Saturday, October 10, 2015

IGP Khalid: We're working with Filipinos on kidnapped duo's release

From the Star Online (Oct 10): IGP Khalid: We're working with Filipinos on kidnapped duo's release

Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

SUBANG JAYA: Malaysian authorities are working with their counterparts in the Philippines to ensure the safety and release of two Malaysians who were kidnapped in Sabah in May.

Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar assured the families of Bernard Then and Thien Nyuk Fun that they were doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of the victims.

"We are working closely with the Philippines on the matter."

"The kidnappers have been threatening the victims since the beginning but we are hopeful that we can work together with our counterparts to bring them home safely,” Khalid told reporters after launching the Sukep Bowling tournament at a shopping mall here on Saturday.

It was reported that Then, 39, and Thien, 50, were held by the notorious Abu Sayyaf gunmen and are living on borrowed time with every passing day.

The militants' threat to behead Then could turn out to be a reality if nothing is done to secure his release soon.

Both were abducted on May 14 from a restaurant in Sabah. It was reported that the militants are now on the run with the military in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines island of Jolo.

Philippine cargo ship crew thwarts attempted piracy

From CTV News (Oct 10): Philippine cargo ship crew thwarts attempted piracy

Ship thwarts hijacking

Philippine Navy and Coast Guard are pictured on Sunday Aug. 18, 2013. (AP / Bullit Marquez)

The quick-thinking crew of a Philippine cargo ship thwarted a possible a hijacking or robbery at sea Saturday in the country's volatile southern region by locking themselves in their quarters, the coast guard said.

About eight men on two motorized outriggers boarded the MV Cecilia off Davao del Sur province, but the crew quickly locked all the vessel's hatches and windows, said Commodore Joselito dela Cruz, a coast guard district commander on the main southern island of Mindanao.

He said the suspected pirates left empty-handed before a coast guard vessel arrived at the site, near Balut Island.

Dela Cruz said it was unrelated to the kidnapping last month of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman from Samal Island, a resort island less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

"We can say that this is an isolated incident," he said.

There has been no word on the fate of the four Samal kidnap victims.

An Italian businessman who once served as a Roman Catholic missionary also was kidnapped earlier this week in Dipolog city in southern Zamboanga del Norte province. No group has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, although suspicion has fallen heavily on militants from the Abu Sayyaf group which operates in the region.

China vows to keep building on reefs in South China Sea as lighthouses are completed

From InterAksyon (Oct 10): China vows to keep building on reefs in South China Sea as lighthouses are completed

China on Saturday vowed to continue building in disputed reefs of the South China Sea, as state media said construction had finished on two lighthouses on reefs claimed by other countries.

Beijing has been bolstering its claim to almost all the South China Sea by rapidly building large artificial structures resembling islands, straining ties with neighbours.

The lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands have been officially opened, the state-run Xinhua news agency said late Friday.

China established control of the Johnson South Reef after a skirmish with Vietnam in 1988. The Philippines claims both reefs as part of its territory.

The lighthouses are 50 meters high, Xinhua said. State television grave prominence to images of the white-structures standing above blue waters.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in an online statement that they would improve "safety of navigation" for ships.

"Next, China will continue to build other civil facilities on occupied islands reefs in the Nansha Islands," she added using China's name for the Spratlys.

China's building has increased tensions with Washington, which has condemned the structures.

Hua's statement came after reports said that the US would send navy ships close to the islands built by China, testing whether Beijing will defend them.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam -- all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- claim parts of the sea, while Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will not militarize its newly-built structures in the Sea, but satellite images show it has constructed runways capable of use by air force jets.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.

Washington has signaled it does not recognize Beijing's sovereignty over the several islands China has built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago and says the US navy will continue to operate wherever international law allows.

The issue is central to increasingly tense relations between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies.

Beijing has said construction in the region is to help maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection and navigational security. It has also said it will continue to build other installations to better serve countries in the region and vessels navigating those waters.

Lumads invited to peace, human rights event

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 9): Lumads invited to peace, human rights event

The lead organizer of YES FOR PEACE – Bayanihan para sa KKK (Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran, Kasaganahan) has invited the Lumads to an event, which will serve as a venue to air their grievances before peace and human rights advocates.

Ernesto Alcanzare invited the indegenous people who came from Southern Mindanao to join the unveiling, and then the launching of  “YES FOR PEACE: Asserting Peace as a Human Right” to be held on October 10, 2015, 10 AM at the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Palma Hall, UP Diliman.

