Saturday, January 23, 2016

4 wounded in Zambo Norte gun fight

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): 4 wounded in Zambo Norte gun fight

Four people, including two policemen, were wounded in an exchange of fire preceded by an ambush in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.

Initial military report disclosed the incident took place around 11:00 a.m. Sunday in Sitio Paringan, Barangay Sto. Niño, Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte.

The two wounded policemen were identified as SPO2 Berhay Ali and PO1 Atani Fahad of the Sibuco Police Station.

The identities of the two wounded civilians were not immediately available.

Investigation showed the victims were aboard a patrol car when they were ambushed by lawless elements, triggering a five-minute as the policemen managed to fought back.

The lawless elements withdrew towards Barangay Lakiki, Sibuco.

The victims were rushed to the hospital for treatment.

PHL's first SSV now undergoing sea trials

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): PHL's first SSV now undergoing sea trials

The country's first strategic vessel (SSV) is now undergoing sea trials, said Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo Saturday.

This is to determine whether all the ship's systems are operational for the voyage to the Philippines.

"It's akin to a car doing road test. The facilities and other navigational instruments are being tested to ensure seaworthiness especially before its embarks on its voyage to the Philippines," Arevalo added.

Also undergoing trials are the ship's propulsion, electrical and communication systems.

Arevalo did not give an exact time frame on when these tests will be completed.

The first SSV, out of a two-ship order from PT PAL (Persero), was launched last January 17.

It was the designation of "LD-601" and the prospective name of BRP Tarlac.

The first SSV will arrive this May while the second will be delivered on May 2017.

The Philippines has a two-SSV order with PT PAL (Persero) for PHP3,870,000,000 which is sourced from the AFP Modernization Fund.

The SSV acquisition project for the PN was initiated upon the approval of Acquisition Decision Memorandum Number 2012-060 by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on October 30, 2013.

The Department of National Defense declared Persero as the Single Calculated Responsive Bidder with a bidding price of PHP3,870,000,000 on November 18, 2014.

The SSVs are programmed to be the PN’s floating command center carrying out their main purpose as military sealift and transport vessels and also for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The ships are estimated to weigh around 7,300 gross register tons.

Furthermore, these vessels are critical assets for civil-military operations due to their capability of transporting large number of soldiers, logistics, and supplies.

Moreover, each SSV has the capacity to house three helicopters. The Navy’s Augusta Westland-109s are programmed to be on-board components of these vessels.

These forthcoming landing platform dock strategic sealift vessels will improve the transport capability of the PN and boost the defense capabilities of the country.

IED disarmed in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): IED disarmed in Sulu

Government security troops have successfully disarmed an improvised explosive device (IED) discovered by a retired police officer in Jolo, Sulu on Saturday.

Joint Task Group Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, in a message to the Philippines News Agency, said the IED was discovered 11 p.m. at videoke bar in Matirez St., Barangay San Raymundo by retired SPO4 Julkaida Jalani, who also happens to be the owner of the establishment.

The latter immediately reported his find to authorities who then deployed Army and Philippine National Police explosive ordnance disposal experts who disarmed and exploded the IED in place early Sunday morning.

No casualties were reported in the incident. Authorities are still determining the identity and motives of the perpetrators.

‘Malacañang promised too much to MILF’

From the Business Mirror (Jan 24): ‘Malacañang promised too much to MILF’

Malacañang is to blame for “promising too much” to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should the failure of Congress to enact the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) become the effective recruitment cause for followers of the Islamic State (IS), which claims to have gathered a small following from the mostly young population of the Moro land, a social scientist said.

“The BBL would now become the rallying point for those who don’t really believe that the government could carry out its promise on bringing peace to Mindanao, even as the armed movement among them has agreed to try the peace process,” said Aries A. Arugay, executive director of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, and who also teaches political science at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines.

“Now that President Aquino is nearing the end of his term, many congressmen would probably just sit down as a new president takes over the problem of a more discontented, and probably more angry Moro population,” he said.

For advocates of war against the government, “this should be a very strong argument to tell those who believe in the peace process that they were all wrong all along for towing the line of Malacañang.”

“The failure to pass the BBL would be the best recruiter for the Isis [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” he added.

Arugay said the Aquino administration could never force representatives from Luzon to take a serious look at the problem in Mindanao because of their own concern with their respective constituencies, which has repeatedly resulted in the failure to have a quorum to decide on the BBL.

Although the leaderships of both chambers of Congress have announced that the BBL was still up for approval, legislators, particularly members of the House of Representatives, continue to be absent from sessions.

The government Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) has also said that it was not giving up.

“Even if we experience difficult challenges in pursuing the passage of the BBL, both parties will pursue this peace process,” said  Al Julkipli, a member of the legal team of the government peace panel.

