Saturday, April 4, 2015

MILF: Moro leaders urged to unite for peace in Mindanao

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 4): Moro leaders urged to unite for peace in Mindanao

Moro leaders urged to unite for peace in Mindanao

One of the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) urged Moro leaders particularly fellow MNLF to unite and support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

During a peace forum in Sarangani Province on March 31, 2015, Uttoh Salem Cutan, an MNLF leader from Southern Mindanao, said, “We will reap nothing if we keep disunited.”  

He said the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not for single group only but for all the sectors in Mindanao including Christians and Indigenous Peoples.

“Let’s give peace a chance,” Cutan, also former Executive Director of the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), further urged.

Cutan added, “Rest assured, everybody will be part of the BBL.” He said the law will also protect the peace agreement the MNLF signed with the government in 1996.

He said the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 GPH-MNLF Peace Agreement will be incorporated with the BBL.

The measure which is now in Congress for deliberation is hoped to be passed into law by June this year. 

Peace Advocates and various groups from different sectors have been urging the lawmakers to pass the BBL.

Cutan, which also currently serves as the vice-chair of the Local Monitoring Team- Sarangani, noted the effort of the government to resolve the Mindanao problem.

He urged other Moro leaders to heed to the call of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the unity of the Bangsamoro.

The OIC, an influential pan-Islamic body comprised of 57 member states which facilitated the GPH-MNLF peace process also hosts the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum aimed to bring together the MNLF and MILF to discuss their issues and find common ground between the peace pacts they separately signed with the government. 

More than five hundred constituents of Sarangani and nearby towns joined the peace forum organized by the Office of the Governor through its Sulong Sarangani Program.

Government Chief Peace Negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Senen Bacani, GPH Panel Member, were the resource persons in the peace forum.

MILF: Ferrer: Peace process is important in terms of economic and social dev’t of Mindanao

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 4): Ferrer: Peace process is important in terms of economic and social dev’t of Mindanao

Ferrer: Peace process is important in terms of economic and social dev’t of Mindanao

“Peace process is important in terms of economic and social development of this land (Mindanao),” Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Chairperson of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel, said in a peace forum at the Provincial Gymnasium of Sarangani on March 31, 2015.

The government chief negotiator said President Aquino is serious in the peace process and that the trust of business and international communities is already gained. She also hopes the new autonomous government will “give way to the participation of all.”

We hope normalcy returns in Mindanao and farmers can till their lands,” Coronel-Ferrer told more than five hundred constituents of Sarangani Province who attended the peace forum. She noted there are still armed groups who extort farmers.

Coronel-Ferrer, together with fellow GPH Panel Member, explained the GPH-MILF peace process mechanism.

The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been engaged in peace negotiation for 17 years. 

One of the major outputs of the talks was the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now in Congress for deliberation and hoped to be passed into law by June this year. 

The BBL will pave way for the creation of new Bangsamoro political entity which embodies the aspirations of the Moro people.

Coronel-Ferrer noted that others fear that the basic law “will tear us apart.” 

She explained that should there will be fund, “it will not go to the MILF but to the people who will be elected by the Bangsamoro constituents.”

“Very clear the MILF will be transformed into civil society group,” Coronel Ferrer added.

Should the Bangsamoro government be established, she said other groups like the Moro National Liberation Front can participate and even form a political party.

Coronel-Ferrer said the review process on the peace deal with the MNLF was delayed after the Zamboanga siege.

“With talks and understanding, we can find solutions and we have no choice but to be united and be developed,” she pointed out. 

“What is important is we live peacefully,” she added. 

Bacani said there is no provision in the BBL for the integration of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). “Those who qualify in the requirements however, can apply,” he said. 

The chief government negotiator said the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and women is guaranteed to be respected in the Bangsamoro. “We assure voices of the women be heard,” she said.

She also assured there will be reserved seats in the parliament for the IPs and women sectors.

For the audience to further understand the peace talks, a multi-media presentation was shown highlighting significant and brief information on the peace process.

Coronel-Ferrer thanked the provincial government of Sarangani for the efforts to make the public understand the ongoing peace negotiation between the government and the MILF.

Night curfew extended again for Sabah east coast

From the Star Online (Mar 30): Night curfew extended again for Sabah east coast

KOTA KINABALU: The dusk-to-dawn sea curfew in Sabah's east coast has been extended for another two weeks to boost continuing efforts to curb cross-border criminal and smuggling activities.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the 7pm-to-5am curfew has been extended from March 31 to April 15 under Section 31(4) of the Police Act 1967.

