Tuesday, March 10, 2015

64,600 flee Army, BIFF clashes in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 10): 64,600 flee Army, BIFF clashes in Maguindanao

... Relief supplies to run out after a month, say local authorities

GOING AFTER BIFF  Army troops arrive in Pikit, North Cotabato province, on Feb. 25, 2015, after Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff, ordered an “all-out” operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members have been attacking communities in the province since last week. Government forces have killed 73 Moro rebels, including one described as “foreign-looking” who may be among terror suspects sought by the United States, the military said on Monday, March 10. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

GOING AFTER BIFF Army troops arrive in Pikit, North Cotabato province, on Feb. 25, 2015, after Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff, ordered an “all-out” operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members have been attacking communities in the province since last week. Government forces have killed 73 Moro rebels, including one described as “foreign-looking” who may be among terror suspects sought by the United States, the military said on Monday, March 10. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

After two weeks of fighting in the province of Maguindanao, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said 64,600 people have fled their homes and have been staying in evacuation centers. Local authorities have warned that if the fighting lasts for more than a month, evacuation centers would run low in relief goods and other supplies.

ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) said the fighting between Army soldiers and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has already affected 11 municipalities in the province displacing about 12,920 families.

In the town of Shariff Saydona Mustapha, 1,864 families were displaced while around 2,637 families evacuated in Mamasapano town.

 ARMM-HEART also documented 2,119 families displaced in Datu Salibo while at least 1,373 families fled in Shariff Aguak.

In Datu Saudi Ampatuan, 1,062 families were displaced and 939 families evacuated in Guindulungan.

Humanitarian responders were also able to document 1,195 families displaced in Talayan and 712 families fleeing in Talitay.

ARMM HEART added that 175 families evacuated in Datu Unsay and 589 families were displaced in Datu Anggal Midtimbang.

Meanwhile, around 255 families from Mamasapano town have fled and taken temporary shelter in the nearby municipality of Rajah Buayan.

The regional government is continuing its relief efforts and it is set to send in fresh batches of relief and food rations on Wednesday.

 ARMM executive secretary Laisa Alamia said that the regional government’s humanitarian response has been following the standards of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in delivering relief goods, which has a value of P450 per food pack.

“Every time there’s a displacement, we follow the DSWD standards at P450/food pack, excluding logistical and operational expenses,” Alamia said.

The food pack consists of rice, instant noodles and canned sardines and is being distributed per family.

Each food pack is expected to provide food for 3-4 days per family.

Based on the budget of P450 per family pack, the government needs at least P1,938,000 per day just for the food supplies of the displaced residents.

Alamia earlier said the regional government would work hard to provide the needs of the evacuees but with the recent figures of displaced residents, they might run low in supplies if the conflict would last for more than a month.


AFP extends all-out offensive vs. BIFF for another 3 days

From GMA News (Mar 11): AFP extends all-out offensive vs. BIFF for another 3 days

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday extended for another three more days its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In a text message to GMA News Online, AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said AFP chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered another extension for the clearing operations in the affected areas.
"Due to ongoing operations and the objective has not yet been accomplished," Cabunoc said when asked why the all-out campaign against the BIFF was extended again.
This is the third extension since the military announced that it was set to end its all-out offensives against BIFF members last week.
At the same time, Cabunoc said they are still verifying the location and condition of Filipino bomb maker and Abu Sayyaf member Basit Usman.
2 Marines killed
On the other hand, Army's 6th Infantry Division public affairs officer Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said two members of the Philippine Marines were killed in an encounter with the BIFF from 4 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday.
Petinglay, however, declined to identify the Marine fatalities while their family has yet to be informed.
She added that clearing operations are ongoing at in the so-called SPMS (Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak) Box, an area believed to be a stronghold of the BIFF.
Petinglay, however, could not say the number of casualties on the rebel side.
"Inaalam pa namin," she said.
On Tuesday, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said government troops may be closing in on the members of the BIFF as fighting continues to intensify in Maguindanao.
Kakilala said government troops may have cornered the rebels in Barangay Pusao in Shariff Saydona town in Maguindanao.
The campaign against the BIFF was launched following the bloody Jan. 25 clash between elite commandos from the PNP-Special Action Force and combatants from both the MILF and BIFF in Mamasapano town. The clash left 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters and five civilians dead.
The target of the police operation was to arrest suspect Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman. Marwan was believed to have been killed during the operation but Usman managed to escape.

'BIFF mortars, not AFP artillery, destroyed Maguindanao houses' - military

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): 'BIFF mortars, not AFP artillery, destroyed Maguindanao houses' - military

Mortar fire from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, not military artillery, destroyed houses in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Wednesday.

Reacting to complaints by residents of Elian in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs chief, quoted reports from units involved in the ongoing “all-out” offensive against the BIFF that “when they were approaching the said community, the BIFF bombarded them with mortar fire, hitting the said houses.”

He also said field reports showed “the adjacent house where the alleged artillery fire occurred remains intact, a sign that the damage could not have been caused by a 105mm (howitzer shell) high explosive blast.”

Cabunoc said the AFP has declared civilian communities “no fire areas,” meaning no high explosive munitions, whether from the ground or the air, can be used there.

Nevertheless, he said, 6th Infantry Division commander, Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, “has ordered a civil military operations battalion to assess the reported damage and to extend assistance in repairing houses” as he assured that the AFP would “adhere to the rules of engagement and the provisions of International Humanitarian Law to ensure that civilians are protected during the conduct of law enforcement operations.”


OPAPP implements project for MILF in Zambo City (Mayor says city gov’t was not informed)

From the Zambaonga Today Online (Mar 11): OPAPP implements project for MILF in Zambo City (Mayor says city gov’t was not informed)

