Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reds see 'presidentiables' knocking at their door; support for Poe assailed, defended

From InterAksyon (Dec 28): Reds see 'presidentiables' knocking at their door; support for Poe assailed, defended

NDF Far South Mindanao spokesman Ka Efren during the 47th Founding Anniversary of the CPP on Saturday, December 26.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said its mass base will become a ‘potent force’ in the 2016 elections and it expects presidential candidates to seek it out for support.
In a close election, the spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Far South Mindanao Region (NDF-FSMR) said presidential candidates will ‘scramble’ to reach out to win the support of the rebel movement.

Mas magkukumahog ang matag isa sa ila nga i-reach out kadtong mga grupo nga sa tan-aw nila maka-deliver og (Each will scramble to reach out to groups that will deliver) votes in favor of them,” said Ka Efren, spokesperson of the NDF Far South Mindanao Region.

The NDF is the political umbrella of the CPP which celebrated its 47th Founding Anniversary on Saturday, December 26.

The armed wing of the CPP is the New People’s Army, believed to number at least 8,000 armed regulars, majority them deployed in Mindanao.

Ka Efren said that as a policy, the CPP-NPA-NDF will not participate in the presidential elections but it will allow its allies to form tactical alliance with progressive forces, political parties and individual candidates based on track record and acceptance of “minimum programs and people’s agenda.”

The NDF spokesman added that the underground movement is still “in the process of consultation” with different regional party committees and with its mass base.

The consultation process appeared to instigate and create another debate in the communist underground movement after the National United Front Commission, a staff organ of the CPP, reportedly told its forces to support the candidacy of Senator Grace Poe.

Regional party organs in Mindanao have reportedly aired their views over the haste with which the NUFC arrived at a decision.

Although Ka Efren did not mention any particular presidential candidate, it appears that Senator Poe has been the beneficiary of the NUFC decision.

Nonetheless, Ka Efren said, the CPP-NPA-NDF is yet to issue a statement on the conduct and strategy of the underground movement with regards the 2016 elections.

Ka Efren said the revolutionary forces will try to maximize and leverage its mass base in order to advance the “people’s interest” during the election.

The NDF spokesman said they will give emphasis and importance to the track record of the presidential candidates in determining the conduct of its alliance and united front work.

Rumblings in the Legal Left

Sources from the aboveground Left, particularly the trade union movement, said the decision to declare support for any particular presidential candidate came very early.

Among the presidential candidates, only Senator Miriam Santiago has no formal or previous links with the underground movement.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, a former human rights lawyer, has a history of defending captured communist party leaders. Mar Roxas’ father, Gerry Roxas, was instrumental in the establishment of the NDF.

Senator Grace Poe has reportedly agreed to include progressive forces allied with the Makabayan bloc in her slate.

Of all the presidential candidates, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, however, appears to have the longest track record of maintaining relations with both the progressive movement and the communist rebel movement.

Makabayan vice president for external affairs Teddy Casiño, himself a former member of the House or Representatives, acknowledged that there have been reactions from some member of the progressive bloc, particularly in Mindanao where Duterte is leading the rest of presidential candidates.

Casiño, however defended the position of Makabayan in throwing its support for Poe.

“It underwent a process.  It would be awkward if we suddenly drop Poe like a hot potato because a progressive candidate has joined the race,” Casiño said in defending their position.

But the former congressman said they are willing to discuss any contrary position from their member at the territorial level.

Sa ngayon, wala pa namang pormal na (As of now, there is nor formal) petition from the ground,” Casiño said.

In the 2013 elections, the Makabayan bloc garnered a total combined votes of more than 4.2 million which earned for its group 7 seats in the House of Representatives.

Outgoing Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares is running for senator under Poe’s ticket.

Casiño conceded that Duterte has a long history of cooperation and coalition with the progressive bloc.

But he said at the time the Makabayan bloc arrived at the decision, Duterte was still insisting that he was not running for president.

Duterte finally decided to run for president as substitute to PDP-Laban’s Martin Diño and formally filed his certificate of candidacy on December 8.

AFP Procurement Service reports P700-M savings

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 27): AFP Procurement Service reports P700-M savings

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Procurement Service (AFPPS) reported more than P700 million savings in favor of the government from January to November 2015.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Francis A. Javier, AFPPS commander, said the amount saved is twice their recorded savings for the entire calendar year (CY) 2014.

In his report to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri through Brig. Gen. Job S. Yucoco, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Javier said that the AFPPS, working in conjunction with various AFP Bids and Awards Committees (BAC), registered a total of P765,745,422.06 residuals or savings from January to November.

He said anount is equivalent to eight percent of the total approved budget for the contracts (ABC) accepted within CY 2015.

The residuals were derived from a total of 31,469 purchase orders (POs) or work orders and contracts processed and facilitated by AFPPS and AFP-BACs with the approved budget of P9,878,402,674.93, said Javier.

He noted that in 2014, the AFPPS had a P304,354,966.53 savings in favor of the national government.

Registering the highest savings through public bidding was the Philippine Air Force (PAF) BAC and through alternative modes of procurement from the PAF Procurement Center under Lt. Col. Rhossel R. Duque with P326,657,778.66. The amount represents 18 percent of the ABC facilitated and implemented in conjunction with the PAF BAC, headed by Brig. Gen. Nicolas C. Parilla.

Coming in at second was the Philippine Army Procurement Center (PAPC) under Col. Joel I. Enrile with a total residual of P139,331,440.89. The amount represents seven percent of the unit’s ABC facilitated and implemented in conjunction Army BAC under Brig. Gen. Ronald N. Albano.

Young Officers join the Ranks of 8ID

Posted to Samar News (Nov 9): Young Officers join the Ranks of 8ID

8ID Young officers

November 9, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, SamarTwelve new 2nd Lieutenants who recently graduated from the Officers Preparatory Course and from the Officer Candidate School were assigned with the 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army and were formally welcomed during the flag raising ceremony at Camp Lukban, Catbalogan City on November 9, 2015.

