Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obscure Moro group seen in mayor’s kidnap

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 8): Obscure Moro group seen in mayor’s kidnap

Police tagged a previously unheard of group of former Moro rebels as the one behind the abduction on Monday of a mayor of a town in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Senior Supt. Jose Bayani Gucela, police chief of Zamboanga Sibugay, said members of Waning Abdusalam Group (WAG) were behind the abduction of Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Adana was taken by the gunmen from her house in the village of Taytay Manubo in Naga.

Chief Supt. Edgar Basbas, regional police chief for Western Mindanao, earlier told the Inquirer that the group that took Adana had no links with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a terror and crime group with links to the international terror network al-Qaida and with camps mainly in Basilan and Sulu provinces.

“It’s not ASG but one of the notorious groups known for their lawless operations in Zamboanga Sibugay,” Basbas said.

WAG was led by Abdulgani Abdusalam, alias “Waning,” a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Sibugay.


WAG is believed to have at least 50 followers. It was disbanded in 2011 after the death of Waning. It resurfaced in 2012 and was blamed for the kidnapping of Chinese nationals Jampong Linyuan Kai and James Lou in Kabasalan town.

Zamboanga Sibugay Gov. Wilter Palma said a certain Abner Abdusalam, a cousin of Waning Abdusalam, was seen by witnesses as among those who took the mayor.

PO2 Raymund Bango, case investigator, told the Inquirer on the phone that Adana and her family were having dinner when three gunmen barged into their house shortly after 9 p.m. on Monday.

Bango said the suspects forced their way through the kitchen door, took the mayor at gunpoint and forced her into a pump boat.

Quoting witnesses, Bango said two other armed men served as lookouts and another was waiting in the pump boat.


The investigator said that at the back of the mayor’s house was a swamp “that can be accessed by small boats during high tide.”

Basbas, in a separate interview, said Adana had one policeman as a security aide, but the security detail had already been sent home by the mayor when the gunmen attacked and her “captors took advantage of this.”

Palma said authorities were still uncertain about the motive for Adana’s abduction.

He said, however, that he did not believe politics was the motive because Adana was on her last term as mayor.

Earlier reports on the abduction were hazy.

On Monday night, Mayor Jesus Lim of Salug town in Zamboanga del Norte province had told the Inquirer that he, too, learned of reports that Adana had been abducted from her house.


‘Defective’ choppers

From the Manila Times (Apr 7): ‘Defective’ choppers

Helicopters failed PAF inspection, documents show

TOP defense and military officials knew that the helicopters delivered by the US firm that won the P1.2-billion contract were defective and did not pass technical inspection, documents covering the deal showed.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin along with Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado and several other high-ranking military officials were immediately informed that the first of the 21 UH-1 helicopters delivered by Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and its partner, Eagle Copters Ltd., in June 2014 with tail number 8649 failed the test conducted by PAF inspectors.

The two sets of documents obtained by The Manila Times would be part of the evidence to be presented by whistleblower “Joey” in a congressional inquiry to be separately conducted by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The first set of documents, comprising 47 pages, includes a letter dated July 21, 2014 sent by Delgado to Gazmin.

The documents include a report by a technical working group, headed by Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra and which among others proposed to amend previously approved terms of the acquisition contract. They also reflect the contractor’s “position,” which was raised during a meeting at the Defense Acquisition Office (DAO) of the Department of National Defense (DND).

The other set of documents, 17 pages in all, included a July 23, 2014 report by the PAF Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) headed by Col. Dino Dinio that indicated deficiencies they discovered on the aircraft.

The defective helicopter—with tail number 8649—was eventually accepted, “Joey” said.

“It was the first to be inspected but failed [to pass the inspection]. That unit was accepted September 4, 2014. The 8308 was the first unit accepted on August 20, 2014. There was another unit inspected with the same problems,” according to the source.

Among the problems identified by the TIAC were night vision goggles (NVG) compatibility and broken gauges.

“The report said the helicopter was not NVG-compatible. Somebody’s trying to hide that report, but I strongly believe a copy will surface during the congressional inquiry,” “Joey” told The Manila Times.

One of the conditions agreed upon by the government and the contractor was that the fuel cells should be self-sealing and crash-worthy.

“‘Rice didn’t want to have the fuel cells opened, claiming that doing so would void the warranty,” “Joey” said.

“A Bell specialist whom we’ve asked to independently inspect the helicopter would be on hand during the hearing.”


North Cotabato NIA office bombed

From the Philippine Star (Apr 8): North Cotabato NIA office bombed

The village of Villarica is one of the largest barangays of Midsayap, North Cotabato. It is classified as urban as it stretches the national highway going to Davao and Cotabato.  Google Earth

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines (UPDATED) A powerful explosion ripped through the compound of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Midsayap town in North Cotabato before dawn Wednesday, causing panic among villagers nearby.

Investigators said a still unidentified man hurled a fragmentation grenade into the fenced compound of the NIA office in Barangay Villarica in southwest of Midsayap and left just as the explosive went off.

Responding Army and police ordnance operatives also found a live anti-tank rocket inside the compound.

Bomb experts are still trying to establish if the explosive projectile was fired from a distance using a launcher but failed to explode.

No one was reported hurt in the grenade blast, but responding barangay watchmen and police operatives found a dead man near the NIA compound, gunned down by unidentified suspects.

