Saturday, February 6, 2016

Military slams NPA on agri-plantation attacks in NorMin

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 6): Military slams NPA on agri-plantation attacks in NorMin

THE military condemned on Friday the series of attacks at agricultural plantation in the provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental that the New People’s Army owned up citing exploitation and displacement of farmers and indigenous peoples as justification of the torching of equipment owned by these multinational corporations and big companies.

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesperson, said the NPA rebels "gravely violated human rights by sabotaging the programs for the people."

Martinez said the recent burning down of heavy equipment of multinational corporations and big companies in Bukidnon and Misamiss Oriental are destroying the residents' sources of living and affecting local workers there.

The rebels torched the Del Monte Philippines Inc., (DMPI) heavy equipment worth P15 million in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental on January 26.

And less than a week after the Misamis Oriental torching, another attack was conducted in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon province after the Maoist rebels burned two bulldozers owned by DMPI and a boom sprayer owned by Lapanday Pineapple Plantation Company and another attack that targeted the spray truck of Dole Philippines, Inc. on January 30.

This week the NPA attacked another boom spray anew, destroyed a banana plantation and a palletizing packing house.

"This is a clear grave violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on tje Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which states that civilian population and their property should not be subjects of attacks," Martinez said.

The people should likewise be protected against arson, strafing, and other similar forms of destroying lives and property, Martinez added.

 While the military see the attacks as a form of extortion to generate funds, the NPA said in a statement that these companies are violating rights especially of the indigenous peoples.

"Ang ilang padayong ekspansyon, naga-pagpahimulos ug nag-daugdaug sa mga mag-uuma, Lumad ug mamumuo; ug pagpangguba sa kinaiyahan ang ilang mga operasyon," the NPA said.

For his part, 403rd commanding officer Colonel Jesse Alvarez, said the military will continue to facilitate, support, and promote peace.

"The AFP is facilitating, supporting, and promoting peace and development efforts of the government to conflict affected areas through Bayanihan, while the NPA is in the barangay forcibly taking away the food and other resources from the people and even destroying, impeding, and obstructing peace and development," Alvarez said.

"The NPA made our people hopeful through their false promises, while you’re Army and the whole government taught the people ways to realize their dreams," Alvarez added.

Army chief tells commanders: Be on alert against security threats during elections

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb  7): Army chief tells commanders: Be on alert against security threats during elections

Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año ordered all field commanders to be on their guard against threats that may arise during the campaign period in line with the May 9 polls.

Año issued this order during the Senior Leaders Conference in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Friday.

Also, Año reminded his commanders to maintain a non-partisan stance and ensure a safe and fair election.

More importantly, Año advised his Army field commanders to concentrate all their efforts in ending the insurgency by 2016.

"The Army headquarters will prioritize its support to units who are directly engaged in operations at the national priority areas," he added.

"Everyone will contribute to the defeat of the NPA (New People's Army) and the Abu Sayaff Group in Mindanao," the Army chief stressed.

Senior leaders of the 85,000-strong PA were present during the annual Senior Leaders' Conference held in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said conference started with the year-end, fiscal year 2015 Program Performance and Budget Execution Review (PPBER) in the morning and the first semester command conference in the afternoon.

All 10 infantry division commanders were present, to include the Army major combat support and service support unit commanders, he added.

The Senior Leaders Conference is a gathering of senior Army major unit commanders together with the members of the coordinating staff at the Philippine Army Headquarters.

Also present in the conference were representatives from the Department of National Defense and the General Headquarters of the Armed of the Philippines.

7 wounded Marines feted by WMC chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb  7): 7 wounded Marines feted by WMC chief

Western Mindanao Command (WMC) head Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo M. Dela Cruz personally awarded Wounded Personnel Medals to the seven Marines injured in improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Talipao, Sulu on Thursday.

The awarding rites took place Friday at the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City, said WMC spokesperson Major Filemon Tan.

All wounded Marines are members of Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 (MBLT-10).

The awardees were Technical Sgt. Marlon Espedido, Sgt. Leo Banagudos, Sgt. Bernard Gatacelo, Cpl. Arnold Braga, Pfc. Reginald Dagani, Pfc. Ramie Panizales, and Pvt. Aldrin Cruz.

All of them were aboard a military truck convoy passing in around Barangay Lagtoh, Talipao, Sulu which was hit by the IED which exploded at 6:50 a.m. Thursday.

ASG member involved in 2001 Davao pearl farm raid slain in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb  7): ASG member involved in 2001 Davao pearl farm raid slain in Sulu

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit, who took part in a raid on a Davao pearl farm in 2001, was shot and killed by government security forces in Indanan, Sulu Sunday early morning.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the slain brigand only as Haber, alias Abu Qudama, who was killed during special intelligence operations at Sitio Annur, Barangay Buanza, Indanan at 1:03 a.m. The bandit died on the spot.

