Wednesday, September 30, 2015

AFP condemns NPAs endless use of landmines

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 30): AFP condemns NPAs endless use of landmines

KITAOTAO, Bukidnon, September 29 — After the latest bomb attack that wounded five soldiers in Bukidnon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) strongly condemned the communist New People’s Army’s (NPA) non-stop use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or landmines.

“We condemn, to the highest degree, the NPA’s continuous use of landmines despite their being a signatory to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), especially that these explosives are being planted along residents’ trails,” said Ltc. Lennon G. Babilonia, Commanding Officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion.

In the recent attack in Barangay Pagan, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, he said, the troops were conducting security and pursuit operation when hit by the IED planted by communist New People’s Army (NPA) under Guerilla Front 53, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) who are believed to be responsible in the aborted liquidation attempt of Barangay Captain of White Kulaman—the neighboring village of Barangay Pagan.

It can be recalled that the day before the blast, the army’s 8thIB thwarted the NPAs plot to kill the village chief.

The troops encountered 15 heavily armed NPA rebels while White Kulaman Barangay Captain Felipe S. Cabugnason and his Council members were on a community dialogue on the outskirts.

In a statement, Ltc. Babilonia said the NPA has betrayed people’s trust and defied humanitarian law, and it is very disappointing because the explosion happened on September 20, the day before the celebration of the “International Day of Peace” which is set to be celebrated on the 21st of September.“In the spirit of peace, the NPA has violated their commitment on respect for human rights. It only proves that they are not sincere in bringing peace and development to the rural areas,” Ltc. Babilonia said.

Lumad from Agusan: NPA, not military, responsible for killings

From Rappler (Sep 30): Lumad from Agusan: NPA, not military, responsible for killings

The other side of the story: Lumad leaders from Agusan del Sur talk about the abuses by the National People's Army

(L-R) Jesse Acevedo, former NPA rebel Marcial Belandres, and Datu Martin Acevedo talk about the abuses done by NPA rebels to lumads in some parts of Mindanao. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

(L-R) Jesse Acevedo, former NPA rebel Marcial Belandres, and Datu Martin Acevedo talk about the abuses done by NPA rebels to lumads in some parts of Mindanao. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

Amid reports of the Philippine military’s alleged killings and abuses of the Lumad, the indigenous people of Mindanao, a group of Lumad leaders from Agusan del Sur claimed that it is the New People’s Army (NPA), not the military, who is responsible for the killings.

In an exclusive interview with Rappler on Wednesday, September 30, Martin Acevedo, a datu from Prosperidad, La Purisima in Agusan del Sur province, said that in their area it is the NPA who make trouble and kill Lumad.
The NPA imposes taxes on civilians. They charge each family a monthly tax of P10. Say you have 4 children, you'd have to pay P20 monthly – P5 per head. If the civilian can't pay, they compute the price for their life,” Acevedo said. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)
He added: “Once they finish computing – and the farmers still can’t pay – the NPA will catch them and kill them in the mountain, where the graves can’t be found. That’s what they did in our area.”
Martin, whose father and two siblings were allegedly killed by the rebels in 1992, said no Lumad in their area has joined the NPA, mainly due to the military’s presence.
“Despite the NPA’s aggressive recruitment, nobody from our place went with them because we made the people in our area understand what would happen to them there,” he added.
Military as friends
“The military are our friends because they give us ways to improve our livelihood, while the NPA only imposes taxes,” said Jesse Acevedo, younger brother of Datu Martin.
According to Jesse, the NPA has given the Lumad nothing but pain and hardships. He claimed that in January 2014, NPA rebels burned the Lumad's rubber plants and livelihood materials because of their insubordination.
“Why did the NPA burn the plants we need for our livelihood? Understand that the goals of the NPA are not to promote our welfare but to take advantage of the Lumad. If we continue to be recruited by them, it will come back to haunt us,” Jesse said.
Farmers who do not pay the “revolutionary taxes” imposed by the rebels, according to Jesse, are either kicked out of their land or killed.
“So we'd rather just pay because we have nowhere else to go. In some areas, like in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, if we are unable to pay the tax, the NPA will kill us. On the government's end, their only instruction to us is to let our children go to school and to continue to protect our children’s future,” Jesse said.
He added: “I can promise you that it is not the military who cause the problems because they give us help with livelihood and education for our children.”
Opposing sides
The statements of the two datus contradict reports that Lumad in Surigao del Sur are being killed and displaced by paramilitary and military personnel.
PROTEST. A multisectoral group holds a protest outside the House of Representatives to protest the Lumad killings. Photo by Vincent Go/Rappler
PROTEST. A multisectoral group holds a protest outside the House of Representatives to protest the Lumad killings. Photo by Vincent Go/Rappler

