Tuesday, February 23, 2016

MILF's Bravo denies hand in ambush which killed soldier

From CNN Philippines (Feb 24): MILF's Bravo denies hand in ambush which killed soldier

Commander Bravo of the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces

A commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) army denied having a hand in an ambush on a military convoy that killed one soldier and wounded several others on Tuesday noon (February 23) in Balindong, Lanao del Sur.

Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) said his group had nothing to do with the attack in Barangay Bualan located a few miles from MILF's Camp Pokta.

Residents — some of whom needed to be temporarily evacuated during the firefight — recounted that a small group of unidentified masked men ambushed a three army trucks while the soldiers were escorting a heavy equipment carrier.

Balindong town mayor, Raisalam Bagul Mangondato, confirmed that the assailants were not from the MILF but were lawless elements.

Residents returned to their homes when the fighting had stopped.

Meanwhile, Bravo also said his troops were not involved in a firefight raging in another town, Butig, which erupted over the weekend.

Related: Thousands displaced by ongoing firefight in Lanao del Sur

Bravo also denied having allegiance with ISIS and said that he remained loyal to the MILF leadership.


Soldiers cordon off area of armed group in Lanao Sur attacks

From GMA News (Feb 24): Soldiers cordon off area of armed group in Lanao Sur attacks

Government soldiers have already surrounded the area where members of a suspected new terrorist group in Mindanao have been hiding.

Armed Forces of the Philippine spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Paddilia told News To Go on Wednesday that the nameless armed group began to launch attacks in Lanao del Sur on Saturday,  leaving three soldiers dead ang six others wounded.

Padilla said that soldiers are closing in on the armed group, 40 of whose members were responsible for the attack on a military detachment in Barangay Bayabao in Butig town.

Citing a military source, Padilia said that members of the group are followers of Moro Islamic Liberation Front's 102nd Base Command head Edris Salindawan alias Abu Hanif.

The group is suspected to have links with international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah.

Moreover, Padilla said security forces are coordinating with the MILF through a peace mechanism supervised by  an ad hoc committee.

A military report on Tuesday said three soldiers were killed while six others were wounded in the clashes that also killed at least 20 members of the rebel group.
"This is subject to verification," Padilla admitted earlier.

"The initial information from various sources is that around 20 enemies were killed and scores wounded."

"The motive of the attack remains unknown," ge added.

One of the fatalities, he said, was killed in an ambush on Tuesday morning and was among the troops sent to reinforce government forces in Butig.

Reinforcements were able to cordon off the enemies, whose number has swelled to more or less 80, Padilla said.

According to him, some 5,000 residents in areas covered by the operation fled their homes.


Six Sulu gunmen trial accused plead guilty

From the Borneo Post (Feb 24): Six Sulu gunmen trial accused plead guilty

KOTA KINABALU: Six Filipinos pleaded guilty at the High Court here yesterday to separate charges of being members of the Sulu gunmen during the Lahad Datu intrusion three years ago.

Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, Lin Mad Salleh, Holland Kalbi, Basad H. Manuel, Ismail Hj Yasin and Virgilio Nemar Patulada @ Mohammad admitted before Justice Stephen Chung to each of their charges under Section 130KA of the Penal Code.

The charge which was read in Badjao, carries an imprisonment which may extend to an imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to a fine, upon conviction.

Philippine government-assigned counsel Datuk N. Sivananthan, who is defending 16 accused persons, told the court that only eight of his clients would plead guilty to a similar charge.

In pleading for a light sentence yesterday, Sivananthan urged the court to take into account the level of involvement of his clients in this case.

He submitted that there was no evidence adduced that his clients had committed terrorism acts or involved in skirmishes but only being members of the group.

The counsel explained that most of his clients had come to Sabah and joined the Sulu gunmen after being promised jobs, positions and would be given identity cards (IC) once they reached Sabah.

Sivananthan argued that his clients would not have joined the group if they knew that there would be a war between the gunmen and Malaysian authorities.

He said one Hj Musa and Raja Muda Datu Agbimuddin Kiram had told his clients that if they came to Sabah, they would be given jobs and ICs.

However, soon after the accused followed the gunmen, Sivananthan said his clients were only asked to do jobs like collecting vegetables and fish, and some of them had also tried to run away from the gunmen after Malaysian police had dropped leaflets of safe passage to those who wanted to surrender themselves.

In reply, the prosecution urged the court to impose a maximum sentence on the accused persons on the grounds that the accused had committed a serious offence as being members of a terrorist group.

The prosecution said those accused persons should not have believed that they would be given ICs when they came to Sabah.

The prosecution rebutted that although they were only members and not involved in the gunmen’s activities, it was also stressed that the degree of involvement would in turn minimize the sentence that would be meted out by the court.

The prosecution argued that the intrusion by the gunmen led by Datu Agbimuddin was an encroachment and a direct challenge to the sovereignty and dignity of Malaysia.

It further said if the court were to solely rely on the factual mitigation as highlighted by the counsel, a lenient sentence would undermine and compromise the sovereignty of Malaysia as an independent nation.

It also urged the court to take into consideration that the skirmishes, because of the intrusion, had resulted in the deaths of nine members of the Malaysian security forces.

The accused persons were apprehended during separate operations throughout Ops Sulu (later known as Ops Daulat) at several places in Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Sandakan between February 12 and April 10, 2013.

The trial, held at a hall which doubled as an open court at the Kepayan prisons here under tight security checks by police and prison personnel, will continue today for mitigation by the other accused persons.

Deputy public prosecutors Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar and Datuk Jamil Aripin acted for the prosecution.


Militants attack Filipino troops, more than 20 dead

From the Philippine Star (Feb 23): Militants attack Filipino troops, more than 20 dead

A military official says up to 20 Muslim militants are believed to have been killed in three days of sporadic clashes that also left three soldiers dead in the country's south.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the fighting broke out when about 40 militants from a still unspecified group opened fire late Saturday on an army camp in Butig town in Lanao del Sur province. Soldiers defended the camp in on-and-off clashes.

Padilla said the military deployed additional troops, bomber planes, helicopter gunships and artillery to the area.

The attackers may have come from a group affiliated with an Indonesian terror suspect who was killed in the region in 2012.