The police chief said continuation of the curfew that has been in place for more than eight months was to ensure the continued security and safety of tourist, fishermen and the people in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).

He said security forces were also better placed to monitor any groups trying to enter the east coast waters illegally to carry out cross-border crimes including human and firearms smuggling,

Jalaluddin said that the sea curfew in the east coast districts had the support of resort operators and the fishing industry, as it proved effective in maintaining security in the area that was hit by at least three cross-border kidnappings last year.

Fishermen should obtain their permits from respective district police chiefs to carry out their activities during the curfew imposed three nautical miles from the shoreline.

The curfew covers Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Tawau.

Security forces put in place a curfew on July 18 in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone after the July 12 attack at the Mabul Water Bungalows in Semporna, when a policeman was killed and another kidnapped by a cross-border group.

The silent heroism of Army troops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): The silent heroism of Army troops

A WOUNDED Cpl. Daniel Pajarilla, with wife, Mary Lanie, and daughter, Quincy, herself ill with a rare blood disease . PHOTO FROM 6TH INFANTRY DIVISION

A WOUNDED Cpl. Daniel Pajarilla, with wife, Mary Lanie, and daughter, Quincy, herself ill with a rare blood disease . PHOTO FROM 6TH INFANTRY DIVISION
It was the 10th night of the all-out offensive in Maguindanao province and Cpl. Daniel Pajarilla and his unit were in a defensive position at a tactical command post in the village of Madia in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

The sound of gunfire was getting closer and the tension was visible in the soldiers’ sweat.

An explosion hit their position, forcing Pajarilla to jump and then crawl under a truck for cover.

Like the rest of his team, Pajarilla opened fire, aiming at members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who were advancing.

He could barely move, however. A sharp and burning pain in his stomach and leg made him immobile, according to Pajarilla in an interview at his hospital bed.
All Pajarilla could do was shout for help.

Two other members of Pajarilla’s team were wounded, including a junior officer who was hit by an explosive while opening the hatch of an armored vehicle.

In the ambulance, Pajarilla was overcome by a single thought: “I need to be alive for my daughter.” His daughter, Quincy, 6, is sick with a rare blood disease.

Quincy was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) three years ago.

ITP is a rare condition characterized by a low platelet count resulting in bruising and bleeding.

The cause and cure for ITP are still undetermined.

Despite the disease, however, Quincy excelled in class, making it to the top of her Grade 1 class and winning three awards in her school in Lebak town, Sultan Kudarat province—best in English, best in science and best in math.

Quincy and her mother, Mary Lanie, quickly proceeded to the medical facility at the 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao, where Pajarilla had been taken for treatment.

Seeing her father writhe in pain, Quincy jumped to hug him to comfort the wounded soldier.

On March 7, a day after Pajarilla was wounded, he was airlifted to V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, separating him from his wife and child.

Mary Lanie and Quincy could only worry.

Soldiers and their families are all too well aware of the risks of being in the battlefield. Getting killed is part of the job.

But some soldiers are complaining about the scant attention, and help, they receive, comparing their plight with that of members of the police Special Action Force who were killed or wounded in an operation to capture or kill international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25.

Since the all-out offensive against the BIFF started on Feb. 25, at least six soldiers, including a Scout Ranger captain, have been killed and 31 others wounded.

News about their sacrifice doesn’t catch attention.

“We will die silently because we believe this is all but part and parcel of our job,” said a military officer, who asked that he not be identified for not being authorized to discuss the issue.

“Soldiers have already died in many parts of the country since the Mamasapano incident but none of the families spoke ill of the support given to them,” the officer said.

Pajarilla’s case is an example, the officer said.

Pajarilla and his family, he said, “have been struggling financially, reaching the point of pawning his entire salary to be able to support and find a cure for Quincy.”

The situation has driven Pajarilla and his wife to virtually beg for support, asking for money from members of Pajarilla’s battalion, neighbors and friends “just to keep Quincy alive,” the officer said.

Pajarilla’s case is not isolated.

CHR report to tackle US role in Mamasapano

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): CHR report to tackle US role in Mamasapano

Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales FILE PHOTO

Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales FILE PHOTO

A third report on the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January will address the influence foreigners apparently have over the Aquino administration’s campaign against foreign terrorists, according to the country’s top human rights official.

Loretta Ann Rosales, chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said the commission has pursued an independent investigation into the secret mission to get international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Amin Baco, and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman, on Jan. 25.

