Sunday, February 15, 2015

NPA harasses Army’s bayanihan team in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): NPA harasses Army’s bayanihan team in Sorsogon\

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, PILI, Camarines Sur - New People’s Army (NPA) rebels fired at the bayanihan team of the Philippine Army doing a peace development project in Barangay San Antonio, Barcelona, Sorsogon,at about 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

Capt. Mardjorie Paimela P. Panesa, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson based here, said the incident was reported by the team from the 31st Infantry Battalion busy doing the project in the village.

The report said six members of the rebel group from the Larangan 1 Sorsogon provincial committee under one alias Hazel were involved in the harassment.

A team of reinforcing soldiers led by one Sgt. Dela Cruz later encountered Hazel’s group that was escaping, resulting in a brief firefight.

Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino, 31st IB commanding officer, immediately ordered all units to be always ready for possible attacks by the rebel group.

Businesswoman abducted in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): Businesswoman abducted in Sulu
A 58-year-old businesswoman was abducted by six unidentified men at the vicinity of Barangay Chinese Pier, Jolo town, Sulu Sunday afternoon.

Capt. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, citing reports forwarded by Joint Task Group Sulu, said the incident took place at 12: 30 p.m.

The victim was identified as a certain Hja Dingkim Yap, a resident of the above-mentioned barangay.

Yap was reportedly snatched by six men and forcibly taken into a unmarked blue colored FX which then motored off to an unknown direction.

Pursuing operations are now being conducted by police and military units in the area.

Western Mindanao Command remains committed to support duly constituted authorities

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): Western Mindanao Command remains committed to support duly constituted authorities

The Western Mindanao Command on Monday announced that it remains committed to support duly constituted authorities amidst all allegations and controversies surrounding the circumstances of the Mamasapano incident.

"We remain resolute in working for internal peace and security and recognize that any ploy of destabilization is against the constitutional mandate to preserve the national security of the state," Capt. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said.

She said that the Command issued this statement in the wake of the Mamasapano, Maguindanao incident where 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 terror bomber Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla earlier said all efforts to bring down the present government with a coup d' etat will fail.

He attributes this to the high degree of dedication and professionalism in the military today among the factors.

"We firmly believe all these efforts will fail. First, because of the high degree of dedication and professionalism of our AFP today; Second, majority of our citizens no longer buy these kind of efforts and easily see through it's real intent which is, that all these are political in nature with an end view for 2016; and third, the administration still enjoys a high degree of support," Padilla stressed.

He also clarified that he does not have any information or reports on the claimed coup in his possession as talks are coming from the outside.

"However, talks within military circles say that a number of them have served in previous administrations and have pushed various reform agendas previously as cover for their efforts," the AFP spokesperson stressed.

Eastern Mindanao Command lauds military, police units for successful defense of Mati City Police Station

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): Eastern Mindanao Command lauds military, police units for successful defense of Mati City Police Station

The Eastern Mindanao Command lauded on Monday military and police forces for their successful efforts in foiling the New People's Army (NPA) attack against the Mati City Police Station in Davao Oriental Sunday night.

"The repulse of the attack was attributed to the good joint contingency plans, timely intelligence, alertness of the police manning the station and the prompt response of our troops from the 701st Infantry Brigade," Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

The botched rebel assault took place at 7: 30 p.m. It was defeated after duty police officers stood their ground until the timely arrival of 701st Infantry Brigade reinforcement.

In the resulting gun battle, a police officer was wounded while an NPA fighter was killed.

Baladad slammed the continuous disregard of the rebels of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL).

"While we grieve for our casualties brought about by the continuous blatant violation of CARHIHL by the NPAs by using landmines and targeting also non-military persons. This will not stop us from pursuing them and preventing their anti-people atrocities." Baladad said.

The Eastern Mindanao Command chief said that the attack was meant to embarrass the government since Davao Oriental has been declared as “insurgency free” in 2013.

"They gathered NPAs from other provinces to attack and disrupt the already peaceful lives of the people of Davao Oriental," he added.

The attacking bandits utilized one elf truck (RJW-626), two vans and five motorcycles during the attack.

At about 8 p.m., pursuing troops of 104th Division Reconnaissance Company was hit by a landmine at Sitio Magay, Martin Marundan, Mati City, Davao Oriental killing two Army soldiers identified as Pfc. Daniel Damansila Jr and Pvt. Ryan M. Amigo and wounding five others, namely Pfc. Virgil Logronio, Pfc. Emerito Castillo, Pfc. Wil Christian Resuelo, Pfc. Zaldy Canonero and Pfc. Ian Mark Babiera.

Resuelo later expired in the hospital.

In a related incident, a civilian clad and unarmed Sgt. Adel Lucanan of 67th Infantry Battalion was shot dead by the rebels while passing along Saint Camillus Hospital, Mati City.

De Lima: NBI has already identified source of 6-minute viral video of wounded PNP-SAF member

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): De Lima: NBI has already identified source of 6-minute viral video of wounded PNP-SAF member

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima on Monday said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has already identified the source of the six-minute viral video that showed a wounded member of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) being shot at close range.

"NBI has already identified kung saan nanggaling, sinong nag-upload ng video," De Lima said in an ambush interview on Monday.

The video showed a man sprawled on a cornfield in camouflage uniform who was later identified by relatives as Police Officer 1 Joseph Sagonoy, one of the 44 PNP-SAF men being shot twice at close range.

The PNP-SAF commandos were on a mission to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.

The video also showed the group, most of whom were armed, taking magazines and other ammunition from several other fallen men, again, in camouflage uniform.

Gunfire is repeatedly heard in the background while at least two of the perpetrators shouted, "Allah hu akbar!"

De Lima said that the NBI is still working to further authenticate the video.

"Because this will be used as evidence. This [video] will not be admissible unless authenticated," she said.

"Dapat alamin, yung nag-upload ba nyan yun rin ang kumuha ng video or was it a secondary source? Para m-trace kung sino talaga ang kumuha. Whoever took that video should be the one to authenticate," she added.

De Lima said that if the one who took that video is also involved in the killing, in the whole incident, "the question is will he cooperate in affirming the video?"

Convoy of Davao police chief attacked

From ABS-CBN (Feb 16): Convoy of Davao police chief attacked

[Video report]

The convoy of the Davao regional police chief was ambushed in Barangay Badas, Mati City in Davao Oriental Monday morning but no one was hurt in the incident.

The ambush happened hours after authorities and suspected communist rebels engaged twice in Mati City.

On Sunday night, around 50 armed men opened fire at the police station in Mati City, prompting policemen to fire back, killing one rebel.

Soldiers later arrived to reinforce the police and pursue the suspected rebels.

Three soldiers ended up dead while five others were wounded.

PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the attack on the Mati City police station was sensed early on by policemen.

