Sunday, February 7, 2016

AFP: No threat from MILF over BBL

From the Philippine Star (Feb 8): AFP: No threat from MILF over BBL

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the mechanisms of the peace talks are working and the people have seen the benefits of the peace process. AP/Bullit Marquez

The military does not expect a falling out with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because of the failure of Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the mechanisms of the peace talks are working and the people have seen the benefits of the peace process.

“It seems that both sides are (bending over backward) and there is an assurance from the government side that the peace process will continue under the next administration,” Padilla said yesterday.

Padilla cited the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, which is tasked to isolate and interdict criminal groups and terrorists. The mechanism allows the government and the MILF to work together to maintain peace and order.

Padilla, however, admitted that spoilers would continue to express their opposition to the peace talks.

“People have seen the positive effects of peace. There are many projects and their lives have improved. But of course, spoilers cannot be avoided,” he said.

Some sectors have expressed concern over the bypassing of the proposed BBL, believing this could lead to conflict.

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong previously warned of a “shooting war” involving people who are fighting for freedom, justice and their own interests.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao, said radical secessionists could exploit the failure to pass the measure.

Such view was echoed by Vicariate of Sulu parish coordinator Fr. Romero Villanueva, who believes the non-passage of the BBL could prod radicals to seek independence.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said his unit has not monitored any movement by the MILF after the bypassing of the proposed BBL.

“Their (MILF) leadership has given assurance that with or without the BBL, they will pursue peace and that’s a good sign that peace will be sustained,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan, however, maintained the military is prepared for any eventuality. The MILF has about 10,000 fighters based on military estimates.

The proposed BBL, which would have implemented the 2014 peace deal signed by the government and the MILF, was bypassed in Congress despite being a priority bill of the Aquino administration.

The measure aims to set up a new Bangsamoro political entity with greater political and economic powers.

President Aquino has ordered the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to coordinate with all concerned parties so that peace efforts would be sustained after he steps down from office.

MILF officials said they remain committed to peace despite the failure to enact the proposed BBL. However, they believe the non-passage of the measure showed that Filipinos are not yet ready for reconciliation.

Palace: Portion of Cagayan de Oro airport designated for EDCA

From the Philippine Star (Feb 8): Palace: Portion of Cagayan de Oro airport designated for EDCA

Lumbia Airport in Cagayan De Oro serves as a minor base of the Philippine Air Force. CC/Hans Olav Lien

Only part of Lumbia Airport in Cagayan De Oro will be converted into a storage depot for disaster relief equipment under the security agreement between the Philippines and the United States, Malacañang noted on Sunday.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that a facility will be built at a designated area in the domestic airport under the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or HADR, efforts clause in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Asked which areas will be used by the US military under the EDCA, Coloma said the Philippines and the US have yet to agree on specific locations for the rotational presence of American troops.

"Nais nating linawin (na) ang tinutukoy na pasilidad ay isang storage depot para sa kagamitang nakalaan sa mga kalamidad. Bahagi ito ng programang HADRna mahalagang elemento ng Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement," Coloma said in an interview on state-run dzRB.

"Sa panahon ng bagyo, lindol o iba pang kalamidad, makatutulong ang pasilidad na ito sa agarang paghatid ng tulong at kalinga sa mga apektadong komunidad," Coloma added.

Coloma said that even with the storage facilitary for HADR equipment under the EDCA, the Philippine armed forces are still expected to be the first reponders in times of disaster.

According to reports, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Lumbia Airport will be utilized for storing military equipment for rescue operations during emergencies.

Malacañang welcomes the MILF's commitment to peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 8): Malacañang welcomes the MILF'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 legislations such as the increase in pay of government workers, the Freedom of Information Bill and the BBL

Troops kill Abu Sayyaf after roadside bombing

From the Business Mirror (Feb 8): Troops kill Abu Sayyaf after roadside bombing
GOVERNMENT troops killed a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Sunday in Sulu as a military operation in another province has forced the evacuation of hundreds of villagers.

The ASG member was slain as the military pursued members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, 683 kilometers southwest of Jolo.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, identified the killed ASG member as Haber Qudama, alias Abu Qudama. Arrojado said Qudama was killed in a shootout with security forces during a special intelligence operations at Sitio Annur, Barangay Buanza, Indanan, Sulu.

Arrojado said Qudama was a member of the ASG under a subleader known as Sibih Pishi, whose unit operates in the municipalities of Indanan, Parang and Maimbung. Qudama died at around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, after he engaged a joint team of policemen and soldiers who were serving a warrant of arrest against him, according to Arrojado.