The event will also unveil the YES FOR PEACE ROCK Marker and reiterate the declaration of all campuses of the University of the Philippines, a wellspring of the progressive movement, a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), and revive the offer for campuses of the university as venue for open and participatory peace negotiations.

In recent weeks, disturbing news of the killing of Lumads in Surigao and the suffering of thousands who were forced to leave their homes in evacuation centers have hogged print, broadcast and even social media.

Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights will give the keynote address and respond to the cries of Lumads who are now calling for the resumption of the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army and National Democratic Front (CNN).

Thus far, there are 11,236,918 KaBayanihans of YES FOR PEACE ( calling for the cessation of the armed conflicts between the government and all armed groups; the conduct of peace negotiations here in the Philippines instead of abroad; and Bayanihan (collective involvement and participation) for the implementation of programs and projects to be agreed upon for the realization of an era of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.

Also invited to share their commitment to the peace process is Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Negotiating Panel through Al Camlian, member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Feature: Slain general's wife recalls 1977 Patikul massacre

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Feature: Slain general's wife recalls 1977 Patikul massacre

Thirty-eight years after the infamous Patikul massacre, Mrs. Gloria T. Bautista, 81, widow of the late Brig. Gen. Teodulfo S. Bautista, one of the 35 officers and men massacred during a supposed “surrender” by Muslim rebels, recalled how she received with grief the sad news regarding the death of her husband.

The first inkling she got that something bad had happened to her husband was when Mrs. Ioni Mison, wife of Col. Salvador M. Mison, then commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division of the Philippine Army based in Basilan.

It was on Oct. 10, 1977 that Gen. Bautista, commanding general of the Army’s Ist “Tabak” Division, and 34 of his troops were baited by Usman Sali, a ranking leader of the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu, to go the town of Patikul where Usman and his men were to “surrender.”

Gen. Bautista took the bait and before he and his group knew, they were mercilessly massacred.

In an interview with this reporter on Friday on the eve of the 38th anniversary of the bloody massacre, Mrs. Bautista said when she heard Mrs. Mison about an armed clash in Sulu, she interrupted Mrs. Mison and asked the latter if her husband (Gen. Bautista) was killed.

However, Mrs. Mison did not directly answer Mrs. Bautista, and tried to parry the question by saying “I can’t hear you because of the blaring of the radio.”

“Though she did not answer my question, I knew my husband was killed,” Mrs. Bautista said.

She was nervous but was able to maintain her composure as she began calling her friends in Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) but could not get a reply.

“But early evening of that day, a seven-man AFP team came to my house. At that point, I knew that my husband was among the casualties,” Mrs. Bautista said.

“When they entered our house, the leader of the AFP team did not say word and it was me who told him 'alam ko na' (I knew already) what you would tell me. That’s when officer confirmed about what happened to my husband,” she added.

“Before that the team leader castigated a soldier for telling me in advance that my husband has been killed, but I told them he (the enlisted) did not tell me anything,” Mrs. Bautista averred.

For the AFP, October 10, 1977 was a day of infamy.

Only an army enlisted man, a certain Sgt. Calzado, the radio operator of the Tabak Division, was the only survivor in the grisly massacre by playing dead.

Defense reporters, including this writer was at the AFP Pubic Information Office in Camp Aguinaldo when then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo C. Espino announced the earth shaking news about the massacre.

The AFP’s rank and file could not believe 35 soldiers, including a general and four Army colonels were massacred in the Patikul public market just like that.

Martial law was still in effect at that time and defense reporters could not just write stories about the fighting without clearance from the defense or military hierarchy.

But the massacre of Gen. Bautista and 34 of his men was an exception. Military authorities allowed defense reporters to write the story of the massacre, giving us all the information we needed. We wrote our stories with gusto!

Retired Brig. Gen. Arnulfo D. Bañez, then AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J2) and deputy of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), now 92, could still remember the details of the gory massacre.

Bańez said Gen. Espino was shocked upon receiving the news of the massacre.

He said they were in Davao City conducting a regular inspection of troops when Espino was informed late in the afternoon of Oct. 10, 1977 about the massacre of Bautista and 34 of his men.

“Gen. Espino’s immediate reaction was to rush to Jolo, Sulu that very moment but Col. Tony Lukban, the pilot of the F-27 Fokker plane of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), told the general that the Jolo airport has no landing lights and suggested they fly early the following morning,” Bańez said.

Piecing together the massacre, Bañez, still witty and strong, said Sali agreed to meet with Gen. Bautista originally at the headquarters of the Army’s First Infantry Division, for a peace dialogue together with 150 of Sali’s men.

