the nation's leaders to "be statesmen" in its investigation into the Mamasapano incident.

"Panawagan sa mga lawmakers natin at iba pang political leaders natin: Please rise above the level of a politician. Be statesmen. May problema tayo sa Mindanao. Ang problema ay political problem kaya may negotiations. Libo-libo na ang namamatay sa Muslims and non-Muslims...It is uncalled for na ang ibang leaders natin, political leaders, na nananawagan ng gyera."

Who did what? Blaming MILF for atrocities 'unfair' - Iqbal

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): Who did what? Blaming MILF for atrocities 'unfair' - Iqbal

[Video report: Hearing on Mamasapano Clash]

In the melee of battle, is it fair to blame the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the atrocities committed in Mamasapano when the Special Action Force was also fighting other armed groups?

This was just one of the points made by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in a statement before the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano carnage.

In his statement, Iqbal expressed condolences to the families, friends and relatives of the 44 police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano last January 25. He also expressed condolences for the families of the 18 Moro fighters who were killed in the encounter.

Describing the Mamasapano incident as an "unfortunate encounter", Iqbal said the MILF is investigating its own men to see if any fighter had violated the rules of conduct during combat.

He also pointed that the SAF was fighting other armed groups in Pidsandawan and Tukanalipao, and not just the MILF. ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman earlier confirmed that private armed groups and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are also in the area.

"The delicate task of finding out who did what, especially the reported atrocities cannot be immediately be blamed on the MILF. That would be unfair. We need to investigate. On the part of the MILF, aside from our own investigation, we push for a truly independent group that would conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the incident," Iqbal said.

Iqbal said that on the day of the SAF operation, the MILF was already working to effect the cease-fire as early as 6:30 a.m.

He said credit must be given where credit is due, noting that 28 SAF men in the striking force were saved through the efforts of the MILF.

"They were already being fired upon by unidentified armed groups. The 28 SAF are alive today because of the efforts of the MILF. Also, it is the will of God," he said.

The MILF negotiator reiterated the organization was not harboring terror suspects Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman, who were both targets of the SAF operation.

He said the MILF is against all forms of terrorism because it is inconsistent with Islam.

"To tag MILF as a terrorist group is unfair. MILF did not harbor Marwan or Usman. The MILF has no links to these terrorists and terrorist organizations. Marwan and Usman were in areas outside the MILF controlled-area.

He added that there has been no recorded armed hostilities between the Philippine government and the MILF since 2011.

Iqbal: MILF did not know presence of Marwan, Usman

From GMA News (Feb 12): Iqbal: MILF did not know presence of Marwan, Usman

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Thursday maintained that they did not know that wanted international terrorist Zulkifli bin (Marwan) Hir and bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman were in their area in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

"Hindi ho namin alam na nandoon si Basit Usman at nandoon si Marwan," Iqbal replied when asked by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago if they can say "with a straight face that you and the MILF did not know" that Marwan and Usman "were operating in the MILF sphere of control."
Asked why the two high-value targets "felt safe" in the MILF or BIFF territory, and why the MILF did not interfere even if Marwan and Usman were just in an "adjacent territory," Iqbal said: "Sa community, karamihan doon po ay sibilyan ang mga nakatira doon."
"In a civilian community, you cannot compartmentalize the people, and then that granted na nandoon si Basit Usman, nagtatago [siya]," he added.

Authorities claimed killing Marwan in the operation, but Usman was able to escape. However, a total of 44 PNP-Special Action Force personnel were killed during the encounter with combatants from the MILF and its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Figthers. 

MILF chairman Murad relays condolences to families of slain SAF

From GMA News (Feb 12): MILF chairman Murad relays condolences to families of slain SAF

(Updated 10:38 a.m.) Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim on Thursday relayed his condolences to the families of 44 PNP-Special Action Force troopers killed in a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (in blue suit) on Thursday, February 12, attends the resumption of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident. Iqbal read a message from MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim relaying his condolences to the families of 44 PNP-Special Action Force commandos killed in the January 25 Mamasapano clash. GMA News
The MILF chairman's message was relayed by MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal, who appeared before the Senate hearing on the bloody encounter.
Quoting Murad, Iqbal said the incident "was something that nobody planned or wanted."
"It was a tragic incident," Iqbal said, referring to the clash between government forces and MILF fighters.
Iqbal also relayed the condolences to the fallen fighters of the MILF. The MILF earlier claimed at least 18 of its fighters died in the Jan. 25 clash.

