Thursday, May 21, 2015

2 killed, 1 wounded as Abu Sayyaf bandits assault civilians in Sulu

From InterAksyon (May 20): 2 killed, 1 wounded as Abu Sayyaf bandits assault civilians in Sulu

Reports reaching Manila indicated that two civilians were killed and a woman was wounded after their boat was assaulted by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group Tuesday afternoon in waters off Maimbung and Tapul towns in Sulu.

Colonel Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, reported Wednesday that the fatalities were brothers. "The wounded woman was the wife of one of them. We're still trying to get the names of the victims. We have an initial report here that the victims belong to the Gamid clan," Arrojado told

The incident happened at around 3 p.m. near Tiomabal Island.

Arrojado said the victims are residents of Laminusa Island, in Siasi, Sulu. They were traveling on board a motorized boat from the town proper of Maimbung when assaulted.

"The bandits opened fire with automatic weapons that instantaneously killed the two brothers. They spared the woman but she was wounded. The bandits fled after the killings," Arrojado said.

Boatmen who saw the incident only approached the victims to help after the armed men fled. They brought them to the nearest Pata Island.

"The perpetrators were remnants of the Abu Sayyaf Group with some cohorts from an unidentified kidnap-for-ransom group responsible for the foiled kidnapping of Guan Kim Maujon from Laminusa," Arrojado said.

Maujon was abducted on May 6, 2015 but members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization pursued the kidnappers and killed at least 5 of them. The victim was left behind somewhere in Parang town where the police recovered her.

DND execs fail to convince senators that P1.2-B chopper deal above board

From InterAksyon (May 21): DND execs fail to convince senators that P1.2-B chopper deal above board

Top Department of National Defense officials on Wednesday failed to convince members of the Senate panel that the procurement of the P1.2-billion helicopter deal between the DND and the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RACI) of the United States and Eagle Copter of Canada last year was above board.

At the continuation of the hearing by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III as regards the transaction, DND assistant secretary Patrick Velez admitted the contract was awarded to RACI despite being disqualified three times by the department’s own Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

“Yun na nga ang nakapagtataka, three times nang na-disqualify, pagkatapos sa RACI pa rin nila (DND) ibinigay ang kontrata,” said Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, one of the three senators who had filed a resolution calling on the Senate panel to probe the scandal that first broke out two months ago.

According to Velez, when the procurement project under the Armed Forces’ modernization program finally got underway in 2012, the BAC had to disqualify RACI, the first time for its “failure” to submit even “basic documentary requirements”, the second time due to the more serious offense of “falsification”, and the final time for again failing to submit basic documentary requirements.

But according to Rhodora Alvarez, an employee at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who blew the whistle on the scandal using the alias ‘Joey,’ RACI still ended up getting the contract because it has been “tailor-fitted” for RACI “from the very start”.

Appearing for the first time in an official investigation, Alvarez said she ended up “coordinating” the procurement of the helicopters for use in “combat mission” by the Philippine Air Force beginning in late 2013 after RACI’s Philippine representative, ‘Tac Nguyen,’ went into hiding after being hunted by the US government for “misrepresenting” himself as an “official” of the US Department of State.

She said she got to know Nguyen after the latter sought her help in getting their clearance from the BIR, which is among the documentary requirements by the DND.

RACI owner Robert Rice, who was also present during the hearing, confirmed that Nguyen is now under detention in the US for the offense, adding that Nguyen’s act has “something to do” with the company’s transaction with the PAF.

As “coordinator,” Alvarez said she was privy to all the details and every step of the negotiation for the delivery by RACI of supposedly 21 “refurbished” ‘UH-1D’ helicopters that, she noted, was not the original objective of the project.

She averred further that the changes in the contract and the many violations by RACI of the country’s procurement law during its implementation were done with the knowledge not only of Velez, but also, of undersecretary of finance and munitions Fernando Manalo and DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Alvarez said Manalo had represented the interest of RACI in a previous transaction with the DND, a claim that Manalo denied at the end of the hearing.

Guingona also asked Alvarez to repeat in a sworn statement what she knows about the scandal as her allegations against the DND top brass were “very serious”, Guingona noted.

“We asked her to submit a comprehensive affidavit, hindi iyong pa-chop-chop lang,” Guingona said

Guingona said he would also be “arranging” for the physical security of Alvarez who also bared the alleged threats on her person since she first bared details of the scandal to the media.

China warns US spy plane out of disputed South China Sea area - CNN report

From InterAksyon (May 21): China warns US spy plane out of disputed South China Sea area - CNN report

The Chinese navy warned a US surveillance plane flying over artificial islands that Beijing is creating in the disputed South China Sea to leave the area eight times, according to CNN, which was on board the flight on Wednesday.

At one stage, after the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

The P8-A Poseidon, the US military's most advanced surveillance aircraft, flew at 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) at its lowest point, CNN said.

The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggests Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands.

Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a US official said last week the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.

Footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon and aired by CNN showed a hive of construction and dredging activity on the new islands the plane flew over, as well as Chinese navy ships nearby.

CNN said it was the first time the Pentagon had declassified video of China's building activity and audio of challenges to a US aircraft.

"We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy," Captain Mike Parker, commander of US surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN aboard the flight.

"I'm highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here," Parker said, pointing to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef.

Military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, including a 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) runway, could be operational by year's end, one US commander recently told Reuters.

Asia's rising power China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week asserted Beijing's sovereignty to reclaim the reefs, saying China's determination to protect its interests was "as hard as a rock."

China has also said it had every right to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.

ADIZs are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception.

During the P8-A mission, the pilot of a Delta Air Line flight in the area spoke on the same frequency after hearing the Chinese challenges, and identified himself as commercial. The Chinese voice reassured the pilot and the Delta flight went on its way, CNN said.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member killed in Jolo shootout

From the Philippine News Agency (May 21): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member killed in Jolo shootout

A suspected Abu Sayyaf Group member was killed during a shootout with members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station late Wednesday afternoon.

Joint Task Group Sulu commander Col. Alan Arrojado identified the slain suspect as Mindas Manda alias "Muktader".

Recovered from his possession were an M-16 automatic rifle and a magazine containing 10 5.56mm rounds.

Manda was cornered by members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station at the Jolo Wet Market, Barangay Walled City, Sulu at 5:50 p.m.

The suspect refused to surrender and fired on the pursuing police officers, forcing authorities to retaliate killing Manda in the process.

Arrojado said Manda is a member of he Muktader Brother ASG Kidnap-for-Ransom Group which is based in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi.

The group is working under ASG sub-leaders Idang Susukan, Alhabsy Misaya, Anga Adji and Yasser Igasan.

He said Manda is also involved in the series of recent kidnapping incidents in Malaysia.