Villagers confirmed to probers that gunshots rang after the loud explosion.

Superintendent Reinante Delos Reyes, chief of the Midsayap municipal police, said probers still have to determine if the shooting incident was related to the grenade attack.

"Let's give investigators enough time to check on that," he said.

Engineer Noldin Oyod, manager of an irrigation project of NIA for Region 12, told investigators that some employees had received threats prior to the bombing of their office.

Among those who had reportedly received death threats from anonymous sources was NIA-12 regional director Ali Satol.

Satol said the bombing occurred amid an ongoing audit of their coffers by accountants from the Commission on Audit.

The bombing early Wednesday of the NIA office in Barangay Villarica was not a new incident.

A regional director of the agency, Makmod Mending Sr., was killed when a bomber set off a fragmentation grenade inside a mosque in the NIA compound about a decade ago.
More than a dozen worshipers were injured in the attack.

Investigators had ruled it was Mending who was the target of the bombing.  The victim was known for his tough stance against corruption in the implementation of costly NIA irrigation projects in Central Mindanao.


Remains of young sniper brought to Manila

From the Philippine Star (Apr 8): Remains of young sniper brought to Manila


Pfc. Marlon Reyes, a trained sniper, was one of the three soldiers wounded in a two-hour encounter with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Saudi, Maguindanao, an aerial view of which is seen in this satellite image. Google Earth

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — Uniformed and civilian personnel of the 6th Infantry Division on Tuesday bade goodbye to a young soldier who died on Easter Sunday from injuries sustained in a firefight last week with bandits in Datu Saudi town.

The cadaver of slain Pfc. Marlon Reyes, a trained sniper, was airlifted to Manila on Tuesday, en route to his hometown, Batangas City.

Reyes belonged to the 14th Mechanized Company of the Army's 1st Mechanized Battalion based in Sharif Aguak, the old provincial capital of Maguindanao.

Reyes, who succumbed to death while undergoing medication at a hospital, was one of three soldiers wounded in a two-hour firefight with members of the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in a secluded Barangay in Datu Saudi south of the province.

The 6th ID's rank-and-file personnel, led by the division's officer-in-charge, Col. Arnel Dela Vega, gave Reyes plane-side honors before facilitating the airlift of his remains from the Maguindanao Airport near Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town to the Villamor Airbase in Metro Manila.

"He was nice to fellow soldiers and friends outside of the military circle when he was still alive," said Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th ID.

Army and Marine units have had 29 encounters with the BIFF in seven towns in the second district of Maguindanao from February 28 to April 1.

The four-week military-BIFF face-off dislocated more than 120,000 villagers, now cramped in squalid evacuation sites.

Petinglay said Army units are now helping the regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the office of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu attend to the needs of evacuees following last week's deescalation of military offensives against the BIFF.


AFP engages BIFF in weekend encounter in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Apr 7): AFP engages BIFF in weekend encounter in Maguindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Sunday figured in an encounter with suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Barangay Katibpuan, Talayan, Maguindanao.
According to AFP Joint Task Force Central spokesperson Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, their troops of the 1st Mechanized Division were conducting law enforcement operations when the encounter occurred.
“Firefight lasted for more than an hour with no casualty reported on the government side while undetermined on the enemy,” Petinglay said.
Petinglay added that the AFP's 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company provided fire support to the engaging troops.
The incident comes after the AFP on March 30 ended its all-out offensive against the BIFF particularly in the areas of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
During their campaign, the AFP killed 139 BIFF members and wounded another 53 while twelve were captured.

AFP: NPA leader arrested in Davao City

From GMA News (Apr 8): AFP: NPA leader arrested in Davao City

A ranking leader of the communist New People's Army was arrested Tuesday night in Davao City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Wednesday.

In a post on its Facebook page, the AFP said Vincent Estrada (a.k.a. Dennis Montecillo or Bords, Brod or Oban) was arrested at a checkpoint.

The AFP described him as the head of the NPA's Southern Mindanao Regional Committee's Regional Operational Command Regional Instructor’s Bureau.

Combined operatives of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division and the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were involved in the arrest.

Estrada was arrested at a Task Force Davao checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan, Toril, Davao City at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. He was aboard an Isuzu Bighorn sport utility vehicle (BDV-864) with a certain Zacarias Delos Santos Mancia Jr.

Recovered from them were a cal-.45 pistol, two fragmentation grenades, one laptop, five mobile phones, subversive documents and personal belongings.

The government forces served an arrest warrant against him for kidnapping and serious illegal detention before Regional Trial Court Branch 3 in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.

Following the arrest, the two were placed under the CIDG Region 11's custody.


MILF sincere in helping govt hunt targets like Marwan, Usman —peace panel

From GMA News (Apr 7): MILF sincere in helping govt hunt targets like Marwan, Usman —peace panel

Officials from the government peace panel on Tuesday said their counterparts from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were sincere in cooperating with the authorities in going after high-value targets like the late Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and the still at-large Abdul Basit Usman.

At the resumption of the House hearing on the Mamasapano clash, Brigadier Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chairperson of the government part of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), said, "The leadership of MILF is very sincere in getting Marwan and Basit Usman."

Galvez further said that they have had "secret alliances" with the MILF regarding the hunt.