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has repeatedly denied the military’s involvement in the incidents. AFP Chief General Hernando Iriberri, during the budget hearing for the Department of National Defense (DND) on September 8, denied that the Magahat Bagani Force paramilitary group, mainly accused of the killings, is working with the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Rights groups like Karapatan and Kalumaran have repeatedly accused and condemned the government for allegedly perpetrating the killings.
UP Professor Winnie Monsod earlier accused leftist groups of using the Lumad to their advantage, for which she was slammed by Lumad and rights groups.
Two United Nations special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Michel Forst already urged the Aquino government to investigate the killings in Mindanao, calling the issue “unacceptable, deplorable.”
The Senate Subcommittee on Justice, led by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, has already scheduled a hearing on the Lumad killings on Thursday, October 1, in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
Marcial Belandres, a member of the NPA for 25 years before surrendering to the government, told Rappler that the abuses reported by the Acevedos continue till now.
“There are still a lot of CPP-NPA in Surigao. They have rights groups there that they call legal but the backing are actually illegal. I witnessed, and sometimes participated, in the wrongdoings of the NPA,” Belandres said.”
He added that he surrendered to government forces because he wanted a better life for his family.
“Now that I am on the government’s side, I am being treated well. I am given food and help to send my child to a proper school,” said Belandres, who is being hunted by the NPA.

‘We need to understand Lumad culture’
Lawyer Levito Baligod, who brought the Lumad to Manila, said the government needs to understand the Lumad culture better before making any drastic decisions. (READ: Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?)
“The problem is that the government is lost on how to understand the situation. If the government will render their support to the Lumad datus, who signed a manifesto against the NPA, we can solve the problem. The datus themselves are already asking help from the government,” Baligod, who rose to fame during the pork barrel scam, said.
Baligod pointed to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) statement a few days back which said that the baganis were responsible for the Lumad killings.
“The baganis are the Lumad's warrior class, next to datus (chieftains) and baylans (priests). They are cultural guards. There are baganis who sided with the NPA and there are those who were assigned to defend their tribes. We cannot generalize,” he added.
The lawyer added that he is trying to link with the government the Lumad who came to him for help.
“We will try to ask the government to provide protection for the Lumad people because if the government is not present in their areas, the CPP-NPA would easily be able to enter, infiltrate and impose their will,” he said.
Call out
The Acevedos and Belandres are calling on other Lumad tribes to veer away from the NPA.
“I can say from my heart that it is not true that it’s the soldiers killing Lumad. The true killers are the CPP-NPA. Even if we'd live in the forest for one year, we’ll be fine as long as we're able to have our livelihoods. But with the NPA there, finding a livelihood is problematic,” Belandres said.
Jesse added: “I'm calling out to my Lumad brothers who are living in the mountain: I plead that if there is someone who recruits you from the CPP-NPA do not go with them because they are the ones causing havoc in our tribes.”
As the government and various rights groups continue to investigate the cases, the Lumad continue to be caught in the middle of the war between the government and the communist rebels.
"I'm calling on those Lumad who are still in the mountain to surrender so we can live a normal life and be given a livelihood by the government," Jesse said.

The Lumad's long years of languishing for land and life

From Rappler (Sep 30): The Lumad's long years of languishing for land and life (by Yolanda L. Punsalan)

Their tragic fate and stories have to be honored and retold many times over until a concrete solution is reached and peace prevails   

In the city, our close encounters with indigenous tribes happen only in exhibits or cultural shows when we appreciate their songs, dances, epic tales, and textiles weavings - superficial knowledge that should now be replaced by our empathy for the true sentiments of our brothers whose elders, tribal leaders, and datus have been brutally killed in full view of their families and communities.

(TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

The living witnesses courageously share their tragic stories, starting August this year. Thus far, under the Aquino administration, 52 Lumads have been murdered. According to their relatives, it’s our very own protectors of the nation, the military, who are responsible for these unspeakable killings.

Oppressed tribes

There are about 100 to 110 tribal groups from the northern to southern Philippines, with a population of about 14 million.

The bigger groups are the Aetas of Zambales, the Mangyans of Mindoro and Palawan, the Igorots of Mountain Province, the Caraballos, the Dumagats of Southern Tagalog, the Atis and Tumandaks. Then, there are the smaller tribes such as the Badjaos, T’bolis, and Manobos of Mindanao.

There is also the emergence of the “Bago” tribe, Ilocano Christians from the lowlands, and ethnic mountain tribes – the Kankaneys, Igorots and Tingguians – who have settled in the Sugpon mountains of Ilocos Sur.

All of them have preserved their traditional cultures and livelihood, seemingly undisturbed by the centuries of colonial rule, and continue to be unaware of modernity until today.