That operation killed Marwan but Usman and Baco escaped. Succeeding firefights, however, led to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and three civilians, including an 8-year-old girl.

Rosales said the CHR report, which would be released later this month, would differ from those of the board of inquiry (BOI) and because it was drawn up “through the lens” of international war crime regulations.
Shared info, equipment

But she said the agency would look into details pointed out by the BOI and the Senate regarding “American influence in the operations on Jan. 25.”

Police officials tasked to coordinate the operation had confirmed that it shared information, training and equipment with the United States, Rosales said, quoting the previous reports.

The CHR report would try to determine “to what extent had American involvement affected the decisions and the behavior [of government officials] at the operational level [of anti-terror missions],” Rosales told the Inquirer shortly after she and CHR officials launched this town’s Human Rights Action Center and Rule of Law.

“When we are talking about cooperation [among countries in order to] address international terrorism, what standards do we follow? We have to have standards,” she said.

She said this should be clearly stipulated and defined in treaties like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The American presence has revived questions about the US government’s reported use of drones, Rosales also said.

“We have talked to [Mindanao] residents. When they hear the sound of what could be drones, they get scared because it usually means something bad follows,” she said.

When asked, Rosales acknowledged that her agency’s report may trigger the same political fallout that attended the release of the BOI and Senate reports and the results of investigation conducted by the MILF.

MILF peace talk

“I don’t want to preempt [our] investigation but that (the peace agreement with the MILF) was a major concern. For example, I asked the police yesterday (March 30) why they requested artillery in what should have been a conventional combat operation. And they replied that it was necessary because terrorists wage guerrilla warfare in rebel-controlled territories,” she said.

Rosales said matters involving suspected terrorists should be clarified in the peace negotiations.


The report would also address the reported brutality that left many of the slain SAF men mutilated or dismembered following the battle with armed groups in Mamasapano as they tried to leave the area, she said.

She said the CHR has coordinated with the Philippine National Police’s human rights desk, as well as acting PNP chief, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina Jr., to access autopsy reports and forensic examinations.

Rosales said she offered to help Espina strengthen evidence required when the police build a case against people they believed were responsible for the botched operation, and the death of the policemen.

Rosales tasked lawyer Harold Kub-aron to visit the widows and families of 14 slain SAF members who were from the Cordillera, two of them from La Trinidad town.

Troops thwart Sayyafs bombing attempt

From the Sun Star (Apr 4): Troops thwart Sayyafs bombing attempt

MARINE forces have averted a plan of the Abu Sayyaf bandits to set off an improvised bomb during a clearing operation in the hinterlands of Sulu, an official said Friday.

The troops safely defused an improvised explosive device (IED) placed by the Abu Sayyaf bandits inside a hut at Sitio Gabban in the village of Kabuntakas, Patikul, Sulu.

Ensign Chester Ian Ramos, Task Force Zambasulta information officer, said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 (MBLT-10) troops were conducting clearing operation around 9 a.m. Friday when they noticed an IED triggering device.

Ramos said the IED was buried on the ground inside the hut in an area, which is believed to be an encampment of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Ramos said the Marines’ explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) team recovered an ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO)-type improvised bomb with 81-millimeter mortar ammunition as the main charge and mechanical pressured-type triggering device.

He said the troops also recovered two empty cartridges, 81-mm and two empty cartridges 60-mm in the area.

“The IED was buried inside the hut with a set of flashlight placed on the ceiling to inflict casualty to curious person who will attempt to check the flashlight,” he said.

He said the troops have also found newly-built huts with a lecture area, lookout post, and anti-artillery dug-ins during the clearing operations.

The discovery of the IED came a day after the Marine troops killed in a clash two Abu Sayyaf bandits in the nearby village of Danag, Patikul, Sulu.

Pentagon Gang strikes again, takes 4 captives

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 5): Pentagon Gang strikes again, takes 4 captives

A group of gunmen, believed to be members of the Pentagon Gang and based in Maguindanao, is holding at least four persons captive, including an architect, after snatching them in the town of Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao province on March 29.

Authorities confirmed the kidnapping only on Saturday.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balguin, city police director, identified the captives as Jason Cababayao, whose family owns J Trade Concrete Products and Construction Supply in General Santos City; architect Raulito Suyom Jr.; Francis Wong and Rho Steven.

