Wednesday, March 11, 2015

NPA reveals untidy intent, burns civilian trucks in Bukidnon

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 10): NPA reveals untidy intent, burns civilian trucks in Bukidnon

Undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) under Guerilla Front 53 of South Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) led by Rachel Daguman alias Yudi or Jasmin and Guerilla Front 6 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) led by Reynante Tumbalang alias Jigger and Randy Bayot alias Gov, flagged down several vehicles around 5:45 a.m, March 8, along Davao-Buda road in Barangay Palacapao, Quezon, Bukidnon.

Seven of the burned trucks were: three prime movers (containing one Bantuanon truck loaded with bananas, one trans-special truck, one FSTA truck loaded with cartons); 3 winged-van trucks (containing a Nestle van loaded with milk products, one Purefoods van loaded with hotdogs, one van loaded with drums); and one San Miguel ten-wheel truck loaded with Red Horse Beer.

Two of the trucks were bound for Bukidnon while five others were heading to Davao.

The group simultaneously fired at the CAFGU troopers’ detachment in the area.

Lt. Col. Lennon Babilonia, commanding officer of the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, immediately sent troops to respond to the incident and go after the perpetrators.

A clash transpired but no casualties reported. Later, at around 8:30 a.m., the NPA ambushed the elements from PNP’s 103rd Maneuver Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion who came to respond and augment the government force.

Seven PNP elements were wounded due to an explosion of a landmine.

Further, at around 9:20 a.m. of same day, composite troops from the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and members of PPSC, PNP-Bukidnon led by police superintendent Daryl Aranton, who also responded to the incident, encountered an undetermined number of NPAs at Davao-Buda road along the borders of Puntian and Palacapao villages of same town.

Fire fight ensued for five minutes. No casualties reported on the government troops while casualties on the NPA side are still to be determined.

The army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Jesse Alvarez commended the elements of PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, who also responded to the incident together with the troops.

“We conducted pursuit operations in close coordination with our PNP counterparts. The Davao-Buda highway is now safe for our travellers and everything is under control,” he said.

At the moment, pursuit operations are being conducted by government troops in the area.

The NPA, who will be celebrating their 46th founding anniversary on March 29, is once again committing crimes and atrocities in the province of Bukidnon, targeting innocent civilians.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Lennon G. Babilonia, commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, said “It is very clear that the ideologies that the NPA has been fighting for in their 46 years of armed struggle have waned. The incident proved once again that their ideologies are replaced by mere acts of crime and extortion that victimize innocent civilians. They are never pro-people. They don’t want progress and denies every opportunity for people to develop so they can continue to blame the government and pretend that they are for the people. If they (NPA) are truly a force to reckon with, they should stop terrorizing helpless civilians and face the military instead.”

Refugee Crisis in Philippines as Peace Deal Is at Risk

From the New York Times (Mar 10): Refugee Crisis in Philippines as Peace Deal Is at Risk

The Philippine military is fighting Islamic militants on two fronts in the country’s south, with recent battles having left dozens dead and driven more than 82,000 people from their homes, according to government officials and international organizations. An aid worker said a “growing humanitarian crisis” was underway in camps for people who had fled the violence.

The intensified fighting is taking place as lawmakers in Manila are debating a bill that would formalize the provisions of a landmark peace deal reached a year ago with the country’s largest rebel organization.

Last March, the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to lay down their weapons in return for the creation of a Muslim-dominated autonomous region in the southern Philippines. Under the deal, the newly established area would receive a generous portion of local tax revenue.

The deal was put in jeopardy in January, when the Philippine National Police conducted a raid in the small southern town of Mamasapano to capture several internationally wanted terrorism suspects. That botched operation, which resulted in a firefight with some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and left 44 police officers dead, has generated harsh public criticism of the peace agreement.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has agreed to cooperate with government officials investigating the January incident. But a smaller breakaway group called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which was also involved in the firefight, has rejected the peace deal and continues to fight the military.

The military offensive against that splinter group has killed 73 rebels and four government soldiers in recent weeks, the military said on Monday. An estimated 82,070 people have fled their homes in Maguindanao, a province on the island of Mindanao, where the fighting is taking place, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

People in evacuation centers say the military has been using artillery to flush out the rebels, who have used guerrilla tactics and attempted to blend in with the local population, according to Lyca Sarenas, a program manager in Mindanao for the charitable organization Oxfam.

“The situation in the evacuation centers is getting graver and graver by the day,” Ms. Sarenas said. “They have very little food and water and limited access to toilets, and their numbers are growing exponentially. We have a growing humanitarian crisis in Mindanao that is largely being overlooked.”

On Sulu, an island just west of Mindanao, the military has been conducting a separate offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, a small but high-profile Islamic group that has kidnapped dozens of Filipinos and foreigners in the last decade. The military reports that 63 of that group’s fighters and 10 Philippine soldiers have been killed since the offensive began in November.

One analyst said the offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was partly intended to send a message to the largest rebel organization about sticking to the peace deal. “They are sending a strong signal to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to pursue peace and not go the way of lawlessness,” said Rommel C. Banlaoi, the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

The military estimates that the Bangsamoro group has 300 to 400 fighters, but Mr. Banlaoi’s organization puts the figure at more than 1,000, with as many as 10,000 civilian sympathizers in the area.

“It is impossible to eliminate the B.I.F.F. through military means because the source of their rebellion is the political, economic and social injustices done to the communities where they operate,” Mr. Banlaoi said. “The military can neutralize some of their members, but they cannot eliminate the group.”

The Philippine military has said that foreign fighters from Indonesia and Pakistan appear to have joined the Bangsamoro group in its battles against the government. On Sunday, soldiers retrieved the body of another “foreign-looking individual,” according to the military.

“He does not look Asian,” Lt. Col. Willie Manalang, the Philippine Marine Corps commander at the battle site, said of the body. “He could be one of the foreign terrorists who were coddled by the B.I.F.F.”

First Multi Sectoral Forum on West Philippine Sea held in Cebu

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 10): First Multi Sectoral Forum on West Philippine Sea held in Cebu 

CEBU CITY --- Cebu today hosted the first ever multi-sectoral forum on the West Philippine Sea, which is the the first of a series of informaton drive to be held in regions nationwide.

More than a hundred representatives from various sectors attended the forum jointly conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) held at the Central Command, Camp Lapulapu.

