Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sultan Kudarat PNP denies presence of ISIS in Palimbang

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): Sultan Kudarat PNP denies presence of ISIS in Palimbang

Police authorities today said there is no solid proof on the reported presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Sultan Kudarat.

Supt. Jemuel Siason, Sultan Kudarat police provincial public safety battalion, said the report purportedly claiming that the armed lawless elements killed in clash with government forces in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat “was a figment of imagination” of some people.

Siason insisted that Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias “Commander Tokboy” was a leader of a lawless group involved in cattle rustling, highway robbery and kidnapping in the coastal towns of Sultan Kudarat.

“There was no solid proof that ISIS exists in Sultan Kudarat although ISIS flags were recovered in the clash site,” Siason told reporters.

“They used ISIS flags to show they sympathize with the international terrorist organization,” he added.

Maguid was the leader of Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines, a group which also exists in other parts of Mindanao which showed sympathy with the terrorist organization.

“But ISIS existence in Sultan Kudarat? That is not true. The group was composed of lawless elements mulcting on farmers and civilians in Palimbang,” he said.

Siason said there is no solid document that would justify the existence of ISIS in the island of Mindanao. He said the reported recruitment activities were purposely for lawlessness and money-making activities.

Earlier, Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr revealed he had received information about the recruitment activities of ISIS in the city and nearby provinces. He said three of those killed in the Palimbang clash were students from Cotabato City recruited for bomb making in Palimbang.

Eight men, including an Indonesian, were killed when they clashed with members of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team in Sitio Sinapangan, Barangay Butril, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat a week ago.

Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, 1st Marine Brigade commander, said the soldiers were assisting the local police in serving the warrants of arrest for Commander Tokboy.

As the state forces were approaching the village, the group of Commander Tokboy with about 40 armed members, opened fire, triggering a four hour running gun battle.Government forces suffered no casualty.

Recovered from the slain armed lawless elements were cal. 50 barret rifle, hand guns, ammunition, shabu paraphernalia and five ISIS flags.

Even another lawless group operating in Maguindanao also denied the existence of ISIS in Mindanao.

“Far from truth, may be sympathizers only,” said Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Mama, who admitted they have forces in Palimbang, denied his group was allied with the group of Commander Tokboy.

Rights group decries 12 IP kids’ deaths in AFP ops under PNoy

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 3): Rights group decries 12 IP kids’ deaths in AFP ops under PNoy

A human rights group said that 28 of the 304 victims of extrajudicial killing (EJK) since President Aquino took power in 2010 were children, 12 of whom are members of indigenous peoples (IP).
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan, expects EJK victims to increase in the remainder of Aquino’s term.
Palabay warned that military troops are bent to intensify their operations as MalacaƱang’s vaunted “Oplan Bayanihan” or OPB counter-insurgency campaign winds down.
Taking a swipe on the Aquino administration’s “Daang Matuwid” or “righteous path” policy, Palabay said: “The path is awash with the blood of 304 victims of extrajudicial killing, 28 of them children.
Of the 28 children killed, 12 are indigenous people. There is nothing more harrowing than seeing a child suffer and die.
The militant group leader spoke ahead of the worldwide observance of International Human Rights Day on December 10.
“To witness a seven-year-old girl shot by a drunken soldier taking her last breath before reaching the hospital is unbearable,” Palabay said, referring to what happened to Sunshine Jabinez.
In 2011, Jabinez, who lived in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, was sleeping when a bullet struck her buttock and slashed her spine. Soaked in her own blood, she could only mutter “Ma, Pa, sakit” (Ma, Dad, it hurts) as her parents saw her.
The bullet came from the automatic rifle of a soldier from the 71st Infantry Battalion (71IB) of the Philippine Army (PA), who fired his weapon while drinking with his fellow soldiers.

Muslim religious leader fears 'increasing presence' of IS in Mindanao

From UCANews (Dec 3): Muslim religious leader fears 'increasing presence' of IS in Mindanao

Extremist group actively recruiting fighters, Cotabato mayor says

<p>Sheik Abdulrahman Udasan, Grand Mufti of the Darul Ifta of the Philippines. (Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera)</p>

Sheik Abdulrahman Udasan, Grand Mufti of the Darul Ifta of the Philippines. (Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera)

One of the Philippines' top Muslim religious leaders has voiced concern over reports pointing to a growing presence of the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

"This is alarming [and] very disturbing," Sheikh Abdulrahman Udasan, grand mufti of the Darul Ifta of the Philippines, said on Dec. 2.

The Muslim leader made the comments following reports in recent weeks that an IS cell was active in Cotabato City and that three suspected IS fighters killed in a clash with government forces in Palimbang town last week were from Cotabato City.

He said IS was an "extremist" group, which openly flouts the teachings of the Quran.

The grand mufti said Muslim clerics in Mindanao are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss what to do about the reported presence of ISIS fighters in the region.

Cotabato mayor Japal Guiani Jr. confirmed the reports.    

"I am listening to information which says there really is an ISIS group here," said Guiani, using an acronym the terror group is also known by.

The IS cell has been actively recruiting people in the region, he said without revealing where he received the information from.

"The recruits get free food and an allowance ... This is alarming and our security personnel should look into this," Guiani said.

There are already about 1,000 IS recruits in central Mindanao, the mayor said, citing intelligence reports.   

"There were more than 30 students recruited in Cotabato City," Guiani said. 

He said he had received information about the recruitment activities of Ansar al-Khalifa, a group known to have links to IS, as early as last year.

The government however says there is no solid proof of an IS presence in the area.   

Although the group in Palimbang used an IS flag, the military is still trying to find "solid proof" that the organization is present in Mindanao, Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, a military commander on Mindanao said.