The tables have been turned on the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) when Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco accused them of non-coordination on matters pertaining to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The matter referred to by Climaco was the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program (SBP), a project of the  national government providing livelihood programs to MILF communities which had been started in the city of Zamboanga in the year 2013.
In her statement to the OPAPP, Climaco said that there are no MILF communities in Zamboanga city who could become beneficiaries of the program.
“There may be individuals sympathetic to the MILF, but we would like to emphasize that there is no ‘MILF community’ nor do we recognize one in the city,” stated a letter sent by Climaco to Senen Bacani, Peace Negotiating Panel member.
Climaco sent the letter last March 5 after learning about the SBP’s Cash for Work Program being implemented in the city, specifically in barangay Tulungatung.
Climaco also stated that although the project had been started even before the 2013 Zamboanga siege, “that ill-fated incident has left unhealed wounds and scars in the hearts and minds of Zamboanguenos.  The presence of groups or individuals purportedly belonging to the MNLF or MILF ushers anxieties, trepidations, and unsettles tranquility in the city.”
In a letter dated March 4 sent by Bacani to Climaco, the former admitted that there had been no coordination between their office and the local government of Zamboanga prior to the implementation of the SBP.
“It was an oversight on our part to not formally inform the city government of our activities.  We presumed it was alright as policemen from the City accompanied us,” the letter stated.
Bacani vowed to coordinate with the local government of Zamboanga on future national government programs.
It will be recalled that the bloody Mamasapano incident where 44 personnel of the SAF figured in an encounter with MILF troops was attributed to lack of coordination between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Bacani defined the SBP as a project of the Office of the President directly agreed between President Benigno S. Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ibrahim which commits to deliver health, education, livelihood services to priority MILF communities and targeted individual beneficiaries that focus on quick gestation, high impact and social protection type of programs.
It also has a Cash for Work program component in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the MILF Project Management Team.
The PMT has seven regional offices, including the Zamboanga and Basilan Regional Project Management Team aimed towards coordinating and facilitating ground activities.
In the year 2013, prior to the Zamboanga siege, the Zambas team submitted a list of prospective 100 Cash for Work beneficiaries residing in the barangays of Baliwasan, Cawit, Sta Catalina, Recodo and Campo Islam.
Campo Islam was later changed to barangay Tulungatung after finding out that most of the beneficiaries reside in the area.
On February 17 this year, an orientation on the Cash-for-Work program was held at barangay Tulungatung after a courtesy call to its barangay captain Jojo del Rosario.

Marine police only listened to news of skirmish via walkie-talkie, court told

From the Borneo Post (Mar 11): Marine police only listened to news of skirmish via walkie-talkie, court told

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here was told yesterday that a team of marine police personnel kept abreast with the development of a skirmish between the security forces and Sulu intruders as it was happening at Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu on March 1, 2013 through a walkie-talkie.

Team leader, acting ASP Abdul Aziz Husin, said they heard that a skirmish had erupted in Kampung Tanduo at about 6am on March 1, 2013, about four hours after setting out on a PA16 patrol boat to patrol the waters off Felda Sahabat 16.

“At that time, we were about two nautical miles off Kampung Tanduo,” he added. Asked by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar if he had taken any action upon hearing about the skirmish, Abdul Aziz said no action was action.

“We continued with our patrol and monitoring operation at sea and heard the developments of the skirmish via the walkie-talkie,” he said when testifying in the trial of 30 individuals linked to the intrusion at Kampung Tanduo two years ago.

The police officer also told the court that the operation he was assigned to carry out with eight other marine police personnel on board the PA16 patrol boat ended on March 10, 2013.

The following day, Abdul Aziz said he was instructed to carry out another patrol and monitoring operation with five other marine police personnel on board a PSC5 patrol boat.

To another question by Mohd Dusuki, he said he received information at 8.35am on the second day of his second assignment from the Marine Police Operations Room that the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) had detained a man about 2.5 nautical miles off Kampung Tanduo.

He said his team was then instructed to pick up the man who was being detained on board the RMN vessel.

“We went to the location of the RMN vessel at 8.40am and arrived at the location at about 9.20am.

“I, together with two personnel, went on board the RMN vessel and met with its executive officer,” he added.

Abdul Aziz said the executive officer handed over the man, a wet black backpack containing clothing, a shabby dugout boat with an oar and a boarding form.

“As far as I can remember, the boarding form stated the name of the executive officer, location of arrest, date and the name of the detained man,” he said.

Abdul Aziz identified the man as Ismail Yasin, one of the accused in the case.

He told the court that he brought Ismail with the seized backpack and the boarding form, as well as the boat with its oar, back to Felda Sahabat 16.

He said the accused with the seized bag and the boarding form were then brought to the Cenderawasih police station where he also lodged a police report on the arrest, while the boat and its oar were left at the General Operations Force post at Felda Sahabat 16.

In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group, waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, recruiting members for a terrorist group or wilfully harbouring individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.

They allegedly committed the offences between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.

The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung continues today at the Sabah Prisons Department. — Bernama


Terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group suffered bigtime this 2015

From Ang Malaya (Mar 11): Terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group suffered bigtime this 2015

Armed Forces of the Philippines reports that government forces sustained its operational momentum against the dreaded Abu Sayyaf bandits through relentless combat missions this year.

Since the start of 2015, 37 ASG bandits were killed and 80 others were wounded in combat operations. In contrast, 27 bandits were killed and 38 others were wounded the whole year last year.

“The increase in figures yielded this year can be attributed to the intensified operations that were implemented through the Joint Task Group-Sulu headed by Col Alan Arrojado,” AFP said in a statement.

Also this year, four kidnap victims namely Hadjan Perong, Michelle Panes, Zakia Aliep, and Eljon Marzo were freed. Five hostages were released in 2014 including foreigners Lorenzo Vinciguerra, Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen.

Gains against the lawless ASG, however, sacrificed seven soldiers and wounded 50 while performing their sworn duties. The AFP and the Philippine National Police in partnership with local government units commit to address the social issues that caused the existence of the Abu Sayyaf Group and at the same time continue their relentless joint law enforcement operations.


The ‘lost’ guns of Mamapasano

From the PCIJ Blog (Mar 10): The ‘lost’ guns of Mamapasano

THE MILITARY and police forces in the Philippines may be notorious for being perennially ill-equipped, but the same cannot be said for the Special Action Force (SAF) units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that clashed with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

Unfortunately, having top-grade weapons were not enough to have the SAF emerge from battle with little or no fatalities. Many of the SAF’s expensive arms and military gear are also now believed to be in the hands of unfriendly forces.

Indeed, according to the list submitted by acting PNP-SAF chief, Supt. Noli Taliño, to the PNP director for logistics, the lost pieces of SAF equipment range from thousands of rounds of bullets to ceramic plates that were inserted inside tactical vests, to a variety of firearms, including machineguns.

These were “…believed to be carted away by members of the MILF during the recent encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao,” read the first part of the memorandum submitted by Taliño. The MILF or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, however, has said that aside from its fighters, there were other groups in battle with the SAF troopers that day.

With a bill proposing the creation of a Bangsamoro under deliberation in Congress, the MILF and the Philippine government were and are still supposed to be observing a ceasefire. The SAF, meanwhile, were trying to carry out a mission to eliminate known terrorists Akmad Batabol Usman (also known as Basit Usman) and Zulfikli Bin Hir, alias Marwan.

The Philippine constabulary guard with shore party of Hubert A. Paton. Off the Pathfinder", Philippines, 1926 from the Historic Coast & Geodetic Survey (C&GS) Collection, NOAA Photo Library.
The Philippine constabulary guard with shore party of Hubert A. Paton. Off the Pathfinder”, Philippines, 1926 from the Historic Coast & Geodetic Survey (C&GS) Collection. The first SAF unit was composed of grizzled veterans from the PC Long Range Patrol, a special unit created during the time of Marcos. NOAA Photo Library.