But a last minute decision was made by Sali and proposed to Gen. Bautista that they instead meet at the Patikul public market.

With full sincerity in his heart, Gen. Bautista agreed without second thought of any security threat from Sali.

Worse, Sali convinced Bautista not to bring with them their firearms. It was a fatal mistake.

Bañez said that when Bautista and his group were on their way to Patikul, he saw his classmate, Col. Pangilinan, the AFP adjutant general, who was conducting a seminar in Jolo.

Bautista told Pangilinan to join him in Patikul for a peace dialogue with MNLF commander Usman Sali.

In fact, Bautista earlier asked then Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary and AFP vice chief of staff, who was in Jolo at that time to join him but Ramos declined because he had a previous engagement in Zamboanga City.

Bañez said that “when Bautista and his men arrived in Patikul public market aboard two 6x6 trucks in the morning of Oct. 10, 1977, the place was empty.”

“Normally, being a public market the place is always full of people but this time not a shadow was seen,” he said.

“But still Gen. Bautista did not suspect any bad omen was going to happen,” Bañez said.

“Gen. Bautista went there to have peace with the rebels, no more, no less,” he added.

“However, it was weird a place that Usman Sali and his men did not show up,” he said.

“Then three to four men suddenly showed up as Bautista and his troops sat down on a long table waiting for Usman Sali,” Bañez said.

“All of a sudden a burst of automatic gunfire reverberated all over and Gen. Bautista and his officers and men were killed instantly like sitting ducks, unaware of what hit them,” Bañez said with tears in his eyes.

“It was a bloodbath. Worse, Sali and his men hacked the already dead soldiers, including Gen. Bautista. The hapless soldiers sustained hack wounds all over their bodies.” It was brutal of the first degree,” he said.

Also at that time, Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, then chief of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), who was in Jolo to visit AFP troops, was invited by Gen. Bautista to join him to Patikul.

Had Ramos went with Bautista’s group, he could be one of those massacred.

The Patikul Massacre was a painful lesson the AFP will never forget. Never lower your guard.

During the interview, Mrs. Bautista lamented that 38 years have passed since her husband was killed in line of duty but she receives a monthly pension of a measly PHP1,000 a month from the AFP.

“It is too small an amount, but what can I do?” she said.

“In fact, I got no lump sum when my husband was killed in line of duty. I just don’t know why?” Mrs. Bautista added.

However, Mrs. Bautista said she was glad that all veterans and surviving wives receive PHP5,000 per month from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) but still the total amount of P6,000 is not that big, considering the high prices of commodities these days.

But she was thankful that all their five children, including retired Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, former AFP chief of staff, have finished their studies and have their own income.

Gen. Bautista, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class 1951, was supposed to retire from active military service five months before his untimely death. He was 49. At that time, the 56-year old mandatory retirement age was not yet in effect.

“Had my husband been able to retire, his plan was to buy a one hectare of farmland in Cabanatuan City where he would work as a farmer,” Mrs. Bautista said.

(News Feature) Roy gets a star

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): (News Feature) Roy gets a star

For troopers engaged in search-and-retrieval operations, having a trained military working dog (MWD) has again proven that dogs are really man's best friend.

This was proven anew when four-year-old Roy, one of the 149 MWDs assigned to the Philippine Army (PA), successfully detected four cadavers buried in a landslide triggered by Typhoon "Ineng" in Mankayan, Benguet last August.

At that time, Roy only recently finished his training and was on his first operation, Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said.

He added that Roy was a member of the PA's 5th K-9 Company and a Labrador and Aspin (Asong Pinoy/Askal) cross breed.

His potential to become a MWD was discovered while he was at the K-9 headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

At his tender age, he showed a drive, characterized by his love for balls (toys), running around, and chasing and playing with the handlers.

Exhibiting these traits, he went through the Basic Obedience Training.

After which, he specialized in combat tracking and finished the 6 months training just last February at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. He was then deployed at the 5th Infantry Division in Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

"Roy is a special MWD. Despite being a mixed breed, he is intelligent and capable. He can keep pace with the pure breeds," 5th K-9 Company team leader Sgt. Wilfredo Fiesta said.

Fiesta has been an MWD handler for almost 10 years already.

While Roy's handler, Pfc. Crisanto De Gracia, has been continuously training the former.

"Part of our daily routine is the continuous training exercise. As a handler, it is important to develop a bond with the dog. We do this with daily activities so that we can both be familiar with each other," he added.

