Friday, April 3, 2015

Army official reiterates concerted efforts to curb insurgency in Samar

From Samar News (Feb 28): Army official reiterates concerted efforts to curb insurgency in Samar

The Philippine Army’s 801st Infantry Brigade has called on for more concerted efforts to pursue peace and development and uphold rule of law and justice in their series of operations in Samar provinces.

Col. Leoncio A. Cerunay, brigade commander said the army is intensifying its peace efforts through bayanihan (heroism) and focused military operations to safeguard the community against armed threats from lawless elements.

Cerunay tackled the current situation of Basey and other areas in the Samar province, saying “the tensions have continued for nearly 46 years and people living in isolated communities in Samar are still in urgent need of support.”

“It is negotiations, not fighting, that offers solution,” Cerunay observed.

It was learned that the army continue to reach out and encourage members of the New People’s Army to abandon the armed struggle, return to the fold of the law, and live a normal and peaceful life together with their families.

To jointly pursue peace and development and uphold rule of law and justice, he has called for equal treatment, uphold the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, safeguard the rights of all people to independently choose their social systems and development paths.

“We should be open and inclusive in order to achieve harmony between all people with different social systems, religion, cultural traditions and ideology,” he explained.

“Mutually beneficial cooperation should be pursued for win-win or all-win progress by aligning common interests with those of others and working to expand areas where their interests converge.”

The official stressed that beating swords with ploughshares may take time and effort, but history and reality have repeatedly demonstrated that to meet violence with violence will not lead to enduring peace, and the use of force will create more problems than solutions.

“For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security," the commander explained.

87IB embark youth leadership activities to counter insurgency in Samar

From Samar News (Mar 2): 87IB embark youth leadership activities to counter insurgency in Samar

The military here believe that education is a vital tool in risk reduction of NPA recruitment in the region. The youth sector, especially in urban and lowland areas, is more vulnerable to NPA recruitment and this has been repeatedly evidenced by the arrests of a good number of suspected activists that law enforcers believe to have links to the underground movement.

While poverty is a major factor of recruitment of children and minors up in the mountains, their counterparts living in the lowlands are more likely prone to recruitment due to idealism and deceit. To counter the activities of the NPA’s “front organizations” in the urban and lowland areas, the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion embarked on massive and sustained education, information and awareness activities for the youth to understand the ills of the NPA.

A series of Security Awareness Symposium, Youth Leadership Seminar, sustained information dissemination through the tri-media, barangay visitations, local community consultations and dialogues, inter-agency conferences, and constant collaboration with the church officials and other stakeholders, have helped reduce the threat to massive NPA recruitment.

Lt. Col. Antonio Dulnuan Jr., Battalion Commander of the 87th IB based in Calbiga, Samar said that these are activities that need to be sustained not only the Philippine Army but by the local government units, barangay officials and local communities as well.

With this knowledge, the 87th IB eye on instilling in youth the desire and know-how to build peace and according to Col. Dulnuan there is no better way to work toward future peace than to capture and channel the imagination, passion, dynamism, capacities and commitment of the youth. By filling young people with confidence and giving them the tools to build peace in their own communities, a solid foundation for their future.

He lauded also some areas where residents are spearheading efforts to ensure that their communities are free from the presence of insurgents and some have even adopted measures to monitor the movement of visitors coming to their villages.

To recall, faculty of Mabini National High School in partnership with 87th IB and barangay officials facilitated a Youth Symposium (last Feb 13, 2015) in Brgy Mabini, Basey Samar, purposely to establish a peaceful society of youth in the community.

Mabini is a remote village in Basey, where children have to walk approximately two to three hours to attend school and, in most cases, the family income most likely will not allow them to go further than high school. And empowerment of people through education is a long-lasting transformation, leading to potential personal growth and capacity development, as well as bringing hope for a better and possibly sustainable livelihood.

