Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Moro rebel group took part in Mamasapano clash – Iqbal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 18): New Moro rebel group took part in Mamasapano clash – Iqbal

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao, Philippines – A new group of Moro insurgents was allegedly involved in the tragic Mamasapano clash and this group emerged from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), took everyone by surprise here when he said that a third Moro armed group, led by Muhammad Ali Tambako, took part in the clash of January 25.

“It is public knowledge that the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) broke into three groups: The group of Ameril Umra Kato, the one of Kagui Karialan, and the group of Muhammad Ali Tambako … But now, Tambako has formed another group, and its name is something like “justice,” basta merong “justice” yan (one that has the word “justice” in it),” Iqbal told reporters following the turnover of 16 firearms that MILF members had seized from slain members of the Special Action Force.

Reached for comment, Abu Misri Mama, the spokesperson of the BIFF, did not confirm the splitting of the BIFF into three groups.

He said that Tambako’s group, made up of former BIFF members, came to being after Tambako met with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari in Sulu in October 2013.

Mama said the BIFF leadership was against any meeting with Misuari.

He said Tambako has since named his splinter armed group the United Justice Movement (UJM).

Tambako is materially well-off, according to some people who know him in the local Muslim religious sector. Tambako had studied in Jamiatun (University of) Malik Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is why he is addressed as “Ustadz,” according to people who know him.

Police sources said Tambako’s name was not new to them and that they had gotten hold of arrest warrants against him, in connection with his role in 2008 bloody attacks in Maguindanao and North Cotabato over the botched memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

MILF: Editorial -- Orchestrated, well-oiled ‘spoiling’

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 17): Orchestrated, well-oiled ‘spoiling’

The most relevant question nowadays re: Mamasapano incident where 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) and 18 MILF fighters slain on January 25, would be: “why did the police operation take place when the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is under deliberation in Congress? Would there be any other opportune moment when the raid could have been executed?
Clearly, the timing is flawed and the aftermath is devastating. A lapse in judgment call is indeed clearly established; the consequence, however, is even more tragic and it is sending the BBL reeling on its track and it might not pass Congress at all.

We are not suspecting the leadership of the SAF-PNP of any ill-intention in executing their plan on that precise moment.  However, even the best of intention and action can be manipulated by outside interests. Remember the attack of Sabah led by Agbimuddin Kiram of the Sultanate of Sulu in February 2013 and attack of Zamboanga City by the MNLF faction of Chairman Nur Misuari in September 2013. They were not fully planned by the leaderships of these groups; unseen hands and funds were reportedly part of the equations. 

The case of Mamasapano clash also shows some of the demonic hands that spread lies, hatred, outrage, and other forms of demonic agenda.  Never mind Federico D. Pacual Jr. of the Philippine Star  and Rigoberto Tiglao Jr. of the Manila Times, they are the breed of men who cannot argue with sense when it comes to Moros in Mindanao. Their eyes and hearts are sealed, as if they were living during the height of the Moro-Spanish War in the 16th century.

Pieces of evidence are slowly flowing in that the same group, which dipped their bloody hands into the Sabah and Zamboanga City fiascos, is again at play here. They are attacking the BBL, MILF and President Benigno Aquino simultaneously. They appeared to be well-oiled and organized.

However, the MILF never feels threatened by this orchestrated spoiling. First, we are on the side of truth that the MILF is also victim in this unfortunate incident. We never thought of fighting the SAF commandos that dawn of January 25 or any other day for that matter. The ceasefire between the MILF and government has been observed with sincerity by both sides and, in fact, since 2011 there has never any single clash between them. Second, the MILF has never coddled “terrorists” or much more Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Abdulbasset Usman, who were holed up in a non-MILF area.

This truth will be ridiculed first and then opposed, but in the end, it becomes self-evident, which will lead to the vindication of the MILF. And third, we know there is no way ahead of us except to solve the armed conflict in Mindanao peacefully and this will be through the passage of a good BBL in Congress. The resort to all-out war policy by government is not a good decision.

MILF: 'Let us be partners for Peace'

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 16): Let us be partners for Peace

Let me speak straight from the heart.
        First, the encounter between the MILF and the SAF was an unfortunate en-counter. It was something that nobody planned or wanted. We thought that we had effective protocols and mechanisms in place that would prevent things like these from happening. In the end, 44 SAF, 18 MILF and many more died in that encounter. We must honor them by making sure that their sacrifice would not be in vain. While we cannot change the past, we can do something about the future. We can work together to make sure that something like this will not happen again. Thus, we are already investigating the conduct of our men during that encounter to see if anyone violated the rules of conduct.

        Second, the MILF was not the only group that was present in the area. The SAF fought other armed individuals belonging to different networks and groups - BIFF, private armed groups, local militias, etc. The delicate task of finding out who did what, especially the reported atrocities, cannot immediately be blamed on the MILF. That would be unfair. We need to investigate. On the part of the MILF, aside from our own investigation, we push for a truly independent group that would conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the incident.

        Third, the MILF was immediately working to effect the ceasefire as early as 6:30 in the morning. But because of the limitations in communications and because of the on-ground situation of battle, the ceasefire was obtained only in the afternoon. MILF members who were part of the joint ceasefire committee risked their lives to effect the ceasefire. We were trying to save those men.

        Fourth, credit must be given where credit is due. Through the efforts of the MILF, 28 SAF were rescued from imminent death that day. The 28 SAF were part of the first team and holed up in an area one kilometer northeast of Tukanalipao . They were already being fired upon by unidentified armed groups. The 28 SAF are alive today because of the efforts of the MILF and finally, it is the will of God.

        Fifth, the MILF is 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. Our previous actions bear witness to our commitment against terrorism. To tag the MILF as a terrorist group is unfair.

        Sixth, the MILF did not harbor Marwan or Usman. The MILF has no links with these terrorists and terrorist organizations. Marwan and Usman were in areas outside the MILF controlled areas.

        Seventh, the MILF and the BIFF are different organizations. We do not share the same goals and objectives. There is no truth to the allegation that we are conniving with each other.

        Eight, we are committed to peace. We have been in negotiations with the Philippine Government for 17 years. Our present partnership with President Aquino has been durable - there has been no recorded armed hostilities between the gov-ernment 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 commit-ment to pursue our objectives through peaceful means.

        Ninth, the peace process is important to us – and to everybody. It has brought us the promise of a good life for our people - free from fear, want and dis-crimination. It contains our hopes and our dreams - if not for us, for our children. We have waited for this opportunity for 17 years. We promised our people that peace will be our legacy. We seek your help in making this promise possible. We cannot do it by ourselves. We ask you to help us live in peace.

        Finally, justice is at the core of our struggle. We have been seeking justice for a long time. Thousands of our brothers and sisters have died pursuing this cause. We see an opportunity that peace can be established. 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.

        Maraming salamat.

                            MOHAGHER IQBAL
                            Bangsamoro Transition Commission
                            11 February 2015

MILF: MILF returns captured SAF firearms

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 19): MILF returns captured SAF firearms

In a simple ceremony yesterday, at the 6th Infantry Division Headquarters of the Philippine Army at Camp Siongco, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF) returned to the government  sixteen (16) high powered firearms that it captured from elements of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) during a “misencounter” at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25. The clash resulted to the death of 44 SAF members, 18 MILF combatants, and 5 civilians.

The turn-over led by MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and ceasefire committee was a show of sincerity and commitment of the Moro front in the peace process between the GPH and the MILF that started in 1997.

Chairman Iqbal said that the MILF hierarchy talked to their commanders to return the firearms following the peace process. He said that 10 firearms are in the hands of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and 18 more are still to be accounted for. He said that the MILF is exerting efforts to return the remaining firearms of the Special Action Force.