Arrojado said Haber was a member of the band under ASG sub-leader Sibih Pisih who operates in the municipalities of Indanan, Parang, and Maimbung, all in Sulu.

The slain ASG member had pending warrant of arrest for his involvement in the Sipadan kidnapping and the pearl farm kidnapping in Samal, Davao del Norte in May 2001, Arrojado said.

9-year Kidapawan feud settled

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 6): 9-year Kidapawan feud settled  

Kidapawan City – Warring Moro natives and Visayan settlers have amicably resolved nine years of fighting and discord over a land dispute that has claimed dozens of lives after a conciliatory meeting forged by Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista here Friday.

Evangelista presided over the solemn forging of a covenant between the armed groups of Satar Manalondong, an ethnic Muslim kagawad of barangay Patadon, and Dodong Lunsagay, who heads the Visayan settlers from Aklan province, at sitio Nazareth of barangay Amas here.

Supt. John Kalinga, city police director, who joined the meeting, waived the enforcement of arrest warrants on Manalondong and Lunsagay, who are both facing charges for the separate killings that have marred the land dispute.

The conflict, which started in 2007, involved a vast track of government land at sitio Nazareth of barangay Amas which is located only a few meters from the provincial capitol complex of North Cotabato.
Visayan settlers cultivating the parcels of land had put up armed resistance against the alleged intrusion of Manalonding’s group that occasionally harvested crops on the belief that the lands belonged to their barangay.

At Friday’s conciliation meeting at the Amas barangay hall here, Evangelista persuaded the warring camps to proportionately share the disputed land, with the Manalondong group taking over five hectares, and Lunsagay’s group, getting a bigger portion.

Evangelista told reporters that local authorities will put up the physical demarcations of the disputed land next week as a prelude to the actual signing of peace covenant between the warring camps.

Military, police and civilian authorities, led both by Evangelista and North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, have tried but failed to settle the land dispute, especially in 2014 when the fighting escalated into the beheading of a Moro farmer by settlers in purported retaliation for the killing of a fellow Aklanon by the Manalondong group.

Pemberton lawyers determined to get acquittal, bail

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): Pemberton lawyers determined to get acquittal, bail

The lawyers of convicted US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton are determined to seek acquittal, a reduction of the sentence or at least a grant of bail.

In a 47-page comment submitted by defense lawyers Rowena Garcia-Flores and Filemon Ray Javier, they said the prosecution failed to address the existence of circumstances showing that another person caused the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.

The defense cited pieces of evidence, among them that Laude was seen clutching a piece of jewelry when he was found dead on the night of Oct. 11, 2014.

The jewelry did not belong to either Laude or Pemberton, they pointed out.

They said there is another DNA profile found on Laude, which the prosecution failed to account for due to “insufficient amount of generic data.”

The prosecution in their comment has argued that there was no evidence of another killer and the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) should dismiss the motion of the defense to reverse its Dec. 1, 2015 verdict.

Pemberton was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to six to 12 years imprisonment.

The American was turned over to the custody of the National Penitentiary in a special facility inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.

The defense said Pemberton’s sentence should be reduced in the presence of mitigating circumstances.

They added Pemberton should be granted bail and the amount of damages to the Laude family should be clarified if the court’s Dec. 1 decision is not changed.

The prosecutors, however, said Pemberton’s application for bail should be denied because there is no doubt Pemberton killed Laude.

The prosecution also said the probability of Pemberton jumping bail is high.

The Supreme Court has dismissed with finality the petition of the Laude family to transfer Pemberton to a regular jail following his conviction for homicide.

Pemberton will remain in his detention cell at the Camp Aguinaldo.

AFP to reconfigure armored personnel carriers from US

From the Philippine Star (Feb 7): AFP to reconfigure armored personnel carriers from US

The military will reconfigure some of the 114 armored personnel carriers (APC) recently acquired from the US into armored infantry fighting vehicles for territorial defense.

This was according to Brig. Gen. Edgar Gonzalez, commander of the Army’s Mechanized Infantry, who said the changes would be made as soon as funds become available. Gonzales’ command is based in Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.

The US officially turned over M113A2 tanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last Thursday. Gonzales did not say how many of the APCs would be retrofitted for combat purposes. The reconfigured vehicles would be armed with 25mm automatic cannons.

The US has been helping the Philippines build a credible defense system.

The country has long neglected territorial defense as its military had focused on quelling communist insurgency and the Muslim separatist movement in Mindanao. China’s growing aggressiveness in asserting its claims over almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea has prompted the Philippines to rethink its military focus.

Currently, the Army only has five mechanized infantry battalions and two cavalry battalions with less than 400 armored assets.

Gonzalez said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has given him the green light to proceed with the reconfiguration plan for the APCs.

