Tuesday, March 24, 2015

AFP: pangilinan deserves 2nd chance

From Malaya (Mar 25): AFP: pangilinan deserves 2nd chance

ARMED Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has requested President Aquino to re-appoint Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan to the two-star rank (major general) so he could face the Commission on Appointments anew, AFP public affairs office chieft Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said yesterday.
The CA deferred the confirmation of Pangilinan last week due to his role in the Mamasapano incident that left 44 Special Action Force commandos dead last January 25. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano moved to defer Pangilinan’s confirmation because of pending questions on the carnage.

Cabunoc, however, said Pangilinan still enjoys the trust and confidence of Catapang and wants him to be given another chance to be promoted to major general.

“Of course (he deserves the confirmation), that’s why Gen. Catapang is requesting the President to re-appoint general Pangilinan (to the rank) and his trust and confidence in general Pangilinan are still there,” Cabunoc said.

Pangilinan is being blamed by some quarters for the delayed military reinforcement while the SAF commandos were battling forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which some quarters said contributed to the death of the SAF 44.

Cabunoc said that while the military respects the CA decision deferring the confirmation of Pangilinan, they are hoping the general will be confirmed soon. Pangilinan assumed command of the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division in May last year.


MILF: Killing of SAF men ‘justified’

From the Manila Times (Mar 25): MILF: Killing of SAF men ‘justified’

The killing of the 44 Special Action Force troops in the Mamasapano incident was “justified.”

The full report of the Special Investigation Committee (SIC) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made this conclusion in the 38-page report it submitted to the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) last Sunday.

“The BIAF members were justified in fighting back after [they were] fired upon by the PNP-SAF (Philippine National Police-Special Action Force) in [Barangay] Tukanalipao. Without prior coordination, the BIAF did not know that the forces in Sitio Amilil were government forces with whom there is a holding ceasefire agreement,” the report said.

“When they were fired upon in the wooden bridge of Tukanalipao, the BIAF [members] could not have done anything else but to fire back as two of their men were instantly killed in the assault of the PNP-SAF men,” it added.

The BIAF refers to the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the “military” wing of the MILF.

The MILF distributed a copy of the report to the media, including The Manila Times, on Monday or a few hours after it was received by the IMT in Cotabato City.

The report was embargoed on Tuesday at the request of the MILF as it did not want to preempt the submission of a copy to the Senate through Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

A joint Senate panel as well as the Board of Inquiry created by the PNP also probed the January 25 incident in Maguindanao.

The IMT was created to monitor a ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Supported by the United States and the European Union, it is composed of representatives from Japan, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

The MILF-SIC blamed the national police for the incident, saying the SAF mission to capture international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman violated the peace agreement as the mission was not coordinated with them.

Marwan was killed in the clash while Usman managed to slip out.

The report said MILF-BIAF fighters were going to Sitio Amilil around 4:30 a.m. of January 25, 2015 when members of the 55th Special Action Company (55th SAC) of the PNP Special Action Force allegedly fired at them.

Two MILF fighters were killed in the first encounter, the report said.

Fifteen more MILF fighters and at least three civilians were killed in the fighting.

“It was still dark at this time of day, and the BIAF forces could not distinguish what group had fired at them. The 55th SAC was positioned across the 15-meter wide river and was hiding in the cornfield in that part of Sitio Amilil,” the report, quoting MILF witnesses. said.

“While the BIAF could not clearly see whom they were fighting against, they concluded that these were not friendly forces as they had initiated the first shots–shots that were fatal to two of their men.

“Firing ensued between the two groups. The BIAF members later on construed that the uniformed armed men who attacked them were soldiers of the Philippine Army,” it added.

The gunbattle prompted MILF-BIAF fighters who were living in the area to come to the aid of their beleaguered comrades.

“A total of more or less 100 MILF men were eventually engaged in the fighting,” the report said.

“As members of the MILF came to the site of the fighting spontaneously, there was no organized central command that was in charge of the whole engagement.

“[The] superior number of MILF forces, familiarity [with] the terrain, coupled with their high-caliber firearms [gave them the advantage over the SAF troops].

The MILF submitted a copy of its report to Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, which had held hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in abeyance pending the submission of the group’s findings.

“We trust that this report is treated with fairness and we hope that all the information provided therein will be helpful in your evaluation of the incident,” said Mohagher Iqbal, vice chairman and chief negotiator of the MILF, in a letter to Marcos.

The PNP’s spokesman, meanwhile, said they are willing to investigate a claim in the MILF-SIC report that some of the slain SAF police commandos had used the dead bodies of their colleagues as shields during the fighting.

“The PNP-BOI has not mentioned anything about the dead SAF having been used as shields. We have no comment on that for now through we are ready to be investigated on that issue. The same with the alleged failure of the SAF to coordinate. We are open to outside probe to clear these things out,” Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo told The Manila Times.

Reacting to Cerbo’s statement, a police official criticized the PNP spokesman for not taking up the cudgels for their fallen comrades.

“What investigation is he talking about? Sino iimbestigahan, ang PNP [Who will be investigated, the PNP]? Ang PNP na nga nalagasan, sila pa ang iimbestigahan [It was the PNP that lost some of its men, yet it will be the one to be investigated]? The trouble with Cerbo is he is toeing the line of Malacanang,” the official told The Times.

The official, who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to speak on the matter, described the MILF report as “self-serving” even as he said that no ceasefire violation was committed.

“The SAF troops have warrants to arrest Marwan and Usman, they are high-value targets. So what coordination is the MILF is talking about?” he said.

The official also debunked claims that dead bodies were used as shields, saying medico-legal findings showed otherwise. “These are scientific findings. The medico-legal results revealed that they were shot at close range. The bullet-proof vests they were wearing were taken off before they were shot at close range,” he pointed out.

Military officials declined to comment on the MILF report.

“We will refer this issue to the OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] which handles the peace process with the MILF,” Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office, said.


Witness 'Barbie' positively identified Pemberton, says prosecution counsel

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): Witness 'Barbie' positively identified Pemberton, says prosecution counsel

Mark Clarence Gelvino, also known as "Barbie", on Tuesday stood as witness of the prosecution panel in the continuation of the hearing on the criminal case against US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is charged of murder on the death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude last year in this city.

Lawyer Virgie Suarez, the legal counsel for the family of the victim, said Gelvino, in his testimony, positively pointed to and identified Pemberton from among the people inside the court room as the person who joined them inside the bar in Magsaysay Drive and went with Jennifer inside the Celzone Lodge.

Gelvino was described as a calm and very relaxed witness who showed consistency in his testimonies.

“The trial went well. We are happy how the trial went,” Suarez said.

The prosecution panel also presented Monday Elias Aran Gallamos, a room boy of Celzone Lodge and was described by the prosecution as their star witness to the case.

During the direct examination, Gallamos narrated that there was no other person except for Pemberton who entered Celzone Lodge before and after the time when the lifeless body of the victim was found.