Retired Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Chairman of the GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) said that the firearms were turned-over on Tuesday night near the site of bloody clash in Mamasapano. “It was an emotional turned-over as the rebels themselves who personally returned the firearms”, and there is doubt about it, said Gen. Galvez.

On his part, Gen, Gregorio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) thanked the MILF for “walking extra mile” for the peace process.

ARMM Regiona Governor Mujiv Hataman and other local officials also witnessed the ceremony.

MILF: Third-Party Monitoring Team issues its second annual Public Report; Highlights considerable progress in 2014, before clash in Mamasapano

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 17): Third-Party Monitoring Team issues its second annual Public Report; Highlights considerable progress in 2014, before clash in Mamasapano

Posted by OPAPP, Friday, February 13, 2015. The Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), formally established in 2013 as part of the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, today issued its second annual Public Report.
TPMT Chair Alistair MacDonald said “The recent tragic events at Mamasapano have underlined yet again the human costs of conflict, and the TPMT joins in expressing their condolences to the families of all the victims. Pending the results of the various investigations now being carried out, it would be premature to comment substantively on these events. But it will be essential to protect the future while providing just remedies for the past – and that future can only prosper in the context of a widespread and lasting peace.”

MacDonald added that while public attention was necessarily focused on the recent tragedy, it was nevertheless important not to overlook the substantial progress which had been achieved during 2014 in different dimensions of the peace process. “Ending decades of violent conflict can not be accomplished overnight,” he said, “and the painstaking efforts of all those working for peace deserve to be acknowledged.”

MacDonald therefore hoped that this second annual report of the TPMT would serve to recall the distance that had already been travelled, while acknowledging the challenges that still lay ahead.

In its report released today, the TPMT noted that 2014 had seen major progress in the implementation of the peace agreements – notably including the completion of the Normalisation Annex in January, the historic signature of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March, the submission of the draft BBL to Congress in September, and the launching immediately thereafter of the extensive Congressional consultations and deliberations on the BBL.

In addition, work continued on all the other dimensions of the agreements, including :
- initial progress in the normalisation track, setting up three major normalisation bodies (JNC, TJRC, IDB), and preparing for the first ceremonial turnover of crew-served weapons and high-powered firearms by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s BIAF to the Independent Decommissioning Body

- continued work on socio-economic development, including through the Sajahatra Bangsamoro programme as well as the preparation of a detailed Bangsamoro Development Plan

- preparing for the transition from ARMM to Bangsamoro Transition Authority, with the establishment of a Coordinating Committee for the Transition. Progress was not as rapid as either Party would have wished, and delays were encountered in a number of areas – for example in completing the drafting of the BBL, in some of the practical aspects of normalisation, or in the implementation of socio-economic programmes.
Looking forward, multiple challenges had already existed (even before the tragic events at Mamasapano)

- completing deliberations on the BBL in a timely manner, in a form compliant with the agreements and not subject to major challenges in the Supreme Court

- preparing for the successful conduct of the plebiscite to ratify the BBL and determine the geographic scope of the Bangsamoro

- arranging for a smooth transition from ARMM to BTA, including addressing the challenges arising from a much shorter-than-expected transition period

- ensuring the necessary support for socio-economic development

- and achieving the greatest possible sense of inclusivity, among all the inhabitants of the future Bangsamoro

Now, since 25 January, many of these pre-existing challenges will become even more acute. Emotions run high, and confidence in the process has taken a knock. But while the challenges are great, the prizes to be gained are even greater – creating a sustainable peace, allowing the region to achieve its full potential and to contribute more effectively to the prosperity and security of the nation as a whole.

And the best guarantees of success are the continuing commitment to peace of both Parties, at the highest level, the massive engagement of Congress and the public in deliberating on the BBL, and the underlying hopes of the people of Mindanao that their children should be able to grow and prosper in a peaceful and just society.

(The present Public Report is the second such report issued by the TPMT (the first having been issued in February 2014).

CPP/NPA: AFP troops shoot foreign tourists in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Feb 17): AFP troops shoot foreign tourists in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Julito Tiro Command)
The New People’s Army – North Central Mindanao Regional Command condemns the indiscriminate firing of operating AFP troops under the 4th Infantry Division against seven foreign tourists and their guide in a mountainous part of Brgy. Dalwangan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on February 13, 2015, around 8:00 AM, which wounded a civilian.

Carlito Gayamara was wounded in this incident, receiving a gunshot wound on his upper arm. He was then serving as a tourist guide to seven foreign bird-watchers trekking Mt. Kitanglad. What was supposed to be the group’s immersion in a natural wonder turned into a traumatic experience when they, despite their shouts that they are civilians, were strafed for more than ten minutes by the reactionary troops.

The military did not even help their victim to the hospital and left Gayamara to shoulder all expenses for his medication by himself. Worse, they announced through the media that Gayamara was caught in crossfire and hit by a stray bullet. This is a big lie orchestrated to conceal their responsibility to the victim. There was no encounter between NPA and AFP troops in the area that day. Only the AFP troops and the tourists happened to meet at the time.

The absurdity of the AFP’s attack on civilian tourists is only exceeded by that of their effort to conceal and twist the truth. It is clear to us that this is one of those cases where AFP troops vent their anger on innocent civilians after their latest defeat in a battle with NPA fighters in the area. This is a big slap to the face of their much-vaunted “professionalism”, especially that of their elite forces.

It will be remembered that Red fighters under Mt. Kitanglad Sub-regional Command previously harassed operating troops of the Special Forces Battalion on February 11 in a neighboring area. Two of their troops were killed while five others were wounded, contrary to the 4th ID’s claim that only one of their soldiers was killed. In reaction, the AFP even bombarded the area with 12 artillery shells, in a clear desecration of what Lumads in the area consider a sacred haven. This resulted in the evacuation of more than 40 families to Brgy. Kibenton, Impasug-ong. Aside from being desperate, these troops are clearly demoralized, resulting in their paranoid attack on the tourists they encountered. This, however, is only a symptom of a bigger demoralization afflicting the whole organization of AFP and PNP after the Mamasapano tragedy.

The officers and troops who attacked the said group of tourists must be held culpable. They should, once more, ask for an apology from the Lumads in the area for violating the previous agreement between Gen. Gapuz and tribal leaders in 2012. Most importantly, however, the time is nigh for the ouster of their commander-in-chief, Benigno Aquino, who consistently denies his culpabilities and whose administration of the AFP, PNP and the whole nation is ridden with failures which resulted in the tragedy in Mamasapano and the tragedy of unprecedented suffering among the people.

MNLF defends MILF from 'war' rumors

From the Philippine Star (Feb 17): MNLF defends MILF from 'war' rumors

"These people spreading such stories are warmongers," says Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, or MNLF. YouTube photo

The largest faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Tuesday dismissed claims by people close to the fugitive Nur Misuari that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is to wage war if government junks the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active MNLF group, said there is no truth either to claims by lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla and Christian preacher Absalom Cerveza that the MILF has asked other Moro groups in Mindanao to prepare for an all out war if the government sets aside the BBL as a consequence of the January 25 police-MILF encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The followers of Sema, a former mayor of Cotabato City, are grouped together in 16 "revolutionary states" scattered in Central Mindanao, in the Zamboanga peninsula and in the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

RELATED: MILF still hopeful for Bangsamoro law

"These people spreading such stories are warmongers. They are warmongers, nothing more, nothing less. The public should be careful about what they say," Sema said.