Theb3327“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.
Usman is Filipino and Marwan a Malaysian.

Marwan was killed in the operation while Usman, reportedly wounded, remains at large. What happened after Marwan was killed is among the points of inquiry still being explored by the board the PNP formed to look into the matter. Although it is now public knowledge that a firefight soon broke out between the SAF commandos and MILF fighters, crucial details about the operation remain unknown.

FORMER PRESIDENT FIDEL V. RAMOS: 'The people are tired of constant political bickering' | Photo by Jay Directo
FORMER PRESIDENT FIDEL V. RAMOS was chief of the PC when the SAF was formed | Photo by Jay Directo

PNP-SAF troopers are trained for urban counter-terrorism and military operations in urban terrain or MOUT. The SAF’s missions as outlined in its official webpage include conducting operations as a rapid deployment force “anywhere in the country specifically in situations with national and international implications.”

Among its other missions are hostage rescue, commando-type unconventional warfare, search and rescue, and civil-disturbance management during national emergencies.

Formed during the latter years of the Marcos dictatorship, the SAF assumed anti-coup roles under President Corazon Aquino, whose term was rocked by coup attempts from the military. In the late 1980s, the SAF was also deployed to perform counter-insurgency roles.

In October 2003, the SAF teamed up with the Philippine military and arrested Taufik Refke, reportedly the second-highest ranking leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah in the Philippines.

The SAF was also credited for putting an end to a 2005 takeover of the Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Bicutan, Taguig City, by leaders of the Abu Sayyaf group detained there.
Among those killed were Nadzimie Sabtulah, alias Commander Global, Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot, and Alhamser Limbong, alias Commander Kosovo.

More recently, the SAF took part in operations against members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who attacked Zamboanga City in September 2013.

SAF commandos were in the thick of the urban battle that lasted three weeks and claimed the lives of more than 20 government troopers, some 200 rebels, and at least a dozen civilians.

Two SAF companies – the 55th and the 84th – were the key units tasked to deal with Usman and Marwan in Mamasapano last January. The 84th or the Seaborne Unit had been trained by the U.S. military and was the assault force that raided Marwan’s hut.

The 55th Unit, meanwhile, was supposed to be the blocking force. Media accounts say the clash between the SAF commandos and MILF members raged for hours – from dawn to early afternoon of January 25.

By the time the sounds of gunfire ceased, at least 69 people lay dead, including eight civilians. Some 17 MILF fighters were also killed, as well as 44 SAF commandos.Most of the SAF troopers killed belonged to the 55th Unit, which had only one of its 36 members left alive.

That the SAF commandos managed to last that long could probably be traced to their stellar training, as well as to their being well-equipped.

SOME of the firearms of the slain SAF44 returned to the government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process | Photo by OPAPP
SOME of the firearms of the slain SAF44 returned to the government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process | Photo by OPAPP

The latter is evident in the SAF’s “lost items” list, which is composed of 10 categories: rifles, crew-served weapons, grenade launchers, recoilless rifles, handguns, special equipment, communication equipment, ordnance, and magazines.

Of the 36 rifles that the PNP has listed as “lost”, 27 are Special Operations Assault Rifles (SOAR) produced by Ferfrans, a U.S.-based company. These rifles are chambered for the 5.56-caliber ammunition, similar to the ones being used for the M16 automatic rifle, and are designed for close-quarter combat.


Of the eight other rifles, four are for sniping – two Savage Gen 2 and two Savage Gen 3 – while the four others are for assault. An assault rifle is a firearm designed to kill many people in the shortest time possible. With only one squeeze of a trigger, it can fire many bullets. Common examples of the assault rifle used by the military are the US M16 and the Russian AK-47.

Sniper rifles are more accurate guns that can destroy targets at longer ranges. Some modern sniper rifles can hit targets at a range of more than 1.6 kms.

Four crew-served weapons, commonly known as machineguns, were also declared lost. These were two M60 light machineguns and two Israeli-made Negev LMG.

AN EXAMPLE of a machinegun | Photo from wikipedia.com
AN EXAMPLE of a machinegun | Photo from wikipedia.com

Machine guns like the Negev and the M60 are called crew-served weapons because they require more than one soldier to operate. These can continue to fire at a rate of 500 to 1,000 rounds per minute as long as the trigger is squeezed. Firing faster than rifles, machine guns are best used to defend a position or to provide covering fire as troops advance on a target.

The PNP-SAF also lost 9mm-caliber handguns, eight of which are Glock 17 models, 10 Ferfrans grenade launchers, which fire the 40mm caliber cartridges as well as a 90mm recoilless rifle that is described as a type of lightweight artillery.

SOAR RIFLE with M203 | Photo from www.ferfrans.net

Missing as well are 20 hand grenades, 150 40mm ammunitions — the ones fired from an M203 — and eight 90RR ammo. (The M203 fires grenades more accurately and at longer distances compared to a grenade thrown by a soldier.)

In addition, at least 638 pistol and rifle magazines were lost, 523 of which are for M16 rifles, along with a lot of bullets – some 24,000 rounds of 5.56-caliber ball ammunition, nearly 4,000 rounds of linked 5.56, more than 5,000 rounds of 9-mm bullets, and at least 1,500 rounds of SS109 caliber 5.56 with steel penetrator tips were also lost.

The U.S. government is reportedly planning to ban the SS109, also known as “green tip” ammunition, because it can pierce a police officer’s protective vest when fired from a handgun. It is described in gun forums as designed for increased penetration in longer ranges.

AIMING LIGHT or illuminator mounted on top of a rifle | Photo from wikipedia.com
AIMING LIGHT or illuminator mounted on top of a rifle | Photo from wikipedia.com

The SAF troopers had mounted PEQ 2 illuminators on their rifles, aiming lights used along with night-vision googles for operating in darkness. Twelve of these were reported lost, along with sound suppressors or silencers. The list, however, did not indicate if these were for pistols or rifles.

Ten handheld radio sets are also on the “lost” list, six with the Harris brand and four Motorolas.

Many of the SAF troopers were wearing ceramic plates inserted in their tactical vests. The list shows that while 79 of the plates were lost, only four tactical vests were declared missing by the SAF.

According to a former military officer interviewed by PCIJ, SAF troopers could have dropped their plates during the fighting.

An online check of available ceramic plates showed that it could weigh between two kgs to seven kgs. All these amount to millions of pesos.

Each of the SOAR alone costs around P118,000 based on published reports of government estimates in announcing the purchase of rifles last year.

This means the lost SOARs are worth some P3.2 million in all. The Negev machineguns cost at least P450,000 each, while a Level 4 ceramic plate could cost from $145 to $999 (P6,500 to P45,000). Level 4 is the highest protection level currently available for plates.

