Monday, September 14, 2015

11 construction workers escape Abu Sayyaf captors

From CNN Philippines (Sep 15): 11 construction workers escape Abu Sayyaf captors

The 64th Infantry Battalion took protective custody of 11 construction workers who managed to escape from the Abu Sayyaf just hours after the bandits abducted them on Monday (September 14).

According to military sources, two of the workers escaped earlier and made their way to the nearest Marine battalion landing team headquarters.

The rest of the workers escaped later and were were found by soldiers and police officers from the Sumisip Municipal Police Station, together with Sumisip Mayor Gulam Hataman, in Barangay Limbu, Candis, Sumisip, Basilan at 5:30 p.m.

The eleven abducted victims were all brought to the 64th IB camp in Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip.

Abu Sayyaf bandits stopped a truck carrying the workers in Barangay Benembengan, Sumisip at around 9 a.m.

The bandits then took them to Sitio Penas in the same barangay.

The workers — who belong to Michael Abubakar Construction and Engineering (MACE) — were identified as:
  • Munib Sadidul
  • Mustapha Gapur
  • Abukaisir Nasilon
  • Aldren Hadjirul
  • Masser Jalaha
  • Merhusin Ubbai
  • Jaya Abdulla
  • JUhan Sarao
  • Nadzhar Gabon
  • Margani Alpha
  • Alsibar Jauhar

Joint Task Group Basilan operatives rescue 9 construction workers abducted by ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15): Joint Task Group Basilan operatives rescue 9 construction workers abducted by ASG

Units from Joint Task Group Basilan have rescued the nine construction workers earlier snatched by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands Monday morning at Sumisip town, Basilan province.

The nine rescued workers were among the 11 workers of the MACE construction firm the Abu Sayyaf brigands seized shortly after 8 a.m. Monday in Barangay Upper Benembengan, this town.

Supt. Oscar Nantes, provincial police director, said that two of the 11 managed to escape around 4 p.m. Monday.

1st Lt. Sally Magno, Joint Task Group Basilan public affairs office chief, said the rescue took place at 4:40 p.m. at the far-flung area of Barangay Kaumpamatsake, also in Sumisip.

She said that the rescue was conducted by elements of Marine Landing Battalion Team 11 and the 64th Infantry Battalion.

Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Joint Task Group Basilan commander, said the nine workers were rescued around 4:40 p.m. Monday in Barangay Kaumpamatsaken as combined Army and Marine forces continue to pursue the Abu Sayyaf brigands.

Bautista said the continuous pursuit operations pressured the Abu Sayyaf brigands led by Juhaibel Alamsirul alias "Abu Kik" to abandon the hostages to avoid being trapped by the pursuing troops.

He said the rescued victims were immediately taken to the headquarters of the Army’s 64th Infantry Battalion for medical check-up and debriefing.

The construction workers were aboard a truck on the way to their worksite when the Abu Sayyaf brigands waylaid and seized them.

The MACE Construction firm that is undertaking government projects--roads and bridges--in this municipality.

BIFM: BIFM strengthens campaign against illegal drugs

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) Research & Information Bureau Website (Sep 9): BIFM strengthens campaign against illegal drugs

The local government units of second congressional district of Maguindanao province seemed to have been exerting every effort to prevent the proliferation of illegal drugs. Despite these efforts, however, drugs users and pushers are rampant in the muslim moro communities.

Along this line and in accordance with the BIFM mission on enjoining what is good and prohibiting what is evil, the chief of the BIFM-Military Affairs has come up with the idea of strengthening campaign against illegal drugs and other illegal activities. Effective August 01, 2015 Mujahideen under this organization have religiously complied with our mission, as evidenced by more or less 100 men.

About 60 percent of the figure voluntarily submitted to the BIFM leadership while about 40 percent were arrested. This 60 percent who voluntarily submitted themselves were immediately released. The rest are still under custody for rehabilitation. All of these have found guilty of drug dealers, pushers, users, gambling, and smoking.

Research and Information Bureau

CPP/NDF: Bring Aquino to Account for the Unjust Incarceration of Andrea Rosal and Hundreds of Political Detainees

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Sep 14): Bring Aquino to Account for the Unjust Incarceration of Andrea Rosal and Hundreds of Political Detainees

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Communist Party of the Philippines
September 8, 2015

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extends its well-wishes to Andrea Rosal who was released last night from detention after more than one year of suffering unjust detention and persecution by the Aquino regime and its military and police forces.

Rosal’s release from Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City was ordered last night after the last of the trumped-up charges of murder and kidnapping filed against her was dismissed by the Quezon Regional Trial Court in Mauban yesterday.

The CPP urges the Filipino people to bring Benigno Aquino III and his top military and security officials to account for the unjust incarceration and inhuman treatment of Andrea Rosal. Aquino must be made to pay for all the sufferings that Andrea was made to undergo.

Rosal was arrested last March 2014 while she was seven months pregnant. Despite her appeals and recommendations of her doctors, Aquino’s officials refused to provide her with facilities for expectant mothers and only belatedly brought her
to the hospital just hours before she was set to give birth.

The cramped conditions in her detention cell aggravated Rosal’s pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter Diona Andrea on May 16. She would not be allowed by the police to touch her infant daughter while in intensive care. Baby Diona died two days later due to medical complications.

Despite still undergoing post-natal care, she was ordered to be immediately brought back to her cramped detention cell. Without an iota of compassion, the Aquino regime also denied her appeal to attend the burial of her child and was instead given only three hours to visit her wake.

Andrea was subjected to inhumane treatment and persecution for no other reason than being the daughter of “Ka Roger”, the erstwhile spokesperson of the CPP Gregorio Rosal. Ka Roger, who passed away in 2011, was pursued by the AFP for almost a decade but was never captured.

Andrea herself was snatched from her grandmother by elements of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command in 1988 when she was barely six years old in order to compel her father to surrender to the AFP. She will only be released by the military a few days later under intense public pressure after Ka Roger and Andrea’s grandmother exposed their crime through the media.

The AFP and the ruling classes are so incensed for having failed to ever capture Ka Roger. The reactionary security and military officials are doubly incensed over the fact that his daugher, Andrea, has chosen the path of resistance against oppression and exploitation, serving the Filipino people’s national democratic struggle.

For one year and a half, Andrea struggled to be free from detention. Human rights advocates, her family, friends and activists succeeded in rousing broad support and amplified calls for her freedom. The justness of her cause has won broad support here and abroad. The widespread campaign for Andrea’s cause and
the international shame this brought to the Aquino regime was key to her winning freedom.