ARMM calls on various sectors to support gov't peace efforts

From the Philippine Star (Dec 4): ARMM calls on various sectors to support gov't peace efforts

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao urged anew ARMM residents to support MalacaƱang’s southern peace process during Thursday’s culmination of the Mindanao Week of Peace. ARMM Bureau of Public Information

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Sectoral leaders on Thursday wrapped up the week-long celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) with appeals for Muslim, Christian and Lumad cooperation in addressing the security and socio-economic issues confronting the region.

The yearly MWOP was pioneered by peace advocacy blocs in Mindanao in 1997, meant to inculcate on the public the importance of cooperation in fostering peace and economic development among the local “tri-people,” which groups the southern Lumad, Muslim and Christian sectors.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) led the culmination rite for their observance of the MWOP at the 32-hectare regional government compound in Cotabato City, an event attended by peace activists and representatives from the police and the military.

Hataman, presiding chair of the ARMM peace and order council, told The STAR his administration is keen on expanding its peace education programs in schools, which for him are the best conduits for propagation of tri-people co-existence and religious solidarity among ethnically and spiritually divergent groups.

Hataman said he is confident the close to 3,000 licensed, competent teachers he and his regional education secretary, John Magno, hired in recent months, can efficiently push the ARMM government’s peace education thrust forward.

He said he is also banking on the support of the newly-created Regional Darul Iftah, also known as either the ARMM’s House of Opinions, or the Regional Juris Consult, to his effort of addressing the region’s security problems through religious interventions.

Hataman just signed about two weeks ago the regional law, enacted by the ARMM’s 24-member Regional Assembly, creating the Darul Iftah, comprised of Muslim preachers, some of them graduates of religious schools in the Middle East and North Africa.

Hataman on Thursday again endorsed the ongoing peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He urged the public to help sustain the dividends of the GPH-MILF peace efforts, among them the absence since 2009 of rebel-military hostilities in flashpoint areas covered by a ceasefire pact between both sides.

The fragile peace ushered in the continuing influx since 2012 of foreign investors now setting up viable agricultural ventures in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in Central Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The MWOP culmination rite in Maguindanao, a known bastion of the MILF, was jointly led by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, representatives from the local youth sector and officials of different non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in projects complementing the Mindanao peace process.

Among the NGOs that actively participated in the MWOP culmination activities in Maguindanao was the United States Agency for International Development-Enhancing Governance, Accountability and Engagement (USAID-ENGAGE) entity.

The USAID-ENGAGE helped organize the activity into a multi-sectoral event, which also involved hundreds of representatives from Maguindanao’s youth sector.

In a message, Mangudadatu told guests to the program, held at a public gymnasium in the provincial capital Buluan town, he would allow youth representation in the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, which he chairs.

Mangudadatu said enabling his youth constituents to have a voice in the council will maximize his administration’s effort of involving all sectors in the province in domestic peace-building initiatives.

Two dead in separate shooting incidents

From the Zamboanga Today (Dec 4): Two dead in separate shooting incidents

A municipal barangay chairman and another man were shot to death in separate shooting incidents at Barangays Sta. Catalina and San Jose Gusu, Wednesday night.
Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) spokesman Chief Inspector Joel Tuttuh identified the fatalities as Angkang Manan y Pandaki, 45, married, barangay chairman of Tabuan Lasa, Salupin proper, Basilan Province, temporarily residing at KGK building, Lustre St., Sta. Catalina, and Ansaldo Alegre y Conception, 36, married, of Sitio Gulayan, San Jose Gusu.
Tuttuh said that at about 9:20 p.m. of Wednesday, Manan was standing outside his rented apartment at KGK Building when the suspect suddenly arrived and shot him in the head.

The suspect hurriedly ran to his waiting companion onboard a motorcycle and sped off towards the direction of Veterans Avenue, this city.

Motive of the incident is still unknown.

On the other hand, Alegre was walking towards Baliwasan Tabuk to visit his children at the house of his mother.

Tuttuh said upon reaching San Jose Gusu bridge, the suspect suddenly shot the victim in the neck then hurriedly embarked a public utility jeepney (PUJ) heading towards Barangay Upper Calarian.

Alegre was rushed to Zamboanga Brent Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival by the attending doctor.

Recovered from Alegre’s possession was a Caliber .38 Revolver with serial number N-11335, loaded with 6 ammunition and a spent shell of a caliber .45 pistol at the crime scene.

Alegre’s wife claims that the incident may be drug-related.

A deeper investigation is being conducted to establish the identity of the suspect for his possible arrest.

Gov’t gaining ground in war vs communist insurgents – AFP

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 3): Gov’t gaining ground in war vs communist insurgents – AFP

The government’s all-out peace and development drive to thwart the communist insurgency is gaining headway in Mindanao as more regular fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) surrendered to the government while other top communist officials were captured, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

The AFP said 43 former NPA regular fighters turned over 29 firearms and returned the mainstream society recently and received cash support and livelihood programs from the government through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
“We’re gaining headway,” declared Maj. Gen. Oscar T. Lactao, commanding general of the AFP Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) in Butuan City on Wednesday.

Lactao cited the arrest of Rone Mae Callao, alias “Dianne/Iram”, secretary of guerrilla-Front Committee 30-A and regional financial staff and medical staff of CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee and Teresita Olarte, alias “Maya”, head of medic of the North-Central Mindanao Regional Committee, both in September this year.

“All in all for the whole year 2015, we have a total of 126 NPA rebels captured or killed during combat operations while  269 assorted firearms and several war materials including subversive documents with high intelligence value were seized during 226 combat operations, “ the area commander of the AFP in Mindanao said.

“We also cleared 76 barangays that were former strongholds of the NPA,” Gen. Lactao added.
In the normalization process, out of eight provinces in Regions 13 and 10, only four remaining provinces are undergoing normalization process, he said.

