Friday, January 22, 2016

Land dispute, not religious war, fueling Central Mindanao conflict

From CNN Philippines (Jan 22): Land dispute, not religious war, fueling Central Mindanao conflict


Somewhere on the hills of Central Mindanao, a group of armed men, clad in scrappy and worn-out shirts and camouflage gear, patrol a farming village under the heat of the midday sun.

"We are not an assault force," said a man in his 50s, identifying himself only as Brother Asiong. "We just want to defend our land."

They call themselves "Pulahan" or “Red Warriors of God” — inspired by a vigilante group with the same name that once gained notoriety in Mindanao in the 1990s.

The group, whose members are mostly farmers, was organized to fight communist and Moro rebel groups who frequently preyed on their communities, collecting food and revolutionary taxes at will.

Instead of rakes, hoes, and shovels, most of them now carry weapons. They are constantly on the lookout for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and those claiming allegiance to the international terrorist group ISIS.


The Pulahan say their armed members regularly patrol their farming communities to defend it against intrusion from other groups who want to drive them away and take control of their lands.

The Pulahan wants to stop the BIFF, and possibly ISIS, from advancing into their communities after the militants killed at least five farmers in a remote Maguindanao community last Christmas Eve.

Civilian armed group rises: Aims to defend residents against BIFF, ISIS

The BIFF said armed civilians have now become their targets.

In a chilling warning, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mamah told CNN Philippines by phone that they consider civilian community defenders as combatants they can engage in a gunfight. "If a civilian is armed and is tolerated by authorities, he becomes part of the government, and thus, should be considered our enemy as well," he said.

Watch: Cotabato vigilante group on alert vs. rebels

The Pulahan members,who are fewer than a hundred, are armed only with bolos, hunting rifles and old AK-47s, far inferior to the better-armed rebels.

"This firearm I am holding came from them,” Asiong said, brandishing his old locally-made AK-47 that was obtained from Moro rebels.

"How can we produce something like this, I am just a farmer?" he said. "Our firearms were just pawned to us. And since we needed them for our defense, we decided to keep them."


Masked and armed members of Pulahan shout "Long Live, Pulahan!" during a gathering somewhere in Maguindanao on Tuesday (Jan 19).

Brother Asiong said arming themselves to defend their communities was the last thing farmers wanted to do. But their survival is at stake, and they have run out of options, he said.

He said their efforts to protect their land should complement the job of security forces, not replace it.

The cause of the conflict

Asiong admits, the conflict in their communities began as a land dispute between mostly native Maguindanaons and Ilonggo migrants.

The discord has been complicated over the years by the violence fueled by terrorist groups and religious extremists who want to advance their own agenda.

The Pulahan fears the conflict could escalate into a full-blown persecution of non-Moros in the predominantly Muslim province and anti-Christian attacks by ISIS sympathizers.

On Tuesday, the Pulahan gunmen burned a replica of the ISIS flag, to dramatize their will to fight the jihadist group.


Members of Pulahan burn a replica of the ISIS flag, as a symbolic gesture to warn the jihadist group against intruding their communities. 

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, however, warns the Pulahan against resorting to arms.

"They don't have to do that," Mangudadatu said. "They can't say they are going to fight the ISIS because the group doesn't exist here in the first place."

Related: Aquino: No credible terror threat in PH

Mangudadatu said the conflict should not stray away from its origins – land disputes.
The governor said he has been working to resolve this conflict with help from other government agencies and the courts.

Under the Maguindanao Task Force on Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU), an inter-agency task group was formed to dig deeper into the long-drawn-out land disputes.

The Maguindanaons  and the migrants have been clashing for years for control of several hectares of rice and corn fields.


After patrolling their farm lands while on the lookout for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), followers of Pulahan share a boodlefight meal consisting of fish, vegetables and rice. As part of their belief, they are prohibited from eating pork or meat from any four-legged animal during Tuesdays and Fridays. They are also barred from smoking, drinking Iiquor and having extra-marital affairs.

The MTFRU has been holding regular dialogues with land titles holders and claimants to verify the authenticity of their documents and look into their claims.

Proposals for a peaceful settlement of the conflict through compromise agreements have been made, including sharing revenues from the farm produce. Others, however, have opted for court settlements.

"What matters to us is that government should determine with finality who owns these farmlands," Brother Asiong said. "Do these belong to them (Maguindanaon claimants) or to us?"

"We are willing to turn these lands over to them, as long as they do not resort to violence. We are willing to comply with settlements coursed through the legal processes," he said.


A religious leader of Pulahan (Red God's soldiers) performs a ritual of prayer on their followers to seek divine power in carrying out their mission. They believe amulets and potions will protect them from enemies' harm. The ritual is performed every Tuesday and Friday. 

The protracted dispute has killed both Muslim and Christian residents. More than 10 people have been killed in separate attacks since November. The Pulahan claims that about 60 Christians have been killed due to the conflict over the past years. CNN could not immediately confirm the death tolls.

Mangudadatu insists the conflict has nothing to do with religion.

"Christians are not persecuted here because Muslims have been killed, too,"
Mangudadatu said. "And let us avoid dragging the ISIS into this conflict because ISIS isn’t even here... I am hoping ISIS will not come into the province at all."

BIFF belittles ‘Red God,’ tags Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 23): BIFF belittles ‘Red God,’ tags Army

Members of an erstwhile unknown group calling itself “Red God Soldiers” burn a replica of an Isis flag on the day they announced their existence somewhere in Central Mindanao. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Members of an erstwhile unknown group calling itself “Red God Soldiers” burn a replica of an Isis flag on the day they announced their existence somewhere in Central Mindanao. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER

A group of renegade Moro guerrillas pointed to the military as the creator of a newly emerged Christian militia that has vowed to put up an armed resistance to guerrilla attacks.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), through spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, said the BIFF believed that the so-called Red God Soldiers, composed of Christian settlers in Central Mindanao, was a tool of the armed forces.

Mama said based on photos of Red God members, the militiamen are carrying weapons supplied by the military.

A military spokesperson, however, shrugged of the allegation, saying soldiers are to take action against the militia once its hideout is known.

Mama said despite having apparently “sophisticated weapons,” Red God is not intimidating.

“There are only a few of them,” said Mama.

If BIFF is not intimidated by the military, which has far bigger firepower, what more Red God, said Mama.

“The military has tanks and yet we managed to sustain our campaign against soldiers,” he said.

A Red God leader, who identified himself only as Brother Asiong, said authorities are aware of the group’s existence.

Asiong, however, said Red God is not a military creation. He admitted, though, that the group had provided intelligence information to the Army.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson for the military’s 6th Division based in Maguindanao, said the military regards Asiong’s as another lawless group similar to the BIFF.

“If we learn of their location, they will be subjected to the law and will be arrested,” she said.

Petinglay denied Red God is getting military support.

