Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tabak chief cites CAFGU’s role in IPSP implementation

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 11): Tabak chief cites CAFGU’s role in IPSP implementation

Tabak commander Brigadier General (BGen.) Gerardo Barrientos Jr. on Friday lauded the 5th Infantry (Duty Bound) battalion assisting the infantry division in the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or “Bayanihan.”

Speaking during the 65th founding anniversary of the battalion, Barrientos said “the cadre unit is responsible for training the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) as force multipliers to army troops in the conduct of its internal security operations.”

“The cadres composed of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) handling the 5,800 CAFGU members in the area underwent tough and rigorous trainings. They are not like ordinary soldiers. They are fully, completely trained and educated as far as military training is concerned,” Barrientos elucidated.

The 5th IB covers the area of Lanao Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur.

Barrientos said: “it is the cadres who trained CAFGU members to help the regular forces protect our county. After the training, CAFGUs are deployed in their respective communities so that they could easily accomplish their mission.”

The Tabak commander also recognized the vital role of CAFGUs saying “they are the ones giving information to their cadres since they have access to the different areas, have complete knowledge of the terrain, and they are the direct contacts in the community.”

CAFGUs have the advantage in protecting their villages from outside threats as they are more familiar with their own communities,” Barrientos added.

Barrientos encouraged the cadres to motivate the CAFGU members for them to continuously support the community.

As a motivation to CAFGU members, Barrientos announced the increase in their subsistence allowance. In return he expects the CAFGU members to render their services efficiently.

In a related development, 5th IB commander Lieutenant Colonel James Aseron underscored the crucial role of CAFGU members in the accomplishment of their mission.

“The CAFGUs play a vital role in protecting the communities since our regular troops could not cover the entire area in the Philippines. They are the ‘stay-behind forces’ and our first responders in times of calamities,” Aseron explained.

“As we celebrate our founding anniversary, I urged the troopers and CAFGU members to heartily serve the country in order to attain peace,” urged Aseron.

It is our duty to support the peace process, says Tabak chief

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 12): It is our duty to support the peace process, says Tabak chief

Tabak division commander BGen. Berardo Barrientos Jr. has reminded the soldiers that it is their duty to support the peace process pursued by the national government.

Speaking during the 65th founding anniversary of 5th Infantry (Duty Bound) Battalion on Wednesday at Kuta Major Cesar Sang-an, Barangay Pulacan in this municipality, Barrientos said a peace negotiation between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had started years ago that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014.

But the peace process has recently been be stalled following the unfortunate and tragic incident in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao where 44 elite members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were slain in a clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Barrrientos, however, said that sustainable peace could only be achieved through reconciliation and peace negotiation with the MILF amid “immense sacrifices, difficulties and challenges experienced by the soldiers.”

Barrientos added the government has constant meetings and dialogues with different MILF organizations in the division’s area of responsibility for quite sometime and that it did not “have specific engagement with the rebel group.”

“The conduct of series of meetings and dialogues is a manifestation of our support to the national reconciliation efforts,” Barrientos announced.

He said “if the civilians dream of a peaceful resolution to armed conflict, more so are the soldiers.”

Every Filipino dreams of a lasting peace, the Tabak commander explained, as he urged the civilians to actively support the government’s reconciliation efforts.

Barrientos expressed optimism that the creation of the board inquiry into the Mamasapano bloody incident would pave the way for the solution to the imperiled peace talks with Moro rebels.

Meanwhile, Barrientos observed that in the 1st Infantry division there is a a strong coordination between and among the local police force, the military and other law enforcement agencies particularly in the implementation of Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or “Bayanihan” campaign.

“The AFP and PNP forces have good relations here. We hope that this will be sustained through engagement and team building activities,” Barrientos proudly said.

1st Cavalry Squadron holds gift giving for poor residents of Tukuran town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 13): 1st Cavalry Squadron holds gift giving for poor residents of Tukuran town

Poor residents of Barangay Manlayag have received food packs, used clothing and slippers from the 1st Cavalry Squadron, Mechanized Division, Philippine Army (PA) in a gift giving recently.

Dubbed “Love Drive Program,” the gift giving was held in coordination with the 1st Field Artillery Battalion aimed at bringing the government closer to the people.

The 1st Cavalry Squadron executive officer Major Francis Balan said the team with its sponsor, Nancy Sanchez of Zamboanga City, distributed 100 food packs containing 3 kilos of rice, 2 cans of sardines, 2 packs of noodles, sachets of coffee and used clothing to selected poor families.

Two hundred new pairs of slippers, candies and supplemental feeding were also given to children.

“Ang ating mga kasundaluhan at civic organization ay nagtulong-tulong na ma-share ang basic services sa mga maralitang tao upang makapagbigay sa kanila ng kaligayahan,” Balan said.

(The troopers and civic organization have extended help to the poor to make them happy.)

“Ang mga natanggap ninyo ngayon ay initial pa pa lamang yan dahil ang aking kaibigan na US philatropist ay personal po na magpunta rito sa inyo sa buwan ng Marso at magbibigay na naman ng karagdagang gifts na tiyak na ikakaligaya naman ninyo,” Sanchez told the recipients.

(What you have received now is just an initial one because my friend, a US philanthropist, will personally visit here in March and will give additional goods for you.)

Sanchez said: “Manlayag is just one of the recipient-barangays that received gifts from her friend in Mindanao and Visayas next to Iligan City and Palo, Leyte, respectively.”

Punong Barangay Cerelo Halang expressed his gratitude to the 1st Cavalry Squadron for spearheading the gift giving activity saying, “It is the first time we have received such a program.”

Cyndi Baguio, 38, said she was thankful for receiving the food packs.

“Nagpasalamat ko ug dako nga nakadawat ko aning food packs gikan sa mga nagpasiugda. Medyo lisod gyud mi sa pagpangita sa among pagkaon tungod kay ang akong bana wala nay trabaho ug nagsalig lamang kami sa pagtanom ug kamunting kahoy,” Baguio said while holding an infant baby in her arms.

(I am very grateful to have received the food packs from the organizers. It is really hard for us to find food since my husband has no job. We just depend on planting cassava.)

“Malipayon ako nga usa sa mga nakadawat ning maong mga pagkaon gikan sa 1st Cavalry. Nakatabang ni namo tungod kay kami na lang duha sa akong ang mga tawo nag-uban sa balay. Ang akong napulo ka mga anak pulos minyo na ug mibulag na sa amoa.  wala nay motabang mo pagpangita sa among pagkaon,” Eleuterio Luardo, 78, said after receiving the food packs.

(I am happy to receive this food pack from the 1st Cavalry. It really helped us because only the two of us are left in our home. All our 10 children already got married and they are living separately. Nobody would help us in our food.)

The 1st Cavalry troopers also held a comedy show during the said activity to the delight of the children.

AFP forbids soldiers from using cell phones in sensitive missions

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): AFP forbids soldiers from using cell phones in sensitive missions

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has barred its officers and personnel from carrying their mobile phones at security briefings and high-level security conferences.

A senior military official said this is to prevent possible enemy tracking activities and eavesdropping.

This security countermeasure, however, is only being imposed on a case-to-case basis, the official said, pointing out the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) policemen who were killed by Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 were stripped of their weapons and belongings, including cellphones.