Andrea’s cause has brought to international focus the plight of political detainees in the Philippines now numbering close to 550. Like Andrea, they have been subjected to intense state persecution. With no exception, political detainees have been charged with multiple trumped-up cases backed by “professional” witnesses, and made to suffer delayed prosecution of cases and
prolonged detention—with some suffering 8-10 years of imprisonment without finality to the cases filed against them. The Aquino regime and its security forces aim to capture more.

Learning from Andrea’s victory, every political detainee must exert all-out effort to raise the loudest cry for justice from the bowels of the reactionary state’s dungeons; while outside, their family and friends can organize and mobilize broad support. Their lawyers must continue to adeptly handle the legal
cases and expose the farcical charges raised against the political detainees. Political detainees must combine the legal and political struggle keeping in mind that the political struggle is principal in their struggle for freedom.

In the past, the struggle of political detainees for freedom were not confined to the legal or political. Especially under martial law, scores upon scores of political detainees availed of various means of “self-release”. Every second under detention was devoted to devising myriad methods of escape: digging tunnels, sawing off bars, using deception to walk through the gates, and many others. A number of political detainees were also rescued by the New People’s Army (NPA) while en route to court or while being transferred from one jail to another.

It is clear that the current policy of the US-directed Aquino regime and its military and police is to subject revolutionaries and activists to prolonged detention in order to prevent them from serving the Filipino people’s national democratic cause.

Indeed, political detainees must do everything in their might to attain freedom and rejoin the mainstream of the people’s national democratic revolution.

As always, the revolutionary forces are ever willing to assist political prisoners who wish to attain justice and freedom. However fortified, the enemy’s prisons are not invincible. There are a thousand ways to break the enemy’s chains and shackles in order to attain the freedom to help advance the people’s
democratic revolution.

Ex-SAF chief: No foreigner participated or died in Mamasapano

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 15): Ex-SAF chief: No foreigner participated or died in Mamasapano

Getulio Napeñas, the sacked chief of the Special Action Force (SAF), on Tuesday maintained that no foreigner took part or died during the Mamasapano operation which resulted in the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and the death of 44 elite cops, among others.

“Unang-una, I will say it again, walang foreigner or Americans na nagparticipate or namatay sa combat operation,” Napeñas said in an interview on Radyo Inquirer 990 AM. (First of all, I will say it again, no foreigner or Americans participated or died in the combat operation.)
Relieved SAF chief Getulio Napeñas. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Relieved SAF chief Getulio Napeñas. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“Isa-isa na winithdraw iyan galing sa field at isa-isa na inautopsy ‘yan ng crime laboratory. It would be impossible na hindi nila malaman kung ano nga ba ang nationality ng tao na namatay na 44,” he added. (They were individually extracted from the field and the autopsied by the crime laboratory. It would be impossible not to know the nationality of the 44 who died.)

He also dared those saying that a foreigner died during the combat in Maguindanao to prove their claim.

“Again, kung meron man ‘yung mga tao na nagke-claim na Amerikano kung ano-anong nationality, ilabas na lang nila ang ebidensya, ang witness nila at ebidensya. After all sabi ko nga inisa-isa ‘yan na na-examine ng crime lab sa Cotabato City ang mga tao na namata,” he said. (Again, if there are those claiming that an American or a foreigner of whatever nationality (died), they should reveal their evidence and witnesses. After all, as I have said, those who died were individually examined at a crime lab in Cotabato City.)

The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday reported that a Caucasian-looking man was killed in Mamasapano, citing a video which showed a man with his shaven head tilted to the right, right eye and mouth half-open, left eye completely shut.

READ: Unidentified Caucasian killed in Mamasapano

FOREIGN CASUALTY?  A screengrab of a video allegedly taken by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front shows a foreign-looking combatant among the dead Special Action Force Special Action Company commandos during the Mamasapano bloodbath in Maguindanao province on Jan. 25. Was the man an American? SCREENGRAB
FOREIGN CASUALTY? A screengrab of a video allegedly taken by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front shows a foreign-looking combatant among the dead Special Action Force Special Action Company commandos during the Mamasapano bloodbath in Maguindanao province on Jan. 25. Was the man an American? SCREENGRAB

Persistent rumors have it that two Americans—one a “blue-eyed man”, and the other, black and huge—were killed in a clash with Moro rebels. The US embassy, however, has denied the allegation.

Napeñas said that the Caucasian-looking man on the photos and video might be PO2 Romeo Cempron.

READ: Wife learned hubby died from mysterious texter | The faces of the #SAF44

“Iyan ‘yung lumabas na picture din noon, si PO2 Cempron, na kamukha ng.. Caucasian looking na tao iyan. Inadmit na namin noon pa na may isang tao kami na Caucasian-looking (at) si PO2 Cempron nga ‘yun. When you say ‘buddy’ ‘yan ‘yung buddy na kasama niya. Dalawa kayo, buddy ang tawagan n’yo, dual kayo na nagtatawagan ng buddy,” Napeñas explained. (The photos circulating are that of PO2 Cempron’s, who looks Caucasian. We already admitted before that we have a man who is Caucasian-looking and that is PO2 Cempron. When you say “buddy,” that’s what you call your companion. There are two of you, and you call each other buddies.)

The video obtained by the Inquirer showed that every time the footage shows the Caucasian-looking man, those who were taking the video would refer to him as “buddy.”

Video of ‘dead American’ prompts call for new Mamasapano probe (Contains graphic images)

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 15): Video of ‘dead American’ prompts call for new Mamasapano probe

[Video: Unidentified Caucasian killed in Mamasapano?

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Tuesday called on the Senate to re-investigate the Mamasapano operation following the release of a video showing a Caucasian man among the fatalities.

“The Senate should reopen its probe on the Mamasapano incident and uncover the real role of the United States in the botched operation,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

“Recent videos showing what appears to be a dead Caucasian, believed to be an American soldier or operative, lends credence to earlier assertions that the US was directing the entire operation to get Marwan,” he said.

In March, the Senate committee on public order released its report on its independent probe on the issue. The committee said President Benigno Aquino III was responsible for the operation which resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and three civilians.

But before that, rumors circulated that American soldiers were among those killed in the encounter. At that time, however, there was no proof.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday revealed that there was video footage of the aftermath of the encounter showing a Caucasian man among the SAF fatalities. It added that another casualty was an African American. later released a censored excerpt of the said video.

Reyes said an independent fact finding mission of the group Suara Bangsamoro quoted witnesses claiming that a US soldier joined the operation dubbed Oplan Exodus.

“That a US soldier was among the dead indicates that the US was deeply involved in actual combat operations and may have been directing movements on the ground,” Reyes said. “The dead US soldier was embedded in a unit of a SAF. This combat role for the US violates anew the Philippine Constitution.”

