Monday, October 5, 2015

Stakeholders vow to sustain peace and development in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 5): Stakeholders vow to sustain peace and development in Davao Oriental

Davao Oriental -- Marking the 12th Anniversary of the National Peace Consciousness Month, the Provincial Government, together with all stakeholders for peace and development here, have vowed to continue efforts in promoting the culture of peace and pushing for development in the province.

During its culmination program last September 30, Provincial Government officials, department heads, national line agencies, and Capitol employees have signified their support in peace building, minding their responsibility as citizens in upholding equality, respect and understanding as strong foundations of peace.

Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon said that the celebration of the Peace Month sends the message that each has a stake and responsibility in making peace regardless of geographic, religious, and cultural differences. “Despite our diversity we should all stand in unity to bring peace to this country,” she said.

Meanwhile, the governor cited the province’s significant gains in terms of peaceand development owing to the implementation of government programs, specifically province-initiated programs, that puts premium on socio-economic, social services, and rural infrastructures, which are felt even in the far-flung areas.

She also highlighted the Peace and Development Outreach Program jointly implemented by the Philippine Army, local government units, national agencies with private organizations and the communities, which made the province earn the status as a development-ready area.

Citing these milestones, guest Oliver Binancilan from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) pledged P1.5 million for livelihood project in conflict-affected areas, funded under the Pamana (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) Program.

While the government is doing its part in pursuing programs for development and safeguarding the communities against conflict and violence, Governor Malanyaon underscored the need for more people to get involved in the campaign for peace.“Peace to me is a very essential state as development.  I have always  expressed  my twin  goals  of  peace and development for Davao Oriental  because I strongly believe that there can never be sustainable development  if there is no peace  and we cannot attain true peace without development.  But this challenge of balancing peace with development should be faced with pragmatism – I cannot do this on my own.  This cannot be done alone by a few LGUs, or by some departments, or by selected agencies of government.   Peace should be everyone’s concern,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, backing the governor’s call for collaboration towards the attainment of peace, the 701st Brigade of the Philippine Army and the Davao Oriental Provincial Police Office (DOPPO) vowed to support the provincial government’s bid for just and lasting peace.

701st Brigade Deputy Commander Col. Victor Tan, who represented Brigade Commander Col. Bienvenido R. Datuin, Jr., assured that they will to do their part as active vanguards for peace and development. “Our very important task is our shared responsibility of safeguarding and preserving the peace that we have together achieved. Along this line, our continuous collaboration and partnership remain imperative and indispensable,” he said.

For his part, PSSUPT. Joseph B. Sepulchre, Provincial Director of the DOPPO, stressed his commitment to help make Davao Oriental a more peaceful and progressive province.

The National Peace Consciousness Month is celebrated every month of September following its declaration by virtue of Proclamation No. 675 on July 10, 2004. Bannered with this year’s theme “Pagkakaisa Tungo sa Patuloy na Kapayapaan” (Unity towards continuous peace), the commemoration enjoins and encourages all government agencies and instrumentalities to initiate and participate in relevant and meaningful activities to instill greater public consciousness of the peace culture.

Abducted Aggay surfaced at Cagayan PNP station by Army troopers

From InterAksyon (Oct 5): Abducted Aggay surfaced at Cagayan PNP station by Army troopers

An indigenous Aggay who was allegedly abducted Oct. 1 by army troopers in Barangay Masi, Rizal in the province of Cagayan was surfaced by the troops at the Police Station in the same town.

Based on the police blotter, Mennong Bisiotan Danao, also known as Lenor, 40 years old, was turned over to the Rizal Police Station on October 2 by 2nd Lt. Czar Carsido and 2nd Lt. Rowell Tagala, commanding officer of the Bravo Company and Platoon Leader of Scout Platoon Headquarters of the 17th IB of the 5th ID, respectively.

The blotter said Danao was arrested by the elements of the Philippine Army conducting a strike operation at Sitio Marungay, Brgy. Masi, Rizal, Cagayan.

Per the blotter, the troops recovered from Danao’s possession and control one M16 A1 rifle bearing serial number 251459 with one short magazine containing 19 live ammunition, one jungle pack and subversive documents.

In an earlier report by, the human rights watchdog Karapatan-Cagayan Valley and Danao kin claimed that he (Danao) was abducted by 25 soldiers by troopers from the 17th IB. They said the troops arrived on October 1 in Brgy. Masi and started searching the hut of Danao where they allegedly found a gun outside the hut and insisted that he (Danao) owned it.

Goyang Danao-Aglicosta, the victim’s daughter, reported that her father was sick, trembling and weak when taken by the troops, who also allegedly took from their hut a mobile phone, P1,400 in cash, a blanket and two hammocks.

The family said Danao's abduction was illegal, as no warrants were shown to them.

Football turns into a weapon for peace as Sparks reach out to kids in war-torn areas

Sports Interactive Network Philippines (Oct 5): Football turns into a weapon for peace as Sparks reach out to kids in war-torn areas

Football turns into a weapon for peace as Sparks reach out to kids in war-torn areas