Speaking at the Senate hearing, Iqbal said he arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 6 a.m. from Kuala Lumpur.
He said he and Murad attended a forum on peace. He said they talked before Iqbal took a flight to the Philippines.
"Nagpapasalamat po siya (Murad) sa inyo (Senate committee) and then he wants to convey the message and the condolence to the fallen SAF 44, their families, relatives and friends. Sabi niya po, ang pangyayari na iyan ay hindi inaasahan. It was a tragic incident," he said.
Iqbal said Murad also extended his condolence to the "fallen MILF comrades numbering 18." 

MILF used ceasefire to recruit, train rebs

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 11): MILF used ceasefire to recruit, train rebs

Lawmaker warns fund could also be diverted

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has used a ceasefire to mount a massive recruitment and military training effort in anticipation that peace talks will collapse, and could use P8.5 billion in government funds to bankroll these activities, lawmakers said Wednesday.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said the MILF may have violated the ceasefire agreement by mounting massive recruitment and training activities in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, North Cotabato and Sulu.

“I want to know where the peace panel brought the P8.5 billion in DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program] funds for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. How much of the funding went to the MILF?” Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz demanded.

“I demand to know how much of the P8.5 billion allocation was used. It looks like the MILF was using government money to kill government forces,” said Dela Cruz, referring to the Mamasapano massacre that cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force commandos on Jan. 25.

Alejano said the MILF also engaged in joint military training with breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“Since last year, the MILF used the lull to strengthen and beefi up its forces and mounted massive recruitment and military training. They even did combined training with the BIFF,” Alejano said.

Alejano said the MILF conducted training monthly, sometimes with the BIFF, on the use of improvised explosive devices and sniper fire.

“They are doing all these while they are talking peace with the government,” Alejano said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said intelligence information supported Alejano’s claim, but said said the military would seek to verify the reports.

At a joint hearing of the House committees on public order and security and peace and order, chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer and Hadjiman Hataman,  Alejano said the MILF was using the ceasefire to prepare itself militarily.

“The MILF continues to recruit and conduct trainings in preparation for the collapse of the peace deal and in case the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed by Congress,” Alejano said.

Peace panel chairman Teresita Deles said the peace panel did not receive any reports of recruitment or training, but said these activities would be a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

But she said casualties in the decades-long war with the MILF had been reduced substantially as a result of the ceasefire.

“For the past three years and as a result of the ceasefire agreement, there were only skirmishes with the MILF until the Jan. 25 incident,” she said.

In reply to Dela Cruz’s query, Deles said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission has so far spent P100 million, but said this did not go to the MILF.

The funds, she said, had been released by the Office of the Executive Secretary and were properly audited by the Commission on Audit.

Deles said the P8.5 billion in DAP funds for the ARMM did not go to the MILF but for the livelihood projects of the strife-torn communities.

Alejano, a former military soldier, lamented that when the BIFF were engaged in the firefight with government forces, the MILF reinforced the BIFF.

During the hearing, former SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas was asked how the SAF categorized the AFP troopers when they executed Operation Exodus in Mamasapano.

Napenas said the AFP soldiers were considered “friendly forces.”

“What about the MILF, how did you categorize them when you crafted Oplan Exodus?” asked Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, former AFP chief.
“Enemies, your honor,” Napeñas replied.

The joint hearing will resume next Tuesday.

In Zamboanga City, tension was high when MILF fighters sought to hold “a peace caravan.”

The MILF fighters, along with some 1,000 supporters of the Bangasamoro Basic Law, tried to enter the still volatile city for a peace caravan but authorities denied them entry.

The participants of the peace caravan aboard trucks and several small vehicles from Zamboanga del sur, Zamonaga Sibugay and Zaboanga del Norte congregated at the boundary of Zambonaga City and Sibugay at about 8 a.m.

They were blocked at a PNP-military checkpoint along the main highway leading into the city, however, on orders by Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Salazar-Climaco.

Climaco said the MILF and its supporters had no business holding a peace rally inside the city as they did not have a permit to do so.

She said leaders of the peace caravan should understand that some of the SAF troopers who died in the Mamasapano incident were residents of Zamboanga City.

Climaco said tension could further ignite if they would permit the MILF and its supporters because the residents are still reeling from the tragic effects of the Zambaonga siege.

More than hundreds were killed in five days of fierce fighting between fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government troops in September 2013.