Meanwhile, Suarez reiterated that no plea bargaining agreement will happen unless it will be permitted by Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde, who is presiding over the case.

On the reported P21 million for damages as part of the plea bargaining agreement, she denied that the idea came from the Laude family.

“The family did not offer nor ask for anything,” she said.

Malou Laude, the sister of victim, clarified that the issue on the P21 million was merely the possible amount that the court may ask the accused (Pemberton) to pay for the family of the Laude.

“Whether it is murder or lowered to homicide, the damage may be set for P21 million. We believe that this is not part of the plea bargaining, as we stood firm that Pemberton should be put behind bars,” Malou Laude said.

Meanwhile, the victim’s mother Julita and sister Malou were not allowed to attend the trial and were ordered to leave the court room as they both possible witnesses to the case.

The next trial is set on April 13 and 14 where the prosecutor will present a security guard as witness.

4 wounded troopers decorated with Wounded Personnel Medals

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): 4 wounded troopers decorated with Wounded Personnel Medals

Four troopers, wounded in various encounters with the New People's Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were decorated for their heroism and bravery Tuesday.

Their Wounded Personnel Medals were personally given to them by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang during short ceremonies at the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna, Quezon City.

Catapang also assured two of the awardees, Staff Sgt. Pio Himaldong and Pfc. Ramil Akiatan of their promotion for surviving separate attacks from NPAs and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

The Wounded Personnel Medal is awarded to members and civilians employed by the AFP who are injured or killed in combat with the enemy.

Its equivalent is the Purple Heart Award of the US Armed Forces.

Among those who received the award was 2nd Lt. Eljuhn Aboc, 26, from Cagayan De Oro City.

He is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2014.

Aboc was wounded on his right arm during an encounter with an estimated 10 NPA fighters during an encounter in Barangay Limos, Pinukpuk, Kalinga last Feb. 28.

He was leading his squad in response to an ambush conducted by the same group of NPAs against three other soldiers earlier in an adjacent barangay.

Aboc and his squad were tasked in Kalinga to conduct Bayanihan projects with the local government units.

While Staff Sgt. Marlon Sanico, 48, Zamboanga Del Sur, was wounded by shrapnel on his limbs and shoulder when under attack from more or less 50 BIFFs in barangay Katibpuan, Talayan, Maguindanao last March 7.

He was one of the soldiers deployed for the law enforcement operations against the BIFF with the Philippine National Police.

“We were just one kilometer away from the enemies in a ditch. They were hiding in trenches too,” Sanico said.

He saw two of his comrades shot by enemy snipers on the head and the jaw while others fell wounded beside him.

Despite his wounds, Sanico turned back to pick up a wounded comrade while bullets rained around him.

Pfc. Rogelio Labi, 26, from North Cotabato, was wounded on both legs by shrapnel and bullets while his platoon was reinforcing Sanico’s unit in the same encounter with BIFF.

“We were looking to save the wounded and ended up closer to the enemy,” he said.

They were blinded by the darkness and could not determine the location of the enemy as they were pinned down by heavy BIFF machine fire which incidentally killed one of his companions.

“Nobody wins in wars, both sides lose,” he said.

Arturo Ancheta, brother of Pfc. Lester King Ancheta, beamed with pride but there were tears in his eyes for his younger brother.

Ancheta, 23, was among the five wounded in an encounter with NPAs in Barangay Legleg, Quirino, Ilocos Sur last Feb. 26. Four men from from his unit were killed in battle.

He sustained shots on various parts of the body including a shot from an AK-47 automatic rifle which entered his upper chest then existed through his lower back.

They were conducting clearing operations with PNP against NPA when they were ambushed by more or less 10 NPAs.

Akiatan, 35, and a member of the 32nd Infantry Battalion, said he was wounded in the head after being hit by shrapnel from an exploding anti-vehicle landmine.

He said that his head wound received 12 stitches while his left shoulder was dislocated.

A shrapnel is still in his arm to be removed by surgery soon.

Akiatan and his unit were returning to their camp from inventorying firearms from Alpha Company in Maguindanao when they were landmined while on a military truck by ASG.

They encountered 30 ASGs who also fired at them even as they were thrown in different directions by the bomb.

The ASG were under the command of Cmdr. Sahiron.

He said three soldiers from his unit were killed while six were wounded.(


Trillanes misinformed on ‘drinking session’ –Magalong

From GMA News (Mar 24): Trillanes misinformed on ‘drinking session’ –Magalong

A ranking police official on Tuesday said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV may have been "misinformed" when he alleged that an unidentified Special Action Force officer went drinking with Army commanders on the night before the January 25 mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Director Benjamin Magalong, who chaired the police Board of Inquiry that looked into the Mamasapano incident, categorically denied Trillanes' allegation.

"We have already investigated that allegation," he said. "There is no truth to it.”

Forty-four SAF troopers were killed when the mission to arrest three suspected terrorists in a remote village in Mamasapano resulted in a clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which the government has an existing peace agreement, and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Figthers.


Magalong, who also heads the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), admitted that there was indeed a "fellowship" on the eve of the mission but quickly added that SAF troopers were not part of it.

He, however, has yet to respond to further inquiries regarding the fellowship.

The PNP has earlier vowed to cooperate with any external investigation on the alleged drinking session.

PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the PNP will not investigate the supposed drinking session as it would be too "self-serving" for them.

"More wise kung may body outside the PNP ang magsasagawa ng investigation," he said.


Army battalion transferred from Samar to Maguindanao to join offensive vs BIFF

From InterAksyon (Mar 24): Army battalion transferred from Samar to Maguindanao to join offensive vs BIFF

Government forces fire howitzers against the BIFF (AFP file)

The Philippine Army has transferred a battalion from Samar to Maguindanao to beef up the “all-out” offensive launched last month against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the band of terrorists, led by bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman, they are allegedly coddling.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, public affairs chief of the 6th Infantry Dvision, said the 34th Infantry (Reliable) Battalion of the 8th ID arrived at Camp Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on March 21.

She said the battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edgar delos Reyes, “will augment the 6ID’s efforts in maintaining peace and security in its area of responsibility, which covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur province and parts of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.”

“The deployment marks the start of the holding phase wherein government forces will establish encampments in former lairs of the BIFF in order to prevent the armed lawless group from going back to said areas. It will further pave the way for the implementation of various developmental projects in the different communities in 6ID’s area of operation,” she added.

On Monday, Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said the offensive against the BIFF would continue, despite growing calls for an end or suspension to the operations, which have so far displaced more than 130,000 civilians.

Catapang said the military is providing the necessary support to local government units and government agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations, taking care of evacuees.

On Sunday, government forces said they dismantled another clandestine bomb factory of the BIFF and Usman’s group in Datu Unsay town.