Part of the reconfiguration plan is the replacement of the APCs’ engines with more powerful 265 horsepower engines. The units would have anti-aircraft guns and well as hi-tech communication systems.

Aquino, Murad may meet to save peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 7): Aquino, Murad may meet to save peace

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim shakes hands with President Aquino the first time he set foot in Malacañang in March. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and President Aquino. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
The chief peace negotiator of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front has not ruled out a meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and MILF head Murad Ebrahim to save the peace process after the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

But for now, the government and the rebel peace panels cannot say whether such a meeting was in the offing.

“We haven’t received any overtures [from government] as of now,” said Mohagher Iqbal.

When asked about the possibility of such a meeting, Teresita Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said that one only had to recall the President’s actions early in his administration in pursuit of ending the insurgency in Mindanao.

Deles was referring to the unprecedented meeting that Mr. Aquino had with Murad in Japan in 2011 that paved the way for peace negotiations and the signing of a peace agreement with the MILF in 2014.

The President and Murad also met several times in between to iron out kinks in the negotiations.
The peace panels are set to meet again in Kuala Lumpur, where they would likely agree on a joint statement to address yet another major setback in the 17-year peace negotiations.

Iqbal said they would likely renew the mandate of the International Monitoring Team and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), both key instruments in the ceasefire mechanisms between government forces and the MILF rebels.

Most welcome

Malacañang on Saturday said that it welcomed the MILF’s recent statement that it would continue to pursue peace despite the failure to pass the BBL, which would have given the MILF control over an expanded autonomous region.

“As you know, the agreement still stands that was signed in Malacañang between the MILF and the administration, and this remains the cornerstone for working forward,” Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III told government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

“While Congress was unable to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as we had hoped, we should remember that the commitment on the part of the Republic of the Philippines persists, and that overall I believe all sides are committed to ensuring that the progress we have made this far remains and becomes a durable foundation for the future,” he said.

Committed to peace

Quezon also described as “speculative and premature and a cause for undue alarm” talk about the likelihood of the next administration having to deal with renewed conflict in Mindanao.

He stressed that the framework peace agreement continued to exist and the government remained “committed” to it.

“We believe it’s not that much longer until a new Congress would be elected and could then return to the work on deliberating on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. It would be, I think, unfair to all the parties in Mindanao—Christian, lumad and Moro—to speculate on any sort of violence or fighting when the public statements have all been premised on maintaining the progress thus far and the peace that continues to exist,” Quezon said.

US warship back after WPS patrol

From the Business Mirror (Feb 6): US warship back after WPS patrol

In Photo: USS Curtis Wilbur

THE US warship that conducted a freedom of navigation patrol in contested areas on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is back in the country just more than a week after completing its mission.
The guided missile destroyer  USS Curtis Wilbur docked in Subic, Zambales, at around 8:30 a.m. without fanfare, more than 10 days after conducting its freedom of navigation patrol, during which it sailed close to one of the islets occupied by China on the South China Sea, drawing sharp criticisms from Chinese officials.
The berthing of the US warship came a day after the US formally turned over to the Armed Forces 114 units of refurbished M-113A2 armored personnel carriers in its continuing effort to help the military improve and build its internal and territorial defense capabilities.
USS Curtis Wilbur first docked at the Manila Soutrh Harbor on January 24 for maintenance and rest of its 300-strong crew. Three or four days later, it was already on international news after US military officials said it challenged China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea by moving within 12 nautical miles of the Triton Island in the Paracel Group of Islands.
The occupation of the Paracels by Beijing is being disputed by both Vietnam and Taiwan.
“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants—China, Taiwan and Vietnam—to restrict navigation rights and freedoms,” Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in response to the destroyer’s freedom sail.
He also said no Chinese ships attempted to shadow or follow the destroyer during its patrol.
China called the patrol as a “provocative action” and condemning Washington over its second exercise in the area, which the international community insists, must be open to overflights and international navigation.
“The American warship has violated relevant Chinese laws by entering Chinese territorial waters without prior permission and the Chinese side has taken relevant measures, including monitoring and admonitions,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It also said the action was “intentionally provocative, irresponsible and extremely dangerous.”
China also said that Chinese navy vessels took responsive action by identifying the US destroyer and warning it to keep distance from the islet, a claim that was belied by Davis.
USS Curtis Wilbur silently appeared in Subic, with no statement coming from the US Embassy about its arrival and the purpose of its berthing.
Last October, USS Lassen, another guided missile destroyer, also sailed close to a reef reclaimed and occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea, drawing condemnation from Beijing, but eliciting positive statements from the country and other key allies of the US.