In a related development, an undetermined number of NPA fighters were believed killed in an encounter with government forces Thursday morning in Barangay Anticala, some 17 kilometers northeast of Butuan City.

Suspected NPA killed in clash with soldiers in Butuan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 3): Suspected NPA killed in clash with soldiers in Butuan City

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines — A suspected communist rebel was killed in a clash with government troops in a hinterland village in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, early on Thursday, the military said.

Two firearms and at least nine improvised bombs were also recovered after a 25-minute firefight in Anticala village around 5 a.m., said Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

Martinez said troops of the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion were fired upon by an undetermined number of New People’s Army guerrillas in Sitio Dugyaman.
“Residents had tipped off about the presence of (NPA rebels) conducting lectures and extortion activities in the community,” Martinez said, adding pursuit operations have been launched against the rebels who fled after the gun battle.

NPA owns killings in Cauayan

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 4): NPA owns killings in Cauayan

The Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the New People's Army has claimed responsibility for the series of killings in Cauayan and Ilog towns in what is apparently intended to disprove military claims that they are already a “spent force.”

Rebel spokesperson Andrea Guerrero justified killings of Romualdo Dollente, Rene Villar, Jojo Grande and Jose Siplao, claiming that they were either involved in illegal activities, and for being military informants.

Dollente is a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, and Villar, who used to be a government militiaman, were killed separately by unidentified armed men Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Cauayan, police records show.

Meanwhile, Siplao who is claimed by the NPA to have been an active member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, died in an ambush on Nov. 10 in Brgy. Pinggot, Ilog, while Grande, a former NPA member, was also killed in Brgy. Yaoyao, Cauayan.

Guerrero claimed that Dollente was involved in the killing of three individuals in Cauayan in 2011 and 2013, and for the death of Ka Wenly and his two companions, who were members of the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbo ng Bayan.

The rebel spokesperson also linked Villar to killings in Cauayan during the 1990s, and to some alleged illegal activities.

In a statement he issued, Guerrero tagged Grande as a military asset, and linked Siplao to land-grabbing, among others.

Guerrero claimed that they have not incurred any casualty in all partisan unit operations.

To prevent further possible NPA atrocities, the 79th Infantry Battalion and the police mobile group troopers linked up with the local police of Cauayan in securing the town.

Col. Leopoldo Galon, deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said the resumption of NPA violent activities, by targeting former and active CAFGU members, indicated that they were badly affected by their ongoing Oplan Bayanihan activities in insurgency-affected areas.

AFP: Scores of ASG members killed, wounded in Sulu fight with government troops

From the Business Mirror (Dec 3): AFP: Scores of ASG members killed, wounded in Sulu fight with government troops

SCORES of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were believed killed or wounded after government troops bombarded them with mortar on Wednesday night in Sulu in the continuing operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against local terrorist groups and other lawless elements in Mindanao.

The incident was the latest in the skirmishes between government soldiers and members of the ASG, who were being pursued in Sulu following the order last week of President Aquino for soldiers and policemen to intensify their counterterrorism operations in Mindanao.

The bombardment came as the government grapples with the reported presence of foreign jihadists in the south, who were allegedly working with the ASG and other groups allied with the Islamic State (IS) for possible terror activities in the region.

However, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri earlier assured no terror attack would happen anywhere in the country, as he belied the reported presence of foreign terrorists working with the ASG, the Ansar al Khilafa and other groups.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, said members of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB) noticed a group of the ASG by their light movement toward Barangay Darayan, Patikul, Sulu, at around 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

He said the group was pounded with six rounds of 81mm mortar. The ASG was moving apparently to join the combined group of ASG chieftain Radullan Sahiron and commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan encamped and taken up a defensive position in Darayan.

Arojado said an hour-and-a-half later, soldiers also bombarded the camp, which was believed occupied by at least 300 ASG members, with six rounds of artillery fire. The camp was just about 400 meters away from the location of the 32nd IB.

The task group commander said that at around 5 a.m. on Thursday, joint elements of the 32nd IB and the 35 IB conducted clearing operations on the pounded camp and noticed blood stains, along with damaged rifles.

Arrojado said operations against the group of Sahiron were still ongoing as he had directed the 1st and 4th Scout Ranger Battalions to conduct blocking operations on possible withdrawal routes of the bandits.

The 2nd Marine Brigade was also ordered to intensify its operation in the outskirts of the town of Indanan.

Military operations against the ASG and other lawless groups in Sulu have been ongoing for the past two months, as soldiers were running after Sawadjaan and his group are reportedly behind the kidnapping of two Canadians and a Norwegian in a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte.

The victims were reportedly taken to Sulu and are being kept by the combined group of Sahiron, Sawadjaan and other subcommanders of the ASG.

The government intensified its operations after the ASG reportedly beheaded its Malaysian captive Bernard Then while the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was being held in Manila two weeks ago, and after President Aquino ordered an all-out campaign against bandit groups in Mindanao.

Troops overrun Abu Sayyaf camp

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4): Troops overrun Abu Sayyaf camp


 Abu Sayyaf group. AP FILE PHOTO

An Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul, Sulu, believed to be under the command of subleader Radullan Sahiron, was bombarded by government forces early on Thursday.

Although no arrests were made, soldiers from the Joint Task Group (JTG) Sulu seized the encampment, where they recovered a firearm and cooking utensils.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, the JTG Sulu chief, said the troops found bloodstains leading southeast toward Barangay Danag in Patikul.

The assault began on Wednesday night after the government troops noticed Abu Sayyaf bandits moving around at night.

Soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion noticed lights near their position, which was later confirmed to be Abu Sayyaf moving toward Darayan, Patikul.

An initial six rounds of 81-mm mortar ammunition were fired toward the enemy’s location.

Arrojado said they then received information about a new Abu Sayyaf camp in Darayan, where 300 members led by Sahiron and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan were said to be staying.