Meralco Sparks players and coaches give a clinic to Marines who in turn will be tasked to introduce the Beautiful Game to kids in war-torn areas of Mindanao. Rhoel Fernandez 
BONGAO, Tawi Tawi - Riding in the back of a Mitsubishi pickup truck speeding on a scenic road along the coastline of Bongao Island, Loyola Meralco coach Simon McMenemy was a picture of bliss, considering he was in the middle of one of the Philippines’ most dangerous provinces.
The 37-year old Scot was sharing to some of his experiences in the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh a few years after the deadly 2004 tsunami that killed 167,000 people.
“There’s a reverence there, a sense that something very terrible happened. In the middle of a road there was a ship that was cut in half,” he said. Asked why he preferred to ride out in the open, the former Azkals coach, who would wave and smile to everyone we passed by, explained it was the best way to know a place and its people.
A few minutes later, we arrived at TOG Sultaw, a small Air Force camp bordered by the Sulu Sea and Sanga-Sanga Airport. And on a small patch of grass beside the runway where a C-130 was about to take off and with the holy mountain of Bud Bongao as a backdrop, McMenemy and his players began teaching marines, soldiers and airmen the basics of football.
Football for Peace
Football for Peace is the brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cabanlet. Outside his uniform, it’s easy to mistake the soft-spoken marine for a high school teacher.
When the Azkals rose to national prominence in 2010 (with the help of then coach McMenemy), Cabanlet, who was deployed with the 3rd Marine Battalion in Sulu, decided to use the sudden popularity of football as a medium that his men could use to win the hearts and minds of the children in their area of operations, a hotbed of an Islamic insurgency over the last several decades.
“Madaming nagtataka bakit football. Kahit ako minsan nagtatanong sa saking sarili. Minsan may mga pagkakataong binibigay sa atin na nagiging susi na puede mong gamiting pambukas ng oportunidad - either sa peace or sa (personal) success,” Cabanlet said.
In 2011, Cabanlet used football as a weapon for his men to achieve peace. What began as an pastime during off-duty hours drew curious children to their camp and the marines used it as an opportunity to establish bonds by teaching and playing with young people who practically grew up in a culture that guns are considered status symbols.
“Kapag nakamulatan mo ay baril, dala-dala mo na iyan, iyun na ang gusto mong hawakan. Sa amin dito, imbis na baril ang ipapakikita namin sa mga bata na hawak-hawak ng mga marines, bola ang simbolo para iwas ang pag-iisip ng mga bata sa mga baril na parating nakikita nila sa araw-araw.”
He noted that the children aren’t their enemies and that what they are trying to change is their mindset and along the way, provide some semblance of discipline to their lives, particularly how they value their studies and treat other people.
When the marines began Football For Peace, their objectives were pretty simple — to provide a venue for kids to become kids again and to open their young eyes that change is possible despite dire circumstances in a conflict area.
“Papalaruin ka namin ng football dahil gusto naming ikaw magbago. Papalaruin ka namin ng football kasi gusto ka naming maging katuwang para sa kapayapaan. Papalaruin ka namin ng football para mabago natin ang inyong komyunidad,” the colonel said.
Cabanlet said he realized that football - and sports for that matter - can unite Filipinos.
“May Gilas na tayo, lumalaban na tayo sa volleyball at sa football. So dito ang bola —anumang sports o laro na ating papasukan — patungo tayo sa pagbabago.”     
“Kung nangarap tayo ng pagbabago, saan ang simula? Sabi nga nila sa sarili. Tayong matatanda sarado na ang pag-iisip. Kaya ang target naming ang mga bata — ito ang bola. Ino-offer namin ay pagbabago. Bawat sipa mo ay pangarap, bawat sipa mo ay pagbabago, bawat goal mo ay may katapat na disiplina. Iyun ang binibigay namin sa mga bata,” Cabanlet pointed out.
Cabanlet’s faith in his fellow men was strengthened during the Zamboanga Siege where his battalion was involved in the fierce fighting. He was unable to be with his wife who was battling leukemia at the time and also did not have the money for her treatment. A newspaper reporter found out about his situation and wrote a story. To Cabanlet's surprise and everlasting gratitude, people suddenly chipped in and paid for the hospital bills.
Sparks answer call
One Meralco Foundation president Jeff Tarayao said it was McMenemy who insisted on holding a clinic in Mindanao. So in the last week of September and for the first time ever, a team from a professional sports league held a clinic in Tawi Tawi.
When McMenemy returned after a personal reconnaissance trip last August, the coach talked to the team, told them it was safe to go and asked for volunteers.
Answering the call were players James Younghusband, Simon Greatwich, Jake Morallo, Yves Ashime, Adam Thomas Mitter, Anthony Putrus Schnell, and Ricardo Padilla. Assisting him were assistant coach Gil Talavera and former Maldita player Isabella Fernando.
Ashime, the veteran defender from Cameroon, simply said, “Why not? It gives me the chance to share my knowledge and my passion. Unlike many sports, football is a sport for those who don’t have much,” citing Brazil’s Ronaldinho’s humble origins.  
From the time they landed in Bongao, the Sparks eschewed the provided air-conditioned coaster and chose instead to ride in (and on top) of the escorting Marine MMPVs (similar to the US-made Humvees) where the football ambassadors can see and be seen. The contrast between the team’s bright orange jerseys and the Marines’ digital woodland camouflage was striking. 
With ‘The Holy Mountain’ of Bud Bongao as a backdrop and the roar of a C-130 Hercules taking off, the Sparks spent Day One training 40 marines, sailors and airmen inside the air force camp just beside the runway.  
The Sparks took their coaches’ lead and brought not only self-inflating balls, cones, nets and gear, but more importantly the enthusiasm to impart their know-how to the servicemen in the limited time available.
The training was kept simple and fun and was meant to be easily remembered by the marines and soldiers who would then impart it to the children when their time came. After the session, several excited townspeople who were watching from the sidelines braved the sidelines and asked the players for selfies, with Younghusband being the favorite and the target of questions of where elder brother Phil was.     
'Kids here are fearless'
Day 2 was dedicated to the “One Day, One Goal Football Festival” where the Sparks got to interact with 300 kids from different elementary and high schools in a sun-beaten and dust-covered field in the middle of Bongao’s educational complex. The night before a beauty pageant was held as part of an ongoing festival and volunteers toiled more than eight hours to clean the trash left by thousands of spectators. Each team was assigned a coach who supervised drills followed by a friendly match.
The Sparks, no stranger to clinics and academies, later talked about the raw talent that they saw in the kids that require a lot of polishing and the need to learn basic techniques. One thing got their attention, though, that made them different from the kids in Manila.
“The kids here are fearless. We were all talking about that yesterday. During one of the games, one of the kids got a big cut on his face. The keeper was coming for the ball and normally you stop. The kid still went for it and got caught at the foot of the 'keeper and blood was coming out. That’s how we noticed first that they were really fearless. I guess it’s their way of life. They were really trained for worse e,” noted Belay Fernando. 
Undeterred by the lack of facilities and the late start, McMenemy was in his element and played both coach and entertainer, an advantage from his community outreach days. You could hear his brogue from one end of the field to the other.
Nothing, however, could prepare the coach for what would happen in the latter part of the clinic. Impressed by one of the kids who was sharing a pair of beat-up cleats with another teammate, McMenemy decided to open a large purple suitcase he had been lugging everywhere throughout the trip. Inside were several pairs of soccer shoes and football jerseys that were donated by friends and even foes. When the coach handed a pair of shoes to the surprised boy, the look on the child’s grateful face from a gesture so unexpected became too much for the normally cool and taciturn McMenemy who later admitted that he had to turn away or risk losing his emotions and embarrass them both.
“That’s the job. I love football. I love the coaching. I love the professional side. But the bit that gets me emotional, that soothes my soul - you don’t get to see me emotional when it comes to professional football — but the bit that gets to me is doing this,” he later admitted.
Eye-opening experience
I had the chance to talk to many of the Sparks, all of whom expressed hope in what they were doing and the willingness to return and become part of the clinic again. One the most insightful came from lone female member of their group, ‘Belay’ Fernando.   
On the return flight to Zamboanga, the former Maldita shared that the clinic was an “eye opening” experience for her and expressed admiration and respect for the marines and what they do.
“The best part of the trip for me was when we got to speak to the marines. They are in the frontlines and they really take this project seriously,” she told
In between clinics, she said the marines would talk to them and share their experiences from places such as Sulu, Misamis and Basilan.
“During combat operations, the marines practically fight with these children’s parents and unless things change, they will have to fight these kids in the future.”
“If the kids see them they will remember the marines next time they come back. The marines are using football to change the deadly cycle and the way these kids view life,” she added. 
One of the organizers told the Sparks of a boy kid who told them that if he was given a jersey he would show them he can dismantle an M-16 rifle while he was blindfolded. Another child chimed in claiming he can do it faster. The organizer told them he would give them complete kits if they promised to never use that skill again and to not take up arms.
Such stories from the marines provided the Sparks with perspective and an understanding of where the children were coming from.
“I understood why they were so fearless in playing and so determined. They’re different from the typical kids. They want to find a way out. It’s difficult to also get out of there but this is really basically getting out of a life or death situation.”  