State forces, NPA in ‘finger-pointing’ blame over massacre of 2 village officials, 1 minor in Ticao-Masbate

From the periodically pro-CPP Bicol Today (Feb 6): State forces, NPA in ‘finger-pointing’ blame over massacre of 2 village officials, 1 minor in Ticao-Masbate

Contributed Photo

The massacre of three civilians, a minor teenage boy and two village officials, in Ticao Island off Masbate, has become a finger-pointing, ‘who dunnit’ sensitive issue between State troops and the rebel New People’s Army (NPA).

On Saturday January 30, barangay captain Rey Sabueso Encabo, councilman Robert “Bongbong” Deonila Almodiel and minor 14-year old teenage boy Jay Cristobal Almoradie were gunned down by armed men inside a house at Barangay Bartolabac, San Jacinto, Ticao Island, Masbate province.

On Sunday, the Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division issued a statement blaming the NPA for the Ticao Island massacre.

On Tuesday, February 2, the rebel Jose Rapsing Command (JRC-NPA Masbate) countered, tossing the blame for the massacre to the Charlie Company, 9th IBPA, currently conducting continuing military operations in the nearby areas in Ticao Island.

“The 3 civilians were intentionally gunned down by state troops, and the minor teenage boy Almoradie was intentionally killed for he witnessed the entire incident,” Maria Roja Banua, spokesperson of NDF-Bicol, said in a statement posted at the internet.

The ongoing State military operations in Masbate had been launched several months ago to attain its objective of turning the island-province as “conflict-manageable area” and to destroy the backbone of insurgency.

So far, little successes were attained by State military initiatives as the Masbate rebels have managed to strike back in short term tactical offensives.

Army captain injured in clash with BIFF

From MindaNews (Feb 6): Army captain injured in clash with BIFF

DATU SALIBO, Maguindanao (MindaNews/06 February) – Three soldiers, including an Army captain, and two civilians were injured in clashes between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from late Friday afternoon until Sunday.

“We suffered three injured personnel, including an Army captain but all minor injuries,” Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, chief of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion based in Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

READY. Army troops rush to look for better position Saturday as gunshots rang out upon arrival in Barangay Butilen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, where the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired at soldiers securing a dredging project late Friday afternoon. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

READY. Army troops rush to look for better position Saturday as gunshots rang out upon arrival in Barangay Butilen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, where the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired at soldiers securing a dredging project late Friday afternoon. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

Captain Jimmy Amoloy, commander of the 22 Mechanized Company under Limet’s battalion, was slightly wounded on his forehead when the BIFF under alias Bungos, alias Abusaiden, Kagui Tatang and Ustadz Roman attacked his team at Sitio Dagading in Barangay Tee late Friday afternoon, Limet said.

Limet said two civilians, identified as Mammex Indiong, 30 and Tammy Musarup, 19, sustained minor injuries when their feet were hit by stray bullets.

Amoloy was brought to the 1 Mech Brigade for treatment while the workers and their equipment were relocated while troops held the line.

Citing intelligence information, the military claimed the BIFF suffered two dead, including the son of a BIFF leader, during the firefight in the villages of Tee, Butilen, Andabit and Sambolawan. This was denied by the BIFF spokesperson.

Limet said the firefight started at 4 p.m. Friday when about a dozen suspected members of the BIFF harassed soldiers securing a government-funded dredging project.

He said Army units were responding to calls for help by a private construction company contracted to do the dredging operation in Barangay Butilen in preparation for the construction of a bridge.

As our troops arrived, they were met by gunfire and rifle grenade attacks from the BIFF, he said, adding sporadic firefight ensued until Friday evening and toward Saturday dawn.

Limet said that while the soldiers were moving towards the dredging site, improvised bombs were planted by the BIFF. Army bomb experts defused them while sporadic exchange of mortars and rifle grenades continued.

“They have barret snipers targeting our troops, so we fired back,” Limet said.

Late Friday night, Col. Felicisimo Budiongan, commander of the Army’s 1stMechanized Brigade in Datu Saudi Ampatuan said they monitored reinforcements from the armed group’s side.

“Some reinforcements are coming from Shariff Aguak and we monitored from other sides. It seems they are having pintakasi now but our troops have been holding the line and we are doing ..hard defense moves,” Budiongan said.

He said their troops fired back with 105 mm howitzers.

“We monitored as of this time some of the heavy equipment were hit and firefight has now reached the nearby Barangay Tee,” said Budiongan.

A backhoe was found burned on Saturday morning.

Datu Salibo Mayor Norodin Salazar said the firefight has displaced at least 1,500 residents.

“Our people want to have this project completed because all of them will benefit from it, but how it will pursue if this is happening?” he said.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama late Friday said they were forced to fire back as military personnel were closing in on their area.

He admitted his men were involved in the skirmishes with soldiers but denied his group is opposed to the project.

“We are here to fight for our members who were not compensated from the lands used by the construction company,” Mama said in Filipino.

He also admitted they were behind the burning of the backhoe but denied two of their members were killed.