The government has demanded that MILF return any weapons its members got from the SAF troopers. So far, MILF has returned at least 16 firearms to the government.


Abu Sayyaf kidnaps teacher in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Abu Sayyaf kidnaps teacher in Sulu

Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a teacher in a village of Indanan, Sulu Tuesday evening amid a continuing military offensive against the extremist group.

Reports reaching Camp Crame said Allyn Madjid Abdurajak, 44, was riding a motorcycle on her way home to Barangay Kajatian when it was waylaid around 6:10 p.m. by two gunmen who used the same vehicle to flee with their victim.


Sagada villagers decry NPA’s disregard of peace zone status

From the Baguio Midland Courier (Mar 11): Sagada villagers decry NPA’s disregard of peace zone status

One of the biggest organizations of Sagada people residing in Baguio condemned the supposed disregard by the New People’s Army of the town’s status as a peace zone.

Cordillera police reported Thursday the Banga-an Fidelisan Tanulong Madongo Pide and Aguid Association (BFTMPAA) in Baguio and its suburbs passed a resolution condemning the shooting of SPO3 Wilfredo Degay by the NPA in Poblacion, Sagada on Feb. 2.

Also condemned in the resolution was the ambush of personnel of the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion at Pegeo, Tetep-an, Sagada on Nov. 30, 2014, which it claimed is clear indifference of the NPA to the clamor for peace and ceasefire.

The attempt on the life of Degay came in the midst of the national mourning for the 44 fallen members of the PNP Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

The resolution of condemnation was approved on Feb. 22, according to the report of the Cordillera police.

In the resolution of BFTMPAA chaired by Jose Ngina, the group appealed to the Sagada local government unit “to forcefully assert the peace zone status of Sagada by publishing an official statement and condemnation of the shooting of SPO3 Degay.”

The resolution also hopes for the enforcement of the implementing structure and sanctioning mechanism pursuant to a peace zone resolution adopted in November 1988.

Since 1988, Sagada has been declared as a peace zone,  both government forces and the NPA vowing to respect the town as off-limits to combat.

It also requested the Sagada LGU to assist the northern barangays of Sagada to effectively enforce the Feb. 25, 2010 agreement by identifying those who feed and provide refuge to the NPA and other armed groups and impose appropriate sanction as provided in their respective barangay resolutions.

“PRO-Cordillera fully supports the approved resolution condemning the total disregard by NPA members of the status of Sagada as a peace Zone,” the regional police command said in a press statement.


Abducted Sulu teacher freed after ‘negotiations’

From GMA News (Mar 11): Abducted Sulu teacher freed after ‘negotiations’

A Sulu teacher who was abducted Tuesday was released before dawn Wednesday, after "negotiations" by her relatives, local police said.

Teacher Allyn Muksan Abdurajak, 44, was released at about 3:30 a.m., GMA News stringer Peewee Bacuño reported.

Citing a report from the Sulu provincial police, Bacuño said Abdurajak, a high school teacher of the Jolo School of Fisheries, was released safely to her immediate family in Barangay Kajatian in Indanan town.

An initial investigation showed the teacher was abducted by two armed men Tuesday evening.

It was not immediately clear if ransom was paid for her release.


AFP recovers ‘BIFF of the MILF’-shirts in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Mar 10): AFP recovers ‘BIFF of the MILF’-shirts in Maguindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which has gone on an offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, has recovered clothing which alleges collusion between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the BIFF.

GMA 7 news program “24 Oras” reported on Tuesday that t-shirts recovered from encounter sites had “BIFF of the MILF” printed on them. MILF uniforms were also recovered.

[Video report: All-out Offensive]

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the clothing did not necessarily prove that the BIFF and MILF were working together. “Kung mayroon mang nakikitang uniforms ng MILF diyan it's possible na suot suot ng BIFF 'yung uniform ng MILF or nabili niya. Hindi natin alam, hindi natin masabi sa ngayon kung bakit may MILF uniform doon pero hindi nakapagtataka,” Petinglay said.

The BIFF is made up of former MILF commands which broke away after the MILF continued to participate in a peace process with the Philippine government.

Meanwhile, the AFP said they had retrieved DNA samples from the corpse of a BIFF fighter who could be Singaporean terrorist Muhammad Ali, who also goes by the alias Muawiyah. The BIFF fighter was killed last Sunday.

The AFP also said that the BIFF was running out of food and ammunition because of the offensive, which began last February 27.

Philippine security forces went on the offensive in response to the January 25 Mamasapano clash, in which 44 police commandos were allegedly killed by MILF and BIFF gunmen.


Photo: Two women cadets

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 11): Photo: Two women cadets

Two women cadets belonging to the Philippine Military Academy ‘s “Sinaglahi” class of 2015, Carolina Nacion (right), fifth in the top ten of the graduating class, and Julaiza Camposano, who was given an athletic saber and a leadership award, pose for a photograph during the celebration of International Women’s Month. Dave Leprozo


New Chinese reclamation projects ‘as big as malls’

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 11): New Chinese reclamation projects ‘as big as malls’

China’s reclamation projects in Cuarteron (Calderon) and Gaven (Burgos) reefs are as big as the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, one of the biggest malls in Southeast Asia, Defense spokesman Peter Galvez said.

Galvez said new reclamation projects in Mischief (Panganiban) and Subi (Zamora) reefs in the disputed Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) have also been confirmed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Galvez said the structures in Cuarteron and Gaven have even earned the moniker “Mall of KIG.”

“(The reclamation) is causing a lot of apprehension. We know that they are drilling, but what is it for? The mere fact that you are building infrastructure that is potentially security in nature is alarming,” he said.

“You can assume there is high-tech equipment involved. What’s stopping them from declaring another ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) in the area?” Galvez added.

Beijing’s ADIZ in the East China Sea, which requires aircraft to provide flight plans when traversing the area, covers disputed Tokyo-controlled islands – known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

“They (China) are literally rocking the boat in the West Philippine Sea. They are destroying the marine eco-system in the area. Their words that they are for freedom of navigation are contrary to their actions,” Galvez said.

“China should dismantle all these structures,” he added.

Galvez said there are more than a dozen Chinese ships in the disputed areas within the West Philippine Sea, which he said “increase the chances of untoward incidents.”

Over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the reclamation projects in disputed territories are necessary as he insisted that these areas are well within China’s jurisdiction.

“We are not like some countries which have carried out illegal building in other people’s home, and we won’t accept unwarranted remarks about work on our own home,” he said in a press conference in Beijing.

On February 4, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China for its massive land reclamation in Mischief Reef.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Mischief Reef “is a low tide elevation in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and on its continental shelf.”