In a place of conflict such as Tawi Tawi, soldiers have a “you or me” mindset, a mentality, Belay believes, that has been mirrored by the children.
“They had one kid. This is kind of sad. They keep track of them in the program. He was with Abu Sayyaf already and he was only six or seven years old. He decided to apply for the Football for Peace.  And then he would still go for the training. He’d go back and he’d go home. He lived with his grandfather kasi wala na yung parents. He’d go to the training then go home and when he started with Football for Peace he stopped going (to the ASG) and completely stopped. They found out, went to the grandfather’s house, asked for the kid, got him back and shot him twice (and he was) gone.”
In a deadly conflict that has spanned decades and has yet to see its last battlefield, the Marines, with the Football for Peace, are hoping that they win it by bringing the children of who they face, to a different field. 

Marines foil bomb plot by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Oct 6): Marines foil bomb plot by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu

Government forces foiled late on Monday a bombing plot by suspected members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu province, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, has disclosed.

Arrojado reported that the development came after elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-2 (MBLT-2) discovered a cellular phone-triggered improvised explosive device (IED) concealed in a bunch of lanzones fruits left at the side of the road.

Arrojado said the troops were manning a checkpoint at around 7:30 p.m. Monday along Airport Road in Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo, when they noticed two men on board a motorcycle stop around 20 meters away from them.

Arrojado said the two men disembarked and pretended to check the engine, and pushed the motorcycle past the checkpoint.

The troops noticed that the tandem rider left a bunch of lanzones, prompting them to inspect the fruits.

He said the troops immediately called the Explosive Ordinance Demolition (EOD) unit and successfully disabled the IED that was found with the fruits.

The components of the bomb consisted of two 60-mm mortar shells as the main charge, two kilograms of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO), powered by 9-volt battery with a cellular phone as the triggering device.

He said the attempted bombing is apparently aimed to sidetrack the military in its ongoing combat operations against the ASG.

Jaramillo book launched October 10

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Oct 5): Jaramillo book launched October 10

A BOOK on the life of Abra rebel leader Arnold “AJ” Jaramillo will be launched.
Jaramillio was one of nine people slain by Army soldiers in Guinguinabang, Lacub, Abra, on September 4, 2014. 

"He spent most of his time organizing the youth, students, and other sectors here in Baguio and Benguet to work for meaningful changes before joining the New People’s Army (NPA) in the year 2000 to struggle for a just and free society," wife Germelina Cynthia Dacanay-Jaramillo said.

On October 6, family and friends will celebrate his life and continue to seek for justice for his death.

The celebration will open with an exhibit on the life and works of AJ at the UP Baguio campus and on October 10 a launching of the book, "More Than a Red Warrior: Arnold Borja Jaramillo, The Beloved Son of Abra," will be done at the same venue.

Guest speakers at the launching are Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, Ph.D. of the College of Social Work and Development, UP Diliman, and Bonifacio Ilagan, award-winning writer and filmmaker.