Catapang said it is the military’s mission to liberate Maguindanao’s so-called “SPMS box” -- for the towns of Datu Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak -- from years of BIFF and terrorist influence.

“I think this is the output of our all-out offensive. We realized that these terrorists have turned that place into a terrorist haven and they have turned that place into an IED (improvised explosive device) factory haven. Mas sobra pa sa Bocaue ang ginawa nila,” Catapang said, referring to the Bulacan town that is the center of fireworks manufacturing.

“That is why we will have to sustain the operations. I told our [Defense] Secretary (Voltaire Gazmin), I told our President (Benigno Aquino III), that hindi pa po kabisado ng mga sundalo ‘yung entire na lugar (our soldiers are not familiar with the entire area) because for the longest time that was a forbidden area to penetrate. And now because of what had happened, we want to take advantage that our soldiers na nand’yan na ngayon (who are there now) should be familiar with the terrain and the areas and we have to clear it with terrorists, clear it from being a haven of IED factory,” he added.


MILF: Sen. Trillanes criticizes relieved SAF Commander for saying his men killed 250 MILF rebels

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 24): Sen. Trillanes criticizes relieved SAF Commander for saying his men killed 250 MILF rebels

Sen. Trillanes criticizes relieved SAF Commander for saying his men killed 250 MILF rebels

Last Saturday,  March 21, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV  criticized relieved Special Action Force (SAF) Commander General Getulio Napeñas for telling the Senate during the investigation on Mamasapano incident that his men killed 250 Moro rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the clash at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

“Gen. Napeñas lied by saying SAF commandos killed 250 Moro fighters during that skirmishes at Mamasapano”, Sen. Trillanes said.

The MILF denied Napeñas statement but admitted having lost 18 of its men, including 5 civilians allegedly killed by the SAF commandos.

Gen. Napeñas blamed the military for not sending reinforcements and firing howitzers against the Moro rebels who outnumbered his men and eventually killed 44 SAF commandos with only one survived.


MILF: NGO urges legislators to continue BBL hearings

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 24): NGO urges legislators to continue BBL hearings

NGO urges legislators to continue BBL hearings

A prominent Non-Government Organization of Peace Advocates urges members of the House of Representatives to continue with the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Postponement of the scheduled BBL hearings will not only derail almost two decades of peace work and confidence-building efforts but it will also shortchange the people living in the Bangsamoro areas their best chance to achieve sustainable peace and development,” Kalilintad Development Foundation, Inc. said in a statement released last March 19.

KDFI stated their objection to the signed petition of 52 Congressmen and Congresswomen dated March 18, 2015 that pushes for the postponement of the hearings on the draft BBL in order to duplicate the Senate probe on the Mamasapano incident.

The statement further said, “Clearly, this road is leading us to a difficult journey. But we must stay the course. We believe that it’s the only way to reach our destination. But before we get there, we must take the legislative track.”

KDFI stressed, “history has taught us that justice and peace must go together.” It further said. “We already know that we are travelling in a road with uncertain destination as a result of that incident, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has become the major victim.”

“But this road may lead us to a place where our hopes become realities,” the group pointed out.

“Together, let us inform our representatives in Congress that it is not cowardice to rethink their positions. Rather, it is bravery to embrace genuine reforms. Let this be our shared plea as one people—Muslims, Christians, Lumads.”

The group urges the public to let the legislators know how important the BBL is to the Moro people. “We must convince them to take the side of peace lest they lose the chance to re-write our nation’s history,” KDFI added.


MILF: Lawmakers commemorate Jabidah Massacre, vow support for BBL passage

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 24): Lawmakers commemorate Jabidah Massacre, vow support for BBL passage

Lawmakers commemorate Jabidah Massacre, vow support for BBL passage

Thirty-five members of the House of Representatives signed a Statement to join in the commemoration of Jabidah Massacre and vowed to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The infamous Jabidah Massacre happened in Corregidor Island 47 years ago where 28 Moro recruits were summarily executed by the Philippine military.

Jabidah refers to the name of the unit recruited and was tasked to implement “Operation Merdeka,” a top-secret military plan to invade Sabah, Malaysia.

The government troops killed the Moro recruits who turned mutinous upon learning their mission entailed fighting other Sama and Tausug relatives living in Sabah.

Only one survivor, Jibin Arula, was able to escape and disclosed the incident with the help of then Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.

In the statement, the legislators said, “It has been 47 years already, and yet there is so much we still do not know. We do not even know how many of our Muslim brothers were killed. We do not even know why their lives ended so abruptly, so violently. We do not even know all their names. It has been 47 years, and still we can only speculate.”

“And so today we remember our Muslim brothers whose lives were needlessly taken in Corregidor, whose futures were unfairly and abruptly cut short—as if their lives did not matter, as if they did not have loving families waiting anxiously for their return, as if they did not have their own hopes and dreams,” the lawmakers said.

The statement read,” The unfairness of it all hurts even more now that we see how these injustices continue in Mindanao. Communities continue to be broken. Families are forced to leave their lands and their possessions, fleeing under the threat of bombs and bullets. Children continue to be prevented from reaching their aspirations. Our Muslim sisters and brothers continue to live with prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry.”

The lawmakers stressed, “We call for peace. We reiterate our support and continue to call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and we assure the Filipino public that we will do everything in our power to make sure that it will pass.”

“We as legislators understand, perhaps more than anyone, that a law cannot automatically guarantee peace. However, we believe this is a step—the only step we have now—in the right direction. Otherwise, we can only imagine a future of more Mamasapanos, more Jabidahs.”

Lawmakers who signed the statement include:

1. Rep. Henedina Abad (Lone District, Batanes)
2. Rep. Francis Gerald Abaya (First District, Cavite)
3. Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba (First District, Bukidnon)
4. Rep. Nicasio Aliping (Lone District, Baguio City)
5. Rep. Jorge Almonte (First District, Misamis Occidental)
6. Rep. Isagani Amatong (Third District, Zamboanga del Norte)
7. Rep. Benjamin Asilo (First District, Manila)
8. Rep. Kaka Bag-ao (Lone District, Dinagat Islands)
9. Rep. Teddy Baguilat (Lone District, Ifugao)
10. Rep. Pangalian Balindong (Lanao del Sur)
11. Rep. Bolet Banal (Third District, Quezon City)
12. Rep. Kit Belmonte (Sixth District, Quezon City)
13. Rep. Winnie Castelo (Second District, Quezon City)
14. Rep. Joaquin Chipeco, Jr. (Second District, Laguna)
15. Rep. Sonny Collantes (Third District, Batangas)
16. Rep. Ronald Cosalan (Lone District, Benguet)
17. Rep. Arthur Defensor, Jr. (Third District, Iloilo)
18. Rep. Anthony del Rosario (First District, Davao del Norte)
19. Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla (Second District, Zambales)
20. Rep. Edgar Erice (Second District, Caloocan City)
21. Rep. Ben Evardone (Lone District, Eastern Samar)
22. Rep. Lawrence Fortun (First District, Agusan del Norte)
23. Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman (Lone District, Basilan)
24. Rep. Doy Leachon (First District, Oriental Mindoro)
25. Rep. JC Rahman Nava (Lone District, Guimaras)
26. Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato (Lone District, Occidental Mindoro)
27. Rep. Rene Relampagos (First District, Bohol)
28. Rep. Oscar Rodriguez (Third District, Pampanga)
29. Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes)
30. Rep. Bai Sandra Sema (First District, Maguindanao and Cotabato City)
31. Rep. Eric Singson (Second District, Ilocos Sur)
32. Rep. Jerry Treñas (Lone District, Iloilo City)
33. Rep. Reynaldo Umali (Second District, Oriental Mindoro)
34. Rep. Isidro Ungab (Third District, Davao City)
35. Rep. Maricar Zamora (First District, Compostela Valley)