Sema said Fontanilla and Cerveza claim to speak for Misuari, who has abandoned the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement by declaring "Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan independence" in August 2013.
Misuari is now wanted for leading a bloody mutiny in Zamboanga City in September 2013 to dramatize his opposition to the ongoing government-MILF peace process.
"We in Central Mindanao, particularly MNLF members in Maguindanao, do not doubt the sincerity of the MILF in upholding its two major agreements with the government, the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro," Sema said.

Sema said none of their state chairmen in different provinces in Mindanao had received any advisory for them to prepare for an all out war with government if Congress will shelve for good the draft BBL.

The bill aims to establish an MILF-led Bangsamoro government, to replace the ARMM, based on the group's final peace compact with the Aquino administration.
"Leaders of the legitimate MNLF and the MILF may have some differences in ideologies and religious convictions, but we are all together in our quest for a peaceful resolution of this decades-old Moro problem," Sema said.

Sema said even their top leader in North Cotabato, Datu Dima Ambil, who has more than a thousand followers, denied receiving any "war advisory" from the MILF, as insinuated by Fontanilla and Cerveza.

Sema said Ambil and his followers are in close contact with the chairperson of North Cotabato's provincial peace and order council, Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.
"They will not do anything that can cause trouble in that province, whose political leaders are their partners in various peace advocacy activities," Sema said.

Sema said their group will never turn away from the GPH-MNLF final peace accord.
"In fact we are looking forward to the resumption of the tripartite review of that peace agreement," he said.

The three-way effort of addressing misunderstandings in the implementation of the agreement, which started in 2007, involves Malacañang, the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC helped broker the GPH-MNLF truce.

MILF slams pro-Misuari 'warmongers' spreading rumors

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): MILF slams pro-Misuari 'warmongers' spreading rumors

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Wednesday dismissed claims by followers of Nur Misuari it issued a "war advisory" calling on the Moro National Liberation Front to prepare for war if the government abandons the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Two non-Muslim followers of Misuari, Emmanuel Fontanilla and Absalom Cerveza, have been announcing since Tuesday to different media outfits in Metro Manila that MNLF leaders had received an official communiqué from the MILF urging them to be ready for war if the draft BBL is shelved due to the January 25 bloodshed in Mamasapano.

"It started as a text message spread by warmongers. It is not true that we have sent them such hostile advisories as they claim," Iqbal said.

Some local officials had branded as whimsical and preposterous the insinuations by Fontanilla, a lawyer, and Cerveza, a Christian preacher.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told reporters he would be among the first to know if the MILF had indeed issued such advisory to Moro groups.

Hataman pointed out that he chairs the ARMM's inter-agency regional peace and order council, whose members include people from various civil society organizations, representatives of the political and religious communities in all five provinces under his jurisdiction.
"The membership of the council also includes provincial governors of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the mayors of the cities of Lamitan and Marawi. That is absolutely untrue. That is nothing but fiction spread by warmongers. So whimsical indeed," Hataman said.

Hataman and Iqbal separately aired their views on the allegations of Fontanilla and Cerveza during a press conference on Wednesday at the officers' club of the Army's 6th Infantry Division at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The press conference capped off the MILF's return of 16 firearms rebels took from the policemen killed in firefights in Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Inog-og in Mamasapano town in the second district of Maguindanao last January 25.

READ: MILF returns SAF weapons

Iqbal said he himself received a text message from an anonymous sender accusing their central committee of called on the MNLF to prepare for an all-out war.

Deliberations on the draft BBL by the 75-member congressional committee handling it had been suspended to pave the way for an inquiry into the Mamasapano incident.

"Ang masasabi ko dito, walang katotohanan 'yan. Trabaho 'yan ng mga walang magawa, yung mga warmongers. Masyadong mabilis yang mga warmongers. It's just pure and simple act of warmongers, and it has never been emanating from the MILF," Iqbal said, apparently referring to the assertions by Fontanilla and Cerveza.

Highly-placed Army intelligence sources said the text messages mentioning the MILF's war advisory to the MNLF first circulated on Monday in Isulan town and in Tacurong City, both in Sultan Kudarat province, and in Gen. Santos City and South Cotabato, where most members of the clans of Fontanilla and Cervesa resides.

In a statement Wednesday, the largest faction in the MNLF had said Fontanilla and Cerveza are both spreading unfounded and "preposterous" stories about the MILF.

Misuari is hostile to the MILF and is rabidly opposed to Malacañang's peace agreement with the rebel group, which splintered from the MNLF in the early 1980s.

Former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active MNLF group, said there is no truth to the claims by Fontanilla and Cerveza.

READ: MNLF faction defends MILF from 'war' rumors

Misuari is now wanted for leading a bloody mutiny in Zamboanga City in September 2013 to dramatize his opposition to the ongoing government-MILF peace process.

MILF to accept diluted Bangsamoro law

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): MILF to accept diluted Bangsamoro law

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday said it can accept a diluted form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, but warned that it will not address problems in Mindanao.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF's chief negotiator, said that the MILF will only reject a law that do more harm than good to communities that ought to benefit from it.

Iqbal said, however, that the group trusts Congress to enact the bill without revisions.

"I trust the collective wisdom of Congress to pass good legislation in the form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law," Iqbal told reporters in a press conference at the officers' club of the Army's 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat,

RELATED: MILF slams pro-Misuari 'warmongers' spreading rumors

Iqbal also vowed that the MILF will choose to take the path of peace even after the government abandons the Bangsamoro process as a consequence of the January 25 bloodshed in Mamasapano between police commandos and Moro rebels.
"There is no option, but the option is peace," Iqbal said.

Iqbal said a diluted form of BBL will only encourage many sectors to disengage from the peace process and foment more discontent among groups that have warned them not to indulge in a peace process with government.

The security situation in Mindanao, moreover, will not be solved by a weaker BBL, he said.

"Patuloy and problema dito sa Mindanao because the solution, the supposed medicine was not administered, hindi naibigay," Iqbal said.

Also present in the press conference were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and ranking military officials.

Mamasapano operation: From 5:48 a.m. to past midnight

From the Philippine Star (Feb 19): Mamasapano operation: From 5:48 a.m. to past midnight

Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos follow a van with one of the remains of 44 special commandos as it leaves Camp Bagong Diwa for its final journey to his hometown Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at suburban Taguig city, south of Manila, Philippines. Southeast Asia's top terrorist suspect has evaded capture and survived several military assaults in the southern Philippines, where police now await DNA results to confirm if he is the man killed in the Jan. 25 raid that left 44 police commandos dead. AP/Bullit Marquez

From the initial euphoria expressed after the killing of Malaysian bomb suspect, Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, the mood shifted to a tense and then overwhelming grief as the news of dozens of casualties come in at the tactical post command in Shariff Aguak last January 25.

At 5:48 a.m., Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina congratulated sacked Special Action Force commander Director Getulio Napeñas apparently after the SAF troopers confirmed that they were able to neutralize Marwan.

In between calls for reinforcement, Napeñas received congratulatory messages from his higher-ups and colleagues including one message that said: "Hope we can turn the tide with the arrival of the AFP reinforcement. [The mission] came with a cost."

As efforts to call for reinforcements continue, sources bolstered earlier reports that President Aquino had been informed about developments on the ground as early as 5 a.m.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II also inquired at about 10 a.m. on details on Marwan’s death, including information whether the assault team got pictures and DNA samples to be used later on to verify the death.

At around the same time, Roxas informed Napeñas that the President sought clarification on the number of casualties and the troops on the ground.

Sources said the information indicating the rather high number of casualties came at about 8 a.m., later raising more questions why the military failed to provide reinforcements despite reports that President Aquino was constantly updated about the developments before dawn of that tragic Sunday.