The official explained ground troops normally use their own communication equipment in all major operations.

“We don’t use cellphones. We use our own communication during operations,” Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang earlier told the Senate inquiry in justifying the absence of fire support for the beleaguered SAF policemen in Mamasapano.

Catapang said there was no direct line of communication between the SAF commandos and the reinforcing Army troops.

Relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas has been saying before the congressional inquiry that he had relayed his appeal for artillery support to their counterparts at the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in the morning of Jan. 25.

The request was coursed by SAF officers through their mobile phones and later during a conference held at the headquarters of 1st Mechanized Brigade based in the nearby town of Shariff Aguak.

The fire support, in the form of white phosphorous delivered thrice by howitzers, came only late in the afternoon that same day, at a time when all the SAF commandos had been pinned down and overwhelmed, and subsequently killed by Muslim rebels.

In Mamasapano, most of the SAF commandos involved in the operations were allowed to bring their mobile phones to serve as communication backup.

These mobile phones ended up in the hands of rebels, some of whom even sent text messages to the relatives of the fallen policemen that their loved ones are dead.

“All mobile phones used in the operations that resulted in the neutralization of Jemaah Ismaliyah bomb and demolition expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, were in silent mode during the operations so as not to compromise police movements in the area,” a senior security official said.

At the height of the fighting, the SAF commandos used their mobile phones to communicate with their ground commanders, the official said.

The incident also prompted the Army to retrain its artillery support personnel.

Artillery fire training held
Maj. Rosa Manuel, spokesperson for the Army’s Artillery Regiment, said the month-long training for the Marines’ Fire Direction Center (FDC) is being held in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

“The training was aimed at reviewing and equipping the designated members of the FDC in order for them to deliver the needed artillery fire support timely and accurately,” Manuel said.

Maj. Roy Nuez, commandant of the Artillery Training School, said 10 personnel from Field Artillery Battalions and six Marines assigned in Sultan Kudarat would undergo training.

Six operatives of the Joint Special Operations Group were killed by friendly fire after a 105-mm howitzer round landed in their forward command post in Patikul on June 19, 2014.

The incident happened during heavy fighting between the Marine Force Recon and the Abu Sayyaf.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, chief of the 2nd Marine Brigade, was relieved from his post after the incident.

The training is also being held amid questions on the supposed failure of the military to provide fire support to SAF commandoes who figured in the Mamasapano clash last Jan. 25.

Military officials, however, said they were not able to provide immediate fire support because the SAF had failed to provide enough information about the location of the beleaguered police commandos.

Amid the finger pointing as to who should be blamed for the encounter, Army Artillery Regiment commander Brig. Gen. Leandro Loyao III said there should be proper coordination between his unit and the forces that need assistance.

“Our units are not operating independently. It is the primary responsibility of the friendly government troops to inform us that they are operating somewhere or when the need immediately arises, they should be able to provide their location and the direction where they want the artillery fire dropped,” he said.

‘MILF commanders in alliance with BIFF’

From the Manila Times (Feb 12): ‘MILF commanders in alliance with BIFF’

A FORMER Philippine National Police (PNP) intelligence officer on Thursday claimed that lawless Muslim groups have forged tactical alliances with key leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Retired Police Director Rodolfo Mendoza said these Islamic militants have links with the Khilafa Islamiya Movement (KIM) that has been blamed in past bombing incidents in Mindanao.

A former director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Mendoza was the one who uncovered “Oplan Bujinka,” a plot by al-Qaeda militants against Pope John Paul II when he visited the country in 1995.

He said these militants forged alliances with key MILF commanders who were dissatisfied with Chairman Al Haj Murad’s peace negotiations with the government.

These groups, which are referred to by the MILF as Base Commands, include the armed elements involved in the deadly Mamasapano incident on January 25.

Mendoza said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who engaged the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos reportedly sought reinforcement from the MILF’s 105th Base Command under Zakaria Goma.

The BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF, particularly from the 105th Base Command. Family ties exist and are honored among the combatants of these two armed groups, according to Mendoza.

Previous reports said Goma eventually helped enforce a ceasefire between his men and government security forces.

Mendoza said the Islamic militants have alliances with commanders of the MILF’s 105th, 106th and 118th Base Commands that are based in Mamasapano, which are the training bases of the Jemaan Islamiah and BIFF.

“BIFF commander Umbra ‘Ameril’ Kato and Goma are very close. Majority of the members of BIFF are from the 105th Base Command,” Mendoza said.

These groups, he added, also have alliances with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) commander Isnilon Hapilon who is based in Basilan province.

Mendoza said the MILF Central Committee is tolerating the alliances between the 105th Base Command and the Islamist terrorists.

“They cannot control Umbra Kato,” he said.

Mendoza warned that a breakdown in the peace process between the government and the MILF could strengthen the Islamists’ influence on the more moderate factions.

MILF exec: Rebels involved in Mamasapano clash face exclusion

From the Sun Star-Manila (Sep 12): MILF exec: Rebels involved in Mamasapano clash face exclusion

MORO rebels who took part in the Mamasapano bloodbath face expulsion from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) if proven that they violated the rules of the revolutionary group, an MILF official said Thursday.

"The sanction of the disciplinary actions will depend (on the violation that they had committed). Maybe, it's not only suspension but termination," said MILF peace panel chairman Mohagber Iqbal.

Iqbal said the MILF is committed to its investigation regarding the January 25 incident in Maguindanao that resulted in the death of 44 police commandos.

He said that the rebel group is "sticking to the truth."

Iqbal, however, was distressed that most Filipinos doubt the sincerity of the MILF in conducting its probe on the so-called "misencounter" between the Moro rebels and the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force.

"(I understand), there is outrage and too much emotion. The nation is really wounded as a result of this tragic incident," Iqbal said. "(But) we will not whitewash the investigation of the MILF because we are seeking for truth."

Iqbal added that the MILF was not against the PNP-SAF.

He said that if there was an "enemy" it was the lack of coordination of the PNP-SAF with the revolutionary group for the arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in the MILF's home.

But Igbal said they see that the Aquino administration is serious in the ongoing probe on the Mamasapano incident.

Despite the bloodbath, Iqbal hopes that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed into law.

MILF: Big crowd converge at Cotabato City Plaza; other areas, urges Congress to pass BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 11): Big crowd converge at Cotabato City Plaza; other areas, urges Congress to pass BBL

Big crowd converge at Cotabato City Plaza; other areas, urges Congress to pass BBL

A total of 47, 245 people from Maguindanao, Cotabato City and nearby areas converged at the Cotabato City Plaza on February 10, demanding for immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Similar peace rally were also held in Marawi City, where 150, 000 people attended. The number of participants that joined the rallies were, Poblacion Pikit, North Cotabato- 69, 332; General Santos City- 8, 205; Davao City- 1, 474; Datu Paglas in Maguindanao- 61,000; Isabel City, Basilan- 550; Jolo, Sulu-15, 321; Bongao, Tawi-Taw- 3, 500; Baloi, Lanao Del Norte, 14, 700; and Batasang Pambansa or House of Representatives, 3,000.