Elite teams sent out to find Basit Usman

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 11): Elite teams sent out to find Basit Usman

SKILLED snipers and close-quarter combatants have been sent to pursue the bomber Abdul Basit Usman and some foreign terror suspects being protected by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), military officials said Tuesday.

“The fleeing terrorists and their BIFF coddlers have splintered into small groups but our combat boots on ground quickly adapted to their escape and evasion tactics by inserting our elite forces to relentlessly hunt them,” said Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, Armed Forces spokesman.

“We will not let them rest until they are cornered and captured. Fresh troops will be coming in from time to time to keep them away from seeking sanctuary in civilian communities,” he added.

Kakilala said there were some skirmishes Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Barangay Pusao, Mamasapano with small BIFF groups but no casualties have been reported so far.

“According to our ground commanders, these skirmishes showed strong resistance from the enemy, which make them believe that Usman and his foreign cohorts were still in the area and the BIFF is protecting and defending them. While close-quarter battles continue, our infantry were sealing possible escape routes of the enemy as our elite forces are penetrating the target areas,” Kakilala said.

The second three-day extension for the all-out offensive launched by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan against the BIFF and Usman’s group was set to expire Tuesday midnight.

But Pangilinan said pursuit operations will continue to keep the BIFF fighters and the terrorists from taking refuge in civilian communities.

He said all possible supply routes going to areas where the BIFF and the terrorists were in hiding have already been sealed.

The groups on the run include those of Kagi Karialan, chief of staff of BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato; Mohammad Ali Tambako, Kato’s nephew, who formed his own Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) with a handful of followers, and a certain commander Bungos.

Kakilala said forensic experts of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were doing cross matching of the serial numbers of the high-powered firearms that were taken from the slain BIFF fighters Saturday in Shariff Saydona.

Kakilala said it was possible that these came from the 44 Special Action Force police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano on Jan. 25.

On Saturday, government troops recovered an M60 machine gun and two M14 rifles.
Since the Army launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF, 73 of the bandits have been killed and 33 have been wounded. Four were captured. On the government side, four troopers have been killed, and 29 have been wounded.


2015 Nationwide information campaign on West PHL Sea issue begins

From Ang Malaya (Mar 11): 2015 Nationwide information campaign on West PHL Sea issue begins

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Information Agency kicked-off the nationwide information, education and communication campaign on the West Philippine Sea issue in Camp Lapulapu, Cebu City, Cebu.

Approximately a hundred participants including students, national and local government unit representatives, uniformed personnel, and members of press, business and academic communities attended the Multi-Sectoral Forum Tuesday, March 10.

DFA Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles C. Jose briefed participants on the West Philippine Sea Issue. His presentation focused on the core issues, the overarching principles that guide Philippine response to the issues, and the steps that are being undertaken by the Philippine Government to address the disputes.

The Multi-Sectoral Forum on West Philippine Sea is an expanded version of the Special Kapihan ng Mamamayan on the West Philippine Sea which was held last year in the cities of Olongapo, Puerto Princesa and Iloilo. Similar events will be conducted across the country throughout 2015.


Thirty soldiers training in water search, rescue

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 11): Thirty soldiers training in water search, rescue

The Philippine Army in Negros Oriental is continuously upgrading its disaster response skills through various trainings to meet the needs of the current times, Captain Aldwin Cortes of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said.

Cortes said this as 30 soldiers on Tuesday began training on Water Search and Rescue, or WASAR, with the Coast Guard Station in Dumaguete City.

The five-day WASAR training is designed to prepare troops and equip them with knowledge and skills in search and rescue techniques in any type of body of water, Cortes, the brigade’s training officer, said.

The soldiers will train in swimming, survival skills, underwater knot-tying, underwater first-aid and rubber boat and aluminum boat maintenance, among others.

“This is in anticipation (of) possible eventualities, such as calamities, wherein the Philippine Army, in partnership with other agencies, LGUs, and other friendly units in the area will conduct disaster response operations,” Cortes said.

The training is also in preparation for the staging of events for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in the Visayas region this year, with some activities scheduled in nearby Cebu province and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.

This is a secondary objective for the Philippine Army troops to prepare them for possible deployment to ensure the safety and security of the delegates and participants to the APEC activities, Cortes said.

The soldiers undergoing training are all first-timers on search-and-rescue and waterborne operations.

 WASAR Class 01-2015 trainees, who are expected to complete the course on Saturday, are from the maneuver units of the 32nd Division Reconnaissance Company and Headquarters Service Personnel Company of the 302nd Brigade, Cortes said.

Cortes said a mountain-urban search and-rescue operations training will be coordinated with the Provincial Fire Marshall and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

He said that part of the mission of the Philippine Army is to participate in disaster response operations.


2 Marines killed, 5 wounded in battle with BIFF

From Rappler (Mar 11): 2 Marines killed, 5 wounded in battle with BIFF

Fighting continues to rage in central Mindanao as government forces suffer another wave of casualties in their offensive against the BIFF

BIFF LEADER. A file photo of MILF leader Ameril Umra Kato. Photo by Rappler

BIFF LEADER. A file photo of MILF leader Ameril Umra Kato. Photo by Rappler
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (UPDATED) – Two Marine soldiers were killed while 5 others were wounded as intense battles between government troops and the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) continued in central Mindanao.
Marine troopers pursuing the BIFF encountered the rebels at 4 pm on Tuesday, March 10, in the border of Pusaw, a village between the towns of Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Mamasapano in Maguindanao, according to Army Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesman for the military’s 6th Division.
Petinglay said early Wednesday that a Marine trooper under the 2nd Marine Brigade was killed in the fierce fighting.
“Sporadic gun fires can still be heard at the area around 1 am Wednesday,” she said.
She later told reporters another Marine died in the battelfield.
In attacks before this, the military already lost 4 soldiers, including a captain from the Scout Rangers, and saw 13 of its men wounded, among them an Air force pilot.
The military said they have killed at least 73 rebels, wounded 33 of them and captured 4 of their camps.
More than 80,000 people have been displaced in the biggest military campaign here since the signing of the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year. Opposed to the peace process, the BIFF broke away from the MILF.
Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, military commander in central Mindanao, earlier said that among the targets of the offensive launched last February 25 is terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, who managed to get away during the January 25 Special Action Force operation in Mamasapano town that killed Malaysian bomb maker and terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan). The Mamasapano operation however killed 44 SAF commandos, put in peril the peace deal with the MILF and caused the worst crisis for the Aquino administration.
"Basit Usman is still believed to be in the area. We believe the BIFF, this armed, lawless group, are the ones coddling and protecting him," Pangilinan said last week.