CPP/MAKIBAKA: Women in Revolution: Maria Lorena Barros and MAKIBAKA

NDF/MAKIBAKA public address posted to the CPP Website (Mar 22): Women in Revolution: Maria Lorena Barros and MAKIBAKA
Coni Ledesma
International Spokesperson
Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan
 Good afternoon, dear sisters, comrades and friends.

My talk this afternoon will focus on a Filipina revolutionary and her contribution to the national democratic movement, and the women’s movement as a whole. I will talk about Maria Lorena Barros or Laurie, as she was popularly known.

Laurie was an anthropology student at the University of the Philippines in the mid 1960s. This was the time when students became aware of the political situation in the country, and imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism were recognized as the basic problems of Philippine society.

This was the period of political awakening of the Filipino people, when widespread protests in Metro Manila against the administration of Ferdinand Marcos were taking place. The nationalist struggle had been dormant since the 1950s. This ferment would lead to a frenzy of organizing among students, community youth, workers and farmers. Students and workers demonstrated against the Marcos government and exposed the basic problems of the Filipino people.

There were demonstrations against the raising of tuition fees, support for workers on strike, and demonstrations against the Vietnam war. Police brutality in response to the demonstrations resulted in more demonstrations.

Student organizations like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) and other organizations drew in men and women into their organizations.

It was during this period that Laurie became a student activist.

As Laurie got more deeply involved as an activist, she and other women began to discuss the role of women in the national democratic struggle. The youth organizations, like Kabataang Makabayan, had a women’s bureau. But Laurie and the other women activists saw the need for a specific organization for women in order to fight not only against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism, but also to fight for women’s emancipation and to draw in women – who hold up half the sky – to participate in the struggle.

Theoretical and concrete practical work related to women’s issues were very limited in the other organizations. Laurie saw the importance of a women’s organization to define the role of women in the struggle and to draw in the largest participation of women.

Initially, the need for establishing a women’s organization separate from the youth organizations was questioned, saying that such an organization would divide the ranks.
However, Laurie clarified the ideological line, saying that a woman’s organization would specifically address the women’s issues in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial and patriarchal Philippine society. Through a women’s organization, the women’s struggle would become ideologically more revolutionary than their precursors, in that they would fight not only against Marcos, but also address the structural inequality in Philippine society. A women’s organization was important because it would articulate the women’s question within the broader framework of national and class oppression.
In addition, it would draw in and organize women into the ranks of the revolutionary forces.

In April 1970, an all women’s group called Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababihan (Free Movement of New Women) or MAKIBAKA was born. Laurie was its Founding Chairperson.

The establishment of MAKIBAKA is a major landmark in the history of the women’s movement in the Philippines. It articulated the oppression suffered by women and the need for women’s liberation through participation in the nationalist struggle.

MAKIBAKA brought together women activists who espoused women’s liberation in the context of national liberation. Women from various national democratic organizations joined MAKIBAKA.

MAKIBAKA’s first all-women activity was a picket of a major beauty contest. This initial activity was significant not only because it was an all women’s activity, but because it raised for the first time a woman-specific issue – the commodification of women through beauty contests. This was a concern never before addressed by the national democratic movement.

As MAKIBAKA developed, so too their activities. There was the picket of the UP Corps of Sponsors to protest the militarization of the University campus, the establishment of the National Democratic Nursery and the Mothers’ Corps, and the support for the worker’s strike at the US Tobacco Corporation. The members also held teach-ins and discussion groups where they discussed national and women’s issues, visited political prisoners, paid homage to revolutionary martyrs, and rallied against the high prices. During this time, Lorena was writing essays and short articles on the women’s situation and the emancipation of women.

In the two and a half years of its existence before the declaration of Martial Law by the late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, MAKIBAKA membership grew. Women became conscious of their double oppression, and experienced the liberating effects of participating in a national struggle as they involved themselves in performing general and specific tasks for the revolution.

Why is the founding of MAKIBAKA an important milestone in the history of the women’s movement in the Philippines?

Our history tells us that from as far back as during Spanish colonization, into American colonization and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, women have participated in the struggles for national liberation. We have great women like Gabriela Silang who, when her husband was killed in battle, took his place and led her troops in the war against Spain.

There were the women of Samar who, during the Philippine-American war, danced and flirted with the American soldiers, getting them drunk, and then that night, together with their male comrades, killed all the American soldiers.

There was Joey Guerrero, a woman who had leprosy, who used her illness to slip through Japanese lines to bring messages and food to the guerrilla fighters.

So why is MAKIBAKA a major landmark in the history of the women’s movement in the Philippines? MAKIBAKA espouses women’s liberation in the context of the national liberation struggle. It states that women not only suffer from the oppressive and exploitative situation of the country, but that women suffer the double oppression of gender oppression. And that the full liberation of women will only come when the Filipino people will have overthrown the yoke of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Its main task is to draw in as many women to the revolution.

Laurie used to say, “The Filipino woman’s place is in the struggle”. This is quite unlike the old saying, “The woman’s place is in the home”!

When the Dictator Marcos declared Martial Law in September 1972, MAKIBAKA members, as well as activists and members of various national democratic organizations, went underground. That means, activists went out of sight. But this did not mean they went into hiding and just hid. Many, including Laurie, went to the countryside and joined the New People’s Army. Out of sight of the fascist military, the women and men of the national democratic movement continued to organize and the national democratic movement grew in leaps and bounds.

In October 1973, a year after Martial Law was declared, Laurie was arrested, tortured and imprisoned. While in prison, she learned that her husband, and the father of her son, had surrendered to the Marcos military. Sometime later, she escaped from prison together with five other companions and rejoined the New People’s Army in the area where her husband had been active before he surrendered. This was her wish: That she would take his place and fight in his stead.

On March 24,1976, an encounter took place and Laurie was wounded. She ordered her other companions to retreat while she covered for them. The story is that when the soldiers came to her, she tried to shoot them but her gun jammed. She is supposed to have said, “You are lucky gentlemen, my gun jammed.”