Official tally seen by this writer divulged the total number of participants that joined the peace rallies were 377, 327.  All the speakers at the city plaza were one in saying that the deliberations on the BBL must continue and not let a single incident, like the one at Mamasapano affect the GPH-MILF Peace Process. The crowd chanting Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar also chanted “PEACE” for Mindanao as they no longer want war.

The peace rallies held in various major cities of Mindanao and other areas were spearheaded by the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) headed by Dr. Abdulmanan Gayak with the support of the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO); UNYPAD, and other non-government organizations and civil society groups.

Representatives of the indigenous peoples, Christian groups, women and youth sector also spoke during the rally. Catholic nuns also joined the peace rally.

In an interview, Drieza Al-Moro of Lanao Del Sur, asserts the importance of enacting the BBL rather than suspending it as it will affect the entire peace process.

On the other hand, Malacañang through Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. reiterates the call of President Benigno Aquino II to congress to continue the deliberations on BBL as ”the next steps for the proposed law should be in pursuit of the peace process”. The simultaneous rallies would only mean that “PEACE IS ONE AND THE ONLY CLAMOR OF THE MOROS, IP’s AND CHRISITIANS IN MINDANAO”, as war is catastrophic to everyone, in their lives, properties and the future of their children.

MILF: Malacañang reiterates calls for lawmakers to pursue Bangsamoro peace process

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 11): Malacañang reiterates calls for lawmakers to pursue Bangsamoro peace process

Malacañang in an earlier statement reiterated its call on lawmakers to pursue the Bangsamoro peace process. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the next steps for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be in pursuit of the peace process.

In an interview, Sec. Coloma said in Tagalog, "Dahil kung hindi ito isusulong at iisa lang naman ang alternatibo, iyong pagbalik sa karahasan at iyong kawalan ng kasiguruhan hinggil sa pag-unlad at istabilidad ng Mindanao" . "Kaya iyan po ang mga dapat na magnilay po ang ating mga mambabatas na ito ang magiging consequence kung mababalam o titigil ang prosesong pangkapayapaan," Coloma added.

The hearings on BBL has been suspended in the two Chambers of Congress with senators and congressmen saying they should await first the results of the inquiries on the Mamasapano incident that killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) when they intruded into Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao to capture, dead or alive international terrorist Zulkifli Bin AbHir and his cohort Basit Usman.

Marwan was allegedly killed in the said incident and a DNA test conducted confirmed it.

Mamasapano is a wide area and is a “Dragons’ nest” where Moro rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are encamped. The encounter also resulted to the death of 18 MILF rebels, wounded 12 and also killed 4 civilians.

MILF: Pikit Multi-sectoral rally calls on Congress to enact Bangsamoro Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 12): Pikit Multi-sectoral rally calls on Congress to enact Bangsamoro Law

Pikit Multi-sectoral rally calls on Congress to enact Bangsamoro Law

A multi-sectoral rally was held at Pikit, North Cotabato on February 10, 2015 with a crowd of 56,563 individuals calling for the immediate passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). This figure was as of 11:50 A.M., according to organizer’s secretariat. It was a conglomeration of tri-people in North Cotabato composed of the Islamized Bangsamoro, the non-Islamized Bangsamoro or sometimes called Indigenous Peoples or Lumads, and the settlers or those whose ancestors originated from Luzon and the Visayas.

The Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) headed by its president, Dr. Abdulmanan Gayak spearheaded the simultaneous peace rally in Mindanao and in Quezon City.  The rally in Poblacion Pikit, North Cotabato was one of largest gathering of people ever held in the said town that called for support and immediate passage of the BBL.

Among the early speakers was North Cotabato Board Member Dulia Sultan. She said, “In the Mamasapano incident, there were both government troopers and MILF troopers killed, hence, we should not be one sided on the issue. Let us not be unjust, for history proved that the Moros were the first victims of war and injustices. Pikit Vice Mayor Mangansakan said: “ I have experienced all out wars under late President Ferdinand Marcos and President Joseph Estrada, and in the latter, he had spent 1.7 billion pesos. So, let us not quarrel, nor blame each other”.

A representative from the youth said, ”I am saddened by the death of both government’s SAF and MILF’s BIAF and the civilians as well.But killing the BBL is tantamount to killing the future of Bangsamoro youth. A farmer representative appealed to Congress to hasten the enactment of the BBL emphasizing that in that way they can work in their farms without fear and apprehensions.

A representative of the professional sector recalled, “The peace negotiation took the GPH-MILF Peace panels 17 years to come up with an agreement and the BBL is a product of that long negotiation. The Mamasapano tragedy has no connection whatsoever to the proposed Basic Law, hence, it must be passed soonest possible time. The proposed Bangsamoro Government when entrenched is an initial step towards peace, harmony and development in Mindanao region”.

A lumad representative, Bai Magdalena Suha of the Matigsalog tribe commented that the Mamasapano incident was not a massacre because the SAFs that were not killed in their respective homes but were killed in an area known to be lairs of Moro rebels. She called on everyone to set aside censures and instead let us work together for the early passage of the BBL. Representative of the labor sector appealed to the legislators to support and pass the BBL.

In a lengthy message of the women sector’s representative, she said, “The initial peace that we experienced due to the peace process and the sincere implementation of the ceasefire agreement had brought us a very tangible progress in North Cotabato, how much more if everlasting peace is achieved?

“We are also saddened by the death of 44 SAF because we are mothers, sisters and wives who have imagined the emotions and situations brought about by the death of their loved ones. Let us not listen to the call for all-out-war by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. Let us push forward the one and only solution to the Mindanao conflict the “Bangsamoro Basic Law”, she further said.

 It is not all-out-war, not impeachment of PNoy but passage of the BBL is the solution to the crisis. She appealed to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to reconsider their decisions.  A settler (Christian) member of the G-7 Barangays also called the “zone of peace” in North Cotabato joined the call for support to the BBL as a way towards lasting peace.

The religious group represented by Ustadz Abdulgani Tumalao scoured on every one’s heart to be persevered and disciplined as our search for lasting peace is like Gold where no hot sun can prevent us.

MILF: Peace advocates hold rally in Isabela City for passage of BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 12): Peace advocates hold rally in Isabela City for passage of BBL

Peace advocates hold rally in Isabela City for passage of BBL

On February 10, 2015, peace advocates from different parts of Basilan held rally in Isabela City with the theme “Basilan Peace Rally 2015”. The participants urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The organizers of the said activity were Basilan Ulama Supreme Council (BUSC), Concerned Alliance of Professionals & Students Inc. (CAPSI), Human Rights Network Inc.(HRNI), CBCS, PAZAMBASATUL, Women Sectors, MAP and etc.

“The main objective of the peace rally is to uphold and sustain the peace dividends we have partially achieved the past 17 years of negotiations between the GPH-MILF peace panels and the speedy passage of the BBL”, Bro. Simon Indanan, one of the convenors said in his opening message.

Another speaker Ustadz Abdullah Hamza, the Mufti of Basilan said, “Dapat tayo magkakaisa patungo sa kapayapaan Muslim man o Kristyano kasi tayo ay magkakapatid galing kay Adan ayon sa Banal na Qur’an (We should be united in the name of peace as we are brothers. Muslims or Christians came from one roots Adam).

Nowadays, we should be vigilant in our communities as we are vulnerable to “mundu” (a local term meaning “bandits”) especially the young ones. “Puno ng “mundu” ang bayan natin”. (There are plenty of bandits that roam around in our communities), Hamza said.