"They senses the attack so this led to the engagement between the PNP and the lawless armed groups. A firefight ensued, lasting I think for around 15-20 minutes," he said.

"On the part of the NPA, they withdrew upon seeing that they lost the element of surprise."

2 soldiers killed in NPA attack on Davao police station

From the Philippine Star (Feb 16): 2 soldiers killed in NPA attack on Davao police station

Rendering of a satellite image of Mati City police station in Davao Oriental, a known hotbed of communist rebels. Google Earth

At least two soldiers and a communist rebel were killed in a New People's Army (NPA) assault on Mati City police station in Davao Oriental, Sunday night.

NPA rebels attempted to capture the police station as members of the Army's 701st Infantry Brigade reinforced duty police officers who were under fire past 7 p.m.

An undetermined number of NPA guerillas stormed the station at 7:30 p.m., while Army troopers arrived 30 minutes later, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lt. Vergel Lacambra said in a state news report.

Cops trapped in the station, meanwhile, stood their ground in the ensuing firefight and eventually succeeded in countering the NPA offensive as the military arrived to assist, Lacambra said.

Armored vehicles were also mobilized to protect civilian areas near the station, he added.

Government forces continue to pursue fleeing NPA rebels as military and police personnel secure public areas.

The attack came after the Armed Forces claimed Davao Oriental, a known hotspot of the NPA, was safe and free from armed rebellion.

Prosecution witness faces Palparan in court today

From the Philippine Star (Feb 16): Prosecution witness faces Palparan in court today

Activists brand retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as the "Butcher" for allegedly being responsible for the numerous deaths of leftists.

The principal prosecution witness will testify on Monday before a Bulacan court to identify again retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as the one responsible for the disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
Raymond Manalo will take the witness stand at the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 to point Palparan one who ordered his men to kidnap and torture the two UP students in 2006 in Bulacan. 
Manalo is expected to tell the court in the presence of Palparan his recollection and personal experience how the two women were tortured by the former military official's people. 
Authorities nabbed Palparan in August last year after going into hiding when the Bulacan court issued an arrest warrant against him for the kidnapping and illegal detention charges.
Palparan was detained at the Bulacan provincial jail but was later transferred to a military detention facility.   

Coup plotters woo military officers

From the Manila Times (Feb 15): Coup plotters woo military officers

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said some officials in the previous administration were among those plotting to overthrow the government of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and have been courting military officers.

These personalities, according to Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, are reportedly recruiting some officers to support the planned government takeover.

“I am not in possession of the reports that deal on this. However, talk within military circles say that a number of them have served in previous administrations and have pushed various reform agendas previously as cover for their efforts,” Padilla said.

He, however, belittled the plot, citing the “high degree of dedication and professionalism” of the AFP.

“We firmly believe all these efforts will fail. First, because of the high degree of dedication and professionalism of our AFP today. Second is that majority of our citizens no longer buy this kind of efforts and easily see through its real intent, which is that all these are political in nature, with an end view for 2016; and third, the Administration still enjoys a high degree of support,” the military official emphasized.

Padilla said any attempt to oust the president will not succeed without the support of the military. He added that the incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) dead could not be used as a basis for a destabilization plot.

“Yung ginawa ng presidente ay hindi ilegal, tandaan natin yun, hindi sya ilegal. Legal na operasyon yun. It’s the manner by which it was carried out and the President does not go into details, if you are the commander-in-chief you don’t go into details,” he pointed out.

The AFP earlier said it is keeping an eye on troop movements amid reports of a coup plot against Aquino.

Malacañang on Sunday said the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are on alert for a possible coup d’etat and retaliatory attacks by terrorists trained by slain bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said all security agencies are prepared to thwart any attempt against the government and the nation’s security.

Coloma confirmed that the Palace, through government security agencies, has been tightly monitoring groups and personalities who are suspected to be behind a move to unseat the president.

Such “monitoring,” he added, includes the “wealthy” individual who Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago referred to as being behind the plot to oust the President.

MILF, BIFF clashes in Maguindanao displace thousands of civilians

From the Manila Times (Feb 16): MILF, BIFF clashes in Maguindanao displace thousands of civilians

PAGALUNGAN, Maguindanao: The clash involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has taken its toll on Moro civilians, the same group that these two armed organizations vowed to protect.

Thousands of civilians with their valuables from five remote villages here and in nearby Pikit, North Cotabato, fled toward the town center as rival Moro armed groups figured in fierce fire fight since Saturday night.

Territorial dispute triggered the firefight, according to Commander Jack Abbas of the MILF.

Abbas said the BIFF under Commander Kagi Karialan intruded the MILF territory in the village of Kalbugan, Pagalungan town in Maguindanao last week.

Since the fighting has already claimed one MILF commander, civilians fear the conflict will turn into a bigger war.

Experiences in the past dictate them that they have to leave their homes to safer grounds as both armed groups were poised to finish off each other.

Mothers, fathers and their children carrying valuables that they can haul marched toward the town center. Many walked through kilometers of dirt road here while others boarded jeepneys, tricycles and bicycles to leave the war zone quickly.

The local government compound here where offices and a covered court were located became a huge evacuation site as thousands seek refuge since Saturday evening until Sunday night.

Civilians are still fleeing Monday morning, according to police and social welfare officials.

Others stayed in relatives homes while majority stayed at the town gymnasium and Mahad (Islamic schools) in adjacent Pikit town.

Fighting never ceases since Saturday night, our village officials told us to leave,” Pagalan Usman, a 45 year old farmer from the village of Kalbugan, Pagalungan, said.

“We expect bigger war since one MILF commander was killed, his followers will surely get back at the BIFF,” Surumanan Sitti Ager, a 55-year-old mother of six, said.

Initial estimates on the number of displaced families were pegged at 2,000 but the number could go higher as more civilians were fleeing.

Citing report from the 7th Infantry Battalion based in Pikit, Capt. Joanne Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said Datukong Ampuan alias Commander Falcon of the MILF 108th base command was killed in a clash with the group of BIFF Commander Kagi Karialan.

Speaking through his mobile phone, Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, claimed four other MILF were killed when they attacked the group of BIFF on Saturday night.

Petinglay said the BIFF-MILF clash site was about 15 kilometers from Poblacion Pagalungan and Pikit.

She said the Army are on stand by and did not interfere in the infighting but took steps to secure the civilians.

MILF: Senator Cayetano tags MILF as terrorist; RG Hataman reacts

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 16): Senator Cayetano tags MILF as terrorist; RG Hataman reacts

Senator Cayetano tags MILF as terrorist; RG Hataman reacts

During last Thursday’s Senate hearing on Mamasapano incident, Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao reacted emotionally after Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano branded the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as ‘terrorist’ for using arms and violence in pursuance of its struggle for right-to-self-determination in Moro homeland.