De Lima empty-handed after meet with MILF chief

From Rappler (Mar 11): De Lima empty-handed after meet with MILF chief

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima meets for an hour with MILF leader Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at Camp Darapanan

NO ANSWERS FROM MILF. A file photo of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. File photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

NO ANSWERS FROM MILF. A file photo of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. File photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

She asked about the Mamasapano tragedy that killed 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members. The MILF leader responded by saying he has no specific answers because they’re not done with their investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon, March 10, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima met for an hour with MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at Camp Darapanan to discuss what happened in the January 25 Special Action Force (SAF) raid of Mamasapano town, which killed 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF fighters and 3 civilians.

“We asked questions and he answered,” De Lima told reporters after. “Most questions were answered by saying we cannot give you answers on that because [our] investigation is not yet finished,” she said.

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government last year, a move that will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro region that will be more powerful than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This depends however on the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is now in peril in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy. (READ: Top 2 trending lies on the BBL)

The MILF has described the January 25 incident as a "misencounter," noting that government forces broke ceasefire protocols when they entered the area without coordinating with the MILF. But the police and lawmakers said it was an overkill on the part of the rebels.

MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal said Murad stressed during the meeting that only the executive summary of the MILF report will be provided to the DOJ (Department of Justice) through the International Monitoring Team, which is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire between the government and the rebel group.

“It’s a dialogue yesterday. They asked questions and we answered them,” Iqbal said Wednesday, March 11.

“As what we have said before, the full report is internal to us. If the DOJ wants the details or the executive summary, they can have it through the peace panels,” he said.

De Lima said the MILF’s full report is important for her department to have a complete picture of what happened. “We hope we can secure a copy. So we can see their own version on the incident,” De Lima said.

De Lima will visit the site of intense fighting in Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano before heading back to Manila.

Two other bodies are investigating the incident: the police Board of Inquiry and the Senate.

Widows and relatives of the slain SAF commandos also asked the House of Representatives to resume its probe into the incident.


Possible plea bargain raised at pre-trial but Laude family firm Pemberton has to do time - lawyers

From InterAksyon (Mar 10): Possible plea bargain raised at pre-trial but Laude family firm Pemberton has to do time - lawyers

Lawyer Harry Roque, with fellow counsel and members of Jennifer Laude's family, speaks at a press conference following the pre-trial hearing of the charges against US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for the death of the Filipino transgender last October. (photo by Ansbert B. Joaquin, InterAksyon.com)

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines -- The possibility of a plea bargain for US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was taken up during the pre-trial hearing Tuesday of the charges filed against him for the death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

Harry Roque and Evelyn Ursue, the lawyers of the Laude family, stopped short of categorically saying they would not agree to a plea bargain but made it clear their clients want to see Pemberton behind bars.

At a press conference following the hearing, which Pemberton attended, Roque said the introduction of the plea bargain was a new provision of the rules of procedure.

“We are in the process of studying the possibility of having a plea bargain, but the position of the Laude family has not wavered -- we want justice for Jennifer and the whole Filipino nation,” Roque said.

“The Laude family does not agree to any situation wherein the accused will not be punished by incarceration. He has to be punished to serve as a warning to others that, when they are in our territory, they have to abide by the laws of the independent Philippines,” he stressed.

Jennifer’s mother and sister both confirmed they want to see Pemberton jailed for the death of Jennifer, who was found choked to death, her face in the toilet bowl, in the room of the Olongapo lodge where she and the American had checked themselves in the night of October 11 last year.

“What is definite is that Pemberton will be jailed,” another Laude lawyer, Virgie Suarez, said.

“There would be out-of-court talks between prosecutors and accused within the week, but what we can assure you is justice and that Pemberton will definitely be jailed,” she said. “There will be no justice if there will be no incarceration.”

Asked if the accused had made any offers, Roque said there was none.

And in a loud voice, he added, “That is the truth, and we are not asking for anything.”

“What we are demanding is for justice, justice that the laws of the Philippines and its sovereignty should be respected. If anyone violates its laws, he should be punished,” Roque clarified.

“What we mean is that Pemberton should be jailed as a killer. We do not agree to any crime less than that. There will no longer be a repeat of the Smith (case). Itaga ninyo yan sa bato (You can carve that in stone),” Roque said, referring to the 2005 Subic rape case for which another American Marine, Daniel Smith, was initially found guilty.

Although the Makati City trial court had ordered Smith jailed in the local jail, the American was spirited out by Philippine authorities and handed over to the US embassy in Manila. Smith was eventually acquitted in 2009 by the Court of Appeals after his victim issued a statement saying she could not recall the events that transpired four years earlier.

However, Roque would give no direct reply to questions about whether or not the Laude family is willing to enter into a plea bargain agreement, or whether they want Pemberton jailed for the crime of murder or homicide.


Bomb explodes in front of military office in Cotabato City, no one hurt

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Bomb explodes in front of military office in Cotabato City, no one hurt


COTABATO CITY - An improvised bomb was set off by still unidentified men in front of a civil military office of the 6th Infantry Division here Tuesday night.

Nobody was hurt in the 7:30 p.m. blast few meters away from the CMO office at PC Hill, Cotabato City, according to Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Cotabato City police director.

Responding Army and police bomb experts recovered one ounce of C4 bomb component, 9 volts battery and fragmented circuit.

Balquin said the blast was light and it appeared the motive was to sow fear among the residents and passersby.

Police could not say as of yet who was behind the explosion and whether or not it was related to the ongoing military action in Maguindanao.

Balquin has appealed to the city residents to remain vigilant because peace saboteurs could strike anytime or simply sow terror among the residents.


AFP prepares for defense of territory

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): AFP prepares for defense of territory

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intensified the development of concepts and strategies to cope with the fast-developing territorial issues and challenges with the objective of having a credible defense posture in the next few years in line with its Transformation Roadmap.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines Transformation Roadmap or AFPTR is a 15-year strategy that aims to transform the AFP into a strong and credible institution built on good governance,” AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said.

Catapang said the organization has been transforming effectively at all levels and slowly but surely is being complemented by capability-building through the AFP Modernization Program.

After his assumption to power, President Benigno Aquino III approved a total amount of P75 billion to modernize the arsenal of the AFP.

According to AFP spokesman Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala, also commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service (CRS), the AFPTR is the foundation of the organization that must be reinforced from time to time with new concepts, strategies and paradigms.

“It serves as the AFP’s strategy in pursuing reform initiatives within the framework of Security Sector Reform (SSR). It is geared toward two strategic priorities: capability development and professionalization of all ranks,” said Kakilala, also former chief of the AFP’s Office of Special Studies and Strategic Management (OSSSM).

He explained that such capability strategy goes through the lowest level of military unit command where new concepts and paradigms emanate.

“The AFP has been transitioning to territorial defense and the AFPTR is a potent force to guide us to this objective. Without this overall roadmap, we cannot reach our goal to become a world class Armed Forces in the near future,” Kakilala said.