“If there is anyone from our ranks behind them, we will investigate,” she said.
“We will not tolerate this,” she added.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said nobody is allowed to carry guns in the province unless authorized to do so.

“They could face arrest. Remember that a state of emergency is still in effect and we have the current gun ban,” said Mangudadatu, referring to Proclamation Order No. 1946, which then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had issued following the Maguindanao massacre, and of the gun ban in relation to the May elections.

Resurgent Terrorism In Southeast Asia: Impact On Economy – Analysis

From the Eurasia Review (Jan 22): Resurgent Terrorism In Southeast Asia: Impact On Economy – Analysis

Recent major terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia, including the Bangkok and Jakarta bombings, indicate a resurgence of terrorism in this region. While terrorism is a big threat to the national and regional security, its harm to the economy cannot be ignored.

 Southeast Asia and Islamic State

Southeast Asia and Islamic State

Islamic State’s footprint has recently expanded to Southeast Asia, as shown by the terror attacks on 14 January in Jakarta. Countries in this region, including Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Philippines, have been on high alert and stepped up safety measures against terrorism.

The Jakarta attacks represent the expansion of the IS to Southeast Asia, and clearly they will have other plots in the region. The regional governments should be prepared for future attacks and protect the region’s economy. One terrorist incident may not pose a direct and significant risk to the economy, but a series of attacks definitely will. Foreign tourists will be scared away and not come back in the short term. Foreign investors will lose their trust in a country or not feel secure to come to the whole region.

Negative Impact of Terrorism

The challenges faced by the governments in this region are big and manifold. Governments not only need to manage the threats posed by the IS followers, to deal with rising religious extremism, and to restore the public’s confidence, but also they may suffer from the negative impact on the economy. The potential economic impact is very likely to be felt in tourism and foreign investment.

The economic consequences of terrorist attacks could be negative. The 9/11 attacks, for example, caused the US stock market to fall dramatically. While Indonesia’s stock market has remained intact after the Jakarta attacks, a direct effect can be on the tourist industry, which is an important part of the Indonesian economy.

Tourists are soft targets for terrorists. By attacking foreign visitors, terrorists not only aim to hurt the target country’s economy but also garner greater international media coverage. Such media coverage, ironically, helps terrorist groups to spread fear and to disseminate propaganda.

Foreign Visitors as Main Target

Recent terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia seemed to mainly aim at foreign visitors. Soon after the Jakarta attacks, IS claimed responsibility and said foreigners were the targets. The Bangkok bombing on 17 August last year was also aimed at foreigners. When foreigners are clearly the major terrorist targets, visitors from overseas would avoid traveling to the terrorist hotspots. After the 2002 terror attacks in Bali, for instance, the number of visitors fell by 32 percent, resulting in huge losses in tourism revenues.

Moreover, foreign governments are very likely to issue travel warnings for their citizens after deadly terror attacks. At least 23 countries have advised their citizens to travel with caution or not to travel to Thailand in the wake of the Bangkok bombing in August 2015. A number of foreign embassies in Jakarta have also issued travel alerts following the Jakarta attacks. These warnings may discourage tourists from visiting Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Arief Yahya maintains that tourism is not affected by the recent terror attacks in Jakarta. There were no cancellations of bookings or trips to Indonesia’s major tourist destinations such as Yogyakarta or Bali. This, however, is because Jakarta is geographically far from Indonesia’s popular tourist spots. If subsequent terrorist attacks occur in Indonesia, tourists will lose their confidence and may turn to other safer countries.

Another form of terrorism often aimed at foreigners is kidnapping. Terrorists kidnap tourists to seek publicity or high ransom. In September 2015, three foreign tourists were abducted in southern Philippines by the militant group Abu Sayyaf. Kidnapping events like this have made southern Philippines be considered as an unsafe place for tourists. While kidnapping is not widespread in Southeast Asia, one such event may severely deter foreign tourists.

Foreign Direct Investment Impeded

The other aspect of the economy that could potentially be damaged by terrorism is foreign direct investment (FDI). Compared to the impact of terrorist attacks on tourism, which is usually short-term, losses in FDI can pose greater impact on the region’s economic prospect. FDI has played an increasingly important role in promoting economic growth in Southeast Asia. If foreign investors are deterred or driven away, it is difficult to lure them back.

Foreign investors do worry about the danger of terrorism. According the survey results from the A.T. Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index in 2004, 2005, and 2007, leading executives of international companies responded that terrorism is one of their major concerns while making overseas investment decisions. If Southeast Asia is considered as a region plagued with frequent terrorist activities, foreign companies will avoid doing business here.

Losing foreign capital can seriously hurt a country’s economy. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has set attracting foreign investment as a priority. If the Indonesian government does not show a strong will to combat terrorism after the Jakarta attacks, the endeavour to invite foreign investors may be jeopardised.

Preventing Future Attacks

Anti-terrorism efforts, such as revising anti-terror laws and tightening security measures, should not be delayed by the Indonesian government. This is not only to provide citizens a safe homeland, but also to signal to foreign investors the government’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Such efforts are also important for other developing countries in this region that seek foreign investment.

Governments in this region have been working hard to promote economic integration and to accelerate economic growth. These efforts should not be ruined by terrorists. If regular attacks occur, governments of targetted countries will be thought incapable of maintaining a safe environment by foreign tourists or investors. So regional governments should pay particular attention to this threat and fight hard to prevent any future terrorist attacks for security as well as economic reasons.

[Chia-yi Lee is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Multilateralism Studies (CMS) of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

RSIS Commentaries are intended to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy relevant background and analysis of contemporary developments. The views of the author/s are their own and do not represent the official position of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU, which produces the Commentaries.]

Poverty draws kids to life of banditry

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 22): Poverty draws kids to life of banditry

This was the muffled observation of one of the mediamen when members of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), led by their elder commander were presented during a press conference Thursday morning at the 104th Army Brigade in Tabiawan, Isabela City in Basilan.

ARMED AND DANGEROUS? — Six teenage Abu Sayyaf Group combatants (from second from left), handling weapons that look more like toys in their young hands, are accompanied by their commander Sulaiman Kasaran (left), when the group surrendered to authorities at an Army base in Basilan Monday. (Nonoy E. Lacson)
ARMED AND DANGEROUS? — Six teenage Abu Sayyaf Group combatants (from second from left), handling weapons that look more like toys in their young hands, are accompanied by their commander Sulaiman Kasaran (left), when the group surrendered to authorities at an Army base in Basilan Monday. (Nonoy E. Lacson)

Their heads bowed, the surrenderees – aged 18 to 20 years old – carelessly handled their respective rifles like they were mere toys in a game of banditry that ASG has waved for years in southern Philippines.

Marwin Asan Kasaran, alias Abu Hadjie; Derwin Asan Kasaran, alias Abu Dikki; and Halid Asan Kasaran alias Abu Nasirin Awalin are brothers whose father, Sulaiman Kasaran, was a former Army soldier who had gone rouge after the military refused to extend his sick leave.
They were joined by their cousins Hadzmin Kuluman Kasaran, alias Abu Ammin; Faisal Laudmin Kasaran, alias Abu Issa and Balie; and SalmanNajallon Kasaran alias Abu Sat and Mhanz.