He added that the Philippine National Police (PNP) Board of Inquiry had earlier acknowledged the presence of six US servicemen at the tactical command post of the SAF in Maguindanao.

“This is an indication that the US was directing the entire operation as it had exclusive control of real-time information on the movements of the SAF and other armed groups in the area. The BOI also reported that one American even ordered a Filipino general to fire artillery at the suspected MILF forces that had surrounded the SAF,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the involvement of the US government was “crucial in establishing accountability in the Mamasapano operation.”

“There can be no closure and justice if the US is not held liable for the deaths of so many,” he said.

He added that Aquino should be held accountable for allegedly allowing a foreign government to interfere in Philippine military operations.

Pictures dispute Mamasapano ‘alternative truth’ — report

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 15): Pictures dispute Mamasapano ‘alternative truth’ — report

Marwan Dead 2

Photos of the aftermath of the death of terrorist Marwan “prove” that members of the Special Action Force (SAF) killed him, a report said.

The pictures that showed SAF members with the half-naked body of Marwan and in his hut in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, was provided by a “source,” according to a report of ABS CBN network.

One of the images apparently showed Senior Inspector Gednat Tabdi cutting the finger of Marwan, whose real name was Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian bomb maker.

The right index finger was tested for DNA by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation which confirmed that it was from the dead terrorist.

Tabdi, a member of the SAF’s 84th Seaborne Company that assaulted Marwan’s hut, was one of 44 police commandos killed in the ensuing firefight with rebels and lawless elements in the adjacent corn fields of Tukanalipao, Maguindanao.

Another photo showed a SAF member in front of Marwan’s body. He was holding the dead terrorist’s .45-caliber pistol.

The source said the pictures were proof that the claim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that an aide of Marwan killed the terrorist was a “lie.” It also tended to dispute the “alternative truth” being floated by President Benigno Aquino III.

Meanwhile, retired-Director Getulio Napeñas, former SAF chief, scoffed at the MILF claim about who killed Marwan.

“Pwede naman palang iabot sa silver platter, bakit kinailangan pang pumasok ang tropa namin for operations na ganyan? Namatayan pa kami nang marami,” (If they could give [Marwan] on a silver platter, why did our troops need to conduct an operation where we lost a lot of men?) Napeñas said.

Napeñas said they did not have any assets or insiders in Marwan’s group.

The former SAF commander said the MILF was just trying to divert attention from the fact that MILF men killed his men.

“Gusto nilang i-divert yung katotohanan na MILF ang pumatay dun sa 44,” (They just want to divert the truth that the MILF killed the 44) Napeñas said.

He lamented that justice had not been served the slain lawmen eight months after the incident on January 25, 2015.

“Wala pang katarungan sa kanila,” he said.

Tire company mulls lawsuit vs DND move to cancel deal

From the Business Mirror (Sep 13): Tire company mulls lawsuit vs DND move to cancel deal

THE winning bidder in a multimillion-peso tire-delivery contract with the Department of National Defense (DND) said it mulls a lawsuit as the DND moves to cancel the deal.

Tire company Caloocan Standard Inc. (CSI), represented by Alexander Kho, wrote the defense department, saying that it would be forced to seek redress in court, unless officials would honor the contract, which was perfected through a bidding process.

The BusinessMirror obtained a copy of Kho’s letter addressed to the chairman of the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). “Any member of your committee might be held answerable for civil damages, much more the CGPA [commanding general, Philippine Army], since all proponents for this particular procurement had already labored, spent much time and resources, paid bidding documents, hired professionals and lawyers if only to win the bidding,” Kho said in his letter.

“And here is the Army belatedly telling everybody that it does not need the goods being procured on the guise that it has an excess stock, notwithstanding its prior determination in the year 2013 of its need thereof that paved the way for its inclusion in the 2014 General Appropriations Act,” he added.

CSI won on December 13 last year the bidding for the delivery of 7,043 pieces of lug-type and directional tires. However, in a May 12 letter, Angelito Castillo, head of the DND BAC Secretariat, told CSI it would no longer pursue its contract with the firm.

“Much to the regret of the DND Bids and Awards Committee, we wish to inform you that the Department of National Defense will no longer pursue the aforestated procurement as the end-user of these commodities,” Castillo said in his letter, a copy of which the BusinessMirror also obtained.

“The Philippine Army has requested for its cancellation, as well as the realignment of fund supposedly allocated for the project,” Castillo added.

Castillo said in the letter that “upon the request of the Commanding General, Philippine Army, the Secretary of National Defense is constrained to cancel the project the same being no longer necessary.” Kho however responded, wherein he also asked for a reconsideration of the project’s cancellation, saying the reasons given by the DND were not only “unconstitutional but unduly exposes the CGPA to criminal, administrative and civil prosecution.”

Ceasefire monitors broker truce between rebels, barangay officials

From the Philippine Star (Sep 14): Ceasefire monitors broker truce between rebels, barangay officials

Government and Moro ceasefire monitors brokered a truce meant to end confrontations between a group of rebels and barangay officials in Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat province.

Army Major Carlos Sol, chief secretariat of the government’s Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, on Monday said the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that figured in hostilities last week with barangay officials and community watchmen in Barangay Bayasong, Lutayan had left to pave the way for the resolution of the conflict.

The rebels, led by Commander Guiamandin, raided a peasant enclave in Barangay Bayasong last week, provoking running firefights with armed barangay officials and a community volunteer security group.

Central Mindanao’s pioneer radio outfit, the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp., had said in a report that three barangay tanods and the chair of Bayasong, Falcon Bansil, were wounded in the ensuing firefights.

Sol said members of the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee brokered an interim truce between the two groups to stave off escalation of hostilities in Barangay Bayasong. He said the hostilities were only between two local groups and did not in any way involve the MILF as a revolutionary organization.

Local officials said Guiamandin and Bansil are locked in a rido (clan war) sparked by a land dispute and rivalry for control of strategic patches of lands at the border of Buluan town in Maguindanao and Lutayan.

“A ceasefire was declared, which both groups promised to respect, through the combined efforts of the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee, the local government unit in Lutayan, the police and the military,” Sol said.

Sol said the LGU of Lutayan assured to help convince the protagonists to the conflict to reconcile amicably.