Since 5:30 a.m., the members of the 84th Seaborne company that assaulted Marwan’s lair and fatally shot him on the chest, were also having a hard time pulling out of the area as they were attacked by armed men.

It was around 6:13 a.m. when Napeñas also informed then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima that the 55th Special Action Force (SAC) was having a hard time pulling out of the enemy’s lair located two kilometers of Barangay Tukalanipao because they are under attack from heavy gunfire.

At 6:34 a.m., another SAF officer sought for help, telling his superior through text: "Request fire support from Army sir!"

It was Espina who facilitated the call for reinforcement from the Armed Forces through Western Mindanao commander Gen. Rustico Guerrero. At 6:22 a.m., 6th Infantry Brigade commander Gen. Edmundo Pagilinan also came into the picture.

There was urgency in call for help all throughout the morning of January 25 despite assurances given by Napeñas that the military’s reinforcements were then being coordinated from higher-ups.

Napeñas gave his ground commander the assurance that the commanding officer of 601st Brigade has ordered the 45th Infantry Brigade to dispatch reinforcements.
At 6: 52 a.m., then SAF deputy commander Chief Superintendent Noli Talino informed the PNP chief that the SAF troops were engaged in a firefight with armed men about two kilometers east of Barangay Tukalanipao.


Sources privy to the investigation revealed that there were numerous calls for help as the team at the tactical command post in Shariff Aguak received many reports from the field that the commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had started consolidating their forces.

As early as 7: 12 a.m, reports that the MILF's 118th and 105th base commands have started to muster strength, apparently upon sensing the presence of the SAF men in their areas.

At 7:26 a.m., Espina was informed that Marwan was neutralized by the SAF troopers.
“Marwan was neutralized but the body was left behind due to [the] heavy volume of fire,” the report read.

The report also mentioned the firefight between the containment blocking force of SAF and armed men in Tukalanipao.

“Extraction is on going and support from the AFP was requested,” the report to Espina added.

From 7:37 a.m. until late morning, Napeñas had provided the grid coordinates of his men who were pinned between enemy lines.

Barely two hours after the first call for help, the military sent armored vehicles with the division reconnaissance platoon and the anti-bomb experts, accompanied with SAF personnel to locate the besieged commandos.

“The SAF troops cannot move because of the vast terrain,” a source said, quoting the reports from the ground.

Ceasefire mechanisms

Members of the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities were monitored to be on its way to the "battle" area at around 11 a.m., apparently to call for ceasefire.

At past noon, SAF and military officers continued to ask details on coordinates and locations of the troopers.

At 12:20 p.m., the officers at the command post are still waiting for feedback from the ceasefire committee. It was the same time when members of the 55th Special Action Coy (SAC) and the 84th Seaborne got separately engaged in heavy firefight with MILF fighters.

Separate testimonies of assault team leader Superintendent Raymond Train and Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan, lone survivor of 55th SAC, revealed that they were surrounded by enemies.  They waited for reinforcements, as some lay on the ground wounded.

At 1:36 p.m, there was report that the ceasefire team from the AFP and the MILF were on their way to coordinate ceasefire mechanisms. Negotiations went on until 7 p.m.

Waiting for rescue

At 7 p.m, Train reported to Napeñas the need to send evacuations for their seven comrades who were killed in action.

“We can’t move sir… need casevac,” Train was quoted as saying in the report. Casevac means casualty evacuation.

At 7:12 p.m.  Secretary Roxas advised Napeñas to “keep calm and keep your head.”
“Di natin papabayaan ang tropa natin. PNoy gave guidance to AFP Westmincon,” Roxas was quoted as saying.

More than five hours later, the rescue team are still looking for the besieged SAF commandoes.  With the help of a US-manned surveillance aircraft, the teams were located and rescued at around midnight.

The tactical command post reported that the rescue teams and the besieged troops have linked up for rescue.  A Catholic bishop relayed his expressed of concern for the many deaths with a hope that there will sooner cessation of hostilities in the affected communities.

At past midnight, the tactical command post received messages expressing grave concern for the deaths of affected SAF personnel.

No MILF gun factory in Maguindanao: Ferrer

From ABS-CBN (Feb 19): No MILF gun factory in Maguindanao: Ferrer

[Video report]

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front does not have a weapons factory in General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao, the chairwoman of the government peace panel said Thursday.

Speaking to ANC, Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the main gun factory of the MILF in Camp Abubakar was already demolished during the time of President Estrada.

She said peace negotiators conducted an investigation after Senator Alan Peter Cayetano claimed the MILF has a weapons factory in barangay (sitio) Katol, General Salipada Pendatun, Maguindanao.

"It's not there. We know, we have checked the area. We did our own checking and what we found out is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has its own [improvised explosive device] factory in the area," she said.

The chief peace negotiator said the government is not negotiating with the BIFF simply because the latter group does not want peace. Even the MILF failed to convince the BIFF leadership to stay with the group and forge a lasting peace deal with the government.

"Right now, they do not want to negotiate with us. They are doing all these things, sniping our military forces. The conditions are not there to negotiate with them and the conditions actually require that we incapacitate them," she said.

"It takes two to tango."

MILF sniper wounded in encounter with BIFF

From GMA News (Feb 19): MILF sniper wounded in encounter with BIFF

A sniper of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front suffered a seven-inch wound after figuring in an encounter with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Pikit town in Cotabato province Tuesday.

The sniper, who needed 10 stitches for the wound in his back, said the hours-long firefight started at 9 a.m., GMA News stringer Ferdinandh Cabrera reported.

He said the opposing forces managed to get within 70 meters of each other. During the fighting, he was hit in the back by a bullet of an M-14 rifle.

At least three others were wounded, he said.

But he said the MILF would not allow the BIFF to enter its territory.

"Hanggang gabi na yun eh, halos hindi na maputol ang bakbakan, mainit talaga yun, kaunti lang sila kaso lang alam nila ang area, kaya namin sila hinaharangan doon sa boundary kasi ayaw namin ang gawain nilang masama, hindi namin hahayaan na makapasok sila," he said.

Meanwhile, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said they suffered one fatality.

He added they do not consider the MILF an enemy, but admitted they are at odds with the MILF's eastern command chief, Jack Abas.

The BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF.

Meanwhile, a resident called for the BIFF and MILF to end their fighting as both are working for self-determination.

"Gusto namin na magkasundo na lang ang dalawang panig kasi Bangsamoro lahat yan sila, walang magka-iba dyan, iisa lang ang pinaglalaban nila, sa tuwing nagbabarilan yan sila iisa lang ang sinasabi nila, Allahu Akbar," said Bai Lumen.

The fighting has affected some barangays in Datu Montawal with 638 families or 3,200 people.

At least 18,200 civilians have been affected by fighting between the MILF and BIFF.

Over 300 SAF commandos did nothing while clash was ongoing –soldier

From the GMA News (Feb 18): Over 300 SAF commandos did nothing while clash was ongoing –soldier

Over 300 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were on the highway doing nothing while not far from them some of their comrades were engaged in a fierce firefight with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25, a soldier interviewed by GMA News said.

The soldier was under the Army's 6th Infantry Battalion who was part of the team that reinforced the embattled SAF members on the afternoon of January 25.

“Kung may sisisihin man sila, tanungin muna nila sa leader nila kung sino 'yung hindi nakatulong doon, kung sino 'yung hindi fumorward doon. Kasi 'yung naabutan namin sa kalsada kadami-dami na doon tatlong kompanya nag-uumpukan,” the soldier said.