For his involvement in the search and retrieval operations in Benguet, Roy and the Army K-9 Battalion received a Certificate of Recognition from the Bureau of Animal Industry.

Roy was also given a star by the Intelligence Service Group during their anniversary, for being a search-and-rescue dog.

Improvised bombs topple 2 NGCP steel towers in N. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Improvised bombs topple 2 NGCP steel towers in N. Cotabato

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- Suspected extortionists set off improvised explosive devices on two steel towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Friday night, sending parts of North Cotabato and the whole of Maguindanao, including Cotabato City, in total blackout for about four hours.

Last night's attack was the fourth this year against NGCP towers in Pikit, North Cotabato and nearby Pagalungan in Maguindanao.

Power was restored at past 3 a.m. after a series of blasts toppled NGCP Towers No. 44 and 45 in Barangay Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato.

"We suspect extortion groups were behind the bomb attacks," Senior Inspector Sindatu Karim, Pikit town police chief, said.

No one has claimed responsibility but Karim believed extortionists operating in North Cotabato were behind the attack.

Responding Army and police bomb experts belonging to Task Force Pikit found fragments of 60 mm mortars at the toppled towers in Barangay Batulawan, Pikit where the explosives went off at 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Power was cut in parts of North Cotabato, the whole of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.

Power officials said the toppled towers transmit 138 KV line from Kibawe power station in Kibawe, Bukidnon to Kabacan, North Cotabato and Simuay station in Maguindanao.

According to Karim, the towers were located about 300 to 400 meters away from a militia detachment in the national highway of Barangay Batulawan.

He estimated about six to seven IEDs were planted in adjoining steel towers.

"These were very powerful bombs that it toppled the steel towers," Karim said.

Police and Army bomb experts are still in the area conducting post blast investigation.

Following the incident, NGCP transmit powers from Tacurong Sub-Station to Simuay station at past 2:30 a.m.

Previous attacks on NGCP power lines were blamed to outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which also operates in Pikit.

Large areas of Central Mindanao were plunged into darkness Sunday night when another transmission tower of the NGCP was bombed in Pikit, North Cotabato.

On January 13 and 18 this year, suspected extortionists toppled Tower 26 and Tower 41 in Barangay Ginakit, Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Barangay Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato, respectively.

Like last night's attacks, bombs were crafted from 60 mm or 81 mm mortar shells with mobile phones as triggering devices.

The January bomb attacks also sent part of North Cotabato, the whole of Maguindanao and Cotabato City in total blackout for about three hours.

Authorities blamed the outlawed BIFF in the January attacks.

Police arrest owner of ex-Italian priest abductors’ getaway vehicle

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Police arrest owner of ex-Italian priest abductors’ getaway vehicle

The police have arrested the owner of the getaway vehicle used by the gunmen who abducted a former Italian priest in Dipolog City, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte.

Supt. Redentor Retusto, Zamboanga del Norte police director, identified the owner of the getaway vehicle as Amante Sagario, 49 of Pagadian City.

Earlier, it was reported that Sagario is a resident of Katipunan village, Taguig City, Metro Manila.

However, Retusto said Sagario was arrested Friday by the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) at his rented apartment in Barangay Balangasan, Pagadian City, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur.

Sagario was identified as the owner of the silver metallic van (TMY-490) that was used by the gunmen in the abduction of Rolando Del Torchio, a former Italian priest.

Del Torchio was seized by around 10 gunmen around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday from UrChoice Bistro Café along Quezon Avenue, Barangay Miputak, Dipolog City.

The suspects dragged the victim to a waiting van with plate number TMY-490 and sped towards the boulevard in Purok Bularan, also in Barangay Miputak.

They alighted and abandoned the van and transferred to two waiting motorboats colored white and blue that sped towards south direction.

Retusto said Sagario was placed in the custody of the Dipolog City police and undergoing investigation in connection with the abduction of Del Torchio.

He said efforts to establish the whereabouts of Del Torchio continued.

DND chief vows to support PVAO initiatives to uplift veterans' well-being

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): DND chief vows to support PVAO initiatives to uplift veterans' well-being

As the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) celebrates its 43rd founding anniversary Friday, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin pledged to support all initiatives that will uplift the welfare and well-being of the veterans and their families.

The defense chief made this statement during the anniversary celebrations at the PVAO Covered Court, Veterans Compound, Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Gazmin also lauded the unwavering commitment of PVAO in fulfilling its mandate as the primary agency that looks after the welfare of veterans and in propagating their heroic deeds among the Filipino people especially the youth.

