Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Philippines: Polling the Peace Process

From the Asia Foundation (Sep 9): Philippines: Polling the Peace Process (By Christian Hope Reyes)

On August 13, the Philippine polling organization Social Weather Stations (SWS) observed its 30th anniversary with the publication of Filipino Public Opinion on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Mamasapano Incident. The report is based on the results of nationwide surveys in March and June, and a February survey in Mindanao, supported by The Asia Foundation.

Since the resumption of peace talks in 2011 between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Foundation has been collaborating with SWS to measure public attitudes towards the peace agreements, along with related issues such as perceptions of Bangsamoro as an identity, views on Islam and Christianity, support for constitutional amendments, and attitudes towards public institutions, ethnic groups, and foreign countries.

Photo/Karl Grobl

Even as nationwide sentiment turned negative, the residents of areas directly affected still approved of the peace agreements. Photo/Karl Grobl
The March nationwide survey and the February poll in Mindanao came roughly a month after the deadly Mamasapano incident, a government operation to capture two alleged terrorists, Basit Usman and Zulkifli Bin Hir, that tragically turned into a bloody firefight between the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police and elements of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Forty-four Special Action Force members, 17 MILF fighters, and five civilians died in the fighting.

In national surveys conducted by SWS from December 2012 to June 2014, nearly half of respondents approved of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the peace agreement signed by MILF and the government in October 2012. Those favoring the FAB outnumbered those opposed by a 22-point margin in December 2012 and March 2013, and 26 points in March 2014. Although support for the FAB declined in June 2014, supporters still outnumbered opponents by 16 points.

In the wake of the Mamasapano incident, however, the March 2015 survey found that just 23 percent supported the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the draft bill to implement the Framework Agreement, submitted to Congress in September 2014. The June survey, less than a month after the BBL was approved for plenary debate in the House of Representatives, found just a one-point rebound in public support for the Law.

In Mindanao, on the other hand, separate February results from the projected core territories of the proposed Bangsamoro region consistently registered net approval of the Framework Agreement and the BBL, even after Mamasapano. Thus, even as nationwide sentiment turned negative, the residents of areas directly affected still approved of the peace agreements.

Public opinion polls play an important role in policy discourse in the Philippines. The news media regularly conduct informal polls and surveys on social concerns, which they share with public officials, and they draw a constant stream of opinion from social media. Nationwide surveys measure public confidence and rate the performance of the national administration and key government institutions.

SWS pollsters interviewing respondents in the field.

SWS pollsters interviewing respondents in the field.
In this superheated environment, scientifically rigorous opinion polling has an important public role to play. SWS regularly shares its survey results with the Third Party Monitoring Team, which monitors the implementation of the peace agreements between MILF and the government. The polls have been an important tool for promoting the peace process by increasing public understanding of the peace agreements, the BBL, and key issues such as the creation of a Bangsamoro police force.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has cited the March SWS survey to argue that the Filipino people still prefer peaceful negotiations to military action against the MILF, despite a 17-point decline in support for negotiations after the Mamasapano incident – from 62 percent in March 2014 to 45 percent in March 2015. Teresita Quintos Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, has called those results an “affirmation” of the need to continue the peace process.

With the latest survey results showing the BBL in apparent limbo, careful attention to public perception may help peace negotiators and advocates find the best way forward in building public support for the peace process. At the SWS publication launch, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF peace panel, praised the SWS for “putting science into public opinion,” and for giving a voice, both to the ordinary people of the Philippines and to the Bangsamoro people, who can now be heard, he said, by the rest of the country. Based on the February SWS results showing majority support for the BBL in the Bangsamoro core territories, Iqbal’s counterpart from the government, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, called on Congress to recognize the voices of the “people from the margins,” the people of the Bangsamoro, as the ones who will be most affected by the legislators’ decision on the BBL.

[Christian Hope Reyes is an assistant program officer for The Asia Foundation in the Philippines. She can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author, not those of The Asia Foundation.]

NPA: 6 killed, 4 injured in Army, NPA clashes in Surigao del Sur

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Sep 9): NPA: 6 killed, 4 injured in Army, NPA clashes in Surigao del Sur

Six Army members were killed and four were wounded during its recent clashes with the New People’s Army in San Agustin town Surigao del Sur.

In a statement to the press, Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines said the casualties were members of the 402nd Brigade.

Malaya said  the incident took place at around 2:00 pm Saturday afternoon in Sitio Kabuluhan, Buhisan, San Agustin.

She said NPA guerillas from Front 19 ambushed a column of the Army’s Scout Rangers who crossed Hubo river going to Sitio Kabuluhan.

“This resulted in the death of three Scout Rangers and an unidentified number of wounded,” she said.

At 3:00 pm another team of the NPA guerillas attacked Army’s from 36th Infantry Battalion. Malaya said three died and four were wounded from the government troops.

Army strength in Sabah at the optimum level

From the Daily Express (Sep 9): Army strength in Sabah at the optimum level
The army strength in Sabah is now at the optimum level following the deployment of nine battalions with more than 3,000 soldiers who are stationed in various places, including in the East Coast of Sabah.

Outgoing Task Force 450 Commander Major General Datuk Masrani Paiman said their presence has further boosted the security level in Sabah and the country.

"Of the nine battalions, two have been positioned at north and south sectors, including the Task Force 450 placed under the Fifth Brigade Army at the Lok Kawi Army Camp here.

"Two battalions are placed in the State's East Coast through 'Ops Daratan', three battalions assigned for special operations and another two battalions to complement the tasks and duties of the army in Sabah," he said.

Masrani said this in a press conference after officially handing over his duties to the new Task Force Commander, Major General Datuk Zulkapli Rahamat, witnessed by Army Eastern Field Commander for Sabah and Sarawak, Lieutenant General Datuk Mohd Zaki Mokhtar, after a parade held at the Lok Kawi Army Camp, Tuesday. Zulkapli was formerly Director-General of Operations and Training at the army headquarters. Earlier, Zaki also witnessed the handing over of the army's 1st Division in Sabah to the command of Task Force 450 that will be based at Paradise Army Camp in Kota Belud.

Also present were Fifth Brigade Commander Brigadier General Datuk Jalaluddin Manan, 507 Territorial Army Regiment Commander Brigadier General Datuk Seri Dr Kamaruzzaman Ampon, Chief of Staff of Task Force 450 Colonel Dr Ahmad Sham Baharin and Chief of Staff of Fifth Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Nor Lizam Shamsuddin and senior officials.