The objective of the activity is to raise awareness among citizens on the issue on West Philippine Sea and to get the people's support o the policies and actions of the Philippine government to address the issues in South China Sea.

Lt. Gen Nicanor Vivar, commanding general of Armed Forces of the Philippines-Centcom, said there is tension in the West Philippine Sea which the Filipinos need to be aware of.

“It is no longer a domestic problem but it has become a global problem. We have to know the historical facts and also our historical rights,” Vivar said in his welcome message.

The 3,500-square kilometer area west of the Philippines was then called South China Sea until the issuance of Administrative Order 29 in 2012 officially naming it as West Philippine Sea.

DFA Spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, gave a presentation explaining the historical background of the tension at the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to raise awareness and gain support of the people on the current moves of the government in addressing the problem,” Jose said.

Jose cited two underlying reasons on the need for public awareness, China’s claim over the territory and its aggressive behavior.

He said China and the rest of the claimants used to "co-exist quietly" until 2009 when China submitted a map showing a nine-dash line which had enclosed the territories in the entire South China Sea.

“China’s claim has been excessive, expansive and no basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Jose said.

They had recorded several instances of aggression which include establishment of Sensha City, a sign of administering powers over the entire region and the barring of logistics to soldiers guarding the Scarborough Shoal.

Jose said the Philippines is now waiting for the result of an arbitration filed at the United Nations.

Reportedly there are 5 million Filipinos making a living from the sea waters in the areas and the Philippines has the richest biodiversity.

PIA Regional Director Minerva Newman challenged the participants to share the key message starting with their relatives and then the people in their community.

“The key message is that the Philippine Government and the Filipino people are determined to defend what is legally ours,” Newman said.

The knowledge gained from the activity should be shared in order to show support to what the government has been doing.

“We equip ourselves with knowledge, necessary information, the beauty, value of the West Philippine Sea and we can actually start from where we are sitting now,” Newman said.

After the presentation, some identified participants also underwent focused group discussions.

These include people from the academe particularly the communication group in University of San Jose Recoletos, University of San Carlos and University of the Philippines.

There were also representatives from local government units and national government agencies.

Basit Usman escapes 3 days before troops' raid

From the Philippine Star (Mar 11): Basit Usman escapes 3 days before troops' raid             

The foreign companions of Filipino terror suspect Basit Usman were seen carrying big bags as they fled to the eastern side of the Liguasan Delta, near the first district of Maguindanao. Google Earth

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Elusive bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman and his four Indonesian cohorts managed to escape from a lair of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Sharif Saidona three days before soldiers raided the encampment last Saturday, his relatives said Wednesday.

"He was already out of the area three days before soldiers arrived to occupy the camp," said a barangay official, who is a close relative of BIFF's founder, the radical cleric Ameril Ombra Kato.

Usman's Indonesian companions, whom local community elders identified as Suharduno, Hartini, Yudyuharto and Wiranduno, were seen carrying big bags as they fled to the eastern side of the Liguasan Delta, near the first district of Maguindanao.

The bags are believed to contain materials for fabrication of improvised explosives.

The presence of Indonesian terrorists in Maguindanao and nearby Cotabato City is not a recent development.

Several Indonesian members of the Jemaah Islamiya, the Asian cell of Al-Qaeda, have been arrested in Central Mindanao from between 2003 to 2007, among them explosives experts Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi and Taufik Refke, in separate police operations during the period.

Refke and three compatriots had even managed to enroll at the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, while they rented a house at a subdivision in San Pablo area in Cotabato City.

"Teng (Usman) and his Indonesian companions managed to escape from Sharif Saidona last March 5. When the soldiers arrived on March 7, they were already out of the area," a relative, who asked not to be identified, said in the Maguindanaon vernacular.

Usman is known as "Teng" in Maguindanao's adjoining Sharif Saidona, Sharif Aguak, Salibo, Mamasapano and Datu Piang towns.

Usman's slain cohort, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was popularly known in the area as "Ibz," having introduced himself to local folks as Ibrahim, Arabic for Abraham.

No Arab cohort

Barangay folks belied reports that Usman has an Arab companion from somewhere in the Middle East.

A source, who was privy to the activities of Usman, said the two Arab-looking men that acted as his aides were actually children of Moro women sired by unidentified Arab men while they worked as domestic helpers in the Middle East in the late 1980s.

"Those men are Moro, with Arab fathers. They are not foreigners because they were born in Maguindanao. They could not even speak Arabic," said an uncle of one of the two men with Middle Eastern features.

Barangay folks said Usman and Marwan had trained more than 300 Maguindanaon, Maranaw, Yakan and Tausog recruits in Mamasapano where they had stayed together from 2011 until Special Action Force commandos arrived on January 25 to neutralize them both.

Marwan was killed in the raid while a wounded Usman, an ethnic Maguindanaon, and his four Indonesian companions managed to escape even before the SAF operatives could surround the shanty where they stayed.

Sources from local peasant communities said the four Indonesians also studied how to speak the Maguindanaon dialect while in Mamasapano and two of them, Hartini and Yudyuharto, learned fast that they could already talk to people around in the vernacular long before the January 25 SAF-rebel encounters in three barangays in the municipality.

An Army captain and three enlisted soldiers were killed on Saturday in firefights with BIFF members that coddled Usman and his Indonesian companions in Sharif Saidona.

Usman first fled to the western part of the Liguasan Delta a week before the Marines took over on March 1 the BIFF's main camp in Dasikil at the border of Mamasapano and Rajah Buayan towns.

Local officials said Usman returned inland and sought refuge at a BIFF enclave in Sharif Saidona for about a week, right after talks had spread that combatants of the Philippine Marine Corps would chase him at the marsh.

The Marines had killed four bandits, Jack Norodin, Kaharudin Pendatu, Tahir Sapal, and Murad Duwang, as they marched through BIFF defense lines encircling the camp, where Commander Mohammad Ali Tambako and his men had assembled improvised explosives used in recent attacks in Central Mindanao.

MILF: President Aquino wants BBL passed before June 11

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 11): President Aquino wants BBL passed before June 11

President Benigno Aquino III wants both Houses of Congress to enact the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before June 11 to provide the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ample time during transition to prepare for the Bangsamoro.

“They are projecting approval by June. I’m hoping Congress approves the Bangsamoro Basic Law way before June,” Aquino told the Christian Leaders Coalition in a prayer meeting at Malacañang on Monday, March 9.