“No one is giving up. Both parties are still working toward  achieving the objectives of the peace process, which is to pass a meaningful BBL that [will] address the two main problems [of keeping security and improving governance] in Mindanao,” Julkipli said.

“If these two problems would be significantly addressed, we believe the entire Philippines would ultimately benefit. That is why we are still continuously coordinating and lobbying with the legislators. We are always ready to provide our support and technical assistance in defense of and in explaining the contents of the BBL in its original form.”

Last year the Opapp also raised similar appeal to Congress, to pass the BBL or risk heightening extremism among a section of the Filipino Muslims in Mindanao.

Julkipli was in the provincial capitol of Lanao del Sur in Marawi last week and told a multisectoral audience that “the BBL could still be passed by Congress, despite the limited time remaining before it adjourns for the election campaign.”

The Opapp also said that Centrist Democratic Party Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro,  has announced that the House had set the voting on the bill on January 27.

Rodriguez is the chairman of the House Ad-Hoc Committee on the BBL.

“We have set the voting on Wednesday. As long as we have a quorum, the voting will push through,” Opapp quoted Rodriguez as saying.

Julkipli added that regardless of what happens to the BBL, “[w]e should remain calm. We should approach this in the most active and most passionate way, in the most peaceful way that we can.”

‘BRP Tarlac’ joins PH naval force in May

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 22): ‘BRP Tarlac’ joins PH naval force in May

The “BRP Tarlac (LD601),” the Philippine Navy’s first Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV), is expected to arrive in the Philippines in May, after completing its sea trials.
Last Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the ship, which was laid down by the PT PAL shipyard in Indonesia on June 5, 2015, was christened and launched in Surabaya, Indonesia.
During the launching ceremony, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that aside from the ability to respond to traditional and non-traditional threats, the vessel will enhance the country’s capability in delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
For his part, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources Rizal Ramli expressed appreciation for the trust given by the Philippines to Indonesia in strengthening its naval fleet.
Aside from Gazmin and Ramli, also present during the ceremony were Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen Isleta, the Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer-in-Command VADM Caesar Taccad, Indonesian Minister for Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu, and Chief of the Indonesian Navy Vice Admiral Ade Supandi.

Mission order stumps PDEA

From the Philippine Star (Jan 24): Mission order stumps PDEA

Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to clarify the claims of Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino that he has a mission order to conduct surveillance on a shabu laboratory in Manila where he was arrested on Thursday.

“I will ask for a copy,” PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac Jr. said on Friday upon learning that Marcelino insisted he has a mission order during his inquest at the Department of Justice.

“I will ask the officer who signed the mission order, what is the nature of the job that was given to him?” Cacdac said.

Cacdac said it does not make sense for Marcelino to claim that he was conducting a surveillance of the shabu laboratory where he was arrested.

“How can a person who was tasked to conduct casing and surveillance be arrested incident a clandestine laboratory?” he remarked.

Marcelino was arrested Thursday in a raid on a suspected shabu laboratory in Manila. Along with Chinese national Yan Yi Shou, lawmen seized from them some 76 kilos of illegal drugs worth P383 million.

Citing information from operatives, Cacdac said Marcelino and Yan had a key to the property, which was covered by a search warrant and has been under surveillance.

Yan was supposedly a former asset of the PDEA, where Marcelino worked as chief of a special unit.

During his inquest, Marcelino claimed he was working on a mission order as part of the operation “Oplan Moses” of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

However, his former ISAFP boss and now Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said a mission order that he issued to Marcelino had lapsed in 2014.

The Army’s Intelligence Service Group (ISG) has issued a certification signed by Col. Mario Guloy that Marcelino has been sharing intelligence information with the unit from November to December 2015 on illegal drug activities.

The current ISAFP chief, Maj. Gen. Arnold Quiapo, said Marcelino is no longer connected with his unit as he returned to the Navy following his assignment with military intellgence in 2014.

“It’s been a long time that he is not with us. Ask the Navy, because he is assigned at the Philippine Navy Officers’ Candidate School,” Quiapo said.

He said ISAFP does not have any information regarding Marcelino’s activities.
Malacañang also denied Marcelino’s claim that he was detailed with the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).

“Ferdinand Marcelino is not and has never been an operative detailed to the PAOCC. Our records show no ongoing PAOCC operations involving Lt. Col. Marcelino,” said Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning.

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

Manalo claimed Marcelino’s arrest was a “misencounter.”

Former PDEA director and former AFP chief Dionisio Santiago, for his part, defended Marcelino, saying the Marine officer has been working  in the shadows against big drug syndicates operating in the country.

He did not deny that Marcelino was one of his trusted operatives while he was PDEA chief, describing him as a seasoned drug operative, and that if needed he would go underground.