He also underscored the reforms initiated by PVAO in transforming itself into a more efficient and effective agency in accomplishing its three major functions, namely: administration of pension and non-pension benefits for the veterans and their dependents; preservation and development of military shrines and propagation of our veterans’ heroic deeds; and the management of veterans-related affairs.

The DND chief commended PVAO for coming up with a well-deliberated strategic roadmap, the Kagitingan Roadmap 2022, which serves the agency’s blueprint to sustain the early gains of reforms undertaken by the agency and ensure that its strategic initiatives will endure changes in leadership.

The roadmap reflects PVAO’s goals to transform the veterans from being merely dependent clients to empowered partners, veterans’ organizations from being self-centered, factionalized and marginalized to being united and empowered; underutilized assets and properties to being optimized and the benefits derived from them equitably shared. It also seeks to shift shrines and memorials to instruments that instill national pride and patriotism and make commemorative events pervasive and community-based. Specific projects in the roadmap also aims to rationalize pensions and benefits structure, and to ensure veterans’ overall welfare and wellbeing.

“I cannot wait to be a witness to the realization of your goals as laid in this blueprint. May you bring 'Kagitingan' back to its deserved place in our nation’s value system through this roadmap,” Gazmin added.

NGCP restores power in North Mindanao after tower bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): NGCP restores power in North Mindanao after tower bombing

The country's grid operator, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), has restored power in North Mindanao after two transmission towers were bombed by armed men in North Cotabato Friday.

In a statement Saturday, the NGCP said that power transmission service to the affected areas, namely Cotabato City, North and South Cotabato, and Maguindanao, was restored at 2:33 a.m. Saturday.

NGCP said tower 44 and tower 45 were toppled using an improvised explosive device (IED) on Friday at 11:34 p.m.

The transmission company added it has coordinated with the authorities to investigate the incident.

Last Jan 13, another explosion toppled the towers of NGCP in Pikit, Cotabato, bringing blackouts for more than two hours.

Philippine Air Force Chief makes introductory visit to Singapore

From the Straits Times (Oct 9): Philippine Air Force Chief makes introductory visit to Singapore

 Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, inspecting the Guard of Honour at Mindef.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, inspecting the Guard of Honour at Mindef.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, called on Singapore's Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, on Friday morning.

Lt-Gen Delgado, who has been in Singapore for an introductory visit from Thursday, also called on defence chief Perry Lim and air force chief Hoo Cher Mou, after inspecting a Guard of Honour at the Ministry of Defence. Lt-Gen Delgado had also visited the Air Force Training Command on Thursday.

The Ministry of Defence said Lt-Gen Delgado's visit underscores the warm and friendly defence relations between Singapore and the Philippines. The air forces of the two countries interact regularly through professional visits and exchanges, and attending courses.

Congress approves 2016 budget: Defense allocation funding AFP modernization included

From Ang Malaya (Oct 10): Congress approves 2016 budget: Defense allocation funding AFP modernization included

The House of Representatives on Friday approved on third and final reading the proposed PHP 3.002 trillion national budget for 2016 that has been touted to continue to expand the national economy and sustain governance and budget reforms that the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III has instituted in the last five years.

The approval of the proposed 2016 national expenditure program on Friday was made possible after Malacañang certified the measure as urgent. The certification allowed the chamber to pass the measure on second and third reading on the same day.

With its passage at the House of Representatives, the proposed 2016 budget would now be transmitted to the Senate. House Bill 6132, or the General Appropriations Bill of 2016, was passed in plenary session by nominal voting – with 230 lawmakers voting for its approval, 20 against and no abstentions.

Next year’s proposed budget is 15.2 (PHP 396 billion) percent higher from the current year’s budget of PHP 2.606 trillion. By departments, the Department of Education (DepEd) again garnered the highest allocation with PHP 435.8 billion – an increase of 15.4 percent from this year’s budget of PHP 377.7 billion. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) got the second highest allocation with PHP 394.5 billion or an increase of PHP 90.4 billion (29.7 percent) from this year’s budget of PHP 304.1 billion.

The Department of National Defense (DND) came in third at PHP 172.7 billion with an increase of PHP 18.6 billion than this year’s allocated budget. The defense allocation will fund the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Rounding up the top ten in highest allocations are the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with PHP 154.5 billion; Health (DOH) with PHP 128.4 billion; Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) with PHP 104.2 billion; Agriculture (DA) with PHP 93.4 billion; Finance (DOF) with PHP 53.3 billion; Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with PHP 49.3 billion; and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with PHP 25.8 billion.