Arnold Alamon, writer and Professor at then Mindanao State University (MSU) and Iligan Institute of Technology (IIT) writes, " There is an honesty in this volume that traces the story of the man who was also a doting father to a daughter and a son, a loving husband to a wife, and a sensitive son and brother to his own parents and siblings until he eventually became a top NPA commander in the mountains of the Cordillera for 14 years."

The family of Jaramillo will celebrate his 49th birth anniversary with the exhibit and book launch.

"What happened in Lacub last year prompted us, his family, friends, and former colleagues, to mount a campaign for justice – Justice for Lacub and justice for the martyrs of that fateful day – to hold the Philippine government and its security forces accountable in the face of violations on International Humanitarian Laws and the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL),” the family stressed.

Ex-NPA rebel found murdered

From Tempo (Oct 5): Ex-NPA rebel found murdered

Police authorities are investigating the motive behind the killing of a former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel whose cadaver was found in a mountain village in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat over the weekend.

Senior Supt. Danilo Reyes, Sultan Kudarat police director, identified the victim as Jerry Dalaganon, 45, a resident of Barangay Bangkal, Matanao, Davao del Sur.

He said the victim’s remains bore multiple hack wounds and was already in a state of decomposition when recovered by village officials in Barangay Datalbiao, Columbio, which is located at the boundary of Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

Police said the victim surrendered to the military on September 18.

Police tagged NPA rebels as behind the killing of the victim whom they considered as traitor for abandoning the underground movement.

Duterte: Two Samal kidnappers identified, arrested

From CNN Philippines (Oct 6): Duterte: Two Samal kidnappers identified, arrested

Two of the suspects in the abduction of four tourists on Samal Island on September 21 have already been identified. One of them has reportedly been arrested by the authorities.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte made this revelation on Monday afternoon (October 5) after attending the founding anniversary of Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Duterte gave the statement amid the continued refusal of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Oceanview to release any update regarding its probe on the incident.

SITG Oceanview released just one official update and has remained tight-lipped since then.

Duterte said the suspect was identified through the closed-circuit TV footage taken during the abduction.

He admitted being privy to the information as he attended the briefing by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Duterte also revealed that the kidnappers could be affiliated with Abu Sayyaf Group.

The SITG, however, said the New People's Army (NPA) could be behind the abduction based on the note left by the kidnappers which claimed they were from the NPA.

Efforts to confirm Duterte's latest revelation from the police and the military proved futile as of this posting.

Kidnappers identified?

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 5): Kidnappers identified?

MNLF official claims info on identity of group who took 4 in Samal

THE MORO National Liberation Front (MNLF) already knows the identity of the armed group that took three foreigners and a Filipina from a private resort in Island Garden City of Samal last Sept. 21.
In an interview yesterday, Abdul Aziz Olamit, vice chair in Central Committee of MNLF, said that they are familiar with the places where the kidnapped victims were reportedly brought.
“That’s why the group is willing to help,” Olamit said.
“There is information,” he said, on the identity of the abductors. “We are still monitoring who is the handler.
The victims were identified as Canadian John Ridsdel, former senior vice president for Canadian Mining Firm Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI); Canadian Robert Hall, formerly connected with a mining firm which has links with TMI, a mining company operating in Davao Oriental, Norwegian KjartanSekkingstad and Maritess Flor, Hall’s partner.
He also said that the armed group is aleady holed up in Talipao, Sulu and it’s being protected by the Abu Sayyaf.
Previously, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte revealed that he already sought the help of MNLF founder Nur Misuari to establish a communication link to the kidnappers believed to be allied with the Abu Sayyaf Group.
However, Olamit said they will meet with Duterte to discuss the next move before disclosing more details to the press.
In a separate interview, Supt. Antonio Rivera,spokesperson of Police Regional Office XI,said they can’t confirmed yet whether the watercraft found abandoned in Barangay Silangkan, Parang in Sulu were used by the group.
“We traced the engine but the Marina and LTO could not trace where it came from,” he said. “It’s possible that it’s registered in another area.”
As of now, authorities still haven’t received the ransom demand from the group.
“If it is ransom or whatever, (we hope) that it could be done as early as possible,” Duterte said during the City Peace and Order Council meeting last week. “We don’t really control their motivations but I would be very happy if it will really be soonest.”
Duterte also made sure that the emissary relay his request to treat the victims well and, “that they would come out of this terrible situation alive.”

Senate probe on Lumad killings: “apparent unholy alliance” and denials

From MindaNews (Oct 5): Senate probe on Lumad killings: “apparent unholy alliance” and denials

The two-day Senate probe on Lumad killings ended Friday afternoon with Mindanawon senators Teofisto Guingona III and Aquilino Pimentel III echoing the call of Lumads (Indigenous Peoples), church and local government leaders to arrest, disarm and disband the “Magahat-Bagani” paramilitary group that has been repeatedly accused of sowing terror in several towns in Surigao del Sur and whose disbandment has also been repeatedly sought.

But the Bishop of Tandag is still waiting for answers to critical questions about the “apparent unholy alliance between the military and the paramilitary which the military vehemently denies.” 

Bishop Nereo Odchimar in an interview with MindaNews after the Senate public hearing (Oct. 2, 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Bishop Nereo Odchimar in an interview with MindaNews after the Senate public hearing (Oct. 2, 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

On Thursday, Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar told the Senate probe on Lumad killings called for by the Committees on Justice and Human Rights, and Cultural Communities that he is “baffled” why, despite the military’s denials of an alliance, Marcial Belandres, one of the leaders of the paramilitary group and principal suspect in the October 2014 killing of Manobo teacher Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit, was among three persons presented as Datus in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on September 15.

In that press conference, Belandres and company cleared the military of alleged collusion with the paramilitary group and instead pointed to the New People’s Army (NPA) as the perpetrators of the killings and harassments.