Pia Macliing Malayao, a Bontoc Igorot from the Mountain Province and Secretary General of the Katribu Kalipunan ng Mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, said that the indigenous tribes’ strategy for escaping the colonizers was to keep receding to the hinterlands, to the interior vastnesses of their forests, and not to stay steadfast in the coastlines. That way, they knew that the foreign colonizers would cease pursuing them.

All these tribes have a deep and special connection to their lands.

No single individual has a title to the land they till for their livelihood. They consider ownership of this as a collective, as belonging to the entire community, with the present generation as mere stewards of the soil. A very biblical outlook - the idea of the Torrens Title System never reached their culture.

These days, however, the many years of languish and oppression are being made known to us through the help of the religious groups who volunteer in educating the tribal children. They have also helped evacuate the victimized communities to safer ground like in Tandag City, Bukidnon.

Some Lumad leaders are now being taken cared of by some bishops and by the nuns of the Religious of The Virgin Mary, St Paul College University.

Malayao bemoans the fact that even in textbooks that have been used in our educational system, their peoples are being described stereotypically as short (pandak), dark-skinned, kinky-haired, with thick lips, and flat wide noses (sarat). That they have to be compelled to do their rituals or sing and dance for tourists — much like Edward Said’s Orientalism — so they could earn their keep.

However, multi-awarded economics and social sciences teacher Ruby Denofra assures Malayao that this is being rectified now and that understanding the indigenous people’s (IP) culture and welfare are now being emphasized in the curriculum.


The deeper, graver wounds inflicted on our indigenous brothers are caused by the oppression on them since the passing of the Mining Act of 1995. But the national oppression against them have been felt way back in the Marcos regime, especially in the 1980s.

When mines, dams, and plantations were established, IPs were shoved away from their lands. Their farming areas are ruined; health and skin diseases are borne; and the soil that used to give them life and crops deteriorated.

In one barangay, an entire schoolhouse submerged because the soil it stood on crumbled softly like cookies.

A Lumad's story

Pakibato District, probably the pinnacle area of Davao, overlooks the entire province. It is so beautiful that travellers attest that they can almost touch the heavens when they visit.
Pakibato is where Aida hails from. In between sobs and unceasing tears, she narrates how she witnessed her own uncle being murdered by the military. Trumped up charges are now being filed against her to say that she and a datu have also been responsible for killings in their area and human trafficking.

This remote area in Davao, though beautiful, has not been reached by the government’s social services. There are no schools, doctors, or hospitals.

Through their own efforts and the volunteer missionaries and teachers — who go there to teach English, Math, basic agriculture and other subjects — they were able to put up an elementary school. In 2004, they built a specialized high school, guided by the tenets of the alternative learning system, with the men doing the carpentry work, and the women and children gathering wood from the trees.
Aida’s house has been pockmarked with bullets. Her husband and children have been evacuated, without any belongings left. Aida is with the nuns now in Quezon City, with only 6 pieces of clothing that get her by every week.

At nights, she’s sleepless as she vividly recounts the very bloody scenes of the murders she has seen up close.

Other houses in the beautiful Pakibato district have been turned into barracks by the military. Their presence is very visible in Mindanao.

More IPs will traverse the rugged terrains and rivers and seas to journey to Manila on foot, if need be. Maybe through some generous souls, some of they may board some transport vehicles.

Some 700 of them are expected to arrive on October 26. They will stay here until November 19, a special APEC Summit no-work holiday.

If our own government is welcoming the Syrian Refugees with welcoming and open arms and hearts, it should do the same for our tribal families. Their tragic fate and stories have to be honored and retold many times over until a concrete solution is reached and peace prevails.

[Yolanda L. Punsalan is the long-time executive secretary to the chairman/president of the Reliance Group of Companies. She is willing to devote time for advocacies such as environmental issues, women’s and children's rights.]

Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?

From Rappler (Sep 30): Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?

A young Lumad who is caught in the middle of the war between the government and the New People's Army shares his take on the killings in indigenous areas

OTHER SIDE? A young lumad lifts the blame off the military, and points his finger at the New People's Army regarding the Lumad attacks in Mindanao. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez

OTHER SIDE? A young lumad lifts the blame off the military, and points his finger at the New People's Army regarding the Lumad attacks in Mindanao. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez

The military is innocent in the contoversial Lumad killings, a young Lumad is insisting. His hands fell on his lap as he spoke in Bisaya and broken Tagalog. The boy is 18 and had just left his Surigao del Sur home in Ha-ayan, Barangay Diatagon Lianga.

He is among the Lumad that lawyer Levito Baligod brought to Manila to have their voices heard on the issue.