As part of the Army Command's tradition, the young officers were presented during the flag-raising ceremony and individually, they introduced themselves to the officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of the Army Command.

Eight of the newly reported young officers are members of Officer Preparatory Course "LAKANDIWA" Class 63-2014 while four are members of Officer Candidate Course "GANDILAN" Class 44-2015. Seven of them are from Luzon, while five are from Mindanao.

The new 2nd Lieutenants are: 2nd Lt.Philip R Umblas, 2nd Lt. Jim Kevin Z Dagpin, 2nd Lt. Eljing M. Macutob, 2nd Lt. Jay Rodante F. Figurasin, 2nd Lt. Reyzander K. Ga, 2nd Lt Edgardo B. Bernas Jr, 2nd Lt. Floilan I. Valenzuela, 2nd Lt. Rambi C. Onsat, 2nd Lt. JoseIgnacious V. De Leon, 2nd Lt. Jerome Cob D. Dela Cruz, 2nd Lt. Zaldy P. Lim-Ang, and 2nd Lt Bernabe John M Caro.

Prior to their deployment in the different field units, the new officers will undergo the Platoon Leader's Course to refresh them of the military knowledge and skills they acquired from their respective military schools they were honed as military officers.

Major General Jet B. Velarmino AFP, Commander of the Army in Eastern Visayas stressed in his message to the new officers the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Core Values, of Honor, Patriotism and Duty. He said, "Cling on to these values and you will never go astray from the narrow path towards becoming an ideal soldier in the mold of our brave and noble military heroes."

"The Country and the Filipino people expect much of you. Good luck and contribute as much as you can to the achievement of peaceful and development-ready Eastern Visayas," he added.

8ID press corps gain grasp of Army Transformation Roadmap

Posted to the Samar News (Nov 17): 8ID press corps gain grasp of Army Transformation Roadmap

8ID press corps Army Transformation Roadmap seminar

Subject matter experts headed by 8ID Asst. Division Commander BGen. Demy T Tejares AFP, proficiently answered all questions and concerns of all media participants during the open forum on ATR seminar conducted at Headquarters, 8ID, PA on November 13-14 2015.

November 17, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityAround 48 members of 8th Infantry Division’s press corps now have a deeper understanding of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) following a two-day seminar and fellowship event in Camp Lukban in Samar last November 13 to 14.

Members of the press representing the tri-media of Samar and Leyte gathered in the Multi-Purpose Hall of 8ID in Catbalogan City, Samar to participate in the activity which sought to further acquaint them with the objectives and steps being made towards realizing the goal of a “world-class Army that is a source of national pride” through the ATR.

The media practitioners, coming from as far as Tacloban City, Calbayog, Basey and Ormoc City, were given the opportunity to hear about the ATR and the Philippine Army’s plans of further developing itself for the benefit of the Filipino from Brigadier General Demy T Tejares AFP, Assistant Division Commander of 8ID, Philippine Army.

“Together we can really transform the army into a more credible, dynamic, responsive, capable and professional force committed to its mandate of ‘serving the people and securing the land’,” BGen Tejares told the gathered media during the first day of the event.

Also discussed during the course of the activities were the internal security operations (ISO) in Samar, the partnership between the Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against insurgency, feedback mechanism between the Army and the public, the role of the Division Public Affairs Office to the media and vice versa and other concerns related to soldiers’ performance.

During the second day, the Division Commander’s Scorecard, ATR Updates and ATRSEP Survey Results were presented to the media to instill more understanding of the ATR and update them on where the Philippine Army is on the ATR today.

Current issues concerning 8ID, its programs for the communities under its area of responsibility and its relationship to media were also tackled during the open forum.

Team-building activities were also organized in order to further seal the camaraderie between the participants and the organizers of the activity.

At the Closing Ceremonies, BGen Demy T. Tejares AFP, Assistant Division Commander of 8ID, once again joined the participants. The event was concluded with a Cocktail Dinner.

“With your utmost support, our journey towards the implementation of Army Transformation Roadmap could soonest be attained. And that, we have an army that is truly loved by the people we serve” said Tejares to the media in his closing statement.

Reds created monsters they cannot control, says military

From The Standard (Dec 28): Reds created monsters they cannot control, says military

A spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division said local terrorists of the New People’s Army had created a monster in the Magahat Bagani—one they could no longer control. 

In a statement, Captain Joe Patrick Martinez of the Philippine Army said that a text message warning local journalists that they could be ambushed if they covered the 47th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26 had caused alarm on the part of local media practitioners.

“Magahat Bagani force is composed of mostly NPA rebels. NPA taught them to do violence and they should not be surprised if the Magahat know how to sow threat,” Martinez said. 

The text message was purportedly sent by Bobby Tejero of the Magahat militia. 

“Good day to all media in Mindanao, we would like to inform you that we will target for ambush whoever in media will attend the anniversary of the CPP/NPA/NDF. Because anyone attending the anniversary is a sympathizer of the NPA, which is why media should not attend to avoid being involved in the war,” the text message read in part. 

Martinez said it was the NPA terrorists who “know the Magahat very well because they taught them.” 

He added that it was only the AFP that is concerned about the welfare of its media partners. 

But the Magahat Bagani is perceived as a military-backed militia force accused of committing violence against the lumad—indigenous people of Mindanao.

Tejero and his brother Loloy and Garilo Laylo have been charged with murder in relation to the deaths of lumad school executive director Emerito Samarca and two other tribal leaders, Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on  Sept. 1. No arrests have been made.

Violence has driven thousands of lumad from their homes to seek refuge in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has condemned the Magahat Bagani for its threat against journalists and expressed concern over the growing confidence of the militia group. 