Two years after ‘rebellion,’ Zamboanga siege case enters trial proper stage

From GMA News (Sep 14): Two years after ‘rebellion,’ Zamboanga siege case enters trial proper stage

Two years after the deadly three-week Zamboanga siege in September 2013 and after the arraignment of more than 100 of the 236 accused, the rebellion case that stemmed from the incident is finally advancing to the trial proper stage.
Assistant State Prosecutor Cesar Angelo Chavez said the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 158 in Pasig City which is handling the case, has scheduled the last three pre-trial hearings for September 22, 23, and 24. After the scheduled hearings, the proceedings enter the trial proper.
Chave explained that a pre-trial allows issues involving a case to be "simplified." He added: "The prosecution and the defense also agree and admit facts para hindi na i-prove sa court."
A total of 236 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) stand accused and the information or charges stemming from the incident have been amended 11 times already, Chavez said.
He said all detained accused - totaling more than 100 - have already been arraigned, while two others have been dropped from the information after they turned into state witness. 
"Actually mabilis na siya [ang takbo ng kaso] considering the transfer of the detention of the accused and the number of documents and number of the accused," Chavez told GMA News Online in an interview.
Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon assured the public that the rebellion case is "going through a very comprehensive pre-trial" but refused to elaborate or touch on the merits of the case.
"I cannot say more as we have a gag order from the court. I hope you understand," Fadullon said in a separate interview.

Rebellion charges
Charges of rebellion and violation of the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity were filed in two batches in October and December 2013 against MNLF chairman Nur Misuari and more than 200 others for the Zamboanga City siege.
Misuari and his men were charged with rebellion for taking up arms and attacking government security forces and civilians, and by committing “acts of murder, pillage, disorder, looting, arson, and destruction of private and public properties."
The cases were originally filed with the Zamboanga RTC but had to be transferred to Metro Manila since the Zamboanga Hall of Justice was damaged during fighting between the MNLF and government forces. The case was assigned to Pasig Judge Maria Rowen Modesto San Juan.
The arrested suspects were initially held at the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City, but eventually transferred to Camp Bagong Diwain Taguig City.
Meanwhile, Misuari, his commander Habier Malik, and several others remained at large to this day. The military and police are already jointly hunting down the accused at large
They were also charged for their acts of violence against residents who did not take an active part in the armed hostilities, and for taking non-combatant civilians as hostages during the fighting.
According to the military, the Zamboanga City attack led to the deaths of nine soldiers, five policemen, 11 civilians, and at least 100 MNLF rebels, and injuries to other civilians in the area.
The Zamboanga City attack also resulted in several casualties and extensive damage within the city, particularly in barangays Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-talon, and Mampang.
The criminal charges also covered the armed group's breaking into houses, taking about 300 hostages whom they used as human shields, and the burning of 9,732 houses and buildings, both public and private, causing more than P200 million in damage.
Only one other trial involves as many accused in recent history, that of the Maguindanao murder case, that stemmed from the killing of 58 people in Ampatuan town on November 23, 2009. The bail hearings for the murder trial only ended some four years after it started.
Chavez remained hopeful that the rebellion trial won't drag on as long as the Maguindanao murder trial
"This will be faster kasi iyong pre-trial stage ay detailed. So kaunti na lang ang mga issues and facts na kailangan i-prove sa court," Chavez said.
"Nag-offer sila mag-plea for lesser offense pero ayaw tanggapin ng city government of Zamboanga, since they are the private complainants," said Chavez.

US hails PHL designation of Abu Sayyaf as terror organization

From GMA News (Sep 14): US hails PHL designation of Abu Sayyaf as terror organization

The United States on Monday hailed a Philippine court decision to designate the militant Abu Sayyaf group as terrorist organization.
“While the Philippine government has long been pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group and its network, this designation allows the Philippines to apply a greater range of legal tools to that effort,” US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer said in a statement sent to GMA News Online.
The designation could help stem financial support to the group, enable the government to prosecute its members and seek the court's approval to put suspected militants under surveillance.

Judge Danilo Bucoy of the Regional Trial Court Branch 9 in Isabela City, Basilan granted a request from the Department of Justice to declare the armed group as a terrorist and outlawed organization.

In a 19-page resolution, a copy of which the Department of Justice released to the media on Friday, the Basilan court took into consideration the "essential elements" to declare someone or a group as a terrorist under RA 9370 or the Human Security Act of 2007.
Philippines-U.S. counter-terrorism cooperation has successfully led to the killing of key local terrorists from the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.
For more than a decade, US Special Forces provided combat training and weapons to the Philippine military to fight extremist groups blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks. 
The Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnapping and beheading of foreign hostages, including Americans, is on Washington's list of foreign terrorists and said to have links with the Al-Qaeda, although a number of its commanders, according to reports, have pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group.  
“The US has a close and longstanding relationship with the government of the Philippines and its security and law enforcement services. We appreciate the efforts by the government of the Philippines to continue to combat terrorism,” Hoyer said.

Army officer may face trial for ‘mishandling’ incident where 3 Lumad leaders were killed –spokesman

From GMA News (Sep 14): Army officer may face trial for ‘mishandling’ incident where 3 Lumad leaders were killed –spokesman

An Army junior officer may face military trial for allegedly mishandling the incident in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur, where three Lumad (indigenous people) leaders, including a school head, were killed by a supposed paramilitary group.

According to Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao, the platoon leader in the area is set to face formal trial before a general court martial for violations in the Articles of War, namely conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman (96) and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline (97).

The officer, who allegedly did not follow an order to launch an offensive against the armed group harassing a Lumad community in Sitio Han-ayan in Barangay Diatagon, has been relieved from his post and is currently under the custody of the 68th Infantry Battalion.

"This is the main point of the case recommended by our field unit, which a court martial can properly determine whether the platoon leader made a mistake in his decision," Hao said without identifying the platoon leader involved.

Hao said the embattled officer's platoon was earlier asked by tribal leader Bae Gloria Campos Tumalon to leave the sitio as the community was observing the wake of her father. They, however, returned last September 1 after hearing that there was a commotion there.

Hao said some 250 meters from the sitio, the platoon heard gunshots at past 5 a.m. They then saw from higher ground that a building was burning, and that civilians were being "rounded up by armed men."

According to Hao, the platoon leader called the company commander, his immediate superior, about the situation. He was then ordered "to prepare to engage [the suspects] provided that civilians will not be harmed."

"The platoon leader said he cannot engage because of the presence of many civilians, including women and children," Hao said, adding the officer did not do as told.

When the platoon went to the scene at around 7 a.m. for clearing operations, the suspects had already fled, and residents had already left their homes.

The incident led to the deaths of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and two other Lumad leaders identified as Dionel Campos and Datu Juvillo Sinzo.

The Army earlier claimed that the killings were a result of tribal conflict between one that was affiliated with the communist New People's Army rebels and another that was "anti-NPA."