“He is not the kind of officer who will just rely on reports coming from action agents. He himself will do the confirmation and verification, and most of the time he would just surprise me with search warrants,” Santiago said.

He added that he recruited Marcelino to join PDEA because he knew he is an upright officer.

Fearing for Marcelino’s safety, Santiago said that the arrested Marine officer should be kept in a well secured jail facility, saying that with what happened, it is clear that somebody out there wants to silence him.


Cacdac reiterated an earlier statement from AFP chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri who reportedly told Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento that he has not authorized Marcelino to conduct anti-drug operations.

Cacdac said that if Iriberri specifically said that it was prohibited, why was he still given the supposed order?

“Somebody will be charged with insubordination,” he said.

Cacdac said Marcelino is no longer connected with the Army as he is already detailed with the Philippine Navy.

Cacdac noted the lack of coordination with PDEA, which he said is an administrative requirement for such kind of operation.

He stressed the need for coordination to prevent misencounters.

Cacdac said the PDEA did not receive any intelligence from the AFP regarding the laboratory when they were building up the case.

A police official, on the other hand, said they might have to conduct a lifestyle check on Marcelino.

An official said the lifestyle check could help investigators gather more information about Marcelino, who served as head of PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service.

“A lifestyle check is part of the full blown investigation,” the source told The STAR. The official, however, refused to go into detail on how investigators will go about the lifestyle check.

The source said investigators could check some of Marcelino’s bank accounts as a start.

Aside from lifestyle check, another source said Marcelino would have to present proof that he was working undercover.

“He cannot just claim he is on a mission. He has to satisfy all the aspects of surveillance operations and progress report on his cases,” one police official pointed out.

The same official said Marcelino cannot just make up a story on his mission since agents of PDEA and the police Anti-Illegal Drug Group are trained to sniff out illegal drug operations.

The operation that led to the arrest of Marcelino was an offshoot of a raid in Barangay Lawang Bato, Valenzuela City early this month, during which two suspected Chinese drug suppliers were arrested.

Some of the PDEA agents were reportedly confused about the presence of Marcelino at the townhouse and even thought he was with the operatives.

As the raiders were documenting evidence inside the townhouse, Cacdac arrived and reportedly blew his top when informed by PDEA agents of Marcelino’s presence inside the raided unit.

The PDEA chief reportedly gave Marcelino a tongue lashing and ordered his arrest.

Both Cacdac and Marcelino are graduates of the Philippine Military Academy. Cacdac graduated at the PMA in 1978 while Marcelino belonged to PMA Class 1994.

Cacdac advised Marcelino to get a good lawyer.

Army 4-star Brooks visits Philippines, honors 117 years of shared military history

From DVIDS (Jan 20): Army 4-star Brooks visits Philippines, honors 117 years of shared military history

Army 4-star Brooks visits Philippines, honors 117 years of shared military history

Larry Adkison, of the American Battle Monuments Commission (center), tells the history of Clark Veterans Cemetery, Philippines, to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, U.S. Army Pacific (left), and Lt. Gen. Eduard Ano, commanding general, Philippine Army, Jan. 20, 2016.

Army 4-star Brooks visits Philippines, honors 117 years of shared military history

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, U.S. Army Pacific, talks with a Philippine mechanized infantry division officer inside an M113 armored vehicle during a visit to Camp O’Donnell Jan. 20, 2016.

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – An invitation to address the Philippine Military Academy Corps of Cadets saw Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, U.S. Army Pacific, visit the school Jan. 20, 2016.
“We see the connection of our nations and our 117 years of shared history, and we certainly recognize that at [U.S. Army Pacific],” Brooks told the students, having been reminded of his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, by everything from the cadets’ uniforms to the school’s arched front gate.

The previous evening Brooks hosted Gen. Hernando Iriberri, chief of staff, Philippine Armed Forces, for dinner at the U.S. Embassy Residence in Baguio City. “I was able to take in, first-hand and personally, elements of history that I’ve only studied before,” Brooks told the students.

In the Embassy Residence Sept. 3, 1945, the commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines, Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, formally surrendered to forces represented by Maj. Gen. Edmond Leavey, commander, U.S. Armed Forces, Western Pacific, thus ending World War II in the country.

After encouraging the young officers-to-be in the “cousin of West Point” to listen, especially to their seasoned noncommissioned officers; learn, from each other, their academy, and their mentors; and lead in everything they do, Brooks took time to answer cadet questions on everything from his time as USMA cadet first captain to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines.

“It sends a very important signal to the entire region about the nature of this relationship – that we are allies,” Brooks said of the EDCA. “I’m pleased of the decision the Philippines made – it’s a Philippine decision.”

The agreement was recently deemed constitutional by the Philippine supreme court, and will allow Brooks and other senior pacific-focused U.S. military leaders more latitude to plan training exercises hosted by Philippine forces. Brooks’ comments echoed those of his boss, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander, U.S. Pacific Command.