"Before nangyari ang Mamasapano, may secret alliances kami with MILF. Sa MILF pagka po nalaman ng kamag-anak na nagsasabi sila ng information sa amin, that is haram, hindi kaaya-aya sa kanila. Nagkaroon na kami ng secret arrangement, mismo ASG ay pumupunta na sa amin," he said.

He added: "Ang strategy nila Marwan, doon mismo sila pumunta sa area ng MILF. We have some mechanisms that we are improving now, nagkakaroon tayo ng operations na low-level because it will be detrimental in these operations."

Meanwhile, Brigadier Gen. Manolito Orense, who heads the government part of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), added: "In my dealings with the MILF, sila ay sumusunod sa mga nalagdaang kasunduan."

Orense pointed out that the AHJAG and the CCCH were established to enable the government security forces to carry out its law enforcement operations.

However, he echoed chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who said the International Monitoring Team found that organizationally, the MILF "is not probably in violation of that ceasefire agreement, but some of the members of the MILF have knowledge of Marwan in the area."

"I agree with Prof. Ferrer dahil batay sa napagkasunduan, the MILF and the AFP should put up Adhoc group to apprehend criminals to hasten the crimes. I agree na hindi naman sakop ng MILF ang individual members, merong individual members na siguro nagbibigay at nagkakanlong sa high-value targets," he said.

In its report, the MILF commission that investigated on the incident stressed that it was not protecting Marwan and Usman, saying the two were encamped in temporary houses at least two kilometers away from the group's stronghold in Barangay Tukanalipao.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said they did not see any benefit in coddling Marwan.


Balikatan not a show of force vs. China —AFP

From GMA News (Apr 7): Balikatan not a show of force vs. China —AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has denied that the country's upcoming Balikatan exercises with US forces was the country's way of flexing its military muscle againt China which it has a longtime maritime row with.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc on Monday said the military exercises aimed to strengthen the contry's ties with the US while improving its capability.

“This is not a show of force. It (China) was considered in the planning of the Balikatan exercise. Chinese aggression was not considered. ” Cabunoc said.

Cabunoc added that the move was not a retaliatory response to China's continuing construction and reclamation of maritime territories in the West Philippine Sea.

“It's not related because our country’s position for the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes still stands,” he said.

The Philippines and China have been engaged in a maritime dispute over various territories in the West Philippine Sea.

China has ongoing construction and reclamation activities in seven of the reefs in the Spratly Islands.

China's moves have been brought by the Philippine before an international tribunal.

The Balikatan exercises will commence on April 20 up to April 30 where over 11,000 US and Filipino soldiers will participate in.


Iqbal attends House hearing on Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Apr 7): Iqbal attends House hearing on Mamasapano clash

Three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group have been arrested at Patikul town in Sulu, a military official said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, head of the Armed Forces' public affairs office, identified two of the suspects as Alsibar Sawadjaan, reportedly a nephew of ASG sub-leader Hatib Sawadjaan, and a certain Asilyn.

Cabunoc said the three were arrested at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, at Sitio Piyok, Barangay Kadday Mampalam, by reconnaissance teams of the 35th Infantry Battalion.

The military received information about a group of ASG men about to leave the town via a pump boat to buy supplies in Jolo, he added.

The three suspects and their twin-engine boat will be turned over to the PNP after the ongoing debriefing on them, he also said.

The AFP intensified its operations in Sulu against the terrorist group in October last year after a series of kidnapping incidents.

Currently, the group is still holding six hostages there, including Ewold Horn, a Dutch wildlife photographer seized in Tawi-Tawi in February 2012.

Horn's companion, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, escaped from their captors in December.


Iqbal attends House hearing on Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Apr 8): Iqbal attends House hearing on Mamasapano clash

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal showed up at the House of Representatives’ hearing on Wednesday on the Mamasapano clash after skipping it the previous day for another commitment.
Aside from Iqbal, other new faces seen at Wednesday’s hearing are Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretaries Evan Garcia and Rafael Seguis.

Absent at the hearing on Wednesday are Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer. The three officials previously attended the second House hearing on the Mamasapano tragedy on Tuesday.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima was present at the Wednesday hearing.
View image on Twitter
GMA News    
DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima present at House hearing on . | via @victoriatulad http://gmane.ws/1E2dZe2 

Party-list rep fears PHL being dragged to US proxy war

From GMA News (Apr 8): Party-list rep fears PHL being dragged to US proxy war

A progressive party-list representative said Wednesday the Philippines could be dragged into the proxy war of the United States if the latter’s participation in the military operations will be not clarified.
“Kailangan palalimin, kasi ang nakakabahala, nakakaladkad tayo sa proxy war ng US. Kahapon binanggit ang responsibility ng House of Representatives. Sana ang maging ambag ng hearing na ito ay hindi sa culture of impunity o patuloy na napapalampas ang ginawa ng mga tao na dapat managot,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said during the resumption of the hearing on Mamasapano clash.
De Jesus said the Department of Foreign Affairs earlier claimed that the Mamasapano mission’s planning and execution on Jan. 25 were 100 percent Filipino and there was no US involvement. However, testimonies from the police and military officials showed the US troops had a role in it.
“Nakakalungkot na nung unang hearing pa lang, sabi ng ng DFA na 100 percent Pinoy at walang partisipasyon ang gobyerno ng USA. Ano po ang nakasaad sa ating Constitution na pwedeng nalabag sa pagpasok ng Amerika sa planning?” she asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
De Lima said the Constitution states prohibition of foreign intervention in the military, freedom from nuclear weapons, and independent foreign policy.
The Justice secretary believed the mere presence of the US soldiers does not mean transgression to any legal parameters as stated in the Constitution.
“It is apparent that the presence of the US personnel does not per se reflect transgression of the parameters insofar as ang lumalabas po ay intelligence aspect, intelligence information to our own security forces and medical aid matapos magkaroon ng casualties,” she said.
Relieved Special Action Force chief Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. earlier said there were six US soldiers at the SAF command post, with at least two inside manning the setup, during the Mamasapano operation to hunt down wanted terrorists Zulikfli bin Hir alias Marwan, Malaysian bomb maker Amin Baco, and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman.
He also said that the US troops provided the intelligence on Marwan who was killed during the operation.