The aim is to give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTC) enough time to demonstrate the merit of their belief that this is a better mode of governance.

“We will submit drafts, we will suggest and I’m sure we will arrive at a compromise in due time,” Aquino said.

Aquino also reiterated Monday his instructions to his allies in Congress to pass the stalled BBL soonest, since the government has to demonstrate its sincerity to the Muslim rebels by adopting the measure in its entirety.

“If the lawmakers amend or delete some of the portions of the BBL that were agreed upon, then how do we say it is more of a good version of the original?” he said.

The whole concept is that of a “catch up,” Aquino said, where local government units in Mindanao would eventually be at par with Manila or with any other urbanized locality in Luzon or the Visayas and not have a backward economy.

“The bottom line here is to allow them to catch up. They were left behind in terms of basic education, infrastructure and health services,” he said.

The Philippines Inc., an alliance of business groups in the country has joined other business groups in support of the Aquino administration and the peace talks amid the Mamasapano incident. It also supports the BBL to address the concerns of various stakeholders.

In a statement, Philippines Inc. said it is one with the business community in calling for sobriety and level-headedness as the country continues to reel from the effects of the encounter in Mamasapano.

“In line with this, it rejects as counterproductive both the demands for President Aquino to resign and for the government to abandon the peace talks and launch an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” the group said.

Philippines Inc., an alliance of the most respected leaders in the country from various industries, aims to establish a reformed business environment to attract investments.

Recently, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest business organization in the country, and other business groups also expressed their support to the peace process. The Mindanao Business Council (MBC) as well, expressed the same support to the continuation of the peace making in Mindanao.

Cayetano tags Marwan's MILF 'handler' as suspect in Mamasapano killings

From InterAksyon (Mar 11): Cayetano tags Marwan's MILF 'handler' as suspect in Mamasapano killings

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday named a commander of  the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the handler of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who was believed killed by police commandos sent to arrest him in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

In a 21-page privilege speech, Cayetano said  there is strong evidence pointing to Commander Wahid Tundok, commander of 118th Based Command of MILF, as the handler of Marwan.

According to Cayetano, Tundok and his men should be considered the principal suspects in the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF), who were pinned down by heavy fire from the MILF and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as they tried to exit the area after killing Marwan.

The acting PNP chief, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, had demanded prosecution of any MILF or BIFF men involved in the deaths of SAF men, citing medico-legal reports showing more than half of the 44 were killed, not in a firefight but were shot at close range, after being stripped of their bulletproof vests.

“Based on evidence, there is no doubt that the MILF knew Marwan was in their area during the encounter, at ang MILF mismo ang pumoprotekta kay Marwan [and it's the MILF itself that was protecting Marwan],” Cayetano said.

Who is Tundok?

In his presentation, Cayetano described Tundok as one of the senior and best combatants of MILF. 

“He faces many charges of multiple murder, arson, robbery, and other crimes. Commander Wahid Tundok is the Commander of the 118th Base Command of the MILF,” Cayetano said, in Tilipino.

The senator said  the Philippine National Police had arrested Tundok in February 23, 2014 for various crimes including multiple murders, arson, robbery and others, "but he was released just after three days!" at the behest of the government peace panel..

Commander Tundok was released due to the insistence of the peace panel led by the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Teresita Deles and chief government negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

“Commander Tundok and his men are also the initial suspects in the massacre of our 44 SAF heroes.  It is clear that the 118th battalion is among the groups that were in the area, where the SAF men were minassacred,” Cayetano said.

According to Cayetano, Deles allegedly insisted that Commander Tundok was the one who complained about the misencounter and who brokered the cease-fire on January 25, “at hindi siya maaaring kasama sa sumasagupa sa SAF.”

But if that were so, Cayetano asked: “If he really helped forge the cease-fire why did he reject an invitation to be interviewed by the [PNP] Board of Inquiry?”

Cayetano presented  footage from a television network showing Commander Tundok allegedly refusing to be interviewed by BOI.

“The reason [for snubbing BOI] is simple. There are questions that Commander Tundok cannot answer. For example, who was supporting, helping and protecting Marwan?” Cayetano said.

“Kumander Tundok cannot answer this because HE is one of the MILF Commanders who helped protect Marwan,” he added.

Marwan emails

Cayetano also presented email exchanges between Marwan and his brother,  showing that Commander Tundok was the one informing Marwan of sources to purchase weapons.

“Pinakita namin noon ang mga email ni Marwan sa kanyang kapatid habang nandito siya sa Mindanao. Dito din sa mga email na ito makikita na si Kumander Wahid Tundok mismo ang protektor ni Marwan,” Cayetano said.

“Tundok was the one telling Marwan to be on high alert and not to sleep because soldiers were planning to attack,” he added.

He said that Tundok was also the one telling Marwan to watch out for US drones spying on their camps.

“Marwan was telling his brother detailed information about Tundok and the operations against Tundok,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the government and the peace panel knew this information.

“So alam nila na si Kumander Tundok ang protector ni Marwan [So they - the government peace panel - knew that Kumander Tundok was protecting Marwan],” he said.

OPAPP has to explain

Meanwhile, Cayetano asked Deles and Ferrer to explain why they sought the release of Tundok despite evidence showing the latter is the handler and protector of Marwan, the subject of Oplan Exodus.

 “So, why did the government peace panel work to have Kumander Tundok released in February 2014?” Cayetano asked in Filipino.

“What was the quid pro quo for the release of Wahid Tundok? And why did Deles and Ferrer seem in a hurry to clear Kumander Tundok and his men in the Mamasapano massacre?” he added.

The government, he stressed, should answer this. “We deserve to know the truth. This and other evidence that arose from our hearings here are proof that the MILF knew Marwan and Usman were there, and they had been coddling these terrorists for a long time."

'Marwan’s hut owned by MILF'

Also, Cayetano revealed that Marwan was living in a hut right in the  middle of the MILF/BIFF community.

“The hut that Marwan was living in belonged to deceased MILF Commander Ustadz Bagindali (based on GMA 7 investigative report),” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said that Marwan was seen constantly praying in a Mosque inside the MILF/BIFF camp.

“So it is impossible for the MILF/BIFF not to have known he was there,” Cayetano said, adding that Tundok was issued safe conduct by the peace panel in all MILF territories.

“And common sense dictates that if you are a wanted International Terrorist with a $5 million dollar price on your head, and have been the subject of 10 operations in the past four years, would you hide in a place where you';re not welcome or safe?” Cayetano said.