According to Lt. Col. Enerito D. Lebeco, commander of the 18th Battalion stationed in Al-Barka town, it was no longer a surprise that there were young combatants in the ASG.

“These kids were actually younger when they joined the ASG. Many joined even before they could handle an Armalite rifle,” said Lebeco, who had doggedly worked for the group’s surrender as early as October when he started to win their trust and confidence that the military will protect and look after them once they return to the fold of the law.

Apart from poverty, family feuds, which are locally known as “rido,” have swept these children into the ranks of the ASG “because the bandit group would give them false promises about being able to protect them from their enemies.”

And while Moro separatist groups, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had also been reported to have nurtured “child warriors” in the past, these kids were indoctrinated in the tenets of Muslim principles.
“But with the ASG, the indoctrination came in the form of poverty and the promise of financial rewards,” Lebeco said.

This was why the ASG was able to start its recruitment of the minor combatants at an early age, “training them at assembling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) because their young, steady hands could easily handle the bomb components.”

“(ASG) has long been exploiting these kids and endangering them by throwing them in the field of battle at such a young age,” declared Lebeco who noted that intelligence reports show that half of the ASG roster in Basilan was “filled with minors.”

But Lebeco said the surrender of Kasaran and his small group of teenager-combatants “could open the gates for more children and teenagers who are currently under the wing of ASG to leave the world of banditry behind.”

“As we told Kasaran’s group, the military will protect them from any reprisal from the ASG,” he said.

Lebeco added that “all that was needed was for us to really touch base with these innocent people and, surely, word will get out to the others who may want to surrender.”

“I am not a Muslim, I am a Catholic. But I was able to find a way for them to trust in me and I have promised them that I would put my life on the line if only to prevent anything untoward happening to them,” Lebeco said.

Commentary: Jolo a no-go area for foreigners

Commentary from One Man's Meat column by Philip Golingai in The Star Online (Jan 23): Jolo a no-go area for foreigners

Golingai (second from left), The Star associate editor PK Katharason (fourth from left) and Commander Global (third from right)  at an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Jolo island.

Golingai (second from left), The Star associate editor PK Katharason (fourth from left) and Commander Global (third from right) at an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Jolo island.

“IT is difficult to go to Jolo now,” said a Filipino contact I met in Zamboanga City, southern Philip­pines on Jan 9. “Because the Abu Sayyaf has entered (Jolo) town. If they see anyone whom they don’t recognise, they’ll kill them.”

“There’s killing in Jolo town every other day,” he added.

On the day before I arrived in Zamboanga City, a popular gateway to the notorious Jolo island about a three-hour fast ferry ride from the city, a Philippines Air Force personnel was shot dead outside a church in Jolo.

At 5pm, gunmen suspected to be Abu Sayyaf members killed Andre Burias Nono, a 27-year-old Jolo native who was back in his hometown for a holiday.

On Christmas day, a motorcycle-riding gunman, believed to be an Abu Sayyaf member, shot dead a soldier, Private Bryan Aquino Sanoy, in Jolo town.

The two deaths do not include soldiers killed in gun battles with the Abu Sayyaf in their hideouts outside Jolo town.

“Why has the Abu Sayyaf entered Jolo town?” I asked, as usually the bandits operated in their jungle hideouts.

“They want the military (which lately has been intensively pursuing the Abu Sayyaf) to pull out of Jolo island,” said the contact. “Local politicians are also raising money for the 2016 Philippines elections and they are using the Abu Sayyaf to kidnap people in Jolo town.”

I had met the contact to put the final touches to a trip to Jolo. Two weeks ago, via Facebook messenger, he had confirmed that the military would provide security escorts for me in Jolo town.

“How many military escorts will we have in Jolo?” I asked.

“We have two teams, sir,” he said.

“How many in a team?” I asked.

“12, sir,” he said.

However, the recent killings of the soldiers and civilians spooked the top military brass in Jolo. They decided to pull back the security escort.

“They don’t want you to come to Jolo. They are afraid another Ces Drillion case will happen,” he said, referring to the kidnapping of a famous Filipino news anchor Ces Drillion in Jolo island on June 8, 2008.

(In 2014, I met Ces in Manila for coffee and she told me that she walked into a kidnapping during an assignment to interview Abu Sayyaf commander Radulan Sahiron.)

“The problem is many people know that you are going to Jolo. They also have spotters everywhere. The moment you leave Zamboanga City on a ferry to Jolo, they will know you are on board,” he said.

“The Abu Sayyaf will be thinking they do not need to bother to go to Sabah to kidnap as a Sabahan has entered Jolo for them to kidnap.”

“But why was it that in 2014, I went to Jolo town twice and I only needed to be escorted by two armed policemen?” I protested.

“That was not enough security for you. And at that time, not many Abu Sayyaf gunmen were in town. I was in Jolo town yesterday and I saw their faces. There were many of them. They’ve cut their hair and are dressed like civilians,” said the contact who has close links with the military and Abu Sayyaf.

“Jolo is a no no for a foreigner. If you come tomorrow without any security, they will kidnap and bring you to their hideout.”

Jolo has become more dangerous than it had been 15 years ago.

In 2000, I was on the island to cover the story of 21 hostages – nine Sabahans, two Filipinos and 10 tourists from Europe, South Africa and Lebanon – abducted from Sipadan in Sabah and taken to Jolo.

I was able to go to the Abu Sayyaf hideout twice to meet notorious Abu Sayyaf commanders such as Commander Robot, Commander Global and Mujib Susukan, and the Sabah hostages. I even slept for a night in Talipao, about an hour’s drive from Jolo town, in the same wooden house as Commander Global.

At that time, although I thought it was dangerous to have a face-to-face encounter with the Abu Sayyaf gunmen (a German and two French journalists on two different visits were temporarily held hostage and released only after a board and lodging fee was paid), the Abu Sayyaf still had some honour.

Now, no sane journalist would try to go to their hideout and have an exclusive interview with them.

The situation in Jolo town too has become more dangerous. Back in 2000, we did not need any security escort.

We didn’t venture into many parts of the town without our Tamaraw (a Filipino-made jeep) as there was a threat that someone would blow off our heads with a pistol. But still Jolo town was relatively safe for journalists.

In 2014, I was told that I needed, at the minimum two armed policemen to keep me out of harm’s way when I visited Jolo town. This year, I’m told that a truckload of policemen would not be enough.

“You might have policemen surrounding you but what if 100 Abu Sayyaf gunmen tried to kidnap you? What could the policemen do?” asked the contact.

The risk of visiting Jolo has also increased. Previously, if you were abducted, all you needed to do was rot for months and hope the powers-that-be paid your ransom. But now, after the beheading of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then last year, there is a chance that you might be murdered even if you are a high-value hostage.