Balquin said based on the initial details of the case, the victims were heading to this city in a white Mitsubishi Strada pickup on March 29, when they were stopped by armed men along the national highway in Shariff Aguak.

He said the victims were to meet a client here.

Facebook post

Wong, on his Facebook page, wrote (unedited) at 6:56 a.m. on March 29 that he was “Off to Cotabato City with my partners project meeting with Raulito Suy-Suy Suyom Jr. Jason Cababayao Rho Steven—feeling blessed.”

It was the last post he made in his Facebook account before the kidnapping.

Balquin said there had been reports the suspects had already made contact with the captives’ families and are demanding a P10-million ransom. He said, however, that the reports are still being double-checked.

He said the police’s antikidnapping group had taken the lead in the investigation and is determining the identities of the suspects.

But past cases of kidnappings here had been pinned on the so-called Pentagon Gang, which has links with the Abu Sayyaf.

The Pentagon Gang had been founded in the 1980s by former Moro National Liberation Front commander Faisal Marohombsar, who was later slain in a clash with government troops. It operates through smaller cells that are spread throughout Mindanao.

In Central Mindanao, the gang is headed by Alonto Tahir, a diabetic former Moro rebel leader.

Past victims

Among the gang’s previous victims include Italian priest Fr. Giuseppe Piarantoni, who was snatched on Oct. 17, 200, while celebrating Mass in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur.

The group was also blamed for the 2001 kidnapping of five Chinese engineers working on a government irrigation project in North Cotabato.

Although the gang appeared to have lain low, it continues to be a threat and is behind a string of kidnappings in Mindanao.

In 2007, the gang snatched five engineers working for the Philippine National Oil Company in North Cotabato.

In October 2013, it struck again in this city and seized an Indian national who operates a mall in Central Mindanao areas.

Mike Khemani, of the Sugni chain of stores, escaped from captivity about two months later.

Rebel killed, soldier hurt in Sorsogon clash

From the Philippine Star (Apr5): Rebel killed, soldier hurt in Sorsogon clash

A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla was killed while an Army trooper was wounded in an encounter in Magallanes town in Sorsogon last Thursday.

Pfc. Richard Tablate was rushed to the Sorsogon Doctors’ Hospital for treatment while the military has yet to identify the slain rebel.

Tablate and his companions from the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion (IB) were verifying reports about the presence of armed men in Barangay Tagas when they clashed with a band of insurgents, said Col. Cesar Idio, chief of the 903rd Infantry Brigade.

Idio said the rebels set off an improvised explosive device (IED), but no one was hurt in the blast.

Troops recovered two M-16 Armalites, an IED and five backpacks at the scene of the encounter.

Meanwhile, two soldiers and a civilian were killed while six others were wounded in another NPA attack in San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur last Wednesday.

The fatalities were identified as Sgt. Luisilo Pastor, Cpl. Rey Gerzon and Danilo Bendanilo, a civilian.

The wounded victims, including five soldiers and a civilian, were rushed to a hospital for treatment.

The soldiers were in four military trucks when they were ambushed by a band of rebels in Barangay Mahayag.

The civilians were passing by the area when they were hit by stray bullets, Capt. Jasper Gacayan, spokesman for the Army’s 401st IB, said.

4 injured in Zambo blast

From the Philippine Star (Apr 5): 4 injured in Zambo blast

Police officers inspect a pickup truck destroyed in an explosion in Zamboanga City Friday.  STAR/Roel Pareño

Four persons were wounded when a bomb exploded near a police station here Friday night.

The victims were identified as Marvin Esperat, Magdalena Joaton, Ofelia Enriquez and Victor Bartolome. They were rushed to different hospitals for treatment.

The blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) left in a pickup truck that was impounded near the station in Barangay Ayala, Senior Inspector Karib Muharram, Station 10 police commander, said.

Muharram said the incident occurred at about 7:50 p.m. and destroyed the truck, a Nissan Navarra (KDY 493), which was linked to a kidnapping and illegal drugs case.

The explosion, which damaged the glass windows of the police station and a house beside it, occurred minutes after the police conducted a regular security briefing.

Muharram believes the attack was drug-related, citing the arrest earlier of a member of an illegal drug syndicate.

Meanwhile, police officers on Thursday deactivated an IED found near a government hospital in Cotabato City.

A grenade was also found several meters away from the IED.

Senior Superintendent Rolen Balquin, chief of the city police, said an informant tipped them off about the grenade near the gate of the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.

Responding police officers found the grenade and a bag several meters from it.