MILF leader urged probe on attacks on soldiers

From the Philippine Star (Feb 24): MILF leader urged probe on attacks on soldiers

The MILF’s Abdullah Macapaar (inset) denied assertions their forces were involved in hostilities in two Lanao del Sur towns that displaced thousands of villagers. Philstar.com/John Unson

The top Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader in this province on Wednesday urged the joint ceasefire committee to investigate on two attacks on soldiers the past five days by extremists inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Abdullah Macapaar, known as “Commander Bravo,” told reporters he was saddened by allegations they connived with local extremist factions that attacked soldiers in Lanao del Sur’s Balindong and Butig towns.

Macapaar said they were not involved in the deadly forays by local ISIS-inspired groups in Bayabao District in Butig and in Bubong-Kadapaan in Balindong, which resulted to the deaths of at least three Army combatants.

The hostilities in Butig erupted last weekend when gunmen attacked a detachment there of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion, killing two soldiers and wounding several others.
Sporadic clashes ensued until Monday and waned only after combatants from different units of the Army’s 103rd Brigade in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur, arrived and helped drive the extremists away with 105 Howitzer canons and aerial sorties by fixed-wing aircrafts.

Local officials said there is indeed a need now for the government and the MILF’s joint ceasefire committee and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) to investigate on the Butig and Balindong incidents.

Hundreds of villagers in two barangays in Balindong were forced to evacuate to neutral areas on Tuesday when extremists attacked soldiers escorting tanks en route to Marawi City to augment the armor assets of the military units involved in clearing operations in Butig.

A soldier was killed in the ambush, which caused panic in the surroundings and forced local authorities to close to traffic the Narciso Ramos Highway, connecting Balindong town to Marawi City, for five hours to prevent motorists and commuters from getting caught in the crossfire.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Tuesday night tasked his deputy, Regional Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, to conduct a deeper inquiry on the Butig and Balindong incidents and determine the extent of displacement of local folks displaced by the encounters.

Hataman also tasked the regional government’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) to extend relief and rehabilitation services to evacuees.

The HEART is an inter-agency disaster and emergency mitigation contingent operating under Hataman’s ministerial control.

Macapaar told reporters, in a clandestine meeting Tuesday, their forces remained in their camps as the hostilities in Butig went on.

None of their men were also involved in Tuesday’s ambush of soldiers in Balindong, he added.

He said they have religiously been complying with the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, one of the security protocols the government and MILF bilaterally formulated to prevent undue hostilities that can derail the Southern Mindanao peace process.

The enforcement of the ceasefire accord is being monitored since late 2003 by the Malaysian-led IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Indonesia and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

Macapaar said they will welcome any probe by the IMT and the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee on allegations they were involved in the hostilities that rocked Lanao del Sur the past five days.


3rd ID recruiting new officers, enlisted personnel

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): 3rd ID recruiting new officers, enlisted personnel

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division is opening its door to patriotic Filipinos willing to serve the country by becoming military officers and enlisted personnel in its roster.

Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said the Philippine Army Recruitment Center Office for Visayas will facilitate the Armed Forces of the Philippines Service Aptitude Test to qualified applicants for Officer Candidate Course (OCC), Officer Preparatory Course (OPC) and Candidate Soldier Course (CSC).

Schedule and venue of examinations are the following: Feb. 26 at St. Anthony’s College, San Jose, Antique; Feb. 27 at Iloilo Science and Technology University, Lapaz, Iloilo City; Feb. 28 at Guimaras State College, Buenavista, Guimaras; Feb. 29 at Capiz State University, Roxas City, Capiz; March 1 at Headquarters, 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz and March 2 at the Northwestern Visayan Colleges, Kalibo, Aklan.

Qualified to take the examinations are the following:

OCC: natural born Filipino citizen; baccalaureate degree holder; 21-29 years old; must have completed at least one term or three years continuous active military service (for enlisted personnel); single/never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child; at least five feet for both male and female; physically and mentally fit and has no pending case in any court of law.

The OCC is a one-year course which prepares a candidate mentally, physically, and emotionally to become an army officer.

Upon graduation, the individual will be commissioned as an Army 2nd lieutenant into the Regular Force, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Officer Preparatory Course: natural-born Filipino citizen; baccalaureate degree holder; Inactive Commissioned Reserved Officer who were commissioned in the Philippine Army under Circular 4 Group I and Group II; must not be over 31 years old on the date of Call to Active Duty (CAD); must have completed at least one term or three years continuous active military service (for EP); single/never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child; at least 5 feet for both male and female; physically and mentally fit and has no pending case in any court of law.

Candidate Soldiers Course: natural-born Filipino citizen; single/never been married and has no legal obligation to support a child; preferably those who have 72 units in college; 18 to 26 years old but must not be 27 years old at the convening date; at least 5 feet for both male and female; physically and mentally fit and has no pending case in any court of law.

If the applicant is only a high school graduate, he or she should possess special skills needed by the AFP or Philippine Army. Proof of such skills must be shown.

The CSC will undergo three months basic military training and forty-five days Jungle Warfare and Mountain Operation Course (JWMOC) with rigid combat training to be enlisted into the regular force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the rank of private in the term of three years.


PN to decommission WWII assets with arrival of more modern ships

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): PN to decommission WWII assets with arrival of more modern ships

With the pending arrival of its new assets, the Philippine Navy (PN) is now looking at the possibility of decommissioning its World War II-era ships which are still being used.

This was disclosed by PN public affairs office chief Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview with the PNA.

Decommissioning of these World War II-era vessels will start once newly-build ships like the two strategic sealift vessels, two missile-armed frigates, and three missile-equipped multi-purpose assault craft start arriving along with the decommissioned Hamilton-class cutter, the USCGC Boutswell, R/V Melville, earlier pledged by US President Barack Obama to the Philippines and Pohang-class corvette donated by South Korea, starts arriving.

Deactivation of these ships will provide the Navy with sufficient personnel to man these vessels.

The first strategic sealift vessel is expected to be deliver this May while the USCGC Boutswell is expected to be transferred by the last quarter of 2016.

World War II ships in PN service include the BRP Rajah Humabon, BRP Rizal, BRP Malvar, BRP Quezon and the BRP Laguna among others.