The military issued the statement after provincial Gov. Johnny Pimentel and human rights group Karapatan said they helped organize the Magahat Bagani force, the paramilitary blamed for the killings.

Aside from the platoon leader, the company commander may also be reprimanded "for failure to give clear guidance and supervision" to the platoon, Hao said,

US drone footage will prove ‘Seaborne’ killed Marwan, clash survivor says

From GMA News (Sep 14): US drone footage will prove ‘Seaborne’ killed Marwan, clash survivor says

While the government is studying an alternative version of events in the Mamasapano clash, a member of the elite Special Action Force unit sent against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan said they were the ones responsible for his death.
"Kami talaga ang pumatay doon. Napakalaking imposible naman na sila ang pumatay doon. Hindi naman sila iyong pumasok doon.," a source from the 84th Special Action "Seaborne" Company of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force said in a report on GMA News TV's "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho on Monday.
"Kami talaga ang makakapagsabi ng eksaktong totoo kasi kamis mismo ang nandoon, kami mismo ang um-assault," he said. 
The survivor explained that he was inside Marwan's hut when the fighting happened.

(WATCH: SAF’s 84th Seaborne clash with MILF after killing Marwan)
The survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, made the statement in response to a newspaper report quoting an unnamed Moro Islamic Liberation Front source that said Marwan was killed by an aide. 
The survivor added that the SAF has proof that it was their team that really killed the terrorist. 
"Meron kaming pinanghahawakan pero hindi puwedeng ilabas eh," he said. "Iyong actual na nandoon kami na nagkakaputukan talaga." 
A GMA News source said that the SAF survivor was referring to drone footage taken by a US agency that was monitoring the movements of the SAF troopers. 
The results of a separate Moro Islamic Liberation Front investigation also differed from statements made by SAF troopers involved in the mission. 
In an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the truth is contained in their report. 
The report said that Marwan had already been killed before SAF reached his hut. 
But former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas Jr. has dared the MILF to prove their statements. 
"Ilabas nila ang iyong ebidensya at iyong tao or iyong witness na siya nga ang pumatay kay Marwan. On our side, hawak namin iyong mga solid, credible pieces of evidence na SAF troops ang pumatay kay Marwan," he added. 
Meanwhile, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez said that he is planning to review the findings of the police Board of Inquiry formed to investigate the clash between the SAF and members of the MILF, the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other armed groups that happened as a result of the operation.

Two more lumad tribesmen slain

From The Standard (Sep 15): Two more lumad tribesmen slain

TWO more lumad tribesmen were killed in Valencia City, Bukidnon, Sunday but the Army blamed the communist New People’s Army for the deaths.

In a phone interview, Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, public affairs chief of the 4th Infantry Division, identified the victims as brothers Raymond Dayo Likanay, 31, and Roy, of legal age.

He said the killers were members of the Guerilla Front 68 allegedly led by a certain Alexander Llesis alias Commander Bagwis.

The NPA could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier, five lumad tribesmen, including two minors, were killed in what the military called an armed encounter in Barangay Mendiz, Pangantucan, Bukidnon. But the human rights group Karapatan said the victims were not rebels, and that one of those slain was a blind man.

 Citing reports from the lumad community including one Datu Uba Lukbay Bayawon, Martinez said the Likanay brothers were allegedly held Monday morning by the rebels in the forested area where the two were hunting for wild animals.

In this file photo from 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III shakes hands with lumad leader Dato Domaconog Doming Tumaytay of the Ata Manobo tribe during a visit to Sitio Talos in Barangay San Jose, Sto. Tomas, Davao Del Norte. PNA

“Brutal silang pinatay ng NPA [They were brutally slain by the NPA] under the Guerilla Front 68,” he said.

Martinez said the bodies of the victims were found at 5 p.m.

Quoting a police report, Martinez said the victims were tortured before they were shot dead.

Empty AK-47 and M-14 shells were found at the crime scene, he added.

He quoted Datu Uba Lukbay Bayawon as saying the NPA killed the brothers—his nephews—after they repeatedly refused to be recruited into the NPA.

He added that the two had received threats from the NPA long before they were killed.

The killing of the Likanay brothers come on the heels of a request by Karapatan for the United Nations to investigate the spate of lumad killings in the Caraga region as a result of the military’s intensified counter-insurgency program.

Most recently, a lumad educator and two other leaders were killed allegedly by militiamen belonging to the Magahat-Bagani Forces that were created by the military to go after suspected communist sympathizers.

The military denied the allegations.

 Aside from the killings at least three soldiers were also involved in the rape of a 14-year-old lumad girl. The Army said the suspects, which it refused to identify, would be subjected to court-martial proceedings.

The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Monday President Benigno Aquino III should invite UN envoys to conduct an independent investigation into the killings for the sake of transparency and accountability.

“We seriously doubt that the PNP and the AFP can come up with a credible investigation. All the AFP is doing is clear itself of any liability. Issue the open invitation now, Mr. President. Let the truth come out. Let there be justice and accountability,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Bayan issued the challenge after human rights group Karapatan brought the lumad killings to the attention of the UN.

For the UN to mount a probe, protocol requires that the envoys be invited by the host country.

 “The open invitation should enable the UN representatives on indigenous people, internally displaced persons, extrajudicial killings and human rights defenders to conduct an impartial probe on the killings and other violations,” Reyes said.

 Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay dismissed the Armed Forces suggestion that leftist groups were besmirching their reputation by internationalizing the issue.

“There’s no reputation to besmirch. The AFP’s reputation has long been stained with blood of the Filipino people,” Palabay said.

The AFP is obviously irked by the complaints filed by Karapatan before the United Nations Human Rights Council on the killing of two lumad leaders, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo, and lumad school director Emerito Samarca,” she added.

The killings have caused some 3,000 lumad to flee their homes in Surigao del Sur.
“The AFP claimed it already did its own investigation and immediately exonerated itself from the killing. Are they trying to be funny? Who, in the right mind, would believe in this kind of investigation?” Palabay said.

The AFP is now saying the killing was a result of a tribal war.

Palabay said witnesses recognized the killers, brothers Bobby and Loloy Tejero, who are members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani that were with the 36th and the 75th Infantry Battalion and 1st Special Forces of the Philippine Army when they stormed the targeted community.

In 2012, several international groups called on the government to disband the paramilitary groups.

 UN Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Killings and on Human Rights Defenders,  Christof Heyns and Margaret Sekaggya pointed out the role of the paramilitary groups in the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio.

 The UN Human Rights Council, during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines, also urged the Aquino administration disband these paramilitary groups.