Masrani, who will be posted to the Ministry of Defence as the Chief of Staff of the Joint Forces Command, said the army renders assistance to the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in terms of addressing and tackling cross-border crime activities.

"Sea robberies and kidnappings in the East Coast are cross-border crime activities that happened before the establishment of Esscom.

"After Esscom was created and the enforcement of curfew, the security issues were manageable and there has been a glaring decline in the number of cross border crime activities following good cooperation with the army, police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and other forces in the area," he said.

In his speech, Masrani called on the army serving under the Task Force 450 to always stay on guard for any eventualities, including the conventional and unconventional threats, and never to take lightly the security scenario faced by the State.

He said the conventional threats can exist and pose threats to the nation's sovereignty and interests, adding that the unconventional threats such as militant threats and cross-border crimes are still happening and have yet to show any sign of fizzling out.

Troops discover Sayyafs harbor site

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Sep 9): Troops discover Sayyafs harbor site

GOVERNMENT troops have discovered a temporary harbor site of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, as pursuit operations continue against the group in the hinterlands of Sulu, a top military official said Wednesday.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the harbor site was discovered by the troops from the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the village of Latih, Patikul, Sulu.

The troops recovered from the "freshly abandoned" site various medical supplies used by the Abu Sayyaf bandits who were wounded in a recent clash with government forces.

Arrojado reported earlier that 15 Abu Sayyaf bandits were wounded in the August 28 firefight in Mount Awak in the village of Latih, Patikul.

He said among the wounded were Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Roger Samlahun and Hatib Hajan Sawajaan.

The troops pounded the positions of the Abu Sayyaf members with mortar shells during the August 28 fighting, forcing the bandits to scamper to different directions.

Some of the bandits' wives were monitored to have purchased medical supplies and medicines a day after the clash.

Arrojado said the troops also recovered from the harbor site bomb-making components such as blasting caps and detonating cords, mobile phones, radio transceiver, police and military uniforms, hammock, laminated sacks and a box of dried fish.

MILF: Pres. Aquino to continue to lobby for passage of BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 9): Pres. Aquino to continue to lobby for passage of BBL

Pres. Aquino to continue to lobby for passage of BBL

The Philippine News Agency (PNA) quoted President Benigno Aquino III saying he would continue to lobby with members of Congress for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under his watch. Aquino’s statement on Tuesday came at a time both Chambers of Congress are deliberating the proposed Bangsamoro Law.

“We will continue to lobby with members of Congress to pass the law during our watch and pass it at the earliest possible time so that the new mode of governance will have the maximum time to show the effectivity or the efficacy of this new mode of governance,” the President said in an interview with Inquirer multi-media.

Despite the difficulties and  snail-pace deliberations  on the BBL that hampers its immediate passage, President Aquino said both Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte have expressed confidence that the measure will be passed.

“So, on the Executive’s portion, we would want to continue the engagement of our dialogue partners, specifically the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and programs, through programs like Sajahatra, we want them to experience and the population in general in this region the benefits or the so-called peace dividends arising from this agreement,” he told the Inquirer people.

The President, however, is hoping that even in the absence of the Bangsamoro law, Congress will support the initiatives “that will shower these people with the peace dividends and get them further engaged in the process.”

President Aquino believes that war will not break out in Mindanao despite the delay in the passage of the Bangsamoro bill.

“I don’t submit to the premise that war will break out. I don’t think there is any interest from the major players to re-engage in a bloody conflict,” the President said.

“Having said that, there will be the spoilers who will want to exploit the current difficulties to show that their avowed aims of gaining what they want through violent means is the only way to go about it,” he added.

The President urged peace advocates to “really even redouble our efforts to thwart these groups who would want us to branch again into really a pointless conflict.”

The MILF have also said that it will continue to engage the government a viable and peaceful settlement of the Mindanao Question even if the BBL is not passed under Aquino’s term.

“So, who should be blamed? I think I’ll leave that up to the Filipino people who will have an opportunity in next year’s elections to gauge the merit, or lack of it, of the people who will propose themselves to lead various offices,” he added.

Earlier, Belmonte admitted that lack of quorum has been obstructing their efforts to finish the plenary debates on the BBL.

In the Senate, Senators Pia Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona III and Loren Legarda have already finished interpellating the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, submitted a substitute bill which he called the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

MILF: Clans Feud in Maguindanao Sealed

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 9): Clans Feud in Maguindanao Sealed

Clans Feud in Maguindanao Sealed

After almost nine years of security threats and economic disorder between the warring clans of Daraba and Ronda, they finally ended their conflict through a peace covenant signed during the thanksgiving ceremony held in the municipal gymnasium of Parang, Maguindanao on Thursday, September 3. 

Aside from LGUs, security sector, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, there were international partners observed and signed the document as witnesses of that historic event,” said Abdulfarid Amella, team leader of the Quick Response Team organized by the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD).

Amella disclosed that the Non-violent Peaceforce in the Philippines specifically the team based in Datu Piang Maguidanao, United Nations Office for Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and the The Asia Foundation graced the said ceremony.

In his message, Dr Rahib L. Kudto, President of the UNYPAD, said that the UNYPAD started conflict mitigation intervention since 2005 and it used to be one of the old partners of the The Asia Foundation (TAF).

“The signing of the agreement between the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) strengthens our commitment to really pursue our conflict mitigation work as we know that this plays a very important role in bringing the situation back to normalcy,” he pointed out.

“This supports the Normalization Process,” he added.

Dr Anwar Saluwang, Director of the Development Management Center of UNYPAD, said, “Malaki ang tulong sa matagumpay na paglagda ng kasunduan ang mga grupong nagtulong-tulong sa settlement ng Rido tulad ng GHQ-Base Command ng MILF, 37th IB, PA, LGU ng Parang at Barira, gyundin ang Task Force Kalilintad, at PNP.”

The GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), and Maguindanao Governor Toto Magudadatu’s representative Abdulazis Ragundo of  Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU) and Commander Saifullah Khan of the Central Mindanao Front of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of MILF, also witnessed the important affair, said Saluwang.

He also said that among of the highlighted things in the program was the giving of money called ‘cleansing of hearts’ by Ronda clan to Daraba clan. The assistance was handed over by Hon. municipal Mayor Abdulradzak D. Tomawis of Barira. 