On Wednesday, September 30, Baligod told Rappler he is helping some Lumad who are telling a different story compared to the relatives of the victims and activists. (WATCH: Lumad: Caught in the middle of a war)

Human rights groups, activists, journalists, and pundits have weighed in on the situation, holding authorities accountable. The crisis has displaced more than 4,000 indigenous peoples from Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, Saranggani, and Davao del Norte allegedly due to human rights violations committed by the military. (READ: #StopLumadKillings trends: Nasaan ang Pangulo?)

Alternative learning

The boy's father is dead and his mother remarried. He was raised by his grandmother, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). But he himself is not a member of the group, he said.

He claimed he was an Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) student, a school which provides an “alternative learning system especially designed to provide secondary education to indigent indigenous youth – the Manobo, Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig, and Mamanwa.”

According to ALCADEV, they offer “academic studies, vocational, and technical skills.” The boy learned how to read and write at ALCADEV. But there, he also learned how to hold a gun, he said. He first held one during 3rd grade.

Why the gun? “Para manalo sa pakikipaglaban sa gobyerno (To win the fight against the government),” the boy answered.

In places like Lianga, there are no government schools, Baligod told Rappler.

“What’s there is ALCADEV and TRIFPSS (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur Schools) which are both being run by the CPP-NPA.”

Several groups, however, disagree and support ALCADEV, stressing its role in helping indigenous peoples (IPs) .

ALCADEV's name has not always been as tainted. It is known as an award-winning privately operated but government-regulated learning institution established in 2004 by different IP organizations in CARAGA. Its students mostly live in the highlands of Surigao del Norte and Sur, Agusan del Norte and Sur.

'Radicalizing the youth'

Although the boy knows how to use a gun, he said he never fired one. At school, he said he learned “NPA songs” (kanta na pang-NPA). On Saturdays, his teachers would take them to NPA postings.

After graduating, the boy claimed that students either turn into ALCADEV teachers or NPA members.

"They were taught to hate the government," Baligod said. "So the CPP-NPA radicalized the youth, indoctrinated the general population for them to revolt against the government. So we need government presence in the area."

"On their behalf, we will try to ask government to provide protection for the Lumad people," Baligod continued. "Because if there's no government there, the CPP-NPA can easily enter, inflitrate, and impose their will."

But according to ALCADEV, its main mission is to empower the indigenous youth to become “self-reliant, self-sufficient, analytical and creative in seeking ways to improve the quality of life of their families, their indigenous communities and the country.”

Attacks on the Lumad

It was earlier reported that a series of attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao have been taking place since May this year. The attacks are concentrated in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur, which are hosts to Lumad schools.

When asked whether the Lumad killings and reports of violence and harassment in Surigao del Sur were committed by the military or paramilitary, the boy gave a swift “no.” It was the NPA who did it, he claimed.

A 13-year-old Lumad, however, earlier told Rappler that she witnessed how her father, a Lumad leader and farmer, was shot in the head twice allegedly by military and paramilitary elements on September 1 near their village in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur.

On the same day, another Lumad was killed together with ALCADEV executive director Emerico Samarte. Samarte was killed inside a classroom in Barangay Diatagon. The culprits, according to the human rights group Karapatan, are the paramilitary group Magahat. (READ: School head, 2 lumad leaders killed in Surigao del Sur)

Peace talks

On September 22, two United Nations special rapporteurs on IP rights urged the Aquino government to look into the Lumad killings, condemning the attacks on the Lumad and educators (READ: Lumad killings unacceptable – UN experts)

Peace talks among the government, the NPA, and the National Democratic Front must also be pursued, UN Rapporteur Vicky Tauli-Corpuz earlier told Rappler.

The UN expert also recommended that "a mechanism where a joint monitoring and investigation could happen" be formed.

"The people are caught in the middle. They are...made to side with whichever group, and in the process, that's when all these kinds of killings are happening," Tauli-Corpuz said.
[Video report: Lumad killings not due to tribal war — UN Rapporteur

Before leaving for Manila with Baligod, the boy stayed in an evacuation center, a sports complex in Tandag City.

“Condition's tough, people only sleep in chairs,” he said in Bisaya. “We eat instant noodles and it’s hard to bathe.”

He added that ALCADEV students are separated from the rest of the evacuees within the center. "Teachers guard them, in case they're pulled by soldiers."

The boy wishes to pursue his studies, without ever having to pull a trigger in his life.

His words are only among the several voices either drowned or amplified in the ongoing revelation about the lives and deaths of the Lumad.

AFP welcomes Misuari's help in rescue efforts for kidnap victims

From ABS-CBN (Sep 30): AFP welcomes Misuari's help in rescue efforts for kidnap victims

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomes the help of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari in the rescue efforts for the three foreign nationals and a Filipina abducted on Samal Island, Davao del Norte.