PAF to acquire transmitter, 'FCR' for FA-50 avionic system

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): PAF to acquire transmitter, 'FCR' for FA-50 avionic system

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of Php39,593,364 for the procurement of a transmitter and "FCR" for the avionic system of its brand-new FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" lift-interim fighter aircraft.

The latter are sensitive components needed for the efficient operation of the aircraft.

Submission and opening of bids is on March 8, at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.


30 BIFFs killed since start of Feb. 5 clearing operations -- AFP

From the Philiippine News Agency (Feb 23): 30 BIFFs killed since start of Feb. 5 clearing operations -- AFP

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fatalities have reached 30 in wake of the military's ongoing clearing operation in Maguindanao.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato in a briefing Tuesday.

Military operations against the BIFF started on Feb. 5 when the bandits attacked and torched a dredging project in Butilen River in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Detoyato said the 30 BIFF fatalities were confirmed by government troops through the use of visual technology.

He added that troops are still conducting operations in nearby Barangay Tee so that the flood control project will be completed.

Detoyato, however, said that the military is yet to recover the bodies of the slain bandits due to difficulties in crossing and moving through the marshy terrain.

Earlier, the AFP announced that it has disarmed 100 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid by the BIFF during clearing operations at Barangay Tee.

This was confirmed by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

The more than two week-long clearing operations has resulted in the wounding of three troopers engaged in the disarming of the IEDs.

Padilla also clarified that there are no more BIFF bandits in the area but he warned residents from returning yet as the brigands indiscriminately scattered IEDs and other booby traps during their retreat where they mixed with the local populace, making their identification difficult and time consuming.

He called these acts as "anti-people" and "anti-development" as this atrocities effectively stalled ongoing development projects in the area.

The military spokesperson also added that Barangay Tee seemed to be the center of the BIFF bomb-making effort due to the number of IEDs recovered and disarmed in the locality.

Padilla said disarming efforts will continue at a pace safe for the EOD teams.

He stressed that a foreign terrorist seemed to have provided the BIFF with assistance in constructing these deadly weapons.


Trooper wounded in Lanao Del Sur ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): Trooper wounded in Lanao Del Sur ambush

A trooper was wounded after a military convoy was ambushed by still unidentified gunmen in the town of Tugaya in Lanao Del Sur Tuesday morning.

Major Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the incident took place at 10:45 a.m. at Barangay Pantara-Bato.

He added that the military convoy consist of two HMMWV, one Scorpion Five Support Vehicle and one prime-mover carrying an armored personnel carrier and was heading towards the 103rd Infantry Brigade tactical command post when fired upon by the suspects.

A trooper was wounded in the 45-minute gunbattle while return fire from government forces wounded and killed an undetermined number of the assailants.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters provided close-air support to the ambushed units while a platoon of soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion with two armored vehicles rushed to reinforce the convoy.


FA-50PHs fly-bys on 30th EDSA People Power-1 Anniversary to highlight military transformation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): FA-50PHs fly-bys on 30th EDSA People Power-1 Anniversary to highlight military transformation

The high-opener pass, which will be conducted by the two brand-new FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" light-interim fighter aircraft during the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power-1 on Thursday, will highlight the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) transformation and capability upgrade.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato in a press briefing Tuesday.

"The (high-speed opener pass of the FA-50PH) is just to highlight AFP's transformation and capability (upgrade)," he said.

Detoyato said the decision to use the two brand-new jets was to show Filipinos that the AFP Modernization Program is now taking off.

"And while the (FA-50PHs) also made an appearance during the 80th AFP anniversary last Dec. 21 at Clark Air Base, Pampanga, it had to be repeated so that Filipinos could see and feel that their AFP has (indeed) transformed," the AFP public affairs office chief stressed.

The two Korea Aerospace Industries-made jet planes will be followed by a fly-by consisting of 15 SIAI-Marchetti SF-260FH trainer aircraft, three newly-acquired Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, three UH-ID helicopters and three attack version of the AgustaWestland AW-109.

Two UH-IH combat utility helicopters will also conduct a flower drop at the EDSA Shrine in Ortigas Avenue, Quezon City.

Air Force participation was requested by the EDSA-1 organizers.


AFP to host EDSA-1 'experiential museum' opening

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 24): AFP to host EDSA-1 'experiential museum' opening

In line with activities commemorating the 30th anniversary of the EDSA-1 People Power Revolution, a "experiential" museum highlighting events that brought about the 1986 revolt will be opened at the AFP parade grounds in Camp Aguinaldo on Feb. 25 to 26.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato urged visitors to the nine-hall "People Power Experiential Museum" to comply with camp rules and cooperate with the organizers of the tour.

The museum features various cinematic, pictures and theater effects highlighting the oppression of Martial law and efforts of the Filipinos to shed its yoke aside from educating today's youth about this period in Philippine history.

Detoyato said visitors can use Gate 5 of Camp Aguinaldo along White Plains Avenue.


NPA IED cache, weapons captured in Davao Del Norte operation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 24): NPA IED cache, weapons captured in Davao Del Norte operation

Troopers from the 10th Infantry Division have captured a New People's Army (NPA) improvised explosive device (IED) cache and several weapons and other war materiel during operations in Kapalong town, Davao Del Norte last Sunday.

In a statement Wednesday, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the operation took place in Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan.

Troopers from the 60th Infantry Battalion and their militiamen counterparts from the 72nd Infantry Battalion were checking on the suspected NPA IED factory in the said location when encountered an undetermined number of rebels around 5 a.m., triggering a 20-minute firefight, which ended with the retreat of the insurgents.

No was hurt among the government troops

Batchar said the rebels were from Guerrilla Front 34 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Seized were two .30 caliber Garand rifles, an improvised grenade launcher, 11 cartridges of improvised 60mm grenade, seven cartridges of 40mm grenade, five improvised anti-personnel landmine, four cartridges of anti-personnel landmine, three cartridges of anti-tank landmine, 18 sticks of dynamite superdyne; 280-meter detonating cord, 11 boxes of 6.35 steel ball, 65 pieces of toggle switch, 200 pieces of Zener diode, 500 pieces of series lights, a soldering gun, an automatic voltage regulator, a mini lathe machine with accessories, a drilling machine, a bar cutter, a grinding machine, a sewing machine and a single phase motor.