Bakwit population in Maguindanao now 72,585

From MindaNews (Mar 11): Bakwit population in Maguindanao now 72,585

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or bakwits (evacuees) in 11 of 36 towns in Maguindanao due to the military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has reached 14,517 families or 72,585 persons, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) reported as of 6 p.m. on March 10.

A day earlier, ARMM-HEART reported the number of evacuees from the same towns at 12,920 families or 64,600 persons.

BAKWIT FAMILY. Johaira Agcub, 35 and her eight children sit outside the Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School on March 7, 2015, displaced by the government’s “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

BAKWIT FAMILY. Johaira Agcub, 35 and her eight children sit outside the Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao on March 7, 2015, displaced by the government’s “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Mamasapano town posted the highest number of bakwits at 2,637 families, followed by Datu Salibo at 2,119; Shariff Saydona at 1,864; Shariff Aguak at 1,582; Datu Saudi Ampatuan at 1,329; Talayan at 1,195; Datu Anggal Midtimbang at 1,101; Guindulungan at 939; Talitay at 712; Rajah Buayan hosting 255; and Datu Unsay at 175.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman is leading the distribution of relief goods to the 11 towns on Wednesday, March 11, under “Tabang Sibilyan” (Help Civilians).

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), has a higher number: 16,111 families or 80,555 persons affected in the towns of Mamasapano, Pagalungan, Datu Salibo, Shariff Saydona, Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, Rajah Buayan, Datu Hofer and Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao and Pikit in North Cotabato, as of March 6, according to its most recently uploaded report dated March 7.

Out of these affected families, 15,058 families or 75,290 persons are internally displaced, it said.

BAKWIT BUSINESS. An enterprising bakwit lays down the goodies for sale at the grounds of Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on March 7, 2015, displaced by the government’s “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.  MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

BAKWIT BUSINESS. An enterprising bakwit lays down the goodies for sale at the grounds of Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao on March 7, 2015, displaced by the government’s “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

According to the same report, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has spent P16,628,867.60 worth of relief goods for the IDPs from February 9 to 23 during the clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and from February 25 when Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang launched his “all-out offensive” against the BIFF.

Catapang on February 25 ordered the Western Mindanao Command to coordinate with the Philippine National Police in a joint law enforcement operation against the BIFF purportedly to “protect the communities.”

“I am saddened by the news that at least 20,000 people had been displaced by the violent attacks perpetrated by the BIFF in the hinterland villages. We will do our best to protect the people and allow them to go back to their homes,” GMA News quoted him as saying. The 20,000 he was refererng to was apparently the number of persons due to the BIFF-MILF conflict.

But the “all-out offensive” against the BIFF which started on February 27, triggered mass evacuations of triple that number in 11 towns in 12 days.
The NDRRMC figures, posted on March 7, does not say how many evacuees had returned home.

FATHER.  A father tends to his child outside a classroom in Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on March 7, 2015.At least 70,000 persons had already fled the fighting between the government and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

FATHER. A father tends to his child outside a classroom in Datu Pendiliang Piang Elementary School in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao on March 7, 2015.At least 70,000 persons had already fled the fighting between the government and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The Protection Cluster Philippines and UN High Commissioner on Refugees in its IDP Protection Assessment Report, Issue No. 7 noted that as of March 10, there are 68,354 persons displaced in Maguindanao (68,019) and Pikit in North Cotabato province (355) from the skirmishes between the MILF and BIFF and later between the military and the BIFF.

It said that in the displacement due to MILF-BIFF conflict, that a total of 6,383 families or 34,925 persons were displaced, of whom 5,630 families or 31,171 persons had returned home while 753 families or 3,754 persons have not.

In the conflict between the military and the BIFF, a total of 12,920 families or 64,600 persons have been displaced, of whom 12,538 families or 62,690 persons are inside evacuation centers while 382 families or 1,910 persons are outside evacuation centers.

“As of this posting, another armed encounter took place in the interior of Barangay Dapiawan Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipality and Barangay Pamalian, Shariff Saydona municipality. Community residents of Barangay Lower Masigay, Datu Salibo municipality evacuated to national highway,” the Protection Cluster said in its 6:04 p.m. posting on March 10.

MindaNews asked Capt. Jo-Ann Petingly, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, how many combatants had been killed and wounded since Catapang’s “all-out offensive” declaration. Television reports had said at least 70 members of the BIFF had been killed but did not say how many bodies were accounted for.

Petingaly’s reply: “As per consolidated reports, there are about 70 plus BIFF killed.” But only four bodies of the BIFF were accounted for in the 12-day operations, she said.

On the part of the military, six soldiers were killed and 23 others wounded.
“We are hoping to finish the operation the soonest para makabalik na din po ang mga mamamayan sa kanilang mga tahanan” (so the residents can return to their homes), Petinglay added.

Widows of MILF combatants receive cash assistance from MILF

From MindaNews (Mar 11): Widows of MILF combatants receive cash assistance from MILF 

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao — Unlike previous occasions in this multipurpose hall, the crowd on Sunday was predominantly female – widows of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who were killed in that tragedy in Mamasapano on Sunday, January 25 — or wives or mothers of the wounded.

That it was International Women’s Day may have been coincidental for the predominantly male MILF leadership. The women were asked to be in the camp on Sunday to accept and sign receipt of the white envelops containing cash assistance from the MILF.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews they solicited money “from friends” so they could help the widows and the wounded members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and the civilians.

He declined to say how much the widows were given. “It depends on the family situation, the number of children,” he said.

 Their names were called one by one, as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim handed them a white envelop each containing the MILF's cash assistance for the widows of MILF combatants killed in  Mamasapano on January 25. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Their names were called one by one, as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim handed them a white envelop each containing the MILF’s cash assistance for the widows of MILF combatants killed in Mamasapano on January 25. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

How much was the minimum amount then?

Sammy Al-Mansoor, BIAF Chief of Staff told MindaNews’ Froilan Gallardo that they gave at least Php 70,000 each to the 18 widows; Php 40,000 each for the 25 wounded combatants; Php 40,000 each for four slain civilians and P20,000 each for five injured civilians.

The amounts distributed totaled some P2.5 million.

Carabao and cow for the children

Norma Ismael, 29, one of the widows, told MindaNews she would use the amount as capital for a small business. Ismael has one child who is turning nine years old. Working abroad again is an option that she has considered.