On Monday, newly appointed OSSSM chief Colonel Paterno Morales has presented to Catapang some deserving offices and units that were conferred with AFPTR Plaques of Recognition for initiating concrete steps towards genuine transformation and reform in line with the AFP Transformation Roadmap.

“The set of awardees compose the second wave of military offices and units which will receive recognition for their exemplary efforts of crafting their governance strategy maps and performance scorecards. The Unified Commands and the Major Services (Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Air Force) were given the same recognition during the first ever AFP Governance Exposition held in December 2014,” Morales said.

The awardees include the AFP Human Rights Office (AFP HRO), Office of the Chief Nurse (OTCN), Office of the Surgeon General (OTSG), AFP Peace Process Office (AFP PPO), AFP Reserve Command, Communications, Electronics and Information System AFP (CEISAFP), AFP Procurement Service, GHQ Accounting Center, AFP Medical Center, Office of the Secretary Joint Staff, Civil Relations Service (CRS), AFP Commissary and Exchange Services (AFP CES), and General Headquarters Service Command.


Malaysian peacekeepers reaffirm nation’s commitment to peace

New Straits Times (Mar 11): Malaysian peacekeepers reaffirm nation’s commitment to peace 
KUALA LUMPUR: Yet another of Malaysia’s international monitoring teams begins its task in Mindanao on Friday, reaffirming the country’s commitment to the peace process between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Malaysian International Monitoring Team - Mindanao 10 (IMT–M10) takes over from IMT-M9 which had served since March 14, 2014, and assigned for one year to four areas, Cotabato City, Iligan City, Zamboanga and General Santos City.

IMT–M10 comprises 16 officers and personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), Royal Malaysian Police, Defence Ministry and Foreign Ministry, led by Maj Gen Datuk Sheikh Mokhsin Sheikh Hassan.

For the record, 240 officers and personnel from the security forces and defence ministry (not including IMT-M10) had participated in the peacekeeping mission since Sept 9, 2004.

Other countries in the IMT are Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Qatar and some nations of the European Union.

Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said recently the IMT–M10 would be the last of the Malaysian teams.

He said that once the peace agreement was signed, the IMT would end its mission and a decommissioning committee was likely to be set up to ensure that the ceasefire stayed as agreed.

The Mindanao conflict had raged on for three decades before Malaysia endeavoured and succeeded in bringing both sides to the negotiation table and a ceasefire.

On Jan 25 this year, 44 Philippines National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and eight members of the MILF were killed in a clash, in what is seen as an attempt to derail the peace process.

International Studies expert Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Abu Bakar said the Malaysian team stood to gain much experience with its presence in Mindanao for the sake of solidarity as a member of ASEAN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Our team is aware of and sensitive to what is happening, including not wanting to be blamed for interfering in the domestic affairs of another country.

“As such, every action in upholding the responsibility is always neutral and logical,” he told Bernama. --Bernama


Military helps in burial of slain BIFF members

From the Philippine Star (Mar 10): Military helps in burial of slain BIFF members  
The military on Tuesday helped provide a decent burial for four bandits killed by Marines in an encounter in Mamasapano town last Sunday, despite their having killed 10 police commandos in an attack on January 25.

The slain members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Jack Norodin, Kaharudin Pendatu, Tahir Sapal and Murad Duwang, all wore something they took from members of the police’s Special Action Force they had killed after a raid at Inog-og area in west of Mamasapano, where the policemen had earlier gunned down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan.

Marwan was touted as the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.

At least 44 policemen, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and five civilians were killed in the January 25 encounters in three barangays in Mamasapano.

The BIFF's central leadership, which ambushed a group of SAF men retreating from the scene, earlier bragged about killing 10 policemen, whose uniforms and firearms bandits took with them as they fled after the shootout.

Pendatu, Norodin, Sapal and Duwang all hailed from Mamasapano, where Marwan had stayed and trained some 300 Maranaw, Tausog, Maguindanaon and Yakan recruits in handling and fabrication of explosives for more than three years.

Army officials said the four bandits were felled by snipers of the 26th and 36th Marine Companies, which broke through the BIFF’s defense cordon encircling the group’s major enclave at Barangay Dasikil in southwest of Mamasapano and hoisted the Philippine flag at its center five hours after the operation was launched.

The remains of the four bandits were laid to rest with the help of Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan, also in the second district of Maguindanao, and a non-government organization engaged in peace-building projects involving members of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and local Muslim communities.

“I have to do a heavy humanitarian role. I was asked to help,” Ampatuan, who is involved in extensive missionary and peace-building programs in his town, said.

The cadavers of the four bandits were even given final cleansing rites, bathed and wrapped in white linen, by Army clerics, among them the command imam of the 6th Infantry Division, Captain Mujib Ladjabuan, a Tausog.

Norodin and Pendatu were followers of the radical jihadist Imam Mohammad Tambako, a pioneer leader of the BIFF, but recently renamed his group Justice Islamic Movement, which is more known to mayors in Maguindanao as Saifullah, which some of them interpreted as “sword of God.”

It was in the BIFF enclave in Barangay Dasikil, now guarded by Marines, where Tambako and his men had assembled improvised roadside bombs and explosives they used in recent attacks in the adjoining Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces.

Among the deadly bombings the BIFF perpetrated in recent months were at least three successive attacks late last year in North Cotabato’s Kabacan, Pikit and Mlang towns, which left a total of eight people dead and injured about a hundred others.

Sapal and Duwang were known as errands of the four Indonesians tagging along with the elusive ethnic Maguindanaon bomb-maker Abdulbasit Usman, who was wounded during the January 25 raid by members of SAF operatives at Inog-og that resulted to the death of Marwan.

Ladjabuan, who is also caretaker of the 6th ID’s mosque near the Maguindanao Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, said their commander, Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, has a standing order to all units under him to facilitate decent burials for every gunman neutralized in the government’s on-going law enforcement operation against the BIFF.
“The guidance is for us to find way to turn over their remains to their families after having been given traditional Islamic prayer rites,” Ladjabuan said.

Relatives that claimed the cadavers of the four BIFF members the Marines had killed had asked not to be photographed along with their remains.

Soldiers had recovered from the BIFF camp in Barangay Dasikil materials for fabrication of improvised explosives, addresses of public terminals the group was to bomb, ammunition for assorted rifles, firearms and live shoulder-fire 40-millimeter grenade projectiles.

Barangay officials said more than 30 BIFF bandits have been killed in encounters with pursuing soldiers since last March 1, but most of them were carried away by their companions as they escaped deep into the 220,00-hectare Liguasan Delta at the tri-boundary of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.


Chinese Coast Guard vessels chase Philippine Navy

From Ang Malaya (Mar 10): Chinese Coast Guard vessels chase Philippine Navy

Chinese Coast Guard once again chased a Philippine vessel with government troops on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol says in an exclusive report. Two Chinese vessels blew their horns and sounded their sirens calling on the Filipino troops, however, they did not block the Philippine vessel.