According to Echene Sabanyao, the Mabini National High School Student President said that “I want to touch lives of those who are passing through difficult situations acute poverty and sufferings. I considered that my life is a solution to another person. I wish to change the story of every unhappy child and touch the live of the poor youth in our village.”

The symposium according to School Principal Lauro Gacusana of Mabini National High School aims to strengthen youth-driven peace-building initiatives based on the needs of its members, facilitates a safe space for dialogue and conflict transformation, develop the organizational capacities of the members and to bring the voices of young people to policy makers on a regional and global level. And it is an opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences and approaches on advocacy and is aiming to connect the experiences of young change makers and peace builders with the international policy realm.

“It's a great feeling when you see someone who may have given up on life become empowered for success because of the impact someone had on their life. It is always a joy when I look at how much youth in marginalized communities I have worked in have grown because other young people took the time out to invest in their lives. I believe that once there are people willing to hear the voices of youth, inform them, interact with them, and join them in the movement, we will start to see a change in our nation’s youth", Gacusana stressed.

War in Mindanao cost P2.013 trillion

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 2): War in Mindanao cost P2.013 trillion

From 1970 to 2001

The Mindanao war cost the Philippine government a staggering P2.013 trillion during the 31-year period from 1970 to 2001, an amount nearly equivalent to the P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget.

This was disclosed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) based on the data it gathered from various sources, including the World Bank (WB).

The government spent some P73 billion to finance government forces in combat operations against the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from 1970 to 1996.

The years of fighting claimed the lives of nearly 120,000 people, excluding the tens of thousands of wounded from both sides and civilians caught in the crossfire. It was a bloody conventional warfare as the MNLF forces directly attacked military camps and installations.

Fifty percent of the casualties were MNLF while the military sustained 30 percent and civilians 20 percent killed during the period.

In terms of social welfare disruption, 982,000 were displaced during the 2000 all-out war.

One of the fiercest fighting happened in Jolo, Sulu in the first half of February, 1974 when MNLF rebels attacked and burned the provincial capital and occupied it for days before they were driven out by government forces, particularly the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army commanded by then Col. Salvador M. Mison.

The war ended when the Philippine government and MNLF signed the historic peace agreement on Sept. 2, 1996 during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.
But the 1996 peace accord was disrupted when the breakaway group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) protested the signing and continued its war with the government.

A ceasefire was signed in 1997 but this did not last long when a new administration under President Joseph Estrada declared an all-out war against the MILF in the summer of 2000 after the rebels launched several attacks on military and civilian population.

After three months of fighting, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) captured practically all the 49 MILF camps in various parts of Mindanao and forced the rebels to withdraw.

The cost of the all-out war in 2000 that lasted for three months, more or less, was an enormous P1.3 billion in military operations.

In addition, the county incurred economic losses amounting to a staggering P640 billion or P20 billion per year from 1970 to 2001 in terms of damages to businesses and properties, potential investments and businesses in the region had there been better security (no war).”

While the war was won by the AFP, the fighting had not stopped as the MILF forces continued its armed struggle.

It was only during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that peace talks between the government and the MILF resumed sometime in 2004.

However, fighting erupted anew in 2008 when the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) about to be signed was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The renewed fighting had displaced some 600,000 people.

In 2009, the peace process was resumed in the remaining six months of the Arroyo government and was pursued by a new administration under President Aquino in 2010 that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and MILF on March 27, 2014.

Under the agreement, the MILF would turn over their firearms to a third party, which would be selected by the rebels and the Philippine government. The MILF has agreed to decommission its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). In return, the government will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro.

The Aquino government is now asking Congress for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the legal instrument that will operationalize the agreements as contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on Oct. 15, 2012 and its annexes.

Army: 72 encounters with NPAs on Q1

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Apr 3): Army: 72 encounters with NPAs on Q1

The armed forces’s Eastern Mindanao Command recorded 72 encounters with the New People’s Army since the lifting of the unilateral Suspension of Military Operations on January 19.

Eastmincom commander, Lt Gen. Aurelio Baladad said they confiscated 155 firearms from the encounters, killed 36 NPA fighters during the first three months of the year.