“As part of our strategic rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the EDCA will strengthen our alliance by facilitating rotational presence of U.S. joint forces in the Philippines, increasing bilateral training opportunities and supporting the international rules-based order that has served the region so well for the last 70 years,” said Harris at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, Jan. 12, when the EDCA was announced.

After leaving the academy, Brooks visited Clark Veterans Cemetery with Lt. Gen. Eduard Ano, commanding general, Philippine Army, to lay a wreath in honor of the more than 8,500 American and Filipino service members and civilians buried there from 1900 until present day, with veterans of every conflict from the Spanish American War to the Iraq Conflict.

Brooks also toured Camp O’Donnell and the Philippine Mechanized Infantry Division which is currently performing refurbishment on M113 armored vehicles and Clark Air Base, where the Philippine Air Force just took delivery of two new Korean-made FA-50 fighter jets, similar to U.S. Air Force F-16s.

The visit to the Philippines was the final stop on Brooks’ current goodwill tour recognizing ground forces history throughout the Pacific. Previous stops included American Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nepal and Malaysia.

Malabon councilor shot dead

From Rappler (Jan 23): Malabon councilor shot dead

(UPDATED) Malabon City 2nd District Councilor Merlin 'Tiger' Mañalac is gunned down in front of his home

MALABON COUNCILOR. Malabon City 2nd District Councilor Merlin 'Tiger' Mañalac. Photo from the Facebook page of Councilor Tiger Mañalac

MALABON COUNCILOR. Malabon City 2nd District Councilor Merlin 'Tiger' Mañalac. Photo from the Facebook page of Councilor Tiger Mañalac

Malabon city councilor was shot dead on Saturday afternoon, January 23, reports said.

Malabon City 2nd District Councilor Merlin "Tiger" Mañalac was gunned down in front of his home in Barangay Tinajeros at 3:50 pm on Saturday, radio dzMM reported.

Police said the suspects sped away on a motorcycle. Mañalac was pronounced dead on arrival at the MCU hospital in Caloocan City.

Mañalac, the son of the late Malabon councilor and police colonel Alfonso "Boyong" Mañalac, was running for re-election in May.

Malabon Mayor Antolin Oreta III offered a P200,000-reward for information that could lead to the arrest of the suspects.

Leftist group Partisano-Armadong Operatiba ng Partido Marxista-Leninista ng Pilipinas claimed responsibility for the attack. Leaflets of its statement were found in the crime scene.

The group said this was "retribution" for the murder of Peter Villasenor, a former member of the New People's Army, in 2010, among other reasons.

The group had also claimed responsibility for killing a barangay captain in Manila in 2011, and the ambush try on the teenage son of Robert Esquivel, then Metropolitan Manila Development Authority sidewalk clearing operations group chief, in 2009.

Head of militia in ‘lumad’ slays briefly held by cops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 22): Head of militia in ‘lumad’ slays briefly held by cops

Datu Calpet Egua reads a court order releasing him on bail that was handed to him by a police officer after his surrender.     PHOTO FROM AGUSAN DEL SUR PNP

Datu Calpet Egua reads a court order releasing him on bail that was handed to him by a police officer after his surrender. PHOTO FROM AGUSAN DEL SUR PNP

The highest ranking leader of a “lumad” paramilitary group being held responsible for the killing of a school director and two other lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur province, surrendered to police, but for another criminal case.

Datu Calpet Egua, head of the Magahat-Bagani force in the Agusan and Surigao areas, spent barely a day in police custody after he posted bail for a robbery case.

Egua’s group was tagged in the attack on the village of Diatagon in Lianga that targeted a school being run by the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev).

School director Emerito Samarca and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Jovello Sinzo were killed during the attack.

Other Magahat-Bagani leaders tagged in the attack were identified as Marcos Bocales and Marcial Belandres.

Egua, who escaped several assassination attempts by communist rebels in the past, turned himself in on Thursday for a robbery case filed in a court in Lianga over a year ago.

Supt. Rodelio Roqueta, Agusan del Sur deputy police provincial director, had said Egua wanted to surrender a long time ago but was still recuperating from wounds he suffered in a clash with communist rebels.

Quoting Egua, Roqueta said the lumad militia leader decided to surrender to prove he was not involved in the attack on Alcadev on Sept. 1 last year.

An Inquirer source said a former police chief of this town, a close friend of Egua, facilitated the clandestine surrender of Egua.

Roqueta said Egua was released after the lumad militia leader posted P80,000 in bail.

He said a check made with other police units in Surigao del Sur showed Egua is facing no other criminal case.