Norhaima Angkay, 22 mother of two.  Norhaima tells MindaNews in a text message Wednesday that she bought a carabao and cow for their children from the financial assistance she received from the MILF. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Norhaima Angkay, 22 mother of two. Norhaima tells MindaNews in a text message Wednesday that she bought a carabao and cow for their children from the financial assistance she received from the MILF. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

On Wednesday, Norhaima Angkay, 22, a widow with two children, the youngest at three months old, told MindaNews she used the money to buy her children a carabao and cow. Norhaima said on Sunday that she did think of going abroad to work but is worried about leaving her three-month old daughter.

The widows said this was only the second time they received financial assistance.

The first time was “galing sa mga Maranao” (from the Maranaos).

“Piso-piso lang’

At the February 10 rally in Banggolo, Marawi City pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), participants shelled out money for the relatives of “our Shaheed (martyrs). They died for us and the Bangsamoro,” rally organizer Achmad Lao said.

Lao said they collected P50,000 and several thousands more in pledges during the three-hour rally and that a similar fund drive was simultaneously launched in the nearby town of Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

“Kahit piso-piso lang we can gather enough money to the families of the slain MILF fighters and civilians who died in the Mamasapano clash,” Lao said, pointing to a group of children giving their allowance for the cause.

Honorable deaths

“We cannot afford the millions that is given to the SAF 44 but we want to tell the families of our martyrs they are not forgotten,” he said.

Mamasapano's widows gathered at the multipurpose hall in the MILF's Camp Darapanan on Sunday to receive financial assistance from the MILF. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Mamasapano’s widows gathered at the multipurpose hall in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan on Sunday to receive financial assistance from the MILF. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

During the short ceremonies on Sunday – the entire rites rendered in Maguindanao language – Murad told the widows, the wounded, and relatives of the slain and wounded: “Death is a certainty. But as human beings, it is but natural to still grieve for the loss of loved ones. However, for those of us who struggle for a cause, we console ourselves in the thought that they attained an honorable death in defense of their communities.”

“We envy them for we are uncertain if we will be gifted with an honorable death; one that is in defense of our communities and in pursuit of the principles that we are fighting for,” Murad said in Maguindanao.

Hundreds of thousands

The families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos have received benefits amounting to PhP250,000 each from the Office of the President, aside from 25 percent of basic life insurance and special financial assistance from the PNP depending on the rank of the SAF member, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Public Information Office (PIO) said on February 20.

Cerbo said the beneficiaries received a minimum of PhP 407,000 to a maximum of PhP 764,000.

Aside from these benefits, Cerbo said the PNP was in the process of computing the unused leave credits of the slain policemen which will be converted into cash to be deposited in their ATM accounts on or about Feb. 25.

He added that by March 16, the families of the slain SAF commandos will receive monthly pension from the PNP.

The amounts cited here do not include the assistance in cash and kind by the private sector for the widows of the SAF 44.

Teacher seized in Southern Philippine town

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Mar 11): Teacher seized in Southern Philippine town

Two men have seized a government teacher in the town of Indanan in southern Philippines, reports said on Wednesday. 

It said the 44-year old Allyn Abdurajak was returning home on a motorcycle from the town of Jolo when the duo intercepted her late Tuesday. 

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abduction and local police chief Abraham Orbita and town officials did not issue any statement about the latest abduction. 

Just recently, six armed men suspected to be Abu Sayyaf rebels also seized two government teachers – Russel Bagonoc, 22, and Reynadeth Silano, 34, - in Moalboal village in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Talusan town. 

The teachers were travelling on a motorcycle when gunmen intercepted them and dragged the duo to a waiting motorboat and sped away. 

The kidnappers have reportedly demanded P10 million ransom from the Department of Education and the victims’ families. 

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines, which condemned the abductions, appealed to authorities to secure their immediate release. 

“We condemn those persons who are responsible for these abductions that have victimized these dedicated public servants and resulted to the deprivation of hundreds of school children to education,” it said. 

Police and military authorities have previously blamed the Abu Sayyaf in past kidnappings of teachers in the region.

Moro leader to come to CDO sans armed bodyguards

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Moro leader to come to CDO sans armed bodyguards

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- Officials of a local university on Tuesday allayed the fears about the presence of armed combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the school’s graduation rites here.In a statement released to the local press, officials of the Xavier University, said that Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, would come to Cagayan De Oro City without armed bodyguards.

The university would confer the Fr. Masterson Awards to Iqbal in recognition to his efforts to forge a peace pact with the national government in a bid to end the Moro conflict in Mindanao.

Iqbal has promised not to bring along his armed security group during the university’s 75th Commencement Exercises on March 26, 2015 here, the statement said.

Despite the public clamor to defer the giving of the recognition, the Jesuit-owned university has insisted on extending the award amid protests from the university’s alumni.

The school alumni described the recognition as “premature” since the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) remains inoperative and have yet to withstand the test of time.

City Councilor Ramon Tabor, an influential alumnus of the Xavier University, said that nobody is against the award but with the Mamapasano tragedy, the recognition award at a time when the emotions are high is untimely.

University officials, however, said that the university’s Board of Trustees have already decided the recognition award last November 2014, or two months prior to the Mamapasano tragedy.

However, the university made the announcement to confer the honor on Iqbal was only made public in mid-February, causing outrage in the city, including university alumni.

BIFF now weak, out of ammo, demoralized - AFP general

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): BIFF now weak, out of ammo, demoralized - AFP general

CAMP SIONGCO -- The lawless Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fighters are now weak, out of ammunition and out of food and eventually give up or continue fighting to death.

This was the assessment of 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, currently the chief of Task Force Central, a joint Army, Marines and PNP, formed to neutralize the BIFF.

"They have splintered into smaller groups, they are running out of bullets and they are demoralized," Pangilinan said of the BIFF, an outlawed Moro armed group believed to be coddling foreign terrorist involved in bombings in Midnanao.

"We are gaining headway, sooner or later, we can finish this operation," Pangilinan told reporters.

At least 73 BIFF have been killed, 33 wounded while the military has four fatalities, including an Army captain, and 29 wounded.

"There's no let up in our campaign, we are closing in to their location," said Pangilinan, referring to the so called SPMS box where the BIFF strongholds were located.

The SPMS refers to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona, all in Maguindanao's second district.