A left-leaning party-list group, Bayan Muna, through its Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, said: “That these barefaced threats are issued while a mutual ceasefire and suspension of military operations were declared by the government and the rebels, smack of brazen impunity and disrespect of civilian authorities.”

Gov’t pooh-poohs Reds’ claim of strength

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): Gov’t pooh-poohs Reds’ claim of strength

‘Nothing but propaganda'


The government dismissed claims by the insurgent New People’s Army (New People’s Army) that it was gaining strength in Mindanao and other parts of the country as “a figment of their imagination” and “nothing but propaganda.”

Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said on Sunday that based on the military’s anti-insurgency campaign, “the insurgency problem would cease next year by making their numbers insignificant and their cause irrelevant.”

He said the statement of Jorge Madlos, spokesperson of the communist NPA in Mindanao, that the  insurgent fronts were growing was “a figment of the imagination that aims to excuse their failures and continuous dwindling of strength.”

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a government radio broadcast, called the claims “nothing but propaganda, citing statistics gathered by the Cabinet security cluster showing a decrease not only in the number of its forces but also in the number of its arms and even influence in Mindanao.

Military data cited

Coloma cited military data covering the 4th quarter as compared to the 2nd quarter as follows: a 17-percent drop in the number of forces [1,691 from 2,035]; a 25-percent drop of barangays affected by communist insurgency [414 from 547]; a 6-percent drop in the number of firearms and a 17-percent drop in the number of guerrilla fronts [24 from 29].

“So [its claims) are not true,” he said.

Lost a key leader
Hao, in a separate statement, cited similar statistics and also mentioned that the Mindanao rebels lost one of their key leaders earlier this year. Leonardo Pitao, alias “Parago,” was killed in an encounter in Davao City last June.

During the 47th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines last Saturday, the communist movement claimed their strength grew despite military offensives.

Madlos said they now have 46 guerilla fronts in Mindanao, up from the 40 guerilla fronts during President Aquino’s first year in office.

From 1,850 villages, the NPA reportedly expanded to 2,500 villages with a mass base of 200,000.

A rebel statement from Panay Island also claimed the increased number of attacks launched by the NPA on the island this year demonstrated the extensive troop positioning and depth of the mass base of the revolutionary movement in Panay.

The NPA in Panay surpassed the minimum number of tactical offensives per unit set by the guerrilla leadership, according to Julian Paisano, identified as the CPP regional spokesperson.

Both the government and communist rebels are now observing a 12-day Christmas and New Year ceasefire ending Jan. 3 next year.

Growing CPP-NPA influence denied

From Tempo (Dec 28): Growing CPP-NPA influence denied

Malacañang downplayed claims recently made by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army that their forces are expanding and that they are now asserting their influence in Western Mindanao.
In a radio interview yesterday, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. dismissed this claim as absurd and called it simply as a “propaganda.”

Coloma cited data sourced by the Cabinet security cluster from the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Compared to the second quarter of 2014, there was a 17 percent drop in the number of NPA personnel, from 2,035 to 1,691.

There was also a 25 percent decrease in the number of affected barangays, from 547 to 414, and a six percent drop in the number of weapons, from 2,383 to 2,232.

Their guerilla front also dropped 17 percent from 29 to 24.

Coloma stressed that the decrease in the strength of their forces is already clearly visible and that their effort to deceive is simply in line with their plan to carry out extortion activities, which they call “revolutionary taxation,” because of the upcoming 2016 national elections.

He gave his assurance that the government will continue to intensify the delivery of essential services and programs for the benefit of the citizens while ensuring their security and safety.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe is seeking an indefinite extension of the holiday truce between the government and the NPA.

According to Poe, it could pave the way to a possible resumption of the long-stalled peace talks.

She said the indefinite suspension of military operations could serve as a confidence-building measure that would prod both parties to go back to the peace negotiating table.

“An extension of the ceasefire would be a goodwill gesture that could lead us back to the negotiating table. Armed conflicts must end. People are already weary of violence,” Poe said.

Both the government and the CPP agreed to observe the annual ceasefire from December 23 to January 3, 2016 in solidarity with the Filipino people’s traditional celebration of Christmas and New Year.

The SOMO was approved by President Aquino even after reports that suspected NPA rebels ambushed a Philippine Army convoy carrying relief for victims of typhoon “Nona” in Samar last December 18.

Church leaders have pushed for an extension of the truce, saying the poor were the biggest casualties of the decades-long war between the government and the communists.

“We should not give up on peace. That is not an option for us,” Poe said. Let us not deprive our people of genuine progress. It’s time to move forward,” Poe said, stressing that socio-economic reforms and progress could only exist in a “peaceful and just society.”

Poe’s running mate, Sen. Francis Joseph G. Escudero, also called for an extension of the truce at least until the May 9 elections.

The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, has been waging a guerrilla war for the past 40 years.

Army hopeful of ending insurgency problem

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 28): Army hopeful of ending insurgency problem
With barely six months before President Benigno Aquino III completes his term of office, Army chief, Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, expressed his hope that Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros, the newly-installed commander of the 3 rd Infantry Division, will defeat the CPP-NPA and end the insurgency problem in the three regions of the Visayas by 2016.

Año said he is confident that Cabreros, who was responsible for the neutralization of top Mindanao NPA leader Leoncio Pitao, alias kumander Parago, will be able to achieve it, citing his vast experience and outstanding leadership skills.

Cabreros, former deputy commander of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, replaced Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Mutiangpili, who served as acting 3ID commander for more than a month, in a ceremony held Dec. 23 at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.

The 3ID supervises the internal peace security operations in Western Visayas, the Negros Island Region, and Central Visayas, with 10 provinces already declared as peaceful and ready for further development.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is targeting to end the insurgency problem next year.

In response to the challenge, Cabreros said he aims to secure and sustain the gains of 3ID in its internal peace and security efforts, through “Bayanihan”.