This prompted the firing of another six rounds of 105mm howitzer artillery at the suspected camp, which was just 400 meters from the government troops’ location.

During the clearing operations yesterday, it was confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf camp could indeed accommodate 300.

Military assaults terrorist lairs

From The Standard (Dec 4): Military assaults terrorist lairs

COMPOSITE ground forces pounded several lairs of terrorist groups and other lawless elements in Sulu on Wednesday, sparking skirmishes that officials said likely resulted in enemy casualties. 

The attacks came following the reported presence of Jemaah Islamiyah militants in Mindanao who were said to have established partnerships with the Abu Sayyaf bandits and Muslim rebel factions with links to the Islamic State.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, said the ground assaults occurred after troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion detected a massing of Abu Sayaff elements in Darayan village in Patikul, Sulu, around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

The Abu Sayyaf has used Darayan, a coastal village in the northwestern portion of Sulu, as a safekeeping area for the foreign and local hostages taken from Mindanao and Malaysia.

Darayan has also been the scene of fierce fighting between Abu Sayyaf bandits and soldiers in the past two years.

After pounding the Abu Sayyaf positions on Wednesday, Arrojado said, soldiers directed artillery fire at an Abu Sayyaf encampment reportedly occupied by 300 heavily armed terrorists. 

Troops found bloodstains and damaged rifles at the Abu Sayyaf camps during clearing operations after the fighting subsided, Arrojado said.

He said the military recovered no bodies from the scene, but troops from the 1st and 4th Scout Ranger Battalions were still conducting operations against the bandits.

Davao village chief shot dead

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 3): Davao village chief shot dead

A BARANGAY chief in Lamanan, Calinan District was shot dead by suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Domingga in Calinan, Davao City Thursday morning.

Calinan Police Station chief Randy Sambalud identified the victim as Antonio C. Alvaran Jr.

The victim's body was found at Sitio Kibaton in Barangay Domingga, Calinan past 6 a.m. after Barangay Domingga chief Ivy Lumandas sought the assistance of the police about a dead body found near a waiting shed at the area.

Sambalud, in a phone interview, said the incident happened around 5 a.m. based on the report of the residents in the area. He added that the victim succumbed to several gunshot wounds in different parts of his body.

According to the information gathered by the Calinan police, Alvaran was fetched from his store in Lamanan around 3 a.m. by three unidentified men onboard a single motorcycle.

"We believed that the victim recognized the three men who fetched him from the store since there was no resistance on his part when he went with them," Sambalud said in vernacular.

Sambalud said there were also reports that the victim had argument with the suspects when they arrived in the area before he was shot dead.

Sambalud said they are now looking into the rebels as the possible suspects of the incident based on the information and evidences they have gathered.

"Bungkag iyang ulo ug tad-tad sa bala iyang lawas 'tong nakuha namo siya. Matud pa sapipila ka mga tao nga nakaila sa iya, adunana siya'y hulga nadawat prior to the incident (His head was broken and his body was peppered with bullets when we got him. He already received death threats before the incident)," Sambalud said.

Personnel of the Scene of the Crime Operatives recovered around 18 empty shells from caliber .45 pistol, M16 rifle and M14 rifle.

The victim now lies at the St. Peter Funeral in Calinan while the police are still conducting investigation to identify and locate the whereabouts of the suspects.

Group says military harassment displaced civilians in ComVal

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 3): Group says military harassment displaced civilians in ComVal

The group Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region (PASAKA) has accused the military of harassment that led to the displacement of hundreds of civilians in the province of Compostela Valley.

In a statement sent to the media here, Jong Monzon, secretary general of PASAKA said hundreds of residents, mostly lumads from Side 4, Barangay Mangayon in Compostela town fled from their homes because of the series of harassments they experienced in the hands of the military’s 66th Infantry Battalion which operates in the area.
“The residents also oppose the military’s encampment in school but the military insisted they had a permit from village officials and the municipal mayor of Compostela,” Monzon pointed out, adding that classes at the elementary school in the area, particularly those ran by the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning School were disrupted due to the continued presence of the military.

The displaced residents, he added, are now temporarily housed at the municipal gymnasium of Compostela town.

Monzon added that PASAKA was also condemning the recent attack against indigenous peoples (IPs), their community and school.

But the group’s claim was refuted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly by the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army which claimed that no harassment was committed by the Army to the civilians in the area.

The evacuation of civilians was also confirmed by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (MDRRMC) in Compostela town.

Emelito Quijano of MDRRMC in the area said in an interview that 68 adults and 60 children were housed at the municipal gym of the town when they evacuated from Mangayon in the evening of Saturday, November 28 last week.

But Quijano also reported that the evacuees have already started to go back to their communities since November 30.

Jihadist leader escapes dragnet

From The Standard (Dec 3): Jihadist leader escapes dragnet

SUSPECTED jihadist leader Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid, alias Commander Tokboy, has slipped past the military cordon in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat and is believed to have fled to the hinterlands of the province’s coastal towns, the military said on Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of the First Marine Brigade based in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, said elements of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team and the Philippine National Police have overrun the 50-hectare camp of the Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines after weeklong operations.

But Maguid remained at large although eight of his men were earlier killed in a four-hour battle on Nov. 26. Among the slain was Indonesian bomber Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, who is believed to be the group’s link to another jihadist group in Indonesia.

“In due time we will get him and his men,” Salamat said. “We continue our relentless campaign.” 

On Nov. 26, the Marines and agents of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group went to Sitio Sinapangan, Barangay Butril to serve the arrest warrants against Maguid who is accused of various crimes, including a bombing in Gen. Santos City.

But when security forces approached the village, about 40 heavily armed lawless elements opened fire on government forces at 5:30 a.m., triggering the four-hour battle.