According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), 392 SAF commandos were part of the operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, but only 74 clashed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The 74 included the 38 who stormed Marwan's hideout and eventually killed him, and the 36 who served as blocking force.
[Video report]

When the fighting stopped after several hours, over 60 people, including 44 SAF policemen, lay dead.

The military has been at the receiving end of blame for the high number of fatalities on the government side for their supposed late reinforcement.

This did not sit well with the soldiers interviewed by GMA News, with one of them pointing out the number of SAF members who were doing nothing on the highway while the clash was ongoing.

The soldier said when they arrived at the area on the afternoon of January 25 to reinforce the police force, they found several SAF members lying on the side of the street looking shocked.

“Binibiro ko sila, 'Bakit kayo di makatulong, de kalibre 'yung mga gamit niyo, bakit di niyo magawang tulungan 'yung mga kasama niyo?' May vest pa sila,” he said, adding he was met with silence.

Another soldier highlighted the key role they played during the operation.

“Sasabihin nila walang ginawa 'yung Army. Kung hindi dahil sa amin hindi nila mase-save 'yung nakuha nilang speciman mula sa target nila. E di sana hindi sila mission accomplished,” he said.

He was referring to Marwan's finger, which was cut off for DNA analysis in the United States.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesman C/Supt. Generoso Cerbo, Jr. said everyone should just wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by the PNP's Board of Inquiry.

“Hindi naman natin maaalis na magkaroon ng ganyang sentimento 'yung ibang kapatid natin sa AFP. Siguro with the passage of time mako-correct naman natin ito at mapa-patch up natin,” Cerbo said.

He added that the relationship between the police and military remains strong despite what happened in Mamasapano.

“Ang AFP at PNP mayroong mahabang pinagsamahan. And even as we speak mayroon tayong strong collaboration with AFP units,” Cerbo said.

Marwan was only one of the leaders of Khalifa Islamiya Mindanao

From the GMA News (Feb 18): Marwan was only one of the leaders of Khalifa Islamiya Mindanao

  Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was only one of the many leaders of a new terrorist group in Mindanao, a report from GMA's “24-Oras” program said Wednesday.
According to the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, there are four other founders of the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao.
Marwan was killed in a police operation in Mamasapano, Maguidanao on Jan. 25.
The group identified its other surviving leaders as Amir M, Amir Abtol Rahman, Amir Kuptu and Amir Human Abdul Najid.
The new terrorist group is composed of members from the Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf Group and other members of armed rebel groups.
Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman who was also a primary target during the Mamasapano operation but reportedly escaped with a shoulder wound was also identified as the KIM's leader in Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Maguindanao.
According to the data from the group, the KIM also has leaders in Davao, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, and the National Capital Region.
[Video report]
According to PIPVTR Chairman Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, terror groups like these with international terrorist members such as Marwan definitely had backers in the country.
“Hindi mag thathrive ang isang foreign terrorist personality sa isang lugar kung walang local support at local handler or walang local protection,” Banlaoi said.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front which controls the area where Marwan was killed has repeatedly denied they were coddling Marwan and Usman.
But even with this development, Banlaoi was confident that Government forces can handle the threat posed by the KIM.
“'Yung mga law enforcement authorities natin mayroon na silang better understanding ng terrorist threats kaya 'yung preventive measures nila ay mas matindi ngayon,” he said.
“Kaya mas equiped sila ngayon at mas malalim na rin 'yung kaalaman ng ating law enforcement authorities sa banta ng terorismo,” he added.

Where are the other SAF firearms?

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18): Where are the other SAF firearms?

Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang and Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the government’s ceasefire committee brief police officers on where to keep the firearms of policemen killed in an encounter with rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25 which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front returned Wednesday. Unson

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday said it is still working on recovering other firearms of policemen killed in a deadly encounter with rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

The symbolic turnover of the firearms, consisting caliber 5.56 M-16 rifles, two M-203 rifles, two light machine guns and an upper part of an M-4 carbine, was held at the officers' club of the Army's 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The MILF's chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, told reporters they are still trying to locate the other firearms of the 44 members of the police's Special Action Force that perished in an encounter with local guerilla forces in three adjoining barangays in Mamasapano more than three weeks ago.

RELATED: MILF returns SAF weapons

"We are not surrendering these firearms, we are returning them," Iqbal said, referring to the rifles and machine guns their ceasefire committee turned over to government officials at Camp Siongco.

The firearms were returned in the presence of the government's chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, members of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team,  officials of the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

The event was also witnessed by Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero of the Western Mindanao Command, and officials of the Army's 6th Infantry Division led by Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan.

Iqbal declined to reveal the identities of the rebels that returned the firearms taken from the slain SAF operatives.

"That is still subject of our investigation. We are still in the process of locating the other firearms that are possibly in the hands of MILF members. We can't account for those firearms taken by other groups," Iqbal said.

In a message, Iqbal said the bloody January 25 SAF-MILF encounter in Mamasapano was an incident they had never wanted to happen.

He said the MILF cannot return the firearms which members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters took from the policemen slain in firefights with BIFF gunmen.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the outlawed BIFF, had earlier said they have killed 10 SAF members during the January 25 hostilities in Mamasapano and that all of their firearms were taken as "war booty."

The BIFF does not recognize the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

The SAF men killed in the Mamasapano incident had just neutralized in a dawn raid in Barangay Inog-og in Mamasapano Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and were maneuvering their way out when they encountered MILF rebels and a third group, the brigand BIFF.

Iqbal said 18 MILF members were killed while 14 others were wounded in the ensuing firefights.

Iqbal declined to give a time frame on the return of other firearms that could be in the hands of MILF members.

Ferrer and Deles had both said the government and the MILF will continue with the peace process despite the Mamasapano incident.

"We believe in the correctness and propriety of the peace process," Ferrer said.
Iqbal said the MILF is also doing its best to preserve all the gains of the peace process that were achieved in 17 years of negotiations.

The head of the IMT, Malaysian Major Gen. Yaakub Samad, said the government and the MILF must continue to push the peace process forward.

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Libya, and civilian conflict resolution and socio-economic experts from Norway, the European Union and Japan, has been helping enforce the GPH-MILF ceasefire accord since late 2003.

Sweden joins call to end PH, China sea row

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 19): Sweden joins call to end PH, China sea row

Sweden joined the growing international community for the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes on the West Philippine Sea which is being claimed by China and other neighbouring  Asian countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The DFA said that Sweden made the announcement during the 3rd   Philippines-Sweden Bilateral Consultations in Stockholm last week.

The meeting was co-chaired by Philippine Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson, Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Anika Söder, and by Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for Trade Eva Walder.

Representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center formed the Philippine delegation.

The two sides had extensive discussions covering bilateral, regional and international issues.

“On the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea issue, they agreed on the importance of peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Sweden recognized arbitration as a mode of peaceful settlement of disputes.

Both sides recognized the potential for further cooperation in trade and investments, renewable energy, urban transport and disaster risk reduction and management. Both expressed satisfaction with the positive developments in bilateral relations including the initialing of the Philippines-Sweden Social Security Agreement and the near conclusion of the Law Enforcement Cooperation Agreement between the Philippine National Police and the Swedish National Police.

Red alert on amid bombing ‘hoaxes’

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 19): Red alert on amid bombing ‘hoaxes’

MALACAÑANG on Wednesday appealed to Filipinos to remain calm and stop spreading text messages of unverified bomb threats as it denied a “wag-the- dog” scenario supposedly hatched by the administration itself to deflect public anger over the Jan. 25 Mamasapano debacle that left 44 police commandos dead.