Sen. Cayetano, directed his statements to MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, condemning what he called ‘use of violence’ by the rebel group.

“I don’t deny the injustice done to the Bangsamoro people, what I’m saying is that while people in Luzon and Visayas were victims of war too, the MILF and its rebellion have victimized their fellow residents in Mindanao. If only you hadn’t chosen to use violence in your struggle for self-determination, Mindanao would have been a place of equality. But you chose to retaliate not only with the use of violence or arm struggle, but also terrorist acts like bombing, arson and destruction.”

Sen. Cayetano continued by quoting Sec. Deles of OPAOPP who said that, “because of the ceasefire, roads are now being built in Mindanao.”

“Do we have to thank you because of this when you are the ones preventing the construction and burning the equipment of contractors and those who are building schools, dams and irrigations in Mindanao?”, Sen. Cayetano asked.

Isn’t that fair for our negotiations because you’re negotiating through the barrels of the guns, we are not,” Cayetano added.

Upon hearing this, RG Hataman asked to be recognized and said, “When it comes to the topic of terrorism, I am not siding with the MILF. But my question is, did we tag the NPA as terrorists when they burn equipment? If they resort to bombing, does the government tag them as terrorists? 

Cayetano clarified that he was not just referring to the Moros or Muslims, pointing out that there are also Christian terrorists.

“I’m talking about this MILF and their choice to use arms. You did not choose to use arms. You chose to run and you’re doing a good job…” he said.

MILF: Bangsamoro People of Socsksargen urge legislators to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 16): Bangsamoro People of Socsksargen urge legislators to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Bangsamoro People of Socsksargen urge legislators to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Around 8,205 Bangsamoro people from the City of General Santos and provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani held a Peace Rally at the Oval Plaza in General Santos City calling the members of the House of Representatives and Senate to enact the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Coming from several groups comprised of women, youth, Asatidz (Arabic teacher), students, Kadatuan and Imams, the rally participants aired their common voice - No to all-out-war and pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Selected Moro leaders delivered their messages calling for sobriety amidst the high emotion on the fate of fallen 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members. They also urge the two chambers of the Congress for the immediate passage of the BBL.

The rally participants displayed their messages in placards and streamers saying: All-out-war is killing, All out peace is LIFE; Justice to fallen SAF, Justice to martyred BIAF and innocent civilians; Support BBL; Don’t junk the peace process; Enact BBL now!; and PNoy is right, BBL is the solution to Mindanao problem.

In a position paper, the Bangsamoro Initiatives for Emergency and Development Assistance Program, expressed their support to the BBL and cited the yearning of the Bangsamoro people for lasting peace which “can be addressed by the proposed law for the Bangsamoro people.”

The group said the Mamasapano incident should not be a hindrance for the deliberation and immediate passage of the Bangsamoro law by Senate and Congressmen.

A Muslim youth leader, said the BBL, which is a fruit of the 18 years of peace negotiation betweenthe government and the MNILF is hoped to bring bright future to the Moro youth.

He added that the success of the proposed Bangsamoro new political entity, if given a chance to be realized, will be the success of all the people in Mindanao.

The House of Representative recently suspended the deliberation of the BBL to give way to investigation to the Mamasapano incident.

Various peace advocates organizations are urging the lawmakers not to delay the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The BBL, once put into law will pave way for the creation of Bangsamoro, an autonomous political entity that will replace the current ARMM.

MILF: Moro dream 'very valid': Cardinal Quevedo

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 15): Moro dream 'very valid': Cardinal Quevedo

Moro dream 'very valid': Cardinal Quevedo

Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of Cotabato tells Christians “to look at history, not their own biases and prejudices’ on the Muslims. He also said “that the dream of Muslims for self-determination in their own territory is ‘very valid’. He urged Christians to study the history of Mindanao before the Spanish colonialists arrived in the Philippines.

In an interview by Mindanews Editor Carolyn Arguillas on February 2, Cardinal Quevedo said, “I think we Christians should look at history, the history of Mindanao before Christianity, and base our ideas of peace on that history and not our own biases and prejudices.”

“Our conception of Mindanao history seems to start with the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans. That radically differs from the Muslim and Lumad conception of Mindanao history. Theirs go back to pre-Spanish times,” Quevedo added in the interview.

 “We Christians in Mindanao are relatively new,” Mindanao's first cardinal explained. “And so knowing Mindanao history as it is, we Christians would then be able to recognize as very valid the profound aspiration of Muslims for self-determination in their own territory, for identity and integral development.”

Cardinal appreciated statements of MILF leaders Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jafaar, and MILF Chief Peace Negotiators Mohagher Iqbal  “who say: 'We have learned our lessons from history, too. We cannot claim the whole island. We can only claim self-determination in the core territory.'” He also appreciated and thanked the late MILF Founding Chairman Salamat Hashim.

Cardinal Quevedo who grew up in Cotabato detailed the injustices against Muslims in a ‘paper’ in 2003.

In that paper, the cardinal said “the root cause of insurgency in the South is injustice.” He enumerated 3 basic injustices:

•Injustice to the Moro identity
•Injustice to the Moro political sovereignty
•Injustice to Moro integral development

Of all regions in the country, Mindanao, as a whole, remains the poorest island group.

“The central government in Manila can be justly faulted for this underdevelopment,” he added. “But one cannot escape the impression that through the years many Moro leaders who served in the government have also failed their own people.”

Quevedo said: “Justice to the Moro identity and sovereignty must be seriously respected. But this task is far from simple. Prejudices and biases have to be overcome. Muslim and Christian religious leaders have a major role in this. Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach respect, understanding, reconciliation, and love.”

MILF: ZC Mayor Salazar halts BBL supporters anew

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 15): ZC Mayor Salazar halts BBL supporters anew

ZC Mayor Salazar halts BBL supporters anew

Traumatic Zamboanga City residents panicked following announcement by Zamboanga City Lady Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar early morning of February 10, 2015 over the radio and television about the entry of alleged members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the city.

Salazar exhorted residents in the city proper as well as those in the far-flung areas especially those in the coastal areas and island barangays of possible conflict between the anti-Muslim/Bangsamoro and supporters of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) who were supposed to undertake a peace caravan around the city.

The floated misinformation regarding the true intention and objective of the peace caravan was misunderstood by residents as an act of hostility based on the misleading statements of Salazar twisting the word “caravan” to “rally”.

In a regular radio-television morning program called Dateline Teleradyo (morning edition) where Salazar voluntarily appeared as guest in February 10 edition, she made and  announcement that elements of the MILF under the pretext of Civil Society Organizations ( CSO’s ) and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO’s) were trying to force their entry to the city without being granted permit from the city government.

“They are trying to conduct a peace rally in our city despite knowing well our negative position against the BBL.