Salamat said Ali, who carries several other names, was a senior member of the Mujahideen Indonesian Timur and was believed to be training local militants on bomb making. PNA

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Sixth Infantry Division commander, said the Indonesian national was first arrested in Zamboanga City for illegal possession of firearms in 2005 but was released from detention in 2013 due to lack of merit of the case filed against him.

He said Ibrahim Ali had since been monitored to be with Commander Tokboy after his release, teaching bomb making.

Pangilinan identified the other fatalities as Abdul Halil, Tatuh Sumail and Kira Sabiwang, all resident of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Four others remained unidentified.

Marine forces recovered one cal. 50 sniper rifle, 20 rounds of ammunition for cal. 50, an M-16 Armalite rifle, a cal. 45 pistol, bomb making materials, ATM cards, Philhealth cards and six ISIS flags.

Pangilinan said Commander Tokboy has four standing warrants of arrest and was involved in a series of atrocities and violence in the South Cotabato area since August 2008.

He was previously apprehended in 2009 by the security forces at Maasim, Sarangani Province. However, he managed to escape from Bulantay Jail, Alabel, Sarangani after seven months of imprisonment. 

He had been a fugitive for half a decade and was engaged in various crimes, including cattle rustling, extortion, highway robbery and murders.

Salamat said about 250 families have fled the village of Butril but the local governments and the Philippines Marines are attending to their needs.

Both Pangilinan and Salamat maintained that government forces are still seeking additional pieces of evidence that would directly link the lawless armed group to ISIS.

“Except from ISIS flags, no other concrete proof the group was indeed legitimate member of ISIS,” Pangilinan said.

He surmised the ISIS flags could be used by the group to show sympathy to the international terrorist group.

ISIS flags were also found in Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camps captured by the 6th Infantry Division operating troops in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay in Maguindanao early this year. 

The same flags were found in areas where Maguindanao bomber Basit Usman used to stay in the Liguasan marshland.  Usman was killed by combined government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces in Maguindanao in May.

MILF leader: No proof Daesh active in Philippines

From Anadolu Agency (Dec 2): MILF leader: No proof Daesh active in Philippines

'No clear evidence Daesh already in our place, because we don’t see any foreign personality there,' he tells

MILF leader: No proof Daesh active in Philippines

Almost one week after Philippine forces engaged in a bloody shootout with a group claiming Daesh links, the chairman of the country's one-time largest rebel group has underlined that there is still no proof that the violent terrorist outfit has infiltrated local communities.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency this week, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim said that there was “no clear evidence yet that Daesh is already in our place, because we don’t see any foreign personality in there.”

Although Middle Eastern in origin, the group relies on a swarm of sympathizers from foreign shores -- many of whom have travelled through neighboring countries to sign up in its destructive campaign of terror. 

While acknowledging that some radical elements in southern Mindanao Island may be inspired by Daesh, Ebrahim insisted there was “not direct contact” with the group.

"We have seen that there are some radical elements in Moro who are sometimes being inspired by ISIS [Daesh], but, I think these have not [had] direct contact with Daesh or ISIS."

He emphasized the MILF’s efforts to counter radicalism by talking to people in the Moro community about the threat posed by Daesh.

On Sunday, the Philippines’ military revealed that seven people who had recently been killed alongside an Indonesian bomb-maker in a clash with marines belong to a new radical group in the Muslim south.

GMA News quoted Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson for the 6th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Central, as saying that Daesh flags had been found in the Ansar al-Khalifa Philippines (Supporters of the Caliphate of the Philippines) encampment where Thursday’s clash broke out in Sultan Kudarat province.

Last year, two militant groups in the south – the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf -- pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears that the group could make inroads in a region torn apart by decades of armed conflict.

Religious groups urged to cooperate in fighting extremism

From the Philippine Star (Dec 2): Religious groups urged to cooperate in fighting extremism

Firearms and black jihadist flags found in a lair of religious extremists in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, which Marine combatants raided. Unson

Only by cooperation among Central Mindanao’s Muslim and Christian religious communities can authorities prevent an expansion in the region of Middle Eastern-inspired jihadist groups, officials said Wednesday.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on Wednesday told The STAR there is a need now to convene all organizations of Islamic religious leaders to discuss the issue with the police and the military.

Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. was quoted on Tuesday, in a report by a Catholic news outfit in Cotabato City, as saying that radical people sympathetic to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have indeed alarmingly proliferated in areas under his jurisdiction in recent months.

Guiani reportedly said he also heard from informants that many residents of Cotabato City had been recruited by local groups openly expressing support to ISIS.

Local officials in different Southern provinces have earlier confirmed there are two fanatical groups now in the two provinces, the Khilafah Islamiya Movement (KIM) and the Ansar’ul Khilafah Philippines (AKP), preaching a radical type of Islam, which espouses hatred among non-Muslims.

Mangudadatu and the chief executive of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman, had both assailed the two groups, branding their activities as against Islamic teachings on freedom of religion, co-existence among Muslims and non-Muslims.

Mangudadatu said local government units in Maguindanao, which has 36 towns, need to organize local Islamic religious groups to ensure cohesion of members, for them to have one direction in addressing the expansion of ISIS-inspired groups in the province and in Cotabato City.

One of the eight extremists killed by combatants of the 1st Marine Brigade in an anti-AKP operation in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat last week was a college dropout, Datu Mungan, who belonged to the influential Dilangalen clan in Cotabato City and in the first district of Maguindanao.

The appointed deputy governor of Maguindanao, Ramil Dilangalen, said his nephew went missing for months before the news about his death in an encounter with battle-hardened Marines in Palimbang broke out.

“We still have another young relative who joined the group. We are now trying to get him back with the help of local commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and esteemed community elders,” Dilangalen said.