Saluwang added that both clans were also swearing by putting their hands over holy Qur’an to strengthen their commitment to really put their conflict into a total closure.

Noraida Chio, Senior Program Officer of the TAF, said that the major objective of the program is averting the escalation of local conflicts in the communities that may derail the peace process.

According to the TAF research called “Contested Corners of Asia” reported that in Mindanao, Chio said, “one of the major findings tells us that local conflict such as rido is actually devastating and there was a conservative estimate that around 120,000 lives were lost and between two to three billion dollars economic lost.”   

Chio pointed out that if these estimated cost of economic lost will be put into social and other services it could make a big difference in the marginalized Bangsamoro people.

She stressed that rido is not part of the Bangsamoro culture as others may believe it. 

“Let us correct the impressions of other people outside the Bangsamoro areas that rido is part of our culture, no it’s not part of our culture, we are all brothers and sisters, we’re all Bangsamoro, we’re all Moslems,” Chio stressed.  

MILF Commander Khan emphasized to the warring clans that unless there is forgiveness in the hearts of each of the conflicting families they are all in the hellfire. 

“To those who have rido and if there are groups who may want to intervene to your conflict, accept them because that is best chance to solve your conflict and so that you will not be thrown to the hellfire,” said Khan. 

In his message of support, Khan thanked all the actors behind the initiatives. 

Georgi S. Engelbrecht, Head of Field Office Maguindanao team of the Nonviolent Peaceforce appreciated the presence of the MILF, Army, Police and other sectors who have trusted each other, cooperated, and worked together for peace.

Muktar Ali Farah of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) has offered prayers (Al-Fatiha/The Opener) for the government and the MILF peace process and to the Daraba and Ronda Clans.

Meantime, the IHH Turkey-based international humanitarian organization, granted scholarship for the Daraba and Ronda children aged 7 to 12yrs old to study Arabic in the IHH’s orphans School in Cotabato City. 

Omer Kesmen, IHH representative in the Philippines based in Cotabato City, said, “We will award scholarship for 5 girls each family to study, and the IHH is expected to visit both clans for possible economic intervention.”

Lastly, in the messages of commitment by Daraba and Ronda clans representatives, they have sworn to end their conflict so that they can go back to normal life.

The program is under the Building Autonomous and Stable Institution and Communities for Bangsamoro Advancement through National Level and Grassroots Organization Network (B-BANGON) project implemented by the UNYPAD, LIPAD Mindanao, MinHuDI, and AFADMin in partnership with the TAF with funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia

MILF: Sen. Legarda proposes bill on “Moro History, Culture and Identity Studies” in college

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 9): Sen. Legarda proposes bill on “Moro History, Culture and Identity Studies” in college

SUPPORT PEACE PROCESS. Senator Loren Legarda proposes a bill that will mandate the Commission on Higher Education to include Moro History, Culture, and Identity Studies in college curriculum. File photos from AFP, WikiCommons

SUPPORT PEACE PROCESS. Senator Loren Legarda proposes a bill that will mandate the Commission on Higher Education to include Moro History, Culture, and Identity Studies in college curriculum. File photos from AFP, WikiCommons

Senator Loren Legarda proposes a bill on “Moro History, Culture and Identity Studies” in support to the peace process. Once enacted, the bill will mandate the Commission on Higher Education to include the subject in college curriculum that will allow Filipinos to better understand the Moro People. 

Senate Bill No. 2685 mandates the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to include the subject as an elective in the country's higher education curriculum – a move that, according to Legarda, will promote national unity.

"The goal of this measure is to provide the youth a broader perspective of their past, reinforcing Filipino identity," the senator said on September 8.

She added: "It also aims to provide deeper knowledge and understanding of the centuries-long historical and cultural heritage of both the Moro people and the indigenous peoples (IP’s) or what we call the Lumads in Mindanao."

In crafting the college course and other learning materials, CHED must consult with recognized experts on Moro history, culture, and identity, as well as recognized resource persons on the Mindanao peace process and the Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Aside from supporting the peace process, the course will provide students a better understanding of the history of Muslims in the Philippines, as well as the roots of the "Mindanao problem," the "Moro problem," and how the conflict impacts the rest of the country. 

It will also look into the positive relations of the Moros with Christian settlers and the Lumads in Mindanao, appreciating their commonalities, their differences in cultures and identities, and the ideal of their equality, co-existence, and unity. 

"The history of the Bangsamoro people forms part of the backbone of the historical development of our country. It is about time that we recognize the rightful place of the history and identity of the Bangsamoro in the fabric of our national history," Legarda said.

A similar bill at the House of Representatives authored by Rep. Pangalian Balindong of Lanao Del Sur 2nd District was already approved on third and final reading last October 2014.

CPP/Ang Bayan--Labanan ang Paghahariharian ng Militar ng US sa Pilipinas

From the Tagalog edition of Ang Bayan posted to the CPP Website (Sep 7): Labanan ang Paghahariharian ng Militar ng US sa Pilipinas (Fight US military rule in the Philippines)

Ang Bayan
September 7, 2015 issue

Kasuklam-suklam na sumaludo si Aquino at kanyang mga upisyal militar at panseguridad nang bumisita kamakailan ang bagong kumander ng mga pwersang militar ng US sa Pasipiko, si Adm. Harry Harris. Sa loob ng tatlong araw, tuluyang inilibing ng mga upisyal ni Aquino ang lahat ng pambansang dignidad at nagprisintang mga utusan ng mataas na upisyal ng Amerika. click here to read more

Navy gunboat rescues 9 stricken sailors off Sulu

Ang Malaya (Sep 9): Navy gunboat rescues 9 stricken sailors off Sulu

A Philippine Navy (PN) gunboat, the BRP Jose Loor, successfully rescued the nine crewmen of a motor launch, which sank off Sulu early Tuesday morning.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said M/L Haynoline sink three nautical miles west of Bunga Point, Parang, Jolo at around 1: 30 a.m.

He added that the craft was carrying some 76,000 liters of diesel and various auto parts for the Tawi-Tawi Nickel Corporation in Tumbagaan Island when it sank.

Fortunately, the BRP Jose Loor was conducting barrier patrols in the area and managed to rescue the stricken sailors identified as Basher Adari, 43,boat captain; Andy Adari, 41, mechanic; Yahsin Arasani, 50; Bartek Araji, 35; Sudan Salimap, 27; Damil Said, 20; Mohammad Alif, 20; Reyner Fullo, 31 and Rodel Fernando, all resident of Zamboanga City.