A labor group on Monday said an inter-agency investigation organized by the Justice Department should also include lumad killings in other parts of Mindanao.

The Partido ng Manggagawa issued the call in reaction to the announcement made by Malacañang that it is willing to conduct an investigation as sought by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and many other organizations here and abroad.

“The killings of lumad  leaders by alleged paramilitary forces in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, including recorded cases of lumad killings in other parts of Mindanao, should give the government the idea that these killings were rather systematic than isolated in nature as claimed by the military,”  the group’s chairman, Renato Magtubo, said.

In Surigao del Sur, an Army junior officer faces court-martial proceedings for failing to respond to the shootings and burning of homes where the lumad teacher and members of the Manobo tribe were killed.

Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao refused to identify the junior officer, however.

The junior officer has been relieved of his duties as platoon leader and is now under the custody of the Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion, Hao said.

Transfer of Korean corvette to Philippine Navy to proceed with ‘best support’

From Ang Malaya (Sep 15): Transfer of Korean corvette to Philippine Navy to proceed with ‘best support’

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo confirmed at a press conference at Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday that the transfer of military equipment including a Pohang-class corvette to Philippine military is going on as planned.

“The relevant assets we are transferring to the Philippines is going as planned and we will give the best of support,” Minister Han said as quoted by Philippine News Agency.

South Korea sees the donation as a small token compared with the great contribution of Filipino troops during the Korean War.

It is expected that the said warship will arrive with intact armament and sensors.

The South Korean government has committed a corvette, a landing craft utility and 16 rubber boats.

The landing craft utility and rubber boats have already arrived May this year.

Air Force confirms second C-295 military transport aircraft arriving tomorrow

From Ang Malaya (Sep 14): Air Force confirms second C-295 military transport aircraft arriving tomorrow

The Philippine Air Force (PAF)’s second Airbus Military C-295 medium transport aircraft will arrive at Clark Field, Pampanga Tuesday afternoon. “C-295M tail number 140 left Spain last Sept. 8.

It is expected to arrive at Clark Field tomorrow Sept. 15 on the afternoon. It will undergo technical inspection and acceptance process [before being] formally turned over to PAF later,” said PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya, in a message to the PNA Monday.

Canaya also said that there was no final date yet on the C-295’s turnover to the Air Force. The first C-295 with tail number 129 arrived at Clark Air Base, Pampanga in the afternoon of March 22.

The Philippines has a three C-295 contract worth Php5.29 billion with Airbus Military signed last year.

Airbus earlier said that delivery of aircraft will be earlier than schedule. “The remaining two aircraft will be delivered ahead of schedule during the second half of this year,” Airbus Defence and Space press manager for military aircraft Kieran Daly previously said.

According to original schedule, 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 2016.

The C-295 is categorized as medium lift aircraft equivalent to the Fokker F-27 aircraft being maintained by the 220th Airlift Wing, the C-295s have rear ramp door similar to that of the C-130s for easier access and loading/unloading of passengers and cargoes.

Navy, Air Force undergo joint training with focus on Territorial Defense

From Ang Malaya (Sep 15): Navy, Air Force undergo joint training with focus on Territorial Defense

The Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force are conducting an Interoperability Exercise (IOX) with code-name DAGIT (Dagat, Langit) 2015. The Navy said DAGIT 2015 aims to enhance interoperability and operational capabilities of PN-PAF units in joint air-naval operations in support to the Unified Command’s requirements in the conduct of Internal Security Operations (ISO) and in support to the Territorial Defense Operations (TDO).

DAGIT 2015 has three phases which include the preparation Phase from September 7-11; Exercise Phase from September 14-17; and Termination Phase on September 18. “In the planning of this year’s exercise, we revisited the lessons learned during DAGIT 2014 in order to ensure that such errors are rectified in the execution of this year’s IOX,” DAGIT 2015 exercise director Colonel Jonas Lumawag said.

Navy assets participating include an Islander, one AW109E, BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF16), boat teams and SEAL teams of the Naval Special Operations Group, Sniper team of the Marines Special Operations Group, one communications van, and one medical team.

The Air Force is deploying two MD-520MG, two SF-260TP, two OV-10, two UH1H/ UH-1D, one Huey II, one S-76A, one Sokol, one C130, one F-27, two S211, two Sniper Teams, one communications van, and one medical team for DAGIT 2015.

“Being the cutting edge in tactical operations, our involvement in this joint exercise speaks of our continuous pursuit for sustained air power. Working hand in hand with our counterparts in the Navy to promote this thrust is a rare opportunity,” 15th Strike Wing commander Brigadier General Domingo Palisoc Jr. said.

NegOr forms joint task force to intensify peace, security

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 14): NegOr forms joint task force to intensify peace, security

The Negros Oriental Joint Task Force has been created to beef up peace and security to maintain the well-being of Negrenses and ensure economic development.

The task force is expected to strengthen coordination and collaboration of efforts among the more than 20 national and local government agency-members in the conduct of joint security operations.

In a workshop, Governor Roel Degamo urged the participants to intensify peace and order efforts to minimize if not eliminate all forms of criminalities and illegal activities in the province.

Degamo, however, recognized the contributions made by government agencies in strengthening the province' disaster risk reduction and management programs.

He noted that with the concerted efforts among stakeholders, the province has been declared as “conflict manageable and development ready” last year by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Army commander, Col. Allan Martin of the 302 nd IB, and Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office said the joint task force needs the participation and support of the communities and local government units to make the duties and responsibilities well-organized. 

The task force's scope of operations include maritime safety and security, criminality, illegal drugs, insurgency, smuggling, tourism, environmental protection, disaster response, and land transportation and traffic.

The initiative came to be realized when reports have it that Abu Sayyaf Group members are coming to Dumaguete City from Dapitan, and when a ship loaded with smuggled rice was intercepted in Zamboanguita town.

The task force intends to prevent illegal activities and apprehend lawless elements.

Degamo said the province has recorded a low crime rate among areas in Central Visayas, and he asked workshop participants to maintain and sustain peace and order in Negros Oriental.

Army officer designated as battalion commander

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 14): Army officer designated as battalion commander

An Army officer, who used to serve as head of the Civil Military Operation Office of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental, has finally gotten a command of his own.

Lt. Col. Gulliver Senires recently assumed command of the Army's 50th Infantry “Defender” Battalion in Lagangilang, Abra. He replaced Lt. Col. Edmund Tubiera.

Senires, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1992, was installed as 50 th IB commander by Maj. Gen. Lysander Suerte, commanding general of the 5 th Infantry Division.