There is no need for such a rally because Zamboanga is a peaceful city. If they wish to hold a peace rally, they have all the liberty to do so anytime and at any place as long as they do not include our city in their list of provinces and cities they have programmed to visit. Our territorial jurisdiction is out of the core territories of proposed Bangsamoro. We will never allow them even an inch of entry to our city, ”Salazar reiterated in Chavacano dialect.

She hypocritically cited the bereaved families of four slain Special Action Force ( SAF ) Commandos in January 25 Mamasapano clash with the MILF and BIFF  and internally- displaced-persons caused by the September 2013 infamous Zamboanga Siege strong reasons for not giving the peace caravan the least opportunity to manifest their show of support to the passage of BBL by Congress and the gesture of support to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III for his unwavering peace initiative and sincerity to end violence and war in Mindanao.

Salazar misled her constituents by saying that CSO’s and NGO’s such as the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) who led delegations from General Santos City, Pagadian, Moro Province, Kalibugan Province and Zamboanga Sibugay as elements of the MILF disguised as CSO’s.

Such lies of the lady mayor caused panic among the residents of the city proper who experienced the holocaust of war during the September 9-23, 2013 Zamboanga Siege.
School children were forced to returned home, regular business time forced to end at half day, evacuation center ran out of space for the new evacuees who left their homes for a safer place, among others.

Earlier the lady mayor directed all law enforcers to guard all docking areas in all 98 barangays to make sure no lawless elements could slip into the city.

Elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clad in full battle gear with their armored tanks visible in all parts of the city sealed all possible entries from coastal areas as well as the urban areas. Commuters coming from Pagadian and Dipolog were asked to disembark from buses for inspection.

The convoy led by MAP was forced to return back after two long hours, stranded for questioning by the Surabay (RT LIM) Police who took orders from Mayor Salazar not to allow entry to Zamboanga City.

Disappointed CSO and NGO members from Zamboanga City awaited for over two hours in Barangay Sangali were also left no choice but to return back to the City.

MILF: Marchers join peace rally in Bongao

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 14): Marchers join peace rally in Bongao

Marchers join peace rally in Bongao

Some 300 marchers joined a peace rally held at the Capital Town of Bongao in Tawi-Tawi on February 10, 2015 simultaneous with the other rallies by peace advocates in various major cities of Mindanao and towns. All urged congress to proceed with the Peace Process and to expedite the deliberations and passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which was suspended due to the Mamapasano clash last January 25, 2015.

According to Hajji Mansur B. Sakili, “There was no connection whatsoever of the BBL with the Mamapasano incident that resulted to the death of 44 PNP-SAF membe4rs; and 18 combatants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)”.

“The passage of BBL bill, a measure certified urgent by President Benigno Aquino III Administration submitted to the House of the Representatives and the Senate on September 10, 2014 has become unclear with the suspension of deliberations by the House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL and the Committee on Local Government in the Senate”, Mr. Sakili clarified.

“Today, people that joined this rally, Muslims or Christians have the same clamor for congress not to derail the peace process, and to enact the BBL in accordance with its timetable or road map agreed upon by the GPH-MILF Peace Panels.

Congressman Tupay Loong of Sulu, in a press statement warned, “The war in Mindanao will continue if BBL is not passed”.

One of the tarpaulins/ placards reads, ‘Delayed BBL is delayed Justice for all’.
One Christian speaker said, “When our leaders in Manila are not keen at seeing a resumption of war in Mindanao, we civilians Muslims or Christians alike, are the one to suffer, not them who are in Manila”. “We want peace not war, anymore”, he concluded.

“The march as well as the rally, though with much lesser participants compared to the May 4, 2014 gathering were peaceful. Many were reluctant to participate due security reason and out of fear from being identified as Bangsamoro”, Sakili further said.

‘US behind Oplan Exodus’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 16): ‘US behind Oplan Exodus’

Americans gave funds, intel, says SAF officer

BACK TO LIFE ANEW  Children chat on the riverbank as residents of Tukanalipao village cross a wooden bridge in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, where 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians were killed during intense fighting that stalled peace talks.  JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

BACK TO LIFE ANEW Children chat on the riverbank as residents of Tukanalipao village cross a wooden bridge in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, where 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians were killed during intense fighting that stalled peace talks. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

The operation to get Zulkifli bin Hir, the Malaysian bomb terrorist known as “Marwan,” was a US-directed project from start to finish, according to an officer of the Special Action Force (SAF), the elite group that carried out “Oplan Exodus” at the cost of the lives of 44 police commandos.

The SAF source said that aside from providing a training facility at La Vista del Mar Beach Resort in Upper Calarian village in Zamboanga City, the Americans gave the needed logistics, including bribing Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels to get near Marwan, who had a $6-million bounty on his head put up by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The Americans started this. They funded the operation, including intelligence,” said the SAF officer, who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity.

Marwan was likely killed in the operation, as indicated by initial DNA tests conducted by the FBI that showed a sample from his finger, cut off by another SAF officer, matched DNA from his brother who is detained in California.

The operation, however, ended with 44 SAF troopers slaughtered when, after killing Marwan, they clashed with rebels belonging to the MILF and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). At least 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also reported killed.

The source said that in the operation called Oplan Exodus, the Americans tapped the SAF’s 84th Company and trained its members at La Vista del Mar Resort, owned by the family of Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar told reporters that what she knew was that the facility at the resort was donated by “el Americano.”

No comment

There was no immediate comment from the US Embassy, which earlier denied involvement in the Mamasapano operation.

Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander, insisted in congressional hearings last week that the only American involvement in the botched mission was in the medical evacuation of the casualties.

The SAF Seaborne unit in Calarian, the 84th Company, was led by its newly appointed commanding officer, Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi, who was among those killed in Mamasapano. But the source said an American named Allan Konz was in fact in command, not Tabdi who cut off Marwan’s finger for the DNA testing later done by the FBI.

“He (Konz) was the immediate supervisor of the 84th for Marwan’s intelligence packet,” the source said.

The source added that at the height of the Mamasapano operation, Konz was in the command post at the 43rd SAF Company based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao province.

Napeñas has admitted that during the Mamasapano operation, he was at the command post in Shariff Aguak. He, however, did not say if he was in the company of Americans.

“Come to think of it, the Americans dictated every move. In the Mamasapano operation, the Americans made the arrangement, they paid two MILF men who served as guides. Napeñas was just following the Americans because if he did not, the Americans would withdraw their support,” the source said.

US decision

He said it was the Americans’ decision not to include other units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and if there was coordination, it was for close intelligence work.

“During the planning, the Americans really did not want to coordinate with the Army. If there was going to be coordination, they would rather give the operation to another unit,” the source said.