The stricken ship, which left Kawit, Zamboanga City Monday night, is owned by one Hadji Bohrahim Ibrahim.

The rescued crewmen were immediately turned over to the Coast Guard Station in Jolo.

It was learned that the ship was heavily-loaded and left without seeking clearance from the Philippine Coast Guard.

Troops after Bagani group encounter NPA rebels thrice

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 9): Troops after Bagani group encounter NPA rebels thrice

GOVERNMENT forces pursuing the Magahat/Bagani Force involved in the killing last week of three civilians in Surigao del Sur have thrice clashed with a New People’s Army group.

The Magahat/Bagani Force is being tagged by the leftist human rights group Karapatan as a paramilitary force of the Army. The military has belied this and said the Magahat/Bagani can be considered a private armed group.

Last September 1, about 20 members of the Magahat/Bagani group swooped down on barangay Diatagon, Lianga town and burned the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development Cooperative and other structures in the barangay. The incident left three civilians dead, including an official of the cooperative.

The military has since been trying to disband the group.

“We had three consecutive encounters but these are not against the Bagani forces. These are from the Guerilla Front 19 (of the NPA),” said Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, public affairs officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.

“We are wondering why members of the Guerilla Front 19 are in the area (barangay Diatagon),” he said adding there has been no reported NPA presence in the barangay recently.

On an alliance between the NPA and the Bagani group, Martinez said the Bagani is against the NPA because the latter has been recruiting lumad, or indigenous people, into the communist group.

The military earlier said “bagani” means tribal warrior, and every tribe has its own “bagani.’

Martinez said the most recent encounter with the NPA was last September 7 in barangay Bolhoon, San Miguel town at around 8:50 a.m.

The brief firefight between Scout Rangers and about 30 members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 19 resulted in the recovery of three improvised explosive devices, blasting caps, electric wires, and seven magazines of AK-47 and M-16 rifles, he said.

Martinez said there reported casualties on the NPA side. He said pursuit operations were ongoing as of yesterday.

The second clash was on September 5, between soldiers and policemen and the same NPA group, in the same barangay. The 20-minute firefight resulted in the wounding of PO1 Alvin Mirador.

The first clash was on September 3, Martinez said. The firefight was with about seven members of Front 19, in barangay Diatagon in Lianga, the site of the burning and killing of civilians.

PNoy: No war even if BBL is not approved

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 9): PNoy: No war even if BBL is not approved

PRESIDENT Aquino yesterday said he does not foresee a resurgence of war in the proposed new Bangsamoro region if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed by Congress.

He said Malacañang would continue to lobby with Congress to pass the law “during our watch and pass it at the earliest possible time.”

Aquino said while the BBL continues to be debated on in Congress, there would be spoilers who would try to sow conflict, or cause problems to derail peace and development in the region,

“I don’t submit to the premise that war will break out. I don’t think there is any interest from the major players to re-engage in a bloody conflict. Having said that, there will be the spoilers who will want to exploit the current difficulties to show that their avowed aims of gaining what they want through violent means is the only way to go about it,” he said during the forum, “Meet the Inquirer Multimedia,” in Makati City.

Congress has been tackling the measure since it was submitted by Malacañang in September last year. With Congress set to go on recess next month, lawmakers said they would exert efforts to pass the BBL, together with other priority measures like the 2016 proposed national budget.

The BBL will create the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, as provided in the peace agreement that government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March last year.

The MILF has been warning about the passage of a “diluted” BBL. Both houses of Congress, at the committee level, have passed alternative versions to the Malacañang-drafted BBL.

The President reiterated that advocates of peace should remain strong and redouble their efforts to thwart any group which want to continue the “pointless conflict” in the area.

He also said that despite the absence of the BBL, the government continues to support “peace initiatives” and will continue engagement with the MILF and ensure the implementation of programs like the Sajahatra which aims to bring basic government services to the MILF communities.

In preparation for the new Bangsamoro region, Aquino issued a memorandum ordering the disbanding of private armed groups (PAGs) in the proposed new region and other parts of Mindanao.

Memorandum Circular No. 83 dated September 2 creates a national task force focused on disbanding PAGs in order to stabilize the security situation and address the problem of proliferation of weapons.

The disbandment of PAGS, along with the gradual decommissioning of weapons and combatants, are part of the peace agreement between government and the MILF.

2 years after Zambo ‘siege,’ Misuari is still on the loose

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 10): 2 years after Zambo ‘siege,’ Misuari is still on the loose

TWO years after rogue Moro National Liberation Front members attacked several barangays in Zamboanga City authorities have yet to get the brains behind the attack— MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari who now heads one of at least three factions in the former rebel group.

Based on “multi-agency intelligence operation,” Misuari is either in Jolo, Sulu or in Tawi-Tawi, Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said yesterday, the second anniversary of the attack.

A military intelligence official said Misuari is in Sulu but getting him may require “political will” because arresting him may result in massive casualties from the MNLF, the military, and even in the civilian sector.

The Zamboanga “siege,” which lasted for about three weeks, left hundreds of people dead and thousands of civilians displaced.

Misuari was charged with rebellion and crimes against humanity before the Zamboanga City regional trial court, along with dozens of his followers involved in the attacks. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of the accused.

The siege started with hundreds of MNLF fighters landing in Zamboanga City on Sept. 9, 2013 and attempting to raise their flag at the city hall as part of their cause for independence. After authorities thwarted their move, they occupied several barangays and held about 200 barangay residents hostage.

A month-long military campaign and subsequent clearing operations led to the death of about 200 MILF men and capture or surrender of about 300 others. The fighting also resulted in the death of dozens of government troops and civilians and rescue of the hostages.

Earlier reports said the conflict displaced at least 100,000 persons. National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Alexander Pama said some of the evacuees are still living in transitional shelters but could not give exact figures.

The military said it is possible Misuari has left the country.

“He might be in areas where he has control of people, the people could be hiding him and keeping him away (from authorities). For all we know, he is not in the country, he may be out of the country,” he said.

Padilla said the military is working with other law enforcement agencies to locate Misuari.

A total of 284 Misuari followers were charged with rebellion before the regional trial court of Zamboanga in November 2013. The case was later transferred to the Pasig City regional trial court for security reasons.