Arrojado said pending warrants of arrest against Qudama covered his involvement in the Sipadan kidnapping and the Pearl Farm kidnapping in Samal, Davao del Norte, in May 2001.

Meanwhile, soldiers continued to pursue members of the BIFF who attacked troops guarding a government project in the outskirts of Datu Salibo, a sixth-class municipality in the province of Maguindanao.

The attack occurred on Friday evening against soldiers and armored personnel carriers (APCs) guarding the project at Sitio Dagading, Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo. An officer identified as Capt. Amoloy, commander of the Army’s Second Mechanized Battalion, was slightly wounded, according to the military.

The attack carried out by groups of four BIFF commanders has forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. The 2010 census placed residents in the municipality at 15,062 in 4,255 households. The BIFF commanders identified as Bungos, Abusaiden, Kagui Tatang and Ustadz Roman were supported by snipers, according to the military.

Using APCs against the attacking BIFF contingent, the soldiers evacuated the workers and secured construction equipment, the military said. However, a backhoe was damaged during the firefight.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, public affairs officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said soldiers were pursuing the attackers, while additional forces were deployed to augment the 1st Mechanized Battalion in securing the government project.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID commander, said the military is prepared for any scenario associated with lawmakers’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL). Pangilinan said one of the scenarios may involve renewed conflict with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“We are [always] prepared for any eventualities,” Pangilinan said.

He added there seems to be a détente in between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF on the peace front  even with the nonpassage of the BBL, which the latter had pushed.

“We do not feel anything; they do not have any manifestation [for trouble]. The MILF leadership has said with or without the BBL, they will pursue peace. And that’s a good sign,” Pangilinan said. Rene Acosta.

Army condemns BIFF atrocities in Maguindanao, vows to protect project

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 8): Army condemns BIFF atrocities in Maguindanao, vows to protect project

The military here has condemned the atrocities committed by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), saying it once again showed its true color.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said beside clearly showing it was against development projects that would benefit Moro people in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, including its own people, the BIFF even went to the extent of spreading lies.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the lawless group, claimed five soldiers were killed in the skirmishes that started Friday last week to date.

"No government forces killed in clashes," Petinglay said.

She admitted the 2nd Mechanized Battalion that engaged the BIFF in four villages of Datu Salibo only had three injured soldiers, including Army Capt. Jimmy Amoloy, company commander of 22nd Mechanized Company, who Mama claimed to have died.

Petinglay could not say how many BIFF were killed as the soldiers recovered no dead bodies.

"That information about 20 BIFF fatalities came from civilians in areas where the BIFF operates," she said. "We cannot confirm nor deny that because we have not recovered dead bandits."

A flood control project in Barangay Butilen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao has been going on smoothly until the BIFF bandits harassed private firm workers last Friday, even setting on fire two backhoe used for dredging the Butilen river.

When elements of the 22nd Mechanized Company responded to citizen’s reports, BIFF sniped them using Barret cal. 50 and planted improvised explosive devices along the military route.

Army bomb experts conducting bomb clearing operations were also subjected to sniper fire, forcing the Army to use its artillery.

The bandit group claimed the construction firm and the military did not coordinate with the BIFF before dredging the river, a statement downplayed by the Army spokesperson.

"The government, in implementing development projects that would spare civilians from floods, is not obliged to coordinate with any lawless elements, much more the BIFF," Petinglay said.

She laughed off claims by Misri the Army suffered five fatalities. "That is clearly propaganda," she said.

Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion commander, said he could not give exact number of fatalities but based on information on the ground, the BIFF suffered heavy casualties.

"The BIFF is opposed to the road project because it will give military easy access to the group's lair," according to Colonel Felicisimo Budiongan, 1st Mechanized Brigade commander.

Alex Manuel, action officer of Maguindanao Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) Officer Alex Manuel, said at least 1,500 families have evacuated to safer grounds for fear of getting caught in the cross fire.

Manuel said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu has ordered the provincial relief team to attend to the needs of displaced families.

The dredging project was funded from the development fund of Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu aimed at preventing floods in Datu Salibo town.

The silt taken from the heavily silted Butilen river are used on farm to market road projects that will connect villages of Tee, Sambolawan and Butilen, all in Datu Salibo.

Petinglay said the military will continue to assist the project implementation "because it will benefit the people of Datu Salibo."

DND, AFP to acquire 21-M rounds of 5.56mm cartridges

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 8): DND, AFP to acquire 21-M rounds of 5.56mm cartridges

The Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines is planning to acquire 21,346,281 units of 5.56mm, Ball, SS109/M855 cartridges.