Laurie died in battle in 1976. But her spirit and her ideals live on. MAKIBAKA, which went underground with the declaration of Martial Law, became one of the founding organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. It is a very active organization in the NDFP.

Most of its members are peasant women in the countryside. But there are also MAKIBAKA members in the cities, among women’s organizations, and in the communities. In places where MAKIBAKA members are, they awaken the consciousness of women to the analysis of Philippine society, the double oppression they suffer as women, and enjoin them to participate in the struggle to liberate themselves. MAKIBAKA defines the women’s movement in the Philippines as distinct but integral part to the national democratic movement.

Let me conclude my talk with a quote from the writings of Laurie Barros:

“The new woman, the new Filipina, is first and foremost a militant.
The new Filipina is one who can stay whole days and nights with striking workers, learning from them the social realities which her bourgeois education has kept from her. She is a woman who has discovered the exalting realm of responsibility, a woman fully engaged in the making of history. No longer is she a woman for marriage, but more and more a woman for action.”

Today, MAKIBAKA continues to live the dream of Maria Lorena Barros.

Thank you.


Soldiers uncover BIFF bomb factory in Maguindanao

From the Manila Times (Mar 24): Soldiers uncover BIFF bomb factory in Maguindanao

THE bomb factory set up by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao is bigger than the fireworks industry in Bocaue, Bulacan, according to Armed Forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang.

Catapang said the BIFF turned the so-called SPMS box into a terrorist haven. SPMS refers to the towns and municipalities of Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.

The town of Mamasapano was the site of a deadly encounter between police commandos and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and BIFF fighters in January.
The military described the SPMS box as “no man’s land.”

The military uncovered the BIFF’s bomb “factory” while soldiers were pursuing the rebels early this month. Catapang said the rebels have been making improvised explosives device or IEDs.

“Now the PNP [Philippine National Police] and AFP and everybody are conscious that they (BIFF) have turned that place into a terrorist haven,” Catapang told reporters in an interview following the anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army on Monday.

“And they have turned that place into an IED factory haven, mas sobra pa sa Bocaue ang ginawa nila,” he added.

Catapang said government troops will clear the SPMS areas and he expressed hopes that the BIFF will be crushed by June this year.

“Those who are [living] within the SPMS box we will allow them to return tapos ico-cordone na namin para hindi na mapasukan ng BIFF and lawless elements and terrorists,” he said.

Catapang added that the military will continue to hunt down Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman and other terrorists being coddled by the BIFF.


Platoon leader in Mamasapano clash given military honors

From the Philippine Star (Mar 23): Platoon leader in Mamasapano clash given military honors

2Lt. Jeymark Mateo, platoon leader of the 61st Division Reconnaissance Company, received the Gold Cross Medal during the celebration of the Army’s 118th anniversary in Fort Bonifacio.

The leader of the military platoon that extricated the fallen and wounded police commandos in Mamasapano was awarded the third highest military honor on Monday amid allegations that the Army’s assistance came in too late.

2Lt. Jeymark Mateo, platoon leader of the 61st Division Reconnaissance Company, received the Gold Cross Medal during the celebration of the Army’s 118th anniversary in Fort Bonifacio.

Mateo, a member of Philippine Military Academy class 2013, was cited for reinforcing the 84th Special Action Company (SAC) that was heavily under fire by Muslim rebels last Jan. 25.

Mateo’s platoon was credited for the successful retrieval of eight dead, 11 wounded and 18 unharmed members of the Special Action Force (SAF).

The conferment of award came amid persistent notions that the military had failed to provide timely assistance to the SAF troopers who were pinned down by the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

Mateo, however, parried the criticisms, saying he and his men are glad that they were able to save lives.

“They (critics) have their opinions. What is important is we were able to perform our duty. We are happy that we were able to help those in need,” the young lieutenant said.

When the members of the 84th SAC thanked us, we were very happy. They said they won’t be able to be with their families anymore if not for us,” he added.

Despite the finger-pointing on who should be blamed for the bloody Mamasapano clash, military leaders maintained that Mateo is deserving of the award.

“If they (SAF troopers) were not extricated, we won’t be talking about SAF 44. We’d be talking about SAF 72. If they were not extricated, they would have been walloped. We were able to save 28 lives because of that operation,” Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said in a chance interview.

“I hope the public will understand what really happened,” he added.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri said Mateo’s award should not be linked with the intrigues surrounding the clash.

“An award is given to recognize an act, and action, and dedication to duty, regardless of whatever situation he did that so let us not put anything malice to that,” Iriberri said.

When asked whether he thinks that a timely military response would have saved the lives of all SAF troopers, Iriberri said: “As I said, it’s already part of the investigation. The results have been released. Let us just stick to that.”

Missing SAF firearms

Meanwhile, Mateo disputed allegations that some of the firearms of the slain SAF members that were entrusted to the Army got into the hands of the MILF.

“My troops cannot do that. In fact, before they (SAF) left the area, they left one of the guns under the tree. My troops picked it up and returned it to them,” he said.

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) that probed the clash has released a report containing the statement of 84th Special Action Company member PO2 Rommel Magno, who claimed to have turned over his rifle to the Army’s Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC).

Magno, who was seriously injured, allegedly handed his rifle as well as those of his dead comrades to a member of the DRC.

“When Magno's rifle was returned, its GL M203 grenade launcher was missing,” the report read.

Magno’s rifle, the BOI report said, was among the firearms turned over by the MILF ceasefire panel to its government counterpart.

“This meant that the firearms got into the hands of Moro rebels when it should have been under the protection of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops,” the report read.

The BOI findings were released amid reports that the 16 Special Action Force (SAF) firearms returned by the MILF last month have been cannibalized.

A total of 64 SAF firearms were lost during the Mamasapano clash.


New Malaysian ceasefire monitors visit Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Mar 24): New Malaysian ceasefire monitors visit Sulu

Sulu Vice Gov. Hadji Sakur Tan briefs officials of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team on the provincial government's peace and socio-economic programs for the island province. John Unson

The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) assured to support the good governance initiatives of the provincial government Sulu, which covers 18 towns that are hotbeds of secessionist activities.

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Libya, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts and economists from Japan, Norway and the European Union, has been helping enforce since late 2003 the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Officials of the IMT, led by Malaysian Major Gen. Mouhsin Hassan, and Sulu Vice Gov. Hadji Sakur Tan met over the weekend in Jolo, capital town of the island province, and discussed the prospects of the Mindanao peace process.

Sulu is a known bastion of a faction in the Moro National Liberation Front, led by former political science professor, Nur Misuari, who is opposed to the ongoing government-MILF peace agreement.

The largest and most politically active group in the MNLF, led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, whose followers are spread in 20 "revolutionary states" in Central Mindanao, the Zamboanga peninsula and Palawan, has overtly been supporting the enforcement of all the interim security agreements between the government and the MILF.