The fighting, which entered its 12th day today, has escalated to Gundulungan and Talayan towns, also in Maguindanao after BIFF engaged elements of the Philippine Marines in overnight skirmishes. It also forced civilians in about 15 villages to flee to safer grounds.

Meanwhile, the military has provided decent burial to four slain BIFF, one of whom was wearing fatigue uniform of PNP Special Action Force slain in the January 25 Mamasapano encounter.

The slain BIFF members identified as Jack Norodin, Kaharudin Pendatu, Tahir Sapal, and Murad Duwang, were turned over to local officials before they will be handed over to their families on Sunday, according to Colonel Emmanuel Salamat, 1st Marine Brigade commander.

They were believed to be part of an armed group which ambushed 10 SAF members who were part of the blocking force of SAF seaborne that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Salamat 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 BIFF camp in Barangay Dasikil, Mamasapano.

The Philippine Marines have hoisted the Philippine flag in Barangay Dasikil, Mamasapano believed to be the second biggest BIFF camp where improvised explosive device were manufactured and set off in passenger buses, public markets and populated areas in North Cotabato.

Pangilinan has a standing order to all units under him to facilitate decent burials for every gunman neutralized and ensure that they are officially handed over to local government officials.

PNP-Bicol intelligence group ranks No. 2 in 2014 Annual Performance Evaluation Rating

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): PNP-Bicol intelligence group ranks No. 2 in 2014 Annual Performance Evaluation Rating

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City – The Police Regional Office 5's Regional Intelligence Division bagged the Number 2 performer award in the 2014 Annual Performance Evaluation Rating nationwide with an over-all rating of 113.46 in the field of police intelligence based on the standard set forth by the Philippine National Police Directorate for Intelligence.

The PRO5, in recognition of the noteworthy contribution and remarkable achievement of the Regional Intelligence Division (RID), awarded the office with Plaque of Merit.

The plaque was presented by Senior Supt. Romulo A. Esteban, Deputy Regional Director for Operation and Senior Supt. Lito B. Pitallano, acting, RCDS Regional Office 5 head, to Supt. Oscar Regala, officer-in-charge, Regional Intelligence Division, during Monday's flag-raising ceremony held at the PRO5 Parade Ground here.

A Plaque of Merit was given to the RID for making PRO5 as the Number 2 Performing PRO out of the 17 police regional offices and 23 national support units for CY 2014 Annual Unit Performance Evaluation Rating nationwide.

Likewise, a Medalya ng Kagalingan was awarded to Senior Insp. Joel S. Sabuco, Senior Insp. Andrew J. Alcomendas, Insp. Chester M. Enriquez Jr., SPO2 Arturo B. San Jose, PO3 Joennis S. Cid, PO2 Ryan R. Sabater and PO1 Arvin S, Depositario in recognition of their distinct accomplishment as team leaders and members of the combined operating team of the Regional Special Operations Group, and Pamplona Municipal Police Station, Camarines Sur Provincial Police Office.

The were awarded for the arrest of Ma. Fe A. Mendoza, also known as “Kim” and the confiscation of 40.717 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride commonly known as shabu during a checkpoint operation in Barangay Tambo, Pamplona, Camarines Sur on Jan. 13.

Another awardee is SPO1 Gil B. Bedis who was awarded with Medalya ng Papuri in recognition of his commendable deed as Patrol Officer of Sto. Domingo Police Station, Albay PPO, for returning to the rightful owner the wallet he found containing ATM and credit cards, other important documents, and cash amounting to Php 4, 690 and a 20 Saudi Riyal.

"These laudable performance, accomplishment and exemplary behavior are worthy of emulation in the Philippine National Police," Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol police chief, said.

Supt. Rommel B. Dela Rama, the resource speaker and presently the deputy chief of the Regional Intelligence Division, shared an important topic on the different choices that the police officers have made in their life.

15 PRO 7 officials to train with US Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): 15 PRO 7 officials to train with US Navy

CEBU CITY -- At least 15 officials of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 will undergo a two-week rigorous training with the United States Navy to enhance their combat and operation skills.

The training will focus on tactical combat, marksmanships, mission planning, and close quarter combat and will be carried out here in Cebu.

The participants will come from RSOG, Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, Provincial Intelligence Branch and the Cebu City Police Office.

Sr. Supt. Conrad Capa, PRO 7 deputy regional director for operations, said the training “will enhance the capabilities of the participants.”

Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Bañas, PRO 7 director, said the police “need to undergo the training and to be more skillful in the performance of their duties and functions” as the country gears up for global economic development.

Bañas stressed the need for ordinary policemen to be capable of combating most the sophisticated criminals and insurgents that undermine the peace and order in the region.

He said the police need to be a step ahead of the enemies by increasing police and community vigilance and by strengthening and developing defense capabilities that are crucial in attaining peace and order.

These defense capabilities will be what the 15 commissioned officers will benefit from the Joint Exchange Program of the United States and of the Philippines.

Supt. Rex Derilo, Regional Special Operations Group 7 chief, said the training will cover “close quarter combat, marksmanship, human rights, medical treatment, and maritime operation.”

“Sooner or later we will reecho this will enhance our training as far as combat training is concerned,” Derilo said.

Mayor lauds 2 Zamboangueños included in PMA’s Top 10 grads

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Mayor lauds 2 Zamboangueños included in PMA’s Top 10 grads

ZAMBOANGA CITY-- Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has expressed jubilation as two Zamboangueños are included in the Top 10 of the Philippine Military Academy’s Sinag-Lahi Class of 2015.

They are Genesis Salvador Dizon of Barangay Sta. Maria, who will graduate Top 2 of the class and Steven Tali of Barangay Lower Calarian, Top 8.

The two are part of the 171 PMA cadets who will be graduating on March 15 in Camp del Pilar in Baguio City with President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III as the guest of honor.

Zamboanga City is very proud to have two of its sons included in the Top 10 of the Sinaglahi PMA Class,” Salazar said with pride.

She expressed hope that their accomplishments will serve as inspiration to other young Zamboangueños to always aim for the best in everything they do.

“Our message to them is to live by courage, integrity and loyalty as Zamboangueños, to be courageous in meeting their assignments wherever they will be sent. We live in a community where peace and instability is a challenged, carry on as ambassadors of peace!” she said.

She noted that the life stories of two Zamboangueno PMA cadets are very inspiring.

Dizon, class salutatorian, was motivated to join the military by his father who served the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for many years.