Aside from clearing the remaining insurgent-affected areas in the 3ID area of responsibility, Cabreros said he will also continue to work closely with its partners and stakeholders in nation-building activities and in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations in the three Visayas regions.

The NPA still has at least about 400 armed followers in Panay and Negros islands.

Cabreros also encouraged the 3ID troopers to continue to obey the oath that they took in serving the country and the people. “Let us remain professional and continue to serve selflessly with the highest degree of commitment and dedication in the performance of our duty, with utmost respect for the rights of our people.”

Meanwhile, Año acknowledged the significant accomplishments of Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the former commander of 3ID, who is now serving as commander of the AFP's Eastern Mindanao Command, starting November.

Under the leadership of Guerrero, from September 2014 to November 2015, the 3ID was able to neutralize 64 members of the New People's Army, including the arrest of Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Panay, and facilitated the surrender of 71 NPA rebels.

Military records also showed that the 3ID recovered 15 high-powered firearms, and 25 low-powered guns, and discovered 24 NPA encampments.*

Yuletide ceasefire holding

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 28): Yuletide ceasefire holding

The yuletide truce appears to be holding with the absence of any insurgency-related incident in the past four days, since the suspension of military operations, both by government forces and the New People's Army started midnight of December 23.

The Communist Party of the Philippines also marked its 47th founding anniversary on December 26.

Col. Francisco Delfin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday that he has not monitored any violent incident in the Negros Island Region.

Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, also reported that he has not monitored any incident of indiscriminate firing, or victims of firecrackers' blasts.

Nacion said he hopes that Negrenses will celebrate the New Year's eve peacefully.

The Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) of the PNP also took effect December 23 and will end January 1 next year. The yuletide truce of the AFP and CPP-NPA, respectively, will end on Jan. 3, 2016.

It was, however, clarified that SOPO does not cover normal law enforcement operations, including the service of arrest warrants.

While the Army's 3rd Infantry Division will suspend all deliberate offensive military operations, it will continue to be present in the communities by maintaining its security   patrols to protect the civilian populace, government and private infrastructure, and military camps and detachments, to maintain peace and security in the area, its spokesman, Maj. Rey Tiongson, said.

NPA frees captive, but still liable for abduction

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 28): NPA frees captive, but still liable for abduction

Kidnapped victim Cirilo Bagnoran may have been freed by his abductors on Christmas Day, but the New People's Army is still liable for his abduction, Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said yesterday.

Nacion said the filing of charges against the NPA abductors, whose identities have yet to be established by the police, depends on the testimonies of Bagnoran and other members of his family, and also if they will press charges against the suspects.

Bagnoran, who was abducted by the NPA on Dec. 10, during the raid in the cock farm of Rene Europa, a leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, was released on Dec. 25 by his abductors at a chapel in Sitio Banate, Brgy. Macagahay, Moises Padilla.

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the NPA claimed that it was not an abduction.

In a statement, it said Bagnoran was being freed after it was determined that he was not the mastermind in murder cases filed against him before the revolutionary court, and his participation is only through being a member of the RPA-ABB .

The statement also said that Bagnoran was still confined in a hospital and recovering from his ailment, when the incidents of murder had taken place in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, and Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, respectively, in 2012 and 2015.

Bagnoran was also released in good physical condition, the statement added.

For Col. Francisco Delfin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, “It was too late for being a hero”.

Delfin said the NPA committed a violation of the International Humanitarian Law, when they abducted Bagnoran.

He added that the NPA has no right to subject Bagnoran to a trial by what it claims to be a “ people's court”.

Meanwhile, Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. thanked the NPA for releasing Bagnoran, in the spirit of Christmas season.

Elect a Duterte or Poe for president, Joma Sison might come home

From Rappler (Dec 28): Elect a Duterte or Poe for president, Joma Sison might come home

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who has been asylum in The Netherlands since 1992, shares his impressions of the 5 major contenders for Philippine president

JOMA SISON. The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines

JOMA SISON. The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines

UTRECHT, Netherlands – While a Leftist bloc in Philippine Congress has endorsed a presidential candidate for 2016, and the New People's Army (NPA) just announced that it will again impose permit-to-campaign fees on candidates, communist leader Jose Maria Sison said he does not support anyone in particular.

“The NDF (National Democratic Front) cannot support anyone, it’s against the ruling system. But the NDF is pleased that all the major candidates are for the continuation of the peace negotiations,” he said in a recent interview with Rappler at the NDF information bureau here, which also serves as his home.

But there are at least two presidential aspirants whom he thinks will entice him to come home to the Philippines to talk peace if either of them wins: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe.

Then again, Sison – founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is also chief political consultant to the NDF – is wary of the automated electoral system, which the Philippines started using in 2010. He said the machines could be “pre-programmed” and could be used in tampering the election results.

What does he think of the 5 major contenders for the presidency?

Mar Roxas

“Unless he will be innovative, he will follow the tuwad na daan (crooked path), right? If he wants to play copycat to [President] Noynoy [Aquino], that means to say, he’ll continue the old system. But I don’t know, he might be more intelligent than Noynoy.”

Sison argued that Noynoy only “sits back” and lets whoever he appoints, such as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, decide for him.

Commenting on the Wharton graduate controversy, Sison said the whole issue is an “indication of how low is the quality of the debate.”

Parang labanan ng mga bata (Like a fight among children).”

Sison observed that Roxas believes he will win if he boasts of continuing the Tuwid na Daan (straight path) slogan of Aquino, but Sison calls this move a “kiss of death.”

On Roxas’ similarity to President Aquino, Sison said the candidate lacks heart and compassion for the poor. Roxas only mimics the poor with his Mr Palengke commercials, he said.

Sison also questioned Roxas’ performance in the Yolanda rehabilitation and Zamboanga siege.