Malacañang made its statement even as PNP spokesman Generoso Cerbo described as a joke the alleged plan of some groups who were said to be planning to bomb some places in the metropolis.

In the Senate, Senator Sergio Osmeña III described as alarming the call of former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco Jr. for a change in the national leadership.

“Well, from the moral point of view, yes,” Osmeña said when asked to comment on Cojuangco’s call for Aquino to resign.

“If a member of your family is the one who asks you to step down, of course it is personally hurting,” Osmeña said.

A text message being circulated pointed to an unnamed Muslim group planning to bomb certain areas in Metro Manila, including malls and mass transportation systems.

It also claimed that an “intel unit” was now monitoring the situation as the Armed Forces and the National Police had both gone on red alert to thwart the bomb plot.

“We are calling on the public to remain calm amid the circulating text message,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“The PNP is now looking closely at the security situation and has assured of their readiness to protect the safety of our people. Spreading text messages that contain baseless claims do not serve any purpose.”

But Coloma belied speculations that forces within the government were instigating the bomb scare.

“The government is doing nothing of that sort. The government is the protector of the security and safety of our people and will not resort to such useless activities such as that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coloma said there was no word yet if President Benigno Aquino III would convene the National Security Council amid reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is girding for possible fresh clashes with government troops.

“Let us note that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro are still in effect,” Coloma said.

“There are principles in those signed agreements that cover the existing ceasefire. That should be the basis for both parties in the peace process.

“[As for suggestions to convene that NSC], there have been no talks to that effect in the Cabinet.”

‘MILF no warmonger’

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 19): ‘MILF no warmonger’

Gives back 16 SAF weapons; Palace wants more

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Wednesday turned over to the government 16 of the firearms of the police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao even as the group denied that it ordered its field commanders to gear for war ahead of the junking of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said they still hope both houses of Congress will see the wisdom of passing the BBL although Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Senate cannot just rubber stamp the draft measure especially after the Mamasapano incident.

Firearms returned. Soldiers sit next to high-powered firearms in a
camp in Cotabato after those were returned by MILF rebels who took
them during a firefight with police commandos tasked to arrest an
international terrorist. The firefight resulted in the death of 44
police commandos. AFP

As a confidence-building measure, the MILF turned over at least 16 of 63 firearms that were lost in the Mamasapano clash during ceremonies held at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao Wednesday morning.

MILF military chief Von Al Haq said the guns were recovered by the MILF 105th Base Command and the return of the weapons was part of confidence-building measures amid the recrimination over the Mamasapano clash.

But Malacañang said it was not satisfied with the return of the 16 firearms and the MILF still needs to show more concrete proof that it can be trusted by the government as a partner for peace.

“The return of the firearms is only in partial fulfillment of the earlier call of President Benigno Aquino III that the MILF should show concrete proof that they can be trusted as partners of the government in the peace process,” said  Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

“The government is still waiting for more concrete proof such as the following: helping the government or stepping aside in efforts to catch Filipino terrorist Basit Usman; identifying and holding accountable those who are involved in killing the SAF44 heroes; and returning all the other firearms and personal effects that they stole from the SAF44,” Coloma added.

And if the MILF fails to fulfill all the demands of the Aquino administration, it will only show that the MILF is not really sincere in talking peace with the government, Coloma said.

After the weapons’ turnover, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told journalists that he also received a text message, purportedly for MILF commanders, to prepare against for war if the BBL is shield but he denied that the “advisory” came from the MILF central committee.

“That is not true,” Iqbal said of the text message that even included his name. “That is the work of people who have nothing better to do.”

“It’s just a pure and simple act of warmongering, and it did not emanate from the MILF,” Iqbal said.

For the MILF, Iqbal said “there is no other option but the option of peace” and suggestions to junk the BBL will only give more radical elements in the MILF the “moral ascendancy” to say that they were right in rejecting peace talks with the government.

“We will have a problem because other groups will have moral ascendency. They will say ‘We were right. We already told you not to talk with the government of the Philippines’,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said he hoped that Congress will not water down the BBL, which he considered to be “good legislation.”

But if the Congress, both houses which suspended deliberations on the BBL because of the Mamasapano incident, decides to water down the BBL, they will have to consider other options, including the rejection of whatever measure Congress manages to produce. “What happens when the MILF accepts [a diluted BBL]? The MILF will become meaningless at the problems of Mindanao will continue because the solution, the supposed medicine given to the patient, will not be given,” he said.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate committee on local government, acknowledged that the Muslim leadership wants the original version to stay, but that is no longer feasible because of the Mamasapano incident.

“I believe that’s what they want. But they cannot stop us as legislators here in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. We need to do our job,” Marcos said, noting the need to study and re-visit problematic provisions lawmakers have identified.
“He said there are many areas which are unclear, being left open because Congress will put the details. And that is exactly the process that we are undertaking right now,” Marcos said.

“I will use the three tests that I have applied to the draft BBL. We cannot abandon our function to make sure that at the very least, any bill we pass in Congress is legal, is constitutional and is enforceable. Those are the same three tests that we will apply to the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he explained.

Marcos said he hopes the MILF will be open-minded and a little flexible because the amendments being contemplated by lawmakers are studied provisions and not capricious.

“Let us not forget that the aim of the BBL is peace in Muslim Mindanao,” he said, adding that Congress may produce a stronger BBL that, in the end, will ensure peace in Mindanao.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano warned the MILF that should not blackmail Congress with terror attacks that make it appear like “you’re poking your gun at us.”

“It is like you are shooting your hostages one by one, and then you would be saying you really want peace. You are wrong, if you’re hoping  the government will back off, if that’s your tactic,” he said.

He pointed out that there should be no terrorism in peace talks.  He said the actions of the MILF in the next few weeks and few months will tell whether or not they really want peace or they just want to conquer most of Mindanao.

1 soldier killed in an encounter with NPA in Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): 1 soldier killed in an encounter with NPA in Samar

Army troops in Samar are determined to continue their mission to safeguard the people and attain peaceful development in this part of the region.

This is despite the setback that happened Monday night at Sitio Burabud, Brgy. Mabini Basey, Samar when a soldier died during an encounter with some members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Based on the report of Hinabangan Samar-based 801st Infantry Brigade under Col. Leoncio A. Cirunay Jr., troops under the 82nd Division Reconnaisance Company were on combat operation when an information reached them that some NPAs were seen at Sitio Burabud.  But when the troops arrived at the vicinity in said area, they were fired upon by the NPAs which resulted to a five minute firefight.

In a press statement sent to Philippine Information Agency (PIA) by Major Amado C. Gutierrez, Chief, Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO), 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, Camp Lukban Catbalogan, City, it disclosed that the soldier died while medics were tending his gunshot wounds.

Reports reached 8th ID that the rebels incurred an undetermined number of casualties.

Earlier, same troops encountered an undetermined number of NPAs in the same area where the rebels have incurred some casualties.

Relative to this, Col. Cirunay expressed his condolence to the bereaved family of the soldier who died.

“I would like to express my condolence to the bereaved family of our gallant soldier who died while performing his duty.  His bravery and sacrifice of life for the country will always be remembered,” Cirunay said.

56IB, nagdaos ng service caravan sa tatlong barangay ng Maria Aurora

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): 56IB, nagdaos ng service caravan sa tatlong barangay ng Maria Aurora

Daan-daang residente ng tatlong barangay sa Maria Aurora ang nakinabang sa idinaos na service caravan ng 56th Infantry Battalion (56IB) ng Philippine Army.

Ayon kay 56IB Commander Lt. Joey Escanillas, nakapagbigay sila ng libreng gupit at serbisyong medikal at dental sa mga residente ng Dianawan, Punglo, at Bazal.