He said Datu Mungan was an intelligent young man, who was an activist and leader of different student organizations when he was in high school and in college.

“This is problem of extremism in our surroundings is being addressed now by the governor of Maguindanao through massive scholarship grants for qualified Muslim, Christian and Lumad college students,” Dilangalen said.

He said Mangudadatu’s scholarship program, dubbed Maguindanao Program for Peace and Community Empowerment, will effectively prevent students from getting vulnerable to indoctrination by jihadists.

Hataman on Wednesday directed the education department of ARMM and its Madaris Education Bureau to immediately formulate plans on how to address extremism in far-flung areas through academic interventions.

Hataman is himself against religious extremism. He thrice survived roadside bombings in Basilan in recent months, perpetrated by radical jihadists opposing his infrastructure thrusts, meant to improve the productivity of local sectors and hasten access of children to conventional state-run schools.

Hataman said only by strong cooperation among local folks can the problem on extremism be solved.

Military and police sources said religious extremism is worst in Sulu, which has 18 hostile towns, where most mayors reside in plush houses in Zamboanga City, absolutely detached from the goings-on in their respective municipalities.

Sulu is known throughout the country as haven of the Abu Sayaff, an extremist group using black flags identical with the black banners ISIS members hoist in their vehicles when they move around Iraq and Syria.

The provincial government of Sulu has long been subject of criticisms for its failure to address the security problems besetting the island province.

The Abu Sayaff gunmen holding out, moving freely everywhere in Sulu are feared for their practice of beheading foreign and Filipino captives, snatched outside of the province, if ransom demands are not met.

Retired Army colonel shot dead in Davao

From ABS-CBN (Dec 3): Retired Army colonel shot dead in Davao

A barangay chairman was found dead with multiple gun shot wounds in Calinan District, Davao City on Thursday morning.

The victim was identified as Antonio Albaran Jr., chairman of Barangay Dominga.

According to resident Flordeliza Estocado, they heard several gun shots at around 4:00 in the morning.

At dawn, the lifeless body of Albaran was found at Purok 5, Sitio Quibaton.

The victim's face was almost unrecognizable due to the severity of gun shots.

The Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) found 16 empty bullets of M16 and M14 rifle as well as of .45 caliber pistol.

The police are still conducting an investigation on the possible motive and identity of the suspect.

Albaran was a retired Army colonel and was serving his first term as a barangay chairman.

Cotabato mayor says ISIS influence spreading in Central Mindanao

From GMA News (Dec 3): Cotabato mayor says ISIS influence spreading in Central Mindanao

[Video report: 24 Oras: Mga kaanib umano ng ISIS sa Central Mindanao, umabot na sa 1,000 ayon sa mayor]

The mayor of Cotabato City has claimed that at least 1,000 residents of Central Mindanao have allied themselves with international terrorist group ISIS, a report on "24 Oras" said Wednesday.

Citing an unnamed source, Mayor Japal Gyani Jr. said the number of ISIS sympathizers from Central Mindanao is growing at an alarming rate.

He added that most of these individuals were from Cotabato City.

Gyani also said some 30 youths have already undergone training under the Ansar Al Khalifah, a local group known to sympathize with ISIS, the group responsible for the recent terrorist attacks in France, Lebanon and Russia that killed over 400 people.

The Department of National Defense, for its part, denied the mayor's claims. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has repeatedly stated that ISIS has no confirmed presence in the country.

It also said that local bandit groups are only claiming to be ISIS sympathizers to gain funds and notoriety.

In an operation in Sultan Kudarat on November 26, combined police and military personnel killed eight members of Ansar Al Khalifah, including an Indonesian bomb expert. Among the items recovered from the slain bandits were ISIS flags.

COA to defense dep’t: Go after Canadian firm that didn’t deliver

From Rappler (Dec 3): COA to defense dep’t: Go after Canadian firm that didn’t deliver

Waterbury Farrel, a division of Magnum Integrated Technologies Incorporated of Canada, should face sanctions and pay damages, according to state auditors

Government auditors said the Department of National Defense (DND) should go after a Canadian firm that failed to deliver P366 million worth of equipment that the Government Arsenal purchased in 2011.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said Waterbury Farrel, a division of Magnum Integrated Technologies Incorporated of Canada, should face sanctions and pay damages because its failure to deliver adversely affected the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Arsenal is mandated to supply bullets to the military and the Philippine National Police. Its ultimate goal is to not only supply all the ammunition needs of both forces but to eventually export supplies.

In 2011, the DND bids and awards committee set aside P306 million for 5 pieces of equipment that would increase the Arsenal’s yearly production from 15 million to 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition.

A separate P82 million was allocated to acquire a “multi-station bullet assembly machine.” It was meant for in-country production of SS109 ammunition since the military demand for its Squad Automatic Weapon, M4, and K3 rifles had increased.
In all, P471.322 million had been disbursed as of December 2014, according to the Arsenal’s liquidation report.

However, in a Value for Money Audit released last November 27, COA said that of the first 5 equipment purchased from Waterbury Farrel, 3 were not delivered and 2 did not work and did not comply with specifications in the contract.

The 3 pieces of equipment that didn’t come were worth P241.15 million, while the defective ones had a value of P94.71 million.

This prompted the Arsenal to delay the processing of payment for Waterbury Farrel. In turn, the supplier withheld the delivery of 3 other machines with a total cost of P241.145 million “until full payment shall be made for the first delivery.”

“In effect, the amount of P333,757,400 was not yet fully utilized for the intended purpose of modernizing the production of ammunitions at Government Arsenal which caused deterrent in the AFP Modernization objectives,” the COA said.

COA recommended that the Arsenal ask the DND to demand “liquidated damages to the supplier.”

“The non-performance of the obligations by the supplier requires rescission thereof and the forfeiture of the supplier’s performance security of P16.8 million,” the government auditors said.