Grace Poe

Makabayan is committed to Grace. She has made an agreement, general terms of alliance, with Makabayan: upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, democracy and human rights, industrial development with land reform. So they agreed on that.”

Makabayan is a bloc of leftist groups associated with the national democratic movement in the House. Bayan Muna party list Representative Neri Colmenares, a Makabayan bloc member, is running for senator under the Poe ticket.

Sison acknowledged that Poe is ahead of all other candidates. The question, however, is whether she will honor the agreement once she is in power, he said.

On the question on Poe's citizenship, Sison said he leans toward the opinion of lawyer Katrina Legarda that foundlings are to be recognized as naturnal-born Filipino citizens.

Rodrigo Duterte

Unknown to many, the Davao City mayor was Sison’s former student at the Lyceum.

He shared that when Duterte was still “atras-abante” (undecided) about running for president, his staff would visit Sison in the Netherlands.

“He has very many nice things to say about me and I also have very many nice things to say about him,” Sison said. “So some people would have the impression that I would be endorsing him.”

He clarified, however, that the NDF, CPP, and the NPA do not endorse candidates.

“But, of course, we classify the candidates, parties, and coalitions. It has its own way of reckoning or weighing the characteristics and values of the candidates – who are easier to talk to, who has more potential to agreeing to just peace,” Sison explained.

“Si Duterte, kung dahil disqualified si Grace, siya na ‘yung effective na kapalit as opposition.” (If Grace is disqualified, then Duterte will be the effective replacement as opposition.)

It is unfortunate, said Sison, that the media cannot detect Duterte’s sarcasm and jokes during interviews.

Sison also praised Duterte for having strength of character and for standing against the Americans. For example, Duterte turned down the request of Americans to put up a drone center in Davao.

Sison, however, admitted that he “does not know how true” the claims are against Duterte regarding human rights violations.

Miriam Defensor Santiago

“She does not have the organization, and everybody suspects she has not overcome her health problem,” Sison said. “But you don’t know what can happen if Roxas, Binay, and Miriam would be left, you cannot tell.”

Jejomar Binay

Tumalab ang banat sa kanya sa corruption.” (The attacks on him about corruption worked.)

Sison observed that while the corruption allegations have decreased Binay’s numbers in surveys, however, the Vice President still maintains a big following at “any weather.”

If Duterte and Poe are disqualified, where else will their followers go? They might go to Binay, he said.

All of them of 'low quality'

In summary, Sison said, all the candidates are of “low quality.”

“Kahit sino na lang. Mas marami mababa intellectual caliber,” said Sison. (Anybody can just run. Most of them are of low intellectual caliber.)

Still, Sison, who has been on political asylum in The Netherlands since 1992, said the chances are high for him to someday return to the Philippines if there is a decent president "willing to negotiate seriously."

"If the likes of Duterte or Grace were to be president, I can go home."

NPA claims ‘revolutionary victory’

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 28): NPA claims ‘revolutionary victory’

THE New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental claims “revolutionary victory” as it celebrated its 47th founding anniversary on December 26.

In a press statement, Juanito Magbanua II, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, said the NPA “hails the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for celebrating the 47th Anniversary of its founding on December 26, 1968.”

“The CPP has survived tremendous odds in several years and in recent years under the Oplan Bayanihan of the US-Aquino Regime. The NPA and other revolutionary forces in Negros Island congratulate the CPP for gaining revolutionary victories wave upon wave for over four decades of leading the people’s democratic revolution thru protracted people’s war through hard work and sacrifices of its cadres and members,” the statement said.

“In Negros Island, it was the CPP’s leadership and strong guidance that the revolutionary forces in the Island was able to stand firm and unswerving in the face of an enemy so many times stronger when the AFP made Negros Island one of the national priority areas in its Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency campaign since 2011,” it added.

They also alleged that Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army are harboring illusions that they have already defeated the revolutionary forces in the Island and that what remains are remnants of the NPA, so that they declare Negros to be insurgency manageable and development ready.

“But they continue to call on the revolutionary forces to surrender and capitulate and avail of the amnesty and livelihood programs that they are offering,” it added.

Marañon earlier said the recent atrocities allegedly carried out by the NPA rebels were just to make their presence felt especially that the election nears.

The governor added that he has been appealing for peace and unity of everyone. “Let us not kill each other because we are all Filipinos. If there are problems, it should be discussed to come up with a solution,” he said.

Noppo verifying report of NPA freeing Bagnoran

From Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 28): Noppo verifying report of NPA freeing Bagnoran

AFTER the New People’s Army (NPA) announced over the weekend that they have released Cirilo Bagnoran, a member of the breakaway Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), on Christmas Day, the police said they still have to confirm the report.

Senior Superintendent Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Noppo), said Sunday the La Castellana Municipal Police Station is still verifying the report that Bagnoran was freed.

He was abducted on December 10 when rebels ransacked the cock farm of RPA-ABB leader Rene “Maco” Europa at Hacienda Jamandre, Barangay Robles in La Castellena town.

The NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command said in a press statement that
Bagnoran, 42, was freed at their detachment in Barangay Macahagay, Moises Padilla town.

Early last week, the family of Bagnoran led by his wife Mildred appealed to the rebel group to free her husband in time for Christmas.

Nacion said they were informed that on December 25, Bagnoran was released by his abductors at the mountainous area of Barangay Puso, La Castellana.

When policemen went to the house of Bagnoran on Friday afternoon to confirm if he was indeed freed, his family said he still failed to return, he added.

Nacion said that Bagnoran was sick and very weak, and that policemen are coordinating with his family to ensure that he is safe.

The NPA tagged Bagnoran and Europa in the 2012 murders of Cristie Florendia of Kasilingan Village, La Castellana and Elmer Macurba of Barangay Manlak, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Ka Heneroso Silong, chief of the People’s Court of the NPA, said in a statement that the release of Bagnoran came after the latter was acquitted from the criminal charges.