MILF says hardliners would gain if peace process stalls

From GMA News (Apr 8): MILF says hardliners would gain if peace process stalls

The largest Muslim guerrilla group in the Philippines warned on Tuesday that hardliners would stand to gain if legislators failed to pass a law granting Muslims autonomy as part of a peace deal under threat because of recent fighting.
Forty-four police commandos, 17 rebels and four civilians were killed in a Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that has cast doubt over talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after lawmakers suspended work on a law creating an autonomous Muslim area.
"People will think that we failed them, the radicals can gain legitimacy on their political line. We don't want it to happen," chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told reporters.
"It is normal in any organization to have minority view and we don't want this group to prevail if we cannot get this law," he said, urging lawmakers to resume work on the autonomy law.
Malaysia has brokered peace talks between the government and the MILF to end a 45-year conflict that has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in Mindanao.
The bungled police operation has also become President Benigno Aquino III's biggest political crisis with opinion polls showing steep drop in popularity ratings over his handling of the affair.
Aquino has also urged Congress to pass the autonomy legislation.
Iqbal said the rebels were committed to the peace process and would remain so even after Aquino's term of office ends in June 2016.
The government had said the January clash was a mistake that occurred as police hunted for two wanted Islamist militants. The rebels said they acted in self-defense when police entered their zone.
The Malaysian-led monitors found that both the police and rebels were at fault for violating the ceasefire. 

3 rebels surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 7): 3 rebels surrender

THREE New People’s Army members surrendered to the 57th Infantry Battalion in Purok 6, Barangay Bantac, Magpet in North Cotabato on Monday afternoon.
Lt. Vergel Lacambra, 10th Infantry Battalion division public affairs officer, said the rebels had surrendered without firearms to the troops led by Capt. Bruno T. Jugo of 57th IB.

The surrenderees were identified as Ar-ar S. Egad, supply officer, and Ramil A. Umanan, team leader of Pulang Bagani Command 2, and Jenelyn A. Saud, medic of Southern Mindanao Sub-regional Command.

Lacambra said the three surrendered due to hardships encountered in the mountains.

They will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program so they can resume their lives prior to joining the underground group.

For the first quarter of the year, the division already recorded 32 NPA surenderees.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo M. Ano, 10th ID commander, said they are expecting more NPA surrenderees due to their peace and development campaign. “There is no point for the rebels in waging useless and violent armed struggle ,this has only caused sufferings and slow progress in the community,” he said.


Airbus Defence and Space: Two remaining C-295M will delivered second half this year

From Ang Malaya (Apr 8): Airbus Defence and Space: Two remaining C-295M will delivered second half this year

Airbus Defence and Space confirmed to Ang Malaya Net that remaining two Philippine Air Force C-295 aircraft will be delivered ahead of schedule.

“The remaining two aircraft will be delivered ahead of schedule during the second half of this year,” Press Manager for Military Aircraft Kieran Daly said through e-mail.

In early report, first unit was set to be delivered August 2015 and the second one was scheduled by March 2016, while the third aircraft was expected September next year. First unit was already delivered and is now serving as additional support transport to existing C-130s of PAF.

The representative from Airbus Defence and Space also noted that PAF will be receiving the M (military) version of C-295 as ordered by Philippines.

“The remaining PAF C295s will not have winglets (W variant). It is normal for operators to order all aircraft in their fleet with the same configuration.”

When asked if the C-295M and C-295W differ in price, Daly said they “don’t disclose detailed pricing information on the aircraft.”


Balikatan exercises start in WV

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 7): Balikatan exercises start in WV

Philippine Army and United States troops started yesterday the annual Balikatan Exercises in Western Visayas focusing on development and community service.

More than 40 US troops are assisting in the construction of a school building in Tapaz, Capiz, while some of them will participate in the First Responders Training, that will kick off today at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said yesterday.

It will be followed by a barangay health seminar in Brgy. San Nicolas, Tapaz, Capiz, with US troops as facilitators, Tiongson added. He stressed that there is no combined military training exercises with US and Army troops in the region.

The Balikatan is an annual combined joint exercise between Philippines and US governments to serve as a venue for joint and combined training between their Armed Forces, including also the disaster response exercises towards a more responsive partnership to the several Philippine local communities.

Field Training Exercises will be held in Tarlac and Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Sangley Point in Cavite and Naval Station in Zambales.

In the Command Post Exercise event, the scenario will focus on Marine Security (MARSEC) with Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) to demonstrate the capability of the AFP National Maneuver Force and selected US troops.