The press conference came two weeks after the September 1 attack on Sitio Han-ayan, Diatagon, Lianga where Emerito Samarca, executive director of an alternative learning center, Lumad leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Bello Sinzo were killed early morning of September 1 by armed men known in the area as “Magahat-Bagani,” allegedly with soldiers from the 75th and 36th Infantry Battalions.

The Army Board of Inquiry said a military patrol was about a hundred meters away from the basketball court where the paramilitary group of about 20 held hostage at gunpoint about a hundred civilians, including women and children, but the patrol leader, a fresh graduate from the Philippine Military Academy, reportedly claimed they could not engage the armed group despite an order from their superiors, allegedly for fear of harming the civilians.

 A mother prepares sweet potatoes at the town gym in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur on Friday (02 October 2015). She and her sons are among the 1,000 individuals that fled Barangay Mahaba, Marihatag on Oct. 1 due to an ongoing military operation in their place. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

A mother prepares sweet potatoes at the town gym in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur on Friday (02 October 2015). She and her sons are among the 1,000 individuals that fled Barangay Mahaba, Marihatag on Oct. 1 due to an ongoing military operation in their place. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

The Philippine National Police (PNP) had filed a complaint for multiple murder, arson, robbery and grave threats at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Lianga town against the borthers Bobby and Loloy Tejero, Garito Layno, and several John Does.

The attack triggered the evacuation of some 3,000 residents from Han-ayan and 26 other villages in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel, Marihatag and Tago, who are now occupying the Sports Center within the Provincial Capitol compound in Tandag City.

Han-ayan residents interviewed by MindaNews at the evacuation center said the armed men warned they would return to “massacre” them. (Another wave of evacuees from Barangay Mahaba in Marihatag fled to the municipal gymnasium on Thursday, the first day of the Senate probe here, following an armed encounter believed to be between the military and the NPA, and the alleged sighting of Bobby Tejero, one of three identified killers in the September 1 attack in Han-ayan).

“Irony of ironies”
“Irony of ironies, this Marcial (Belandres) was one of three Datus brought to Camp Aguinaldo, given the opportunity to clear the military of any connivance,” said Bishop Odchimar, who served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines from 2009 to 2011.

Belandres was identified as among Alameda’s killers by Alameda’s wife Zenaida, who testified at the Senate probe. Odchimar said Belandres was also named in a January 2015 agreement to disarm and disband the paramilitary group led by Marcos Bocales, Belandres and a certain Calpit. The agreement was signed by representatives of displaced residents, local government and military and police officials.

Mindanawon senators Teofisto Guingona III (in black) and Aquilino Pimentel (right), at the Senate Probe on Lumad killings held in Tandag City on October 1 and 2, 2015. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Mindanawon senators Teofisto Guingona III (in black) and Aquilino Pimentel (right), at the Senate Probe on Lumad killings held in Tandag City on October 1 and 2, 2015. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Senator Guingona later asked the public not to be surprised as he himself was surprised when a member of his staff approached him while Alameda’s wife was testifying, that Belandres was with a group of Lumads who went to see him at the Senate on September 16 and even had a photograph with him. Guingona said he told the group who wanted to talk to him about what was happening in Surigao del Sur to testify at the Senate probe here. Belandres did not show up in the hearing but his companion in the Camp Aguinaldo press conference, Datu Rico Macat, testified.

The visit of Belandres’ group in the Senate came a day after their press conference and two days after Guingona delivered a privilege speech urging the Senate to conduct an investigation on the killings and harassments here and to “restore the rule of law in Surigao.”

In his privilege speech, Guingona said he wanted answers to these questions: “No. 1, Why did the armed forces not do anything?; No. 2, Why are the police not doing anything also when they have armed men knocking on doors of civilians?”


The Bishop also brought to the attention of the Senators that on September 29, or just two days before the start of the probe here, Belandres, his wife Gaga and their children, boarded Cebu Pacific flight 5J92 in Butuan for Manila, where “they were met (at the airport) by the military.”

“Now my question is,” Odchimar asked, “if there is no unholy alliance between the military and Bagani… why is the military coddling (them) if there is no connivance between the Bagani and the military?”

In response to Odchimar’s queries, Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Civil Relations Service, said that based on their data, Belandres “surrendered Aug. 23-25” this year, during the Peace Caravan that sent off the troops to conduct peace and development activities in the municipalities.

Kakila said Belandres “went through the process” that was “vetted by different local agencies in Surigao del Sur” before the formal surrender.

He said Belandres was in Manila “to speak about the truth on the dynamics” of the situation “and why this “inter-clan conflict” happened and how the NPA is allegedly destroying the Lumad community.

Kakilala said the NPA in the past gave the Datus a free hand to “engage with the different corporations engaged in logging and mining” on the “sharing between how much money they get from these companies” but that this agreement was revised by the NPA sometime in 2004 and 2005, with the NPA, not the Datus, already negotiating with the companies.

He said the Datus “resented that latest agreement” where the NPA negotiates on their behalf.

Han-ayan residents at the evacuation center told MindaNews that vested interest groups out to exploit the vast mineral deposits in their ancestral domain in Andap Valley could be the reason behind the deployment of soldiers and the paramility in their area.

“No case”
Kakilala also said Belandres “has no case at all.”

Senator Pimentel had earlier asked Chief Supt. Vert Chavez, acting chief of the PNP in Caraga, on the status of the case after the wife of Alameda testified.

He said the case was “still under investigation due to lack of witnesses.” Chavez said Mrs. Alameda’s Oct. 2014 affidavit did not name Belandres as among the killers. He said it was the first time he heard the wife name Belandres.