Hassan, of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces, is the IMT’s new head of mission, who took over the leadership two weeks ago.

Hassan gave Tan a symbolic token, in the presence of provincial officials, as an expression of the IMT’s support to the peace and development efforts of the provincial government.

The Sulu vice governor toured the visiting IMT officials to a government museum in the province, which has vast collections of historic mementos and artifacts giving credence to the long history of the socioeconomic and political relationships between Malaysia and the Muslim communities in Sulu.

The ties between the people in the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, both component areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, began hundreds of years before merchant-sailor Ferdinand Magellan arrived in what is now Visayas on March 16, 1521.

The day Magellan - a Portuguese who worked for the Spanish monarch then - arrived in Visayas had been chronicled in history books as the start of the spread of Christianity in what was to become a sovereign Philippine nation.


Military, BIFF clash anew in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Mar 24): Military, BIFF clash anew in Maguindanao

Army combatants guard the wooden footbridge in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao following Monday's renewed attacks by bandits in surrounding towns. John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Soldiers clashed again with marauding bandits in Datu Piang town on Monday, causing panic among local folks and evacuees cramped in squalid evacuation sites nearby.

The hostilities erupted when members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Abunawas Ibad and Omar Sangkung, opened fire on soldiers patrolling in a secluded area in Barangay Alunganen in southwest of Datu Piang.

The soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion, the 61st Reconnaissance Company of the 6th Infantry Division and the 7th Infantry Battalion, engaged the bandits in a running firefight that lasted for two hours and waned only at dusk on Monday after the gunmen got low on ammunition and scampered away.

Local officials said four BIFF bandits, two of them identified as Mandih Samsudin and Faisal Salim, were wounded in the gunfire.

The beleaguered bandits opened fire on houses near the scene of the encounter as they escaped, wounding villagers Abubakar Haola, 18 and 62-year-old Hadji Mokamad.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of 6th ID, on Tuesday called on the public to be vigilant in the wake of circulating reports that the BIFF is planning to perpetrate bombings and harassment of non-military targets to retaliate for its loses in 22 encounters with pursuing soldiers in different Maguindanao towns in the past three weeks.

Four BIFF enclaves, including the group’s main encampment at Dasikil area in Mamasapano, are now occupied by Marine and Army combatants, where the Philippine flag is hoisted in symbolic daily flag raising ceremonies since March 2.

Local officials on Tuesday said patrolling Army combatants  found last Monday a cache of materials for fabrication of roadside bombs in a hinterland in west of Datu Unsay town in the second district of Maguindanao.

“It was left there by fleeing BIFF bandits,” said a town councilor, who asked not to be identified.

The source said the group that owned the cache of explosives, detonating cords, batteries and wiring diagrams for bomb detonating devices was the same band that set off a bomb at one side of the Meta Bridge connecting the towns of Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi, also in Maguindanao, more than a year ago.

The improvised explosive device was detonated from a distance using a mobile phone just as a convoy led by Col. Jener Del Rosario of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, was passing by.

The blast, which left a soldier dead and three others wounded, damaged the bridge.


Video: How PNP-MILF clash was averted in Sultan Kudarat

From ABS-CBN (Mar 23): Video: How PNP-MILF clash was averted in Sultan Kudarat

How PNP-MILF clash was averted in Sultan Kudarat

[Video report)

A possible encounter between government troops and MILF forces was averted in Sultan Kudarat. The local monitoring team and prior coordination with the MILF helped avert what could have been another bloody incident. - The World Tonight, ANC, March 23, 2015


MILF denies coddling Marwan; report claims SAF breached ceasefire agreement

From InterAksyon (Mar 24): MILF denies coddling Marwan; report claims SAF breached ceasefire agreement

A copy of the 35-page Report on the Mamasapano Incident by the MILF Special Investigative Commission (SIC) was submitted Tuesday by Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the MILF peace panel to Senate Committee on Local Government and Urban Development chaired by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The same report was also submitted to the Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team in Cotabato City on March 22, 2015.

The report asserted that the Philippine National Police–Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) violated the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities firmed up on November 14, 1997.

"In the Revised Joint AFP/PNP AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) Operational Guidelines, it is also clear that there should be coordination between the government and the MILF," the report pointed out.

The rebel group said that "except for operations against high priority targets, a list of which shall be provided by the GPH panel to the MILF, the AHJAG shall inform the GPH and MILF CCCH at least 24 hours prior to the conduct of AFP/NP operations in order to allow sufficient time for the evacuation of civilians and to avoid armed confrontation between the GPH and MILF forces."

The MILF underscored that one of the signatories to this protocol, representing the PNP as chief of the national police, was Director-General Alan Madrid Purisima, who in the Senate inquiry had admitted "advising" sacked SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas, and saying that he himself [Purisima] would take care such coordination.

"As there was no coordination between the government and the MILF through the ADJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) and CCCH (Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities), the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BAIF) cannot be faulted for concluding that the PNP-SAF forces that they chanced upon in Sitio Amilil were enemies, especially after they were fired upon, and after two (2) of their men were shot and killed by the PNP-SAF," the MILF indicated in its findings.

MILF said that its Special Investigative Commission found the following "undisputed facts":

The PNP-SAF did not coordinate their entry and operation in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano with the existing coordination mechanisms such as the AHJAG and the CCCH of the peace panels.

The BIAF forces based in Mamasapano were not duly informed of the PNP-SAF operations conducted on January 25, 2015.
The MILF CCCH was the first to inform its counterparts in government of the unfortunate encounter in Mamasapano on the said date.
The MILF CCCH was the first to suggest to their counterparts in government to immediately proceed to the encounter site to find ways of effecting a ceasefire and to disengage the fighting forces.

The MILF also denied mutilating, beheading and willfully killing the SAF men, which was depicted in a video that was circulated in social media and went viral a day after the incident.

"The reports about mutilation, beheading and willful killing are unfounded. The viral video of an armed man shooting at close range a man apparently from the PNP-SAF 55th Special Action Command while the latter was lying down on the ground and already wounded, does not clearly show it was BIAF's 105th Battalion Command that was responsible for this," the report said.

The MILF also denied desecrating dead bodies of SAF men but admitted they moved them in order to get their firearms.

"The members of the BIAF, in the course of fighting and after it had waned, took steps to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades and used this opportunity to take war booties when it was apparent that the enemies had already died," the report said.

Meanwhile, the MILF also denied coddling the Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (nom de guerre Marwan) and his cohort, the bomb maker Ustad Basit Usman, claiming that nobody in the locality knew the subjects were in their community.

"The house in which Marwan was found and killed belonged to Ustadz Baguindali, who died in 2008. The MILF did not know that Marwan and Usman had moved into Barangay Pembalkan, Mamasapano," the MILF report said.
It pointed out that, when Marwan was killed, he was with the group of Basit Usmam in the vicinity where the BIFF and the break-away group of Mohammad Ali Tambako were based.