20 Sayyaf sa Sulu bombings, tukoy na

From Abante (Feb 6): 20 Sayyaf sa Sulu bombings, tukoy na 

Lima sa 20 kasapi ng bandidong Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) na responsable sa mga serye ng pagsabog ng improvised explosive device sa lalawigan ng Sulu ang kinilala na ng militar. 
Ayon kay B/Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander ng Joint Task Group (JTG) Sulu, kinilala ang limang bandido na sina Amrin Absara, Abral Alih, Tala Jumsah, Jumidin Wali at isang Asaral.
Napag-alaman na nagsanib-puwersa ang mga tauhan nina ASG subleader Hajan Sawadjaan, Radullan Sahiron at ASG subleader Amah Maas sa panibagong nangyaring roadside bombing bandang alas-6:50 ng umaga kahapon.
Sinasabing sa Barangay Lagtoh, Talipao, Sulu tumama sa military truck ang IED na nagresulta sa pagkasugat ng pitong mga Marines habang naka-convoy ang ilang military vehicle ng Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-10).
Bandang alas-7:45 ng umaga nang makaengkuwentro ng tropa ng Philippine Army ang hindi mabilang na miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf sa bulubunduking bahagi ng Talipao na pinangungunahan umano ng grupo ni ASG subleader Radullan Sahiron.
Nabatid na makalipas ang ilang minutong palitan ng putok ay umatras ang mga suspek papunta sa tatlong magkakahiwalay na lugar.
Base sa mga nakuhang intelligence report ng militar, pansamantala ngayong nananatili ang grupo ni Sahiron sa may Sitio Banglot, Barangay Sinumaan, Patikul habang ang grupo naman ni Sawadjaan ay namataan sa Sitio Hagas-hagas ng mismong barangay. Ang grupo naman ni ASG subleader Idang Susukan ay nananatili naman nga­yon sa may Barangay Mabahay, Talipao.

Moro rebels attack govt project

From The Standard (Feb 7): Moro rebels attack govt project

THE Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters resumed attacks on military installations in Central Mindanao and attacked a government project in Maguindanao, wounding an Army officer, the military reported Saturday.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division, identified the wounded officer as Capt. Jimmy Amoloy, who was grazed by bullet in the forehead.

Amoloy, one of the officers of the 22nd Mechanized Company of the Second Mechanized Battalion, was deployed to secure a government project at Sitio Dagading, Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao when his unit was fired upon by BIFF rebels at about 4:30 p.m. Friday.

In the initial exchange of fire, Amoloy was hit prompting his men to extract him and send him to the headquarters of the First Mechanized Brigade for medical treatment.

“The BIFF rebels fired at the army troopers because they are preventing the entry of development in the area,” Petinglay said in a text message.

Reports said the BIFF rebels that figured in the clashes were under BIFF commanders known as Bungos, Abusaiden, Kagui Tatang and Uztadz Roman.

A back hoe and excavator owned by the project contractor was damaged due to intense gunfire from the BIFF rebels.

Additional forces from the 1st Mechanized Brigade were dispatched to the construction site to augment the troops securing the development project.

The fighting sparked a day after military authorities enforced strict security measures in Sulu amid intelligence reports that the Abu Sayyaf had recruited jihadists to stage test bombings in the island of Jolo.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said this prompted high-level security measures after six reported recruits of ASG bandits were sighted in Jolo to conduct the test missions.

Arrojado said Abu Sayyaf recruits belonging to the group of Majan Sajidjuan, alias Apo Mike, were monitored roaming in Jolo.

“Apparently, the recruits were instructed by Apo Mike to conduct bombings in Jolo,” Arrojado said.

Reports said the targets of bombings by the ASG were commercial establishments, Jolo Cathedral, Jolo market, ports, naval vessels, entertainment centers frequented by military and police, Coast Guard Stations and business sites.

Parallel to bombings of government vital entities and private enterprises, the ASG were also ordered to initiate roadside bombings, specifically along the Jolo-Tagbak routes, aimed at military convoys.

The report said the homemade bombs to be used by the recruits were made by ASG bomb experts Muamar and Abu Jihad.

Arrojado said that while they are still verifying the authenticity of the reports, security has been fortified at the supposed targets and other establishments to deter the bomb attacks.

He said the bombing threat may be meant to be a diversionary move by the extremists to impair the ongoing operations against them in the province.

On Friday, elements of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion discovered an unexploded fragmentation grenade at a nearby military post in Patikul, Sulu. The explosive device was found at about 5:45 a.m. a few meters away from the Tagbili Detachment.

“It was believed that the grenade was hurled at around 5:45 a.m. when the sentinel heard something drop, falling from the rooftop, but when he searched the area at that time found nothing until its discovery at daybreak,” Arrojado said.

On Tuesday, an additional Marine battalion was mobilized in Sulu as part of the government’s security preparations after the Bangsamoro Basic Law failed to pass in Congress.