The joint military training aims to further enhance capacities and improve tactics, techniques and procedures, reinforce relations, and improve interoperability of AFP and US military personnel.

About 5,000 US troops and 6,000 AFP soldiers will be deployed by the Philippine military for the joint exercises, the AFP said in a statement.

The combined military exercises will start on April 20 at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, and the closing ceremony will be held at Clark Airbase on April 30.

SAF's Oplan 'Exodus' map came from Americans

From Rappler (Apr 7): SAF's Oplan 'Exodus' map came from Americans

An army general also confirms a ‘Caucasian-looking person’ ordered him to fire artillery during ‘Oplan Exodus’ but he says he can’t determine his nationality

WHAT GOOGLE MAP? Former and current SAF officers bring out the map they got from their 'US counterparts.' Rappler photo

WHAT GOOGLE MAP? Former and current SAF officers bring out the map they got from their 'US counterparts.' Rappler photo

Google Maps? Try maps sourced from American security forces.

Sacked Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas on Tuesday, April 7, denied claims by the military that his officers used Google Maps to plot the locations of beleaguered policemen during a botched high-risk operation on January 25.

Responding to questions from legislators during the House of Representative’s second hearing on the controversial police operation, Colonel Gener del Rosario, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, said SAF officers brought with them a “Google Map” when they were asking for help from military forces.

Del Rosario was referring to former SAF deputy director Chief Superintendent Noli Talinõ and Superintendent Michael John Mangahis.

The map was different from the tactical map the military typically uses.

But Napeñas debunked Del Rosario’s claim, brandishing a map which he said was not sourced from Google. Asked by Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan where the map came from, Napeñas coyly said: “US counterparts.”

Del Rosario, however, said it was not the same map he saw on January 25.

Pressed on which agency or unit the United States counterparts had come from, Napeñas said he would be willing to answer the question during an executive session.

Napeñas did say, however, that they requested for the map.  

US involvement

The exchange between legislators, Napeñas, Taliño, Mangahis, Del Rosario, and 6th Infantry Division chief Major General Edmundo Pangilinan tackled at least two sore points in the high-risk and now highly-controversial police operation: the lack of artillery support and the involvement of American nationals.

Pangilinan confirmed before the House of Representatives an earlier statement he made before the Senate during an executive session: a foreign national had ordered him to fire artillery. The military general, however, said he could not determine the nationality of the “Caucasian-looking person in civilian attire.”

According to the Senate committee’s draft report on the bloody operation, which claimed the lives of at least 67 people, an “American” ordered Pangilinan to fire artillery to save the beleaguered members of the SAF’s 55th and 84th Special Action Companies.

But Pangilinan did not budge.

The PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) report on the clash noted 6 American nationals were at the SAF’s tactical command post during the operation, giving “real-time” information to the troopers on the ground.

The same Americans helped in the medical evacuation of the clash’s survivors.

How can we help?

Artillery support – or the lack of it – is a sore issue in police and military circles after the Mamasapano incident. Police officials have insisted that had the military launched artillery earlier, less lives would have been lost.

But the military insists information was dearth in the morning, preventing them from giving artillery support.

Del Rosario said Managhis called him at around 6:45 am on January 25 to ask for support for the beleaguered SAF troopers. Since Del Rosario was unaware of the details of the operation, he asked Mangahis to report to his headquarters for better coordination.

“When [Taliño and Managhis] arrived, I asked them how their troops were. They laid down a zoomed-in Google Map on the table and gave me a quick briefing. They pinpointed where their advance command post was, the first group, the second group, the third group, the main effort, but they did not tell me which units were involved,” Del Rosario said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Del Rosario added that neither Taliño nor Mangahis could give him complete details when they went to the 1st Mechanized Brigade’s headquarters. “I asked Taliño and Mangahis: So, sir, what’s your plan so we can help reinforce your troops?” Del Rosario asked the two police officers.

The military colonel said he was met with silence. Del Rosario said that since he “sensed” the SAF troopers were still “developing” their reinforcement plan, they took it upon themselves to analyze the situation.

Del Rosario said he then explained the situation on the ground and the nuances of Mamasapano town, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups.

The options, Del Rosario said, was to either send in troops or armored vehicles.

But Taliño, Del Rosario recalled, wanted artillery support since the 55th Special Action Company by then were already pinned down by Muslim rebels. Del Rosario said it was a risky operation since they could not determine the exact location of their troopers – civilians have been in the area.

Del Rosario added that the authority to launch artillery was not his.

But the military colonel said the third option – launching artillery – was only introduced because “[Taliño is] a general asking me for an artillery.”

Controversial operation

In the wee hours of the morning on January 25, some 400 SAF troopers were involved in an operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan” and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.

The SAF got Marwan but Usman fled in an operation that saw police commandos in clashes against the MILF, BIFF, and PAGs.

The bloodiest one-day operation in PNP history claimed at least 67 lives, including 5 civilians, 18 MILF fighters, and 44 of the SAF’s own. (Editor’s note: The MILF says 17 of its fighters died)

It is also the biggest crisis to hit President Benigno Aquino III’s administration. Aquino has been criticized for his supposed lack of empathy for those slain in Mamasapano and for his involvement in the operation.

The BOI said Aquino had broken the PNP’s chain of command in dealing with Napeñas directly instead of going through PNP officer-in-charge Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.