The commander of Joint Task Group Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-tawi (ZamBaSulTa), Rear Admiral Primitivo Gopo, said they welcome any help from different sectors, even from the group of Misuari, who is facing criminal charges in connection with the Zamboanga siege in 2013.

(READ: Duterte asks Misuari to help free hostages)

Gopo, however, declined to comment on the possible legal implications that could crop up.
Misuari has a standing arrest warrant for a case of rebellion and violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

Some of the former victims of the Zamboanga siege also expressed concern over Misuari's participation in the rescue efforts.

Jimmy Villaflores, barangay chairman of Santa Catalina, said it is morally incorrect to allow Misuari to negotiate with the abductors for the safe release of the four captives.

Villaflores said Misuari should face first his criminal charges in court and answer for all the damages he caused in Zamboanga City, including the hundreds of lives wasted during the almost one month of crisis.

He said he is also worried that Misuari might use this favor to push for the grant of amnesty.

(READ: Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought)

Meanwhile, Gopo said they still cannot confirm if the victims were indeed taken to Sulu, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The Abu Sayyaf has been responsible for the series of kidnapping of foreign nationals in Mindanao, extortion activities, and attacks on public places.

Philippines hostage crisis: Rebel leader urges truce

From the Gulf News (Sep 30): Philippines hostage crisis: Rebel leader urges truce

Misuari has sent men to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf for safe release of three foreigners and Filipina

The founder of a former secessionist Filipino-Muslim rebel group called for a halt to military operations as he coordinated with a local Filipino-Muslim terror group for the safe release of three foreigners and a Filipina national who were abducted from an upscale resort in southern Philippines last week, sources said.

Nur Misuari, founder of the 45-year old Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) asked the military not to intensity operations in Parang, Sulu so that the MNLF members would not be caught in the crossfire as they gain access to the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has taken custody of Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norweigian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marites Flor who were kidnapped from Ocean View Resort on Samal island, Davao del Norte last week, a source who requested for anonymity told Gulf News.

Misuari was concerned about the safety of the hostages and residents who live near the forested hideaway of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the source said.

Although the military has refused to confirm reports that the Abu Sayyaf Group was behind the one-week old hostage-taking, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of Sulu’s joint task group said the operation will help authorities get the hostages from their abductors.

The military operation will focus on the Abu Sayyaf Group, not on the negotiators, Arrojado said.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former cabinet secretary Jess Dureza were the ones who persuaded Misuari to help the government resolve the hostage-crisis, said the same source, adding that Misuari accepted the challenge, convened a meeting and assigned men to reach out to the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group who took custody of the kidnap-victims in Sulu last Sunday.

Assessing Misuari’s capability, MNLF Islamic Command Council (ICC) head Habib Nudjahad Hashim whose group is allied with Misuari’s MNLF faction, told a TV network the MNLF founder could “negotiate for the safe release of the kidnap-victims”.

“He has influence in Sulu,” said Hashim, adding that Misuari has “listened to the request” of Duterte and Dureza.

Families of the kidnap victims and local authorities claimed they have not yet received ransom demands from the Abu Sayyaf Group.

It is not known if emissaries of President Benigno Aquino asked Duterte and Dureza to reach out to Misuari.

Earlier, Aquino’s Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said, “The administration accepts any assistance offered by organisations or by individuals to solve this crime.”

Misuari has been in hiding in Sulu since he was implicated as the mastermind of the 20-day siege of southern Zamboanga City in which hundreds were killed and displaced in late 2013.

His allies wanted Aquino to grant Misuari amnesty so that he could go to Saudi Arabia for the tripartite review by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Philippine government, and the MNLF of the implementation of two political settlements forged by the MNLF and the Philippine government in Libya in 1976, and in Manila in 1996.

The Abu Sayyaf Group has been blamed for high-profile kidnap-for-ransom activities that targeted foreign tourists and missionaries as well as local residents. It is also accused of undertaking bombing and other terror attacks in the south. It has links with Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of Al Qaida.

MNLF joins search for abducted foreigners

From the Manila Times (Sep 30): MNLF joins search for abducted foreigners

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has joined the search for three foreigners and a Filipina kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The MNLF said it is helping locate Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Tess Flor who were abducted on September 21 from the upscale Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort on Samal Island off Davao del Norte province.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is also helping free the victims, has sought help from MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari.

Duterte, citing an intelligence report, claimed that the victims are being held by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Habib Mudjahab Hashim, of the MNLF, said Duterte and Misuari spoke on the phone.

“Mayor Duterte, I was informed, got in touch with brother Nur, and brother Nur is now convening his commanders in Sulu for whatever decisions that will be made, but indications are brother Nur will listen to Duterte. I think he will help in the possible safe release of the hostages,” Hashim said in a television interview.