Army officer wounded in clashes with jihadists in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 6): Army officer wounded in clashes with jihadists in Mindanao

An army captain was wounded in a clash with rebels in the troubled Muslim region in southern Philippines, officials said on Saturday.

Officials said the fighting erupted in the village called Tee in Maguindanao’s Datu Salibo town where troops, who were guarding government infrastructure projects, came under attack Friday afternoon from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Troops – from the 1st Mechanized Brigade – also rescued construction workers from the area and brought them to safety while fighting was raging on, according to Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division, who said rebel attack also damaged a backhoe.

“A still undetermined number of gunmen were killed and wounded in the clashes,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Petinglay said more troops would be sent to the area to secure the projects from further rebel attacks.

She said four of the rebel leaders responsible in the attack have been identified as Bungos, Abusaiden, Kagui Tatang and Ustadz Roman.

The BIFF, whose members were mostly former fighters of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is fighting for a separate Islamic state in southern Philippines and has pledged allegiance with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and vowed to wage a violent campaign in the region.

There was no immediate statement from Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu on the latest attack, but the province is a known stronghold of the BIFF and other jihadist groups, including the MILF which is believed to be harboring Malaysian and Indonesian terrorists.

The province was also where MILF and BIFF forces killed 44 police commandos last year following a clandestine operation deep inside their territory that killed Malaysian bomber Marwan. The MILF signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014, but many of its hard-line commanders and soldiers were opposed to the accord and wanted a separate Muslim state in Mindanao.

Step up vigilance, plantation owners told

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 5): Step up vigilance, plantation owners told

Butuan City – Companies, including their contractors, have been urged to immediately report to the nearest military or police station the presence of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in an effort to put an end to the communist group’s extortion and terrorist activities.

Food companies, pineapple and banana plantation companies and their respective contractors spread at various areas in Bukidnon province were told to immediately report to the nearest military and police outposts, stations or headquarters any suspicious individual or groups roaming in their places of work.

The appeal was made by field unit commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the wake of a series of attacks last week by suspected NPAs on plantation farms, resulting in severe damage to equipment and other farm facilities.

“This anti-development activity of the NPA is their desperate move to coerce our helpless businessmen to submit to their demands,” said Col. Jesse Alvarez, commander of the 403rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade, in a statement.
“We call on the companies, contractors and other business owners to cooperate with us and report immediately any imminent sense of NPA’s presence, such as their extortion letters, so that we will not be victims of these NPA rebels’ abusive rule that put the residents’ lives in danger,” Col. Alvarez said.

The 403rd Brigade commander had earlier ordered all battalion commanders and operational control (Opcon) unit commanders to step up their round-the-clock patrol in an objective to put an end to the alleged terroristic and extortion activities of the NPAs which have already damaged millions of pesos worth of equipments and farm facilities.

“This must be put to an end,” stressed the ranking area commander, in his directive to field unit commanders.

Since January 30 up to last Tuesday, heavy equipment owned by Del Monte Philippines, Incorporated and  Lapanday Pineapple Plantation Company have either been burned or damaged by attackers believed to be elements of the NPA.

Twitter suspends 125,000 terrorism-related accounts

From the Philippine News Agency/Xinhua (Feb 6): Twitter suspends 125,000 terrorism-related accounts

Twitter said on Friday it has suspended 125,000 accounts primarily related to the terrorist group known as Islamic State (IS) since the middle of 2015.

The social media network, based in this US west coast city with more than 500 million users worldwide, said in a tweet that its policy does not permit the use of Twitter to promote terrorism.

Twitter, compared with other US-based networks of its kind, has been considered to be more reluctant to intervene against contents posted by users.

In its history of nearly 10 years, it has had a system in place against child pornography.

According to a report released in 2015 by Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, the IS had at least 46,000 active Twitter accounts over a three-month period in 2014.

The pressure for Twitter to curb propaganda by the IS and other extremist groups comes from the US government as well as non-government groups and individuals. Last month, it was sued by the widow of a US national killed in an attack on a Jordanian police training center.

The plaintiff alleged that Twitter makes it easy for the IS to promote violence.

However, Twitter said on Friday it has "always sought to strike a balance between the enforcement of our own Twitter Rules covering prohibited behaviors, the legitimate needs of law enforcement, and the ability of users to share their views freely -- including views that some people may disagree with or find offensive."

Meanwhile, the network said it has increased the size of the teams that review terrorism-related reports, so as to reduce its response time.

"We also look into other accounts similar to those reported and leverage proprietary spam-fighting tools to surface other potentially violating accounts for review by our agents," it said, claiming that "we have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter."

Acknowledging that there is no "magic algorithm" for identifying terrorist content on the internet, Twitter said it will "continue to aggressively enforce our Rules in this area."