Hangad aniya nito na mailapit ang kalooban ng mga mamamayan sa mga sundalo lalo na sa mga naninirahan sa mga malalayong lugar para sa pangmatagalang katahimikan.

Tiniyak rin ni Escanillas na magdaraos sila ng kahalintulad na aktibidad sa iba pang bayan sa Aurora.

AFP-PNP coordination cited in thwarted NPA attack

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 16): AFP-PNP coordination cited in thwarted NPA attack

The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines cited the coordination between the Army and the police as one of the reasons why the New Peoples Army attack at the Mati Police Station was repelled.

Lt. General Aurelio Baladlad, EastMinCom chief said that Army intelligence shared to the police allowed the Philippine National Police to beef up its forces in Mati.

According to intelligence sources theNPAs units from the Pulang Bagani Command 3 and 6 operating in Compostela Valley were planning to attack several targets in Davao Oriental, among these targets included Mati City.

The PNP were able to send reinforcements from its Regional Public Safety Battalion to the Mati Police Station because of the intelligence reports.

Last Sunday (Feb. 15) evening, New People Army rebels disguised as Army soldiers trying to transfer a prisoner, tried to enter the Mati Police  Station but alert PNP personnel held off a force of about 50 NPAs who tried to force their way into the station. A rebel was killed in the clash, his body recovered just outside the station, about 31 backpacks and three vehicles used by the rebels in the attack were also recovered.

Baladlad said without the coordination the attack wouldn’t have been repulsed. Army soldiers belonging to the 701st Infantry Brigade tried to reinforce the policemen but their vehicle was hit by two landmines, which killed three government troopers.

The Eastmincom chief said that the failed attack is an indication of the good partnership between the police and military.

The partnership between the Army and the Police was put on the spotlight  during the January 25 operation to capture terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alyas Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao Province which resulted in the deaths of 44 PNP Special Action Force commandos, a tragedy blamed on the lack of coordination between the police and the military.

Police sue rebels behind Mati attack

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 18): Police sue rebels behind Mati attack

Authorities sued members of the New People’s Army for the foiled attack at the Mati City Police Station Sunday night which left five soldiers and a rebel killed.

Chief Superintendent Wendy Rosario said charges ranging from destruction of government property, multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder were filed this morning before the City Prosecutor’s Office against Prince Wendel Olifernes and his cohorts following the attack.

Olifernes was captured in a military checkpoint at Barangay Taguibo in Mati City during the pursuit operation.

Rosario said he already sent a large number of policemen to Mati City to beef up its security in time for the holding of the Davao Regional Athletic Association meet on Feb. 24 to 28.

Major General Eduardo Ano, commander of the 10th Infantry Division said Olifernes based on their investigation turned out to be Ka Edoy of the front committee 18 of the sentro de gravidad of the New People’s Army.

He also identified the rebel fatality who was left by his comrades during the withdrawal from the attack on the police station as Bryan Alfonso alias Ka Cid also of the front committee 18.

Alfonso’s father who hails from Tagum City, Davao del Norte already claimed his body Tuesday.

Ano said members of the front committee 18, and pulang bagani command three and six of the NPA carried out the attack.

“We are expecting an encounter every now and then as a company of Scout Rangers is running after the culprits,” he said.

Peace council urges barangay heads to support terrorist watch of Ozamiz police

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 17): Peace council urges barangay heads to support terrorist watch of Ozamiz police

The Ozamiz City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) has called on the chiefs of the city’s 55 barangays to support the “terrorist watch” of the Ozamiz City Police Station (OCPS).
This, as mayor Reynaldo O. Parojinog, Sr., chairperson of CPOC, has directed the barangay leaders to activate their Barangay Patrol Action Teams (BPAT) and actively participate in the campaign to spot the terrorists in their respective areas.

“This could be our contribution to the Mindanao peace process, currently being talked about, to make sure that we do not allow terrorists to roam around our city, freely and continue with their threats,” the mayor said during this year’s first full council meeting, held here, last Feb. 13.

Just recently, OCPS has launched a terrorist watch for Rener Lou Pidoy Dongon, also as (a.k.a.) Ren-Ren and Kudri, a student of Zulkifli bin Hir a.k.a. Marwan in making bombs, and one of the suspects in the bombing of Maxandria Hotel and Rosario Arcade, both of Cagayan de Oro City, last 2012 and 2013, respectively.

A resident of barangay Tinago, Baroy, Lanao del Norte, Dongon has deep links to the international terrorist movement, as his sister Zainab is one of Marwan’s wives.

Another sister Aminah is married to Jainal Antel Sali, a.k.a. Abu Solaiman, while a third sister, Norain, is wife of Ahmad Santos, founder of the Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) Abu Tariq and member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who was  killed when the bomb he was holding exploded, police superintendent Michael Cadiogan Bawayan, Jr., chief of OCPS, said.

Among the documents recovered from Dongon, when he eluded arrest by authorities in Marawi City, was a certification of a drug test he took from the Mehakans Drug Testing Center, located at the Integrated Bus and Jeepney Terminal (IBJT) Building, in barangay Maloro, Tangub City, which only proves that he has freely entered Misamis Occidental, Bawayan said.

“His picture is now posted in commercial establishments, city malls/eateries, piers, bus terminals, public markets, and other public places, and in the social media, so his presence in the city can be reported to the OCPS, either by calling telephone nos. 521-2201/586-0211/166 or through email:,” the OCPS chief said.

Hundreds join Basilan walk for justice, peace in tribute to Fallen 44

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 16): Hundreds join Basilan walk for justice, peace in tribute to Fallen 44

ISABELA CITYCarrying candles, streamers, and balloons, hundreds of people walked around Isabela City proper last February 5 and converged at the city plaza for an interfaith prayer rally, calling for justice and peace.

The people of Basilan expressed their sympathies to the men and women of the 54th PNP-Special Action Force in Basilan whose comrades perished in the bloody “misencounter” at Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Led by religious leaders and the City Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar, the people offered prayers and sympathies in silence.

As the government is under intense scrutiny owing to different public opinions, which are now taking toll on the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad has called on the public to exercise calm and sobriety.

“We are here because we are for peace, we love peace, and we want to live in peace and harmony. Our country is experiencing misunderstanding. We are not at peace because of the painful death of the SAF 44 in Mamasapano,” the Bishop said as he prayed for healing of broken hearts.

The bishop reminded the people: “We belong to one God, although we call Him in different names. We are brothers and sisters. We should not be killing each other.”

Pastor Ronald Paulino of the United Evangelical Church also prayed for unity and for Divine intervention to touch the hearts of the people “which are enveloped in anger and to overcome the pain but never fading in the quest for peace.”

Dr. Abdulkhair Tarazon of the Basilan Ulama Supreme Council also prayed for God’s guidance towards the path to peace, justice, and truth.

In her message, Mayor Cherry Akbar said, “We don’t have to be in Bicutan to feel the pain of the mothers, wives, families and children of the Fallen SAF 44.”

Speaking in Filipino, the mayor recalled how her heart was devastated when she visited the bodies of the SAF, as most of those perished in Mamasapano were formerly assigned in Isabela City, assisting in keeping the city peaceful.

She was distraught to have learned upon visiting the coffins when 16 of the 44 are unrecognizable because of the brutality suffered in the hands of perpetrators at Mamasapano. Almost half are in closed casket.

“Where is human rights here?” she asked, lamenting that whenever soldiers or government security forces suffered brutal killings like beheadings and lacerations, nobody from the human rights came up to condemn. “Is human rights only for the rebels and civilians?” she lamented.