In November last year, the justice department recommended the dismissal of the rebellion charges against 59 of those charged, because there was no evidence of their participation in the siege.

PVAO wants to increase war veterans’ pension to P20,000

From GMA News (Sep 8): PVAO wants to increase war veterans’ pension to P20,000

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) has asked Congress for P1.9 billion in additional funding for 2016 so it could increase the monthly pension received by senior war veterans from the present P5,000 to P20,000.

At the budget briefing of the Department of National Defense and attached agencies in the House of Representatives, PVAO administrator Ernesto Carolina said there has been “a general feeling” among veterans organizations pushing for a pension hike that they are being neglected since their pensions have not increased since 1994.

“With the increasing cost of commodities, [their] monthly benefit could hardly provide for their daily basic needs, including maintenance medicines,” he said.

The Department of Budget and Management has allocated a budget of P10.4 billion for PVAO to pay the pension due to war veterans.

Carolina said that most World War 2 veterans are primarily dependent on their old age pension of P5,000 and total administrative disability of pension of P1,700.

Data from the PVAO show that by 2016, there will only be a total of 15,595 surviving post-World War 2 veterans 70 years old and above.

Carolina made the request for a bigger pension budget as he expressed hope that Congress will soon pass House Bill 2367, which will increase the monthly pension of senior war veterans to P20,000.

The measure has been approved at the committee level in the House.

“[The inclusion of additional funding] in the 2016 budget is proposed in anticipation of the [bill’s] passage due to its urgent nature… The additional amount of P1.9 billion is required for the implementation of the law in its first year, and eventually will diminish over time as the number of war veterans also decrease,” he said.

For 2016, Carolina said PVAO plans to turn over a new leaf and make delayed pension claims a thing of the past as it aims to pay the full regular pension accorded to veterans on or before the end of the corresponding pension month.

“The timely payment of pension is a demonstration of the country’s appreciation and gratitude for the service of veterans,” he said.

By PVAO’s estimates, around 174,000 pensioners will benefit with the timely payment of their pensions, while 9,350 will get to enjoy the other benefits due them on time.

2 killed, 2 critically wounded in Cotabato shootout

From GMA News (Sep 10): 2 killed, 2 critically wounded in Cotabato shootout

Two people were killed and two others were critically wounded in a shootout started by two groups of armed men Wenesday night that ended when Army Special Forces responded.

Supt. Rex Anongos, Cotabato City police director, identified one of those killed as Jordan Talusop from Shariff Kabunsuan.

He was shot by a group of  suspects headed by one Ben Montes a.k.a. Black Moro, who is now in police custody.

On the other hand, Black Moro's companion, Roland Kabatuan, was killed by responding soldiers.

Alima Adam and Michael Montes, also Black Moro's companions were wounded and brought to a hospital.

Members of the 5th Army Special Forces Battalion were conducting patrol along SK Pendatun Avenue, some 500 meters from Police Station 1, when they noticed an ongoing shootout involving two groups of gunmen on motorbikes at past 9 p.m.

Colonel Rannie Sevilla, 5th Special Forces Battalion commander, said Black Moro shot Talusop dead at a roadside despite the presence of soldiers.

The soldiers fired warning shots but the gunmen fired back.

Black Moro's group, composed of three men and woman, sped away but Kabatuan was shot by the soldiers.

Police are still determining the motive for the clash between the two groups.

Grenade explodes near Army detachment in North Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Sep 9): Grenade explodes near Army detachment in North Cotabato

PIKIT, North Cotabato - A grenade explosion hit Barangay Nalapaan in Pikit town of North Cotabato around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

According to Army's 602nd Brigade spokesperson Capt. Calvin Macatangay, the blast occurred about 50 meters away from the Bravo Company detachment of the 38th Infantry Battalion.

But based on the assessment of the military, the explosion was not intended for the Army troops in the area.

The military believes the blast was due to a rido or clan feud between the village chairman of Nalapaan and a civilian who are both trying to avenge a past conflict.

The issue has been already brought up by the military to the local government and municipal police for the immediate settlement of the conflict between the two parties.

No casualty was reported in the explosion.

3 dead in Cotabato City shooting

From ABS-CBN (Sep 9): 3 dead in Cotabato City shooting

Photo by Albashir Saiden, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao

An unidentified person was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on Almonte Street, Barangay Poblacion 5 in Cotabato City about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

The victim was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Patrolling members of the 5th Special Forces Battalion spotted the suspects and pursued them.

The soldiers chased down two motorcycles, one of which had a female passenger.

Police Senior Inspector Efren Salazar of Cotabato City Police said the special forces shot one of the motorcycle-riding suspects and his female passenger.

The man died on the spot while the woman died in the hospital.

Authorities have yet to identify the suspects and their motives for the shooting.

More than a hundred face raps over SAF 44

From The Standard (Sep 9): More than a hundred face raps over SAF 44

More than a hundred persons will be criminally charged for the Mamasapano incident where 44 Special Action Force commandos of the Philippine National Police were killed during an encounter with Muslim rebels  on Jan. 25, 2015.

“There is over a hundred, I think, that will be indicted over this [incident]. We are meeting probably by next week to get all of the specifics,” President Benigno S. Aquino III  said  during an interview aired over state-run television station PTV-4.

Aquino expressed the need for a  closure on the issue. 

“Do I have closure? I still have quite a number of questions, and there are various agencies of government tasked to ferret out the truth of exactly what happened in its entirety,” said Aquino.
After being criticized for not mentioning the Mamasapano incident in his final State of the Nation Address, Aquino admitted that many questions surrounding that fateful day remain unanswered.

Aquino said the government is reviewing several  accounts that led to the deaths of 44 elite commandos at the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. “However, there is difficulty in getting the witnesses,” said Aquino. 

Aquino declined to state any specifics of the investigation saying it might hamper efforts to get to the truth of the matter.

The Department of Justice earlier recommended  the filing of criminal charges against 90 individuals over the bloody  Jan. 25  clash.

In July, a supposed transmittal letter to the DoJ approving the preliminary investigation for the complex crime of direct assault with murder against 102 individuals, including three Moro Islamic Liberation Front and two Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters commanders, was leaked.

The number of respondents in the case was raised from 90 to 102, sources said.