The mission turned out to be successful. Government forces on the resupply mission found the deployed troops in Ayungin Shoal based at BRP Sierra Madre on high spirits.

China has continued presence in West Philippine Sea and is conducting massive reclamation activities in number of disputed reefs.

Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Galvez said China’a reclamation activities “will continue to cause the occurrence of miscalculation or accidents. It becomes higher because of their insistence and their continuous aggressive stance in the region. This is a very serious concern.”


Groups to probe Talaingod`militarization

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 10): Groups to probe Talaingod`militarization

SEVERAL groups have visited the Manobo communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte to check on the reported militarization of these communities.
Rius Valle, head of the Children Rehabilitation Center, said the humanitarian mission will check on whether the deployment of more troops to the area has created an impact on the communities.
Valle said the groups will also provide medical assistance, psycosocial intervention for children and adult, and investigate cases of reported human rights abuses on civilians.
“This mission is also a way of expressing our solidarity with the Manobo and the rest of the peasant and lumad communities that have been target of military operations,” said Valle as these groups are set to return from the area on Thursday.
He said that based on the initial documentation, “things are clear that the military are targeting the civilians whom they maliciously and falsely tagged as rebels.”

Rebel slain in operation

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 10): Rebel slain in operation

A MEMBER of the New People’s Army was killed when soldiers from the 10th Scout Ranger Battalion were conducting a pursuit operation after a group that burned equipment in Sitio Kipolot, Brgy. Palacapao, Quezon, Bukidnon Sunday.

The military report said soldiers were pursuing the rebels which led to a 30-minute gunbattle that resulted in the death of the rebel.

Col Jess Alvarez, commander of 403rd Brigade based in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, said the soldiers were verifying the report about the burning of the equipment when the chanced upon the armed group.

The military also seized two M16 rifle, an AK 47, a hand-held radio and ammunition.

Alvarez said government agencies were still looking for the family of the dead rebel which he did not identify.


Cardinal Quevedo defends MILF: 'They're not terrorists'

From Rappler (Mar 10): Cardinal Quevedo defends MILF: 'They're not terrorists'

'The bottom line of the Mamasapano tragedy is mistrust – on both sides of the conflict,' Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo says

RAISED IN MINDANAO. Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo speaks about from experience about the Mindanao conflict. File photo courtesy of Fabio Frustaci/EPA

RAISED IN MINDANAO. Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo speaks about from experience about the Mindanao conflict. File photo courtesy of Fabio Frustaci/EPA
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo defended the Muslim group engaged in peace talks with the Philippine government, and urged “both sides” of the conflict in the southern Philippines to trust each other.
In a statement publicized on Monday, March 9, Quevedo also rejected “biases and prejudices” toward Muslims, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government.
Quevedo pointed out that he has “witnessed a harmonious dialogue of life” among his students in a Catholic university in Mindanao.
The cardinal, who has served for more than 3 decades as a priest in Mindanao, wrote: “Many of our soldiers and high-ranking officers studied in our Catholic schools. So, too, did members and leaders of the MILF. They are not terrorists. Terrorists have in fact broken away from them. The MILF only aspires and struggles politically for a place under the sun in freedom and dignity.”

Quevedo, who also grew up in Mindanao, issued this statement as a controversial police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, “resurrected” age-old biases and prejudices against Muslims.

Think tank: MILF cut terror links

The clash in Mamasapano killed 44 members of an elite police force, 18 Muslim rebels, and at least 3 civilians. (READ: SAF gave Purisima full Mamasapano briefing)

The Mamasapano bloodbath also prompted congressmen to stall the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a landmark in the peace process to end a 4-decade-old Muslim secessionist movement in Mindanao. The BBL aims to create an autonomous Muslim region more powerful than the one in place. (READ: Bishops, peace advocates: Hear Mindanao, pass BBL)

Quevedo said: “We hear ourselves say, we cannot trust the Moros, we cannot trust the MILF. We cannot trust them to lay down their arms, we cannot trust them with the money they need for development, we cannot trust them to go after terrorists once they have their own government, we cannot trust them to practice democracy, we cannot trust them to govern well. We simply cannot trust them.”

He added, “The bottom line of the Mamasapano tragedy is mistrust – on both sides of the conflict.”

Quevedo's statement came as an Indonesia-based think tank, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), released a report that said the MILF as a group has cut its ties with terrorists. Certain members of the MILF have given refuge to terrorists, however, IPAC reported. (Watch more in the video below)
[Video report: Rappler Talk: The Marwan manhunt and its impact on the peace process  

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, earlier implied that the MILF is a terrorist group. (READ: War and chicken hawks)

'Don't lump Moro armed groups'

In his statement, Quevedo explained that biases and prejudices have produced “totally wrong” convictions.

One of these is that “we lump all Moro armed groups” together “as lawless groups that advocate secession and independence.” These groups include the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and private armed groups.

He listed other “totally wrong” conclusions:
  • “We believe that the MILF claims the whole of Mindanao
  • “We conclude that the Bangsamoro government will have agencies that will be totally independent of their national counterparts
  • “We assert that the MILF will become the police force of the Bangsamoro
  • “We dismiss as sham the conversion of MILF from a secessionist movement into a principled partner for peace. We persist in calling them 'secessionists'
  • “We threaten to do away with provisions that protect a proposed fledgling Bangsamoro government from the negativities of warlordism and clan domination. Yet it is so easy to ask our own peace negotiators why it is necessary for the Bangsamoro to be 'MILf-led' in the short term
  • “We mistrust the MILF’s determination to govern well and thus to reverse Bangsamoro political history”
Quevedo said that, on the contrary, the following “are at the heart and soul” of the BBL:
  • "Bangsamoro self-determination will be exercised within a limited territory under the sovereignty of the Philippines. National sovereignty and territorial integrity will be preserved
  • “The overall principle that governs the BBL is the Catholic moral and social principle of subsidiarity, a principle already enshrined in our own Constitution. The principle requires the intervention of the national government and its various entities when the common good of all requires it. Therefore, no entity of the Bangsamoro government, such as a Bangsamoro auditing department or police force, is absolutely independent of their national counterparts”
The cardinal also pushed for refining the BBL “so that it will hew closely to our Constitution.”
“But let there be consensus among constitutional luminaries on what is constitutional and what is not constitutional among the provisions of the BBL. Let us make sure that we do not 'improve and strengthen' the BBL such that the idea of self-determination that is imbedded in various provisions of the BBL becomes once more an illusion, a desire begging despairingly to be realized,” he said.
In an earlier interview with MindaNews, Quevedo also said the dream of Muslims “for self-determination in their own territory” is “very valid.” A closer look at history will prove this, the cardinal said.