10th Infantry Division commander Major Rafael Valencia lauded the soldiers of 60th and 72nd Infantry Battalions for their feat against the NPAs and the subsequent discovery of the IED cache.

“Our soldiers did not only save lives of our own men but they also spared civilian lives from the NPAs’ wanton use of IED without regard for the safety of the people in the community,” he said.


Army, PNP slam rebels

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 24): Army, PNP slam rebels

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Police yesterday slammed the New People's Army for admitting that they were behind the recent ambush of policemen in Candoni, Negros Occidental.
“It was plain murder, that was done with treachery, and cannot be justified,” Lt. Col. Rey Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, yesterday said.
Tiongson dismissed claims that the slain and injured policemen were involved in illegal activities and called them a mere propaganda, to justify their atrocities.
Chief Supt. Conrado Capa, regional police director of Negros Island Region, said he is fuming mad over the ambush and killing of the Candoni policemen, who were just performing their normal and a routine assistance function.
Capa said the policemen were not even engaged in security operations against the New People's Army.
The ambush in Brgy. Caningay, Candoni, claimed the lives of two policemen, and caused injuries to four others, including two civilians. They were also stripped of their police uniforms, personal belongings and firearms by the NPA.
By conducting an ambush against policemen and also causing injuries to two civilians, what were the NPA trying to prove, Romeo Baldevarona, chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights in Negros Occidental, asked yesterday.
As accusations that the policemen had been linked to illegal activities, Baldevarona said they should have been given a warning, and not by killing them instantly.
Tiongson said the NPA should realize the futility of their armed struggle, which is against the interest of the people. “There are civilians who were victims of their treacherous act”, he added.
He maintained that the NPA ambush is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, of which the rebel group is a signatory.
Baldevarona said he noted that there is no compliance with CARHRIHL, which he describes as a “most violated” agreement.
Municipal officials and residents of Candoni are holding a prayer vigil today in the town poblacion, in connection with the ambush incident.
Baldevarona said that as soon as they complete their investigation of the incident, they will recommend financial assistance to the families of the slain and injured Candoni policemen.
Senior Supt. William Senoron, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said yesterday that Pacheco and Peralta will be accorded full police honors during their burial on Sunday.

NPA owns Candoni ambush

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 24): NPA owns Candoni ambush

The New People's Army yesterday claimed responsibility for the ambush on a police patrol car in Taytay Panaculan, Barangay Canigay, Cadoni, that left two policemen dead and others injured on February 18.
The NPA warned civilians from riding on police and Army vehicles because they are legitimate military targets, and should avoid their being used as shields during rebel attacks.
Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the NPA Armado Sumayang Jr. Command Southwest Negros Guerilla Front, claimed in a statement that the ambushed PNP unit is well known for its protection racket of those engaged in illegal gambling and illegal drug pushing in Cadoni town.
But Senior Supt. William Señoron, Negros Occidental OIC police director, denied the NPA claim, saying the Candoni police have been actively involved in the arrests of those engaged in illegal drugs and gambling, and the filing of charges against them.
The Candoni police have a lot of accomplishments, Señoron said, citing the arrest of Jey-Jech Manzano, son of former Candoni Mayor Jechonias Manzano, on February 7 during anti-drug operations that yielded about P198,000 worth of suspected shabu.
But the target of the buy-bust operation identified as former PO3 William Escalada managed to escape and is still being pursued, he said.
Guerrero said the February 18 ambush on the police was staged with the cooperation of residents who reported the presence of illegal drugs and gambling operators in the town. The staging of the ambush is a failure of police intelligence work and of the administration of Mayor Cicero Borromeo that has allocated a large intelligence fund for counter insurgency work, Guerrero said.
Guerrero said two policemen were killed and three were injured in the ambush, and their troops were able to recover two armalite assault riffles, a .45 caliber pistol, bullets and magazines of M-16 rifles.
The civilian who was injured was not on board the police vehicle that was ambushed but on a tricycle that passed the area, Guerrero said.
While the NPA claimed three were injured, the police said four were injured.
Killed was Police Officer 1 Henry Vell Pacheco and PO2 Joeharry Peralta , and injured were P O2 Jay Arroyo , PO1 Modesto Bena , civilians Rey Duales , 38, who was on board the vehicle and Julius Miravalles , 33, who was in his house nearby, Señoron said.
He also said thr ee M - 16 assault rifles and two 9mm pistols of the Candoni policemen were taken by the rebels, contrary to the claim of the rebels.
Guerrero alleged that the Army based near the ambush site did not immediately aid the ambushed policemen, as was the case in the Mamapasano incident.
Señoron said that is not true, the police was working in close coordination with the Army.
It was agreed that the police would enter the area first, he said.
Señoron said it is good that the NPA claimed responsibility for the ambush as it backs their initial findings. He said they are conducting pursuit operations on the culprits, and investigating who their conduits are.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said no words in the dictionary can describe the atrocities committed by the NPA, referring to the Candoni ambush.

NPA: 'We ambushed Candoni policemen'

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Feb 23): NPA: 'We ambushed Candoni policemen'

FOUR days after the deadly ambush in Candoni town, the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted staging the attack on the patrol vehicle that claimed the lives of two policemen, and wounded two others and a civilian.

Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the NPA-Southwest Negros Island Front, in a statement released to the media Tuesday accused personnel of Candoni Municipal Police Station of being protectors of illegal gambling and illegal drug trade, citing the complaints of several residents.

The rebels said they were able to successfully stage the ambush because of the help of the residents.

Police Officer 3 Joeharry Peralta, 38, of Kabankalan City, and PO1 Henry Pacheco, 30, of Candoni.
PO2 Jay Arroyo, 44, of Kabankalan City and PO1 Modesto Bina, 36, of Bacolod City, and a civilian identified as Rey Duales were injured.

The six police officers were on their way back to the station after they responded to a stabbing incident in Barangay Caningay when they were fired upon by the NPA near the Panaculan Creek Bridge.

The injured civilian was not riding in the patrol car, but in a tricycle which happened to have reached the ambush zone at the time, the NPA said.