Hon. Jubaira Said, a former provincial board member representing the women sector said, “This activity is very important. We must be united and pray to the Almighty Allah that peace be granted to us and reign in our community not only in Basilan but in Mindanao and the entire country as well”.

Another former board member Hon. Mario Mamang said “As peace advocate, what should be done to people in authority to make them change their attitude towards public interest and not for their personal interests”? He was referring to the message of Mayor Cherrylyn Santos of Isabela City who wouldn’t want the peace rally to be held in the city, despite sending her a letter seeking permission to hold the same. The rallyists ended their program at 12 noon.

MILF: Palace defends MILF, “all-out-war” not a solution

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 12): Palace defends MILF, “all-out-war” not a solution

Despite doubts on the sincerity of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in resolving the Mindanao Question, Malacañang defended the Moro front saying it “wants peace too”. Some sectors and lawmakers alleged that the MILF has links with terrorist groups.

Palace Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that information “should be put into perspective," and cited the explanation of  OPAPP Sec.Teresita Quintos Deles at the congressional hearings on the Mamasapano clash.

 Lacierda, in a press briefing last February 11 quoted Sec. Deles, saying that the MILF had heeded the government’s  demand to disavow any links to terror groups as a show of sincerity in forging a peace pact with the government and there is no proof to believe otherwise.

“If there are any allegations, Secretary Ging Deles also mentioned that it has been raised in the highest levels. So there has been an ongoing discussion and both parties yearn for peace. It’s easy for us here to say otherwise because war is not in our porches. War is not fought in our doorsteps," he said.

Lacierda said the administration understands the emotions surrounding the deaths, but said all-out war is not the answer.

“We want peace that is just and lasting peace. Everybody wants that. We understand the frustration right now. We understand that given the situation right now, peace may not be a popular term to be discussed,” he said. “But, again, the alternative to peace is just too costly for all of us to bear.”

Lacierda also defended the MILF's request to speak about the Mamasapano incident in an executive session, rather than a public hearing – but only after it completes its internal investigation.

He said the executive session would still allow the MILF to share what they know with senators and other resource persons.

“The important thing is that they are able to shed light on the situation before us,” he said.

Lacierda added: “There may be reasons why they’re asking for an executive session. So whether the Senate committee will understand those reasons, and on those bases justify calling for an executive session, that will be up to the Senate committee to decide.”

CPP/NPA: Tinatakot ng militar ang saksi sa pagdukot kay Edwin Anuran

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Feb 12):
Samuel Guerrero
NPA Sorsogon Provincial Operations Command (Celso Minguez Command)
NATATAKOT tumestigo ang kaisa-isang saksi sa pagdukot ng mga sundalo ng reaksyunaryong gobyerno kay Edwin Anuran, dating myembro ng NPA, na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin inililitaw ng mga salarin.

Si Elena Gacos Estañol, isang konsehal ng Barangay San Jose, Bulusan, Sorsogon ay kasama ni Anuran nang dukutin sila ng mga sundalo noong Enero 30. Halos 24 oras na hinawakan ng militar si Estañol bago siya pakawalan kinabukasan. Bilang tanging saksi sa pangyayari, siya ang makapagpapatunay na mga tropa ng reaksyunaryong gobyerno ang dumukot sa kanila at patuloy na nagdedetine kay Anuran.

Ani Estañol, may banta ang militar sa kaniya at kaniyang pamilya kaya nag-aatubili siyang tumestigo sa petisyon para sa habeas corpus na nais isampa ng pamilya ni Anuran sa husgado.

Patuloy na nakalagay sa panganib ang buhay ni Edwin Anuran hangga’t hindi siya inililitaw. Proteksyon din ang kailangan ni Elena Estañol para mahikayat siyang tumestigo at tumulong sa paghahanap sa biktima.

Nananawagan kami sa lokal na gobyerno ng Bulusan na bigyan ng kinakailangang ayuda si Estañol. Kung mismong isang upisyal ng barangay katulad niya ay pwedeng takutin nang gayon na lamang ng mga tropa ng gubyerno, ano pang proteksyon ang aasahan ng mga ordinaryong sibilyan?

Hinihiling din namin sa mga nagmamalasakit na kagawad ng midya at mga tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang-tao na ibigay ang lahat ng tulong sa testigo at sa pamilya ng biktima sa ikalulutas ng usaping ito.

Tiamzons' lawyers to appeal transfer of trial venue

From the Philippine Star (Feb 11): Tiamzons' lawyers to appeal transfer of trial venue

Alleged communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria will appeal the transfer of venue trial on kidnapping charges from Quezon City court to a building in Camp Crame.

The lawyers of alleged communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon will appeal the decision of the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of their case's trial from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to a building inside a police camp.

Lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of People's Lawyers said the couple's legal counsels are now drafting the motion for reconsideration to be filed before the High Court.

Olalia said the SC's decision to transfer the venue of the court proceedings from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to the 3rd floor of the Training Center inside the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame is both " unreasonable"and "violates due process."

"Such unilateral move is only an overreaction to a legitimate and peaceful rally last hearing at the premises of the QC Hall of Justice by peasants...," he said in an earlier statement.

The transfer of the venue trial came following the request of Quezon City Executive Judge Fernando Sagun.

"To continue the judicial proceedings inside a police fortress under very hostile conditions and atmosphere and beyond open scrutiny is inconsistent with the minimum requirements of due process mandating a fair and impartial trial that requires a public hearing," Olalia said.

Last Monday's hearing of the kidnapping charges against the Tiamzon and Austria in Camp Crame, allegedly leaders of the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Olalia said that even the reporters were not allowed to cover the trial.

"Pati sa ground floor, ayaw ako pa-interview-hin sa media nor sa harap ng building," Olalia said.

BIFF challenges politicians to arm themselves, fight in Mindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 12): BIFF challenges politicians to arm themselves, fight in Mindanao

While the debate escalates in Congress with some lawmakers calling to eliminate the threat posed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the rebel group is challenging politicians to arm themselves and join the fighting.

“If they really want war, (President) Aquino and these politicians should bring guns and march to Maguindanao,” BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said in a phone interview.

Mr. Aquino in his second public statement after the Mamasapano clash warned threat groups like the BIFF he would run them over and he would make them face the full force of the law.

“If they will come here, we will give them what they want. We will show them a real war that is far different from what they see in the movies,” Mama said.

The reference on the difference between an actual combat and a war movie is a shot at Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who claimed during the hearing that he knew things about war from movies that he watched.

Mama said the BIFF has become anxious that the congressional hearings might lead to an all-out-war that would affect the lives of many civilians.

“Not only the BIFF or the soldiers will be affected by a big war, the civilians will suffer most,” Mama said.

The BIFF has described itself as a guerrilla revolutionary organization that is fighting for an Islamic state in Mindanao.

“We are not terrorists. We are fighting a legitimate cause. The soldiers, SAF (Special Action Force) and the US government are the terrorists because they intrude into our land and want to take it away from us,” Mama said.

Mama also accused the US government of “terrorizing” other countries for its economic interest and then tag those who have been resisting as terrorists.