The ammunition will be used for M-16 and R-4 rifles in its inventory.

The project has a budget of PHP320,194,215 which will be sourced from FY 2015 General Appropriations and Philippine Army Appropriation for CY 2015.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 180 calendar days upon Notice To Proceed.

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

Or at least two similar contracts of 12.5 percent of the above-mentioned contract and the aggregate contract amounts should be equivalent to at least 25 percent.

Pre-bid conference is on Feb. 10, 10 a.m. at the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Conference Room, Basement, DND Building., Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid opening shall be on Feb. 23, at the DND BAC Conference Room, Basement, Left Wing.

Modern R-4 rifles now trickling down the line

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 8): Modern R-4 rifles now trickling down the line

The military's modernization efforts has now started coming down the line with the distribution of 444 units of Remington R-4A3 assault rifles to troops of the 20th Infantry Battalion in Catbalogan City, Samar last week.

In a statement Monday, Capt. Ian Andres Fabellon, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the distribution of the new rifles is in line with the Philippine Army’s goal of becoming well-equipped and acquiring a respectable image in Southeast Asia by 2016.

Distribution of the weapons took place at the 8th Infantry Division's Openiano Field, in Maulong, Catbalogan City on February 3.

Major Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division commander, spearheaded the ceremonial entrustment of the rifles to 20th Infantry Battalion troopers.

The R-4 rifle is a selective-fire (semi-automatic and automatic), gas-operated weapon that fires from a closed bolt.

It is hammer-fired and uses a trigger mechanism with a three-position fire selector and safety switch.

With the procurement of the 5.56mm R-4 rifles, the early models of M-16 and M-16A1 rifles will be replaced, since majority of which are already in poor condition and in need of replacement.

The ceremonial entrustment of firearms symbolizes great responsibility and a reminder of every soldier’s duty to protect every Filipino.

“The issuance of the new 5.56mm R4 rifles will greatly boost the morale of troops and enhance their war-fighting capability,” Velarmino added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has ordered 56,843 units of the brand-new R-4 rifles.

The contract is worth PHP1.9 billion.

Of this number, 24,300 are now distributed to military units with 19,866 undergoing ballistics tests at the Philippine National Police.

Pemberton to be moved inside ISAFP compound

From ABS-CBN (Feb 7): Pemberton to be moved inside ISAFP compound

Authorities are planning to move US Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton inside the compound of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo.

Pemberton, who is detained inside a container van, is currently inside the compound of the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board, also inside Camp Aguinaldo. He is being secured by joint Philippines and US forces.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Ricardo Rainier Cruz on Sunday said they are just waiting for an engineering unit from the US before they move Pemberton's detention van.

Cruz added that US officials have already coordinated with ISAFP regarding Pemberton's transfer.

Upon transfer, the same set up will be followed, meaning Pemberton will be secured jointly by BuCor and American personnel.

A military official said the transfer is just temporary, pending the construction of a detention facility inside the ISAFP compound.

Officials earlier announced that an existing detention facility inside the ISAFP compound will be improved to accommodate Pemberton. The plan includes the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and barbwire for security.

Pemberton has been detained inside the van even before an Olongapo City court convicted him last December for the October 2014 killing of transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer " Laude. Pemberton was sentenced to six to 12 years of imprisonment for homicide.

North Cotabato provincial security chief shot dead in front of church

From MindaNews (Feb 7): North Cotabato provincial security chief shot dead in front of church

Three unidentified gunmen shot dead the chief security officer of the North Cotabato provincial capitol in front of a Catholic church in Arakan, North Cotabato on Sunday morning, police said.

Chief Insp. Felix Fornan, Arakan police chief, said Bernabe Abanilla, chief of the Civil Security Unit of North Cotabato’s provincial capitol grounds, had just arrived in front of the church on board his Mitsubishi Strada pick-up vehicle with a companion when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire at about 8 a.m.

Abanilla and his companion, Degul Semillano, both residents of Barangay Doruloman, Arakan, North Cotabato, were still breathing when churchgoers and villagers rushed them to the hospital. The two were declared dead on arrival due to multiple gunshot wounds in the head and body.

“He was about to enter the church when the suspects on motorbike opened fire,” Fornan said, quoting witnesses.

Police recovered empty shells from a cal. 45 pistol at the crime scene.

North Cotabato  Governor Emmylou Mendoza condemned the killing.

“It’s a waste of life for a dedicated man doing his service. There is a deeper reason why those culprits wanted him to die. This was not the first attempt. Justice must be served for them,” she said.