Baladad said a total of 36 NPAs surrendered and will be enrolled in the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

The NPA recently celebrated its 46th founding anniversary on March 29.

MILF nods BBL amendments for ‘improvement only’

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Apr 3): MILF nods BBL amendments for ‘improvement only’
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is willing to accept amendments to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law but only as far as “for improvement and enhancement only.”

“For improvement and enhancement, yes we could accept it. They have to remember that BBL is based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” said MILF Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

Iqbal told DavaoToday that “diluting the Bangsamoro Basic Law would not address the Moro insurgency in Mindanao.”

Iqbal made it clear Thursday that the provisions contained in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law were the “aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for a just and lasting peace.”

“We trust the Congress that a BBL that could enable peace to exist and prosper in Mindanao shall be passed,” said Iqbal.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman, also said that BBL will “help build a strong nation that will provide benefits to the people in Mindanao.”

Both the Senate and Congressional hearings on the BBL hit a snag in the wake of Mamasapano incident that claimed the lives of 44 PNP’s elite cops after a tragic law enforcement operation.

The constitutionality of the BBL has been questioned by some lawmakers from both the Senate and Congress urging the proponents of the bill to weed out unconstitutional provisions.

“We are for peace and we do hope that they are with us in achieving this dream for our people,” says Iqbal.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program inquiry has no basis—MILF

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Apr 3): Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program inquiry has no basis—MILF
This is what Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief peace negotiator, said on the Senate resolution seeking to probe the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program.

Iqbal denied Thursday that there were irregularities in the implementation of Malacanang’s socio-economic initiative for Moro communities dubbed as “Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program.”

“Their suspicions were unfounded and has no basis at all,” says Iqbal, speaking for the MILF.

Senator Ma. Lourdes Binay filed the resolution after she got wind of insinuations that that the program was reportedly implemented “secretly and without the knowledge of and coordination with local government units”.

Binay chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development. She said that Presidential peace adviser, Teresita Deles, was implementing the program “favourably to the Muslims only”.

“The program is stated as not exclusive to MILF members and be open to all Christians, Muslims and Lumads in the area,” Binay said in the explanatory note of her Senate Resolution No. 1241.

The government and MILF launched Sajahatra Bangsamoro in February 2013 and has been earmarked with an initial budget of P600 million which was aimed to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of the Moro communities in Mindanao.

The socio-economic program covers 10 provinces namely: Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental, Zamboanga Sibugay and Tawi-Tawi in ARMM.

The MILF believes that the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program is “a concrete support to the ongoing peace process.”

BLMI, TAF hold Re-echo Seminar workshop on Integrity and Anti-Corruption Initiatives

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 3): BLMI, TAF hold Re-echo Seminar workshop on Integrity and Anti-Corruption Initiatives

BLMI, TAF hold Re-echo Seminar workshop on Integrity and Anti-Corruption Initiatives

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) in partnership with The Asia Foundation (TAF) held at two-day Re-echo Seminar Workshop on Integrity and Anti- corruption Initiatives from March 30 to 31, 2015 at BLMI Training center, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The 27 female participants comprised the second batch of trainees of aleema (female Islamic Scholars), Officers and members of the Social Welfare Committee (SWC), a line agency of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) while the first batch held last February 2015 was attended by male participants in the same venue. The participants that attended came from different regions and provinces of Mindanao.   

The program dubbed as “Re-echo Seminar Workshop on Malaysian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Initiatives was facilitated by Moro delegates who went to Malaysia on a study trip last January 20, 2015, shared their experiences and knowledge of what they had learned and acquired in that country where they also visited some prestigious government agencies, institutions and the University of Malaya. 

The Moro delegation was headed by BLMI Executive Director Sheikh Mahmod S. Ahmad with Tirso S. Tahir, BLMI Research Officer as one of the delegates. During their 4-day study tour, they were lectured and updated by prominent Malaysian officials on integrity programs, policy-making and Anti-Corruption Initiatives of Malaysia.