“The US government terrorized the Middle East for oil. They are intruders because the Arabs are the native inhabitants in that area. The same thing is happening in Mindanao most especially in Liguasan Marsh for its oil deposits,” Mama said.

In a document released by Wikileaks, the US Embassy in Manila wired a “sensitive but unclassified” message to the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States Pacific Command saying that 70 percent of the US$80 billion to US$1 trillion worth of mineral resources in the country is in Mindanao which include natural gas and oil deposits.

Department of Energy reports said that the Cotabato Basin, which includes the Liguasan Marsh, has an estimated 202 million barrels of oil and at least 821 billion cubic feet of gas while the Sulu Sea has at least 209 million barrels of oil and 716 billion cubic feet of gas.

Led by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front 105th Base commander Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, the BIFF splintered from the MILF after serious disagreements on the conduct of the peace negotiations with the government.

Gov’t allots P10B for peace process

From the Business World (Feb 12): Gov’t allots P10B for peace process

THE NATIONAL government has earmarked almost P10 billion in funding to support the peace process in Mindanao, and bolster peace and development efforts in conflict-affected areas, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a statement.
The DBM said P9.94 billion in the 2015 General Appropriations Act have been allotted for government programs “that strengthen peace-building, reconstruction and development activities”.

“Ensuring inclusive growth means creating an environment of stability in different parts of the country. It’s true that the process of peace-building is a delicate and complex one, requiring much work and cooperation from both sides,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad was quoted as saying in the statement.

“But President Aquino’s administration is prepared to support both the communities in need and our national security forces to ensure greater security across the country,” he added.

The funding includes P7.25 billion under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program and P2.69 billion for the Bangsamoro peace process.
The P2.69-billion allotment include P950 million to the Social Welfare department for livelihood, assistance and construction projects, P15.5 million to the Commission on Higher Education for scholarships, P231 million to the Education department for literacy programs and P335 million to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for vocational training.

It also includes P228 million to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for the implementation of the normalization process and P880 million to the Agriculture department for agri-enterprises, among others.
The P7.25 billion would be allotted under the PAMANA program “to help foster peace and development in conflict-torn areas throughout the country (including the ARMM or Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), via the delivery of various government programs and services.”

De Lima orders NBI to authenticate SAF carnage video

From the Business Mirror (Feb 11): De Lima orders NBI to authenticate SAF carnage video


In Photo: A Filipino Muslim displays a message during a rally at the Lower House to call for the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) in southern Philippines on Tuesday in Quezon City. The BBL deliberation by the Lower House was postponed indefinitely, following the botched police operation to capture Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, which resulted in the killing of 44 elite police commandos.

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said the National Bureau of Investigation’s Anti-Cybercrime Division will validate the authenticity of the six-minute video showing one of the 44 commandos of the National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, being shot at close range.

This, as an emotion-choked National Police officer in charge on Wednesday blasted the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the “overkill” of the 44 SAF commandos.

Speaking during the House of Representatives hearing on the incident, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina demanded clear answers from the MILF, saying that even if the SAF did not coordinate with the MILF regarding its operation to arrest terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, the Moro rebels should not have killed the elite policemen.

“I’m the OIC of National Police, no doubt we are in the peace process…we are peacekeepers. Walang may gusto ng katahimikan kundi kami. We seek for clear answers from the other party of the peace process. Ano ba itong overkill na ito na ginawa niyo sa mga tao ko?” Espina said, adding, “I seek answers for my people so that when my time comes and I have to face them, at least I can say something.”

Espina also said there were videos showing the brutal killing of a SAF commando by alleged members of the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), saying, “some of the killed policemen did not initially suffer any lethal wounds as they were hit in the foot.”

Supt. Rey Ariño, commander of the 55th Special Action Battalion, confirmed that the man in the video was a SAF member.

Moreover, Espina said the medico legal report was contrary to the statement of the MILF that the SAF commandos were the first to fire.

“[Iyong isa], binaril niya sa ulo, buhay na buhay pa ang tao. Iyong isa hinubaran niyo ng bulletproof [vest], binaril sa katawan niya, iyong isa 9-mm [ang tama] sa ulo niya, two fatal shots, hindi pwedeng nag-suicide ang tao. Close range, short firearm iyon,” Espina said.

De Lima ordered NBI Director Virgilio Mendez to authenticate the video, which shows an apparently wounded SAF commando being shot at point-black by unidentified armed men believed to be members of the MILF or the BIFF.

The video also shows several other armed men stripping fallen SAF commandos of their belongings while they lie prostrate on the ground.
De Lima believes the video could be “very important evidence” in the criminal cases being prepared by the government in connection with the killing of the SAF’s “Fallen 44.”

The SAF commando in the video has reportedly been identified by his relatives.

“If this is authentic, these are really barbaric acts that we cannot just allow to pass without holding the perpetrators accountable…. It’s an act of cruelty that cannot be justified by any circumstance,” de Lima told reporters.

“Acts of cruelty or acts of atrocity at any setting are condemnable, completely unacceptable and, therefore, must be dealt with severely by our laws, especially penal laws,” she stressed.

De Lima added that there are rules of conduct being followed in times of war or armed conflict.

She explained that the continuous firing at the SAF commando—who was already helpless and incapacitated—by the alleged MILF or BIFF men was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that is also punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

“Even if there is war or armed conflict, there are rules of conduct, and someone helpless should no longer be hurt or, much worse, killed….  At any setting, an act like that deserved to be condemned and must really meet the full force of our laws,” she added.

But, de Lima stressed that the public should wait for the NBI to authenticate the video.

Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the National Police’s Board of Inquiry, is already set to forward to her office copies of statements and pieces of evidence gathered in the board’s internal investigation.

De Lima earlier hinted that possible charges of multiple murder, homicide and other offenses could be filed against MILF members who figured in the clash with the SAF commandos sent to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano town.

She said other possible cases could include serious physical injuries, direct assault, illegal possession of firearms, violation of Republic Act 9851 or crimes under IHL, obstruction of justice and others.

Why so brutal? MILF answers SAF killings

ABS-CBN (Feb 12): Why so brutal? MILF answers SAF killings

[Video report: Hearing on Mamasapano clash]

Why were Special Action Force commandos in the January 25 anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao so brutally killed?

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal reiterated the killings were the result of a misencounter between the MILF, other armed groups and the SAF troops.

He pointed out that aside from the 44 commandos, 18 Moro rebels were also killed in the firefight.

"Both sides were using high powered caliber guns dahil masyado pong matataas kaliber ng armas. Sa tingin ko, ganun ang nangyari. Ang natamaan ay talagang malubha," he said.

Iqbal denied that the MILF has control over the whole area of the encounter, saying the group only exercises "a certain percentage of control."

An MILF official earlier said he does not believe that an MILF fighter is the one who was caught on video killing a SAF trooper who was still twitching on the ground in Mamasapano.

Iqbal on viral video: Is it authentic?

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): Iqbal on viral video: Is it authentic?

[Video report: Hearing on Mamasapano Clash]

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal questioned the authenticity of the viral video showing a Special Action Force (SAF) trooper being brutally killed by an unidentified man.

During Thursday's Senate inquiry, Iqbal was asked by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV if the man shooting the cop in the video is a member of the MILF.