BRP Apolinario Mabini seize ‘hostile’ US Navy vessel in SEACAT

From Ang Malaya (Oct 10): BRP Apolinario Mabini seize ‘hostile’ US Navy vessel in SEACAT

Philippine Navy vessel Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Apolinario Mabini (PS32), approached the United States Navy Ship (USNS) Millinocket (JHSV-3), October 6, to conduct a simulated visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) with the American vessel posing as hostile vessel suspected of transporting weapons and narcotics, Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office said.

The said exercise was conducted as part of multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) 2015 participated by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, US and Singapore navies. As part of SEACAT, a combined US and Southeast Asian Anti-Piracy Task Group was formed composed of Liaison Officers from seven navies and stationed at the Changi C2 Centre in Singapore.

“Tidbits of information from Interpol, regional information fusion centers, news broadcasts, etc. trickled in to the Liaison Officers on the watchfloor, and only through an abundance of cooperation and information sharing was the picture clear enough for regional navies to conduct boardings at sea,” ask Force 73, US 7th Fleet Foreign Area Officer CDR Greg Adams said.

The field at-sea training is carried out in each country’s territorial waters. In Philippines, the exercise was conducted within the area of responsibility of Naval Forces North West (NFNW) which is the West Philippine Sea (WPS) area, in vicinity off Subic Bay area.

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.

Army warns versus extra marital affairs

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 10): Army warns versus extra marital affairs

Having extra-marital affairs is also a ground for dismissal from the military service under the Army Transformation Roadmap, Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova, who had helped in the formulation of the program, said yesterday.

Cordova said the Philippine Army is very strict in the observance of the sanctity of marriage. For those proven guilty, such violation is a ground for dismissal, he said.

It is common perception that Army soldiers, including those in the other branches of the service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and even in the Philippine National Police, have other families, in their other areas of assignment.

Cordova said the Personal Scorecard of individual Army soldiers is being reviewed either monthly of every quarter of the year to determine their compliance. Non-compliance will have an effect on their promotion, among others, he added.

The Personal Scorecard also states that an individual Army soldier should maintain and strengthen good family values, be free from debt and have financial freedom, project the image of a good soldier and serve as an inspiration to others.

ATR has been implemented since 2010.

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division sponsored a two-day ATR orientation seminar for journalists in Panay and Negros, that aims to solicit their help in communicating with the people.

Cop killed, 2 hurt in Marawi ambush

From ABS-CBN (Oct 8): Cop killed, 2 hurt in Marawi ambush

LANAO DEL SUR - A policeman was killed while his colleague and a civilian were wounded in an ambush in Marawi City Wednesday night.

The two policemen were riding an unmarked vehicle to follow a suspicious motorcycle, without noticing that another motorbike had followed them.

Its rider open fired upon their vehicle in Barangay Kapantaran Marinut.

PO2 Nomaire Bantuas was killed in the attack while PO1 Johair Polyagan was injured. A civilian, identified as Nader Taher, was also wounded.

The police are still investigating the incident.

JICA, MILF identify economic and logistics corridors in Midanao

From the Business World (Oct 9): JICA, MILF identify economic and logistics corridors in Midanao

ECONOMIC and logistics corridors in Mindanao have been identified by the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), highlighting the channels which can be industrialized further to bring development in the conflict-affected areas in the region.

In a statement released by JICA on Friday, the development agency, together with the Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA), identified these channels as the: Northern corridor: Cotabato City-Marawi City-Iligan (Lanao del Norte); Central corridor: Cotabato City-Midsayap-Pikit-Digos (Davao del Sur); and Southern corridor: Cotabato City-Shariff Aguak-General Santos (South Cotabato).

The three channels which were identified are pegged for development by upgrading arterial roads and improving ports and airports as planned under the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), the plans for which were presented to different stakeholders this week.

The BDP is a six-year development plan (2014 to 2019) which provides a blueprint for development in conflict areas in Mindanao as mandated by the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.

According to JICA, 24 key development projects have been identified under the BDP and are set to be implemented starting mid-2016 to 2022, out of 60 projects in 15 programs under the comprehensive plan.

Aside from the upgrading of road networks, airports and seaports, projects such as communal irrigation support, goat-based integrated farming, and mixed field crops farming are also part of the upcoming development measures.

Talks between the Philippine and the Japanese government in the past have touched on improving peace and development in Mindanao, a region which has the highest poverty incidence in the country at 56% of its populace.

Japan has been extending assistance to the Philippines to achieve inclusive development in Mindanao as early as 2006, at a time when it launched the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development program. Japan has also given the Philippines P7.55 billion in funding assistance for Mindanao development through its Official Development Assistance (ODA) fund.