Silong said the decision of the People’s Court to dismiss the case against Bagnoran went through a process.

An investigative team found that Bagnoran has no involvement in the two incidents since he was confined at the hospital at that time, and that he didn't receive money from a politician to murder Florendia.

Bagnoran said in a radio interview that he was not harmed by the rebels during his two-week captivity.

He added that one of the conditions set by the NPA for his release is that he will leave RPA-ABB.

5 NPA rebels surrender

From Tempo (Dec 28): 5 NPA rebels surrender

Five members of the New People’s Army (NPA) yielded to various units of 10th Infantry (Agila) Division during the Yuletide season, the Army’s information officer in the southern and eastern Mindanao reported.

In a statement, Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief of information office of 10th ID, said the rebels with the support of local community leaders yielded in two batches last December 23 and 24.

Batchar said among those who surrendered was Alias Jerwin, the team leader of Guerrilla Front 20 operating in Davao provinces; Dave, 22, one alias Reyboy, 23, who are members of Guerilla Front 71 operating in southern Mindanao; and Alias Javier, 21 and Alias Soy, both members of security command 15 and 18 of the NPAs in Davao area.

The NPAs identified only by their aliases for security reasons while undergoing processes before they will be allowed to return to their communities, Batchar clarified.

Moro rebels step up attacks in Mindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): Moro rebels step up attacks in Mindanao

BIFF kills 11 villagers, loses 5 fighters in raids

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao—Moro rebels opposed to peace talks with the government on Sunday vowed more violence after Christmas attacks that left at least 16 people dead in Central Mindanao and may have been partly influenced by the notoriety of the Islamic State (IS) group.

“We will continue attacking government forces, their detachments, at a time they least expect,” Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), said in a radio interview.

Mama confirmed the BIFF was behind the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attacks in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and North Cotabato, where the rebels killed 11 civilians and lost five of their own in clashes with government troops.

“I am announcing now, we will continue our attacks against soldiers so they better prepare,” Mama said.

Strike anytime

“The soldiers should be ready all the time, because we will strike anytime. We don’t want them in our land,” he said.

About 200 BIFF insurgents took part in at least eight attacks on Thursday and Friday, according to Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson for the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Other reports gave the number of insurgents at 300 and said eight farmers were killed in the border towns of Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat and Datu Abdulla Sangki in Maguindanao early on Thursday.

The attacks forced 200 families, or 6,000 people, from their homes in the villages of Paitan in Esperanza and Kakal in Datu Abdulla Sangki, according to Chief Insp. Bryan Bernardino, Esperanza police chief.

They are now sheltering at the Esperanza municipal stadium, he said.

“They celebrated Christmas in the town stadium. They return to their communities at daytime but return to the gym at night,” he said.

Military warning

Petinglay said the military learned about the impending attacks and secured towns and villages and warned villagers not to venture out, preventing a large number of casualties.

Despite warnings from the military, five farmers went to their farms on Thursday to spray insecticide on their crops in Maguindanao and were captured and executed by the rebels, Petinglay said.

In Esperanza, rebels fleeing from Army troops took a family hostage on Thursday, freeing a mother and her child but killing three farmers, she said.

The rebels also stormed the villages of Simsiman and Malagkit in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, killing a village official. They also fired a grenade at a Roman Catholic chapel during Christmas Eve Mass, killing two churchgoers.

Petinglay said villagers in one area hid in a Roman Catholic church after word of the rebel assaults spread.

Five rebels dead

At least four rebels died in a clash when they assaulted a military outpost in Esperanza on Thursday, sparking a gun battle, she said.

One other wounded rebel was reported to have died in a village clinic, she said.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, said two homemade bombs were left by the rebels in a jungle trail where pursuing troops would pass, but the soldiers found the explosives.

Mama claimed the people killed by his group were militiamen, and said the attacks were inspired by IS, the group of jihadists that holds swaths of Iraq and Syria.

IS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian commercial plane over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, killing all 224 people onboard, on Oct. 31, and the multiple attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and 352 others wounded on Nov. 13.

But Petinglay disputed

Mama’s claim, saying in a radio interview that the BIFF only “wanted to project it is still a force to reckon with after [being] reduced to a ragtag [band] of bandits following Army offensives in January.”

Petinglay said all units of three Army brigades in the region had been placed on full alert for possible BIFF attacks.

Opposed to peace deal

The hardline BIFF broke off from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2011, opposing the MILF’s decision to hold peace talks with the administration of President Aquino and opting to continue to fight for a separate Islamic homeland in Mindanao.

The government and the MILF signed a peace agreement in March last year and proceeded to work out a plan for the establishment of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is stalled in Congress, but administration allies in the House and in the Senate have expressed hope the bill will be passed before President Aquino steps down at the end of June next year.
Riding on IS ferment

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said on Saturday the breakaway rebels may have carried out the attacks to ride on the restiveness fostered by IS and to exploit delays in the enforcement of the peace deal between the government and the MILF.

“They’re riding on the ferment of [the Islamic State group] and, second, they see uncertainties precisely because of the delay and they want to generate some momentum,” Ferrer said.

She warned of increased attempts by the BIFF to “destabilize” security in Central Mindanao, but Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military was ready, as it expected more raids and harassment by the rebel group in retaliation for losses it had suffered in a series of military operations early this year.

Padilla said the military and the police were keeping the clashes “localized,” as government forces hunt down the rebels behind the attacks.

The latest attacks were the most brazen by the BIFF since a military offensive against the group left more than 100 rebels dead early this year.

The BIFF still has about 100 armed fighters who may have been joined by relatives and new recruits to stage the attacks, the military said.

Residents evacuate after BIFF threat in Central Mindanao

From GMA News (Dec 28): Residents evacuate after BIFF threat in Central Mindanao

[Video report]

Residents in Central Mindanao have voluntarily evacuated due to the threat of attacks by the rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a report on Unang Balita on Monday said.