Marwan's hut is found in Barangay Pembalkan, three kilometers away from Barangay Tukanalipao, the area where the MILF has presence and control.

"Note that the site where the encounter between the BIAF and the 55th Special Action Company took place was not in Pembalkan but about two kilometers away in Sitio Amilil, in Tukanalipao," the report said.


Lawmaker sounds alert on suspected MILF training camp near Iligan

From InterAksyon (Mar 24): Lawmaker sounds alert on suspected MILF training camp near Iligan

The head of the ad hoc committee at the House of Representatives deliberating on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was establishing a training camp in Iligan City.

In a letter to Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez said that, based on reports, the MILF could be "strategically positioning itself" by establishing a training camp at Sitio Limunsodan in Barangay Rogongon, Iligan City.

According to Rodriguez, the report about the presence of the MILF camp was brought up by Col. Gilbert Gapay, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade based in Lanao del Norte during a local peace and order council meeting.

"In view of the conflicting reports regarding the presence of the MILF Camp, may I request the Armed Forces of the Philippines to investigate the matter, especially considering that the barangay is outside the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) area," he said.

The lawmaker added that the training camp, if true, may be a violation of the ceasefire agreement and may be an "illegal incursion" of the MILF into the city.

"This may intimidate the Christian and indigenous peoples in the area, and affect the peace of mind of people from Iligan City," he said.

Rodriguez also noted that the presence of a police station in the same area could spark another untoward incident.

He asked the AFP to submit a report to Congress on or before April 6.

The House will resume discussions on the BBL in April. Deliberation on the proposed law was temporarily halted following the January 25 Mamasapano clash that resulted in the death of 67 persons, including 44 police Special Action Force troopers.


Abu Sayyaf sub-leader suspected of being AFP asset, slain by kin - source

From InterAksyon (Mar 24): Abu Sayyaf sub-leader suspected of being AFP asset, slain by kin - source

News5 videograb of Abu Sayyaf members

Suspected of being a military informer, a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province was killed by his nephew last March 20, according to a belated report reaching a source in the intelligence community.

The source, who asked to be cited only by the code “Pokemon,” said Khalid Sali was killed in his camp in Barangay Bud Bunga, Talipao town by Yasser Sahiron.

Sali was a known follower of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron. He was a former Moro National Liberation Front member who became a Philippine Army integree in 2000 before joining the extremist group in 2008.

Apparently, the source said, Sahiron had been convinced by two other Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders, Furuji Indama and Hatib Jajan Sawadjaan, that Khalid is an informant of the military.

“Subsequently Sahiron proceeded to the creek and Khalid’s group,” and opened fire, killing his uncle and wounding four of his men, including one identified as Juljimar Halon, “who suffered serious wounds.”


READ: MILF report on Mamasapano incident

From the Sun Star (Mar 24): READ: MILF report on Mamasapano incident

MANILA. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front submitted Tuesday its report on the Mamasapano incident to the Senate committee on local government chaired by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Al Padilla/Sunnex)

SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair Senate committee on local government, received on Tuesday the 35-page investigation report of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the Mamasapano incident last January 25.

The report, which was submitted through Senator Grace Poe who led the Senate's investigation on the tragedy, was signed by MILF chairman Mohagher Iqbal.
"We trust that this report is treated with fairness and we hope that all information provided therein will be helpful in your evaluation of the incident," Iqbal said in a letter dated March 23.

The report, which absolved members of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force of any liability, was also submitted to the Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team in Cotabato City.


MILF releases ‘Mamasapano clash’ report

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Mar 24): MILF releases ‘Mamasapano clash’ report

SULTAN KUDARAT – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group has finally released to the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team its own report on deadly clash between its forces and police commandos in Maguindanao province. 

The fighting killed 44 members of the Special Action Force and also 17 MILF members, including 3 civilians and several Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano town. 

The police commandos had killed Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir in a top secret operation deep inside an MILF territory, but were ambushed by rebels that sparked daylong clashes that even President Aquino – who authorized the anti-terror mission - failed to stop. 

The MILF submitted its report to the Malaysia-led International (Ceasefire) Monitoring Team on March 22. The IMT is also composed of representatives from Japan, Indonesia and Brunei, and supported by the United States and European Union. 

The MILF launched its own probe into the January 25 clashes after lawmakers accused the separatist group of breaking the truce it signed with the Aquino government when its forces killed members of the elite Special Action Force in the remote village of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town. 

“This report was submitted to the Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team,” said MILF Vice Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, who is also the Front’s chief peace negotiator. “It’s a comprehensive report.” 

He said the IMT will also forward the report to Kuala Lumpur being the facilitator of the peace talks between the MILF and the Philippines, and also to the Aquino government through its government peace negotiator Miriam Ferrer. 

A copy of the 38-page report furnished by the MILF to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner, also blamed police authorities for the clashes, saying the commando operation was not coordinated with the MILF despite an agreement between the cease-fire committees of both groups; and that it violated the truce. 

Iqbal said: “What happened in Mamasapano on that fateful January 25 was a violation of the cease-fire agreement by the Philippine government because there was no prior coordination with the MILF as far as the SAF (Special Action Force) operation was concerned.” 

The report also denied that MILF members mutilated or beheaded police commandos, and said members of the Special Action Force even used the slain bodies of policemen as shield during the fighting. 

While the report blamed the police for the fighting, the MILF also acknowledged that its commanders from the 105th and 118th Base Commands failed to detect the presence of Zulkifli and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman, who hid near their base and even used a thatched house in Pembalkan village previously owned by an MILF member – Ustadz Baguindali – who died in 2008; and their failure to detect the entry of police commandos in the area. 

“The MILF and civilian residents in Mamasapano did not know that Basit Usman and Marwan were in their community. The house in which Marwan was found and killed belonged to Ustadz Baguindali, who had died in 2008. The MILF did not know that Marwan and Usman had moved into Barangay Pembalkan. When Marwan was killed, he was with the group of Basit Usman, in the vicinity where the BIFF and the break-away group (Justice for Islamic Movement) of Mohammad Ali Tambako (who was captured recently in General Santos City) are based,” the report said, adding, the area is 3 kilometers away from the MILF combatants in Tukanalipao village. 

The report said the MILF had in 2005 ordered both Zulkifli and Usman to leave MILF camps and communities after both men were tagged as “terrorists.” The MILF denied it coddled Zulkifli or protected Usman. “This policy of cleaning its ranks of terrorists has not changed and is the very reason why the (Philippine) government has continued negotiating peace with the MILF,” it said. 

It said the MILF will not surrender those involved in the fighting with police commandos because it has the sole to impose sanctions on its members. 

In the end, the report recommended to the MILF to file a protest with the Aquino government against the Special Action Force for violating the cease-fire agreement. And for the government to further investigate PO2 Christopher Lalan, of the Special Action Force, for killing four MILF members who were shot dead in their sleep inside a mosque in Tukanalipao village, and a civilian Mohammad Ambilang. 