The bag reportedly contained a homemade bomb fashioned from a 60-mm mortar equipped with a timing device that can be detonated from a distance.

Balquin said they were still investigating the incident.

IED blast related to detention of 2 inmates – Zamboanga City mayor

From GMA News (Apr 4): IED blast related to detention of 2 inmates – Zamboanga City mayor

The improvised explosive device blast in front of Zamboanga City's Ayala Police Station on Good Friday had something to do with the detention of two high-profile inmates at the station, city mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said in a Facebook post.

Salazar identified one of the the high-profile inmates as the son of Margani Samla a.k.a. "Bin Laden", one of the city's 10 most wanted who allegedly has links to the drug and gun-for-hire trades.
Salazar also identified the three people injured in the blast:

Marvin Esperat, 14,
Ofelia Eusebio, 77, and
Magdalena Araneta, 61.

Meanwhile, City police chief Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said that the IED used ammonium nitrate with fuel oil, and that it was planted in an abandoned vehicle.

Bomb blast hits Zamboanga City police station

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Bomb blast hits Zamboanga City police station

Police and military authorities are conducting thorough probe to establish the motive as well as unmask the suspects behind Good Friday’s improvised bomb explosion at a police station in this city.

Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, Zamboanga City police director, said three people were injured in the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) around 7:55 p.m. Friday in front of the Police Station 9 in Barangay Ayala.

One of the three victims was identified as Marvin Esperat, 14, the son of a civilian employee with the police station.

Esperat was critically injured and has immediately undergone surgery.

The other two victims identified as Magdalena Araneta, 61 and Ofelia Enriquez, 71, were slightly injured.

They were passing by on their way home when the IED exploded.

Casimiro said initial investigation showed the IED was placed on an impounded pick-up vehicle parked in front of the police station.

Casimiro said the explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) have yet to establish the type of IED used although the blast site is positive for ammonium nitrate.

The blast shattered window glasses of the police station and a nearby house.

The police station was said to have received threats after they detained three persons arrested in an anti-drug campaign.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has assured that the city government will shoulder the medical expenses of the victims.

Army condemns BIFF attack on DSWD office in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Army condemns BIFF attack on DSWD office in Maguindanao

The military’s 6th Infantry Division on Saturday condemned the rifle grenade attack on a government relief agency building in a remote village here on Thursday.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th ID, said the attack was launched by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) toward a building of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Barangay Pagatin.

The DSWD building houses relief goods for internally displaced persons and was guarded by government forces.

As a result, four soldiers belonging to the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion were wounded.

The suspects used 40 mm rifle grenade fired about 200 meters away at 9 p.m.

Fighting in Maguindanao’s four adjoining towns have slowed down with the BIFF conducting hit and run attacks against government forces.

While AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang has ordered the termination of massive law enforcement operations against the BIFF, the Army will continue its “small scale” offensives with the help of local government officials who vowed to provide information on BIFF’s activities.

Petinglay said all the BIFF encampments that fell to government hands are now occupied by government forces.

These encampments are situated within what the Army called “SPMS box” which refers to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Salibo), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona, all in Maguindanao.

7ID, PRO3, disaster councils brace for 'Chedeng'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): 7ID, PRO3, disaster councils brace for 'Chedeng'

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- The Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division (7ID) has deployed personnel to coordinate with local disasters risk reduction and management councils in preparation for the expected landfall of typhoon "Chedeng" in Central Luzon.

Major Gen. Glorioso Miranda, 7ID commander, said the command has instituted coordinative effort with the provincial disaster risk reduction and management councils (PDRRMCs) of every province as well as its city and municipal counterparts within the command's area of responsibility.

"We have this structure of cooperation even before the disaster," Miranda said.

The army, he said, have dedicated some units or personnel and equipment to undertake disaster response operations.

Chief Superintendent Ronald Santos, officer in charge of Philippine National Police's (PNP's) Regional Police Office 3, said their personnel are also readied as early as the news about the possible effect of "Chedeng" in the region.

"We are one with the thrust of the national government to keep a zero casualty during calamity," Santos said.

BIFF now weak after fall of group's finance chief, Army says

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): BIFF now weak after fall of group's finance chief, Army says

The arrest of the finance officer of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has further weakened the terrorist group because it cuts the group’s “bread and butter.”

Joint police and military forces arrested on Tuesday night Abdulgani Pagao, finance officer of Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), a faction of the BIFF and headed by Mohammad Ali Tambako.