“We believe that Duterte, being a friend and a man of peace, I think he can do a lot, and it’s only him among the leaders of Mindanao that brother Nur would listen most,” he added.

Misuari is wanted for his alleged role in the September 2013 MNLF attacks in Zamboanga City that had displaced over 100,000 people and more than 200 people were killed.

There is no official confirmation either from the military or police authorities that the hostages were taken to Sulu and no group have claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Hostages sighted in Sulu; captors demand P2M before showing proof of life – MNLF

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 1): Hostages sighted in Sulu; captors demand P2M before showing proof of life – MNLF

The four hostages snatched from Samal Island in Davao del Norte 10 days ago and their kidnappers have been sighted at the foot of Mount Bud Daho in the jungles of Sulu.

This was revealed by a senior official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to Manila Bulletin yesterday citing friends and sources in the area.

“They were sighted by MNLF fighters the other day (Monday),” he said.

The MNLF official speaking on condition of anonymity said the kidnappers landed on the beach of Barangay Silangkan, Parang, Sulu at around 1 a.m. of September 25 and were met by Al-Habsi Misaya.

The source said Misaya leads an Abu Sayyaf faction who recently kidnapped a Chinese resort manager (Yang Zai Lin) in Sandakan on Sabah island in 2014 and brought him  to Sulu. Misaya’s group had reportedly earned several millions of pesos from their kidnapping activities.

He said Misaya and his men led the hostages – two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina at foot of Mount Bud Daho, about eight kilometers from Jolo, the capital town of Sulu.

The victims were seized on the night of Sept. 21 from the Ocean View Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak district, Samal Island, Davao del Norte.

Mount Bud Daho was the site of the “Bud Daho Massacre” of some 1,000 Tausug men, women and children in 1906 by American forces.

The source said the kidnappers’ lair is about 15 to 16 kilometers away from the camp of MNLF founding Chair Nur Misuari.


The source who is a former government official said the suspects surveyed the resorts on Samal Island for a month where they spent about P5-million before striking on September 21.

The source said he tried to get a proof of life from the kidnappers but they demanded P2 million before giving any proof of life.

“That is not the ransom yet, only for the proof of life,” he said.

“I believe the kidnappers have already reached the families of the foreigners through the negotiator,” he said.

Drones had been hovering in the vicinity of Mount Bud Daho for two nights between the borders of the municipalities of Talipao, Patikul and Indanan – known lairs of the ASG bandits, the source added.

He mentioned  seven kidnapping groups in Sulu –  the groups of Misaya, Ajang-Ajang, Sawadjaan,  Tanum, Lucky 9, Anak Ilo, and Norodum.  They are also ASG or at least affiliated with the mainstream ASG.

He said three groups  – Misaya, Ajang-Ajang and Sawadjaan – collaborated in the Samal Island caper.       “It is the Sawadjaan group under Hatib Hassan that funded the kidnapping in Davao,” he said, adding Hassan’s group received P250 million last year in ransom for the release of two German nationals – Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55.

Hassan and his collaborators shared the loot but kept a big part of it s as his group’s capital for their kidnapping activities, the source added.


The ASG launched a daring raid on the Pulao Sipadan resort in 2000, seizing 21 European tourists and Malaysians and earned at least US$25 million from the attack, mainly from Libya and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, another senior MNLF leader, Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the Islamic Command Council (MNLF-ICC), confirmed the whereabouts of the hostages near Mount Bud Daho.

He said the kidnappers are on the run, which endangers the lives of the hostages because of an ongoing military operation.

Hashim wondered if the military operation could be suspended so as not to endanger the lives and safety of the hostages.

The MNLF-ICC chief said Misuari had agreed to help in recovering them.

Maas convened his commanders yesterday to discuss ways to help in the recovery,” Hashim added after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Jesus Dureza, former presidential peace adviser, sought Misuari’s assistance.

Hashim said he was not aware of any ongoing negotiations.

Is the Philippine army turning a blind eye to murder?

From IRIN humanitarian news & analysis (Sep 29): Is the Philippine army turning a blind eye to murder?

Mourners gather in the Philippines town of Lianga on 13 September for the funeral of Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, tribal leaders who were killed two weeks earlier by members of a paramilitary group
Has the Philippine army been in cahoots with armed groups accused of murdering civilians in the southern region of Mindanao? That’s the focus of an investigation the government has finally agreed to undertake.
Responding to pressure inside and outside the country, including from the United Nations, the government said on 22 September that it would probe the killings of three indigenous rights activists earlier this month. Now, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said the investigation will be broadened to look into the wider roles of paramilitaries and their supporters.

Who are the victims?