It is tragic that Jolo island has become a no man’s land for foreigners. It has great tourism potential.

Each time I see photographs of Jolo on the Facebook of my friends living on the island, I wish I could visit them in the place which is still stuck in the 1970s. I salivated when I saw the photograph of fresh fish grilled, using coconut husks, which Noenyrie Asiri shared.

Unfortunately, Jolo is not for tourists or journalists. It is not worth losing your head over the beautiful island made forbidden by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

Lumad evacuees in Malaybalay want Alamara disarmed

From MindaNews (Jan 22): Lumad evacuees in Malaybalay want Alamara disarmed

Lumad evacuees from a mountain village of Malaybalay City are demanding the disbandment and disarming of alleged paramilitary men who they said have been sowing fear in their place since last year.

The evacuees, all members of the Talaandig tribe from Sitio Balaodo in Barangay St. Peter, accused members of the Alamara of killing civilians and forcing them to leave the area.

Since Wednesday, they have been camping out in front of the provincial capitol here. They said they would not return to their homes if government could not assure their security.

In an interview Thursday, Manhangilo Han-ayan, an elder from Balaodo, said the Alamara was formed by the military to fight the New People’s Army.

Military officials have denied any link between paramilitary groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


Han-ayan said that on Sept. 25 last year Alamara members shot dead two Balaodo residents identified as Jun Pabiana and Jonathan Olinan, a 15-year-old student.

Han-ayan identified the suspects as brothers Mancolobi, Manlomakad and Dionelo Bocalas.

He said the suspects are Lumads from the neighboring town of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.

He said Olinan was stripping abaca for sale so he could buy school supplies when the Alamara arrived and shot him.

Balaodo has a public school built by the city government offering kindergarten classes and complete elementary education. It has five teachers. But classes had stopped because the sitio has become deserted.

Han-ayan added that at about 2 p.m. on Oct. 27 last year Alamara members fired at Mangcombiti Mariano, 47, and his 10-year-old grandson Ryan Ombayan who were picking durian.

Mariano died but Ombayan survived. The child suffered nine gunshot wounds in the legs and body.

Han-ayan said Ombayan stayed with his dead grandfather overnight until other residents found them the next day.

Ruben Banggaan, a resident of Barangay Canangaan in Cabanglasan who joined the camp-out at the capitol, said Alamara members shot him on Nov. 15 last year on his way to the forest to cut a tree for his house. He was hit in his back and left elbow.

He identified the suspects as brothers Inad and Maco Santos, Loyloy Yangahon and Taloto Inombay. He said they were carrying an M16, a carbine, a Garand and a shotgun.

Banggaan said he knows Inad Santos because the latter lived in his house for two years before leaving to join the Alamara.

He added that on Sept. 10 last year Alamara members shot Loloy Hamin of Barangay Paradise, Cabanglasan.

He said Hamin survived gunshot wounds in the breast and right arm.


Raymond Gabute alleged that after the killings the Alamara went to Balaodo, threw out household items of some residents and threatened to harm them if they would not leave.

He said all of Balaodo’s 76 families (335 individuals) left their homes on Dec. 5 and sought refuge in St. Peter.

The evacuees who arrived at the capitol on Wednesday only numbered 116. Gabute said the rest opted to remain in St. Peter “kay mahadluk sila sa syudad” (because they’re afraid of the city).

Some of the evacuees at the capitol could only speak in their native tongue and could not understand Bisaya. Han-ayan, for example, spoke to MindaNews through interpreters from among the other evacuees.

Gabute said the residents fear the Alamara because “mopatay sila nga walay pangutana” (they kill without question). “Maayo man ang mga sundalo kay dili man magpataka og pusil, pero kining Alamara diretso ra man ka pusilon” (The soldiers are better because they don’t shoot indiscriminately, but the Alamara would shoot you right away).

For his part, Banggaan said he believes the Alamara wanted to drive the civilians away so that they can continue with their mining activities unhampered.

He said the Alamara is engaging in “ayag-ayag” or small-scale mining ventures.

Balaodo officially belongs to San Luis town in Agusan del Sur. But the evacuees said that since San Luis is too far they have chosen to be part of St. Peter and are registered as voters of Malaybalay.

Balaodo, a sitio in the forest, is inaccessible by vehicles. From there it takes one day to reach St. Peter on foot. A jeepney ride from the barangay to Malaybalay proper takes at least two hours.

Clashes between NPA, Army, “Magahat” kill 8

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Jan 22): Clashes between NPA, Army, “Magahat” kill 8

Eight persons were killed when government soldiers and members of a tribal militia engaged New People’s Army guerrillas in separate clashes on January 15-16 in Prosperidad town in Agusan del Sur.

In an emailed statement, Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-North East Mindanao Region said “eight were killed, while seven were wounded from the 3rd  Special Forces Battalion (SFB) and the Magahat in three clashes in Barangay Mabuhay, Prosperidad.

She said two NPA members were “slightly hit”.  Malaya said the “3rd SFB along with the bandit ‘Magahat’ were on military operations from their camp in Inagawan, Prosperidad towards the mountain area of Mabini and Mabuhay in Prosperidad.”

She said Bobby Tejero, Romeo Banusan, Emie Perez and Anit Belandres “all members of ‘Magahat’ under Kalpit Egwa,” were seen by residents with the Army.

“Banusan is the leader of another group of the ‘Magahat’ encamped in Sitio Inagawan, La Purisima, Prosperidad, while Anit Belandres is the brother of Marcial Belandres who killed lumad-leader Henry  Alameda last October 24, 2014 in Barangay San Isidro, Lianga, Surigao del Sur,” said Malaya.

On January 15, Malaya said a unit of the NPA-Front 19 ambushed 12 Magahat fighters led by Banusan, while they were patrolling in Purok 6, Mabuhay, Prosperidad.

She said the ambush happened at around 7:40 in the morning.

“The firefight lasted 15 minutes, with no casualty from both sides. At around 1:00 in the afternoon, another NPA team harassed the same ‘Magahat’ group while they were going towards Purok 6, Mabuhay, Prosperidad. The firefight went on for 20 minutes and two enemies were hit, while an NPA was slightly hit,” she said.

At 9:20 am of January 16, some 50 combined 3rd SFB and ‘Magahat’ fighters attacked an NPA position in Sitio Kauswagan, Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Malaya said.

She said government troops and tribal militiamen sustained six killed and seven wounded after 20 minutes of the fire fight.

“An NPA was wounded and a few things were left behind,” she added.

“These recent incidents confirms the fact that the criminal group of the Tejero brothers and Marcial Belandres, who have arrest warrants for the killings of lumads, are with AFP units,” said Malaya.

“This shows that the AFP do not intend to arrest these criminals and that the creation of Task Force Bangkaw supposedly to go after them, is just for show,” she said.