Tambako was arrested in Gen. Santos City with four others. He was the second ranking officer of BIFF next to Uztads Ameril Umra Kato who has been bed ridden due to old age.

Tambako formed his own group called JIM.

It was Tambako who provided information about Pagao and eventually to his arrest in Cotabato City, according to Army Capt. Joann Petinglay.

Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said Pagao was arrested on the basis of a search warrant issued by Judge Bansawan Ibrahim of Regional Trial Court Branch 15 in Cotabato City.

To date, two BIFF ranking leaders arrested, three BIFF commanders and about 148 followers have been killed in the month-long all out military law enforcement operations.

On the government side, 10 soldiers, including an Army Scout Ranger captain, were killed and 33 wounded.

Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang visited the Barangay Tukanalipao in west of Mamasapano and announced that the military will continue to hunt down the remaining forces of the BIFF.

“It will be calibrated, small-scale commando-style operations by Army Rangers to prevent dislocation of villagers,” Catapang said.

The military remained on alert in Maguindanao as intelligence information showed that the BIFF will avenge the death of “Commander Bisaya,” leader of the group’s hit squad that ligquidated at least six unarmed soldiers in Datu Saudi and Datu Piang towns in Maguindanao.

Commander Bisaya, whose real name is Yusof Abisali, was killed with two other ranking BIFF commanders, siblings Norodin and Salahudin Indong, in a clash with elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion and the 1st Mechanized Brigade after the military imposed suspension of military operations (SOMO) to allow graduation ceremonies in Datu Saudi, Datu Salibo and Datu Unsay towns.

Four soldiers, including an ambulance driver, were also killed in the ensuing fire fights.

Army soldier wounded in encounter with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Army soldier wounded in encounter with NPA
A Philippine Army soldier is now in critical condition at a hospital after he was wounded in an encounter with a group of New People's Army (NPA) rebels while on a patrol operation in Barangay Tagas, Magallanes, Sorsogon, on Thursday.

Rushed to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital was Pfc. Richard Tablate, a member of the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Bulala, Magallanes.

A report said the encounter occurred at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday when a team from the Charlie Company of the 31st IB of the PA, headed by 2Lt. Alexander Ano-os, was heading back to their camp after their patrol when they encountered ten armed rebels and exchanged fire with them for 20 minutes.

The communist dissidents immediately retreated from the site, where the police recovered an M-16 armalite rifle left behind by the rebel.

Police said that the rebels came from the the town center to visit their relatives in time for the Holy Week when the encounter happened.

Reinforcing troops immediately conducted a hot pursuit operation against the rebels.

PAF to overhaul propeller assemblies of T-41D trainer aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): PAF to overhaul propeller assemblies of T-41D trainer aircraft

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is allocating PHP3 million for the overhaul of the propeller assemblies of five of its Cessna T-41D "Mescalero" trainer aircraft.

Submission and opening of bids is on April 14.

It will be held 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF is known to operate between 20 to 30 units of the T-41D for pilot training mission.

The T-41 is a military version of the popular Cessna 172, operated by the United States Air Force and Army as well as the armed forces of various other countries as a pilot training aircraft.

Normalization process key deterrent to ISIS-like radicalism in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Normalization process key deterrent to ISIS-like radicalism in Mindanao

An international expert on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration or DDR underscored the importance of ensuring that combatants learn to ease their way out of the culture and context of conflict and for the government to deliver its commitments for normalization so that a conflict resolution program such as the ongoing peace process in Mindanao would be successful.

DDR expert Stavros "Aki" Stavrou, in a forum with actors involved in the Bangsamoro peace process, stressed that a successful normalization process is the best deterrent to radicalization that is now spreading in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Stavrou pointed out that "the real question is whether ex-combatants have indeed become ex-combatants—that you have taken those people out of the culture and context of conflict."

Providing stability and sustainability to these ex-combatants are important in ensuring they would not be enticed to return to armed radicalism.

"If you are able to attract the most number of combatants possible in the process, then you are in a good position to prevent ISIS-like elements from emerging. But if you don't deliver, you will definitely see resistance," Stavrou said.

The communities also must be involved in the normalization process by ensuring they are sensitive to acting immediately on or preventing a situation that would make ex-combatants return to their old ways. "You need to sensitize both the ex-combatants and the communities properly. You cannot have situations wherein ex-combatants are being taken advantage of again."

"The normalization phase is the time to plant the seeds of development. However, this can only happen when we treat our partners from across the negotiating table with the same respect we'd afford ourselves," said Stavrou.