"Mahirap na tanong po yan. Kung sasabihin ko na ang tropa namin ang gumawa without the result of investigation, that is as if self-incrimination," Iqbal told the senator.

He said there is a need for a fair and impartial investigation to determine who is really behind the brutal killing of the SAF commando.

"Naniniwala ako na hindi ginawa ng MILF yan... I personally believe na hindi gagawin ng pwersa ng MILF yan. However, i-conduct muna natin yung investigation para lalabas kugn ano ang katotohanan."

Iqbal said it is also important to determine the authenticity of the 6-minute video clip, which has caused outrage among many people.

"Nasa Youtube yan. Hindi natin alam kung sino ang gumawa niyan. Baka gusto lang manira. I don't know what would be the motive... Ano ba yan, authentic ba yan? Kasi with the advanced technology now ay siguro mas madali pang gawin yan kesa sa nakikita natin sa movies na halos virtual reality," he said.

MILF has over 7,000 fighters: military

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): MILF has over 7,000 fighters: military

[Video report: Catapang: The MILF forces are more than 7,000]

Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Catapang on Thursday said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has over 7,000 fighters.

Catapang gave the assessment during Thursday's Senate hearing on the Mamasapano, Maguindanao clash.

"As of now, the MILF forces are about more than 7,000. We assure you the Armed Forces is ready for any eventuality. But we hope this will not happen," he said.

He also said the Philippine Army has lots of armored assets and will be buying more attack helicopters.

MILF belies arms build-up

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): MILF belies arms build-up

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Thursday belied allegations that the group continues to build up arms and recruit forces despite the ongoing peace talks.

Responding to an inquiry by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, Iqbal said the MILF is now focused on the decommissioning of arms as part of the normalization process under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

''Noon po aaminin namin dahil sinasabi namin talagang nagpo-produce kami ng armas, pero ngayon dahil ang pinag-uusapan kapayapaan at pinag-uusapan ay decommissioning siguro, wala ng saysay ang pag-uusap na nagdagdag ba ng armas ang MILF o nagte-training,'' Iqbal said.

The government and MILF peace panels earlier signed the implementing guidelines in Kuala Lumpur.

The decommissioning process is the surrendering of arms to the International Decommissioning Body, which will assist in the “transformation” of the rebels to becoming “productive” civilians.

These arms should not be used again, even by forces on the government side.

''Although the decommissioning will take place alone, it has to be linked with other processes in the normalization program for the Bangsamoro,'' Iqbal said.

Iqbal, meanwhile, said he is not aware of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano's report that the MILF maintains a ''Bangsamoro Military Industries'' which manufactures arms.

''I am member of the MILF's highest political organ, but I am not aware,'' he said.

According to a report cited by Cayetano, the arms manufacturer is located in Sitio Katol, General. S.K. Pendatun, Maguindanao.

MILF academy?

In the wake of the Mamasapano clash, which left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers dead, Iqbal also admitted that the MILF has no full control over its forces ''in the same way the government has no absolute control over its forces."

Iqbal, however, said that since 2011, there has been no fighting between government and MILF forces.

''This would show that the MILF has command and control, and unfortunate lang na nangyari ang January 25 nang magkaroon ng sagupaan ang PNP-SAF at MILF forces sa Mamasapano,'' Iqbal said.

Iqbal added the MILF remains committed to the peace process, dismissing allegations that the group is taking advantage of the ceasefire to strengthen its force.

''Siguro hindi ko gagamitin ang 'deny' kasi when you use the word deny, that is a negative affirmation. Ang importante kami ay tapat sa pinirmahan namin at we are consistent that whatever engagement with the Philippine government is covered by a mechanism,'' he said.

Responding to an inquiry by Cayetano, Iqbal denied that the MILF maintains a military academy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

 ''Before, there was in Camp Abubakar, but now no more,'' Iqbal said.

'Eh di talo'

Earlier in the hearing, Iqbal said the MILF will become a social movement and shed its revolutionary nature once it converts itself into a political party, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party.

Iqbal said the MILF can only transition into a legitimate political party once the BBL gets passed in Congress and ratified in a plebiscite.

He said the MILF, through its political party, will still have to vie for seats in the proposed Bangsamoro Parliament, a set-up that some legal experts say runs counter to the Constitution.

Asked by Cayetano whether the MILF will embrace arms once again in case the MILF fails to dominate the polls, Iqbal said the MILF will accept the results of the election.

''Eh 'di talo,'' Iqbal said.

Iqbal believes that the BBL addresses the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people. He said its passage will render the cause of MILF's renegade group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) even more illegitimate.

"Nakita naman natin na ang BBL na-address ang legitimate grievances ng Bangsamoro People. So kapag naipasa iyan, wala nang pwedeng lumaban sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas na may legitimate cause."

MILF still making weapons? Cayetano, Iqbal disagree

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): MILF still making weapons? Cayetano, Iqbal disagree

[Video report: Iqbal faces Senate, insists MILF committed to peace]

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday accused the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of manufacturing its own weapons including high-powered firearms that were used in the firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

During Thursday's Senate hearing on the Mamasapano carnage, Cayetano questioned MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal about an address in barangay (sitio) Katol, General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao, which was allegedly the site of an MILF weapons manufacturing facility.

"Can you tell me kung bakit significant ang address na ito? Di ba ito ang address ng pagawaan ng armas ng MILF?" he asked.

He also showed a photo of a Barrett M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle, which has a maximum range of 2 kilometers.

"Ito po ang pumatay at bumasag sa bungo ng marami po sa ating mga SAF. Ang isa nito ay P750,000 to P1,000,000. Hindi po kaya ng dalawang buwan na training ang gumagamit nito dahil ang effective range nito sa .50 caliber na bala ay 2 kilometers. Ito po ay may gawaan na po ng bala nito kaya kahit anong surrender ng gamit, ay meron na po," he said.

He also said there is a Bangsamoro Military Industries (BMMI) which has three weapons factories.

Iqbal denied any knowledge of the factory or any existing BMMI.

Cayetano also alleged that the MILF has an "academy" in Maguindanao where Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, took refuge during a previous operation.

The MILF negotiator confirmed the MILF used to have an academy in Camp Abubakar, but it no longer exists.

Relieved SAF commander Getulio Napenas said he had heard about the alleged MILF academy in Mamasapano but had no confirmation.

The Senate is investigating the bloody January 25 firefight in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which saw 44 police commandos and 18 Moro rebels killed.

Top officials have described the incident as a "misencounter", with both government and MILF calling for justice for their fallen soldiers.


During the hearing, Cayetano labeled the MILF a terrorist organization, and cited a 2007 US congressional support that noted concerns about the MILF's alleged links to the Jemaah Islamiyah.

The senator, who has withdrawn his support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, said he stands by his accusation that the government should not continue peace negotiations with the MILF "but should continue the quest for peace unless the MILF turns its back on terrorism."

"Why have I labeled the organization as terrorist? Chairman Iqbal, I hope you understand that it is an international legal term. There is a definition for terrorism and I have several documents and studies explaining and I am sure you will dispute that," he said.

He said he welcomed Iqbal's statement that the MILF opposes terrorism, adding "we will agree to disagree." He also criticized the MILF for taking up arms against the government.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, meanwhile, fought back tears as he tried to explain to Cayetano why the MILF should not be called terrorists.