The Magahat Bagani group was known to be a creation of the military and was implicated in the killing of school administrator, Emerito Samarca, and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1.

Residents identified Magahat leaders Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy, and Garito Layno as among those who killed the victims in broad daylight in public.

The warrants of arrest for murder, robbery, grave coercion and arson against the suspect were already issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 28 in Lianga town on September 22, last year.

The Philippine National Police and the AFP also set up the Task Force Bangkaw, which is headed by the PNP, to arrest the suspects.

The Army has previously denied involvements in the organization of the Magahat.
They also called to support the disbandment of the paramilitary group.

At present, almost 3,000 evacuees are still encamped at the Tandag City provincial sports complex for fear of the threats from the paramilitary group.

Philippines: Moro group says army behind Christian front

Posted to the Fulton County News (Jan 22): Philippines: Moro group says army behind Christian front

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters claim firearms sported by 'Red God Soldiers' probably came from Philippines military

Philippines: Moro group says army behind Christian front

A disagreement has broken out between a splinter group of the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel front and the Philippines military over accusations that the army is responsible for a show of force by what appears to be an armed Christian militia in the country’s south.

In a Friday report by, Abu Misri Mama — a spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) — claimed that photos he had seen had led him to believe that firearms a new group calling itself “Red God Soldiers” have been brandishing in pictures came from the military.

A military spokesperson, however, shrugged off the allegation Friday, saying that it would not think twice about taking action against the Christian militia if it could determine their location.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson for the military’s 6th Division based in Maguindanao, told defense reporters if they learn where the group is, they will be subject to law and arrested.

Earlier Friday, GMA News reported Bishop Angelito Lampon of the Vicariate of Jolo, Sulu’s provincial capital, as saying that Christians in the majority Muslim south have begun taking up arms and formed the militant organization on the southern island province out of “frustration and fear” amid attacks by extremist Muslim groups.

For years, the violent Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has based itself in Sulu. In August 2014, video clips uploaded to YouTube appeared to show show guerrillas — including those from the Abu Sayyaf — pledging support to Daesh.

Philippine security officials, however, have downplayed the claim saying it may be a ploy to seek financial help.

Lampon said some members of the minority community were feeling increasingly “desperate” in the region.

He described the formation of the “Red God Soldiers” as a “desperate attempt by these Christians who are being attacked now and then by these armed groups”.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines website reported that around 300 members of the supposed militia gathered Tuesday to display weapons and pledge to “drive Moro [indigenous Muslim] renegades from their communities”.

It added that the group had also burned a Daesh flag and condemned recent attacks by BIFF, a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is opposed to the ongoing peace process between MILF and the Philippine government.
Petinglay stated Friday that only legitimate armed forces are allowed to carry guns.

“If there are personalities from our ranks behind them, we will investigate. We will not tolerate this and we will file appropriate charges against them,” she said.

Mama underlined, however, that BIFF was not afraid of the group despite the sophisticated weapons they appeared to possess.

“There is only a few of them,” he said.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.

‘I was working for ISAFP’ Ex-ISAFP chief: Mission order lapsed in 2014

From the Philippine Star (Jan 23): ‘I was working for ISAFP’ Ex-ISAFP chief: Mission order lapsed in 2014

Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, a former official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, is escorted by PDEA agents for inquest at the Department of Justice in Manila yesterday. Inset shows Chinese suspect Yan Yi Shou, who was arrested with Marcelino in a drug raid last Thursday. Krizjohn Rosales

It was called “Oplan Moses,” and Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino insisted yesterday he was on a covert mission with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) when he was arrested Thursday in a raid on a suspected shabu laboratory in Manila.

But his former ISAFP boss and now Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano said a mission order that he had issued to Marcelino lapsed in 2014. Ano, however, vouched for Marcelino’s integrity.

Appearing in handcuffs and orange detainee’s shirt yesterday at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for his inquest, a teary-eyed Marcelino said his arrest was “the price I have to pay for my love of this country.”

Marcelino faces charges of conspiracy in the manufacture and possession of illegal drugs under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Also made to undergo inquest proceedings for the same offense was Yan Yi Shou, who was arrested with Marcelino at Celadon Residences on Felix Huertas street in Sta. Cruz, Manila at 1 a.m. Thursday.

Yan was supposedly a former asset of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), for which Marcelino had worked as chief of a special unit.

“I can honestly say, and look you in the eye, I was just doing my job… I was just there because we are verifying information that we got (about the shabu lab),” he told reporters in an ambush interview.

Marcelino said his operation was part of the so-called “Oplan Moses” of the ISAFP.

The eight-page complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (PNP-AIDG) also named as respondents Lo Chi, Atong Lee and a certain Chu, who were the original targets of the raid conducted by virtue of a search warrant issued by Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Fernando Sagun.

Authorities said Marcelino and Yan were found inside a storage facility where 76 kilos of shabu worth P383 million were found. PDEA agents on the scene initially estimated the seized drugs to be 64 kilos with a street value of P256 million.

The former PDEA official was found sitting on a couch when the agents arrived.
Investigating prosecutor Senior Deputy Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva required Marcelino to prove his defense and present a mission order or document showing his presence in the facility was part of a legitimate operation.

His lawyer Dennis Manalo revealed that they have submitted a certification from the Intelligence and Security Group of the Philippine Army showing Marcelino is sharing intelligence information on alleged involvement of Army personnel in the illegal drug trade from September to December last year.

“As as far as Col. Marcelino is concerned, this is clearly a mis-encounter on the part of the agents of PDEA and on the part of his efforts to help in curbing illegal drugs in the country,” Manalo explained to reporters.

But Villanueva was not satisfied and wanted a more specific certification.
The prosecutor then set the charges for preliminary investigation after Marcelino waived his right to speedy resolution under inquest proceedings. A hearing was set on Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.

Marcelino, meanwhile, is under custody of the PNP-AIDG pending resolution of the charges before the Department of Justice. 

PNP-AIDG head Sr. Supt. Antonio Gardiola said they were giving Marcelino the benefit of the doubt in his claim that he was performing a legitimate drug sting operation.

“He was saying he was on a mission,” Gardiola said. “So far no agent handler has surfaced.”

He said if there had indeed been a mistake, the case officer should immediately have called the arresting officers to vouch for Marcelino.

Gardiola also said Marcelino’s intelligence gathering activity should have also been supported by documents. “It’s hard to operate without documents. He might just get shot at Luneta without him realizing it,” he said.

The PNP-AIDG chief revealed that following Marcelino’s arrest, his men immediately started a hunt for other personalities linked to the operation of the busted shabu laboratory.


Marcelino’s colleagues in the military have expressed disbelief at his reversal of fortunes.

Ano said Marcelino is an upright officer as he vouched for beleaguered officer’s character.

Ano said that after their stint at ISAFP, Marcelino returned to the Navy, his mother unit, while Ano moved to Mindanao following his designation as Army division head.