A number of foreign governments condemned terrorism and expressed hope that the peace process would survive the Mamasapano incident.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende commended the Philippine government and the MILF for “their unyielding commitment to the peace process.”

“It is now more important than ever to put every effort into the peace process,” Brende said.

Norway is a member of the International Monitoring Team for the peace talks and sits as vice chairman of the Independent Decommissioning Body in charge of the decommissioning process of the MILF forces and arms.

Australia, Canada, Spain, and Switzerland, previously expressed support for the Philippines’ efforts to achieve a just and  lasting peace in Mindanao as they extended condolences to the families and loved ones of the fallen policemen.

Soldiers urged to pursue peace, security

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 11): Soldiers urged to pursue peace, security

Army chief, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, rallied Tuesday the 3rd Infantry Division officers and men on the continuing pursuit of the objectives of the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” by continued engagement with various stakeholders.

Iriberri, who visited the 3ID headquarters in Jamindan, Capiz, also discussed the current thrust of the Philippine Army, especially the capability upgrade under its Army Transformation Roadmap with soldiers, that includes the procurement of new rifles, modern communication equipment, vehicles, field ambulances, armored vests, helmets and combat boots, among others.

On the professional growth of soldiers, he said the programs will be implemented to improve their individual readiness, performance, development, capability, and capacity.

A highlight of his visit was the awarding of the Initiated Status in the Army Governance Pathway to the 301st, 302ndand 303rdInfantry Brigades, headed respectively by Colonels Eric Uchida, Allan Martin and Jon Aying, Maj. Rey Tiongson,3ID Public Affairs Office chief, yesterday said.

The three brigades have demonstrated their full commitment and support to the reform and transformation initiatives of the Philippine Army and successfully met the hallmarks of the 1ststage in the governance pathway, Tiongson, said, quoting of Iriberri.

The 3ID, headed by Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, was conferred the Compliant Status in the Army Governance Pathway on Jan. 30 at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

MILF not a terrorist group—Malacañang

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 11): MILF not a terrorist group—Malacañang

Malacañang on Wednesday said it was not considering the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a terrorist group despite reports that it was coddling Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

“Based on the initial reports of the BOI (Board of Inquiry) as presented, Marwan and (Basit) Usman were in BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) territory,” Secretary Edwin Lacierda told Palace reporters in a text message.

Marwan and Usman were the targets of a Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) operation in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao last January 25. While the mission succeeded in killing Marwan, it resulted in the death of 44 policemen after a supposed “misencounter” with the MILF and the BIFF.

Last year, the government and the MILF inked a final peace pact. However, the recent incident cast doubts on the agreement and the ongoing peace process.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. on Tuesday told Senate that they have been receiving reports that Marwan and Usman were in MILF territory. However, he said it was not verified.

“We are receiving information sometimes, but it’s not sure,” he said.

Lacierda said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles had insisted that the peace talks “have been premised on a clear disavowal from MILF that it is not engaged in terrorism and that the talks have always been with coordination with the intelligence sector.”

“And on instances where there are allegations of activities, Secretary Ging also mentioned that those allegations have been raised with the MILF in the strongest terms,” he added.

Not terrorists

Rashid Ladiasan, chairman of the MILF’s Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, denied the accusation that the group are terrorists.

“We are not terrorists—(we) the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). We’ve been fighting terrorism in all forms through the peace process,” he said Tuesday, in response to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.

He said they have already addressed such issues. He also denied that they are working with the BIFF, which is a splinter group of the MILF.

“We even provided places and cooperation with the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to allow the peace process to undertake its course. We’ve been doing all of these,” Ladiasan has said.

BIFF inside MILF camps

Despite the MILF’s claim, the military has plotted the camps of the BIFF right within the camps of the MILF in Mamasapano, specifically the MILF’s 105th and 118th Base Commands.

Also, during the clash with PNP-SAF troops, the government forces were attacked simultaneously by BIFF and MILF fighters.

Even after the clash and after the MILF learned that they were fighting government forces, there were no reports that it accosted members of the BIFF who fired upon the SAF members.

The MILF has also insisted that it did not know that the terrorists Marwan and Usman were in their territory, despite government intelligence reports that the two had been living in Mamasapano for years.