Aquino, the BOI report said, also allowed the participation of his friend, now-resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who at that time was serving a preventive suspension order.

The President’s trust and satisfaction ratings have dipped to their lowest in the aftermath of the clash. 

Bomb explodes in NIA office in Midsayap, North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Apr 8): Bomb explodes in NIA office in Midsayap, North Cotabato

A day before the 37th anniversary of the National Irrigation Administration in Midsayap, North Cotabato, a bomb exploded in its offices early Wednesday morning.

Residents of Barangay Villarica woke up to the explosion at about 5 a.m. today.

According to Midsayap police chief Supt. Reinante delos Santos, no one was killed or injured in the explosion.

The explosion came from one of two bombs placed in the government compound. The other bomb was found in front of the offices of the Commission on Audit in the same town.

Authorities still have not determined who left the bombs.


Pro-government militia kills couple in Davao Norte

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 7): Pro-government militia kills couple in Davao Norte
A pro-government militia shot dead a farming couple who rejected his demand to put him first in queue in the family-owned corn mill in Davao del Norte’s Kapalong town, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Karapatan said the militia, who is under the 72nd Infantry Battalion, also opened fire on other farmers in the corn mill and attempted to shoot at the couple’s eight-year old daughter.

Both Reynaldo Martir, Sr and his wife Teresita were killed in the rampage which occurred near a military post, but soldiers failed to arrest the militia who later escaped.

Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan’s Secretary-General, condemned the twin murder which occurred just recently.

She called on the government to disband all militia groups under the command of the Philippine military.

“Once again, we call for the immediate disbandment of paramilitary forces and call for the pull-out of state troops in the countryside,” Suazo said, adding, “state forces have only wrought gross human rights violations against civilians.”


Body of drowned soldier assigned in GenSan recovered

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Body of drowned soldier assigned in GenSan recovered  

Local fishermen recovered early Tuesday the remains of a soldier who drowned and went missing on Easter Sunday while swimming off a coastal village here.

Dr. Agripino Dacera Jr., action officer of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO), said the body of Army Pvt. Marlon Tolentino, 22, was found floating at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday near the shores of Barangay Maribulan in Alabel, Sarangani Province.

He said the area was about 1.5 kilometers away from the shores of Minanga in Barangay Buayan here where the victim was drowned at around 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Tolentino and several members of the Army’s 2nd Field Artillery Battalion stationed in the city were swimming in the area on Sunday afternoon when he suddenly drowned.

Pvt. Manolito Mantalas, who was part of the group, said they were swimming at a portion of the area when he noticed the victim drowning and calling for help.

He rushed towards the area but failed to reach Tolentino who drifted to a deeper portion of the sea.

“I immediately dived to his spot but it was too deep and the underwater current was quite strong,” he said.

Mantalas said local fishermen also came to help but failed to catch up with the drowning Tolentino, who hails from Pangasinan province and was only assigned to his unit here last March 19.

The CDRRMO, the barangay rescue team and the Philippine Coast Guard later launched joint search and retrieval operations for the victim but they failed to locate him.

“We’re not quite familiar with the coastline so we had difficulty locating where his body might have drifted,” Dacera said.

The official said the area where Tolentino drowned is considered dangerous by local residents due to some eroded spots.

Local residents said a number of accidental drowning had happened in the area in the past years because of such condition.


Filipino soldier killed by BIFF honored, body sent back to family

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Apr 7): Filipino soldier killed by BIFF honored, body sent back to family

Parents of the slain soldier receive a posthumous medal in recognition for their son's bravery in fighting with BIFF rebels in Maguindanao province. 

The Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division has sent the body of a soldier to his family following a solemn ceremony Tuesday that honored the slain infantryman killed in a clash with rebels in Maguindanao province in the restive Muslim autonomous region.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the casket containing the body of Pfc. Marlon Reyes was transported to Manila by a Philippine Air Force C130 cargo plane. It will be brought to his hometown in Batangas City.

Col. Arnel dela Vega, of the 6th Infantry Division, also handed over to Reyes’ parents a Posthumous Military Merit Medal in recognition for the soldier’s bravery.

Reyes was a member of the 14th Mechanized Infantry Company under the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion who engaged Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town this month.


Two more districts in NegOcc declared ‘peaceful, ready for further development’

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Two more districts in NegOcc declared ‘peaceful, ready for further development’

Two more congressional districts in Negros Occidental, the Second and Third Districts, were also declared “peaceful and ready for further development districts.”

The declaration was made during the regular meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council in the city Monday. Earlier this year, the Fourth District in southern Negros was the first to be declared as such.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., chairman of PPOC, said the province was blessed with a relatively stable peace and order situation and it held promise as an investment destination in central Philippines, evident in the number of investors coming to the province.

The governor congratulated the officials of the Second and Third Districts, both located in northern Negros, for making their areas “peaceful and ready for further development.”

Second District is composed of the cities of Sagay and Cadiz, and the Municipality of Manapla while the Third District is composed of the cities of Victorias, Silay, and Talisay, and the municipalities of E.B. Magalona and Murcia.

Sagay City is the hometown of Marañon, where he became mayor for several years. He was also congressman of the Second District for three terms.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Jon Aying, commander of the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade, refuted the claim of the New People's Army that their number was increasing in Negros Occidental.

"The rebels can say what they want, but the truth that the government is prevailing will always come out," Aying said.