DepEd to establish new schools for indigenous peoples in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 7): DepEd to establish new schools for indigenous peoples in Mindanao

Pursuing its commitment to provide culture-based education and help ensure lasting peace in Mindanao, the Department of Education (DepEd) will establish 5 new schools for Higaonon communities in Gingoog, Misamis Oriental.

The new schools will be established in Barangays Kalipay, Hindangon, Bantaawan, and Bal-ason, and will be ready to accept its first batch of learners this coming school year (SY) 2016-2017.

Meanwhile in other parts of Mindanao, DepEd will establish 246 more schools for the indigenous communities in Regions IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII. The Agency will establish a total of 251 schools in time for SY 2016-2017.

Among the said schools, there will be a total of 605 classrooms that will be constructed in partnership with the Kalahi-CIDSS National Community-Driven Development Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. In addition, DepEd will hire 583 teachers who will be deployed to the new schools, which are expected to initially serve some 19, 622 learners coming from 22 indigenous cultural communities.

Last year, DepEd adopted the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) Curriculum Framework (DepEd Order No. 32, s. 2015), which was formulated in consultation with community elders, leaders, and implementers of community-based IPEd initiatives. The framework provides guidance in contextualizing the K to 12 Curriculum based on the indigenous community’s respective educational and social background.

As a major milestone in the implementation of DepEd’s IPEd Program, the IPEd Curriculum Framework will benefit more than 1.19-million IP learners enrolled in public schools, as well as learners enrolled in community and civil society organization-run schools.

To celebrate such gains of IPEd, DepEd and representatives of indigenous communities nationwide have come together last year in a symbolic affirmation of commitment to DepEd’s IPEd Program.

Through the inauguration of a pakedlan—an indigenous space for coming together of the Kankanaey peoples of Benguet—and a ritual performed at the Baguio Teachers Camp with the participation of representatives of indigenous communities from different parts of the country, the gathering likewise strengthened the partnership towards the full recognition of indigenous knowledge and learning systems within the national education system.

“Mahalaga na naka-angkla ang ating kurikulum sa ating kulturang Pilipino … Kapag wala ang katutubong kaalaman na nakapasok sa ating kurikulum, mawawalan tayo ng kaluluwa,” Education Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro said during the gathering which was held on 12 November 2015.

Among other initiatives, DepEd has also forged a partnership with Lubos na Alyansa ng mga Katutubong Ayta ng Sambales (LAKAS) for the implementation of an IPEd Program at Lakas High School, which is the first formal culture-based public secondary school specifically serving the Ayta community in Bihawo, Botolan, Zambales.

Esel Cabalic, a grade 8 student of the Lakas HS said, “Kami ay nagpapasalamat sa Kagawaran ng Edukasyon sa pagkilala ng aming karapatan na magkaroon ng Katutubong Edukasyon o IPEd. Isang Katutubong Edukasyon kung saan ito ay aangkop at gagabay sa pagkatuto naming mga katutubo.”

The establishment of new schools in Gingoog is part of the government’s commitment to the sustainable development and aspirations of indigenous communities by working with them in the delivery of culture-based basic education services for the learners in the area.

“Serbisyo Caravan”

Bringing the government closer to the people, the Serbisyo Caravan is a multi-agency effort that carries out government services and dialogues in communities where indigenous peoples and conflict-affected residents live.

The 5th Serbisyo Caravan has been conducted in Gingoog, Misamis Oriental from February 3 to 4, 2016.

Among others, the Caravan has provided medical services, distributed food packs, educational supplies, micronutrient compact food, hygiene kits, and information materials.

BIFF killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6): BIFF killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Maguindanao clash

Two civilians and three soldiers, including an Army captain, were injured in an on-going fire fight between Army and outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao Saturday.

Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion commander, said the Army captain he refused to name was leading a team of soldiers responding to burning of construction equipment in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao on Friday. The team leader and two of his men sustained minor head and body injuries, he said.

Limet said the BIFF torched a back hoe working on dredging operations in Barangay Butilen, Datu Salibo at 4 p.m. Friday. As the soldiers were heading toward the river side, they discovered improvised bombs and land mines along the route, forcing them to stop.

While Army bomb experts were working on the IEDs, they were fired by BIFF snipers using Barret cal. 50. This forced the Army to fired howitzers and mortars with the BIFF, under Commander Bungos, firing rifle grenades.

Sporadic fire fight ensued overnight until dawn Saturday that left two civilians wounded, identified by local leaders as Mammex Indiong, 30 and Tammy Musarup, 19, hit by stray bullets in their feet.

Citing intelligence information, Limet said a son of a BIFF leader was died in the overnight fire fight. He said it is still being verified.

Colonel Felicisimo Budiongan, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade commander, said the number of BIFF was rising until Saturday dawn.