He said the Philippine government did not tag the New People's Army as terrorists even though they also committed bombings and acts of arson.
Even in social media, he said many Filipinos are blaming the entire Moro people, not just a few, for the atrocities.

Cayetano, however, claimed MILF rebels beheaded soldiers in al-Barka, which is considered a terrorist act. He said the terrorist tag should only apply to armed combatants, and not the entire Bangsamoro people.

During the hearing, Iqbal condemned the atrocities perpetrated on a SAF trooper in Mamasapano, which was caught on video and posted in social media.

He also said the results of the peace process would mean development not just for Mindanao but for the entire country.

He said the public should be reminded about the various massacres committed against the Moro people, which led them to take up arms.

MILF vows to help gov't capture Basit Usman

From ABS-CBN (Feb 12): MILF vows to help gov't capture Basit Usman

Moro rebels in the Philippines promised the government on Thursday they would help track down a wanted militant in a bid to save a peace process thrown into doubt by a clash in which 44 policemen were killed.

Efforts to end the decades-old insurgency by rebels from the minority Muslim community in the largely Catholic country have stalled since the Jan. 25 fighting on the southern island of Mindanao in which the 44 policemen and 18 rebels were killed.

Legislators drawing up a law to give Muslims in the area autonomy, the next step of the peace process, have suspended their work, demanding an investigation into the bloodshed.

The rebels' chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, told a Senate inquiry his group was willing to detain a militant bomb-maker, Abdul Basit Usman, and others hiding in their territory.

"Yes, we will help," Iqbal said when asked if the rebels would assist in the hunt for Usman.

Police were looking for Usman and a wanted militant from Malaysia, Zulkipli bin Hir, when the violence erupted in January. Bin Hir was believed to have been killed.

The rebels said the police had not informed them of their operation to arrest the militants. The government said the violence was a mistake.

Iqbal said his group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had already agreed to help authorities go after kidnap and extortion gangs.

"We can also cooperate in running after people who are tagged as terrorists," he said.

But he said his group did not know where Usman, who has been accused of several bomb attacks in the Philippines, was hiding.

Usman has been wanted since 2002 and has a $1 million bounty from the U.S. State Department.

Some lawmakers said the MILF was "flirting" with al Qaeda-linked militants, providing them with sanctuary and training grounds.
Iqbal denied that.

"We have made a solemn vow to fight terrorism," he said. "It has no place in Islam ... to tag MILF as terrorist group is unfair."

President Benigno Aquino urged legislators not to abandon the autonomy plan, saying the entire peace process was at stake.

The 45-year insurgency has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in the poor but resource-rich south.

SLIDESHOW: Oplan Exodus operational plan

From the Philippine Star (Feb 11): SLIDESHOW: Oplan Exodus operational plan


The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry presented initial facts gathered on the Mamasapano operation, which led to the death of 44 police commandos, during separate hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives. PNP BOI

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) shared its findings on the Mamasapano clash during the separate inquiries of the Senate and House of Representatives.

PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and BOI chair Benjamin Magalong discussed the targets of the operation and the PNP Special Action Force's Oplan Exodus.

The objective of the operation was to arrest Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter leader Abdul Basit Usman.

[Slide show]

The report was based on 374 interviews, 318 sworn statements, SMS and call logs, special reports submitted by the PNP-SAF, local police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Military tells public not to believe coup rumors

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): Military tells public not to believe coup rumors

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday urged the public not to believe reports that some sectors of the military is planning to conduct a coup against the government.

"We appeal to our fellow Filipinos not to glorify these attempts to divide our nation. Our soldiers will continuously support the government in helping solve our country’s problems instead of becoming part of the problem," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

Coup plots started coming out in the wake of the Mamasapano, Maguindanao incident when members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed 44 members of the Special Action Force last Jan. 25 during an encounter stemming from the operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist-bomber Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan.

He also assured the public that all AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel were all dedicated professionals whose sole interest was to keep the peace and security of the country.

"We also continue to work together for the interests of the nation and deny any rift between us," Cabunoc said.

​He also said that coup rumors, being spread by some quarters, were not confirmed by their ground commanders.

"Based on initial consultation with ground commanders, we have not received any feedback confirming the reports which were spread by some quarters," the AFP public affairs office chief said.

"We have also established an excellent monitoring system where troop movements and suspicious activities are directly reported to the leaders along the AFP’s chain of command," he said.

Cabunoc said that the AFP had brought to bear so much lessons learned from previous experiences both good and bad that matured the military into what it is now, a highly professional organization dedicated to its mandated constitutional duty where coup rumors and recruitment would find no place.

"The incident in Mamasapano will serve as our platform to strengthen our relationship with our counterparts in the PNP as we work together in fighting the enemies of the state, and in performing our mandate of protecting the people and state," he said.

PDEA nabs MILF member, wife following gunfight, seize Php 3-M shabu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): PDEA nabs MILF member, wife following gunfight, seize Php 3-M shabu

An alleged member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and his wife were arrested by anti-narcotics agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during a buy-bust operation in Manila and also seized Php 3 million worth of methamphetamine hydrocloride also known as ‘shabu’, PDEA official said on Thursday.

PDEA Director General Undersecretary Arturo G. Cacdac, Jr. identified the suspects as Aminodin Guinto, 21 years old; and his 21-year-old wife, Marizen. Both are residents of Barangay 648 C Palanca Street, San Miguel, Manila.

Cacdac said around 4 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 10) the joint operatives of PDEA Regional Office 3 (PDEA RO3) under Director Jeoffrey Tacio, PDEA Regional Office-National Capital Region (PDEA RO-NCR) under Director Erwin Ogario and PDEA Special Enforcement Service (PDEA-SES) under Director Ismael Fajardo, Jr. apprehended the couple after they agreed to sell and handed over a transparent plastic bag containing suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu weighing more or less one kilogram worth Php 3 million to a PDEA poseur-buyer along Arlegui Street, San Miguel, Manila.

“After the deal was consummated and the agents were about to subdue the young couple, undetermined number of the suspects’ cohorts opened fire at the operating team. The gun fight lasted for about five minutes. Fortunately, no casualties were reported from both sides,” Cacdac said.

The male Guinto was found to have an identification card indicating that he is an MILF member.

A case for violation of Section 5 (Sale of Dangerous Drugs), in relation to Section 26 (Conspiracy to Sell), Article II of Republic Act 9165 or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, is being prepared for filing in court against the Guintos.

Palace: AFP ready to crush coup plotters

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): Palace: AFP ready to crush coup plotters

Malacanang on Thursday assured the Filipinos that the military is ready to face threats to national security.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) head Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed this after Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago confirmed that she received information about a new coup plot allegedly being hatched by a well-known businessman.

Coloma said it is the duty of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to prevent and crush enemies of the state.

“At ginagampanan nila ang tungkuling ito sa lahat ng pagkakataon,” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Coloma noted that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed the readiness of the AFP to perform its duty.

“Lahat ng mga banta laban sa estado ay tinututukan at ganap ang kahandaan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas laban sa mga bantang ‘yan,” he added.

DND chief assures military will not participate in any coup plot

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): DND chief assures military will not participate in any coup plot

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not participate in any destabilization plot amid the public outrage on the Mamasapano incident that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

“We are very confident the military will not be involved in the coup,” Gazmin said at the resumption of the Senate inquiry into the encounter on Jan. 25.