Public and legislative support for the Malacañang and MILF proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law suffered following the Jan. 25 clash, even as the elite cops managed to kill their target, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Lawmakers have questioned the sincerity of the MILF in the peace process, vowing to make the proposed law free of provisions that they believe could be exploited by the MILF.

Because of the Mamasapano incident, some lawmakers and critics of the BBL feared that the proposed law will be used by the MILF as an instrument for secession. 

The role of third-party facilitator Malaysia was also questioned because the latter has a long-standing territorial dispute with the Philippines over Sabah.

Lawmakers also vowed to make the proposed law compliant with the Constitution, citing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain experience.

Fire Baladad, group demands

From The Standard (Sep 9): Fire Baladad, group demands

THE human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday demanded the relief of Eastern Mindanao Command chief Aurelio Baladad for his “command responsibility” over the spate of killings and terrorist activities by some military units and their militias in the Caraga region.

Group head Cristina Palabay said they would also be asking Congress to make Baladad and his command answer “for their crimes” against the Lumad tribe before the Department of National Defense’s  proposed budget for 2016 was approved.

“The AFP should pay for their crimes against the people. It deserves not a single cent from the people’s money,” Palabay said.

“With what is happening especially in the areas under the Eastern Mindanao Command—the massive evacuation, the killings, massacres and threat to Lumad schools, their teachers, staffs and students—it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary force multipliers who owe the people.”

Palabay made her statement even as President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday tried to avoid discussing the reported killings of members of the Lumad tribe in Surigao del Sur last week. There were allegations the military was abetting the killings as part of its anti-insurgency campaign.

“I should talk to [Bayan spokesman] Teddy Casiño after this and ask him for details,” Aquino said in an interview aired over PTV-4.

“There is no campaign to kill anybody. There is a campaign to go after everybody committing crimes regardless of who they are.”

Aquino made his statement after Casiño asked what the government would do over the reported killings of members of the Lumad tribe.      
Armed Forces Chief Hernando Iriberri said military personnel, regardless of rank, would be punished if found violating any laws.

In the House, the committee on national defense led by Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said it will probe the alleged human rights violations being committed by the Armed Forces, including the rape of a 14-year-old girl in Davao del Norte.

Rep. Luz Ilagan also denounced the reported rape.

Justice Rep. Leila de Lima said the National Bureau of Investigation was ready to do a parallel probe of the alleged killings of members of the Lumad tribe following the House’s announcement of its investigation.

The alleged killings of members of the Lumad tribe have been largely blamed on the military and the paramilitary Magahat and Bagani forces.

Baladad has denied the allegations, but Karapatan is convinced the military is behind the the reported killings.

“Who could forget the Paquibato Massacre where three civilians were killed, in which two were Lumad leaders and one peasant?” Palabay said.

She said when Baladad was Eastmincom commander the Lumad schools became under attack because they were allegedly “NPA schools”.

 “It is also under his command that the residents of Talaingod, Davao del Norte, were evacuated to Davao City because the paramilitary group Alamara had been terrorizing its residents,” Palabay said.

“The more than 55 AFP combat battalions deployed in the non-Muslim areas in Mindanao have caused a series of human rights violations against the people of Mindanao, especially peasants and indigenous people. Yet the government, as usual, has not lifted a finger.”

Lumad 'well provided for' but 'how long we can sustain them, I don't know' - Surigao del Sur gov

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): Lumad 'well provided for' but 'how long we can sustain them, I don't know' - Surigao del Sur gov

Lumad refugees at the sports center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. (photo by Erwin Mascarinas,

The close to 3,000 lumad refugees sheltering at the sports center in Tandag City are “well provided for” even as Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel acknowledged, “how long we can sustain them, I don’t know.”

Speaking to by phone, Pimentel noted that “more people continue to arrive every day,” as he worried about a possible outbreak of ailments among the refugees, who fled more than 20 villages in five towns to escape atrocities blamed on the Magahat militia.

Pimentel has vainly been urging the military to disarm and disband the Magahat, whose members he says are trained and armed by the Army.

“We need to finish this ordeal,” Pimentel said even as he admitted it might take between one to two months before the evacuees are able to return to their villages.

He pointed out that many of the refugees, especially children and students of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV in Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town, remain “severely traumatized.”

Han-ayan was where, on September 1, Magahat militiamen rounded up residents, including staff and students of the award-winning tribal school, who were then made to witness the execution of tribal leaders Dionel Campos, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod or MAPASU, and his cousin Datu Juvillo “Bello” Sinzo.

The staff and students of ALCADEV later found the body of the school’s executive director Emerito Samarca, who had been stabbed and his throat slit, inside a room.  

Around 2,000 residents of Han-ayan fled after the killings.

The children continue to shake and cry or just stare blankly,” Pimentel said.

For the moment, Pimentel said, his greatest worry is “if an outbreak” occurs, noting that two children have been confirmed to have chicken pox “but the parents refuse to take them to the hospital.”

“I am worried they might infect not only other children but also pregnant women,” the governor said.

He also confirmed that a four-year old Manobo girl from San Miguel town had died Tuesday “although we are still verifying” if the conditions at the refugee center may have contributed to the death of the child, who was a known asthmatic.

The San Miguel evacuees fled their homes also on September 1 after learning of the killings in Lianga, walking all night in heavy rain.

“We started out with 1,200 evacuees; we now have 2,800 and every day, more arrive,” Pimentel said.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II briefly visited the evacuees on Tuesday and called Secretaries Janette Garin of Health and Corazon Soliman of Social Welfare and Development asking them to send immediate assistance, Pimentel said.

“But that is the short term solution,” he stressed. “The long term solution is to disarm, disband or kill” the militia, something, he added, only the Army that created them can do.

Binay urges 'immediate action' on lumad's plight as groups blast PNoy for 'washing hands'

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): Binay urges 'immediate action' on lumad's plight as groups blast PNoy for 'washing hands'

Lumad women talk with each other at the sport center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur where closeto 3,000 refugees have sought shelter from atrocities blamed on military-backed militias. (photo by Erwin Mascarinas,

Vice President Jejomar Binay urged “immediate government action” on the atrocities that have driven close to 3,000 lumad from their homes in Surigao del Sur as various groups accused President Benigno Aquino III of “washing his hands” of the problem.

The killings and evacuations, said a statement from Joey Salgado, Binay’s media affairs chief, “cries out for immediate government action. 

“The Vice President is asking the concerned agencies to look into the matter thoroughly and take the needed steps to protect the rights of aggrieved individuals,” it added.