Egua’s followers—Bobby and Loloy Tejero and Margarito Layno—have been charged with the Surigao murders and are now being hunted by police after the Department of the Interior and Local Government offered a P1.2-million reward for each of the three.

Reacting to Egua’s surrender, Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel said it was both good and bad news.

“Well, that is good news but it (robbery case) is bailable so after posting bail he can continue with atrocities against our constituents,” Pimentel said in a text message.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the failure of authorities to arrest Egua, “even if they had all the means to do so,” confirmed that the Magahat-Bagani leader was being protected by authorities.

Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza has called on residents in the remote strife-torn village of La Purisima to end killings between the camps of feuding tribal leaders.

“I’m tired of listening to the news about the killings here in your village,” said Plaza in a speech during a medical and feeding mission.

Plaza expressed concern over the recent killing of Juan Perez, an elderly Manobo tribal leader, early this month which sparked mass evacuation among lumad villagers in the sitio of Gacub.

Perez is the uncle of Gilbert Perez, the village chieftain of La Purisima, who was killed by still unidentified men early last year in a spate of violence believed to be related to unresolved land conflicts among Manobo leaders.

“We can no longer tolerate killings,” said Plaza.

Rebels disarm security guards in Tugbok

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 23): Rebels disarm security guards in Tugbok

SUSPECTED members of the New People's Army (NPA) disarmed three security guards at sitio Banarao in Barangay Talandang in Tugbok District, Davao City.

One of the three victims Marcelino Alfonso Mata, 48, of Columbia Security Agency, who hails from Santiago, Isabela, reported the incident to Tugbok police.

Initial police investigation revealed that the incident happened at around 3:30 p.m. Friday.

According to Mata, they were on duty when around 15 men and a woman, armed with handguns, wearing white t-shirt printed with DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) at the back, arrived in the area.

When asked about the concern of the group, the latter then conducted verification on the reported cutting of trees in the area.

The group, however, then suddenly took the issued firearms of the guards.

The 15 men and the woman identified themselves as members of the NPA then boarded to five motorcycles heading towards Barangay Talandang Proper.

Police are already digging into their investigation to determine the motive of the suspects and identified the members of the group.

According to the police, the incident happened in a remote area of the barangay, where there has been an ongoing land conflict.

Manhunt launched vs alleged NPA rebels in South Cotabato

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 23): Manhunt launched vs alleged NPA rebels in South Cotabato

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

Chief Insp. Jose Marie Simagan, T’boli police chief, said the incident happened in Barangay (village) Edwards at 8 p.m.

Simangan said around 10 to 15 heavily armed suspected New Peoples’ Army (NPA) sneaked into the compound of AJ Construction Company around 8 p.m., disarmed its security guards and set on fire four construction equipment.     
Torched were a road roller, a backhoe, a grader and a dump truck.

Quoting the firm’s security guards, Simangan said the armed men quietly arrived at the firm’s ground equipment compound, then identified themselves as NPA rebels as they rounded up the unspecified number of guards.

Simangan said extortion was the likely motive.

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

Last December 8, communist guerrillas also attacked a construction firm in adjacent Lake Sebu town, also in South Cotabato after its owner ignored extortion demand and killed two security guards.

Navy ship to be sea base

From The Star Online (Jan 23): Navy ship to be sea base

High security: The Bunga Mas Lima docked at the Sepanggar navy base to be deployed to the east coast soon.

High security: The Bunga Mas Lima docked at the Sepanggar navy base to be deployed to the east coast soon.

Sabah’s east coast security will be further strengthened as the navy received the support auxiliary vessel Bunga Mas Lima (BM5) that would act as a sea base for the security forces.

Navy chief Admiral Datuk Seri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said the vessel would be deployed anytime now in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) to work with all security agencies in the area.

Admiral Kamarulzaman, who officially received the Bunga Mas Lima from Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) at the Sepangar naval base near here, said it would provide various forms of support for ground forces in the area.

BM5 has a helipad for air surveillance and is also equipped with interceptor boats, he added.

There was also logistics support like fuel and food for ground troops, he said, adding that there would be communication equipment for rapid sharing of information.

He said the ship could accommodate a total of 70 personnel at any one time.

Admiral Kamarulzaman said the handing over of BM5 was a strategic partnership between the navy and MISC to ensure that the country’s security is maintained at all times.

“It is a historic day for us with the delivery of the vessel by MISC to the navy and its placing in the Esszone will bring more confidence to the people,” he said at the ceremony attended by MISC president-cum-chief executive officer Yee Yang Chien along with the navy’s Region II commander Rear-Admiral Datuk Khairul Anuar Yahya and Submarine Unit commander Rear-Admiral Datuk Abdul Rahman Ayob.