Adding on and strengthening the inner core values of the participants on integrity and infusing themselves with relevant knowledge through in-depth understanding on Malaysian Anti-Corruption strategies were among the program’s objectives by taking a closer look on how the Malaysian Integrity program and its anti-corruption initiatives succeeded in combatting social menaces. 

Sheikh Ahmad welcomed the participants and stressed the significance of womens’ participation in various endeavors. He also reminded them that seeking knowledge is obligatory to every Muslim.

On day-1 session, Tahir lectured on integrity based on Malaysian experience. He elucidated its concept and their significance on every individual, family and organizations. He also presented the viable Integrity programs of Malaysia that paved the way to its present political, economic and social stability and prosperity.   

In the afternoon session, Brother Aliuddin U. Haron, Training Officer of MTFRDP of the  Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) lectured on Malaysian Anti- corruption initiative based on the current concept of Malaysia Anti-corruption Commission (MACC). “Corruption has many angles, improper use of resources and time are also part of corruption and mostly existing within families but we took it for granted and unnoticed” he stressed.  

Sheikh Ahmad also presented the overview of Malaysian Anti-corruption Agency (MACA) by expounding how the Anti-corruption pogram of Malaysia succeeded in its campaign against corruption.

On day-2 session, Tahir touched on Ethical Governance and Nation Building, underlined its essential elements. He also lectured on Socio-Economic Development and Governance of Malaysia, stressed the strategies that made Malaysian economy and political governance a success so that Bangsamoro professionals and other sectors can comprehend and adopt it in their undertakings suitable to the Bangsamoro.

In his closing message, Director Ahmad appealed to the participants to share their acquired knowledge to their fellowmen, adopt and practice them first to themselves, family, neighborhood and the community where they live.

At the end of the program, the participants expressed their profound gratitude to BLMI Management and to the speakers for the valuable knowledge instilled on them. They also thanked The Asia Foundation (TAF) for its continuous support to BLMI and unwavering assistance to the Bangsamoro in realizing their aspiration and for playing an active role in the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

Pro-PHL hackers deface Chinese websites over ‘reclamation’

From GMA News (Apr 3): Pro-PHL hackers deface Chinese websites over ‘reclamation’

Pro-Philippine hackers on Thursday defaced several Chinese government, educational and commercial websites to protest China's reclamation work in disputed areas in the South China Sea, parts of which Manila calls West Philippine Sea.

Anonymous Philippines posted on its Facebook account a list of the Chinese websites it claimed to have attacked and defaced.

A screenshot of Anonymous Philippines' message in one of several Chinese websites it claimed to have defaced, in protest of China's reported reclamation work in disputed territory.

While several of the sites in the list were still defaced as of 5 a.m. Friday, others had been taken offline.

"Many of you are aware of the oppressive acts of the Chinese government over the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. Their claims over the said area is nothing but mere assumption and without solid proof... Once again, we must gather our brothers and sisters to stand against this tyranny," read the group's message on the defaced sites.

It added that while others may think this action does nothing, "so does sitting around while waiting for something to happen."

"To the Government of China, stop the reclamation, do not put or establish any structure on that location thinking or claiming that you are the owner. Considering that there is no final agreement between both and other parties," it said.

On Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said China is doing reclamation work in seven reefs in the South China Sea, including three within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

But he said it is not yet clear what type of structures China is building in these areas.

CA acquits 2 officers in Oakwood mutiny case

From the Business Mirror (Apr 3): CA acquits 2 officers in Oakwood mutiny case
THE Court of Appeals (CA) has acquitted of coup d’état charges two military officials who participated in the June 27, 2003, failed Oakwood mutiny, saying that what they did “was a valid and legitimate exercise of their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.”

In a 21-page decision written by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel Paredes, the CA’s Ninth Division reversed the decision of Branch 48 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Makati City that found 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan and 1Lt. Rex Bolo guilty of the crime of coup d’état and sentencing them from six to 12 years’ imprisonment.