The rebels said they took two assault rifles, a .45 caliber pistol, and used bullets of M-16 rifles, and documents from the policemen.

The NPA said their members had safely withdrawn from the encounter.

This showed the failure of the intelligence work of the police and the local government of Candoni despite their substantial intelligence fund, the NPA claimed, adding that the government should have spent the intelligence fund instead for social services like agriculture, education, and health.

The police even failed to catch criminals involved in illegal gambling and illegal drugs, the statement said.

The NPA claimed that the ambush exposed the alleged internal feud and lack of coordination between the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army, which resulted to the delayed response during the ambush.

The rebels also urged the public not to ride in police patrol cars and army vehicles as they are the main targets of the NPA ambush, the statement added.

‘Boils down to intelligence’

Chief Superintendent Conrado Capa, director of Police Regional Office-Negros Island Region (NIR), admitted that they weren’t able to monitor the movement of the rebels.

It happened because there was poor intelligence, he said, adding that “it boils down to intelligence.”

He said they need to intensify their intelligence operation by involving the community since “the reports are coming from the townspeople.”

Capa added that he will discuss with Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. how to come up with the reward system for every information that results to positive operation.

He stressed that the police should maintain a good relation with the community to gain their cooperation.

Capa said the police are on full alert since January this year, which was reportedly the start of NPA’s Oplan Jupiter that aimed to execute or threaten soldiers and law enforcement personnel.

Asked if some policemen are included in the NPA hitlist, Capa said that he doesn’t know if there’s a hitlist, but admitted that there’s always a threat.

“We always have to assume there’s a threat. Everyone is a target, we have to protect ourselves, and we have to be conscious of our environment,” the PRO-NIR chief said, as he directed his men not to let their guards down.

He said they recently conducted a security survey of all the police stations in the region to identify if there are weak spots.

Saddened, angry

“The thing that saddens me the most is that these men are eager to help and you (NPA) killed them,” Capa said.

“Nasaan ang inyong kaluluwa? (Where are your souls)” he asked, adding that the rebels could have ran after those mobile forces that are hunting them down.

He lamented that the ambushed policemen have no fault, and that they were only serving the public.
“I’m angry,” Capa said.

Senior Inspector Varie Villanobos, Candoni town police chief, dismissed the claims of the NPA that they are involved in illegal activities.

“Their allegations are not true,” he said.

A prayer vigil and candle lighting rites for the ambush victims will be held today at the town plaza, Villanobos said.


Pantukan human rights violation probe begins

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 23): Pantukan human rights violation probe begins

Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of the group Karapatan-SMR says the Army uses dirty tactics to evade culpability in the attacks against activists in the region. The 10th Infantry Division is mulling to file charges against groups who are allegedly destroying the image of the military. (Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)
Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of the group Karapatan-SMR (File photo)
At least 500 human rights advocates joined on Tuesday, February 23, a two-day national fact-finding mission to probe the incidents of alleged military attacks on farmers and small-scale miners in Pantukan, Compostela Valley province.
Hanimay Suazo, spokesperson of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said the National Humanitarian and Peace Mission will be held in Barangay Napnapan in Pantukan to trace the link between the series of attacks against communities of small scale miners and the involvement of the military’s 46th Infantry Battalion and 10th Infantry Division.

The probe comes after the killings of an anti-activist local official and a small-scale miner, while a 14-year old boy was wounded. However, the military claimed that the boy is a New People’s Army “child warrior” whom they have “rescued”.

The victims include Teresita Navacilla, a purok chair and convener of the Save Pantukan Movement who was shot in her store last January 27 and died at the hospital on January 30; and Ronel Paas, a small-scale miner who was shot in the chest in a case of indiscriminate firing by soldiers in their village last February 9.

The small scale miner was also reported as an NPA member killed in an encounter.

“We would be looking into the links of the entry of a large-scale mining to the deployment of soldiers to the community,” said Suazo.


Reds claim killing 11 gov’t troops in a week

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 23): Reds claim killing 11 gov’t troops in a week

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Members of the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley Province (File photo)
The New People’s Army (NPA) said they killed 11 military troops wounded six others after launching five military actions from February 16-20 in the north central part of Mindanao.
In an emailed statement, Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA, said their South-Central Bukidnon Subregional Command (SCB-SRC) killed two Army soldiers after an operation against the 8th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Can-ayan, Malaybalay City at around 2:00 pm on February 16.

On Friday, February 19, another encounter occurred in Sitio Tagiptip, Brgy. Iba, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon between an NPA team and six soldiers under Charlie Company of the 8th IB.

Juanito said three died on the AFP’s side, including an member of the paramilitary Alamara group. Three were wounded.

He said, on the same day, an alleged criminal who was evading arrest by a unit of the NPA’s Western Agusan Norte – Agusan Sur (Wanas) Subregional command was killed in Brgy. Oromica, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

Meanwhile, on February 20, Juanito said five government forces were killed and three were wounded in two separate operations of the NPAs against the 23rd IB troops in Sitio Calaitan, Brgy. Sangay, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.  The first operation occurred between a column of 23rd IB soldiers at around 11:48 noon time, while the second occurred against another column at around 3:15 in the afternoon.


4 slain in Lanao del Sur clashes

From the Manila Times (Feb 22): 4 slain in Lanao del Sur clashes

Two soldiers and two Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM) members were killed in continuing clashes between the military and the extremist group since Saturday in the village of Bayabao (Poblacion) in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province, a known lair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.

Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Marawi City-based Philippine Army 103rd Infantry Brigade, told The Manila Times that more troops were deployed in the hinterlands of Butig to hunt down the rebel group.

As of press time Monday, sporadic fighting continued, with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) reportedly reinforcing KIM. About 30 armed men from Tagoloan were reported to have arrived on pump boats in Masiau town.

Armored tanks and two MG-attack helicopters were sent by the military in the area, while artilleries were positioned at Lumbatan town, near Butig.

Murillo said the firefight started on Saturday when dozens of MILF gunmen attacked army soldiers belonging to the Charlie Company of the 2nd Platoon under First Lieutenant Joseph Plumentra of the 51st Infantry Battalion.

The attack triggered six hours of fighting that killed Corporal Julairin Tutuan, but the other fatality was not immediately identified.