Admiral Kamarulzaman, who also visited the submarine base, checked on operational activities before checking out the refitting progress being done on one of the Scorpene submarines KD Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Navy ship becomes security base off eastern Sabah

From the Free Malaysia Today (Jan 23): Navy ship becomes security base off eastern Sabah

Former container freighter Bunga Mas Lima to begin duties 'any time now'


KOTA KINABALU: The Navy has taken delivery of the fleet auxiliary vessel Bunga Mas Lima which will be used as a floating base for security forces on Sabah’s east coast.

Navy chief Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Badaruddin said the vessel would be deployed “any time now” in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, according to Star Online.

Bunga Mas Lima, formerly a container freighter with Malaysian International Shipping Corporation, was requisitioned by the Navy and converted into a support ship in 2009 for anti-piracy duties off the coast of Somalia.

She has been equipped with a helipad and carries intercepter boats.

Communication equipment would provide for rapid sharing of information. The ship would be able to provide various forms of support for ground forces in the area, as well as logistics support to supply fuel and food. It accommodates a total of 70 personnel at any one time.

Admiral Kamarulzaman officially received Bunga Mas Lima from Malaysian International Shipping Corporation and called it a strategic partnership between the Navy and MISC to ensure that the country’s security is maintained at all times, Star Online reported.

The handover ceremony at Sepanggar naval base was attended by MISC chief executive Yee Yang Chien, Navy Region II commander Rear-Admiral Khairul Anuar Yahya and Submarine Unit commander Rear-Admiral Abdul Rahman Ayob.

Admiral Kamarulzaman, who also visited the submarine base, checked on operations there as well as the progress of refitting works on one of the submarines, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, the report said.

‘Extremist groups gaining ground in conflict areas’

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 23): ‘Extremist groups gaining ground in conflict areas’

Religious organizations in Central Mindanao revealed that Muslim extremist groups have extended its tentacles in conflict-torn areas of the region, drawing support from disillusioned Bangsamoro communities.

These said communities penetrated by the extremist groups reportedly felt deceived by the derailing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and what it perceives as Manila’s betrayal of the peace process.

The observation of the 26 religious organizations was discussed during a workshop and consultative forum on the role of Muslim religious leaders in peace and security held in Cotabato City last week, sponsored by the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy headed by Amina Rasul.

In a manifesto they adopted at the closing of the forum, Ali Abdullatip and fellow religious leaders of the religious organizations also called on the national government, particularly the Senate and Congress, to help them bring “just and lasting peace in Mindanao .
It was learned that the 26 religious organizations in Central Mindanao are working hard to promote peace in conflict areas in Mindanao particularly in communities where members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group exist.

Peace is possible, the religiou leaders stressed, if Senate and Congress would legislate a genuine autonomy that has been promised by the Philippine Constitution, a genuine autonomy that can be realized if the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro are retained in the BBL.

Abdulwahab Ayao, one of the religious leaders in attendance said they believed that the proposed law will create the ideal Bangsamoro autonomous region and is the key to neutralize violent extremism.

They likewise called on all Muslims in the country to refrain from joining groups that espouse unjust killings or terrorism to advance their cause. Instead, they should understand and promote Islam as a religion of peace and harmony that abhors violent extremism.

China warns Philippines against 2nd Spratlys trip

From the Arab News (Jan 23): China warns Philippines against 2nd Spratlys trip


In this May 11, 2015 file photo, the alleged on-going reclamation of Subi Reef by China is seen from Pag-asa Island in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, western Palawan Province, Philippines. (AP)

China’s Foreign Ministry urged the Philippines on Friday to exercise “restraint” over “relevant parties,” after Filipino protesters said they planned a second trip to contested islands in the South China Sea.

The Filipino protesters plan in April to spend a month on all the islands in the Spratlys that are occupied by the Philippines. In December, about 50 Filipino protesters, mostly students, made a three-day boat trip to Thitu, one of nine outcrops or islands occupied by the Philippines.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratlys.

“The Philippines’ occupation and illegal seizure of the islands is against the law and without effect,” Hong told a daily briefing in Beijing.

“The Philippines should increase restraint on itself and relevant parties, and should not complicate matters,” he said.

China claims almost the whole of the energy-rich South China Sea, which is also staked by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, and through which about $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes each year.

Bishop: Militia sign of desperate folk in reb crosshair

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 23): Bishop: Militia sign of desperate folk in reb crosshair
Some Christians are arming themselves against extremists in Mindanao because they are getting increasingly “desperate,” according to Bishop Angelito Lampon of the Vicariate of Jolo.

According to him, the 300 Christians who have armed themselves and have taken the name “Red God Soldiers” did so out of frustration and fear.

“This is a kind of desperate attempt by these Christians who are being attacked now and then by these armed groups,” said Lampon in a post on CBCP News, the official news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

According to the prelate, he sees the uprising among Christian communities as a way of calling on the government to address their security concerns.