San Juan and Bolo were not among the military officers belonging to the Magdalo group who applied for and were granted amnesty during the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.

In exonerating the two military officers, the CA gave credence to their arguments that the prosecution failed to prove the presence of all the elements of coup d’état and that their constitutional right to equal protection was violated when Sen. Gregorio Honasan II was exonerated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and they were not.

Honasan allegedly instigated the young military officers to launch the mutiny.

San Juan also argued that the denial by the trial court of his plea bargain of pleading guilty to the crime of conspiracy to commit coup d’état, which was denied by the RTC, does not automatically prove that the crime of coup d’état was committed.

The CA noted that the third and fourth elements of the crime of coup d’état were not present in the case.

The third element requires that the attack be “directed against duly constituted authorities of the Republic of the Philippines or any military camp or installation, communication networks, public utilities or other facilities needed for the exercise and continued possession of power.”

It noted not Oakwood Premier Hotel (now Ascott Makati) is a first-class hotel, in the commerial district of Makati City.

“It is not a military camp or installation, not a form of communication network, not a public utility or a facility needed for the exercise and continued possession of power,” the CA ruled.

Likewise, the CA said the fourth element, which requires “that the purpose of the attack is to seize or diminish state power,” is also absent. 

“Moreover, the trial court itself found that the accused only called for the resignation of then-President  Arroyo and other key officials of the government.

“The trial court failed to point out in the assailed decision any showing that the appellant, indeed, planned to arrogate state power upon themselves or diminish state power,” the CA ruled.

The CA said that the actions of the two soldiers can be considered as a valid exercise of their right to freedom of speech and expression. 

It can be recalled that on June 27, 2003, more than 300 junior military officers and men took over the Oakwood Premier Hotel in Makati City to air their grievances against the Arroyo administration.

The mutineers eventually surrendered and were charged with the crime of coup d’état that is penalized under Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code.

After conducting a preliminary investigation on the case, the DOJ issued a resolution on October 30, 2003, finding probable cause to indict 31 out of the 300 original accused for the crime, including San Juan and Bolo.

Some of the Magdalo soldiers were granted conditional pardon by Arroyo under General Order 10 dated May 12, 2008, while others benefited from Proclamation 75, issued by President Aquino, granting amnesty to active and former military and police personnel who participated in the Oakwood mutiny, the Marines standoff at Fort Bonifacio in 2006 and the Manila Peninsula incident in 2007.

Marine troops kill 2 ASG bandits, recover 2 high-power firearms in Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3): Marine troops kill 2 ASG bandits, recover 2 high-power firearms in Sulu clash

Marine troops have killed two members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and recovered two high-powered firearms in a clash in the island province of Sulu, an official announced Friday.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the clash broke out around 4 p.m. Thursday at Sitio Poncho Kan Sahiron, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu.

Muyuela said the Marine forces were on law enforcement operations when they encountered a group of at least 80 rebels led by ASG sub-leader Hairulah Asbang.

She said based on the latest report they received from the forces in the field, two remains of slain ASG bandits and two high-powered firearms were recovered at the clash site.

Muyuela said the remains of the two slain bandits were turned over to the village officials for appropriate action.

She said the ASG bandits were believed to have dragged their wounded companions when they withdrew while there was no casualty among the Marine troops.

She said the military in collaboration with the police and concerned local government units launched pursuit operations against the ASG bandits who are responsible for the series of atrocities in the province and its neighbouring areas.

Eastern Mindanao Command condemns NPA attack on military convoy in Surigao Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3): Eastern Mindanao Command condemns NPA attack on military convoy in Surigao Del Sur

The Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command on Friday condemned the New People's Army (NPA) for its unprovoked and treacherous attack Wednesday evening on a military convoy at Sitio Ban-as, Barangay Mahayag, San Miguel town, Surigao Del Sur which left two soldiers dead and 12 others wounded.