Sulu, Zamboanga celebrate Week of Peace

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 3): Sulu, Zamboanga celebrate Week of Peace

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Sulu Vice Governor Sakur Tan and Sulu Provincial Women’s Council chairwoman Nurunisah Tan lead various civil groups in the celebration of the Week of Peace which culminated on December 3. (Photos by Ahl-franzie Salinas)
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Thousands of people joined the celebration of the Week of Peace in Zamboanga City and Sulu province with government officials and community leaders pledging to work hand-in-hand and together sustain the peace and harmony among peoples in the southern Filipino region.

The peace celebration, which started November 26 and ran until December 3, brought members of the different sectors of society, including civil society groups and non-governmental organizations, the police and military authorities in Sulu and Zamboanga.

Governor Totoh Tan, in his message delivered by his father, Vice Governor Sakur Tan, praised those whom participated in the Week of Peace and called on the public to continue advocating for peace in Mindanao.

“To depict peace in a concrete form or to have a discourse on the subject like an appreciation of a motorcycle or a painting, for example, is quite difficult as there is no set model or formula able to manifest peace in physical shape. Despite that fact, let us derive wisdom from the words of those who in one way or the other made a journey in the road to peace and freedom, for both are intertwined,” the governor said as he quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who fought the British for independence of India though peaceful means.

The governor said: “Gandhi also countered the dogma of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth which is a concept of vengeance or justice, by simply stating: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

He urged everyone in Sulu to support not only peace, but the efforts of the government in bringing about harmony among all races.

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day -I shall not fear anyone on Earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering,” the governor said.

He ended his message with a quote from civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. :“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Vice Governor Tan led provincial officials and other groups headed by Kusug Tausug in the celebration and peace parade participated by more than 10,000 people around the province and a program held at Notre Dame Gymnasium in the capital town of Jolo.
“This annual observance of the Week of Peace is a manifestation that majority of our people desires peace and that they want peace to reign in Sulu and Mindanao. Peace has no shape, no form and no face. It is abstract and resides in the heart of those who seek it. Peace is perfection as God is Perfection, not attainable in a lifetime,” Tan said.

The Sulu Provincial Women’s Council headed by Nurunisah Tan also led a huge contingent to the Week of Peace celebration and she urged residents to continue the harmonious and peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians.

“Peace is us. Peace begins in our heart and we continue to advocate peace in Sulu and everywhere we go and let us remember that in unity there is strength and power and that we use that power to spread peace and harmony among the people, not only in Sulu but the whole world,” she said.

Peace advocates in Sulu and political allies of Vice Governor Tan also condemned the negative propaganda being peddled by unscrupulous people who are being paid by political foes of Tan to attack the credibility of the provincial government and undermine its efforts in promoting peace and harmony, and development in the province. Tan, one of the most respected Muslim leaders in southern Philippines, is running as regional governor in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in next year’s polls and is being supported by other governors in the ARMM and various groups.

Peace for Zamboanga
In Zamboanga City, some 5,000 people – Christians and Muslims and tribal members – also joined a torch parade on December 2 which was organized by Interreligious Solidarity for Peace.

“We end our meaningful celebration of the Week of Peace with the traditional torch parade to signify our advance from the big and small achievements of our community’s peace-building and peace-making towards the exciting challenges and opportunities we together face in the new year,” Spanish priest and missionary Father Angel Calvo said.

He urged people to face the challenges united in purpose and vision. These challenges, he said, are found in the coming elections, environmental threats, and the Mindanao peace process.

“The elections in May will be our opportunity to renew and strengthen good governance under a political leadership of integrity, who will orchestrate our collective efforts to achieve social justice, human security and communal harmony and peace.  As stakeholders we shall climb new heights, turn new corners in the Mindanao peace process as the agreements between our government and rebel fronts are tested by fast-approaching milestones.”

“As one human family inhabiting one global village called Earth, we shall have to undertake many projects for climate adaptation, disaster management and ecological enhancement for the survival – yes, survival – of our present and future generations,” the priest said.

Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco was also one of the keynote speakers at the culmination of the Week of Peace program and she called on the public to support local government efforts in promoting peace.

Road Projects to bring peace and dev't to DavOr

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 3): Road Projects to bring peace and dev't to DavOr

MATI CITY, Davao Oriental --- The seven big-ticket road projects in Davao Oriental is seen to boost the robust economic growth in the province.

This as the provincial government is poised to intensify its investment promotion campaign especially on tourism after the province’s crown jewel was declared a World Heritage Site, a unique distinction and a big come-on as the biodiversity-rich Davao Oriental is the only province in Mindanao to host a World Heritage Site.

Four of the seven government-funded “high-impact” road projects will be completed in December this year while the rest are set for completion in January and February next year, according to Mariano Alquiza, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Southern Mindanao during a regular press conference held at the DPWH office in the City of Mati.

The upgrading projects of the Mati-Maragusan Road which cost P165 million will be completed in January 2016, according to its contractor H2 Landmark/Three W Builders Inc.

The upgrading of Tibanban-Lavigan-Tagabebe-Surop road in the municipality of Governor Generoso which cost P156 million will be finished in January next year, according to its contractor Maverick Builders Inc. Another upgrading of Tibanban-Lavigan road in the same municipality which cost P145 million will be completed in December this year, according to its contractor Allado Construction Co. Inc./Coastland Const.

The upgrading of the Compostela-Cateel road which cost P242 million will be completed in February next year, according to its contractor Maverick Builders Inc. The PAMANA road project in Barangays San Miguel and PoblacionCaningag in the town of Caraga which cost P100 million will be completed in December this year, according to its contractor Maverick Builders Inc. The road upgrading project in Pusan Point in the same town including the construction of seawall and improvement of Tourism Site cost the government P78.2 million. Its completion is set on December this year. The construction of a bridge in Barangay San Pedro in Caraga town which cost P180 million was completed in October this year.