The two-day Senate probe on Lumad killings held in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, ended Friday afternoon with critical questions unanswered. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas T

he two-day Senate probe on Lumad killings held in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, ended Friday afternoon with critical questions unanswered. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

The senator proposed to Chavez to have a supplemental affidavit prepared now that the wife has named Belandres.

But even as Belandres may not have been named in Mrs. Alameda’s affidavit, he was one of two leaders of the paramilitary group named in the January 30, 2015 “Agreement on the return of the Evacuees to Barangays San Isidro and St. Christine” in Lianga town, where representatives of the provincial, municipal and barangay governments, as well as church leaders, military and police officials and representatives of the “bakwits” agreed, among others,  to “disarm and dismantle” the paramilitary group and to file charges against them immediately.

Col. Alexander Macario, chief of the 401st Brigade, signed on behalf of the military while Sr. Superintendent Narciso Verdadero, provincial director of the Philipine National Police (PNP) in Surigao del Sur, signed on behalf of the PNP.

Campos, one of the three persons killed on September 1, was among the signatories.

A similar agreement on November 3, 2014, stated that charges against the paramilitary group leader’s Marcos Bocales and Calpit be filed.

More questions
When the Senate probe resumed Friday morning, Odchimar, who spoke on behalf of the clergy and sisters of the Diocese of Tandag, and “I presume I also carry the voice of my brothers in the Christian denominations, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente represented here by five bishops,” said they would like to “share the demands” of Governor Johnny Pimentel that the accused in the September 1 killing of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo – and other killings, “be brought to justice.”

“In connection with this, I would like to ask the question. Does the mere fact of the surrender exonerate them from crimes committed before their surrender?,” Odchimar asked, referring to Belandres.

“We ask respectfully ask (for) the disarmament and disbandment of these armed groups,” he said.

Child evacuees hold classes at the evacuation center in Tandag City (Oct. 1, 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Child evacuees hold classes at the evacuation center in Tandag City (Oct. 1, 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

The Bishop also read a faded, undated document in Cebuano, purportedly from the Tribal Territorial Defense Force (TTDF – O Bagani), stating the Bagani was organized in 2006 “to defend our ancestral domain and to destroy the mass base of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front in the hinterlands.”

The statement called on all members of the Manobo tribe to stand up and fight and “reclaim our ancestral domain from the hands of the oppressive CPP/NPA/NDF.”

“Like a bibingka”
“The military and Bagani have a common enemy: the NPA,” Bishop Odchimar said.

But the Bishop also noted that he had copies of extortion letters “coming from so-called Bagani and from the NPA.”

“The Lumads are caught like a bibingka (rice cake): fire above and fire below,” to which Guingona replied, “bibingka talaga.”

The Bishop said “drastic measures” must be undertaken now to avoid a repeat of violent incidents.

“I don’t know whether there is an ulterior motive. Why are these Lumads being harassed?,” he asked.

The Bishop also wants to know why Secretary Corazon Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) offered a relocation site for the “bakwits.”

“If there is relocation, then there might be an ulterior motive of removing these people from that place. Why offer relocation when the people want to return to their place?” he asked.

But Governor Pimentel clarified that what Soliman offered was a temporary site that would serve as halfway house until the evacuees are “ready to return home.”

Common enemy
In an interview shortly after the probe was adjourned on Friday afternoon, Odchimar told MindaNews that “some questions” were not answered.

He said the military and the paramilitary have a common enemy, the NPA “so there could have been an unholy alliance. Because according to the claims of the people, no concrete action has been made in order to bring to justice the murderers and also the perpetrators of harassments.”

He said the paramilitary group seems to have been “just tolerated” as there are perceptions that “in some situations, the paramilitary helped the military fight the NPA so if this paramilitary group commits some crimes, they are reluctant to apprehend them because meron silang pinagsamahan” (they are allies).

“The perception is there is collusion between armed groups and the military and there seems to be indications like the ones we cited,” Odchimar said.

Governor Pimentel told the Senate Probe on Thursday that he hopes the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “would not be offended” but the perceptions that the “Magahat-Bagni” are supported by the AFP persists. “If (they are) not supported, then why can’t we apprehend or arrest these people” when the provincial government had already asked for the disbandment of the group “as early as last year.”

“How many more will die?”
He cited the extortion activities of the group in Barobo town. “How come the Bagani are roaming the province with high powered firearms?… How many more will die before this group is disbanded?”

Governor Pimentel as well as Lumad leaders and advocates also asked why the Bagani forces set up camps “near the camp of the Army,” an allegation the military denied.

“Mga santo ba gyud kaha ni nga mga tawhana nganong di man madakop? Inutil na ba ning atong gobyerno nga dili madakop kining mga (Bagani) forces? (Are they saints that they cannot be arrested? Is our government useless that it cannot arrest these forces?)

“I understand, ako okay ra ko kung gigamit (ang Bagani) sa counter-insurgency (it’s okay for me if the Bagani were used in counter-insurgency). Let them do their part pero kung masagad pati ang mga civilian, murag di na na sakto.” (but if civilians are harmed, that is not right).

More troops?
Bishop Odchimar said his question on whether surrender exonerates the person of a crime, also went unanswered.

Odchimar, however, expressed hope the Senate probe could lead to a resolution of this “very complex problem.”

But the Bishop cautioned Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Comand, from sending more troops to the province.

Baladad told the Senate probe on Friday morning that they are “contemplating on bringing in more troops” to help in the disbandment of these armed groups and go after the killers.

In matters of law enforcement, such as the arrest of criminals and disarming of armed groups, it is the PNP that takes the lead, with the AFP assisting. In counter-insurgency, it is the AFP that takes the lead, with the PNP assisting.

“I think there is still that lingering feeling against the military and the animosity among the people,” the Bishop said.

“I went around the sports center (where the “bakwits” are) asking at random and the pervading sentiment was that of fear (of) the military, the seeming animosity,” he explained.