Camiguin declared insurgency-free

From Rappler (Feb 11): Camiguin declared insurgency-free

The island province, among the top tourism destinations in the country, draws 380,000 visitors a year

INSURGENCY FREE. Colonel Jesse A Alvarez, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander (left), Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo (center), and Police Senior Superintendent Wilfredo  Cayat, provincial police commander, sign a Memorandum of Agreement on February 10, 2015. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

INSURGENCY FREE. Colonel Jesse A Alvarez, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander (left), Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo (center), and Police Senior Superintendent Wilfredo Cayat, provincial police commander, sign a Memorandum of Agreement on February 10, 2015. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

The Philippine military has declared this island paradise province in Northern Mindanao as "insurgency-free."

The 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the provincial government marked the event with a Memorandum of Agreement on Tuesday, February 10, turning over the peace and security responsibilities over the province to the provincial government and the provincial police.

Colonel Jesse Alvarez, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander and Police Senior Superintendent Wilfredo Cayat, Camiguin provincial police director, had made the joint recommendation to the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Camiguin.

Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said that the province has been enjoying a peaceful existence but noted the need to further step up security in the island province, which has become among the country's top tourism destinations with an annual average of 380,000 visitors.

Romualdo said that while Camiguin has been relatively peaceful, the root cause of the insurgency must be addressed by the government, to ensure the province keeps its status.

Romualdo said the government should work closely with the Provincial Planning and Development Office and other line agencies for programs that would help the province remain insurgency-free.

Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, said that peace and security is a complex issue that involves the implementation of "firm policies."

Balalad said that the Internal Peace and Security Plan, "Bayanihan," requires help from all stakeholders in the community.

In response to the government’s claim, Alan Juanito, spokesperson of the North Central Mindanao Command of the New People’s Army, confirmed that they no longer have any presence in the island.

“We are having a hard time to establish a mass base and a deployment of troops,” Juanito's text message read.

Mistahs of PMA '81 and the Mamasapano tragedy

From Rappler (Feb 11): Mistahs of PMA '81 and the Mamasapano tragedy

7 members of the class are now asked to explain how such a tragedy could happen under their leadership

His white barong was a reminder of his fall from power.

On February 9, the packed gallery watched as Alan Purisima, the resigned chief of the 150,000 strong Philippine National Police (PNP), walked to his assigned seat at the Senate session hall for the first day of hearing on the death of 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation against top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin hir, better known as "Marwan."
At the other end of the table, 5 empty chairs in between, was the man who took over as OIC police chief after Purisima's suspension last December 2014: Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, who was bypassed in the January 25 operation against Marwan.
The chief of the 120,000-strong military, General Gregorio Catapang Jr, later arrived in the Senate and shook Purisima's hand before proceeding to his assigned seat.
These 3 generals belong to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Dimalupig Class of 1981, along with 3 others called to the Senate hearing – Western Mindanao Command Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, Defense Undersecretary Natalio Ecarma of the Anti-Terrorism Council of the Philippines and AFP Inspector General Major General Benito De Leon.

Add another mistah (classmate) in Malacañang – retired Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista, executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, which handles issues concerning the police and the military.

That makes 7 members of the class now faced with the responsibility to help fix the worst crisis to hit the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the leader who favored all of them to get their coveted posts.

The mistahs watched each other get the grilling from senators with straight faces – betraying no emotions. They're closer than brothers in spite of – and because of – the things they've gone through together since they entered the the military school as plebes in 1977. In fact, after the Mamasapano tragedy and before Purisima's resignation on February 6, some members of the class met inside Camp Crame.

Two questions
At the Senate, Purisima was repeatedly asked two questions about his classmates because the answers define his role in the bloodiest security operation in the country's recent history. Commanders said it was Purisima, together with sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas, who supervised "Oplan Exodus" against Marwan.
"You do not trust your own second in command (Espina) with this information?," Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos asked Purisima. Napeñas has said he discussed the secrecy of the operation with Purisima who told him: "Huwag mo munang sabihan yung dalawa, saka na pag nandun na." (Don't inform them (Espina and Roxas) yet. Let them know once the operation is underway.)
Another senator asked. "What did you mean when you said "Ako na ang bahala kay General Catapang?" These were Purisima's words to Napeñas on January 9, when they briefed President Benigno Aquino III in Bahay Pangarap, Aquino's residence inside the Malacañang compound. (READ: Aquino, Purisima were at final 'Oplan Exodus' briefing)

The lack of coordination with the military, which has air and ground assets, is one of the reasons being cited for the bloodbath in Mamasapano.