Aside from the political and socio-economic aspects of normalization, Stavrou maintained that psycho-social interventions were equally important. "The psycho-social component of conflict lingers the most. You need to institute programs to address that in order to put an end to the cycle of conflict and violence,” he added.

The Philippine government has been engaged in a peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for more than 17 years. A milestone was reached a year ago with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that served as basis in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Parallel to the roadmap toward the establishment of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is the normalization process which aims, among others, to decommission MILF weapons and allow the group's combatants to return to peaceful and productive civilian lives.

Stavrou provided a rundown of essentials for the normalization process to succeed such as guiding principles, core elements, organizational characteristics and implementation structures as well as possible funding modalities.

Currently working as a senior social development specialist at the World Bank, Stavrou has been at the forefront of reintegration programs with ex-combatants for more than 15 years. He oversaw and implemented normalization-like initiatives in Iraq, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Sudan among other countries.

Earlier, government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer ‎said that "by forging a peace agreement with the government, the MILF has committed to renounce violence and terrorism as an ideology and way of life."

"The full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will ensure that the leaders and followers of the MILF will desist from going the way of the ISIS," she added.

The normalization process, including the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, shall be implemented by the executive branch and will coincide with and shall be commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.

4 PAF UH-1H helicopters up for maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): 4 PAF UH-1H helicopters up for maintenance

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is allocating Php 30.16 million for repair and maintenance of four of its Bell UH-IH "Huey" combat utility helicopters.

Helicopters scheduled for maintenance are those bearing tail numbers 308, 305, 806, and 507.

Submission and bid opening is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF is known to operate 20 to 30 units of various models of the "Huey" helicopter.

The latter is a military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors.

The helicopter was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the United States Army's requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter in 1952, and it first flew on Oct. 20, 1956.

Ordered into production in March 1960, the UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been produced worldwide.

Sorsogon rebel returnee brings her wayward heart home

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 4): Sorsogon rebel returnee brings her wayward heart home

There are corrupt and corrupted men even outside the government, rebel returnee Loradel Esquilon came to know. This knowledge and her experiences caused her to formally shed her position in the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sorsogon September of 2013.

Esquilon, now 30, formerly known as Ka Sisa/Ka Megan, confided that she was the logistics and finance staff (S4) of Komiteng Probinsyal (KOMPROB) in Sorsogon.

She used to oversee the flow of the system of collection of revolutionary taxes in the province where she and her subordinates would gather money every month from businessmen, construction companies and government officials. She joined the rebel unit in 2005 after a relative succeeded in convincing her of the ideals that the group was fighting for.

She said she left a promising career as a caregiver in Metro Manila in order to join the NPAs. She was only 20.


A daughter of farmers, she joined the NPA after she was promised monetary support for her family and an avenue to express her anger against the government.

She said she underwent several trainings and teachings before she became a “trusted follower” of their leader, Andres Hubilla also known as Ka Magno. Ka Magno was the secretary of KOMPROB, Sorsogon.

Esquilon revealed that she and at least three of her comrades were entrusted with the task of collecting revolutionary taxes and then turning these over to their local NPA leaders.

“What they do with the money is a mystery to me,” she said. “I believe they pocket much of it because we never get any assistance from them.”

She said at one time, she received more or less Php 3 million in revolutionary taxes that she then gave Hubilla.

They were able to collect more money during election period from the imposition of Permit to Campaign (PTCs) on local politicians.

She said that apart from her, only Hubilla and a certain Ka Anton, know of the amount of money they collect as revolutionary tax. None of the NPA rebels on the field know of the amount of money the unit has.

“I do not remember us benefiting from those collections. Those of us who work on the ground beg for food from residents in the areas we cover. Our firearms come from fallen Army soldiers from encounters,” she said.

She said that she was thankful for the helpful residents because they sometimes suffered starvation in the field.

Esquilon was also entrusted to make financial transactions for the unit, even going to Metro Manila to deal with finances there.

She turned over a list of the establishments and government officials who regularly gave their share of revolutionary taxes along with her M16 rifle when she surrendered in 2013. These were taken by the intelligence and investigation divisions of the Army for further probe.


Esquillon, now married and a mother of two, recalled that she was lucky to have warded away repeated sexual advances by top NPA leaders while she was still with the organization.

She felt sorry for two of her other female comrades whom she heard were raped.

She said that Hubilla tried to rape her several times, including one night when he was very drunk.