Aying said the absence of insurgency-related incidents for more than a decade and the positive indicators of improved delivery of basic social services are among the considerations for an area to qualify as “peaceful and ready for further development.”

He added that military troops in Negros Occidental would continue to step up its peace and security efforts so that the province will eventually be declared “peaceful and ready for further development.”

Peace declaration is one of the Army’s priorities for the province this year, said Aying, who was recently promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

During the PPOC meeting, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Negros Occidental also gave a status report on the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of Negros Occidental.


One hurt as Army clashes with NPAs in Agusan del Norte hinterlands

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): One hurt as Army clashes with NPAs in Agusan del Norte hinterlands

A member of the civilian active auxiliary (CAA) was hurt as army clashes with the New People’s Army anew at the hinterlands of a lakeside municipality in Agusan del Norte, Monday afternoon according to army reports.

Capt. Regie Go, spokesperson of the 402nd Brigade based in Camp Bancasi, this city through mobile phone call and text messages, confirmed that on Monday, at 1:30 p.m. government troopers, while conducting a security patrol at the vicinity of Sitio Zapanta Valley, Brgy. Bangayan, Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte, were fired upon by about 20 New People’s Army (rebels).

The rebels were believed to be members of the Sangay Ng Partido Sa Platoon (SPP) 16A, led by a certain alias “Russel.”

Go said a thirty-minute firefight ensued which resulted in the slight wounding of CAA Dayo, who was taken to a medical facility for treatment.

The enemy then fled the area pursued by the government troops. Pursuing government troopers noticed blood stains along the escape route of the rebels, Go said.

The government troopers, Go said, were patrolling to secure the PAMANA developmental project worth millions of pesos.

The projects will be composed of a water system project which will cost about Php 1,000,000 to benefit the villagers of Sitio Maria Buhok and Sitio Ancile of Brgy. Bangayan.

Also a 9-kilometer farm-to-market road to cost about Php 40,000,000 will soon be constructed in the area that will connect Brgy. Bangayan to Sitio Zapanta Valley.

The rebels, according to Go, opposed such developmental projects and the activities of the community organizing for peace and development (COPD) in the area as they also resisted any similar projects for developments in the other parts of the region.


Samar army battalion keeps high morale despite comrades killed in BIFF clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Samar army battalion keeps high morale despite comrades killed in BIFF clash

The Philippine Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion (IB) keeps its high morale despite all out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that killed four of their comrades.

Lt. Col. Edgar delos Reyes, 34th IB commander, said the March 29 setbacks suffered from hands of BIFF in Pamalian village, Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao will not bar the 450 battalion members from fulfilling its mandate.

“The morale of our people continues to be high. This is an incident which will not deter our soldiers from performing their mandate of protecting the people and the state, the security and sovereignty of the state, and the national territory,” said De los Reyes, who heads the battalion based in Opong village, Catubig, Northern Samar.

According to De los Reyes their death is a heroic deed that the Samar provinces should be proud of. “The soldiers contributed significantly in the weakening of the BIFF.”

The unit killed the three BIFF leaders- Commander Bisaya and two more companions who were close relatives of another BIFF Commander Karialan and 13 other bandits were wounded in the hour-long firefight, De los Reyes recalled.

Bisaya was tagged as the one responsible in the merciless shooting of a Special Action Force commando from Silvino Lobos, Northern Samar in the recent encounter of SAF troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao as seen in a video.

The BIFF leader was also known as a notorious hitman of the group who was also responsible in the massive liquidations in Maguindanao.

“We hope and pray that this will pave the way for the realization of the long awaited peace in Mindanao,” De los Reyes added.

To recall, the Army’s 34th IB was deployed last month in Mindanao to support the all-out offensive against the BIFF.

The battalion was tasked to maintain peace and security in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and some parts of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Meanwhile, the 8th Infantry Division based in Samar will give recognition of the soldier’s heroism, gallantry and for sacrificing their lives in service of the country.

Army Captain Andrew Linao, assistant 8th division public affairs office chief, identified the soldiers from 34th IB as Sgt. Robert E. Espia of forward support medical platoon, Private First Class Vincent Q. Gulla of mechanized battalion, Cpl. Faizal A. Julmain, and Private First Class Marlon E. Marino.

Linao said the families of the slain soldiers will receive monetary, housing and scholarship benefits.


3 suspected NPA rebels nabbed in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): 3 suspected NPA rebels nabbed in Bukidnon

The local police have arrested three suspected rebels of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) during a random checkpoint in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, the police reported Tuesday.

Police Sr. Insp. Vic Falcones said that the police identified the suspects as Charlito Balagahan, Jovito Anlagan, Sr. and Jovito Anlagan, Jr., all of Libona, Bukidnon. Seized from the suspects was a caliber .45 pistols and other modified firearm of unknown caliber, and seven live bullets of the .45 caliber pistol.

Falcones said that the suspects were collared when the Nissan Terrano vehicle they were riding was flagged down and checked during a random checkpoint in Alae, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

He said that Balagahan was the driver of the vehicle while the Anlagans were the passengers. “The suspects failed to show documents to prove ownership of the gun,” Falcones said.

According to Falcones, the suspects are in the list of the police files as NPA rebels.

The seized firearms are now in the custody of the Manolo Fortich Police Station while the suspects are detained pending the filing of charges against them, Falcones said.