In Midsayap, Cotabato at least 200 families or at least 1,000 residents have sought refuge in schools and the barangay hall since Sunday.

Adding to the tension is the rido or "blood feud" between armed groups.

Tension was also heightened in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.

More than 200 families also left their homes in Esperanza due to the series of attacks by the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that is opposed to the peace agreement with the government.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is on red alert in the whole region, the report said.

The military on Sunday said some residents affected by the recent attacks by the BIFF have become too scared to sleep in their homes.

Ten civilians were killed by the BIFF in Central Mindanao on Dec. 24.

Two Marines dead, one injured in Sulu attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf

From GMA News (Dec 28): Two Marines dead, one injured in Sulu attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf

Two soldiers from the 22nd Marine Company were killed while another one was injured when suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels attacked their camp in Sulu on Monday.

The rebels conducted the attack at around 2 a.m. in Sitio Palan, Brgy. Mampallan in Talipao at around 2 a.m., Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military's Western Mindanao Command, said.

A brief firefight occurred, then the armed group withdrew with an undetermined number of casualties, Tan said.

The military is still pursuing the rebels as of posting time.

The rebel group has several foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu, among them a Dutch wildlife photographer who was abducted in February 2012 in Tawi-Tawi.

Moro clan war send civilians fleeing in N. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Moro clan war send civilians fleeing in N. Cotabato

A long standing clan war involving Moro families in interior villages here erupted over the weekend and sent more than 200 families fleeing to safer grounds on Saturday and Sunday, police said Monday.

Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said involved in the clan war, more known in the community as "rido," were the families of Kumander Timbulilong and Kumander Fredi Mangansa. Both were affiliated with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

On Saturday evening and Sunday, the warring families traded shots in the village of Mudsing, Midsayap, about 10 kilometers away from the town center.

Although they were kilometers apart and no actual close combat, the sporadic exchange of gun fire has sent villagers, both Muslims and Christians to evacuate to safer grounds.

"This is a long standing family feud that involved land dispute and territorial control," Tuzon said.

The 4 p.m. clash on Sunday left two persons wounded but Tuzon said it was yet to be confirmed.

The exchange of gun fire ceased when Midsayap police personnel came over to mediate.

"We are coordinating with the military to ensure the conflict will not escalate," Tuzon said.

Midsayap Mayor Romeo Arania has directed the town's social welfare and development office to attend to the needs of the displaced families.

The situation has normalized, Tuzon said, but added many of the displaced civilians prefer to stay in nearby villages for fear of resumption of hostilities involving warring Muslim families.

The government and MILF peace panels have already sent emissaries to mediate and settle the conflict peacefully.

The atrocities came as outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have been harassing Christian communities in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

On Christmas Day, armed men killed a village councilman in Barangay Simsiman, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato which was 10 kilometers away from Midsayap.

The Army's 6th Infantry Division have been hunting down the lawless elements.

GPH, MILF peace panels welcome Marcos' assurance to pass BBL within Aquino's term

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): GPH, MILF peace panels welcome Marcos' assurance to pass BBL within Aquino's term

The peace panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today lauded the optimism of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. that the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall see the light within the time left of the current Congress.

"I am confident that the Senate would do its best to pass the proposed measure within the remaining session days of Congress ‎after considering all the amendments introduced by the Senators," Marcos said in a letter addressed to peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (GPH) and Mohagher Iqbal (MILF) dated Dec. 1 but just recently received by the peace panels.

On its last session-day on Dec. 16, the HOR concluded the period of interpellation on the proposed bill. Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the ad hoc committee on the BBL, vowed to pass the bill when Congress resumes session in January.

The Senate, on the other hand, failed to deliberate on the Bangsamoro law on its last week of session this December.

Marcos' letter was in response ‎to the open letter of the peace panels sent to Congress on Nov. 26.

"‎Time is short, but there is still time. We ask our legislators to work for the immediate passage of the draft law on the Bangsamoro. Time is of the essence, and opportunity knocks only once,” the GPH and MILF peace panels expressed in an open letter.

"We are at the cusp of closing a major armed conflict that has divided our people for decades. But we cannot reach our destination without the goodwill and show of statesmanship from our leaders in the august halls of Congress, in whose hands the legislative power lies," they added.

In said joint letter, the peace panels underscored the importance of passing the BBL to continue the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, generate positive effects on the succeeding administration and arrest the spread of extremism.

"We ask you, our legislators, to open your hearts and to give our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters this one good chance to enjoy the right to peace, and partake of meaningful reforms and development," they concluded.

Marcos' positive statement on the passage of the Bangsamoro bill came weeks ‎after he was quoted in news reports saying that the measure "is dead since Congress just run out of time to pass it."

2 troopers killed, another 1 wounded in ASG attack in Sulu outpost

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): 2 troopers killed, another 1 wounded in ASG attack in Sulu outpost

Western Mindanao Command (WMC) units are now pursuing suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who killed two soldiers and wounded another during an attack in a military detachment in Talipao, Sulu Monday early morning.

Major Filemon Tan, WMC spokesperson, said the attack took place at 2 a.m. in Sitio Palan, Barangay Mapallam, Talipao.

In the unprovoked assault, two soldiers were killed while another one was wounded.

Government return fire drove away the ASG bandits and inflicted still undetermined number of casualties among the brigands.

Tan did not identified the slain and wounded troopers pending notification of their next-of-kin.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting.

PAF transport planes flying military personnel on Yuletide leave

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): PAF transport planes flying military personnel on Yuletide leave

Transport aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) are now flying off-duty soldiers to their respective provinces so that they can be reunited with their loved ones during the Yuletide season.

Aircraft utilized for this ongoing mission are the PAF's three Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft and two of the brand-new Airbus Military C-295 medium transport planes.