It said new security mechanisms must be immediately put in place by both the government and MILF peace panels to prevent future clashes between security and rebel forces. 

The report was prepared by the MILF Commission headed by Ustadz Said Abdusalam whose members included Hussein Muñoz, Toks Ebrahim, Von al-Haq and Ustadz Abu Ubaidah Agkong. 

Many groups were demanding President Aquino’s resignation over his failure to prevent the fighting. Aquino called the daylong clashes between commandos and rebels as a “misencounter” between friendly forces. 

The MILF signed a peace accord last year, but the peace process is yet to be completed with passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in Congress following the carnage. Lawmakers shelved the BBL until investigations into the deadly clashes between Special Action Force and MILF is completed. The BBL is important in crafting a new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao

Aside from the multi-sectoral groups demanding Aquino to step down, lawmakers also wanted him to resign – accusing the President of covering up the deadly clash despite being told by the Special Action Force about the fighting. There were also rumors of a coup d’état and widespread demoralization among members of the police and military. 

The Mamasapano clash drew widespread condemnation and is now threatening not only the peace process, but the presidency as public outcry for Aquino’s weak leadership continues to mount.


3ID of Philippine Army celebrates anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23): 3ID of Philippine Army celebrates anniversary

The Philippine Army marked its 118th year on March 22, a Sunday, and its infantries scattered across major points in the country are holding a month-long schedule of activities, starting today, the spokesman for the 3rd Infantry division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz said.

According to Major Ray Tiongson, a synchronized flag raising ceremony in all Philippine military camps was held Monday morning, and one of the thrusts of the 3ID is the blood donation by soldiers, and the planting of trees along pinpointed areas in Western Visayas.

Meanwhile, Tiongson reiterated earlier pronouncements that the 3ID was treading on the right path vis-a-vis the problem on insurgency, and in Region 6, Negros Occidental remains the solitary province not yet in the list of “insurgency-free areas” of the Philippine Army, but he confidently stressed that it would just be a matter of time before it is officially declared as insurgency-free.

In another development, Army troops from the 3ID deployed in city villages here last week had been pulled out, albeit momentarily, Tiongson said.

Eyebrows were raised regarding the sight of armed to the teeth soldiers roaming several barangays, and city officials wondered over the rationale of their deployment in the city, and said further that they were causing fear among the villagers.

Tiongson was quick to respond to the query, explaining that the soldiers were in the city premises to help boost security as the nation girds for the APEC Summit which it will host this year.

Iloilo City has been chosen to host some of the ministerial meetings slated in September and October. The soldiers were also aiding villagers in their child feeding programs, held anti-illegal drug symposiums, and conducted medical missions as well, he said.


50 US Marines to participate in Balikatan 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): 50 US Marines to participate in Balikatan 2015

Fifty marine soldiers under the United States Pacific Command will be in Yolanda’s hardest hit town of Tapaz as well as Jamindan, Capiz to participate in the week-long Balikatan 2015 starting April 7.

Major Ray Tiongson, Philippine Army 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said that the American marines will conduct disaster response training in Jamindan and preventive health seminar in Tapaz with the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and Capiz Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council attending.

Civilians particularly health workers will also be involved as part of the humanitarian assistance of the US government.

Tiongson stressed that the Balikatan would provide purely training and seminar for the around 300 participants in terms of disaster risk reduction whenever there would be calamities and on preventive health.

The US Marines will also be putting up a school building with two classrooms starting this week in Barangay Taft in Tapaz. It will be turned over last week of April during the closing of the Balikatan.

Also, the US Marines will conduct assessment of the Iloilo International Port and Iloilo Airport by next month. They are also scheduled to make a courtesy call to Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr.

Troops deployed in former BIFF lairs

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): Troops deployed in former BIFF lairs

The Philippine Army has deployed additional battalion of troops to the province of Maguindanao, a military official disclosed Tuesday.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, Army’s 6th Infantry Division information officer, in a statement released Tuesday through the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said deployed to Maguindanao is the 34th Infantry Battalion.

Petinglay said the battalion, which is one of the operating units of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, came from the province of Samar.

She said the battalion, which is headed by Lt. Col. Edgar delos Reyes, will augment the effort of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in maintaining peace and security in its area of responsibility that covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur province and parts of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

She said the deployment marks the start of the holding phase wherein government forces will establish encampments in former lairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in order to prevent the return of the armed lawless group.

She said the deployment of forces will pave the way for the implementation of various developmental projects in the different communities within the area of responsibility of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.


PA, DA give transition aid for retiring personnel

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): PA, DA give transition aid for retiring personnel

The Philippine Army is preparing its retiring or separating personnel for a smooth transition to civilian life via its “Transition Assistance Program.”

Under the program, retiring personnel are made to attend a business/livelihood seminar and training where livelihood or business opportunities are presented and from which they could select which one to venture into after retiring from active service.

This, according to Lt. Col. Bernardo R. Fortez Jr., aims to provide them additional source of income other than merely relying on their monthly pensions.

"Also, being engaged in a productive endeavor will boost their morale and give them a sense of pride as they mainstream into civilian life," Fortez said.

For three years now, he said, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Tinangis here has partnered with the Department of Agriculture in the conduct of livelihood seminars for its retiring personnel.

While the mandatory age for retirement for most government personnel is 65, for military personnel, it is 56.

Fortez said this year, 29 of their retiring personnel attended the lectures on various agriculture-based livelihood undertakings.

The three-day training held on March 17-19 inside the Camp Elias Angeles here was capped with actual visit to the facilities and projects inside the DA compound where the participants had hands-on learning of some of the topics discussed to them.

Experts from the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) of the DA served as resource persons.

Among the topics discussed and the corresponding resource persons were: rice production -- Anacleto Esplana; organic composting -- Angelina Peñaserada; goat production -- Marianito Tesorero; native chicken production -- Fortunato Balbis; grafting of fruit trees -- Dominica Camposano; cleft plant propagation -- Augusto Saldo, and mushroom production -- Pedro Oliver.

The training culminated with the holding of the graduation ceremonies which was graced by Col. Milfredo M. Melegrito, Chief of Staff of the 9th Infantry Division.

In his message to the participants, Melegrito said Filipinos generally consider a person successful if he is employed.

"But in other countries a person is considered successful if he runs his own business or enterprise no matter how small it is," he said, underscoring that the success of the transition program for retiring personnel will ultimately be measured in the number of participants or attendees who have dared to venture into an entrepreneurial undertaking and became true entrepreneur.

Also present during the closing ceremony was Corazon A. Orbon, BIARC assistance manager, who represented Luz R. Marcelino, the BIARC manager; Emily Bordado, DA regional information officer; Pedro Oliver and Arlene San Buenaventura also of BIARC.