Explosions in N. Cotabato cause 3-hour power outage in Maguindanao

From Rappler (Oct 10): Explosions in N. Cotabato cause 3-hour power outage in Maguindanao

Improvised explosive devices bring down two transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation in Pikit, North Cotabato

Powerful explosions toppled two transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines in Pikit, North Cotabato on Friday evening, October 9, causing a 3-hour power outage in the province and in Maguindanao.

Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the military's 6th Infantry Division, said the explosions occurred in Barangay Batulawan at around 11:40 pm, hitting towers 44 and 45.

"Troops of 7th Infantry Battalion and 38th Infantry Battalion both of 6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army immediately proceeded to the area to investigate after hearing a loud explosion and they found out that the towers were already down when they arrived," Petinglay said.

Petinglay added that responding government forces reported that the improvised explosive devices were crafted using 60-millimeter mortars and were command detonated.

A 250-meter firing wire was recovered in one of the towers, Petinglay said.

"More so, an unexploded IED was also found emplaced 10 meters above the ground (at the) foot of tower number 45. The immediate and swift reaction of the troops could have prevented the perpetrators from detonating the IED and further crippling the said tower," Petinglay said.

It is still unclear what group was responsible for the attack but the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was one of the suspects in the bomb attacks in Maguindanao and North Cotabato earlier this year. One explosion caused a 10-hour power outage.

"The Command will not tolerate terroristic activities to thrive in its area of operations as many will be affected. It will continue to support the PNP and the local officials...[to] preempt any terror threats in the area," Petinglay said.

"It is currently assisting in gathering evidence and pertinent information that will be useful in identifying the motive and the perpetrators of the incident," she added.

Kidnappers of Mayor Adana ask P15M to P30M ransom?

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Oct 9): Kidnappers of Mayor Adana ask P15M to P30M ransom?

The kidnappers of Naga Mayor Gemma Adana are reportedly demanding P15 to P30 million in exchange for her safe release.. This was revealed by Zamboanga Sibugay Wilter Palma to the local reporters recently.

"So far, I have heard but not official they (kidnappers) are asking P15 to P30 Million. But they're directly negotiating or contacting the family (of Mayor Adana)," Palma told reporters.

The governor said Mayor Adana is still alive. “I can assure our people and even the family that Mayor Adana is still alive.”
According to him, the authorities are trying their best to secure the freedom of the mayor.

"It is not only in Zamboanga Sibugay that there is the problem of kidnapping," Palma added.

“I think this is a worldwide problem, the bottom line is that we have to be vigilant because the police cannot protect us all the time."

On April 6, Adana was with her family, friends and visitors at her home in Barangay Taytay Manubo, Zamboanga Sibugay when the gunmen barged in and seized her.

Authorities have received reports reports that the mayor was taken by her captors to Sulu and handed over to the Abu Sayyaf group.
According to reports, one of Adana’s abductors has been identified as Abral Abdusallam, a suspected member of a kidnap-for-ransom group based in the province.

The group's modus operandi  is that somebody will abduct the subject (victim) and transport them to either Basilan or Sulu and then the ASG will take care from there.

Bid to reduce ransom amount

From the Daily Express (Oct 9): Bid to reduce ransom amount

Two Malaysians who were kidnapped by a militant group from southern Philippines last May are still safe.
Sabah Police Commissioner Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the police were negotiating to free them. "Negotiations are still ongoing and we are trying to reduce the ransom demanded by them … the victims are safe," he said, when contacted.

Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, were kidnapped on May 14 by four armed men who raided the Ocean King Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah at 7.45pm. They are believed to be in the interior of southern Philippines, bordering Sabah.

It was reported that the victims' families had received calls, threatening to behead both victims if their ransom demands were not paid.    According to the report, Then, who was injured on the leg was slowing down the movement of the militant group which needed to move each time they were attacked by Filipino troops.

In early August, Jalaluddin was reported as saying the initial ransom of RM60 million for both kidnapped victims was succesfully reduced by 50pc after several negotiations.    Meanwhile, Phase 28 of the curfew in the waters off Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) which expired Thursday has been extended until Oct 24 between 7pm and 5am.

Jalaluddin said the curfew covers areas in the waters off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinababatangan, Sandakan and Beluran. 