She urged the police to conduct a thorough investigation.

Sayyaf frees kidnapped boy after 11 months in captivity in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 7): Sayyaf frees kidnapped boy after 11 months in captivity in Philippines

Abu Sayyaf rebels have freed Sunday a three-year old boy they kidnapped in March last year in Zamboanga del Sur province in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the boy – kidnapped last March 31 in Pitogo town- was recovered by a Muslim villager who spotted him walking alone in the village of Buanza in Sulu’s Jolo town.  He was handed over to the military in the town and immediately brought to hospital for check up.

The boy’s family has been contacted by authorities as social worker took custody of the child in Jolo.

There was no immediate statement from the boy’s family about his release, but he was kidnapped along with Zynielle Jay Garban, 3, and their 17-year old nanny, Ledegie Tomarong, who had been freed in July last year.

The rebels took the trio after failing to kidnap a bakery owner in Pitogo town. Zynielle was killed after being shot during a firefight between policemen and the kidnappers.

The release of the boy also coincided with the capture of an Abu Sayyaf rebel, who has been named as Haber, in Indanan town in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

Haber alias Abu Qudama was allegedly involved in the kidnappings of 21 mostly European holidaymakers in the posh Malaysian resort island of Sipadan in 2000.

Authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings for ransom in southern Philippines. The rebels also pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

23,000 people benefit from humanitarian mission in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 7): 23,000 people benefit from humanitarian mission in Mindanao

The humanitarian mission conducted by various government agencies in Gingoog City in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental.

Some 23,000 people have benefited from a two-day humanitarian mission by various government agencies in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental where communist rebels are actively operating, officials said Sunday.

Government troops also joined the mission in Gingoog City dubbed as “National Serbisyo Caravan” participated by different military units under the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Captain Alberto Caber, a regional army spokesman, said the recent humanitarian mission was a convergence of concerned national agencies for the delivery of basic services. “The event also became the venue for consultation and dialogue between the community and government agencies,” he told The Manila Times.

The project was spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process under Teresita Deles and Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, and the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice.

Late last year, the communist New People’s Army rebels freed a government soldier – Pfc. Adonis Jess Losiba – they captured in Gingoog City after 4 months in captivity. Adonis, a member of the 58th Infantry Battalion, was released following appeals from his family.

In 2013, rebels also ambushed and wounded Mayor Ruthie Guingona and killed two of her supporters. The political matriarch was heading home from a beauty pageant when gunmen ambushed her convoy. Guingona is the wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and mother of Senator Teofisto Guingona III.

Gov’t, MILF urged to talk with groups excluded from peace pact

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 7): Gov’t, MILF urged to talk with groups excluded from peace pact

The International Alert urged the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make use of the remaining time between now and the 17th Congress to talk with groups that “felt excluded” from the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to strengthen support for the new law in the next Congress.

Judy Gulane, IA communication specialist, said the group welcomed the recent statements from the MILF and the Aquino administration to sustain the peace process despite the 16th Congress’ failure to pass the BBL, urging both sides to take the extra time between now and the next Congress as a chance for more dialogues with people who will be affected by the new law.

“We urge them to take the opportunity to dialogue with groups that felt excluded when the CAB, the basis of the BBL, and the BBL were drafted,” Gulane said in a statement.

“We encourage them to meet with legislators, especially those who opposed the BBL, as they will scrutinize the bill when it is re-filed in the 17th Congress,” Gulane added.
IA, however, said the disappointment over the 16th Congress’ failure to pass the BBL, when mixed with election-related tensions, could likely become a “flashpoint” for conflict to occur.

“Rather than blame the MILF or those who support the law, let us take these as prompt to study the BBL,” Gulane said.

“For truly, for Muslim Filipinos, it represents their best chance for self-determination, and our best chance for a lasting peace in Mindanao,” she said.

Gulane, however, said sustaining the development in Muslim Mindanao during the election campaign and upon the installation of the new Congress has remained a challenge. “With or without the new law, livelihoods must be created,” Gulane said.

IA pointed out that despite the marked entry of big investments under the Aquino administration, economic growth in the ARMM has remained among the country’s slowest while its poverty level has remained the highest.

“In the remaining months in office, the Aquino administration should continue to pour in funds that the region needs, while incoming government must heed the region’s growth requirements,” she said.

But Gulane added that equal burden of development rests on the ARMM’s local leaders and private investors.

“We commend the regional official’s promise to forge ahead with their development plans even without BBL and the town level initiatives to draw investments in their localities,” she said.