He told reporters Army forward observers, using night vision goggles, noticed BIFF forces coming in trickles to Barangay Butilen from the towns of Talayan, Guindulungan, Datu Piang and Shariff Aguak, all in Maguindanao.

“We expect a bigger fire fight here as they have reinforcements,” Budiongan said.

Artillery fire from 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters continued Saturday morning although sporadic, he added.

Mayor Norodin Salazar of Datu Salibo also told reporters about 1,500 families have evacuated from four adjoining villages of Butilen, Sambolawan, Tee and Andabit, all in Datu Salibo.

Budiongan said the BIFF was opposed to the dredging of Butilen river and the bridge construction because the fear easy access for military hard wares to their hideouts. Silts from dredging are used in farm to market roads.

But Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, denied his group opposed the project. He said the BIFF is protecting its members whose lands were used by the road construction firm without proper compensation.

He vowed his group will continue fighting the Army in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

(News Feature) MID plans to convert additional APCs into RCWS platforms

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6): (News Feature) MID plans to convert additional APCs into RCWS platforms
Plans are afoot to convert some of the refurbished 114 M-113A2 armored personnel carriers (APCs), acquired through the US Excess Defense Articles Program, into remote-controlled weapon systems (RCWS) platform.

"We already have APCs converted into remote-controlled weapon systems (platforms). We can upgrade some of these APCs into such and further boost our capabilities," Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) commander Major Gen. Edgar Gonzales said in a press briefing Saturday.

Gonzales was referring to the 28 Israeli-supplied APCs, of which 14 will be configured as fire support vehicles, four as infantry fighting vehicles, six as armored personnel carriers, another four as armored recovery units.

Upgrades include installation of 25 mm unmanned turrets, 12.7 mm (.50 caliber machineguns) RCWS and fire control systems (FCS) for 90 mm turrets.

The first six RCWS units, armed with .50 caliber machineguns, were delivered last year.

The EDA Program grants excess US military equipment, without cost, to qualified allied countries.

The transfer is a result of a formal request made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to assist in their defense modernization efforts.

The M-113A2 was developed to provide a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle that allows for troops to be brought forward under armor for dismounted operations.

Commissioning of these vehicles will greatly boost the numbers of the 343 armored vehicle-strong MID.

The AFP virtually got these additional armored assets for free saved for the shipping costs which amounted to Php 67.5 million and refitting of .50 caliber machine guns to the APCs.

Malacañang welcomes the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's commitment to peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6): Malacañang welcomes the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's commitment to peace

The Palace welcomed the statement of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal assuring the United Nations that the separatist group remains committed to peace despite the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Iqbal said the MILF will continue to engage in peace initiatives despite the security challenges on the ground.

"We welcome this statement and this reassurance from Chairman Iqbal," Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said in a radio interview on Saturday.

"As you know, the agreement still stands that was signed in Malacañang between the MILF and the administration, and that this remains the cornerstone for working forward."

Quezon said that while Congress was unable to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as the administration had hoped, the public must remember that the commitment on the part of the government persists.

He told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that he believes all sides are committed to ensuring that the progress made by both sides this far remains and becomes a durable foundation for the future.

On the issue of possible restlessness on the ground after Congress failed to pass the BBL, Quezon said it is speculative at this time that violence will spark.

"At this point, I believe it is speculative and premature and a cause for undue alarm to speculate on this," he stressed. "What we have is a framework agreement that exists and to which the government is committed."

"I believe that we have seen that in terms of the partners such as the MILF that they are doing their part to maintain their adherence to this and their commitment to this framework agreement."

There will be a brief wait until a new Congress would be elected and could then return to the work on deliberating on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, he said.

Congress adjourned this week without passing key legislation such as the increase in pay of government workers, the Freedom of Information Bill and the BBL.

UN chief says 34 militant groups pledged allegiance to IS

From the Philippine News Agency/Xinhua (Feb 5): UN chief says 34 militant groups pledged allegiance to IS
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday said that 34 militant groups worldwide had reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group as of mid-December.

Militant groups from countries like the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria had pledged their allegiance, so IS poses "an unprecedented threat," Ban said in a report on the challenges IS poses to international peace and security.

The emergence of IS has been facilitated by the protracted conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the resulting political and security instability, he said.

"In less than two years, ISIL (another acronym for IS) has captured large swathes of territory in both Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, which it administers through a sophisticated, quasi-bureaucratic revenue-generating structure that is sufficiently flexible and diversified to compensate for declines in income from single revenue streams," he said.

The recent expansion of IS influence across west and north Africa, the Middle East and south and southeast Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months, he added.

In 2016 and beyond, UN member states should prepare for a further increase in the number of foreign terrorist fighters travelling to other countries on the instructions of IS, said Ban.

Despite efforts by the international community to counter IS through military, financial and border-security measures, the group continues to maintain its presence in Iraq and Syria. It is also expanding its operations to other regions.