Senires is a recipient of a Distinguished Service Star, Bronze Cross Medal, Silver Wing Medal, 20 Military Merit medals, 16 Military Commendation medals, three Civic Action medals, a Long Service medal, and numerous campaign medals in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, military records show.

His combat awards include a Gold Cross Medal, three Military Merit medals, and a Wounded Personnel medal.

DFA: US help in China tension not guaranteed

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 14): DFA: US help in China tension not guaranteed

AN OFFICIAL of the Department of Foreign Affairs said there was no clear commitment from the United States to lend help in case tensions at the West Philippine sea escalate into violence.

DFA assistant secretary Charles Jose, in a press conference held Monday at the Philippine Information Agency regional office, said the response of the US in case war breaks out in the South China Sea would always “depend on its national interest.”

Jose said, however, that the US is legally obligated to come to the aid of the Philippines because of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the allied countries.

The official also quoted a statement by U.S. president Barack Obama during his state visit in April 2014 that the “commitment to the treaty obligations is iron-clad.”

Jose said the current negotiations at the Asean level is still aimed at the reduction of tensions in the region, which is being claimed by nations such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, aside from both Philippines and China.

“In the end, we have no one else to rely on but ourselves,” Jose said.

The DFA official also commended the marines stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, which has been scuttled at the Ayungin shoal.

“They are truly courageous,” Jose said, and vowed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would continuously supply the troops which is at the frontline of the tension with hostile China, which has been insisting on its implementation of an arbitrary nine-dash line.

The said line crosses several exclusive economic zones in the Asean in the process, to which the Philippines has lodged diplomatic protests with international tribunals. Jose added that the Philippines was already losing 80% of its EEZ from the area alone.

Guingona slams 'anarchy' in Surigao del Sur, says Magahat openly extorting from communities

From InterAksyon (Sep 14): Guingona slams 'anarchy' in Surigao del Sur, says Magahat openly extorting from communities

Senator Teofisto Guingona III denounced what he called the “anarchy” unfolding in Surigao del Sur where, he said, the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani militia is committing atrocities with impunity, with law enforcers unwilling to stop their rampage.

The militia has been blamed for the mass exodus of close to 3,000 people, mostly Manobo, from their hinterland villages following the September 1 murders of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvillo “Bello” Sinzo in Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town.

In a privilege speech Thursday, Guingona urged the Senate to “put its foot down and do our little bit in restoring the rule of law” in the Mindanao province by conducting an investigation, “not here in Metro Manila but there in Surigao del Sur.”

He said the on-site inquiry was requested by Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel, who has confirmed that the military, despite its denials, organized, trained and armed the Magahat and other militias in the province and demanded that the military “disarm, disband or kill” the “monster” it had created.

Pimentel, said Guingona had promised to “bring the witnesses, the numerous witnesses, the numerous victims, the wives of those who have died, to testify, to tell what has happened.”

Guingona also slammed the Army, echoing Han-ayan residents’ testimonies that troops who had occupied their village before the Magahat arrived had not lifted a finger even if the executions of Campos and Sinzo, done in front of hundreds of villagers the militia had rounded up, had happened only around a kilometer away from where the soldiers were positioned.

The Army has washed its hands of responsibility for the Lianga murders, claiming that the killings were the offshoot of a “tribal war” between a Manobo faction opposed to the communist New People’s Army and another supposedly sympathetic to the rebels.

The military has openly accused schools set up by nongovernmental and religious organizations in indigenous peoples’ communities in Mindanao, including the award-winning ALCADEV, of advocating support for the communists.

But Guingona, a native of Mindanao, said Pimentel “swore” that Samarca had nothing to do with the NPA and was only there to help the community run the school, teach the children, teach the farmers.”

Worse, the senator said, the Magahat’s abuses did not end with the Lianga murders.

“To this day, I have been informed that the Magahat-Bagani are in the next municipality (to Lianga), the neighboring municipality of Barobo. They are there right now, in fact, in Barangay San Vicente,” he said, going from house to house and telling residents, “Dati nagbabayad kayo ng taxes sa NPA, ngayon kami naman, magbabayad kayo sa amin (Before you paid taxes to the NPA, now it is our turn, you pay us).”

Noting that the Barobo barangay he spoke of was not in the highlands, Guingona said he asked Pimentel why authorities were not stopping the Magahat’s extortion.

Pimentel’s reply: “Ayaw makialam ang pulisayaw gumalaw ang pulisdahil daw (The police don’t want to get involved, the police don’t want to move, because it supposedly is a) military matter."

“Clearly, this is not the rule of law. Clearly, this is anarchy,” Guingona said. “Why are people who are not members of the police, who are not members of the military, going around with high-powered firearms, shooting people, torturing people, knocking on doors, extorting from citizens?”

“Where is our government?” he asked.

China building third airstrip on disputed South China Sea islets - expert

From InterAksyon (Sep 15): China building third airstrip on disputed South China Sea islets - expert

Chinese dredgers at Mischief Reef (Reuters file)

China appears to be building a third airstrip in contested territory in the South China Sea, a US expert said on Monday, citing satellite photographs taken last week.

The photographs taken for Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank on September 8 show construction on Mischief Reef, one of several artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago.

The images show a rectangular area with a retaining wall, 3,000 meters long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs, Subi and Fiery Cross, said Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

"Clearly, what we have seen is going to be a 3,000-meter airstrip and we have seen some more work on what is clearly going to be some port facilities for ships," he said.

Security experts say the strip would be long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft, giving Beijing greater reach into the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, where it has competing claims with several countries.

News of the work comes ahead of a visit to Washington next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping. US worries about China's increasingly assertive territorial claims are expected to be high on the agenda.

A spokesman for the US Defense Department, Commander Bill Urban, declined to comment specifically on Poling's assessment, but repeated US calls for a halt to land reclamation, construction and militarization of South China Sea outposts to "ease tensions and create space for diplomatic solutions."

"China's stated intentions with its program, and continued construction, will not reduce tensions or lead to a meaningful diplomatic solution," he added.

A new airstrip at Mischief Reef would be particularly worrying for the Philippines, a rival claimant in the South China Sea. It would allow China to mount "more or less constant" patrols over Reed Bank, where the Philippines has long explored for oil and gas, Poling said.

Three airstrips, once completed, would allow China to threaten all air traffic over the features it has reclaimed in the South China Sea, he said, adding that it would be especially worrying if China were to install advanced air defenses.

Satellite photographs from late June showed China had almost finished a 3,000-meter airstrip on Fiery Cross.

Satellite images from earlier this year showed reclamation work on Subi Reef creating land that could accommodate another airstrip. Poling said the latest images made it obvious that such an airstrip was being built at Subi.

China stepped up creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea last year, drawing strong criticism from Washington.