The victims are known as “Lumads”, which is a collective term for indigenous peoples living in Mindanao. Lumad communities have found themselves caught in a war between the Philippine military and an insurgent group known as the New People's Army (NPA).
Both the military and paramilitary groups have been accused of abuses against civilians, and the brazen killing of three indigenous leaders earlier this month sparked outrage and international attention. A paramilitary group called the Magahat Bagani Force attacked an indigenous school on 1 September in the town of Lianga in Surigao del Sur province, according to local civil society groups as well as Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the pre-dawn attack, paramilitary members allegedly broke down dormitory doors and herded students and teachers outside. Magahat members then shot and killed educational administrators Dionel Campos and Emerito Samarca, as well as Juvillo Sinzo, a tribal leader. According to HRW, Philippine army soldiers had arrived in the community the day before the attack and camped nearby, but they did not intervene as the killings took place.

Rights and environmental organisations have also accused the military and paramilitaries of attempting to drive indigenous people from their ancestral lands in order to make way for mining companies. The province of Surigao del Sur has been designated by the government as the “mining capital of the Philippines”, HRW noted. Campos was a noted activist opposed to the exploitation of indigenous people by mining companies.

Who are the paramilitary groups?

The Alamara paramilitary group operates in the province of Davao del Norte, and rights groups say its members often carry out activities alongside military troops. According to HRW, soldiers accompanied Alamara members who harassed students and teachers in the town of Talaingod in March. “The soldiers stayed outside the classrooms but allowed the Alamara to go inside, fully-armed, accusing us of being supporters of the NPA,” one student told HRW.
The Magahat Bagani Force operates in Surigao del Sur province. After the 1 September killings, provincial governor Johnny Pimental blamed the military for backing the paramilitary group, telling reporters: “The military created a monster”.
Both paramilitary outfits are comprised of people recruited from indigenous communities.

What role does the military play?

Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, denied that the army is supporting paramilitaries and accused the NPA of pitting factions of Lumad communities against each other.
“Lumads are deceived by the communists through their recruitment efforts. For every five NPA members, four are Lumads from eastern Mindanao,” Caber told IRIN. “It is the communists who orchestrated everything that led to conflict within the communities.”

International rights groups as well as Filipino organisations such as Karapatan dismiss the idea that there is no link between the army and groups like Magahat and Alamara. Karapatan said it has documented the relationship between the military and Alamara going back to 2002.
Even the justice secretary, de Lima, linked the groups to the army in her statement on Sunday, repeatedly mentioning “paramilitaries” and promising “a conclusive probe on their supporters who fuel their criminal operations and acts of violence”.

The UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, has also expressed concern about links between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and paramilitaries. After visiting the region in July, he reported that indigenous people “described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP”.
Indigenous people took shelter at a sports stadium in the Philippines city of Tandag where they are shown 12 September after paramilitary members killed three leaders in their village two weeks before
Who are the guerillas?
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and has waged one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies for the past four decades. At the height of its power in the 1980s, the NPA had close to 30,000 fighters, but its ranks have fallen to about 5,000 today.

On Sunday, de Lima accused the NPA of “heightened recruitment” in Lumad communities, which she said had resulted in “the subsequent intensification of armed operations”.

Why target schools?

Schools run by religious and nongovernmental organisations have borne the brunt of attacks, as paramilitaries accuse them of indoctrinating students with communist ideology – a charge repeatedly denied by educators.

“The paramilitary group harasses them into joining, and if they refuse, then they say ‘Ah, you are a (communist) rebel’,” Kharlo Manano of the Salinlahi Alliance, an NGO that has been trying to help affected children back to school, told IRIN.

Is there hope for a credible investigation?

Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy director for Asia, said he welcomed de Lima’s pledge of a sweeping investigation into the activities of paramilitary groups and their backers. But he pointed to a history of military impunity and said the investigation would fail unless it resulted in paramilitary leaders being tried in civilian courts.

“The government has promised big before, and then failed to deliver,” he told IRIN. “So it's important to make sure the justice minister delivers on this promise and ensures no opportunity is missed to hold accountable those responsible.”

BIFF killed, explosives seized after clash with Army in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): BIFF killed, explosives seized after clash with Army in Maguindanao

A member of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed in a brief encounter with government forces in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Wednesday, the Army and residents here said.

Quoting reports from 2nd Mechanized Brigade, Capt. Joan Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the clash erupted at 6 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Mayanis when about 20 BIFF members fired at elements of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion of the 2nd Mechanized brigade under Colonel Lemet conducting patrol activities near a school.

After 30 minutes, the gunmen fled to different directions but government forces recovered several live ammunition 60 mm mortars used by BIFF in manufacturing improvised explosive devices.

The Army halted the manhunt on fleeing guerillas to allow civilians to get out of the way.