The questions seek to understand how a suspended police chief stayed on top of an important operation when the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman was to strip him of the authority to do so. (READ: What I wish Aquino said as president)

They take on a deeper meaning knowing that these 3 generals and several others are classmates who burned the phone lines immediately after the firefight erupted in Mamasapano before 6 am on January 25.

And when Purisima said he would take care of coordinating with Catapang, it carried the guarantees of a PMA graduate being able to count on his mistah for help whatever happens.

"That was not an order but an advice," Purisima told senators about his conversations with Napeñas.

This was not the same Purisima who faced the Senate in September 2014. In September he carried the power of his uniform too far – to the point that he was almost brash in his responses to corruption allegations against him.

Today, he's at the lowest point of his life, one of his mistahs told Rappler. It's the end of his career as a cop.

"I sent him a text message. I said 'We're behind you.' My family is behind him," he said.

'Walang kampi-kampihan'

Rappler talked to 3 retired members of the class who maintain that the class is unaffected by the issue. Friendship means they do not demand explanations for each other's actions, they said, and there is no blame game even as they acknowledge the toxic relationship among their mistahs in Camp Crame owing to the rivalry between Purisima and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Purisima's appointment as PNP chief created a rift between him and his mistahs because some resented how he got a little too "aggressive," according to the source. There have been talks about Purisima ocassionally giving his mistahs a dressing down in Camp Crame. They were all very close to him before he was appointed PNP chief.
But separate Purisima's strained relationship with his mistahs, the source said, from his decisions involving the Mamasapano operation. The decision to keep the operation a secret from Espina and Catapang was a judgment call that Purisima made based on his own motivations, they said.

Two of them talked about respecting his decision to prioritize operational security over coordination. Purisima and Espina may be friends, they said, but "the operational consideration transcends relations." In the same manner, they understand that Espina is hurt because he is the OIC chief and was bypassed.

"You don't ask things like those specifically. The class is not affected. Walang kampi-kampihan. We respect each other," said a mistah.

"It's part of the job. Wala naman kaming away," said the fourth mistah Rappler interviewed, who was present in the Senate hearing. "Nagtetext pa nga kami hanggang ngayon e. Sa trabaho, trabaho. As classmates, classmates pa rin," he added.

Espina, for example, was never heard attacking Purisima directly even as he declared that the PNP needed a new chief – before Purisima considered resigning.

Purisima's exit offers a new start for Camp Crame. There's a good chance PMA '81 will keep its hold on PNP if the President continues to favor the class. The contenders for the top post include Espina and Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, chief of the directorial staff.

Is giving evidence to the FBI a national security issue? Lawmakers say, 'No,' but Napenas stands pat

From InterAksyon (Feb 11): Is giving evidence to the FBI a national security issue? Lawmakers say, 'No,' but Napenas stands pat

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. (file photo)

Despite the insistence of two lawmakers, including a former Armed Forces chief, that it was not a national security issue, sacked Special Action Force commander Getulio Napenas on Wednesday refused to say why the finger taken from the body believed to be that of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” was given to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Prodded by Representatives Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo and Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa, a retired military chief, Napenas stood firm in his position that he would discuss the matter only in executive session, claiming that doing so in public would endanger the lives of his operatives.

“I insist on a reply,” Tupas, a lawyer said, as he pointed out that his question involved a question of “custody of evidence” and not national security.

Tupas was seconded by Biazon, who maintained that “national security is not at stake here. This is an administrative question.”

Both lawmakers raised the possibility of citing Napenas in contempt.

However, Negros Occidental Representative Jeffrey Ferrer, chairman of the committee on public order and safety, cut in and pointed out that Napenas had not refused to answer the question, only that he would do so in executive session because he believes "this is part of national security that could not be exposed."

The finger of the man said to be Marwan was taken for DNA samples by the FBI.

Oplan Exodus was 'a costly victory,' says military analyst

From InterAksyon (Feb 11): Oplan Exodus was 'a costly victory,' says military analyst

Mamasapano animated forces. NEWS5 VIDEO GRAB

Oplan Exodus, the operation plan to arrest suspected international terrorist Malaysian Julkifli Abdhir alias Marwan and his Filipino protégé Abdul Basit Usman was ill-conceived and bound to end in a disaster, said military analyst Jose Antonio Custodio. He detailed the following reasons as to what were its major flaws:

1. What happens when you walk into MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) territory?

“Even a reporter knows this: You walk in there with guns and you’re asking for a fight. Every man there is armed and even if they are from different groups, they will all join in the fight in a pintakasi (cockfighting term for ganging up). That is a given. Everybody knows that - from decades of war with Moro rebels. The Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces should have known this.