Also killed in the 10-minute firefight was a still unidentified rebel fighter while one was captured.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said the incident took place 9 p.m.

He added that the convoy of five military trucks, all from the 401st Infantry Brigade, were heading back to their headquarters in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur when two landmine explosions rocked the group.

The explosion killed two soldiers identified as Sgt. Luisito Marimon and Cpl. Rey Gerson aside from wounding 12 others.

Brawner said that the troopers were on their way back to headquarters for a Holy Week reflection when attacked by NPA rebels.

The casualties were evacuated to Adela Serra Ty Memorial Hospital, Tandag City while the apprehended person was brought in for questioning and then handed over to the Philippine National Police.

"We are saddened by the incident perpetrated by the NPAs that caused the life of our two soldiers. While the Christian world is reflecting on Christ's redemption of our worldly sin, they blatantly disrespected it with their atrocities and laying of landmines in a busy road, which is a reflection of an atheist and terrorist organization," said Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad.

Catapang inspects 1st Air Division for 'Chedeng' preparations

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3): Catapang inspects 1st Air Division for 'Chedeng' preparations

With Typhoon "Chedeng" expected to make landfall within Northern Luzon, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Thursday visited Clark Air Base in Pampanga to inspect on the disaster preparedness and response capabilities of the 1st Air Division.

During his visit, Catapang was briefed by 1st Air Division commander Brig. Gen. John Oliviamor Estabillo on their disaster response preparations aside from getting a chance to inspect the unit's mobility and disaster response assets.

These equipment consist of rubber boats, chainsaws, tents, generators and portalet which are stored at the NDRRMC-HRD warehouse in Clark Air Base.

"Chedeng" is expected to hit Aurora and Isabela over the weekend.

As this develops, Catapang said units of the Northern Luzon Command, Southern Luzon Command, Central Command and Joint Task Force National Capital Region are already preparing its assets and personnel for "Chedeng".

He added that all these military outfits have accounted for all of their disaster response units including the attached mobility assets and rescue equipment.

"They have ensured there will be redundancy of communication systems just in case basic networks will be damaged and can no longer function. Strategic locations were also identified where troops may be prepositioned and still be able to render quick response when needed," the AFP chief stressed.

Along with other government agencies, Catapang said they have already identified areas prone to landslides and flooding, including those that are close to the coastlines and are at risk for possible storm surges.

“Let us give equal attention to tourists, both local and foreigners who are vacationing in these areas and who may be trapped in beach resorts,” Catapang emphasized.

3 hurt as grenade explodes in Zamboanga City

From InterAksyon (Apr 3): 3 hurt as grenade explodes in Zamboanga City

Map of Zamboanga City from

At least three people were hurt after a grenade lobbed against a park vehicle in front of a church exploded Friday night in Zamboanga City, a military intelligence report reaching Metro Manila said.

The military said the incident took place a few meters away from a police station in Barangay Ayala at about 9 p.m.

“A hand grenade was thrown…at a Nissan Navarra pick-up parked near the Police Station in front of the church. Initially, three wounded were reported,” the military said.

Authorities from the police's Explosives and Ordnance Division are conducting investigation.

The police are looking at illegal drugs as among the motives, according to the military.

2 soldiers killed, 12 hurt in NPA ambush in Surigao Sur

From MindaNews (Apr 3): 2 soldiers killed, 12 hurt in NPA ambush in Surigao Sur

Two soldiers were killed while 12 others were wounded in an ambush by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Surigao del Sur on Wednesday night, the military said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson said attack occurred around 9 p.m. Wednesday in Sitio Ban-as, Barangay Mahayag in San Miguel town.

Brawner said the troops were on a five-truck convoy on the way to the 401st Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur for a Holy Week retreat when one of the trucks tripped on an improvised landmine.

He identified the fatalities as Sgt. Luisito Marimon and Cpl. Rey Gerson, both of the Army’s 4th Artillery Battalion.

He said the soldiers engaged the rebels in a 10-minute gunfight resulting in the death of one guerrilla and the capture of another.