The Surigao del Sur evacuation peaked when some 2,000 residents of Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town fled on September 1 following the murders of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the award-winning ALCADEV tribal school, and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Juvillo “Bello” Sinzo by gunmen of the Magahat militia.

At a roundtable with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, Aquino, asked about the plight of the lumad, replied: “There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country. There is a campaign to go after anybody who commits crimes regardless of who they are. And I think we have an adequate track record to show you the successes of people who have long been wanted that are already been apprehended and the process still continues.”

His words drew angry reactions from groups that have been advocating for the rights of the indigenous people and the disbanding of the militias.

Even Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel has been demanding, albeit in vain, that the Army dismantle the militias. On Wednesday, he said only solution to the constant killings and evacuations of the lumad would be to “disarm, disband or kill” the militias.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao called Aquino’s statement “both a denial of what is going on, and at the same time an accusation targeted at the victims butchered by the government forces and supporting paramilitary minions.”

“If President Aquino says the campaign is to go after a person ‘who commits crimes’ and dismisses the killings as justified actions of the military, then he is implying that those massacred and murdered by his forces were criminals,” the RMP added.

The Save Our Schools Network, which campaigns for the preservation of schools set up by nongovernmental organizations in tribal communities, such as ALCADEV, which the military has openly accused of advocating support for communist rebels, scored Aquino for not “listening to the accounts of direct victims” of the atrocities before drawing conclusions about the killings of the lumad.

The activist League of Filipino Students, which staged a “die-in” in front of the Department of Justice in Manila Wednesday, said Aquino’s “empty” response “justifies the heightened militarization of lumad communities.”

Northern Samar brigade commander leaves to become PMA assistant superintendent

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): Northern Samar brigade commander leaves to become PMA assistant superintendent

(front left to right) Colonel Mario Lacuron, new 803rd Infantry Briagade commander, Major General Jet Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division commander, and Brigadier General Hermenigildo Aquino, outgoing brigade commander, at turnover ceremonies in Catarman, Northern Samar. (photo by Eladio Perfecto,

CATARMAN, Northern Samar -- The commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade has been replaced as he assumes his new assignment as assistant superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City.

Brigadier General Hermenigildo Aquino turned over command of the brigade to Colonel Mario Lacurom in ceremonies attended by Major Generanl Jet Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division commander, local government officials and civic groups at 803rd IB headquarters in Camp Sumoroy here.

Aquino, a native of Tarlac who belongs to PMA Class of 1884, also served as senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin before being named brigade commander.

Hailing Aquino’s stint, a mayor said: "His greatest achievement was that the whole province was declared as … development ready."

THE ONLY WAY TO PEACE? | 'Disarm, disband or kill the bagani' - Surigao del Sur governor

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): THE ONLY WAY TO PEACE? | 'Disarm, disband or kill the bagani' - Surigao del Sur governor

Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel (image from

The only way to end the recurring cycle of death and evacuation plaguing the lumad is to “disarm, disband or kill” the Magahat-Bagani militia that has been committing atrocities against their fellow tribesfolk, Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel said Wednesday.

In fact, he said, he is willing to raise bounties for the heads -- literally -- of militia leaders.

Describing the situation in his province, an incensed Pimentel, in a phone interview with, said: “There is a serious breakdown of law and order because these people (militias) think they’re above the law.”

He also scored the military for denying responsibility for organizing and arming the militia, “when it is very clear they are under the control and supervision of the Army” and “can even be seen inside their camps.”

He added that the militias are well armed with weapons such as Baby Armalites and Bushmasters. “Where would they get these weapons if not the military?” he said. “If you trace their serial numbers, I am sure you will find these in their inventory. Hasta kita, tontohon nila (They are trying to fool even us).”

Close to 3,000 evacuees, mostly Manobo from the hinterlands of five Surigao del Sur towns, have fled to the provincial capital Tandag City and have sought shelter at the sports stadium following a wave of atrocities since last month blamed by the refugees and Pimentel himself on the militias.

The evacuations started in San Miguel town, where Magahat gunmen threatened residents and teachers of a tribal school in Barangay Bolhoon in early August and, on the 28th of that month, allegedly murdered brothers Crisanto and Ellie Tabogol in Barangay Siagao.

But the exodus turned into a veritable flood after the September 1 murders, also by the Magahat, of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV, an award-winning tribal school, and two Manobo leaders, Dionel Campos, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod or MAPASU, and Datu Juvillo “Bello” Sinzo, in Han-ayan, the last two executed in front of hundreds of residents, in Barangay Diatogon in Lianga town.

While he stopped short of accusing the Army of condoning the atrocities, saying, “they will never admit to that,” Pimentel recalled that after the killing of the Tabogol brothers, whom he called “mga inosente (innocents),” he met with the military and “appealed” to Colonel Oscar Purisima, commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, “to apprehend, disarm or do whatever they needed to do because there would be more people killed if they did not act.”

“Less than 24 hours after” his worst fears came true in Han-ayan and yet, “up to now there is no action” on the Army’s part, he said, adding that in the case of the Lianga killings, “the Army was only a kilometer away and yet they did nothing.”

Residents of Han-ayan in fact have said that soldiers had occupied their village before the Magahat arrived.

Asked why the military and the militias appeared to be targeting lumad communities and the schools set up in their remote villages, Pimentel said, “Because they are suspected of being communist sympathizers and the schools of being ‘NPA’ (New People’s Army) schools. But it is not true. These are poor people, innocent people.”

Pimentel said the vicious cycle of attacks and evacuations “has been going on for the last six years. Last year, they killed (MAPASU officer) Henry Alameda, triggering an evacuation. And in the previous years it has been the same. Every year we have two to three evacuations. And it is the same people they are targeting and who flee.”

Naubsan na kog laway (I have run out of spit)” urging the Army to disband the militias, Pimentel said. “Kalisod sa ila, gihimo nila (The difficult thing with them is they created a) monster, and now they are out of control so hugas kamay sila (they wash their hands of the problem).”

A frustrated Pimentel said, “if I am authorized and they give me 100 guns, I myself will raise a force to go after these militias” who, he pointed out, are spread throughout his province.

“I’m willing to give a reward, even with my own money … to kill them,” naming the brothers Bobby and Loloy Tejero, allegedly among those who executed Campos and Sinzo, for whom the governor said he would pay “P300,000 each,” and “P500,000 for Marcos Bocales.”