Napeñas has been criticized for not coordinating with the military or with the MILF, which is talking peace with the government. Napeñas said he did not trust the MILF, citing past incidents when there were leaks on operations against high-value targets.

The original Oplan Exodus was “to fuse” the 55th and 84th Companies, the source said.

“The two companies were supposed to be together as an assault group and the other units would just serve as support, but the Americans did not want it that way; they wanted the 84th as the assault team,” the source said.


The source added that during the planning, the operatives were assured of reinforcements—300 SAF men, the Army’s mechanized unit, which were just 3 kilometers from Mamasapano, and “indirect fire.”

During the actual operation on Jan. 25, the 84th Company was the assault group while the 55th served as a blocking force. Some 300 other SAF men maintained a distance of about 2 to 3 km from the target area.

Aside from the 44 SAF members, two MILF members who served as civilian guides were also killed in the fighting.

“In this intel packet, the Americans paid some MILF members,” the source said, adding that there was a separate intelligence packet for local terrorist Basit Usman, who remains at large.

The source blamed the US forces who altered the operational plan and the delayed actions of President Aquino for the deaths of the 44 police commandos.

“The Americans used us. For us, we can allow ourselves to be used only to gain knowledge and expertise, but not end up like this,” the source said.

Editorial: Americans bearing drones

Editorial from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 16): Editorial - Americans bearing drones

Was the American government involved in the police raid on Mamasapano, Maguindanao? The US Embassy insists American participation was limited to one after-the-fact operation. “At the request of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, US service members serving in JSOTF-P (Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines) responded to assist in the evacuation of dead and wounded after the firefight in Maguindanao,” its statement read.

But, on reflection, this simple assertion amounts to a sweeping, noncredible, denial.

When President Aquino first faced the nation to speak about the raid that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, but also left 44 Special Action Force troopers dead, he said the Philippine National Police had gathered “actionable intelligence” on the whereabouts of Marwan and his Filipino protégé,

Basit Usman. The phrase has been repeated many times since, during the testimony of various police officers in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

No one will dispute that what the President and the police officials meant by “actionable” was the specific pinpointing of Marwan’s and Usman’s exact location. It was precisely because the intelligence gathered was so particular, and so vulnerable to leaks, that 392 SAF troopers were dispatched to Mamasapano without coordinating with either the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (as ceasefire protocols required).

It is possible, as has already been discussed in some specialist forums, that the information first came from someone close enough to Marwan’s inner circle. But was this information, first received last November, enough to send the PNP’s elite into harm’s way in late January, if it had not been confirmed, and reconfirmed, through other means?

Through US drones, for instance. A fact-finding mission last week heard from some residents of four districts in Mamasapano that they had seen drones hovering over their areas for several days before the raid. The night before the SAF launched its most ambitious initiative ever, the drones were characterized by residents as “exceptionally noisy and busy.”

The Philippine military probably has two or three drones in its inventory; the SAF, if officials’ declarations are correct, has none. But the US military, which has maintained a continuing if flexible presence in Mindanao for some 10 years, maintains the world’s largest fleet of drones, of all kinds. In 2012, the centrist Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, reported that a US drone strike had targeted Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah leaders in Jolo, Sulu, and killed 15 persons. “The US drone strike … marked the first time the weapon has been used in Southeast Asia. The drone has so far been used against Muslim groups and the Tausug are the latest on the list.”

Given all this, the question about the use of US military drones cannot simply be set aside, or ignored.

The fact that the index finger of Marwan’s that had been cut off for DNA processing was immediately turned over to US Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in General Santos City by one of the SAF troopers is also telling. Of the star-rank PNP officials, only the SAF commander at the time may have seen the all-important proof of success, when the surviving troopers had returned to the tactical command post. Why didn’t the potential DNA source work its way through the PNP?

To be sure, American fingerprints were already on the operation even before it launched. If the intelligence did first come from an informant, that informant’s surest road to safety and a new life lies in the reward money offered by both the Philippine and the US governments. The controversial Rewards for Justice program of the US State Department is especially generous: Marwan carried a $5-million “bounty” on his head. It is only natural to consider the size of the reward as incentive.

In truth, however, the Americanization of the conflict in Mindanao began well before Mamasapano, and continues in ways many of us are not even aware of. Proof lies in the very assumptions that our esteemed legislators, in the august halls of our Congress, bring to their interrogation—we mean their line of inquiry—when they pose arrogant questions based on the us-versus-them, people-versus-terrorist framework. That kind of black-or-white thinking, if they have already forgotten, was popularized by George W. Bush after 9/11.

AFP bombs terror camp, kills 2 ASG

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 16): AFP bombs terror camp, kills 2 ASG

AT LEAST two Abu Sayyaf terrorists were killed while three soldiers were wounded as the military’s Task Force ZAMBASULTA, with the support of local government units, on Sunday launched an “all-out offensive” against the Abu Sayyaf Group in southern Mindanao.

One of the military’s attack helicopters was hit by sniper fire but it caused only minor damage as it was able to maneuver and bombard with rockets the machine gun-firing enemy.

A report from ZAMBASULTA [Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi] commander Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma said two MG520 attack helicopters conducted rocket sorties using 50- caliber machine guns on the Abu Sayyaf locations in Barangay Kuhon in Albarka, Basilan.

Yoma said the ground offensive by the 104th Infantry Brigade and Joint Task Group Basilan started around 5:45 am, and  initially engaged the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Basir Kasaran alias Basir.

Kasaran has less than 50 armed men.

Another Abu Sayyaf group that is much bigger than Basir’s—the group of Furuji Indama and Nurhasan Jamiri—are also on the run but are being pursued by government troops.

Yoma said the ongoing offensive was the result of the persistent efforts being exerted by the Task Force “Kasanyangan”, an inter-agency task force organized by the Office of the Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Office of the Provincial Governor of Basilan, Basilan Police Provincial Office, JTG Basilan and other stakeholders.

“The purpose of the task force is to come up with a whole-of-nation approach supported by various agencies of the government and civil society groups to address the prevailing insurgency problem and revive governance in the Municipality of Albarka, a renowned ASG stronghold,” Yoma said.

He said three men were wounded on the government side.

“Trails of bloods on the ground are everywhere from the ASG positions vacated by them after the initial contact. They are on the run but our troops are relentlessly pursuing them,” Yoma said.

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, which Yoma also commands, has been blockading all exit and entry points to Basilan to intercept the bandits who might be escaping to nearby islands.

MILF commander killed in clash with BIFF fighters over land dispute — Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 15): MILF commander killed in clash with BIFF fighters over land dispute — Army

Fighting erupted between members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, late Saturday, leaving a rebel commander dead, the military said Sunday.

But Capt. Jo-anne Petinglay, spokesperson for the military’s 6th Division, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the fighting had nothing to do with the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano town that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos, 18 rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and at least three civilians.