Tali on the other hand, is the proud son of a fish vendor, who single-handedly sent his four children including Steven to school after his wife left him several years ago.

The class name Sinag-Lahi comes from the Filipino phrase “Sundalong Isinilang na may Angking Galing at Lakas, Handang Ipaglaban ang Bayan (Soldiers born with natural abilities and strength who are ready to fight for the country).”

Blast rocks Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): Blast rocks 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 a 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 on going 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.

North Cotabato lawmaker urges local leaders to lead campaign vs terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): North Cotabato lawmaker urges local leaders to lead campaign vs terrorism

KIDAPAWAN CITY -- A provincial board member here has asked local government chief executives to spearhead and be active in the campaign against terrorism and save its people from harm or even death.

North Cotabato and Kidapawan City have been bracing for bombings as "diversionary" tactics by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) now the subject of massive law enforcement operations in adjacent Maguindanao province.

Its leaders have publicly announced it will carry out bombings in North Cotabato and even threatened to attack the provincial capitol, the seat of power of the provincial government.

Board Member Joemar Cerebo has submitted a resolution in the provincial council urging the provincial government and the town executives to lead in the campaign against lawlessness and terrorism in the face of threats from outlawed groups.

Three bombing attempts were foiled in North Cotabato since the military and police launched law enforcement operations against the BIFF in Maguindanao marshland.

Speaking to DXND Radyo Bida, Cerebo stressed that local mayors should lead the implementation of checkpoints day in day out, activate the municipal to barangay level police force multipliers and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team to help thwart attempts to destabilize the province.

Cerebo chairs the Sangguniang Panglungsod Committee on Laws.

He said it is the obligation of the government to protect its people from terrorism or groups fighting the government.

He also stressed that this obligation was contained in Republic Act 10121 or the Local Disaster Risk Reducation and Management Act.

His resolution was unanimously supported and approved by the provincial board during its recent session here.

In explaining his resolution, Cerebo explained that local leaders should act first before reacting to a calamity like terrorism.

Cerebo believed that a pro-active local official will encourage the citizens to be more vigilant and save lives and properties.

De Lima fails to get MILF report on Mamasapano, will get it through IMT

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): De Lima fails to get MILF report on Mamasapano, will get it through IMT

Justice Sec. Leila de Lima on Tuesday failed to get a copy of the investigation report of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the January 25 Mamasapano encounter in Maguindanao on her visit in the MILF bailiwick.

However, De Lima said DOJ could still get a copy of the report through another channel.

De Lima was welcomed by MILF chair Al Haj Murad inside the MILF's Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The Justice secretary said she reached out to the MILF to seek copies of its investigation report on the incident.

Both officials met behind closed doors.

After the meeting, De Lima said the purpose of her visit was to secure copies of the report because the DOJ wanted to know its content to determine culpability in the incident that stunned the nation.

She refused to reveal other details of the meeting except by saying that Murad told her the MILF could not provide copies to DOJ but it will be coursed through the International Monitoring Team and the Malaysian government which is facilitating the peace talks.

"I was told the MILF probe is yet to be completed," she said.

"There is a mechanism that we need to follow, a mechanism designed and crafted by both the government and the MILF peace panels," De Lima quoted Murad as saying.

De Lima also asked the MILF if a DOJ panel could meet and talk to the witnesses in the killing of civilians during the Mamasapano incident.

De Lima explained that aside from securing copies of the PNP Board of Inquiry, DOJ also needs the copy of the MILF report so that it can determine who are the personalities to be charged

De Lima and DOJ members are now proceeding to Mamasapano, Maguindanao to visit the site of the bloody skirmishes last January that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians.

20 BIFF, 2 soldiers killed in latest Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): 20 BIFF, 2 soldiers killed in latest Maguindanao clash

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Twenty Moro bandits and two soldiers were killed in the latest skirmishes between Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Philippine Marine troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that erupted Tuesday.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the encounter between 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team under Task Force Central and BIFF started at about 4 p.m. Tuesday and ended past midnight.

”Our troops clashed with about 70 BIFF armed men while the military was conducting clearing operations in Barangay Pusao,” Petinglay said.

About 20 BIFF members were killed and 30 others were wounded, Petinglay said, quoting a report from MBLT-8.

Without identifying the slain soldiers, Petinglay said their families have been fully informed.

Earlier reports said the elusive Filipino bomber Basit Usman was with the group but still managed to escape.

Task Force Central Commander Major General Edmundo R. Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division chief, has extended his deepest sympathy to the families of the fallen soldiers who risked their lives during the heavy fighting with the bandits.

”Remains of the fallen soldiers are now being taken care of at the 6ID morgue,” Petinglay said.

Pangilinan assures the public that the firefight will not spill over to other areas of engagement and said that JTF Central will protect the civilians at all cost.

Earlier today, March 11, fighting erupted at the same area between the operating Marines troops and the BIFF.

To date, more than 100 BIFF have been killed and 60 other were wounded. Petinglay said the slain BIFF were buried by their retreating companions while others brought the wounded.

On the government side, six soldiers, including an Army captain and two lieutenants were slain and 27 others were wounded.

Petinglay said no civilian was injured since the fighting was in the middle of the marshland already deserted by non-combatants.

Ambassador Goldberg cancels Leyte trip due to plane ‘engine trouble’

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): Ambassador Goldberg cancels Leyte trip due to plane ‘engine trouble’

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg has cancelled his trip to the province today due to “engine trouble” by his private plane before it took off Manila this morning.

Hundreds of children, their parents, and local officials turned quiet when they heard the news that the ambassador cancelled his Leyte trip.

Children bearing US and Philippine flags went out of their classrooms shortly before 9 a.m. anticipating that the US envoy and US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Gloria D. Steele are coming.

The official was supposed to lead the inauguration of a 6-classroom school building in San Joaquin Central School this town.

Nikki Meru, USAID Rebuild project media liaison officer told reporters that the ambassador decided to call off the trip due to engine trouble of their private plane. The official was reportedly at the Manila airport when crew found out the engine problem.

Meru said that Steele will try to attend other activities in Tacloban today through a commercial flight.

The activity proceeded despite the absence of Goldberg and Steele. Local officials addressed the crowd gathered, expecting to see the visiting US envoy.

“My sincerest thanks to Sir Philip and Ma’am Gloria for your magnanimous heart that lift a part of San Joaquin Central School. Your commendable leadership and support shall always inspire us as we continue our life after Yolanda,” said school principal Liberato Cobacha.