On one flight, a C-130 can transport around 100 personnel while the new C-295 can carry 70 passengers.

PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya said soldiers on rest and recreation for the Yuletide season are priority passengers for these flights. The PAF's 220th Air Wing is the unit performing this mission, he added.

"(These flights are being undertake to) morale of the Armed Forces of the Philippines troops who were deployed in remote areas, away from their families," Canaya disclosed.

EMC condemns CPP extortion schemes against politicians

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): EMC condemns CPP extortion schemes against politicians

The Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) is strongly condemning the extortion schemes being implemented by armed members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) against politicians planning to campaign in the areas of Eastern Mindanao.

"The (CPP's) resorting to armed struggle utilizing threats, intimidation, terror and violence infringes upon the constitutional rights of the people to choose the best leaders who can bring real reforms through good governance," EMC public affairs office chief Capt. Alberto Caber said.

He added these dirty tactics are meant to delimit the candidates’ campaign activities in the countryside.

Caber said the EMC is strongly advising candidates against giving in to the demands of these bandits as the extortion money can be used to sustain the armed struggle through violence and intimidation against innocent civilians and properties.

"Also as consequence, this (CPP) extortion scheme hampers the delivery of government services and causing underdevelopment or non-development of far-flung communities," he stressed.

CPP-NPA celebrates 47th founding anniversary

From The Times (Dec 27): CPP-NPA celebrates 47th founding anniversary

The military could only watch on the sidelines as the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) celebrated their 47th founding anniversary in the rebels’ known lair in Agusan del Norte yesterday.

Because of the prevailing holiday truce, all troops are under orders to stand down against the communist rebels, Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said.

“They have their gathering somewhere in Agusan del Norte. Our monitoring is still ongoing and the security in the area is generally peaceful as of the moment,” Padilla said.

The military is currently strictly enforcing the government-declared unilateral truce with the communist insurgents from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3.

However, the truce will not prevent the soldiers from supporting their police counterparts in carrying out routine law enforcement duties, Padilla said.

But as in past ceasefires, the AFP leadership ordered its troops to take an active defense posture to prevent attacks from the rebels, a tradition being carried out by CPP-NPA-NDF to highlight their founding anniversary.

On the other hand, troops in Northern Mindanao, Caraga and Davao regions are also under orders to keep an eye on the Magahat Bagani Force and other anti-communist groups composed of tribesmen.

Earlier, Magahat Bagani Force leader Bobby Tejero issued a warning that anyone – civilians, politicians and members of the media – attending the CPP-NPA-NDF anniversary celebration would be considered targets.

Tejero and his brother Loloy were tagged as being behind the deaths of three Lumads they accused of being NPA supporters in Barangay Diatagon, Lainga, Surigao del Sur last September.

“Taking the law into their hands is a criminal act. We will not allow it and we are now pursuing them for their involvement in the killings of three Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

This developed as the Army leadership in Northern Mindanao twitted the NPA for celebrating their founding anniversary with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman for the Cagayan de Oro City-based 4th Infantry Division, said the NPA is celebrating 47 years of “banditry.”

“For almost half a century, the Communist Party of the Philippines always highlights the criminal acts perpetrated by their armed wing, the NPAs,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that NPA top leaders like Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris and Myrna Sularte alias Malaya and the rest of their comrades in arms are currently facing multiple charges of murder, frustrated murder, kidnapping, exploitation of minors, illegal possession of explosives and other crimes in various courts in Mindanao.

He also accused Madlos and his comrades of inciting minors to join their ranks.

This was uncovered after soldiers were able to rescue two students whom Madlos lured to go and join the underground movement, he said.

“The parents of the two minor students have filed and are pursuing the case against Madlos and Genasque Enriquez, secretary general of the Kahugpugan sa Lomadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KLOC),” Martinez said.

KLOC is known to the military as a left-wing group supporting the NPA in the region under the guise of being a non-government organization.

Meanwhile, a member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) was released by the NPA on Christmas Day.

RPA-ABB member Cirilo Bagnoran, 42, was freed by the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command at their detachment in Barangay Macahagay, Moises Padilla town on Friday.

Some in central Mindanao scared to sleep in homes after BIFF attacks – military

From GMA News (Dec 27): Some in central Mindanao scared to sleep in homes after BIFF attacks – military

Some Mindanao residents in the areas affected by recent deadly attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are now too scared to sleep in their homes, the military said Sunday.

The death toll due to the attacks in central Mindanao was at 13 as of Friday afternoon, including fatalities from the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that is opposed to the peace agreement with the government.

BIFF guerillas captured several farmers and shot them dead on December 24 in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, said Colonel Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of 33rd Infantry Battalion.

Some of the bodies were not found till two days later, he told AFP.

Also on Christmas eve, the BIFF launched an attack on a village in Pigcawayan town, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Manila, that left a district official dead, the colonel added.

Six guerillas were killed and eight wounded in fighting which lasted three days, although only one body was recovered, Bunayog added.

The raids have stoked fear in Mindanao, where Christians are the majority but which the country's Muslim minority claims as their ancestral homeland.

"Since [Saturday], it has been quiet. But the damage has been done. People on the outskirts are scared and at night, they move to the centre of the town," sleeping in the local  gymnasium, Bunayog said.

"I tell them we have enough security forces but they are too scared," he added.

Bunayog could not rule out more attacks by the BIFF, saying that members of the group had been seen meeting "in numbers beyond their usual size," but could not give a motive for their new attacks on Christian communities.

A BIFF spokesman earlier confirmed they were behind the raids but had said it was over an unspecified land dispute.

The BIFF continues to seek a separate Islamic state and remains opposed to a government-MILF effort to create a Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao as part of a peace agreement.

Last year, the BIFF uploaded clips on YouTube showing one of its leaders pledging support for the Islamic State organization, the jihadist group that has seized a large swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria.