Thursday, January 7, 2016

Zamboanga on alert vs MNLF intrusion

From ABS-CBN (Jan 8): Zamboanga on alert vs MNLF intrusion

[Video report]
Default News template and player embed
The Zamboanga City government is on high alert after members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were seen making their way through the city.
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle "Beng" Climaco said Friday that unarmed MNLF members from Sarangani province have started crossing the city yesterday on their way to Indanan, Sulu for a tripartite meeting.

Climaco said the police and military escorted the MNLF to Sulu-bound sea vessels to make sure the MNLF will not take up arms while in the city.

She said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) was clueless about the activities of the MNLF.

She said the OPAPP must determine whether MNLF leader Nur Misuari should be considered a fugitive, and if his group should be barred from gathering.

"Kung mayroon po talaga siyang order of arrest, bakit po sila pinahihintulutan magkaroon ng gathering doon? Iyun po ay hindi namin masagot," Climaco said.

Misuari faces a rebellion case and violation of international humanitarian law after hundreds of his armed followers attacked Zamboanga City in September 2013, displacing thousands of families.

Since then, Misuari has reportedly been hiding in MNLF camps in Sulu province.

READ: Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought

Climaco said her constituents are still worried that violence may erupt anew as more MNLF members are expected to continue crossing Zamboanga to and from Sulu.

"Ang tanong natin, ano talagang plano nila roon at anong mangyayari pagbalik nila rito? Kung pwede, huwag na lang po silang dumaan ng Zamboanga City para mas maging mas mapayapa, tahimik ang mga tao," she said.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway Muslim rebel group, killed 10 civilians in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao last Christmas eve. The BIFF also attacked three Army detachments in Maguindanao on January 1.

The series of bloody attacks have prompted the evacuation of affected families.

5 NPA rebels surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 8): 5 NPA rebels surrender

FIVE NPA members surrendered to different units under 10th Infantry Division over the weekend.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th ID, identified them by their aliases as Vanvan, 21, and Dahon, 20, both members of Guerilla Front 71 of the Far South Mindanao Region, who brought along two high-powered firearms, an AK-47 and a M16 rifle.
Batchar said Alias Vanvan and Dahon surrendered to the 73rd Infantry Battalion when they were ambushed by their own comrades after they failed to deliver supplies to a group of NPAs, under alias Yoyong.
Meanwhile, a married couple identified as alias Ryan, 20, and his wife, alias Ariane, 22, both members of Guerilla Front 73, and alias Jay, 17, member of Guerilla Front 34 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, also  surrendered to soldiers.
In his statement, Maj.Gen Rafael Valencia expects that communist rebels should realize that 47 years of armed struggle has only brought misery to the Filipino families.
“Many Filipino lives were wasted, as parents and children alike were victimized by the brutality of the armed struggle carried out by the CPP-NPA,” Valencia said.
The former NPAs will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government.

New paradigm from CPP/NPA for peace process to progress

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 8): New paradigm from CPP/NPA for peace process to progress

This refers to a published statement titled “Cease all hostilities until the 2016 elections” (Page A4, 12/22/15).

We appreciate the concern expressed by our citizens—represented by 124 civil society organizations from the insurgency-torn areas in Mindanao and the Cordillera—in their call for a cessation of all hostilities until after the 2016 national elections.

Truly, our people, most especially the lumad communities, have suffered too much for too long, bearing the brunt of the armed conflict between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front. The continuing violence is a violation of our people’s human rights to life, liberty and a safe and peaceful environment. This senseless violence must end, and it is the task of all peace-loving peoples to create a conducive environment, especially during the coming election period, for the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.
Nothing could be more desirable than a prolonged ceasefire that covers the coming elections. However, the call for a prolonged ceasefire during the election period must include the demand for the cessation of all disruptive activities by the CPP/NPA/NDF, such as the collection of their “permit to campaign” and “permit to win” from political candidates, the extortion from business establishments, and other unlawful fees.

It has been a long and painful road to peace marred by an immovable framework under The Hague Joint Declaration and impossible preconditions by the NDF panel, foremost of which is the release of 500 political prisoners prior to the resumption of the talks.

From the regular track to a special track proposed by Jose Ma. Sison, to a special exploratory team, to initiatives by the Royal Norwegian Government to resume the peace process, the main insurmountable issue has been the NDF demand for the wholesale release of its detained officers and members before the negotiations can be resumed. Thus, for over 30 years, our process has been marred by suspensions, walkouts and impasses.

With the short runway left to the Aquino administration, we can no longer realistically pursue the negotiations and expect results.

However, we continue to pursue the peace, but with a limited agenda, to reach agreement with the NDF to reduce the level of armed violence on the ground and restore the public’s trust in the peace process. We have conveyed this message to the NDF through our third-party facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government.

A word of caution, though, for our civil-society friends, who undoubtedly have only the best intentions for our nation and people: In asking that all candidates promise direct negotiations with the NDF in the first 100 days of any winning “presidentiable,” the same would be correct if indeed the NDF was the right party to talk to in the first place.

The NDF is a political coalition of various revolutionary groups, but does not include the CPP and the NPA. The NPA from its inception has always been the military arm of the CPP and only the latter can order it to change its course. On the other hand, the CPP has consistently, without fail, stated in its official newsletter, Ang Bayan, that the “peace negotiations should be utilized for communist propaganda and in order to overthrow government through armed struggle.” Unless a new paradigm is extracted from the CPP/NPA, talks with the NDF will result in the same failed status, as was the case in the 30-year duration of negotiations.

The government is open to the proposal for ceasefire during the campaign, election period, and even beyond. We encourage our countrymen and women to continue proposing the deescalation of armed violence through concrete, verifiable, unilateral goodwill gestures undertaken by both the Philippine government and the NDF for the good of the people, and to rebuild public trust in the peace process.

Together, let us invigorate our protracted peace process with the CPP/NPA/NDF and finally achieve the peace we all desire.

Government Panel for the
Peace Negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF

2 soldiers hurt in Northern Samar landmine attack

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (Jan 7): 2 soldiers hurt in Northern Samar landmine attack

Two government troopers were wounded in a landmine attack by New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Samar Wednesday evening.

Captain Isagani Viernes, chief of the 8th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, said the blast came in shortly after troops, numbering to about 16 soldiers of the 20th Infantry Battalion, led by 2nd Lieutenant Jeffrey Angelo Flores, were conducting security patrol following a report of NPA presence in the hinterland of Barangay Bagacay, Palapag, Northern Samar.

The Army official said they troops were made to follow an unidentified person until two of them hit an improvised explosive device (IED) planted along the soldiers' patrol route.

Shortly after the blast, a few minutes of firefight ensued until the NPA rebels withdrew.

The wounded soldiers were identified as Corporal Donnie A. Aton, who was hit by a PVC canister of the IED, and Private First Class Bingbong Crisologo, who sustained minor lacerations in the forehead due to IED fragments.

Their comrades rushed them to the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, villagers from at least 15 upland villages of Calbiga town left their homes and evacuated to downtown in anticipation of an all-out military operations against the rebels in the area.

Sketchy reports said the villagers, considered as internally displaced persons, were seen hauling their families and their belongings and are now staying with their relatives in a village near the town center for fear that they might be caught in a crossfire between the military and NPA rebels.

One evacuee, who requested not to be named for security reason, said they were allegedly asked by the military to evacuate because military operations will start to pursue members of the CPP-NPA-NDF hiding in the boundaries of Calbiga, Basey and Eastern Samar where their villages are situated.

But the military denied the allegations, saying there are no impending all-out military operations in the area.

“There are neither such operations nor directive issued to them. Normal military operations such regular combat patrol and similar activities will resume as the Somo (suspension of military operations) ended January 3,” the military said.

Political prisoner jailed for 11 years dies on brink of expected freedom

From InterAksyon (Jan 8): Political prisoner jailed for 11 years dies on brink of expected freedom

The late political prisoner Eduardo Serrano waving a clenched fist after a hearing at the Quezon City regional trial court.

A political prisoner who was expected to finally walk free early this year after more than 11 years in jail died Friday morning.

"As of 8:10am today, political prisoner Eduardo Serrano passed away at the Philippine Heart Center," said a message from Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes of the Health Alliance for Democracy that was posted on social media by Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Serrano, 62, who was a consultant of the National Democratic Front peace negotiating panel, was admitted to the Heart Center last month after suffering a heart attack on December 16. He had undergone angioplasty during his confinement.

He was arrested in 2004 and accused, as alleged Mindoro New People’s Army commander Rogelio Villanueva, of crimes supposedly committed during a March 2003 ambush.

After more than a decade behind bars, things started looking up for Serrano last year when two branches of the Quezon City regional trial court cleared him in quick succession of what he and human rights organizations have maintained were trumped up charges.

In late October, Branch 98 ordered Serrano’s “immediate release” after ruling that he was not who the Army accused him of being.

That ruling, by Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang, described as "pathetic" the "outright mockery of the basic human rights on due process of law which is enshrined in our Constitution" by the authorities who arrested Serrano and insisted he was the rebel commander Villanueva.

A month later, Branch 100 said Serrano had been “wrongly charged, falsely accused and erroneously imprisoned” and called prosecution witnesses’ testimonies "replete with irreconcilable inconsistencies on material points, (and) is also inherently implausible as it is contrary to human experience" and were “either imagined or trumped up.”

However, he was also facing charges of multiple frustrated murder before Branch 215 and kidnapping before Branch 97, although the human rights group Karapatan earlier said it was confident these, too, would be dropped following the earlier decisions and Serrano would be released.

A 1976 agriculture graduate of the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Serrano, just three days before his heart attack, wrote students at his alma mater, which he said he last visited in February 1983, in which he shared his expectations of freedom: "Kapag natapos ko ang 2 pang kaso sa sunod na taon, magkikita-kita tayo sa (Once I finish my remaining two cases next year, let's see each other at) UPLB!"
Before his death, he was one of the 561 political prisoners -- 19 of them NDF consultants who the rebels and human rights groups say are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees -- in the country.

The continued detention of NDF consultants has been the major reason cited for why peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels have been stalled for years.

Serrano had two daughters.

His case has been compared to that of Rolly Panesa, a security guard from Negros Occidental who was arrested in Quezon City in October 2012, severely tortured and then presented by the military as alleged Southern Luzon rebel leader “Benjamin Mendoza,” in a case that was extensively followed by

Although Panesa was ordered released almost a year later by the Court of Appeals, who ruled his case one of “mistaken identity,” the military attempted to again file charges against him and even handed out the P5.6-million bounty for “Mendoza.”

Thousands of civilians flee homes in Philippines after deadly rebel attacks

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 7): Thousands of civilians flee homes in Philippines after deadly rebel attacks

SULTAN KUDARAT – Thousands of civilians remain in different evacuation areas in southern Philippines following recent attacks by separatist rebels on military posts.

Many civilians were afraid of returning homes for fear that rebels would launch another attacks on the military or villagers in Sultan Kudarat province as well as in nearby Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region.

About a dozen people had been killed in attacks launched by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who are fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in southern Philippines.

The rebels also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and have attracted a number of sympathizers and recruits, although the army continues to downplay the capability of the BIFF to launch a major assault.

The army had the BIFF on the run following a massive campaign last year, but the rebels managed to regroup and recruit more members and armed them with automatic weapons bought from illegal gun dealers.

There were suggestions from various groups to open peace talks with the BIFF, whose members were mostly former guerrillas of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.

But many BIFF members were also radicalized with links to Malaysian and Indonesian jihadists being coddled by rogue MILF commanders in the troubled region.

Villagers fleeing Sultan Kudarat province climb on board a truck in the town of Esperanza as thousands of civilians from nearby province of Maguindanao abandon their houses and seek refuge from government shelters following recent attacks by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who are fighting for a separate state in the restive Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Mark Navales)

Arms buried at invasion site

From the Daily Express (Jan 6): Arms buried at invasion site

Lahad Datu: A cache of rusted weapons and ammunitions was found buried under a former residential area in Kampung Tanduo here, Monday, raising eyebrows among security forces as to its origins.
According to State Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, all the weapons were badly damaged and unusable. Judging by their condition, it is believed that they have been kept underground for more than two years.    "It is believed that they were hidden by the terrorist group before they fled Kg Tanduo during Ops Daulat," said Rashid.    The weapons, two M14 rifles, one Uzi pistol, three Colt .45 pistols, one revolver, a pair of handcuffs and 173 bullets of different calibres, were kept in a sack before being buried under the sand.     ­The discovery was made by a team of 15-member General Operations Force led by two officers following a tip-off from the public when the team was conducting Ops Taring in the area.    An excavator was used to recover the weapons and ammunitions.    All the recovered items were handed over to Cenderawasih Police Station for further action. The case will be investigated under Arms Act 1960.    From Feb 11 to March 24, 2013, a group of 253 men and women, some armed, who called themselves the "Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo", held a standoff with Malaysian police and military forces in their effort to assert the unresolved territorial claim of the Philippines to eastern Sabah.    Malaysian security forces surrounded Tanduo village where the group had gathered and after several weeks of negotiations and unmet deadlines for the intruders to withdraw, the security forces attacked and routed the Sulu militants.    In the aftermath, 10 security forces members and 70 militants were killed, one Special Branch officer was convicted for intentionally withholding information about the intrusion, and 27 Filipinos and three Malaysians are being prosecuted for various charges mainly for waging war against the King, harbouring of terrorists, being members of a terrorist group, and the recruiting of terrorists.    Among those being prosecuted is the nephew of Jamalul Kiram III, one of the claimants to the throne of the so-called Sultanate of Sulu, called Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, who abandoned his men in Tanduo and was caught by Malaysian security forces hiding 80 km away in the swamps around Semporna.

Turkey-based firm denies supplying AFP with smuggled defense wares

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 6): Turkey-based firm denies supplying AFP with smuggled defense wares

THE local marketing arm of a firm based in Ankara, Turkey on Wednesday denied allegations that the crucial defense products including over 4,500 rounds of howitzer ammunition it supplied to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were smuggled.

In a statement, Murat Ünlütürk, chairman of DMC Defense which is the local marketing arm of Mechanical and Chemical Industries Corporation (MKEK) based in Ankara, said that “in all of MKEK’s business dealings, whether commercial or governmental, MKEK always places great value to integrity, honesty and professional ethics.”

Also, since MKEK is a government company, its finances are transparent and are open to public, therefore, all operations are required by law to be accounted for and liquidated to the dollar,” Unluturk pointed out.
He also pointed out that all products of MKEK are manufactured under NATO standard.

“All products undergo strict quality and inspection tests which are in accordance with domestic and international NATO standards. Furthermore, all products provided to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Defense pass through several rigorous stages of the procurement process under Philippine Procurement Laws which are exemplary,” he said.

Reports earlier stated that the over 4,500 rounds of 105 mm Howitzer ammunition to the Philippine Army and 1,000 rounds of 105 ammunition to the Philippine Navy from DMC were imported without the required permits.

He said such allegations were baseless and “feeble attempts” to tarnish the good name and reputation of the MKEK, as well as the AFP.

MKEK is a wholly owned corporation of the government of Turkey and traces its roots to the Artillery Corps of the Ottoman Empire in 15th century before it was formally founded as MKEK in 1950. With its ten modern factories and over 7000 employees, MKEK supplies NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) standard arms and ammunition to the Turkish Armed Forces and exports to 50 countries worldwide.

He added that the misleading reports were from a local firm whose services were terminated by MKEK to import such goods.

He said they are already studying the possibility of filing a case against the said local firm.

100 families flee as 2 MILF commanders clash in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 7): 100 families flee as 2 MILF commanders clash in North Cotabato

At least 100 families fled their homes in Pikit, North Cotabato, when followers of two feuding Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders clashed on Thursday morning, the police reported.

Senior Inspector Sindatu Karim, Pikit town police chief, said the clash started when the group of Commander Ricky Husain – backed by Commander Mokamad Andoy – attacked the forces of Commander Bhoto Mantol in the boundary of Barangays Talitay and Bulod.

The three commanders were relatives, Karim said, but they have been locked in a long-running feud. He did not say when and how the feud started.

“It’s a family matter,” he said.

Karim said the two groups traded bullets for about 20 minutes but there had been no reports on any casualty from either side yet.

However, terrified residents of the two villages fled to safety and had sought refuge in relatives living in other village and in village halls.

He said the police and the military had sent forces to prevent the hostilities from escalating into nearby villages.

Military launches hunt for ISIS man

From the Manila Times (Jan 6): Military launches hunt for ISIS man

The Philippine Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion based in Davao del Sur has launched pursuit operations to track down the lair of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, the alleged leader of Ansar al-Khilafah (Supporters of the Caliphate) in the Philippines (AKP), which is believed to be in the hinterlands of Sarangani Province.

Colonel Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB), is leading the operation against Maguid and his trusted man, identified as Limbo Jusin Pala. The two are top on the list of high-profile members of the terror cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) under its fallen leader Abdul Basit Usman.

Maguid, alias “Tokboy,” who escaped from a four-hour gun battle with government forces in the town of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat on November 23, 2015, was reportedly on a mission to create large-scale violence in Central Mindanao.
Maguid and Pala are considered high-profile personalities by the military in the Mindanao Region, being key players of the JI terror cell left by Usman.

The AKP has claimed affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, whose presence in Mindanao was confirmed to The Manila Times by a ranking officer of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces Military Intelligence Group (ISAFP-MIG) in the region.

Maguid was tasked to continue the role of Usman and Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” in carrying out atrocities as part of their jihad mission.

Part of ISIS’s strategic plan is to secure external support and recruit other terror groups in Southern Philippines like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM), Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) and other allied forces, according to the same source.

Another source, identified only as Abdullaziz, who is from Kabuntalan in the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao, told The Manila Times that Maguid directly trained under two Indonesian nationals who arrived in the Mindanao Region three years ago.

The Indonesian nationals are reportedly training ISIS recruits organized by Maguid in undisclosed areas near the MILF camp. Their recruits are believed to be disgruntled MILF commanders who are now strongly supporting ISIS in the region.

Alarmed by the recent encounter between the ISIS recruits of Maguid and government soldiers, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Police Regional Office 12 and the Army’s 1002nd Brigade have stepped up security operations in Sarangani Province and neighboring areas following reports of a bombing scenario mission.

“Our priority for this operation which is now ongoing is the immediate arrest of Maguid and his other recruits and we believe that he’s just in the hinterlands of Sarangani Province now after his escape from the Palimbang encounter,” the ISAFP-MIG officer said.

Former BIFF cell leaders

 Maguid and Pala were also tagged as former cell leaders of the 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Brigade of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters’ (BIFF) inner defense group headed by its regional field commander Ustadz Haun Salindatu, military reports revealed.

Maguid, charged for the attacks on the town center of Maasim, Sarangani in August 2008 that killed three people, was arrested in July 2009 but managed to escape from the Sarangani provincial jail in March 2010.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 regional police director, said a subsequent raid was conducted on Maguid and Pala’s safe house, which also served as the group’s bomb-making laboratory in Barangay Daliao, Maasim Town, but the two eluded arrest.

Recovered during the operation were various high-powered firearms including an M14 rifle, M16 Armalite rifle, a .30-caliber Garand rifle, an Ultimax 5.56mm rifle, an M203 grenade launcher, a homemade M-79 grenade launcher, assorted ammunition and bomb-making materials, and unused handheld radios.

Maguid is also facing a string of other cases including a grenade attack in Maasim Town in June 2009; the murder of Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao’s cousin Rogelio Pacquiao in Sitio Tampuan, Barangay Kamanga in July 2009; the killing of Maasim Vice Mayor Sawab Pangolima last October; and several other shooting incidents.


 Maguid’s father, Jules King, who is a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander, expressed alarmed over what he said was the military’s “exaggerated propaganda” against his son. He said Tokboy is not a replacement of Usman as AKP leader and that charges against his son are all lies and have no basis.

State workers appeal dismissal of protection bid

From the Business World (Jan 7): State workers appeal dismissal of protection bid

GOVERNMENT UNIONISTS led by the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) have appealed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) dismissal of their request for protection from state-sanctioned harassment.
In a statement, COURAGE said they filed their motion for reconsideration Monday to appeal the appellate court’s Dec. 11 decision denying them the full privileges of the writs of amparo and habeas data.
“They will not stop until they get the justice they deserve and the threats to their life and liberty finally end,” read a statement issued following the filing of the appeal.

The 22 union leaders representing government workers said they have been repeatedly harassed, threatened, tailed and accused of ties with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
But the CA Fourth Division, in its 26-page decision, dismissed their plea for the writs for insufficiency of evidence. It said that while the petitioners were able to obtain evidence such as photographs and surveillance footage, they should have been “more vigilant” in confirming which persons have been harassing and tailing them.

COURAGE National President Ferdinand Gaite said in the statement they were not surprised with the decision because during the preliminary hearing, “we were lectured on having suspicious minds and just being paranoid.”
He said he could not understand why the court would not consider their evidence as enough despite being cognizant that the harassment would be “done in a meticulous and clandestine manner to avoid apprehension.”

“Why wait for more of our members to be hurt, arrested on trumped-up charges, or killed before they see the urgency of our situation,” said Mr. Gaite, as he noted that six COURAGE leaders have been killed under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, and that two organizers have been jailed since 2012.

Another petitioner, president Rosalinda Nartates, said the harassment did not stop even after they filed their case in July. She said fake Facebook accounts have cropped up to taunt them with red-tagging and threaten them to “submit our plans and programs” to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

The case was first filed with the SC in July. In August, the high court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to determine if they should be granted the full privileges of the writs, while ordering the government respondents to submit a verified return explaining their side.

Named as respondents were President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Hernando Delfin Carmelo A. Iriberri, AFP Chief of the Intelligence Service Arnold M. Quiapo, recently retired Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Leonardo A. Espina, National Capital Region Police Office Regional Director Carmelo E. Valmoria, Manila Police District Acting Director Rolando Z. Nana, Manila Police Station 8 Commander Nicolas S. Piñon, and Manila Police Station 8 Intelligence Section Chief Alfredo F. Agbuya.

Hundreds flee as MILF factions clash anew in N. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Hundreds flee as MILF factions clash anew in N. Cotabato

Atrocities sparked anew between two factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) here early Thursday morning that forced hundreds of civilian families scampering to safer grounds once more.

P/Insp. Sindatu Karim, Pikit police chief, said the encounter started 5:30 a.m. in Barangays Rajamuda and Talitay after the conniving groups of MILF sub-commanders Mokamad Andoy and Ricky Hussain attacked the men of MILF leader Buto Mantol in adjacent Barangay Talitay.

“Fighting later escalated to the nearby villages of Bulod and Rajamuda,” Karim said.

He added that the warring parties have a score to settle with as brought about by a recent land conflict that fueled the ongoing atrocity.

"Hundreds of men from both group are now engaged in the gun battle,” Karim said.

This developed as local leaders and coordinating government agencies are utilizing all means to pacify the opposing factions.

Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (MDRRM) chief Tahita Kalantungan said that hundreds of families from the three villages have sought shelter at the town center.

In neighboring Matalam town, over 180 families remain in evacuation centers after the same MILF factions clashed during Christmas time in remote Kidama village.

Politicians paying permit to campaign fees to NPA are monitored – Army officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Politicians paying permit to campaign fees to NPA are monitored – Army officer

The 10th Infantry Division commanding general Major General Rafael Valencia warned politicians running for the 2016 elections especially those with previous record of paying permit to campaign (PTC) fee to the New People’s Army (NPA) that they area being monitored.

Valencia reminded that paying PTC to the NPA is ground for disqualification. It also shows they are tolerating the illegal activities of the NPA.

“Pag nag bayad sila ng PTC, para na rin nilang kinonsente ang pag patay ng mga NPA sa mga sundalo natin (If they pay it also means they are consenting the killings of soldiers by the NPA),” Valencia said.

He said that they have previous records of those politicians who have paid PTC in their area of responsibility. He also disclosed they have the list of political candidates in Davao del Sur whom the NPA intends to ask for PTC and their corresponding amount.

“Alam naman nila kung sino sila (They know who they are), we are currently monitoring them,” Valencia said.

Meanwhile, Commission on Elections Deputy Regional Director Lawyer Marlon Casquejo said paying PTC to the NPA is a ground for disqualification.

Casquejo said that any politician who gives money to groups or a certain individual is a violation of the law.

“Paying PTC is a ground for disqualification, if proven that they have paid they can be disqualified. Anyone can complain about this including the military,” Casquejo said.

DND to acquire 7,000 rounds of 25mm HEI-T

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): DND to acquire 7,000 rounds of 25mm HEI-T

The Department of National Defense (DND) is in the market for 7,000 rounds of 25mm high-explosive incendiary-tracer (HEI-T).

This project, according to a bid bulletin published at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System, has a budget of PHP64,610,000 which will be sourced from "FY 2015 General Appropriations" and "Philippine Army Appropriation CY 2015".

The 25mm HEI-T round is the ammunition used to arm the PA's 25mm automatic cannons.

Delivery of the items is required within 180 calendar days upon receipt of Notice to Proceed.

Bidders should have completed, within the last five years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a single largest similar completed contract equivalent to at least 25 percent of the contract price.

The DND Bids and Awards Committee will hold a pre-bid conference on Jan. 15, at 10:00 a.m. at its BAC Conference Room, Basement, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Opening of bids is set on Jan. 28, 10:00 a.m. at the same venue.

Great strides made in AFP modernization - Iriberri

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Great strides made in AFP modernization - Iriberri

Great strides have been made in the military's modernization, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Hernando DCA Iriberri said during his New Year's call speech Thursday.

The event took place at the Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

New Year's call is the annual visit of ranking military officials and their wives to the incumbent AFP chief.

"The year 2015 has been a memorable year for the entire AFP as we marked 80 good years, we made good on many of our goals, our accomplishments have made the difference in the communities we serve, our men and women have been recognized for their dedication and heroism, our transformation journey continues to gain a momentum and in results we have taken great strides in (the) modernization our force(s), " Iriberri said.

He was referring to the acquisition of many new assets for the AFP which include the South Korean-made FA-50PHs, AgustaWestland attack AW-109E helicopters, Bell 205 combat utility helicopters, Airbus Military C-295 transport aircraft, new M-4 rifles and refurbished armored personnel carriers.

Having these assets on hand will greatly enhance the capability of the AFP to defend and protect the country's vast territories.

And in the same vein, the AFP has also emerged victorious in many security challenges which also helped in turning the military into a better organization, he added.

Iriberri stressed this was made possible by the many sacrifices of our soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines.

"(These sacrifices) gave us very good reasons to welcome the year 2016 with high hopes," the AFP chief added.

"Hence for this year, we are determined to continue to win the peace and protect the gains that have been made, we just also dedicate our energies and efforts to ensure a peaceful electoral exercise come may 2016, and last but not the least we must sustain the momentum of transformation and innovation," Iriberri concluded.

PHL, UK oppose actions threatening freedom of movement in SCS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): PHL, UK oppose actions threatening freedom of movement in SCS

The Philippines and the United Kingdom on Thursday denounced any actions that will impede freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea amid China’s two successive test flights over a disputed reef being claimed by Manila.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and visiting British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond both expressed concerns that “provocative” actions in the waters would fuel tensions in the region.

“We are very concerned about the fact that China had already flown their flights to Fiery Cross Reef and we are also concerned that there are plans to do more,” Del Rosario said at a joint press conference with Hammond.

The top Philippine diplomat feared that China’s latest action, if left unchallenged, could be a prelude to the establishment of an Air Identification Zone or ADIZ, which is similar to what it has imposed in 2013 over the East Sea, which it jointly claims with Japan. China's ADIZ in the East Sea is not being recognized by Japan and its ally, the United States.

“If this is to happen and if this is not challenged we will have a situation where China will take a position that ADIZ could be imposed and whether this is done in terms of a de facto basis of whether it is official, this will be deemed unacceptable to us,” Del Rosario said.

Vietnam, which also lays claim to the reef, called Kagitingan by the Philippines, protested the Chinese test flight. It was rejected by Beijing, insisting all its actions are done within its sovereign rights.

A diplomatic protest is being readied by the Philippines, Del Rosario said.

Although the UK has been consistent in its position that it does not take sides in the disputes, Hammond said Britain has a stake in the peace and stability of the South China Sea being an international maritime and trading nation.

“The UK consistently over the years has been clear that we urge all parties to the disputes to the South China Sea not to take actions that will increase tensions to avoid anything that will be provocative to any of the other parties to the disputes and that remains our position,” Hammond said.

As far as the UK is concerned, Hammond stressed that freedom of navigation and overflights are “non-negotiable.”

“They are red lines for us,” he said. “We will maintain the position that we, as an international maritime and trading nation, enjoy freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea. We expect to continue to exercise those rights.”

Competing claims by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have led to occasional flareouts, with analysts saying that the resource-rich waters could spark military conflict if overlapping territorial conflicts are not resolved.

Of all the six claimants, China and Taiwan harbor the most ambitious claims, asserting ownership of over 90 percent of the waters where a bulk of the world’s trade pass. However, China is more aggressive with its rapid construction of man-made islands, equipped with runways and buildings, on formerly submerged and disputed reefs. Beijing admitted that these facilities would have military purposes.

The Philippines challenged China’s claim before an arbitration court in The Hague, Netherlands to try to invalidate Beijing’s massive claim. A final decision is expected in the first half of the year.

Latest US attack submarine arrives in Subic Bay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Latest US attack submarine arrives in Subic Bay
The USS Texas (SSN-775), one of the US Navy's latest Virginia-class attack submarines, arrived in Subic Bay Jan. 5 for a visit as part of its Indo-Asia-Pacific deployment.

With a crew of approximately 135, the USS Texas can conduct a multitude of missions to enhance proficiency of the submarine fleet.

It is the second Virginia-class fast-attack submarine commissioned by the United States and is operated by some of the US Navy’s finest and most well-trained officers and enlisted personnel.

Texas sailors are hardworking and downright dedicated,” Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Daniel Kloepfer, USS Texas’s chief-of-the boat, said

“Maintaining a forward-deployed nuclear submarine is not an easy task and Subic Bay will allow for some much deserved rest for the crew,” he added.

For many crew members, this is their first visit to the Philippines.

“I can’t wait to get to the Philippines for the first time,” Electronics Technician 2nd Class Keagan Garber said.

“I’m looking forward to exploring the great outdoors,” he added.

Measuring more than 377 feet long and weighing more than 7,800 tons when submerged, the USS Texas is one of the most advanced submarines in the world.

She is capable of executing a multitude of missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare, mine warfare and shallow water operations.

Built in Newport News, Virginia from 2002 – 2004, the USS Texas established its home in Groton Connecticut before transferring to Pearl Harbor in 2009.

The boat is sponsored by former First Lady Laura Bush.

Military personnel urged to remain apolitical in 2016 polls

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Military personnel urged to remain apolitical in 2016 polls

With the May 2016 elections just a few months away, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin urged all officers and enlisted personnel to remain apolitical.

"2016 will bring forth new challenges, and we will continue to meet these challenges. As guardians of democracy, we must remain apolitical and dedicated to our mandate, as it is the price we pay for our sworn duty," he said in New Year's call message.

And in the same vein, Gazmin said he will do everything in his authority to complete military modernization projects started during the Aquino administration.

Aside from this, efforts are also underway to defeat the remaining security threats as part of Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan".

The DND chief said all of these are possible, despite the short time remaining, with joint collaboration and total commitment from all stakeholders.

DWDD: BETTER MOBILITY // Brand New KM-450 Trucks

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 6): BETTER MOBILITY // Brand New KM-450 Trucks

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines received a much needed mobility boost with the arrival last December of 219 Kia KM-450 military trucks.

In an interview by DWDD with Col Benjamin Hao, spokesperson of the Philippine Army, the 219 KM-450 trucks are part of an initial 327 vehicle delivery made by KIA, where 108 is earmarked for the Army and the rest will be divided among the Philippine Navy, Philippines Marines, and Philippine Air Force.

Col Hao added that the KM-450 deal with KIA is worth P1.937-B for a total of 717 KM-450 units. Another 390 KM-450s are scheduled to arrive before the end of January
The recently delivered vehicles are now undergoing technical inspection and assessment before being handed over to their mother units.

KM-450s are used for transport and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions by the PA. OACPA / AES / MCAG

DWDD: INTENSE OPERATIONS // AFP scores anew in Sulu vs ASG

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 7): INTENSE OPERATIONS // AFP scores anew in Sulu vs ASG

SULU (DWDD) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly troops from Joint Task Group Sulu, intensified its focused military operation and have scored anew against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) recovering firearms and other equipment in Patikul town, Sulu yesterday afternoon.

According to Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, his men were conducting operations against ASG bandits at Sitio Tambang, Barangay Timpook, Patikul when they chanced upon a group of bandits resulting in an undetermined number of the bandits killed and wounded while no losses were reported among government troops.

Among the items seized an M-14 automatic rifle and a magazine containing 19 rounds; an empty M-16 magazine; three ICOM VHF transceivers; a bandolier, one pair of binoculars, and a laser red dot (vertical hand grip) for a M-4 rifle.

BGen Arrojado added that pursuit operations are still ongoing. JTGS / MCAG