“Sila na ang nagbuwis ng buhay para sa kapayapaan, sila pa ang sinisi sa kanilang kamatayan (They have offered their lives for peace, yet they were blamed for their death),” the mayor said.

She said that it is saddening that certain people have the attitude of blaming others in times of failures, but in times of victory everybody wants to take the credit.

PInsp Bernabe A. Chamo Jr, Platoon Leader, 54th Special Action Company, PNP-SAF thanked the constituents of Isabela City and Basilan, all the sectors present at the event for their sympathies and show of support to the PNP-SAF.

He appealed to the public not to forget the heroic acts of the SAF 44 and pass on the next generation about the ideology and sacrifices of the Fallen 44 who has served the country with dedication and honor for peace.

The prayer rally wound up with the candle lighting at the city plaza.

1st Cavalry Squadron conducts cleanup drive in Tukuran town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 17): 1st Cavalry Squadron conducts cleanup drive in Tukuran town

TUKURAN, Zamboanga del Sur -- Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with their respective families on Saturday, the officers and men of the 1st Cavalry Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army (PA) conducted a cleanup drive in barangay Lower Bayao here to show love for our environment.

Civil-Military Operations Officer Capt. Mae Budlong said the event was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or “Bayanihan”. “It also aims to engage all sectors in addressing environmental issues,” she added.

Budlong said the 1st Cavalry Squadron under the leadership of the newly installed battalion commander Lt. Col. Charlemagne Batayola Jr. had conducted the said activity to help protect, preserve and sustain the environment by joining and supporting environmental campaigns.

“These simple acts of community service can very well serve the residents of the barangay,” she stressed.

For her part, Barangay Captain Esnaira Chavez expressed her gratitude that the cleanup drive was held in her barangay.

“Nalipay ako nga kini nga kalihokan gihimo dinhi sa among barangay aron dili lamang malimpyo ang palibot sa among beach kung dili among mahimamat usab ang mga sundalo nga nagpasiugda ning maong kalihokan . Una kini nga higayon nga naay grupo sa mga nagpakabanang tawo nga naghimo ug clean up drive dinhi sa among dapit,” Chavez said.
(I am happy that this activity was held in our barangay not only to make our beach clean but mingle with the soldiers initiating it. This is the first time that a group of dedicated persons conducted a cleanup drive in our place.)

Cadet Colonel Willy Bucol said he participated in the cleanup activity because it is his personal commitment to help the Philippine Army in its environmental preservation and conservation programs.

“Miapil ko sa clean up drive dili tungod kay required kini sa among ROTC Military Science subject apan ako kini nga commitment nga makatabang sa Philippine Army sa ilang environmental preservation and conservation programs (I join the clean up drive not because it is required in our ROTC Military Science subject but it is my commitment to help the Philippine Army in their environmental preservation and conservation programs),” Bucol said.

Bucol led the 19 ROTC cadets in assisting the 1st Cavalry Squadron members in the clean up drive.

The activity is in collaboration with the barangay officials, 1st Field Artillery Battalion, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets of Western Mindanao University-External Studies Unit (WMSU-ESU).

NorCot cops arrest MILF member, tanod for illegal drug possession

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): NorCot cops arrest MILF member, tanod for illegal drug possession

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato -– Police authorities here arrested Tuesday a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a former village watchman for possession of an unlicensed gun and prohibited substance.

Supt. Reynante Delos Santos, Midsayap police chief, identified the arrested persons as Kanda Taeb, 25, a member of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces based on his identification card and Pepe Salang, 27, former Barangay Tanod (village watchman), both residents of Barangay Nalin, an outskirt village of Midsayap near the borders with Datu Piang town in Maguindanao.

Delos Santos said the two were arrested based on a search warrant issued by a local court for illegal drug pushing.

Acting on a tip from a villager, Delos Santos led a team of police officers and raided the house of Salang early Tuesday morning. The two did not resist arrest.

“We have received an A-1 information so we immediately proceeded to Barangay Nalin,” Delos Santos told reporters.

The raiding team seized four sachets of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as “shabu” and “bato” and shabu paraphernalia.

Delos Santos said the raiding team also seized an unlicensed cal. 45 pistol with 10 bullets from the suspect.

Delos Santos said the duo, now detained at Midsayap PNP lock up cell, have been charged with violation of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2000.

MILF, BIFF clashes force class suspension in Maguindanao, NorCot villages

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 18): MILF, BIFF clashes force class suspension in Maguindanao, NorCot villages

PAGALUNGAN, Maguindanao -- The armed conflict between warring Moro rebels and bandit groups in the border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato have also caused suspension of classes in several public elementary and high schools.

Reports gathered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) showed that since Monday, classes have been suspended in villages of Pagalungan, Maguindanao when Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) clashed in the village of Kalbugan.

Classes were suspended in Sapakan Elementary School, Buliok Elementary School, Kalbugan Elementary School, Balongis Elementary School, Buliok National High School and Balongis National High School.

Even classes in the Poblacion of Pagalungan were suspended as schools were turned into evacuation centers of more than 15,000 individuals coming from four outskirt villages.

In nearby Pikit, North Cotabato, classes were also suspended in Kabasalan Elementary School, Bulol Elementary School, Buliok Elementary and High Schools after civilians deserted their communities.

ARMM-HEART personnel are now busy attending to the needs of displaced families while personnel from North Cotabato Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) have conducted separate relief operations in at least six evacuation centers in Pagalungan and Pikit, respectively.

The local governments of Pagalungan has initially distributed relief goods to some 1,200 families. Each family received rice, noodles, canned goods and relief items.

About 1,780 families or more than 9,000 individuals from Pikit villages have been given relief items from the North Cotabato provincial government, according to PDRRMC chair Cynthia Ortega.

IDPs from Pikit's eight villages situated in the borders with Maguidnanao are now housed in Mahad School and Fort Pikit evacuation center.

MILF and BIFF clashes erupted Saturday last week due to long standing family feud involving MILF Commander Jack Abas and BIFF leader Kagi Karialan.

Four MILF, including Commander Falcon were killed while another two BIFF members also died in the sporadic skirmishes in the Maguindanao marshland.

Fearing large scale war between warring armed groups, thousands of civilians fled since Sunday.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the Army secured the civilians but did not interfere in the armed conflict.

As the number of displaced families continue to rise, the Maguindanao provincial health office (IPHO) immediately conducted psycho-social debriefing to children IDPs in Pagalungan.

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, Maguindanao health chief, said his office has prioritized the children "because they are the most vulnerable during war and armed conflict" even as other health personnel conduct medical outreach program in evacuation centers.

"Children easily traumatized by wars, sounds of gunshots would quickly create fear among children in conflict areas," Sulaik said.

"Our health workers and psychologists are talking to children in evacuation centers, asking them to tell stories, how they feel and what they want," Sulaik said, adding that it aims to unburden the children of fear and anxiety.

Sulaik said of the almost 9,000 individuals displaced in Pagalungan, about 60 percent were children.

Sulaik also explained that children as young as 5 and below do not understand what was happening and why they are in evacuation sites and not in schools or their homes.

"It is difficult to explain to these children the event happening around them. Their parents have more things to do that to carefully explain to their children what is happening around and why they are fleeing. So, our staff will tell stories for their children," Sulaik said.

Sulaik's team also distributed toothbruses, toothpaste and sanitary kits to each families as they are vulnerable to health problems in a filled, overcrowded and unsanitary environment in evacuation center.

"Our medical mission is continuing because we want to show to these people that government exists and ready to help them in times like these," Sulaik told reporters.