“If the government troops can defend civilians whether they are Muslims or Christians, then I think it will not come to this,” added Lampon.

“If only there’s enough security for them, I think they will not take up arms. But if they feel helpless, I guess it’s their form of self-defense,” he said.

In an apparent show of force, the Christian militia on Tuesday showed their firearms, as they vowed to drive Moro renegades from their communities.

The group also burned a replica of a flag of the Islamic State and condemned recent attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said Lampon in the CBCP News article.

He added that the militiamen vowed to fight the BIFF for the sake of their families, communities, and in the name of self-defense.

Christians are considered a minority in some places in Mindanao dominated by Muslims.

Galon: 'Don’t give in to NPA demands'

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jan 23): Galon: 'Don’t give in to NPA demands'

AN OFFICIAL of the Philippine Army in Negros Island Region has reiterated the call to politicians not to pay “permit to campaign” fees demanded by the New People’s Army (NPA) in so-called “rebel-controlled” areas.

Col. Leopoldo Galon Jr., deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said Army troopers are ready to provide security to candidates especially in the hinterlands.

Galon led the launching Friday of the 303rd Brigade Public Information Office (PIO) located at the Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City.

He said the Army is discouraging candidates who are running for certain electives position in the May 9 elections from giving in to the demands of the NPA rebels.

“We are discouraging them because we are here, the Army and the Philippine National Police. We are capable of securing the areas. All they need is to coordinate with us, which is important,” Galon said.

They do not have to pay in order campaign in certain areas, he added.

He also reminded the politicians, “’yung ibibigay niyo sa mga NPAs, ikakamatay ng mga sundalo ‘yun kasi gagamitin ‘yun sa pag bili ng bala.”

Galon added that the NPA rebels’ strength in Negros has weakened and cannot be considered a threat anymore as far as security is concerned.

He also discouraged politicians from using private armed groups in their campaign.

Meanwhile, 2nd Lt. Ma. Revekka Knothess Roperos, newly-designated public information officer of the 303rd Brigade, said the Army’s PIO in Bacolod City will ensure the accessibility of their unit to the tri-media.

Farmers groups ask presidential bets: Where do you stand on land reform?

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): Farmers groups ask presidential bets: Where do you stand on land reform?

Reenactment of Mnediola Massacre scene in 2015. Photographed by Bernard Testa,

Marking the 29th year of the so-called Mendiola Massacre, farmers groups challenged the presidential front-runners on Friday to make known their stand on agrarian reform, including land distribution to farmers.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte should declare if they would support land distribution to Hacienda Luisita and other farmers working in vast haciendas and plantation estates in the country.

"We are challenging the three presidential front-runners, especially – Binay, Poe, and Duterte – to make known their stand on the genuine distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other vast landholdings, like the Araneta Estate in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan and Rodriguez, Rizal owned by the relatives of Mar Roxas," KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said.

"The distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other vast haciendas remains a litmus test for presidential wannabes," he said.

Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of all agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. But, according to the KMP, in 2014, the Department of Agrarian Reform instead selected the farmer-beneficiaries by drawing lots using a tambiolo system (lottery drum).

"The challenge for Binay, Poe, and Duterte is to reverse DAR's fake distribution scheme that was designed to displace the farm workers and divide their ranks," Mariano said.

Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said "up to now, no presidential bet has categorically declared support for genuine land reform."

"We will never hesitate to expose candidates who only pretend, insult, and snub the peasantry's demand for genuine land reform, even our allies," Flores said.

Members of KMP trooped to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to pay tribute to farmers who died during a protest rally there, fighting for their right to land.
On January 22, 1987, thousands of farmers marched to Malaccañang to press their demand for genuine land reform under the administration of the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, mother of President Aquino.

But upon reaching the foot of Mendiola Bridge, anti-riot personnel from the Western Police District, the Integrated National Police, and the Philippine Marines opened fire on the protesting farmers and their supporters.

After the shooting, Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez, and Roberto Yumul lay dead.

More than 80 others were wounded.

The massacre scuttled ongoing peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that year. A year later, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), described by militants as "sham and anti-farmer," was passed by Congress and signed into law.

‘Abu Sayyaf on recruitment spree’

From the Philippine Star (Jan 22): ‘Abu Sayyaf on recruitment spree’

“We urge concerned local officials to tell their people not to be lured by the promises of the Abu Sayyaf,” Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu said.

Abu Sayyaf bandits have been recruiting new members in Sulu, according to a military official. 

At a press briefing at the Western Mindanao Command on Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said a group led by Alhabsi Misaya Arrojado is reportedly offering P30,000 to each of the recruits in the towns of Kalinggalang Kaluang, Luuk and Panamao. 

Arrojado said the group has so far recruited 15 persons.