“The clash site was deep inside the Maguindanao marshland and both sides suffered undetermined number of fatalities,” Petinglay told the Inquirer.

She said the group of BIFF Commander Muhaidin Animbang alias Kagi Karialan and MILF Commander Jack Abas had been trading sporadic shots since last week, which sent villagers fleeing in Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato.

Barangay Kabasalan is near Barangay (village) Kalbugan of Pagalungan.

“A certain Datukong Ampuan alias Commander Falcon of the MILF’s 108th base command was killed and an undetermined number on the BIFF side were also killed,” Petinglay said, quoting a report from 7th Infantry Battalion.

Lt. Col. Audie Edralin, 7th IB chief, said the clash started at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday and ended at past 9 p.m.

He said Army intelligence operatives were still determining the number of fatalities from either side as both refused to admit fatalities.

“The fighting area was very far from the civilian populace of Pagalungan and Pikit,” Petinglay said.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, said the MILF suffered five fatalities, including Commander Falcon.

“We only have two fatalities,” Mama said in a phone interview.

Mama said the MILF under Commander Falcon initiated the firefight. About 300 families who fled Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato, last week remained in several evacuation sites, according to Pikit social welfare office.

American claiming $5-M Marwan reward

From the Philippine Star (Feb 15): American claiming $5-M Marwan reward

An American working as a “political consultant” in California is demanding that he be given the $5-million informant’s reward for the arrest or capture of Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

Marwan, included in the most wanted international terrorists’ list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was killed in a raid on his hideout by police commandos belonging to the Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

Marcus Allen Frishman, 56, has come forward to lay claim to the $5-million informant’s reward under the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program.

Frishman, who flew to Manila last week, came to The STAR office to tell his story on how information he had provided to the US State Department enabled authorities to track down Marwan.

A spokesman for the US State Department issued a statement last Tuesday emphasizing that only individuals who have furnished information that have led to the arrest of wanted persons are entitled to rewards.

Frishman brought along copies of faxed letters, e-mail exchanges with certain US State Department functionaries and a photocopy of a document – purportedly with the letterhead of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – as among the evidence for his claim to the Marwan reward money.

The document with MILF letterhead is a “certification” signed by a certain “Cmdr. Boy Hashim, chairman of the Military Advisory Council, MILF Central Committee.”

Safe conduct pass?

A reading of the “certification” would indicate that it was a safe conduct pass issued to a certain Malaysian named “Zulkifli bin Abdul” who was under the protection of the MILF.

The certification allowed the Malaysian, supposedly Marwan, to move from one MILF camp to another in Maguindanao.

At that time, the document allowed him to move from “Camp Boghdad, Eastern Matanog under MILF AOR between the Northern Mindanao Front and Eastern Mindanao Front.”

It appears from the “certification” that Marwan had presented himself as a Malaysian engaged in farming business that required him to move around frequently.

This dovetails with suspicions that Marwan had been roaming freely in Mindanao under the protection of the MILF. This was before the Aquino administration signed the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro with the MILF in March 2013.

According to Frishman, it was through his initiative in March 2010 that the US government was able to get hold of the most solid lead to the whereabouts of Marwan at that time.

He said the MILF document was furnished to him – without him asking for it – while he was in the country for a visit in March 2010.

Frishman identified the source of the document as a certain Raymond “General” Liwag who was introduced to him by his former staff, Filipino-American Ram Castillo.

Frishman said he and Castillo worked together in the California Equalization Board until 2008. Castillo now resides in the Philippines.

E-mail exchange

Frishman showed to The STAR his e-mail exchanges with a US State Department official, a certain Paul W. Kennedy, to whom he forwarded the alleged MILF document.

After Kennedy confirmed the “authenticity” of the MILF document, Frishman said he began to form a group that would try “to intercept” Marwan while the Malaysian terrorist was moving from one camp to another.

He asked for initial funding for the logistics required to carry out his plan, including use of aircraft.

But a certain Dave Stoelz later informed Frishman that he had succeeded Kennedy and that the latter had been assigned to another country.

After that, Frishman rued, nothing came out of the information he gave to the State Department until he read the news about the the SAF operation that killed Marwan.

He said he is willing to testify before the Philippine Congress on what he knows about the search for Marwan. He said he is convinced the MILF document he furnished the US State Department in 2010 greatly helped in tracking down the terrorist.

Share reward

Asked what he intends to do with the reward money if he gets it, Frishman said he intends to share it with Castillo, Liwag and “Cmdr. Boy Hashim.”

He also expressed willingness to share part of the money with the families of the 44 slain SAF troopers.

“You cannot be greedy. There’s a lot to go around,” he said.

Frishman claims to operate his own MAF Group of professional consultants based in California. He put up his own office in 2008 after his stint with the California Equalization Board, where he sat as deputy board member for two consecutive terms of four years each.

Frishman has been shuttling between California and the Philippines as a private citizen since 2005.

Relieved SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas earlier testified before a Senate public hearing that SAF troopers who assaulted Marwan’s hideout killed the Malaysian terrorist bomber while trying to serve the warrant of arrest against him.

Before leaving the hut where they killed Marwan, the SAF men cut off his right index finger and took photos of his corpse because they could no longer carry his remains as guerrillas were beginning to arrive.

Napeñas told the senators the SAF assault team immediately turned over the severed finger to FBI men in Gen. Santos City for DNA testing.

Based on initial DNA laboratory tests done by the FBI, Marwan’s DNA sample taken from his finger matched that of his brother.

While the FBI has yet to give its confirmatory findings on Marwan’s DNA test, debates have started over who should get the reward money.

NBI may seek US help on Mamasapano clash videos

From the Philippine Star (Feb 15): NBI may seek US help on Mamasapano clash videos

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) may seek help from the United States to enhance a raw video of the armed encounter in Mamasapano that was uploaded on Youtube.

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez clarified that it is only an option should the NBI’s Cyber Crime Division need help.

“If our Cyber Crime Division can’t do it, we will look for other avenues. The US might be one of our alternatives,” Mendez told The STAR.

The Cyber Crime Division has obtained 10,000 images from the video that shows a member of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) being finished off with two gunshots to the head.

The six-minute video was believed to have been taken in the aftermath of the Jan. 25 clash of SAF and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and a private armed group in Mamasapano.

Images of the three men with long firearms captured in the footage killing the SAF member were enhanced.

Investigators are establishing their identities and involvement in the armed encounter.
The video uploaded on the Internet has caused outrage, especially from the family of the policeman that was seen being killed in the video. It has been decried as gruesome and insensitive, prompting the NBI and the police to look for its source.

NBI Cyber Crime Division head agent Ronald Aguto said investigators already traced the “general area” of one of the users through the IP address.

“The agents from the regional office, with assistance from central office there, are doing the field work,” he added.

Aguto clarified that it is premature to conclude that the owner of the IP address is the real source of the video. But based on their investigation, the user was one of the first to upload the video on Youtube.

Sen. Bam Aquino urged law enforcement agencies to also double up efforts to stop the distribution of DVDs and VCDs containing the video.

(UPDATE) Government admits difficulty in passing BBL after deadly clash

From the Philippine Star (Feb 15): (UPDATE) Government admits difficulty in passing BBL after deadly clash

The Philippine government said yesterday that it was hard to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) after a deadly clash in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao that left 44 policemen dead.

"It's very difficult right now to discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law given the emphasis on the investigation and inquiry on the Mamasapano incident," said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in an interview with a state-run radio.

"But I do hope that as we continue to seek accountability, let us not lose focus on the importance of finding a peaceful solution ... let's not stop on our focus to have just and lasting peace in Mindanao," he said.

At least 44 commandos of the Special Action Force of the Philippines National Police were killed in Mamasapano town on Jan. 25 when they clashed with the alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Senate and the House of Representatives have suspended deliberation on the proposed BBL, which will serve as the organic law of the envisaged Bangsamoro autonomous government in the Muslim majority south.

The passage of the BBL is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the Aquino administration and the MILF signed in March last year.

MILF told: Clear your territory of terrorists

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 15): MILF told: Clear your territory of terrorists

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should clear Bangsamoro areas of terrorists, otherwise questions would linger whether it could really secure its territory in the future, Sen. Francis Escudero said.

Escudero advised the MILF to give priority to sweeping terrorists out of Bangsamoro areas even before Congress passes the draft law that would establish a new autonomous region in southern Philippines.

The MILF should seek the government’s help now since it will be enforcing law and order in the region after the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed, Escudero said.

“If the BBL will be passed, shouldn’t they clear the [Bangsamoro areas] of these terrorist and criminal elements?” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “If they can’t do it now with the help of the government, how can they do it when they’re by themselves?”

“You’re talking of [the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters], you’re talking of [private armed groups]. That will be your turf. Do you want them to be there?” he added.

MILF sincerity in question

The clash between Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and guerrillas from the BIFF and the MILF in Maguindanao province that led to the deaths of 44 policemen, 18 MILF fighters and five civilians on Jan. 25 has raised questions about the MILF’s sincerity in completing its peace agreement with the government.

The SAF commandos were withdrawing from Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano town after taking down Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” when they ran into BIFF and MILF guerrillas, triggering a 12-hour gun battle.

A legislative investigation into the clash has sidelined discussions of the BBL in Congress, throwing in doubt the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro charter by March.

Facing the Senate on Thursday, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal admitted that the rebel group had no “absolute control” over its forces on the ground.

“There’s no absolute control in the same way that even the government doesn’t have absolute control over its forces,” Iqbal said.

But that there had been no fighting between government security forces and Moro rebels since 2011 showed that the MILF had “command control,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that on Jan. 25 the SAF clashed with the MILF in Mamasapano.”

Terrorism disavowed

Iqbal said the MILF disavowed terrorism, and it was distinctly separate from the BIFF, which broke away from the MILF in 2010.

Escudero agreed that it would be difficult for Congress to pass the BBL in the aftermath of the Maguindanao debacle.

“It will not pass in its current form for sure today, especially under the circumstances, and probably even in the future,” he said.

One sticky point will be the MILF’s job of securing the area, Escudero said. “That’s why this early, before we pass the BBL, we hope they can show that they can really enforce the rule of law there.”

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Joseph Victor Ejercito have withdrawn their coauthorship of the draft BBL in the wake of the Mamasapano encounter.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the committee on local government, has suspended public consultations on the proposed Bangsamoro law in Mindanao.

Escudero, however, said that the suspension should be seen as “an attempt to give it a chance.”

Premature demand

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said it would be premature to demand that the MILF clear the Bangsamoro region of rogue elements now, as the group was not yet the Bangsamoro government.

“As I understand the BBL, that will be the task of the new regional government. It could be unfair to demand it now. They’re still the MILF, not the Bangsamoro,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview.

“Isn’t that the job of the government? Why do we pass it on to [the MILF]?” he added.

But it would be fair to demand that the MILF identify the guerrillas who clashed with the SAF troopers, and return the slain commandos’ weapons, government-issued equipment and personal belongings, Pimentel said.

“Give us full transparency. Without judging their guilt, can you give us the names of the commander and unit leaders who were involved in the clashes?” he said. “I agree with the President that they should not stand in the way. That’s how they can rebuild trust.”

Obligation in peace pact

To show sincerity, the MILF should surrender the rebel who shot and killed an injured SAF trooper, as shown in a purported video of the clash that has gone viral, if the shooter was an MILF member, Escudero said.

“Clearly, the MILF should do something, and [the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] should be tasked [with demanding] that of the MILF,” he said.

If the shooter was not an MILF guerrilla, it’s the duty of the MILF to help “in [his] arrest or surrender” under the ceasefire agreement, Escudero said.

“The President and the government have been more than fair, in fact too fair to them. It’s about time they showed equal interest and fairness in so far as their obligations in the peace agreement are concerned,” he said.

Trust the MILF

Malacañang appealed to the public to trust the MILF on its commitment to peace.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Iqbal had been very forthright about the MILF’s commitment as the government’s “full partners” in peacemaking.

“We have to believe that because they have spoken in the Senate hearing,” Lacierda said, referring to Iqbal’s statements at Thursday’s Senate hearing on the Mamasapano clash.

Both the MILF and the government “have shown the determination to forge ahead given the very difficult situation that we’re facing as a result of the Mamasapano incident,” Lacierda said over government-run dzRB radio.

Speaking at the Senate hearing, Iqbal assured the public that the MILF had begun investigating the clash, and that it remained committed to peace.

“Please do not let this unfortunate incident be used to derail 17 years of hard work and lessen our resolve for peace and justice. Let peace be our legacy. Let us be partners for peace,” he said.

Don’t scrap BBL

Lacierda also said that Congress could review the draft BBL in view of the incident, but not to scrap it altogether.

“It’s very difficult right now to discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law given the emphasis on the investigation and the inquiry on the Mamasapano incident. But I do hope that as we continue to seek accountability, let us not lose focus on the importance of finding a peaceful solution,” he said.

He said the lawmakers could consider improving the measure in view of the incident, but should not lose their focus on “finding a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Lacierda also said Malacañang respected any protest rally to be staged calling for the President’s resignation, but said it would also be prudent to await the results of the investigations.