Ano said he also knew of some agents still reporting to Marcelino after his assignment at ISAFP and that he was sharing information with other intelligence units, including the National Bureau of Investigation.

“I can speak for him when we were working together at (ISAFP) and I knew about the personal crusade he took up against illegal drugs. I can vouch for his integrity. There’s an ongoing investigation and I think he can defend himself,” Ano said.

He surmised that Marcelino must have named him as his handler.

“Perhaps he mentioned me because of my being his former commander at ISAFP where we have developed good working relations. But for now, we are no longer working at the same unit organization,” Ano said.

Several civilian and military colleagues of Marcelino also challenged the PDEA and the Philippine National Police to conduct a lifestyle check on Marcelino.

“Yes, he was caught red-handed with the target and the items but the arresting officer could have afforded him to explain his presence at the said place, being formerly one of the best PDEA officers,” one military officer said.

 “He is a fighter. He spares no one. That is why he earned the ire of people believed to be engage in narco-politics. A single statement from Malacañang will put all these things to rest,” another military officer said.


Despite some words of support for Marcelino, senators called for tougher actions against drug syndicates, with some renewing calls for the revival of the death penalty.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said the arrest of Marcelino and the discovery of the Manila shabu laboratory have shown that narco-politics is now in the country.

“How can you have so much shabu in one place?” he said as he demanded a deeper probe into Marcelino’s link to the busted shabu laboratory. “If it’s really part of intelligence work, they could have easily verified,” he said.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. separately pushed for the death penalty.

Recto said the death penalty must be imposed for those involved in large-scale drug trafficking, including military and police officials who coddle and conspire with them.
“Although I am fundamentally against capital punishment, the impunity by which men in uniform coddle and align themselves with dangerous criminals they are supposed to stop has led me to be open to the restoration of the death penalty if attended by aggravating circumstances like the one I cited above,” Recto said.

Sen.Vicente Sotto III said he could not believe that Marcelino got linked to drug operations.
“I’m shocked. I hope it’s not true. I have no reason to doubt his record before this incident,” said Sotto, former chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy 1995, lamented how a good soldier may have been lured to the dark side.

“I’m getting mixed reports about him. But for now it’s best that the investigation be allowed to proceed and if he can present the proper documentation or authority to justify his presence in the area, then his name should be cleared. If not, then we have another case of a good officer lured to the dark side,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes said he does not want to prejudge Marcelino, who is his upperclassman at the PMA.

“Wholesale drug operation does wholesale damage. A sack of shabu victimizes not just one person but many,” he said.

“There are millions of granules in a sack, and each can potentially fuel another crime, by a user who steals money or snatches a phone to feed his habit, to cases of domestic violence,” he said, referring to shabu, which is normally in powdered or granulated form.

“If it is a weapon of mass destruction, then those responsible for its manufacturing and sale must deserve a punishment greater than a cushy taxpayer-paid stay in a Bilibid cell with spa and air-conditioning,” Recto said.

He also lamented reports that drug use and the illicit trade remain unabated despite police operations.

“If the retail trade of shabu is booming, it is because the source is left untouched. The best way to stop water from flowing is not to close each and every faucet, but to shut down the main,” he said.

Grave concern

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, commended the PNP and the PDEA for the huge accomplishment as she expressed concern over the arrest of a top military officer during the drug sting.

“While I commend the PDEA for another successful raid, the possible involvement of a ranking military officer in the illegal drug trade is a cause for concern,” she said.

Poe urged the police and government prosecutors to investigate the matter thoroughly and with full transparency to get to the bottom of the incident. “This should send a strong message that no one is above the law,” she said.

At the same time, Poe also urged the AFP leadership to look into the matter seriously to ensure that no one from its ranks is involved in the illegal trade.

“On the side of legislation, we have amended the Dangerous Drugs Act to give it more teeth and make it easier to put the drug pushers, drug lords and their conspirators behind jail,” she said.

“Hopefully, we are now feeling its positive effects in the fight against this illegal drug menace,” she added.

Malacañang meanwhile has denied reports that Marcelino is an agent of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Kin of civilian slain in Lanao to sue Army officer

From ABS-CBN (Jan 22): Kin of civilian slain in Lanao to sue Army officer

LANAO DEL SUR - The family of a slain civilian suspected of being an ISIS sympathizer is filing a murder charge against Lieutenant Virgilio Durotan of the 65th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stationed in Lanao del Sur.

Relatives of Laip Bagumbong Landua said the latter was killed by soldiers led by Durotan in a military operation against suspected ISIS sympathizers last January 19.

They added that the military arrived in their compound in Barangay Maindig in Maguing, Lanao Del Sur past 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The military immediately entered their houses and pointed their guns at them.

Landua was only supposed to close the door when he was shot. Raihan Macaundas was also injured in the incident.

65th Infantry Battalion Commander Lieutenant Matillo said they were in Maguing to look after suspected ISIS sympathizers involved in a firefight with civilians in Buadiposo Buntong. These armed men had reportedly fled to Barangay Maindig.

Residents in Landua's compound, however, fired at the military when they reached the area. One of the soldiers was also wounded in the encounter.

A rifle was allegedly recovered from Landua, but his family insisted that he was unarmed when he was shot.

The 65th Infantry Battalion also filed a charge against the victim's family for allegedly violating the election gun ban, and for illegal possession of firearms.

Prior to the incident, suspected ISIS sympathizers had a firefight with civilians in Buadiposo Buntong, where a man wearing a bandana with the ISIS logo was killed.

Authorities have yet to verify the existence of ISIS members in Lanao del Sur.

What MILF learned from the Mamasapano incident

From ABS-CBN (Jan 23): What MILF learned from the Mamasapano incident

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) shared the lessons that they learned from the Mamasapano incident last year.

MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces Spokesman Von Al-Haq told ABS-CBN News on Friday that coordination and following the mechanisms of the peace process are some of the things they have learned and realized from the tragic event.

The incident also placed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at risk, which is one thing that should be looked into right now, Al-Haq added.

The official is also hopeful that no similar incident will happen in the future, which is why he calls on the people to pray for the resolution of the Bangsamoro problem as well as the souls of those who died.

Meanwhile, the MILF continuously monitors the situation on the ground and the lives of the families of the MILF combatants who died in the Mamasapano clash.

Al-Haq said they have also extended assistance to the bereaved families and the injured combatants.

He also admitted that trauma still remains following the Mamasapano clash.

Forty-four members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 18 members of the MILF were killed in the "misencounter" between the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and the 105th Base Command of the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

'Defending village from BIFF is okay, but arming up is illegal

From ABS-CBN (Jan 23): 'Defending village from BIFF is okay, but arming up is illegal'

The 6th Infantry Division (6ID) of the Philippine Army in Central Mindanao said that while it appreciates the Pulahan group's desire to defend their village from attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), it was still illegal, and the "Pulahanes" would have to face the law if they are apprehended.

For Army Captain Joanne Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6ID, good intentions are not enough to justify the illegal possession of firearms, adding that only the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are authorized by law to carry arms.