He said they also received reports that the bandits have been harassing villagers to force them to join their group.

“We urge concerned local officials to tell their people not to be lured by the promises of the Abu Sayyaf,” Arrojado said.

Kidnap victims

Arrojado said ground troops have confirmed that the group of Radulan Sahiron is holding four of the eight remaining hostages of the Abu Sayyaf, including Dutch birdwatcher Elwold Horn.

He said there have been no sightings of the two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina who were taken from a resort on Samal Island in September.


Col. Joselito Bautista, Joint Task Group Basilan head, said recent bombings in Mindanao are believed to be part of the extortion activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Especially now that their source of funding was cut due to the series of military operations that led to the neutralization of a foreigner in their ranks,” Bautista said, referring to Malaysian jihadist Mohammad Najib Hussein alias Abu Anas.

Hussein was among the 26 militants killed in the military operations in Al-Barka, Basilan last month.

“That had a big effect on their foreign funding… They resort to extortion and bombings to scare the people,” Bautista said.


Meanwhile, Bautista said seven Abu Sayyaf bandits led by a certain Sulaiman Kasaran surrendered to Lt. Col. Enerito Lebeco in Sitio Camalig, Barangay Bohe Pahu in  Ungkaya Pukan town on Monday.

Kasaran, his three sons and three others, who used to be part of the group led by Nurhassan Jamiri and Furuji Indama, were presented in ceremonies held at the 104th Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Tabiawan.

“This the first time that members of the Abu Sayyaf surrendered with their intention to be integrated with mainstream society,” Bautista said.

Transmission pole torched, construction firm raided in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 23): Transmission pole torched, construction firm raided in Southern Philippines

Electricity was cut off in several areas in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces in southern Philippines after a transmission pole was torched by a still unidentified assailant, reports said on Saturday.

The privately-owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines which operates the transmission line said the burning of the pole late Friday affected the power distribution in the provinces.

“Initial findings indicate sabotage,” NGCP said, adding, electricity was fully restored on Saturday. “NGCP is doing all it can to ensure continued, uninterrupted power transmission services all over the country, however, power interruptions caused by force majeure events like sabotage and tower bombings, are beyond our control,” it said.

The burning of the transmission pole occurred the same day that suspected communist rebels also torched construction equipment in South Cotabato’s T’boli town.

Members of the New People’s Army swooped down on the compound of AJ Construction Company and disarmed the guards before setting on fire a dump truck, a backhoe, and grader truck, including a road roller. The raid was triggered by a failed extortion, police said.

PN seizes PHP6-M smuggled sugar off Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): PN seizes PHP6-M smuggled sugar off Zambo City

The Philippine Navy has intercepted and seized a shipment of PHP6 million worth of contraband offshore this city, a top PN official announced Saturday.

Rear Adm. Jorge Amba, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, said the contraband were intercepted aboard a wooden-hulled vessel around 11:35 p.m. Thursday in the waters of Barangay Recodo, 14.45 kilometers west of City Hall.

Amba said the Navy personnel led by Lt. Reynyleo Ballesteros were aboard a Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) when they spotted M/L Alkawasar with three motorized bancas along her side in the act of unloading cargoes.

Amba said the three motorized bancas sped to different directions while the Navy personnel aboard MPAC (BA 484) were approaching M/L Alkawsar.

He said the Navy sailors, upon the conduct of board and search, found that M/L Alkawsar was loaded with 1,500 sacks of refined sugar and assorted cargoes.

He said it was also found out that the vessel and crew as well as the cargoes do not have pertinent documents.

He said further investigation showed that M/L Alkawsar and its cargoes came from Sandakan, Sabah and had just arrived in this city.

He said the vessel and its cargoes was turned over to the Bureau of Customs-Zamboanga District Office for proper documentation and filing of appropriate charges.

He added they conduct regular patrols and the apprehension of the contraband manifests the command’s never ending commitment to support maritime law enforcement efforts of the government.

Suspected rebels shoot dead ex-CAFGU man

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Suspected rebels shoot dead ex-CAFGU man

A former member of the Citizens Armed Forces and Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was gunned down by two men riding in tandem on a motorcycle while he was waiting for a ride home in front of a videoke bar in Barangay Puro, Aroroy, Masbate at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

A police report said victim Jessie Mina, 24 and a resident of Barangay Cabangcalan, Aroroy, Masbate, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Aroroy Municipal Hospital.

The report said Mina was waiting for a ride outside the Acacia Videoke Bar when a motorcycle stopped in front of him and the back rider shot him with a .45-caliber pistol on his head and body.

The suspects immediately sped away from the crime scene while residents in the area rushed Mina to the hospital but to no avail.

Police suspect that although Mina was no longer a CAFGU member, New People’s Army rebels believed he was still a military-police asset supplying information about their activities.