“I thought they respected women. That’s what they led me to believe. At first, I thought the stories were just stories. I never thought it would happen to me too,” she said.

She said that she rarely saw the other women in the organization because they were distributed to other areas in Sorsogon.

One day, she received a handwritten letter from one of them, a woman she only knows as Ka Emma. She was already in hiding from her comrades since December 2012.

In her letter, Esquilon recalled that Ka Emma lamented of the sexual abuses and deprivation she was experiencing from other rebel leaders.

“She and I went through the same ordeal. I felt for her. It was the final straw for me. After that, I decided to surrender,” she said.

She added that she never really wanted to become a full-pledged rebel back in 2005 but the NPA leaders threatened to hunt her down, gang rape her and kill her should she try to escape.


Esquilon voluntarily turned herself over to the elements of 31st Infantry Battalion in Juban, Sorsogon.

The unit facilitated the formal surrender and presentation of NPA “amazona” to Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

She surrendered with the help of a friend whom she entrusted to take her to the military. She had been planning to surrender since 2009 but was too scared to leave.

In 2014, Esquilon received psychological therapy from Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The rebel returnee and her family now reside in a safe place protected from possible threats.

Under the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Guns for Peace Program, she received the amount of Php 50,000 for surrendering her weapon as part of the firearms remuneration package which was given to her before 2014 ended.

She also received help for her livelihood from DSWD and other partner organizations which amounted to another Php 50,000.

“I believe that NPA members are victims of misguided belief due to their disadvantaged condition,” Brigadier General Yerson Depayso, commander of the Philippine Army’s 9ID said.

Architect, trader's son, 2 others abducted in Maguindanao

From Rappler (Apr 4): Architect, trader's son, 2 others abducted in Maguindanao

The victims, bound for Cotabato City, are blocked by armed men along the national highway in Shariff Aguak

Armed men seized an architect, a son of a wealthy trader, and two others in Maguindanao, authorities said Saturday, April 4.

The incident took place on March 29, but was only reported to police Friday, April 3. 

Police Senior Superintendent Rolen Balguin, Cotabato City police commander, confirmed the incident in a phone interview.

He identified the victims as Jason Cababayao, son of the owner of J Trade Concrete Products and Construction Supply in General Santos City; architect Raulito Suyom Jr; Francis Wong; and Rho Steven.

Balguin said the police are  investigating the incident to determine the identities of the perpetrators. 

The victims were headed to Cotabato City on board a white Mitsubishi Strada pickup when they were stopped by armed men along the national highway in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, authorities said.

The victims had an online business transaction with a client and reportedly agreed to meet somewhere in Maguindanao. They have not been heard from since their disappearance. 

No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the abduction.

Past abduction incidents in the area had been pinned on the Pentagon Group, responsible for at least 50 kidnapping cases in Mindanao, including that of Italian priest Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni in 2001 in Dimataling, Zamboanga del Sur.

That same year, the group kidnapped 5 Chinese engineers working on a government irrigation project in North Cotabato and their Filipino guide.

Four persons wounded as bomb explodes beside Zamboanga City police station

From InterAksyon (Apr 4): Four persons wounded as bomb explodes beside Zamboanga City police station

Four persons, including a minor, were wounded after a bomb planted underneath a pick-up van parked beside a police precinct exploded Friday night in Zone 3, Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City.

Police Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, spokesman of the Police Regional Office 9 (PRO9), said Saturday that the blast went off at around 8 p.m. just beside the Ayala Police Station.

The explosion heavily damaged the Nissan Navarra pick-up (with license plate KDY-493), as well as the motorcycles of Police Officer 3 Apolinario Ovalo and PO2 Robert Pancho.

Four persons who found themselves near the place at the wrong time were wounded by the blast.

They were identified as Ofelia Eusebio, 77, who sustained injuries on her right leg; Magdalena Araneta, 61, with injuries in her stomach and bruises in the body; Marvin Esperat, 14, with injuries in the different parts of the body; and Victor Bartolome, 34, with injuries on his back.

Eusebio, Araneta and Esperat were rushed to the Zamboanga City Medical Center, while Victor Bartolome was brought to the Labuan Public Hospital.

Investigators said it appeared that "prior to the incident, unidentified persons installed the explosive device on the back portion of Nissan Navarra in the afternoon of same date."

Blast investigators were still determining the type of the bomb used in the explosion.

The trafficking of illegal drugs was among angles that investigators were looking into as motive.