She said the Pulahan's community will be better served if the leaders would approach the military and explain the threats they perceive, and that the AFP can augment its forces there if necessary.

Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, meanwhile, questioned the number that the group was able to muster, and whether the Pulahan members who appeared before the media came from the same village.

Pangilinan said the pronouncements made by the group could just be a product of anger following the spate of attacks on civilians on Christmas Eve.

The AFP is conducting an investigation on the group, noting that they will have to be apprehended, and their arms confiscated, if they are ever caught.

The battle against the BIFF is theirs to fight, said Petinglay of the military.

An armed group, who introduced themselves as "Pulahanes" or "Red God's Soldiers," said it has taken up arms to protect themselves and the civilians from BIFF attacks.

It was reported last December that some residents have started bringing out weapons for protection.

Suspected NPAs torch construction firm's 4 heavy equipment, manhunt on

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Suspected NPAs torch construction firm's 4 heavy equipment, manhunt on

Police and military authorities here have launched a manhunt against suspected communist guerrillas who torched four heavy equipment of a construction firm in T’boli, South Cotabato Friday night.

Chief Inspector Jose Marie Simagan, T’boli police chief, told DXOM-AM Radyo Bida the incident happened in Barangay Edwards at 8 p.m..

Simangan said about 10 to 15 heavily armed suspected New Peoples’ Army (NPA) arrived in the compound of AJ construction company in Barangay Edwards at 8 p.m., disarmed the security guards and set on fire four construction equipment.

Torched were road roller, a backhoe, grader and a dump truck.

Quoting the firm’s security guards, Simangan said the armed men quietly arrived in the firm’s ground equipment compound and identify themselves as “NPAs.”

After setting on fire the construction equipment, the suspects left letters addressed to the construction company owner and to South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes.

Simangan said extortion was the likely motive.

AJ Construction Company has been working on road expansion project in T’boli, an upland town in South Cotabato.

Post titleSocial media can help beat IS -- Facebook COO

From the Philippine News Agency (Jam 23): Social media can help beat IS -- Facebook COO

DAVOS, Switzerland -- "Counter-speech" is the best answer to combating terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg said here in a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"The best thing to speak against recruitment by ISIS are the voices of people who were recruited by ISIS, understand what the true experience is, have escaped, and have come back to tell the truth," she said.

"Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer," she added.

Rather than only focusing on silencing the voices of hate and intolerance, Sandberg laid out her way to combat the terrorist organization on the Internet: drown them out with messages of hope, a phenomenon she called "like attacks."

Sandberg gave an example of how German Facebook users did this: they targeted a neo-Nazi Facebook page and flooded it with messages of love and tolerance.

"What was a page filled with hatred and intolerance was then tolerance and messages of hope," she added.

Sandberg's comments came amid an increasing pressure on Facebook and other social media sites to help fight extremist speech online.

Its open nature makes social media a powerful tool for terrorist organizations, ISIS in particular, to spread hateful rhetoric and find new recruits

Diffusing tension

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 21): Diffusing tension

Council of Elders to tackle clan war in Talaingod after 2 killed

THE COUNCIL of Elders in Talaingod, Davao del Norte will convene soon with the two parties involved to find resolution on the killing of a farmer and a 15-year-old student last Sunday.

Alibando Tingkas, a 15-year-old student of Salugpungan School in Talaingod was allegedly shot down by paramilitary group at 3 p.m. after  a Lumad farmer identified as Donato Salangani was also killed allegedly by members of the New People’s Army in Sitio Sambulangan, Barangay Baugan at 7 a.m. on the same day.

Joven and Donato were cousins.

According to the Save Our Schools network spokesperson, Ruis Valle, Tingkas was allegedly killed by suspect  Joven Salangani, said to be a member of the paramilitary group, Alamara.

Datu Lumansad Sibugan of the Manobo tribe said Tingkas was allegedly a casualty of an ongoing tribal war.

“The death of Tingkas was a retaliation on the death of Donato,” he said. “There’s no Alamara (paramilitary group) involved.”

“Now, what the council will do is to negotiate with the families to ensure that no more blood will spill over. We will find out the reason behind the killing of Donato and why Tingkas was killed,” he added.

Sibugan already figured in the news in last year when he threatened to declare a pangayaw (tribal war) against his fellow Lumads if they won’t pack up from UCCP Haran compound and return to their villages in Talaingod.

“We will dialogue with the other tribal leaders and if we won’t come to an agreement, that’s when we will declare the pangayaw,” he told TIMES then. “Whether they like it or not, we will take the children, women and elderly from the Haran and bring them back to their homes.”

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, commander of 1003rd Infantry Brigade, told reporters yesterday during the AFP-PNP press conference held in Davao City Police Office, that Tingkas was a “collateral damage” of a tribal war, instigated by the NPA.

 “Donato was killed by the NPAs coming from the other tribe,” he said. “So the family of Donato retaliated but unfortunately, the first person they saw was the teenager.”

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will investigate the alleged involvement of the Alamara on the death of Tingkas.

“The investigators will go to the area to conduct an in-depth investigation if we could assure the security of the investigators because Tingkas was reportedly a victim of pangayaw,” CHR officer-in-charge Joy T. Montero said, referring to clan wars.

She said the agency received pieces of information from Datu Ugkang and barangay councilor Juan Intot, although she said the perpetrators were not identified.

Reports reaching the headquarters of 10thID revealed that Donato Salangani was harvesting abaca with his wife, daughters and other companions when he was shot to death by a group of NPAs at Sitio Sambulangan, Barangay Baugan.

In retaliation, a cousin of Donato attacked and killed Alibando Tingkas, a member of the tribe where the killers of Donato belongs at 3 p.m. of the same day at Sitio Laslasakan in Barangay Baugan.

Donato, a father of six children, reportedly earlier declared pangayaw against the NPAs after learning that his daughter, 18-year-old Tessie, died at UCCP Haran compound but he never saw the remains.

In a blotter of the incident at the Office of the Ata-Manobo Council of Elders of Talaingod, Colorot Salangani, the wife of Donato, reported that their group was ambushed by NPAs using M4, AK-47 and M14 rifles at Sitio Sambulongan, Barangay Baugan.

She identified the NPAs who ambushed them and killed her husband as Luib Daus alyas Bagani, Dalahis Manlulugpis alyas Carlos and Tudtud Ladahay.

Marine colonel: I would never betray country for drugs

From Rappler (Jan 23): Marine colonel: I would never betray country for drugs

The Marine colonel says he was on a secret mission for the military

INNOCENT? Marine Lt Col Ferdinand Marcelino, a former official of PDEA, raises his handcuffs and is escorted by PDEA members as they leave the Department of Justice in Manila after attending inquest proceedings on January 22, 2016. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

INNOCENT? Marine Lt Col Ferdinand Marcelino, a former official of PDEA, raises his handcuffs and is escorted by PDEA members as they leave the Department of Justice in Manila after attending inquest proceedings on January 22, 2016. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

A Philippine Marine officer arrested and under legal proceedings after he was caught during a drug raid insisted on Friday, January 22, that he was innocent and was only “doing his job.”