KIM, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) said that “two [of their] brothers [who were killed] died as martyrs.” Local residents in Butig said the armed group was spotted hoisting the “black flag” of the IS.

Col. Manolo Samarita, 103rd IB deputy commander, said the clashes resumed on Sunday after blocking forces of the army engaged with another armed group allegedly headed by an “engineer” of the Maute brothers.

KIM has been involved in a series of bombings in Mindanao in the past headed by Humam Abdul Najid. The group also claimed responsibility for the attack in the province last month that was blamed by the military on the Maute brothers.

It was not immediately known if Najid’s forces were involved in the recent skirmishes, but authorities said the militants have an estimated force of more than 300 members.

The two-day firefight led to a massive displacement of civilians in Butig and nearby affected-areas who fled to nearby safe areas while others sought refuge with their relatives in Marawi City, according to social welfare officer Maharlanny Alonto.

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr., meanwhile, ordered the provincial disaster risk reduction management office, provincial social welfare department and other agencies to immediately attend to the needs of thousands of civilians displaced by the clash.


OIC-brokered government, MNLF peace talks end

From the Business Mirror (Feb 22): OIC-brokered government, MNLF peace talks end

The eight-yearlong review of the alleged non-implementation of the provisions of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) officially ended last month, and the three parties to the review would move on toward the full implementation of the provisions of the agreement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) said.

In a statement that quoted parts of the Joint Communiqué after the tripartite review last month, the Opapp said the January 26 Tripartite Review Process (TRP) of the implementation of the 1996 government-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA) officially ended after more than eight years.

“This is an important milestone we have reached, as it sets the convergence of the two Bangsamoro peace processes,” said Teresita Quintos Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process and head of the government delegation during the two-day Fifth Ministerial Level meeting of the review.

The Opapp said the Joint Communiqué of the conference “stated that the TRP ministerial meeting was held to define a road map toward the completion of the Review Process and identify ways and means of coordination and collaboration for the implementation of what they agreed upon during the review process.”

“What this means is that we have finally finished the eight-yearlong review of the implementation of the FPA, and we can now move forward toward implementing the agreements reached this time under the TRP,” Opapp Undersecretary for Programs Yusuf Jose Lorena said.

The burden of implementation would likely fall on the government, which the MNLF has accused of failing to fully implement all the provisions of the peace agreement. The MNLF has previously raised its concern at the separate peace process it was conducting with another Moro revolutionary organization, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), saying that it may muddle the government focus at fully complying with its end of the agreement with the MNLF. The government signed the peace pact with MNLF in September 1996, and began the peace negotiation with the MILF a year after.

The pan-Arabic Organization of Islamic Cooperation brokered a meeting between the two parties in 2008.

The Opapp said that “specifically, the Joint Communiqué identified four key areas that the parties agreed to implement: establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund that will be used for socioeconomic development projects for MNLF communities; the agreement on the comanagement of strategic minerals will be referred to the oversight committee created by Republic Act 9054 for the continuation of its devolution process; participation of the MNLF in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission of the envisioned Bangsamoro Parliament; and creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee, a body that will oversee the implementation of all points of consensus arrived at by the TRP.

Opapp said the communiqué was signed by Undersecretary Jose Yusuf and Iribani Lorena for the government, and Randolph Parcasio and Muslimin Sema on behalf of the MNLF as principals, along with OIC Secretary General Iyad bin Amin Madani for the 57-nation Islamic organization. Deles and Samsula Adju of the MNLF signed as witnesses.


BIFF blamed for carnival bombing in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Star (Feb 23): BIFF blamed for carnival bombing in Sultan Kudarat 

One of the victims of Sunday night's carnival bombing in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat being treated by a Red Cross volunteer. Red Cross Sultan Kudarat 

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines - Investigators are still validating  insinuations the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was behind Sunday’s bombing of a carnival in Esperanza town that killed a child and injured more than 30 others.

Chief Inspector Bryan Bernardino of the Esperanza police said the arrested bombing suspect, from among three culprits, has not been cooperating with policemen trying to extract from him information that could lead to the arrest of his two accomplices.

The suspect, whose name Bernardino withheld meantime while efforts to locate his cohorts are underway, was collared by policemen while trying to escape after the explosions.

“Investigators are still trying to establish the real motive for the grenade attack,” Bernardino said.

A six-year-old child, John Elton Antonio, was killed while more than 30 others were hurt on Sunday night when the three bombers attacked the carnival, near Esperanza’s town hall, with MK-2 fragmentation grenades.

Bernardino said they are also not discounting the possibility that the attack could have been triggered by an old grudge involving the carnival operator and a second party.

“There is also a possibility that extortionists were behind it,” he said.

Bernardino has urged the public to give investigators enough time to wind up with their investigation on the incident.


AFP reminds public: Follow camp rules at People Power museum

From the Philippine Star (Feb 23): AFP reminds public: Follow camp rules at People Power museum

A People Power Experiential Museum was built to to educate the youth about martial law and the 1986 revolution. Philstar.com/File photo

The military Tuesday reminded those who want to visit the People Power Experiential Museum to follow camp rules and to cooperate with organizers of the tour.

A People Power Experiential Museum that combines elements of theater, cinema, photography, performances, installations, and other allied arts will be open to the public from February 25 to 26.

The museum was set up to educate the youth about martial law and the 1986 revolt. The experiential museum has nine halls depicting the oppression of martial rule, the struggle of Filipinos to awaken the nationalistic spirit of the masses and the unity of those who went to EDSA to call for democracy.

“Just follow camp rules and regulations. The provisions of the Comelec (Commission on Elections) gun ban is also in effect. We have security personnel at each gate. They just need to follow directions,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Detoyato said the first screening of visitors would be conducted by the EDSA People Power Commission. He said Gate 5 of Camp Aguinaldo along White Plains Avenue would be open for those who want to visit the museum.

“They (visitors) will be organized by groups of 40 and the duration of the experiential museum visit will be around 40 minutes,” Detoyato said.

“We will have very limited parking space because our parking space here will be occupied by portions of the experiential museum. We recommend that they leave their cars along White Plains,” he added.

Air Force to display assets 

The Air Force will show off close to 30 air assets during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution Thursday.