They include Pulau Gulisan, Tanjung Bidadari, Pulau Tambisan, Silam, Tungku, Pulau Adal, Alice Reef, Timbun Mata,Kalumpang, Batuan Unarang, Port (Tawau), Wallace Bay, Jambongan, Timur Jambongan, Barat Daya Pulau Lihinan, Pulau Pundaras, Torongohok, Pura-Pura and Kuala Sugut.

"This curfew is to ensure the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA), covering the islands of Langkayan, Pulau Billiean and Pulau Tegipil, is not intruded by terrorists, and for the safety of researchers at SIMCA, especially the foreign researchers," he added.

He said the decision to extend the curfew was based on information of continued threats of kidnapping for ransom and Abu Sayyaf rebels.

He said the curfew was also aimed at ensuring the safety of residents and tourists in Esszone.

The extended curfew would enable security forces to carry out enforcement and monitoring of boat movements and suspicious activities in relation to cross-border crimes, as well as human and drug trafficking and firearm smuggling, he added.

Jalaluddin said chalet operators and the fishing community were also supportive of the extension. The district police chiefs in Esszone had been authorised to issue permits to those applying to carry out fishing activities or emergency travel, he added.

‘Commander Red Eye’ eyed in abduction

From Tempo (Oct 10): ‘Commander Red Eye’ eyed in abduction

Authorities are eyeing a lawless group composed of former Moro National Liberation Front and Islamic Liberation Front fighters who have turned to criminal activities in the abduction of Italian Rolando del Torchio from his pizzeria Wednesday in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

A military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the leader of the group as “Commander Red Eye.”

He said Red Eye and his group were among the lawless groups that operate in Zambonga Peninsula and other provinces in Western Mindanao. The group is reportedly involved in kidnapping, extortion, and other illegal money-making schemes. It also has ties with the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group.

The officer said it is not remote that Torchio, a former missionary priest assigned in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, has already been passed to the ASG and taken to Sulu.

Torchio was abducted by 10 armed men, four of them posing as customers at his “Ur Choice” pizza parlor on Andres Bonifacio College Drive, Barangay Miputak, Dipolog City.

Investigation showed Torchio was dragged by the gunmen into a silver Mitsubishi L-300 van with license plates TMY-490 before being transferred to a pump boat waiting along a boulevard in Dipolog.

Another military officer said the real name of Commander Red Eye is Saher Muloc, allegedly the leader of the Muloc lawless group.

He said that apart from leading the Muloc group, Red Eye is the commander of the “provincial police force” of the 113th Base Command of the MILF.

Muloc’s son, Julmine, was reportedly a drug trafficker.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero said they have suspects in the kidnapping of Torchio but he could not disclose their identities because there is an ongoing joint military and police pursuit operation.

When asked about reports that Torchio has been taken by his captors to Sulu, where Filipino Maritess Flor and three foreigners – Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – were also taken after they were abducted in Davao last September 21, Guerrero replied, “there are reports, but these are for validation, confirmation.”

“We are receiving the same information, so we are validating all of these. Nevertheless, we are continuing our focused military operation and in coordination with the Philippine National Police because there are still nine hostages in Sulu, so our efforts are continuing,” Guerrero said.

Suspect in Italian ex-priest's kidnapping arrested

From InterAksyon (Oct 10): Suspect in Italian ex-priest's kidnapping arrested

Italian Rolando del Torchio (Reuters)

A suspect in the kidnapping of Italian former priest Rolando del Torchio was arrested in Pagadian City Friday night while a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf allegedly involved in the 2002 kidnapping of Jehovah’s Witnesses was captured in Zamboanga City Saturday morning, police said.

Inspector Ariel Yogyog, of the Zamboanga del Norte provincial highway patrol team said Amante Sagario y Bagain, 49, is the owner of record of the van used by the gunmen who seized Del Torchio from his pizzeria in Dipolog City Wednesday evening.

The vehicle was abandoned when the kidnappers fled with their victim in a speedboat.

 Bagain has been handed over to the Dipolog police, Yogyog said.

In Zamboanga City, the alleged Abu Sayyf member, identified only as “Raji,” was nabbed around 10 a.m. by soldiers and police in a house on RT Lim Boulevard in Cawa-Cawa district, Inspector Dhalan Samuddin, acting public information officer of Police Regional Office 9, said.

He was the subject of a warrant of arrest issued by Presiding Judge Toribio Ilao Jr. of Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 266, where he is charged with six counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses were abducted while selling cosmetics in Patikul town, Sulu. Two of them were later beheaded after their families could not come up with the ransom, the rest were rescued after weeks of military operations.

Eighteen suspects were earlier arrested but were released in February 2013 for insufficiency of evidence.