For her part, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon vows to pour more investments in the construction of roads in the province. “We intend to continue to pour our support to include these conflict-affected and vulnerable areas by providing funds for the rehabilitation, construction, installation of potable water supply and sanitation projects and for the installation, maintenance of lighting system. And in addition, we have extended coverage of the rehabilitation, maintenance and improvement of local roads, bridges and other public facilities in order to sustain the benefits of improved accessibility to these areas,” says the governor.

The Internal Peace and Security Plan or Bayanihan program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was piloted in Davao Oriental to great success, with government and the military cooperating in bringing development projects to far-flung areas especially those called GIDAs or Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas which are far from vital government and private resources.

The government has defined GIDAs as communities with a marginalized population and physically and socio-economically separated from the mainstream society. They are physically isolated due to distance, adverse weather conditions, lack of transportation (island, upland, lowland, landlocked, hard to reach and unserved or underserved communities), with high poverty incidence, presence of vulnerable sectors, and a community in or recovering from situations of crisis or armed conflict.

These inaccessible areas became perfect refuge for rebel groups operating in the province as they felt safe in these areas that eventually became their nerve centers from which all revolutionary movements in the region are directed.

The provincial government and the military are one in saying that when people’s basic needs are met, there will be no reason for the people to join rebel groups and rise against the government. The first item on the long priority list was to improve the road network to connect conflict areas with the rest of the community.

Without access, other basic services will not reach the natives who are among the poorest in the province. To provide the much needed roads, the provincial government acquired its own materials and equipment for road building. Then along with personnel from the military, they painstakingly built the access roads. Eventually new roads were carved out, though still rocky and not concreted. Even then, the people are happy because it significantly shortened travel time from their remote villages to the commercial centers where they market their agricultural produce.


More importantly, the vital road projects in conflict areas in the province forged a good relationship between the provincial government, the military and the natives, and it had planted the seeds of trust that had long been missing in the communities. The new roads plus the healthy relationship paved the way for other aspects of development to enter thesevulnerable areas. The governor, a Mandaya native herself, have also successfully helped the indigenous peoples in the province in their plea for ancestral domain. As they now enjoy full ownership of their ancestral lands, the Mandayas are now assured of equity in their own rich and fertile land, bringing them closer to the support services bankrolled by the national and local governments such as farmer training.

However, the province is now a new beehive of tourism activities. Tourists come in droves to see its most impressive coastal scenery, particularly its awesome and serene beaches and lovely islands. Banking on its magnificent eco-tourism destinations, the local government vows to give its visitors the transformative magic of travel.

The whole of Davao Oriental has just been declared a tourism development area by President Benigno Aquino. The local government funded the development of the province’s top tourism sites. Among them are the Subangan Museum, Mati Park and Baywalk and a sprawling resort in Dahican Beach. As the tourism business in the province is now flourishing, construction of new hotels and resorts is sprouting.

Among the new promising tourism landmarks being constructed by the provincial government is the sprawling and unique Subangan Museum which features, among others, the largest skeletal remains of a Sperm Whale. Tourist arrivals in Davao Oriental have skyrocketed from 17,000 in 2011 to more than 300,000 in 2015.

CDO walks in unity for peace in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 2): CDO walks in unity for peace in Mindanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, December 2 (PIA) – Students and teachers, government and non- government organizations, and religious groups in Cagayan de Oro City walked in unity despite rainfall, from Provincial Capitol Grounds to Kiosko Kagawasan, Divisoria on 26 November 2015 for the opening Mindanao Week of Peace celebration.

As the participants arrive at Kiosko Kagawasan, Divisoria, the solidarity begins. Different groups of religion – Lumads, Muslims, and Christians unite for peace through prayers in the endeavor towards peace in Mindanao. The Lumads, Muslims, and Christian may have different traditions and beliefs, but despite of these differences, there exist common thing which is faith. With that common faith, all hope for peace in Mindanao.

With this year’s theme: “Mindanaoans Aspirations for Peace: Kalinaw sa Dios – Katawhan – Kinaiyahan,” Archbishop Antonio Ledesma further highlighted the message of theme.

“Ang katawhan mao ang pinaka importante apan walay kalambuan alang sa katawhan kung walay kalinaw ug karun kita ginahagit sa pag amping sa kinaiyahan,” (People are the most important but there will be no development if there is no peace and now we are challenged to take care of mother earth.) he said.

“We have to be reminded always that we Muslims, Christians, and Lumads are one in hope, one in aspirations, and live a life that is vibrant with peace of mind. Let us continue to live harmoniously with love, respect and understanding with one another,” says National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Director Ombra Gandamra.

“Today, we can hear lots of chaos from one place to another. There is a need for us to motivate other people in spreading peace particularly in Mindanao since we know that there is a conflict between Muslims and Christians especially the rebels and others. We need peace and that is why I am here.” says Kristal Baldon, a student from Camaman-an National Highs School.

Participants from different groups gather together, extending their right thumb connecting one hand to another as a sign of peace which symbolizes that each people is part in creating peace. It will be the kind of peace that will be shared to everybody – Muslim, Christian, and Lumad united as one.

Mindanao is a land of diversity in terms of race, culture and religion. For years, Mindanao has been encountering peace issues and recently, the number peace issues are rising in especially in terms of land ownership and rebel attacks that result to chaos.

Mindanao Week of Peace is being celebrated annually throughout Mindanao from the last Thursday of November until the first Wednesday of December covered by the Presidential Proclamation No. 127 whereas, the government recognizes the common aspirations of Mindanaoans to live in peace, unity and harmony with each other regardless of status in life, religion, or culture and in order to raise consciousness for a culture of peace among the peoples of Mindanao.