Air Force spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya said the two newly-acquired lead-in fighter trainer jets would perform a high-speed opener pass during the program.

Fifteen SF-260FH aircraft, three Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, three UH-1D helicopters and three AW-109 helicopters would also perform a fly-by.

Two other UH-1H will also drop flowers to the crowd as part of the reenactment of the events that led to the restoration of democracy in the country.

The military has not monitored threats that could disrupt the celebration of the EDSA Revolution’s 30th anniversary.

Col. Vic Tomas, Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces Joint Task Force National Capital Region, said they are working closely with their police counterparts to ensure the safety of those who will join the EDSA rites.

“I believe it will be something worth remembering again. We were the first in the world to come up with a very peaceful revolution and many countries followed suit,” Tomas, who was a young lieutenant during the 1986 bloodless revolt, said.

The 30th anniversary of the People Power revolt will feature the traditional salubungan, a reenactment of the solidarity between soldiers and civilians that led to the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship.

Children of EDSA Heroes and youth leaders will also participate in the salubungan to symbolize their commitment to keep the ideals of EDSA alive.

Other features of the celebration include the flag raising and a commemorative program to be attended by President Benigno Aquino III.


Gunmen ambush Army convoy in Lanao del Sur; firefight ongoing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): Gunmen ambush Army convoy in Lanao del Sur; firefight ongoing

BIG GUNS. Army soldiers  are on high alert aboard military trucks towing howitzers for repositioning in Barangay Sta. Maria, Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay, on Friday. RAFFY LERMA

An Army convoy travels in this file photo taken in Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay. INQUIRER / RAFFY LERMA

Fighting erupted in Balindong, Lanao del Sur, after armed men fired at two trucks carrying government troops on Tuesday morning.

Colonel Roseller Murillo, chief of the 103rd Brigade, said the trucks were traversing the highway in the village of Bubong when ambushed at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.

“Firefight is still going on,” Murillo told the Inquirer by phone.

Regional Terrorism-Related Event: Singapore deports Indonesians en route to Syria—police

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): Singapore deports Indonesians en route to Syria—police

Singapore has deported four Indonesian men thought to be followers of a leading Islamic extremist as they allegedly tried to travel to Syria, police said Tuesday.

The four, who included a 15-year-old boy, were arrested Sunday in the city-state when immigration officials became suspicious after checking their documents, and finding one of them had previously spent time in Syria.

Authorities deported them to Batam, an Indonesian island not far from Singapore, the same day, and they have since been sent on to Jakarta.

After questioning the men, Indonesian officials “suspected that these four Indonesians were heading to Syria,” police spokesman Agus Rianto told AFP.

“We are now investigating the case to find out more.”

National police chief Badrodin Haiti said the group were thought to be followers of radical preacher Aman Abdurrahman, who is in jail for his role in forming a militant training camp, and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.

There have been suspicions Abdurrahman may have helped plan last month’s gun and suicide attacks in Jakarta that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

They were claimed by IS and were the first major attack in Indonesia for seven years.

Police refused to be drawn on whether the detained men, all from the main island of Java, had been trying to join IS, which controls vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

They originally entered Singapore from Batam but left for Malaysia, where they stayed only several hours, said local police chief Helmy Santika.

They were detained as they came back into Singapore, where they planned to catch flights, he added, without giving further details.

Singaporean authorities did not immediately comment.

Indonesian police have launched a nationwide crackdown since the Jakarta attacks, rounding up dozens of alleged Islamic extremists.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, but a subsequent crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks.

However, IS has provided a potent new rallying cry for Indonesian extremists, with hundreds believed to have headed to fight in the Middle East with the jihadists.


Top diplomats meet at fraught time between US, China

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): Top diplomats meet at fraught time between US, China

 In this Feb. 12, 2016, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with China's  Froreign, Minister Wang Yi,  during a meeting in Munich, Germany, before the Munich Security Conference. The top diplomats of the U.S. and China meet Feb. 23, in Washington at a fraught time in relations between the two world powers. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

In this Feb. 12, 2016, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with China’s Froreign, Minister Wang Yi, during a meeting in Munich, Germany, before the Munich Security Conference. The top diplomats of the U.S. and China meet Feb. 23, in Washington at a fraught time in relations between the two world powers. AP

The top diplomats of the U.S. and China meet Tuesday in Washington at a fraught time in relations between the two world powers.

It’s been seven weeks since North Korea conducted a nuclear test and they still haven’t agreed on how to censure Pyongyang. Also, tensions are rising in the South China Sea after Beijing deployed anti-aircraft missiles on a disputed island.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sparred over much of the same territory a month ago in Beijing. But as they sit down for more talks at the State Department, both situations have only grown more serious.

North Korea followed up its Jan. 6 underground nuclear explosion with a Feb. 7 rocket launch that was condemned by the U.N. Security Council because such rockets use technology that could be applied to ballistic missiles.

While China has joined in the international criticism, it has balked at imposing the kind of tough economic sanctions that the U.S. wants, fearing it could threaten the stability of North Korea, a neighbor and traditional ally of Beijing.

In the meantime, the U.S. has taken tougher steps of its own.

Congress passed the most stringent U.S. sanctions yet that aim to restrict North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s access to hard currency. The restrictions could hit Chinese banks and companies that do business connected to the North’s nuclear and missile programs and its human rights abuses.
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law last week.

And on the security front, the U.S. and close ally South Korea have begun talks on deploying a missile defense system that China fears could be used against it as well North Korea.

The U.S. and China are expected, eventually, to fashion a compromise over a U.N. resolution, as both sides oppose North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.  But they appear leagues apart on the South China Sea.

Washington and Beijing have been trading accusations of “militarizing” those waters, an important thoroughfare for world trade where six Asian governments have competing territorial claims.

The accusations intensified last week following reports that China had deployed anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, which is occupied by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

The U.S. and its Asian allies are watching now whether China puts military assets on artificial islands it has built in the Spratly island chain, further south.

The Obama administration is under congressional pressure to step up the U.S. response. Lawmakers are expected to raise their concerns at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday with the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday that the U.S. would continue to press China to stop its militarization in the South China China. He called for a diplomatic process to settle territorial claims peacefully.