“We are in the midst of several inquiries. So while we respect their choice to express themselves in those manners, we will wait for the results of the [PNP] board of inquiry because we need to [know] the truth,” he said

China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, says Philippines judge

From Asia One (Feb 15): China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, says Philippines judge
China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, says Philippines judge

A Chinese Coastguard vessel patrols near the BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship which Philippine Marines live on as a military outpost, in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea March 30, 2014. - See more at:

KUALA LUMPUR - China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, as it gave up that right when it became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to a Philippine Supreme Court judge.

Justice Antonio Carpio said when a country became a signatory to the UNCLOS, it gave up historical claims in exchange for an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), comprising 200 nautical miles from a country's coastline.

"Even if they were not signatories, there is no historical proof that they have owned most of the areas they are claiming, such as the Scarborough and Spratly Islands.

"In ancient Chinese maps dating back to the Song and Qing dynasties, the southernmost territory of China has always been Hainan Island, with its ancient names being Zhuya, then Qiongya, and thereafter Qiongzhou.

"However, in more recent maps, the border has extended to a line of nine dashes, looping down to about 1,800km south from Hainan Island, almost near Sabah," he said when delivering a lecture on the South China Sea dispute at the Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium here on Friday.

The event was jointly organised by the Bar Council, Universiti Malaya and the Philippine Embassy.

The Chinese government has staked its claim to 90 per cent of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 islands and reefs near the Philippines.

The Philippine government, in response, presented a series of ancient maps which show that islands such as Scarborough were marked as Philippine territory long before it appeared in Chinese maps.

Carpio is visiting ASEAN countries to deliver a series of lectures on the dispute. Malaysia is his first stop.

"We have filed a territory dispute over China's claims with the United Nations, and are waiting for a tribunal to decide on the arbitration case. "Once the tribunal provides its ruling on the matter, we expect China to abide by it, even if they are not participating in the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague," said Carpio.

The UN tribunal is expected to provide a ruling on the case late this year or early 2016, but Carpio said that would not end the dispute involving the South China Sea, which is either partially or wholly claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

"I think world opinion will be on our side and I don't think any country in the world can for long violate international law especially if there's a ruling by a competent international tribunal.

"If the Philippines wins its case and China refuses to comply with the ruling, we will petition a United Nations council every year until China complies with the decision," added Carpio.

There are 7,000 armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces is ready – Military chief

From Ang Malaya (Feb 15): There are 7,000 armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces is ready – Military chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-staff General Gregorio Catapang said the military is ready for any possibility. “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,” the General said during the Senate probe on Mamasapano incident.

General Catapang noted this after Senator JV Ejercito said that even the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front are in peace talks the revolutionary group may have continued to strengthen its armed wing.

Senator Ejercito pointed out that the standing truce may have softened the military and it seems that the focus shifted to external threats.

However, General Catapang added that AFP modernization is also aimed to address internal threats. He said that fighter planes and attack helicopters being acquired can also be used “if need be, and hopefully not, if the situation warrants.”

Army unit sustains culture of peace in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Army unit sustains culture of peace in Davao Oriental

The new commander of the Philippine Army unit based in this province has vowed to sustain the “culture of peace” in Davao Oriental, the only province in Mindanao declared as “insurgency-free” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Col. Bienvenido Datuin,Jr., the newly installed commanding officer of the Davao Oriental-based 701st Infantry Brigade, said he is fully committed to pursue the “seeds of peace” or the peace intervention programs of his predecessor, Col. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. that is being warmly embraced by the people in this province.

Madrigal, who was promoted as the new assistant division commander of the 10th Infantry Division, was being credited both by local government officials and residents of this province for the successful implementation of peace and development programs that led the Armed Forces of the Philippines to declare Davao Oriental as “insurgency-free” province.

Governor Corazon Malanyaon, however, said that being insurgency-free is a big boost that have truly transformed the province’s image, noting that the province have long been tagged as the hotbed of the Communist insurgency. Having witnessed the brutality of the armed conflict that resulted not only in the loss of lives but also in crushing destitution among her people, the governor says communities affected by the conflict can now return to normalcy and pursue sustainable livelihood.

Malanyaon said the AFP play a vital role in her peace and development efforts as forefront in the delivery of services to the people especially in times of emergency and other calamities.

She said the famous Bayanihan spirit which the members of the Armed Forces have set themselves as examples, turned out to be very effective.

The word bayanihan conjures up the image of a house being carried by the able-bodied men of the village, the representation of communal unit, of the collective spirit, she stressed.

The governor highlighted Bayanihan because a community can achieve greater things when the people work together. The quest for the elusive peace, she said, requires the efforts of everyone in the community.

She thanked the Philippine Army for engaging the local government units, the indigenous peoples, the youth, the private sector and other sectors in the community towards the singular goal of winning the peace.

The governor has gratefully noted that the level of trust and confidence in the province is at its highest now.

She adds the “insurgency-free” status of Davao Oriental is a “glorious achievement” and a defining landmark both of her administration and the Philippine Army.

“I would like to thank our partners in the civilian government most especially the local political leadership headed by Governor Corazon Malanyaon… for the strong partnership and full support given to the brigade in all its undertakings. These were the keys for the success to our campaign,” Madrigal said.

He also thanked the officers, the men and women of the brigade, and all the units under its operational control, we have 67th IB, 28TH IB and recently the 66th IB, for your support and dedication to carry out our mission to serve the people and promote peace and security… Truly, I have greatly appreciated your support to our shared initiative and commitment and the strong partnership we have established with the local government and the other stakeholders. We have succeeded in the campaign against insurgency that made the province of Davao Oriental the most peaceful among the provinces of the Davao Region,” Madrigal said.

He said that under whose watch, the 701stInfantry “Kagitingan” Brigade was awarded as the “Best Brigade.” The recognition came both from its mother division, the 7th Infantry Division and 10th Infantry Division that exercises control over the brigade.

“Now I urge you to continue to face the greater challenge of sustaining the peace we had achieved in our area of responsibility especially at this time that our enemy is even more determined to reclaim the support of the people in the affected communities… I urge you to continue to advocate our brand of service excellence and professionalism within our ranks and to remain resolute in the pursuit of our vision for a genuine and lasting peace, stability and progress in our area of responsibility,”Madrigal said during the change of command on Saturday.

For his part, the newly installed commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade, Col. Datuin, has called on peace and development stakeholders here to “join hands and continue with what we are doing so that we can eventually see more progress for Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley province and all other areas within my responsibility.”

Datuin is a seasoned officer who is experienced in both combat and non-combat operations. Before assuming his present post, he held several positions among them as platoon leader, company commander, chief of the civil-military operations branch and officer of the 703rd Infantry Brigade.
He also served as staff and administration officer, commanding officer of training school, assistant chief of unified command staff for operations of Central Command, Commandant of the National Capital Region Community Defense Group.

He also served as commander of the 28th Infantry Battalion and the Army Personnel Management Center.