Asked about Mischief Reef on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated China's claim to "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands and its right to establish military facilities there.

10 construction workers held hostage in Basilan

From Rappler (Sep 14): 10 construction workers held hostage in Basilan

(UPDATED) They were in a DPWH truck in a remote village in Sumisip, Basilan

At least 10 construction workers were held hostage by alleged Abu Sayyaf members in Sumisip, Basilan, on Monday, September 14, according to military and police sources.

Initial reports from the Army's 104th brigade said that Abu Sayyaf members stopped a truck of the Department of Public Works and Highways that was carrying 8 workers along the highway of Barangay Upper Binembengan, Sumisip town at around 9:20 am Monday.

A police report meanwhile said 10 construction workers from a certain "Mace Construction Company" were abducted as they were on their way to the road construction site. They were later brought to an undisclosed area. A later report said around 11 workers were missing, based on the count of the company that hired them.

The hostage takers were reportedly led by a certain Commander Alamsirul of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group.

The workers were still being held by the Abu Sayyaf as of 1 pm Monday. Government forces are still checking the area, in hopes of recovering the kidnapped workers.

Basilan is the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf, which is behind the most sensational kidnapping incidents in Mindanao.

Lawyers’ group slam AFP security plan

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Sep 14): Lawyers’ group slam AFP security plan
A LAWYER’S group has branded the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” as an instrument of the big business and capitalists to drive away civilians, particularly indigenous peoples (IPs), from “areas of interest” for development.

The Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), which marked its 10th year with an island-wide gathering of legal and paralegal personalities in one of the hotels here, said lumads have increasingly become targets of rights abuses allegedly done by state security forces as more and more businesses seek to exploit resource-rich tribal lands.

“Because of militarization in the hinterlands, many of our lumads have been forced to leave their domain, fearing they will be branded as New People’s Army supporters, such are the cases of lumads with trumped-up charges filed by the military in connivance with the national police,” Bayan Muna Representative and UPLM chairman Carlos Zarate said.

Zarate said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has become the security agency of big businesses owning vast plantations and of mining companies to the detriment of the IPs.

Zarate also deplored the fact that sometimes, even the human rights of lawyers and paralegal personalities helping the victims are violated and rights defenders are sometimes subjected to trumped-up charges as well.

The lawyers’ group said the judicial processes have also caused tremendous delays in the administration of justice or worse, have sometimes resulted in preventing justice from being served.

For this reason, the UPLM would be pushing for judicial reforms, the lawyer’s group said.

UPLM-Northern Mindanao said among the difficulties they face in handling cases of human rights abuses are the often non-identification of perpetrators and the long wait for the resolution of cases.

Dale Mordeno, UPLM Cagayan de Oro chairman, said judicial reforms in furtherance of human rights cases should be introduced so that abuses would be lessened or eradicated.

“Judicial reforms are necessary in terms of examining or revisiting existing laws that are no longer applicable and amend those laws to suit our legal processes,” Mordeno said.

He said UPLM is lobbying for the passage of a bill that would put an end to strategic lawsuits against public participation (Slapp).

Slapp, Mordeno said, often diminishes the capacity of its members to effectively represent their clients.

But Mordeno said the path to the much needed reforms is circuitous as these can only be done through the right fora such as through Congress or the Supreme Court.

Lawmakers seek repeal of memo allowing soldiers in schools

From InterAksyon (Sep 14): Lawmakers seek repeal of memo allowing soldiers in schools

Military outpost inside Alcadev campus. Photograph from Karapatan - Caraga

Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC on Monday said that alleged cases of military abuses in several schools in Mindanao are being investigated, but partylist lawmakers insisted that, beyond that, the Department of Education (DepEd) should recall a memorandum allowing the staging presence of military personnel in schools.

"Isn't it time to repeal this [memorandum] because of the violations? Unless you repeal this, more lives will be in danger ...  I say that blood is in your hands, impunity is going on because of this memo," Gabriela partylist Representative Luz Ilagan told Luistro at the hearing of the 2016 budget of the Department of Education.

For his part, ACT Teachers partylist Representative Antonio Tinio said DepEd should not just investigate the cases, but review and recall the memorandum.

Davao Oriental Representative Thelma Almario, the acting appropriations chairperson, said that DepEd should view "with a sense of urgency" the cases of alleged military abuses in schools, adding that investigations usually take years.

Ilagan cited the recent killing of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) executive director Emerito Samarca, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) chairman Dionel Campos, and his cousin Bello Sinzo.

The three were allegedly murdered by the tribal militia known as Magahat, although other reports indicated that troops from some units of the Army's 4th Infantry Division were involved.

Ilagan also deplored the alleged attack involving the military-backed paramilitary groups Magahat and Bagani in Purok 16, Sitio Nalindog, Brgy. Bolhoon in Surigao del Sur on August 9, which led to the evacuation of some 45 families and the closure of the Nalindog Tribal Community School operated by the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur and Alcadev. The militia groups also threatened to burn down the school and volunteer teachers.

The recent attack in Surigao del Sur came less than a week after the illegal arrest of another volunteer teacher in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental.

Luistro said the incidents have been referred to the proper investigating body.

"The Department of Education strongly condemns these alleged incursions of schools. Once it came to our attention, we immediately brought it to the proper investigating body," Luistro said.

The policy being referred to by Ilagan was DepEd Memorandum No. 221 on the Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict, issued on December 13, 2013.

Signed by Secretary Luistro, the issuance allowed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to conduct "civil-military" activities "inside or within a school or a hospital."

Under the memo, Luistro said, the AFP activities will be governed by its own guidelines dated 15 July 2013.

The school principals receive written requests for the conduct of AFP activities, and then forward them to the DepEd division office for approval.  After the activity, the school principal is to submit a report to the division office.

The AFP Guidelines indicated that the activities were needed "to prevent" the occurrence of the Grave Violations Against Children During Armed Conflict pursuant to and in compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612 and 1882, more specifically the violations known as Attacks on Schools and Hospitals.

The main intent of the above policies/guidelines was "to prevent/ bring to unnecessary risk and/or endanger all children, teachers, medical/dental professionals, health workers, and/or employees/workers of the school and hospital concerned, and the school or hospital itself."

Earlier, Kabataan partylist Representative Terry Ridon filed a resolution to conduct an inquiry into the memo.

"Even if both DepEd Memo 221 and AFP Letter Directive 25 only allow what they called civil-military operations, the said issuances would still be inimical to the protection of children's rights. Allowing presence of the military in educational institutions is tantamount to increasing risks for children, especially those living in situations of conflict," Ridon had said.