“I can honestly say, and look you in the eye, I was just doing my job… this is the price I have to pay for my love of this country,” an emotional Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino told reporters in a chance interview on Friday.

On Thursday, Marcelino and a Chinese national were apprehended by personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in a drug bust that seized around P320 million ($6.675 million) worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

Marcelino underwent a 6-hour inquest proceeding before the justice department on Friday for possession of illegal drugs and manufacture of illegal substances.

The Marine officer presented a certificate proving that from September to December last year, he was sharing intelligence on Army personnel involved in illegal drugs. He also denied knowing his co-arrestee Yi Shou Yan and said he was only in the shabu laboratory for a top-secret mission sanctioned by the military.

The orders, said Marcelino, came from no less than the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). His handler, said Marcelino, is current Philippine Army chief and former ISAFP head Lieutenant General Eduardo Año.

Marcelino said he was in the shabu laboratory, located inside a house in the city of Manila to verify information they gathered.

“I can honestly tell you I can never betray our country and our future dahil sa (because of) drugs, never,” he said.

The Marine colonel was once part of PDEA, and led the arrest of the so-called “Alabang Boys” in 2008. Marcelino then exposed alleged instances of corruption in the justice department, after charges against the 3 he arrested were dropped.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, who oversaw inquest proceedings, insisted Marcelino show proof of military sanctioned covert operation. Marcelino, however, was unable to produce a mission order from the military.

Instead, Marcelino made a phone call and handed the phone over to Villanueva. Marcelino also made another call, telling the person on the other line that he needed the mission order “in black and white.”

By 4:30 on Friday, the Philippine Army’s Intelligence and Security Group faxed a certificate to vouch for Marcelino’s claims.

The document, signed by Philippine Army group commander Colonel Marlo Guloy, read:

“This is to certify that LTC Ferdinand Marcelino PN (M) has shared intelligence information to this unit from November to December 2015 with regards to suspected Philippine Army personnel engaged in the use of drugs and other illegal drug activities in consonance to the GHD directive on AFP Task Force Moses and Task Force Midas.”
Villanueva did not recognize the document because it was “generic.”

Marcelino’s lawyer Dennis Manalo said the arrest was a “misencounter” between law enforcers and his client’s “efforts to help in curbing illegal drugs in the country.” The Marine colonel will be undergoing preliminary investigation proceedings on Wednesday, January 27.

The Marine colonel is well known for his work in intelligence as well as anti-illegal drugs work. He was instrumental in arresting former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim’s son, then accused of involvement in illegal drugs.

DWDD: NAVY’S NEW SSV // Navy’s LD-601 sea trial experience

Posted to DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 19): NAVY’S NEW SSV // Navy’s LD-601 sea trial experience

Camp Aguinaldo DWDD–Landing Dock BRP Tarlac (LD-601), Philippine Navy’s soon-to-be largest vessel, is now undergoing sea trials before its delivery on May. The LD-601 is the first of two Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSV) based on Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock (LPD).

The vessel was launched yesterday, January 18, at PT PAL in Surabaya, Indonesia that was attended by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad.

Philippine ordered two SSV with PT PAL (Persero) for PHP3,870,000,000 that was sourced from AFP Modernization Fund.

On the other hand, the second vessel undergone the milestone ceremony called Keel Laying Ceremony which is expected to be delivered on May 2017.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that the acquisition of the SSV is a very important milestone for the Navy; it will increase capacities for humanitarian assistance and disaster response during critical moments when our country’s being hit by increasingly growing storms.

LD-601 is an independent command-and control ship that can coordinate rescue, recovery, and retrieval efforts during calamities, as well as in delivering goods and relief items. The vessel can also be used as a floating hospital, in case many of our health centers and hospitals in provincial areas were affected by disasters and become unavailable.

DWDD: DEDICATION, HARDWORK II NOLCOM Commander Promoted to Lieutenant General (Photos)

Posted to DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 19): DEDICATION, HARDWORK II NOLCOM Commander Promoted to Lieutenant General (Photos)

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City (DWDD) Commander of Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), Lieutenant General Glorioso V Miranda of the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) gained another star on his shoulder after his name was included in the list of newly promoted Lieutenant General as approved by President Aquino effective January 11, 2016.

After attending the donning of ranks led by the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen Hernando DCA Iriberri AFP at Headquarters, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City yesterday, Lt Gen Miranda was warmly welcomed with full military honors by the personnel of NOLCOM as he returned home to his Command.

Lt Gen Miranda is one among the two newly promoted Lieutenant General of the AFP.

In his speech, Lt Gen Miranda reminisced the days when he was yet a battalion officer and how he successfully went up the ladder through dedication, hard work and the cooperation and help of the men and women of the AFP that he has worked with. Thus, he said to them, “You are part and parcel of this Star that I gained so I share with you the glory, and I enjoin you to continuously work with me for the good of this Command and the AFP in general.” PAO NOLCOM / MCAG

DWDD: PROMOTING PEACE // 401st Brigade Scores anew against NPA in Agusan del Sur

Posted to DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 20): PROMOTING PEACE // 401st Brigade Scores anew against NPA in Agusan del Sur

 Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur- The Operating Troops from 401st Brigade recently recovered One (1) AK-47 with one (1) Magazine loaded with ammunition, One (1) Anti-Personnel Landmine and assorted war materials from Armed Encounter against more or less sixty (60) Communist NPA at Sitio Anahawan, BrgyMabuhay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur on January 16, 2016.
The encounter took place at 9:00 O’clock in the morning when the patrolling elements of 401st Brigade opened fire by the Communist NPAs who were encamped on a forested area near Sitio Anahawan of Brgy Mabuhay, ADS and firefight ensued. After about forty (40) minutes of fierce battle our forces were able to overrun the enemy camp, leaving behind an AK-47 rifle, IED Landmine including One (1) Rifle Grenade, Five (5) Blasting Caps, One (1) Icom Radio, Two Electrical detonating Switch, One Cellphone, 200 meters electrical detonating wire, Five (5) backpacks, Volumes of subversive documents, and personal belongings.
The engaged troops were able to witness approximately five (5) killed or wounded enemy casualties who were forcedly dragged by their comrades during their withdrawal while there was no casualty on the Government side.
“I commend our troops on their bravery and patriotism. This current effort has progressively pre-empted, dislocated and disrupted the Communist NPA activities thereby denying them freedom of action and degrading their capacity to cause mayhem in vulnerable communities”. Col Macario said.
These Communist NPAs are clearly violating the CARHRIHL, by continuously using the Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) anyway they are no different with Bandits who are lawless in nature, however, we can still give them a chance to work with us while promoting peace in CARAGA Region. Col Macario added.