Bocales is among those against whom multiple murder and other criminal charges have been filed for the Lianga killings.

“I am calling the attention of the national leadership,” Pimentel said. “At our level we cannot solve this. The only solution is to disband the Bagani and it is very clear they are under the control and supervision of the Army.”

Until this is done, he said, “there will be more killings, I am telling you.”

Probers rule out NPA in Baler judge's murder

From InterAksyon (Sep 9): Probers rule out NPA in Baler judge's murder

A police sketch of the gunman who shot dead Baler, Aurora Judge Erwin Alaba

A police task force investigating the September 1 murder of Baler, Aurora Judge Erwin Alaba has ruled out the possible involvement of communist rebels in the crime.

Chief Superintendent Rudy Lacadin, acting Central Luzon police director, said Special Investigating Task Group Alaba is more inclined to believe the judge was killed by hired assassins.

Alaba was shot dead at the parking lot of the Hall of Justice in Baler. His wife was also wounded in the incident.

Lacadin said the possible involvement of the New People’s Army was initially eyed because the judge had tried the case against Delfin Pimentel, an alleged rebel operating in Nueva Ecija and Aurora. However, this was ruled out after the probers learned the case against Pimentel was eventually dropped.

Chief Inspector Rolando Culiao, head of SITG Alaba, also said they have witnesses who heard members of a gang allegedly led by “Toto Galang” discussing the plot to kill the judge.

The investigating team earlier released a sketch of the gunman.

Barangay councilor killed, husband wounded in Dapitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): Barangay councilor killed, husband wounded in Dapitan City

A barangay official was killed while her husband survived although wounded in a drive-by shooting late Monday in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, the police reported.

Senior Supt. Romulo Cleve Taboso, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) spokesman, disclosed that the incident occurred around 8:30 p.m. at Purok Kawayan, Barangay Liyang, Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Taboso identified the slain official as Riza Gablines, 46, barangay councilor of Sicayab, Dipolog City.

Gablines’ husband, Marlon, was wounded and hospitalized.

Taboso said the couple was aboard the family-owned vehicle on the way home when repeatedly shot by one of two men riding tandem in a motorcycle that overtook them while traversing along the road of Barangay Liyang.

Taboso said the couple came from Dipolog City public market, where they owned a stall.

He said the Dapitan City police are conducting an a thorough probe in a bid to unmask the identities of the suspects.

Village chieftain, watchman wounded in Sultan Kudarat attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): Village chieftain, watchman wounded in Sultan Kudarat attack 

A village chieftain and a watchman were wounded in an attack by still unidentified gunmen in a remote village in Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat province early Wednesday.

Senior Police Office 4 Abas Dimao, investigator of the Lutayan municipal police station, said an undetermined number of armed men massed up at a portion of Barangay Bayasong at around 4 a.m. and harassed local residents.

He said several members of the barangay police action team (BPAT) and barangay chair Falcon Bansil immediately responded to the scene but were fired upon by the suspects.

Bansil and an unidentified BPAT member were hit in the first volley of gunfire but only sustained minor wounds, he said.

The two are currently recuperating at the Doctor’s Clinic and Hospital in nearby Koronadal City.

Dimao said they were still confirming the identities of the suspects and their possible affiliation but according to sources they were led by a certain Kumander Tigi.

He said a team from the Lutayan police station led by its chief of police Senior Insp. Jerel Caranay and BPAT members have secured the area trying to drive away the attackers.

“There’s a continuing firefight in the area as of the moment,” he said in a radio interview at 8 a.m.

Dimao said they are still looking into the possible motive of the incident, which triggered tension in the area.

But he said most parts of the village, which is around six kilometers away from the town center, is already secure and all major roads leading to the area were not affected by the incident.

Suspects in killing of 3 IPs, burning of coops in Surigao charged

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): Suspects in killing of 3 IPs, burning of coops in Surigao charged

The police has charged three suspects and 20 others involve in the killing of three people and the burning of two cooperative stores in Lianga, Surigao Del Sur, the military said Wednesday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the provincial police command in Surigao Del Sur has charged Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero, Garito Layno, and 20 other “John Does” with grave coercion, multiple murder, arson, robbery, and grave threats.

The police has identified the suspects as reportedly responsible in the burning of two cooperative stores and the killing of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and his cousin, Bello Sinzo, at KM 16, Hanya-an, Lianga, Surigao Del Sur on Aug. 31, 2015.

The human rights group has accused the military’s CAFGU auxiliary forces responsible for the killing of the three members of the indigenous people (IPs) and the burning of the cooperatives.

In a statement, the military has denied the allegations that the perpetrators of the crime were active members of the military auxiliary forces of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

Based on the 4ID record, the names of the suspects are not in the roster of the military’s CAFGU active auxiliary personnel,” Martinez said.

Col. Isidro L. Purisima, commander of the army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, was glad that the perpetrators have been identified and charged in court, Martinez said.

He said that the military would extend full support to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the conduct of law enforcement in the area.

Troops recover bomb-making components, medical supplies at an ASG harbor site in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): Troops recover bomb-making components, medical supplies at an ASG harbor site in Sulu

Government forces pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands have discovered a house used as temporary harbor site by the ASG in the hinterlands of Sulu, a top military official disclosed Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion uncovered the harbor site around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Latih, Patikul, Sulu.

Arrojado said the troops were scouring the area when they uncovered the “freshly abandoned” temporary harbor site “of the fleeing ASG members.”

Arrojado said the troops have recovered various medical supplies used by the wounded ASG members in the recent clash with government forces.

He said the troops also recovered bomb-making components such as blasting caps and detonating cords, mobile phones, radio transceiver, police and military uniforms, hammock, laminated sacks and a box of dried fish.

Earlier, Arrojado said that 15 ASG members were reported to have been wounded in the August 28 heavy fighting Mount Awak, Barangay Latih, Patikul, Sulu.

He said among the wounded were ASG sub-leaders Roger Samlahun and Hatib Hajan Sawalaan.

During the fighting, the troops pounded the positions of the ASG brigands with mortar shells that forced them to scamper to different directions.

Some of the wives of the ASG brigands were monitored to have purchased medical supplies and medicines a day after the clash.

Arrojado said the troops continue to scour Barangay Latih, Patikul, as they continue to track down the evading ASG brigands.