“Now at this stage, to be bringing immediately the soldiers, the intention might be noble but …” Odchimar said.

Erlinda Pagalan, a bakwit from Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur share with a grandchild a small space at the evacuation site in Tandag City on Thursday (1 October 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Erlinda Pagalan, a bakwit from Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur share with a grandchild a small space at the evacuation site in Tandag City on Thursday (1 October 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

But he also acknowledged that he does not believe the police can do it alone. ‘They could not even serve the warrants of arrest,” he said.

Baladad said Surigao del Sur is second nationwide, after Compostela Valley, in terms of the NPA’s armed strength. It is also in the province of Surigao del Sur, he said, where the yearly celebration of the anniversaries of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples’ Army are celebrated.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said they will take all the necessary steps to support the PNP in arresting the perpetrators. “Together with the PNP, we will put a stop to this,” he vowed.

On the alleged coddling of the paramilitary group, Lactao said the Army is a professional organization that “never condones” the presence of lawless armed groups.

Returning home
“I feel so sad,” Sister Stella Matutina, a Benedictine nun based in Marihatag town, emphasized that justice should be given for those who were killed. “They were not NPA. They were civilians.”

Matutina said concrete actions must be undertaken for the “bakwits” who had been staying at the Sports Center here since September 1. “Twelve mothers had given birth and 52 mothers are about to give birth,” she said, adding the evacuees want to go home where their livelihood is.

“We want help from you, Senators, (we want) immediate action (so) that these people can go back,” she said.

On the disarming of the paramilitary group, the nun said, “I think we should not evade questions…. our question now is to face problem of people in evacuation centers.”

One of the “bakwits” in the evacuation center, Jocelyn Pagalan, a 36-year old Manobo leader, mother of four and grandmother to a four-day old baby at the time of the attack on September 1, told MindaNews they will only return home if their security is guaranteed, the killers are made to answer for their crimes, the military is pulled out from their areas and the “Bagani” is disbanded.

North Cotabato villagers flee clan wars; local officials intervene for peaceful settlement

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): North Cotabato villagers flee clan wars; local officials intervene for peaceful settlement

At least 300 families from a remote village in Alamada, North Cotabato have fled their homes following renewed hostilities involving two armed groups Sunday, officials said today.

The evacuees are now housed in the Barangay Center of Barangay Bao, Alamada, North Cotabato.

North Cotabato Board Member Kelly Antao quoted Alamada officials that the civilians fled at least three “sitios” (sub-villages) Sunday after sporadic fighting erupted between Iranun tribesmen and Ilonggo settlers in Sitio Kaing, Sitio Papandaya and Sitio Naranbuay.

The fighting left two persons wounded. They were identified by the local police as Jose Kagud and Samir Armada.

Antao said on Saturday, he and Board Member Loreto Cabaya have initiated a dialogue involving the warring groups and both agreed to settle the conflict peacefully.

Antao said the conflict started when a group of Ilonggo allegedly attacked three men belonging to Iranun tribe who have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Two were killed and another was wounded.

The Iranun tribe, led by a certain Commander Datumanong, led the attack on another sub-village to avenge the death of two Iranun villagers, sending residents to evacuate.

In the peace dialogue Saturday, Antao said the Ilonggo settlers agreed to surrender the suspect in the earlier incident and allow the police to file appropriate charges.

“The warring families agreed to allow the filing of charges and let the law takes its course,” Antao said. “I was surprised the armed conflict erupted anew.”

He said both sides have different versions of what triggered the hostilities.

In the meantime, a team of soldiers belonging to the 45th Infantry Battalion and Alamada PNP have been deployed to Barangay Bao to act as peacekeepers.

The municipal social welfare office of Alamada is now attending to the needs of displaced families.

DND's JCPV Phase 3A project now open for bidding

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): DND's JCPV Phase 3A project now open for bidding

The project designed to improve the armament, optical sights and munition supply for the Philippine Navy's three Jacinto class patrol vessels (JCPV) has been finally opened for bidding.

Bid opening and submission is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Department of National Defense-Bids and Awards Committee Conference Room, Basement Right Wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The project, officially called the JCPV Phase 3A, has a budget of PhP 630,637,163.60 which will be sourced from the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

JCPV Phase 3A involves "the restoration and sustainment of two 76mm for two JCPVs, three 25mm gun systems for three JCPVs, delivery of two brand-new electro-optical fire control systems and sensors for two JCPVs and supply and delivery of ammunition for three JCPVs."

Winning bidders are required to delivery these items within 25 months.

"Only system integrators who are themselves manufacturers of the main weapon system, fire control system or the Combat Management System are eligible to participate in the bidding," DND-BAC Chair and Sssistant Secretary Ernesto D. Boac said.

The JCPV is one of the most modern surface combatants of the PN.

The three ships were originally operated by the Royal Navy in Hong Kong.

They were sold to the Philippines in August 1997 when Great Britain's lease on Hong Kong ended.

Bid opening was earlier scheduled for March 10 but was put in abeyance pending the signing of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program. The program was signed last July 22.

4 killed, 2 hurt in Sulu shooting

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): 4 killed, 2 hurt in Sulu shooting

Four persons were killed while two others were seriously wounded in a shooting incident in Banguigui town in Sulu early morning Monday.

Killed were Junaid Ayyub, 52, married; and children Adzani, 3; Auja, 16, single and Almasin, 10.

Wounded were Ayyub's two other children identified as Alnaid, 15 and Rene, 9. Both are now undergoing treatment at Zamboanga City.

Initial investigation conducted by Police Officer 3 Sherwin Ladja indicated that a certain Asan Fnu, a resident of Sitio Bait, Barangay Lahing-Lahi, Omar town, and two others carried out the attack with M-16 automatic rifles at around 1 a.m. at Barangay Sigumbal.