The school lost 67 enrolled children when super typhoon Yolanda struck. The catastrophe totally “washed out” several classrooms.

Grade 5 learner Reymark Avila, 13 who lost his younger sister during the onslaught of super typhoon, thanked the US government for the new classroom.

“Even if I’m the only learner in this school in our family, I am motivated to study because of their generosity,” Reymark shared. Yesterday, children prepared colorful “Thank you” cards for the US envoy and USAID officials.

Following the inauguration, officials are scheduled to proceed to Utap village in this city to turn over 40 sari-sari stores to small entrepreneurs whose means of livelihood were shattered by the 2013 super typhoon.

After lunch, Goldberg and Steele are supposed inaugurate a two-storey health facility that houses a tuberculosis treatment clinic and the Tacloban City Health office, which serves about 39,000 residents from 45 villages.

These projects are part of the U.S. Government’s USD143 million relief and rehabilitation assistance for Yolanda survivors.

This is the second time that the US ambassador cancelled his Leyte trip. The first was in July 2014 due to threats of typhoon Glenda.

PHL's first C-295 medium lift aircraft to arrive by March 23 or 25 - DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): PHL's first C-295 medium lift aircraft to arrive by March 23 or 25 - DND

The country's first medium lift C-295 aircraft will be delivered by Spanish manufacturer EADS/CASA-Airbus Military this coming March 23 or 25 at the latest.

This was confirmed by Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary for finance, modernization and materiel Fernando Manalo in a briefing Monday.

"Our first C-295 (the first out of the three ordered) will be arriving at Clark Field, Pampanga by March 23 or 25," he said.

Upon arrival, the aircraft will be subjected to technical inspection and flight tested by Air Force crews before being accepted for service.

The Philippine Air Force's cargo and transportation capability is expected to get a much needed boost with the arrival of the first C-295.

The March delivery date of the first C-295 is five months earlier than its scheduled August arrival, Manalo said.

With the early arrival of the first aircraft, the DND undersecretary expects two other aircraft to follow in short order.

EADS/CASA-Airbus Military won the DND's medium lift aircraft program by tendering a bid of Php5.29 billion for three aircraft last year.

This is lower than the Php5.3-billion stipulated in the contract.

The PAF's medium lift capability is presently being fulfilled by its three F-27 "Friendship" aircraft.

"These aircraft will help in troop and limited equipment movement," DND secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said.

The C-295 is described as "a capable and versatile transport and surveillance aircraft.”

EADS/CASA-Airbus Military stated that the C-295 can carry up to nine tons of cargo or 71 people.

It also has a maximum cruising speed of 260 knots and operate in short and rough airfields.

PNP invites bidders for 743 sub machine gun; 34 units HF/SSB Base Radio

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): PNP invites bidders for 743 sub machine gun; 34 units HF/SSB Base Radio

The Philippine National Police is inviting interested bidders to apply for 743 units of sub machine gun and 34-unit HF/SSB Base Radio, PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr., said on Tuesday

Cerbo said the approved budget for the acquisition of 743 units of sub machine gun is Php133, 740, 000.

He said PNP now invites bids for the said project. Bidding is open to all interested bidders, whether local or foreign, subject to the conditions for eligibility provided in the IRR of RA 9184.

Bid opening will be on April 17, 2015, 9 a.m. at the PNP Main Conference Room in Camp Crame.

Under the IRR, the delivery of goods is required within 150 calendar days divided into two tranches upon issuance of the permit, 400 on the first tranche required within 90 calendar days and second tranche 343 within the remaining period covered.

Prior to the deadline of Submission and Opening of Bids, the National Headquarters- Bids and Awards Committee (NHQBAC) shall accept applications from Monday to Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for registration of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and contractors participating in PNP procurement of goods, infrastructure projects and consulting services.

A complete set of bidding documents may be acquired by interested bidders from March 4 to April 17 upon payment of a non-refundable fee in the amount of Php50, 000.

It may also be downloaded from the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) and PNP website at, provided that bidders shall pay the fee for the bidding documents not later than the submission of their bids.

“The pre-bid conference would be held at the PNP main conference room on March 17, 9 a.m. at PNP Main Conference Room,” Police Director Juanito Vaño Jr., Chairman of the PNP Bids and Awards Committee said.

Meanwhile, the PNP is also inviting interested bidders to apply for a 34-unit HF/SSB Base Radio until March 25, 2015.

With the General Appropriations Act of 2014 as basis, the PNP intends to apply the sum of Seventeen Million Pesos (Php17,000,000.00) being the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) as payment for the said Base Radio units.

Interested bidders may obtain further information from the Philippine National Police and inspect the Bidding Documents at the National Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee, 2nd Floor, PNP-NHQ Main Building, Camp Crame, Quezon City during working days from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Bids must be delivered to the said address on or before March 25, 2015 at 9:00 AM.

A complete set of Bidding Documents may be acquired by interested Bidders from March 3, 2015 to March 25, 2015 from the address below upon payment of a non-refundable fee in the amount of Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (Php25,000.00). It may also be downloaded free of charge from the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) and the PNP Website,, provided that Bidders shall pay the non-refundable fee for the Bidding Documents not later than the submission of their bids.

According to Police Director Juanito B. Vaño Jr., the PNP Director for Logistics and Chairman of the National Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee, the bidding will be conducted through open competitive bidding procedures using a nondiscretionary "pass/fail" criterion as specified in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (lRR) of Republic Act (RA) 9184, otherwise known as the "Government Procurement Reform Act".

“Bidding is solely for Filipino proprietorships, corporations, partnerships or organizations with at least sixty percent (60%) interest or outstanding capital stock belonging to citizens of the Philippines.” said Vaño.

Bid opening shall be on March 25, 2015 at exactly 9:10 a.m. at the PNP Main Conference Room, Camp Crame. Bids will be opened in the presence of the bidders’ representatives who choose to attend while late bids shall not be accepted. However, the PNP reserves the right to accept or reject any bid to annul the bidding process, and to reject all bids at any time prior to contract award, without incurring any liability to the affected bidder or bidders.

For further information, please refer to PNP Bids and Awards Committee c/o NHQ-BAC Secretariat, 2nd Floor, NHQ-PNP Main Building, Camp Crame, Quezon City with telephone number (02) 723-0401 local 3009 and telefax number (02)726-7218.