Residents said they are worried government forces will arrive and resume operations against the outlawed BIFF after reports that many of them have been charged in connection with the January Mamasapano encounter.

But Petinglay said the soldiers were not serving warrants of arrest since it was not their job. The soldiers were patrolling the village while securing a school compound nearby when attacked.

Datu Piang Mayor Genuine Kamaong, quoting reports from village officials, said the civilians have returned home although may are ready to move out should shooting war resumes.

PAF in the market for SF-260 trainer plane spare parts

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): PAF in the market for SF-260 trainer plane spare parts

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it is in the market for spare parts intended for the maintenance and recovery of one of its SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 trainer aircraft.

The said plane has tail number 027.

Major Gen. Isagani Silva, PAF Bidding and Awards Committee chair, in a bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System, said the project has a budget of Php13,207,728.

Bid opening is scheduled for Oct. 8, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 (now Alenia Aermacchi SF-260) is an Italian light aircraft marketed as an aerobatics and military trainer.

It was designed by Stelio Frati, originally for Aviamilano, which flew the first prototype of it (then designated F.260) on July 15, 1964.

Actual production was undertaken when SIAI Marchetti purchased the design soon thereafter and continued with this firm until Aermacchi bought the company in 1997.

The military versions are popular with smaller air forces, which can also arm it for use in the close-support role.

The PAF is known to operate between 10 to 18 units of the said aircraft in its inventory.

PHIBLEX 2016 opens Thursday

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): PHIBLEX 2016 opens Thursday

Filipino and American Marine units will formally start the nine-day Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) Thursday.

Opening ceremonies will take place at the Philippine Marine Corps headquarters in Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

PHIBLEX 2016, the 31st iteration of the annual military maneuvers, will end on Oct. 9, said PMC spokesperson Capt. Jerber Belonio.

He added that amphibious exercises will take place in different areas in Luzon, including Angeles-Clark, Pampanga with command post or table top exercises scheduled in Palawan.

Field exercises include small arms and artillery live-fire training.

Belonio stressed that the nine-day exercise is meant to improve interoperability of both forces in responding to crisis situations.

"PHIBLEX is a bilateral training between the Philippines and US forces so that we can maintain readiness, enhance interoperability and improve the ability for a bilateral Philippine-US force to respond to natural disasters or during crisis," he pointed out.

The humanitarian and civic assistance projects in Palawan will include engineering civic action projects, to improve local infrastructure, cooperative health engagements and to share medical best practices to meet the medical needs of Philippine citizens.

The humanitarian and civic assistance projects support the needs and humanitarian interests of the Philippine people.

All portions of PHIBLEX will also play a major role in preparation for the upcoming large scale exercise, Balikatan, to take place next year.

2 troopers abducted in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): 2 troopers abducted in Compostela Valley

Heavily-armed men flagged and abducted two motorcycle-riding soldiers in Monkayo town, Compostela Valley Wednesday afternoon.

The incident took place at 5: 45 p.m. at Barangay Casoon, Monkayo town.

Supt. Antonio Rivera, Southern Mindanao Regional Police spokesperson, identified the victims only as Pfcs. Alabaso and AƱueber, both members of Alpha Company, 25th Infantry Battalion.

He added that the two had just left their patrol base in Barangay Banlag when intercepted and abducted by heavily-armed men.

Tracking and pursuit operations are now ongoing.

DOJ Task Force on Anti-Terrorism scores victory vs. kidnapping syndicates

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30): DOJ Task Force on Anti-Terrorism scores victory vs. kidnapping syndicates

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force on Anti-Terrorism gained another court victory after the conviction of a notorious kidnapper, sending a warning to other syndicates operating with the same type of modus operandi.

Based from court information, Jomar Ulangkaya, along with three other suspects identified as Saudi H. Kassan, Mohaimen Abo and Mohammad Yusop Pasigan, who are still at-large up to this date, kidnapped a 9-year-old child in front of their house in Cotabato province.

Incidentally, the runaway vehicle of the suspects got into an accident.

To avoid being noticed by the locals of the area, three of the four suspects immediately fled the area after the incident.

Ulangkaya was the one who pursued with the plan of kidnapping the child.

Fortunately, the police were conducting operations in the area and managed to catch up with Ulangkaya.

The encounter ended with the suspect being caught and the victim rescued.

In a 9-page ruling, the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) sentenced the accused Ulangkaya to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and pay the victim whose identity is withheld, a sum of Php120,000 for nominal, moral and exemplary damages.

"This is a perfect example on how our justice system should be, this is a warning to those who continue to oppress the weak for selfish motives," DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima said.

"I commend the Task Force on Anti-Terrorism for this hard-earned victory," De Lima added.

Authorities are still conducting follow-up operations for the arrest of the other suspects who managed to escape after the incident.