Troops, NPA rebels clashed in Misamis Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Troops, NPA rebels clashed in Misamis Occidental

Government troops have recovered war materials and documents of high-intelligence value the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels abandoned following a 40-minute clash in the hinterlands of Misamis Occidental.

Capt. Francisco Salvador Suelto, Joint Task Force Zampelan spokesperson, said the clash ensued around 1:15 p.m. Monday in Barangay Hoyohoy, Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.

Suelto said the troops from the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion were on law enforcement operations when they chanced upon the group of NPA rebels.

Suelto said the troops recovered several rounds of ammunition, documents containing code names of NPA members, and other war materials at the clash site.

He disclosed that a soldier was wounded during the clash. The NPA rebels were believed to have sustained casualties but were dragged by their companions.

He said the conduct of intensified law enforcement operations is aimed to thwart atrocities and expedite the arrest of lawless elements here in Mindanao.


Indian national abducted in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Indian national abducted in Davao

An Indian national was kidnapped by unknown persons Monday morning at Purok 4, Barangay Ula, Tugbok District, this city.

This was confirmed by Davao City Police Office (DCPO) spokesperson Sr. Inspector Milgrace Driz late Tuesday afternoon. Driz said the Indian national was kidnapped at around 9:30 a.m Monday in Tugbok.

Driz identified the Indian national as Jaspar Malhi, alias Singh, a resident of Wellspring Village, Catalunan Pequeño, Tugbok District.

Driz was positive that the police will be able to rescue Malhi with the joint police operatives led by Tugbok Police already deployed for the rescue operation.

In an initial investigation, Driz said the motive of the abduction could be personal grudge based from the statement of Malhi’s wife that he had a fight with a certain person. No details were provided further on Malhi’s abduction.

Malhi is reportedly into money lending business.


Mamasapano clash draws ceasefire-promoting recommendations

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Mamasapano clash draws ceasefire-promoting recommendations

The international monitoring team (IMT) for the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks recommended ceasefire-promoting measures following the deadly clash between State and non-State forces in Maguindanao province on Jan. 25 this year.

Government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel Ferrer presented the recommendations Monday (April 6) during a press conference in Metro Manila.

According to IMT, government must coordinate and initiate use of conflict preventive mechanisms available when launching law enforcement operations in known MILF areas.

Ferrer said such areas/communities are those government's peace panel and its counterpart identified as being places where MILF elements are situated.

There's need to clarify further what is provided in Part VI (Mechanics of Implementation) Paragraph 6 of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) Implementing Guidelines on the Joint Communique of 6 May 2002, IMT also said in referring to the document calling for government and MILF coordination on operations against criminal elements in MILF areas.

A higher ranking PNP Office should be assigned to Government of the Philippines Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, IMT continued.,p>IMT also said MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) must strengthen its command and control among its ranks as well as intelligence in its operation.

BIAF is MILF's armed unit, noted government.

Government and MILF should uphold and observe the laws of war, International Humanitarian Law as well as respective rules of engagement and codes of conduct, IMT further said.

PNP and BIAF combatants found to have committed crimes should be penalized accordingly under RA 9851 (Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity), IMT likewise recommended.

IMT is a neutral body tasked with helping monitor implementation of the ceasefire agreement between government and MILF.

The monitoring team made its recommendations after drawing findings on the clash in Maguindanao's Mamasapano municipality between PNP's Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos, who were carrying out Oplan Exodus against two high-value terrorists there, and non-Stateforces authorities earlier identified as being those from MILF, its breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups.

Authorities reported the clash resulted in the death of 44 SAF members as well as several non-State elements and civilians.

The clash also stalled the bid to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

"It's a very unfortunate incident as many people lost their lives but this shouldn't be a case for turning our backs on the peace process," said Ferrer.

Among IMT's findings is the clash between SAF's 55th company and BIAF's 105th base command evolved from being one of "deliberately uncontrolled movements to a disastrous firefight."

Oplan Exodus was a valid law enforcement operation, said IMT.

"Ceasefire protocols weren't observed during the planning andexecution of Oplan Exodus," IMT noted, however.

IMT added site of the clash between SAF's 55th company and MILF-BIAF is accepted to be an MILF area/community under control of the latter's base commanders.


Lawless elements abduct Zamboanga Sibugay mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Lawless elements abduct Zamboanga Sibugay mayor

Still unidentified lawless elements have abducted the lady mayor of Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay Monday night.

Reports said Naga mayor Gemma Adana was abducted at around 9 p.m.

Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Rowena Muyuela said that they have already deployed the 17th Special Forces Company and the Naval Special Operations Unit to help police pursue the abductors and recover Adana.

"We have yet to determine the abductors' identities or group affiliation," Muyuela said.


Army units engage BIFF anew in Maguindanao town

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Army units engage BIFF anew in Maguindanao town

Troopers of the 1st Mechanized Division engaged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Katibpuan, Talayan town, Maguindanao last April 5.

The unit is under Joint Task Central of the 6th Infantry Division.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, unit spokesperson, in a statement released Tuesday, said the troopers were conducting law enforcement operations when they encountered the BIFF bandits at 2: 39 a.m.

“Firefight lasted for more than an hour with no casualties reported on the government side while undetermined on the enemy,” she added.

At 3:30 a.m. of the same day, troops of the 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company provided fire support to the engaging troops.