Gazmin, however, said they received raw reports, when asked by Senator Miriam Santiago that certain groups are planning a coup d’etat.

“Your honor, we indeed received reports. We are in the process of verifying and confirming. As far as a coup is concerned, it will entail military support,” Gazmin said.

Despite pressure from the media, Santiago did not name names but said among the plotters is a rich man “known to have funded similar coup d’etat in the past.”

Santiago clarified that she is against any unlawful means to unseat President Benigno S. Aquino III.

”No matter how strongly I will criticize the President, I will say that I am definitely against a coup d’etat,” Santiago said.

Deles: Best way to disconnect legitimate rebel movements from terrorist groups is thru peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): Deles: Best way to disconnect legitimate rebel movements from terrorist groups is thru peace process

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles on Thursday emphasized that the best way to disassociate legitimate revolutionary movements such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from terrorist groups is to engage them in a peace process.

“Aalalahanin lang natin yun, yun po ang sinabi na ang pinakamabisang paraan na mai-disconnect mo ang isang revolutionary movement at ang terorismo is through the peace process (Let us remember that it's said that the best way to disconnect a revolutionary movement from terrorism is through the peace process),” Deles said during the third ‎day of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident.

Deles issued the statement in response to the manifestation of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano in which he cited a letter of the U.S. government sent during the Bush administration which warned the Philippine government of the possible link between the MILF and the terrorist network of Jemaah Islamiyah.‎

Deles clarified that the U.S. government fully supported the move of the Philippine government to engage the MILF through the peace process.

During the Feb. 10 Senate hearing, the peace adviser noted that the MILF's "disavowal of terrorism" was an explicit demand of the Philippine government prior to the resumption of peace talks with the rebel group in 2003.

According to Deles, this "was monitored by the Philippine government, by our intelligence, as well as the international community." ‎

The peace process is part of the government’s national security policy. ‎The decision on whether or not to pursue peace talks with the MILF or any other non-state actor is determined by the continuing assessment and recommendation of the Cabinet Security Cluster.

Deles noted that, throughout the globe, other revolutionary groups which are now fully integrated in their respective countries through the peace process have been previously tagged as terrorist groups as well.

“Let me also just mention your honors that IRA (Irish Republican Army) was labeled as a terrorist movement, ANC (African National Congress) of [Nelson] Mandela was also a terrorist movement, FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) in Colombia where there are negotiations now ongoing that may lead to an agreement where they will become part of the government was also a terrorist movement,” Deles said in a bid to explain the context on the current southern peace efforts.

“Yun po yung ating sinasabi na kailangan titignan lagi ito in a narrative. Ang evolution ng revolutionary movement ay hindi napapako sa iisang ang gulong ginagawa mo ngayon ay dapat naaangkop doon sa kalagayan nito ngayon (This is what we've been saying that we should always look at this [peace process] in a narrative. The evolution of a revolutionary movement does not stop in a moment... and the movement that happens should be seen in the context of current realities),” she added.

MILF against terrorism

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who attended the hearing, said that their organization has a standing policy against all forms of terrorism.

“We have made a solemn vow to fight terrorism in our areas. Terrorism is inconsistent with Islam and has no place in the orientation and principles of the MILF," he said. "Our previous actions bear witness to our commitment against terrorism. To tag the MILF as a terrorist group is unfair."‎

Iqbal also appealed to the Senate to let the investigation take its course to prove that the MILF is not coddling terrorists. ‎

“The MILF did not harbor [terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias] Marwan or [Abdul Basit] Usman. The MILF has no links with these terrorists and terrorist organizations. Marwan and Usman were in areas outside the MILF-controlled areas,” he said.‎

Senators also agreed that the paramount long-term solution to prevent the repetition of the Mamasapano tragic incident is to address the complex problem in Mindanao by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“It's important that we stay the course on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, a former military officer, said.

Honasan said that he understands the public sentiment over the Mamasapano incident, and the call of some quarters to launch a full-scale war in retaliation for the death of the 44 police special forces. However, he cautioned that it is unwise to succumb to emotions and stop the entire peace process.

“We cannot inflict [a halt to] the peace process. The long-term cost might be too high to bear,” he advised.‎

The same point was also raised by another former military officer, Sen. Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV who said that the southern peace process is very “crucial” especially since the two parties have already signed a peace agreement and is currently on the implementation stage.

Iqbal expressed the importance of moving forward with the BBL to ultimately address the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people and make future Moro armed movements irrelevant.

“Pag napasa ang BBL, wala na pwedeng lumaban sa gobyerno na may legitimate cause kasi na-address na lahat (When the BBL is passed, there will be no more rebel group that will fight the government with a legitimate cause because it would have already been adressed),” he said.

He appealed to the public to understand the Bangsamoro struggle and noted that the future “Bangsamoro government will give us the chance to rule ourselves, but still under the government of the Philippines.”

Iqbal said that once the peace process is completed, the MILF will become a social movement and no longer a revolutionary organization.

“We are committed to peace. We have been in negotiations with the Philippine government for 17 long years. Our present partnership with Pres. Aquino has been durable. There has been no recorded armed hostilities between the government and the MILF since 2011. We signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. Each of these agreements is a testament to our commitment to pursue our objectives through peaceful means,” he said.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the MILF will undergo a phased decommissioning process or turnover of firearms and forces parallel to the implementation of the provisions of the agreement such as the passage of the BBL and other milestones in the roadmap to the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity. ‎

Part of the objectives of the southern peace process is to answer the century-old clamor of the Bangsamoro people for their right to self-determination, and to transform the MILF armed combatants to productive civilian lives.

Tribal women decry human rights violations in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Feb 12): Tribal women decry human rights violations in Philippines

Lumad women

More than 100 tribeswomen have gathered in Davao City in southern Philippines to dramatize their longtime demand for ancestral rights and domain and called on the Aquino government to stop military harassments and respect their human rights.

The gathering coincided with the first general assembly of Sabokahan to mo Lumad Kamalitanan Confederation of Lumad Women where they raised various issues affecting the tribal communities in the region.

Among the issues discussed during the assembly was the plight of the tribal women who were victims of threats, harassments and various forms of abuses allegedly committed by government soldiers. They also raised the continued presence of troops and military encampments in schools which puts students at grave risk if rebels attack the soldiers.

Bai Bibyoon Ligkayan Bigkay, a Matigsalog woman leader from Natulingan town in Bukidnon province, urged tribal women to defend their rights and ancestral domain for their children’s future.

“Violations of our human rights in our own land perpetrated by the military are rampant,” she said. “We demand the pull-out of military troops from the community, especially in schools and farms so that civilians will not be living in constant fear. This struggle is for our children and for their children as well.”

The “Save Our Schools Network” also reported that 39 schools, mostly in the countryside, have been used as military encampment. It also recorded more than 200 cases of human rights violations by military against civilians and students in southern Mindanao.

It said the number of human violations by soldiers is alarmingly increasing because of the military’s refusal to follow the law. It said the Department of Education and Commission on Human Rights have not acted on these reports.

There was no immediate statement from the Eastern Mindanao Command and 10th Infantry Division about the allegations.