“The question is why was this very important and very commonly known fact forgotten in the formulation of the tactical operation? Napenas as the head of SAF should have further studied the merits and demerits of the plan and at the very least conducted a tabletop war game simulation to check its feasibility.”

2. Why walk through unfamiliar terrain?

“Why did the plan have the lightly armed SAF march through difficult terrain thus making their progress into hostile territory slow and ponderous and why was little thought given to the exit strategy especially as it should have been factored in that local MILF units would join in the fray once the shooting starts?

“Unfortunately, despite the versatility of the special forces as a maneuver and shock force, their utilization in the operation against Marwan smacked of a conservative and conventional mindset that was incapable of proposing out of the box strategies and tactics.

“An alternative plan would have been a helicopter insertion of a small group of police commandos. They already pinpointed the exact location of Marwan with apparent American assistance. They should have done what the Americans did with Osama bin Laden: fly in, neutralize Marwan, get proof of Marwan’s neutralization, fly out. There may be casualties, but not 44 on the SAF side and an indeterminate number on the other side.”

Though the PNP SAF does not have a helicopter fleet, “They could have asked the Americans to discreetly provide unmarked utility helicopters for the operation as it appears that the US is also one of the main proponents of the plan to neutralize Marwan. They were able to get them after - for the retrieval of bodies, why not for the operation itself?

“The casualties of such an alternative operation would be so low whether successful or not that after the initial bickering that would erupt between the MILF and the government over the incident, both sides would then move on.”

3. Was SAF designed for a conventional military operation?

“The PNP-SAF staff planned a conventional military operation with men not equipped and trained for the task at hand. Oplan Exodus had all the appearances of a military operation, but the SAF is designed to operate as a small 'shock' team for situations like hostage-taking, etc. and not for set piece battles of which the Mamasapano engagement turned into.

“Simply put, the SAF is not infantry. As there was little thought given to the exit strategy, no thought then was given to resupply by air if the forces would get bogged down in heavy fighting and of course little consideration given to mutual support between the units of the battalion sized SAF formation that marched into Mamasapano.
“Apparently because the battalion-size (392) group of policemen assembled for the operation was plucked from all over the country, they did not have unit cohesion and would not be expected to effectively mutually support each other, so at the height of the firefight, they could not act cohesively to help their comrades who were pinned down and being routed.

“The SAF expected to be plucked out of trouble by the AFP but as there was no pre-operation coordination between the SAF and the AFP, the Army reaction would not be quick and rapid as the need for clearances and confusion would naturally affect the military, which was kept in the dark.

“No amount of grandstanding by legislators can change that principle of military operations that proper pre-planning coordination is needed to establish effective and responsive support especially in the Philippine context wherein the enemy is not a foreign entity but fellow Filipinos and the risk of unacceptable collateral damage is always very high.”

“But essentially, the problem is institutional. The PNP is a schizophrenic organization with the top echelons occupied by PMA (Philippine Military Academy) graduates and lower ranks by alumni of the Philippine National Police Academy who have a different mindset from their superiors that can contribute to command problems and even an identity crisis.

“Is the PNP a police organization or is it a paramilitary organization? Problems with the command and force utilization by the PNP had already surfaced such as during the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis (the standoff with Hong Kong tourists held hostage that ended tragically). That incident should have been a wake-up call.”
Custodio said the PNP-SAF is responsible for the plan that eventually did get adopted. He said he did not believe that the operation was conceived to thwart the ongoing peace talks with the MILF. “It was not Machiavellian. It was simply ill-conceived,” he said.

Custodio also said President Benigno Aquino III could not be blamed for “so-called granting authority to execute the plan. That is a policy directive, different from the oplan itself. The oplan is supposed to be planned by professionals.”

“If hypothetically the policy makers meddled in the drafting of the plan then the PNP-SAF staff, as the professionals and experts, should have moved heaven and earth to protest any unsound and dangerous feature within it that carried the seeds of disaster which is an accepted and properly recognized responsibility of commanders in behalf of the men who will be sent into harm’s way.

“Unfortunately, it appears a misplaced can-do attitude pervaded in the conceptualization, and that was the road to disaster. In other words, the moment the SAF marched into Mamasapano, they were dead men walking.”