“We also commend businesses that have set up shops in the ARMM despite many uncertainties,” she added.

International Alert is a peace advocacy group helping communities find solutions to conflict within countries.

Riding in tandem gunmen shoot Tawi-Tawi town mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): Riding in tandem gunmen shoot Tawi-Tawi town mayor

The police are conducting a thorough probe aimed to unmask the gunmen behind the shooting and wounding of a Tawi-Tawi town mayor in this city on Sunday morning.

Supt. Dioamarie Albarico, Police Station 11 chief, identified the victim as Mayor Jasper Que of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Albarico said Que was shot at around 9 a.m. Sunday along San Jose Road, Barangay Baliwasan, 3.5 kilometers west of City Hall.

Que was aboard his Sports Utility Vehicle on the way to the city proper when fired upon by one of two men riding tandem on a motorcycle upon reaching the vicinity of the Baliwasan Central School.

Albarico said the suspects sped away and Que was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

He said Que is now on stable condition “while on recovering stage.”

Abu Sayyaf Group frees 3-year-old boy captive in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): Abu Sayyaf Group frees 3-year-old boy captive in Sulu

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits released on Sunday a three-year-old boy they kidnapped in March last year in the town of Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur, a top military official said.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the freed hostage as Ace Jay Garban.

Arrojado, who is also the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade commander, said Garban was spotted “without a companion” by a concerned citizen at around 2:42 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Buanza, Indanan, Sulu.

“Immediately, the concerned citizen approached the child and at the same time informed the military unit of the KV’s (kidnap victim’s) presence in the area,” Arrojado said.

He said Garban was taken to Barangay Tulay, Jolo and was turned over to the Jolo Internal Defense Force headed by Col. Bernie Sun, who is also the deputy commander of the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade.

He said the child was taken to the trauma hospital in Camp Bautista, Barangay Bus-Bus, Jolo for medical check-up.

Arrojado said efforts are underway to get in touch with Garban’s relatives in Zamboanga del Sur for his eventual return to the province.

The newly freed hostage is the grandson of Mayor Richard Garban of Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.

Garban was seized by 10 Abu Sayyaf gunmen together with his two-year-old brother, Zynielle Jay, and bakery worker Ledegie Tomarong, 17, on March 31, 2015 in Barangay Poblacion, Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.

The gunmen killed Zynielle Jay, whose body was plucked out from the seawaters of Zamboanga del Sur on April 3, 2015 while Tomarong was released on July 20, 2015 in Barangay Kagay, Indanan, Sulu.

Arrojado said they have coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the custody of Garban while waiting for his family to fetch him.

DND condemns NK long-range rocket launch

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 7): DND condemns NK long-range rocket launch

The Department of National Defense (DND) condemned on Sunday North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket.

"We condemn this act and continue to remind our neighbor to instead concentrate on activities that lead to peace and development of our region," DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said.

The North Korea rocket launch took place weeks after it had successfully detonated a nuclear device last January.

"Let us all refrain from complicating the already volatile regional security state we are all in," Galvez added.

He said the DND has monitored the launch with the help of concerned neighbors.

But he added that they have no information yet on where it landed.

"Initial info is that it went somewhere in the Pacific Ocean; no info yet as to where," Galvez said.

NPA belies military claims

From the Sun Star-Davao (Feb 6): NPA belies military claims

THE New People's Army (NPA) belied the claim of the military and some tribal leaders that the rebels were behind the killing of the 15-year-old Grade 3 student of the Salugpongan School in Talaingod town in Davao del Norte last month.

In a statement emailed to Sun.Star Davao yesterday, Tano Paragas, spokesperson for the NPA’s Davao-Bukidnon Sub Regional Command, Southern Mindanao Region, said Alibando Tingkas was killed by Alamara which is run by military.

Paragas said there is no truth about what has been earlier claimed by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He added that the United States-Aquino Regime, military and the Alamara has long been targeting the lumads.

Paragas said Joven Salangani, who was tagged in killing Tingkas, is a member of the Alamara, the group who killed the leader of the Salugpungan Datu Manliro Landahay. The latter was murdered last November 7 by Donato Salangani.

Datu Lumansad Sibogan, member of the board of trustees of the Ata-Manobo Tribal Council of Elders Association in Talaingod, earlier said that Alamara is a myth. He added that it has nothing to do with the threats and killings in town.

Sibogan also said that Salangani is a member of the communist movement under a certain Kumander Jose. He added that the motive behind the incident was personal grudge, after Donato Salangani was killed by the NPA rebels as well.