Other reports quoting military sources said only six or seven soldiers were wounded in the landmine attack.

The same reports did not mention any NPA casualty but said a civilian was killed and another one was wounded when they were caught in the crossfire.

Brawner meanwhile said the casualties were taken to a hospital in Tandag City while the captured NPA rebel was brought to the headquarters of the 36th Infantry Battalion for initial investigation and then turned over to the police.

He said Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Eastmincom chief, was saddened by the incident and condemned the NPA’s disrespect of the observance of the Holy Week.

The NPA has not issued a statement on the incident.

1 of 3 children taken hostage in Zambo Sur found dead

From MindaNews (Apr 3): 1 of 3 children taken hostage in Zambo Sur found dead

One of the three children who were seized Tuesday in Pitogo town in Zamboanga del Sur by suspected kidnappers was found dead Friday morning.

Zynielle Jay Garban, 2, a grandchild of Pitogo Mayor Richard Garban, was plucked out from the sea by fishermen near the town’s shore around 8 a.m., Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre, Zamboanga del Sur police director said.

Ecaldre said the fishermen brought to Pitogo the child’s body, which was positively identified by the victim’s family.

Garban, her three-year-old elder brother, Ace Jay, and bakery worker Ledegie Tomarong, 17, were seized by 10 gunmen during a shootout around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the fish port in Barangay Poblacion, Pitogo.

The shootout ensued as policemen pursued the gunmen who tried but failed to seize their target, businesswoman Chzarenia Kapa Sajulga, who owns a bakery in downtown Pitogo.

The gunmen made good their escape as they grabbed the three children, who were at the fish port, and made them as human shields preventing the policemen from further pursuing them.

Ecaldre said investigation showed that the victim, who bore contusions in the neck, was apparently strangled to death and thrown into the sea.

He said policemen and soldiers were tracking down the whereabouts of the other hostages.

The gunmen, who escaped aboard two motorized bancas, sped towards Zamboanga Sibugay province.

2 Sayyaf rebels killed in Philippine clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 3): 2 Sayyaf rebels killed in Philippine clash

Two Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed in a clash with government troops in the southern Philippines as police and military authorities tightened security in the troubled Muslim region this holy week, officials said Friday. 

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers recovered the bodies of the slain rebels, including their weapons, in the village of Danag in Patikul town. 

She said troops clashed with about 80 rebels under Hairulah Asbang, one of the most notorious leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, and that no soldiers were either killed or wounded in the fighting. 

“Military troops recovered two high-powered firearms and the bodies of the two dead Abu Sayyaf members,” Muyuela said, adding a still undetermined number of gunmen were also wounded in the clash. 

It was unknown if Asbang was among the injured, but troops were dispatched April 3 to pursue the fleeing gunmen. 

“Military and police forces launched pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf which is responsible for the series of atrocities in the region,” Muyuela said.

Landmine explosion kills 2 soldiers in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 3): Landmine explosion kills 2 soldiers in Philippines

Two soldiers were killed and 8 more wounded in a landmine explosion set off by communist rebels in the southern Philippine province of Surigao del Sur, officials said Thursday.

Officials said the blast, which occurred in the village of Caromata in San Miguel town, killed Sergeant Luisito Marimon and Corporal Rey Gerson.

The wounded soldiers were members of the 4th Field Artillery Regiment and 41st Division Reconnaissance Company under the command of the 4th Infantry Division.

Brigadier General Leandro Loyao III, commander of the Artillery Regiment, condemned the New People’s Army rebels for their continued use of landmines, especially during the observance of the Lenten season.

“It is very clear under the provisions of the Comprehensive Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that landmines are banned, while the artillery follows an internationally recognized doctrine,” he said.

He said the premature detonation of landmines, which are usually planted by rebels on roadsides and near civilian houses where patrolling troops pass, had killed innocent people in the past.

The NPA has been waging a separatist war for many decades now in an effort to topple the democratic government and install a Maoist state.