Investigations revealed that the suspects barged into the victims' house and opened fire, killing four of them on the spot and wounding two others.

The suspects immediately fled aboard a motorized banca after the shooting. Police are still determining the motive for the bloody attack.

40% of KFR cases from January - September solved - PNP-AKG

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): 40% of KFR cases from January - September solved - PNP-AKG

The Philippine National Police- Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) on Monday reported that 10 out of the 25 reported kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) cases has been solved.

The said figures shows 40 percent of the KFR cases for the past nine months of the year has been solved.

Of the 25 KFR cases from January to September this year, nine were reported in Luzon, while two in Visayas and 14 were reported in Mindanao, Sr. Supt. Roberto Fajardo, Director of PNP-AKG said.

Meanwhile, he added that 35 or 63 percent cases of the 50 KFR cases recorded in 2014 were solved. Out of the said number of KFR cases, 28 were in Luzon, 22 in Mindanao while no incident was reported in Visayas.

Meanwhile, Fajardo expressed alarm over the increase of hoax kidnapping cases this year.

Statistics reveals that last year a total of nine hoax KFR incidents were recorded and investigated by AKG. At present, the AKG already handled 10 fake kidnap for ransom cases, he said.

Two months before the end of the year, the false reporting of kidnapping cases greatly affects the human and budgetary resources of the AKG, Fajardo explained.

With this development, the AKG sought the assistance of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to help them in formulating a law that will punish persons faking kidnap for ransom incidents.

”We are continuously appealing to the public and to our media friends to help us stop if not, deter kidnapping by providing vital information on the suspects to include incidents of kidnappings and the AKG hotline numbers are 09189002020, 09273234894 and (02) 7270000,” Fajardo said.

Under the Oplan Lambat Sibat, the AKG neutralized 29 kidnap-for-ransom suspects as compared to the 31 suspects collared for the whole year 2014.

The AKG assured that it will strengthen its efforts to catch more KFR perpetrators.

DFA validating identity of alleged Filipina arrested for terrorism in Saudi

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): DFA validating identity of alleged Filipina arrested for terrorism in Saudi

The Department of Foreign Affairs is validating the identity of the foreign national who was identified as Filipino and arrested in Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in terrorism.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippine embassy in Riyadh has already requested access to the woman identified by Saudi media as Lady Gioi Aban Bali Nang.

“Our embassy would like to see her face to face and talk to her to verify her identity and nationality,” Jose said.

The woman was caught wearing a vest packed with explosives. She was arrested along with a Syrian man, who reportedly abducted her.

Jose said the embassy is waiting for the Saudi Foreign Ministry to grant their request for access.

"We’ll be able to get more details once the embassy talks to her. We are still awaiting word from the ministry,” Jose said.

Philippine Navy to participate in SEACAT 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Philippine Navy to participate in SEACAT 2015

The Philippine Navy (PN) will participate in a US Navy-led multilateral exercise codenamed SEACAT (Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training) together with the navies from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

SEACAT 2015, which started Monday, marks the 14th in the series, PN public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna said.

SEACAT is a scenario-driven tracking exercise which focuses on real time information exchange between the navy units involved, coordinated monitoring and close observation on our maritime territory, tracking suspicious vessels, and eventual conduct of visit, board, search and seizure to the SEACAT-controlled contact of interest or the supposed suspicious target vessel.

The field at-sea training is carried out in each country’s territorial waters.

In the Philippines, the exercise will be conducted within the area of responsibility of Naval Forces North West which is the West Philippine Sea area, in vicinity off Subic Bay area, Manila and its approaches.

Lued said SEACAT 2015 will see some of the PN’s surface, air assets and special operations units interoperating with other navies as they aim to expand information-sharing capabilities, improve interoperability among military, and law enforcement agencies in the region and provide opportunities to participating navies to gain good working experience in a multilateral environment.

Involved in this exercise are the two Philippine Navy patrol vessels, air assets and members of the Naval Special Operations Group.

Also included is the high-speed vessel United States Navy Ship Millinocket (JSHV-3) which is a flexible platform that can be used to provide rapid projection of task tailored for response to a wide range of military and civilian contingencies such as non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

SEACAT 2015 also aims to enhance the PN’s capability in its fight against transnational crimes, and other maritime threats in the region.

Senate okays bill giving free education to dependents of soldiers killed in line of duty

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Senate okays bill giving free education to dependents of soldiers killed in line of duty

The Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2952 granting educational assistance and benefits to the dependents of soldiers, firemen and law enforcers killed in action or permanently incapacitated while performing their duties.

Senators Vicente Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Pia Cayetano filed the bill, known as an act granting educational assistance and benefits to the dependents of all members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), National Bureau of Investigation(NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“This measure seeks to address the need to improve the government’s assistance to the dependents of our uniformed personnel and law enforcement agents who are killed in action or are permanently incapacitated, as a way of giving back and honouring their sacrifices for the country,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.

Under the bill, beneficiaries shall be extended full scholarship from elementary to tertiary level whether baccalaureate, formal or non-formal education or training program in a non-exclusive school or institution.

The scholarship privilege would include the payment of tuition and miscellaneous fees, allowance for books and school supplies, as well as allowance for food and transportation, according to the bill.

3 ranking AFP officials promoted to next higher rank

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): 3 ranking AFP officials promoted to next higher rank

Three ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were promoted to their next higher rank on Monday afternoon.

Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, AFP deputy chief-of-staff, received his third star at the Hall of Flags in AFP’s General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City at 1 p.m.

Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad, Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command, also received his third star along with Major Gen. Angelito De Leon, AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations, who donned his second star in the same ceremony.

Presiding in their donning ceremony was AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri.

All three officials were accorded with the traditional honors given to military officers moving up the ranks.