A couple of U.S. Navy operations close to disputed land since October have already riled Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday that “reconnaissance” by U.S. ships and planes, not China’s actions, were responsible for stoking tensions in a region where the U.S. is not a claimant.

“The deployment of defense facilities on China’s own territory is no different from what U.S. does in Hawaii,” she said.

‘NPA hit squad leader’ shot dead by soldiers in Davao del Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): ‘NPA hit squad leader’ shot dead by soldiers in Davao del Norte

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – The military said it killed an alleged leader of a communist hit squad blamed for the murder of government troops and civilians, during a brief clash in San Fernando, Bukidnon, on Tuesday.

Capt. Bob Tamula, spokesperson for the Philippine Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion based in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, said a rebel, identified as Bugsong, was shot dead by soldiers as he attempted to assassinate one of the troops in Purok (Community) 9, Kalagangan village around 10:30 a.m.

A peace and development team from 68th IB’s Bravo Company was in the area when two motorcycles with four people onboard passed by, and one of those onboard fired at the soldiers using a handgun, prompting them to retaliate, said Tamula.

“One of the suspects identified later as alias Bugsong was hit and he fell to the ground while his companions fled,” the Army official told Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone.

Tamula said Bugsong was the leader of Special Partisan Unit (SPARU), a hit squad of Guerrilla Front 55 of the New People’s Army Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC), which operated in the hinterlands of Bukidnon and Davao del Norte provinces.

No one from the government side was hurt, the Army official said. He said the group has been tagged as behind the killing of a number of soldiers, militiamen and even civilians in San Fernando and Talaingod areas.

Tamula said the body of the slain rebel was handed over to the local government of San Fernando for burial.

Alleged MILF fighter, wife fall at checkpoint over drugs

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 23): Alleged MILF fighter, wife fall at checkpoint over drugs

AN ALLEGED member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and his pregnant wife were arrested after shabu was allegedly found in their possession during a checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan, Toril at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The checkpoint was conducted by personnel of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Toril police and soldiers under the Task Force Davao.
Meanwhile, their three children ages 14 ,9 and 5 were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development while waiting for their relatives to pick them up.
Arrested  were identified as  Esmael Macasa, 40, and Asnihaya Macasa, 37, both residents of Balabagan in Lanao del Sur.
According to the report, they were flagged down at the checkpoint and police found 50 grams of shabu worth P450,000 hidden inside Asnihaya’s medicine box.
In an interview, Adzhar Albani, director of PDEA-XI, said the suspects were about to drop illegal drugs from Cotabato City and into Davao City.
“We have long considered him as a big time drug dealer,” he said, adding that he uses the same modus of using high-end vehicles to try to intimidate authorities.
The couple is now detained at Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Regional Office detention facility as they await the appropriate charge in violation of Sec. 5 and Sec. 11 of  RA 9165 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous drugs Act of 2002.”

GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms to ensure Cotabato road project completion

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms to ensure Cotabato road project completion

Despite security threats, the construction of a farm-to-market road that will connect barangays from the towns of Aleosan and Pikit in Cotabato province will push through, thanks to the firm commitment of the joint ceasefire mechanisms of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to ensure security towards project completion.

In November 2015, Phase 1 of the concreting of the 5-kilometer Pagangan-Tubak, Aleosan-New Valencia-Bualon-Pamalian, Pikit Road started as a project under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities.

The said project is undertaken through the Department of Agriculture's PAMANA FY 2015 fund and implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The road is expected to benefit more than 300 households when completed. Most people in the barangays where the road will be built are Bangsamoro and civilian members of both the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

However, on Jan. 15, work on the project was suspended due to extortion and security threats received by the local government of Barangay Pagangan from Sheik Muhidin Amimbang, chief of staff of brigands Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Amimbang sent a letter demanding for a certain percentage of the project cost which amounted to more than half-a-million pesos (PHP500,000.00).

When the barangay officials did not respond to the threat, the BIFF burned a closed van owned by the DPWH-project contractor Sunstone Construction and strafed the house of Barangay Pagangan Chairman Gregorio Guanzon.

"We will not let any lawless group sabotage a project for the people. The ceasefire mechanisms of the government and the MILF will work with our security mechanisms to help ensure the security and welfare of the workers and construction facilities in the area," said GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Secretariat Director Carlos Sol, Jr. during a coordination meeting hosted by the Municipal Peace and Order Council of Aleosan earlier this month.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the ceasefire mechanisms of the parties which include the GPH-MILF CCCH; Team Site 1 of the International Monitoring Team - M10; Local Monitoring Team of Cotabato province; Provincial Local Government of Cotabato Province; Municipal Local Government of Aleosan; Barangay LGU of Pagangan, Aleosan; Representatives of the DPWH Cotabato Province; the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“We should be supportive [of] the development projects [by] the Government in Mindanao,” Sol added. Butch Malang of the MILF CCCH said that “[t]he MILF will support and participate on security matters relative to the completion of the project.”

AFP LTC Romeo Bautista (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 45th Infantry Battalion, 6ID, PA meanwhile, has committed military personnel to secure the project facility and set up a temporary patrol base.

The PNP is already conducting its investigation into the extortion issue as well as the acts of violence committed as it prepares to file a case against the BIFF.

Participants to the meeting agreed that the security cooperation between the GPH and MILF shall be established before the start of the project in order to secure the equipment, personnel and others involved in the road project implementation.

In the past, the combined efforts of the ceasefire mechanisms under the Bangsamoro peace process have likewise been instrumental in securing other project facilities against the threats of armed elements ‎and in keeping the peace on the ground.

Testament to this is the decision of the GPH and MILF negotiating panels to renew the mandates of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) in their recent meeting in Malaysia.

Aside from monitoring the implementation of the cessation of hostilities between the GPH and the MILF, the IMT also monitors the humanitarian, rehabilitation, development and socio-economic assistance aspects of the signed agreements, the observance of international humanitarian laws and respect for human rights, and the verification and reporting on basic undertaking of the Parties to protect civilians and civilian communities.

The AHJAG, on the other hand, is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and disseminating information between the GPH and the MILF in order to isolate and interdict all criminal syndicates/kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal groups operating in Bangsamoro communities and nearby areas.