Thursday, March 24, 2016

PH-US War battle marked key date for rallies vs Edca

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 24): PH-US War battle marked key date for rallies vs Edca

PROTESTERS try to get near the US Embassy in Manila to denounce what they described as a lopsided Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), a pact signed by Philippine and US government officials.          GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

PROTESTERS try to get near the US Embassy in Manila to denounce what they described as a lopsided Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), a pact signed by Philippine and US government officials. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Protesters will time the start of what they said are massive rallies against increasing US military presence in the Philippines with a day being commemorated here for a little known battle of the Philippine-American War.

Church leaders in Northern Mindanao said protesters would start a series of rallies against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between the Philippine and US governments on April 7, the anniversary of the little known Battle of Cagayan de Misamis (the old name of Cagayan de Oro).

On April 7, 1900, dozens of Filipino revolutionaries, led by Gen. Nicolas Capistrano, attacked an American barracks under the command of Col. Edward Goodwin.

At least 52 revolutionaries were killed, nine were wounded and 10 were captured during the Battle of Cagayan de Misamis. The Americans, who had superior firepower, suffered four casualties and nine injuries.

Bravery, patriotism

Though lopsided in favor of the Americans, Bishop Rudy Juliada, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), said the battle should be remembered for the bravery and patriotism of the people of Cagayan de Oro during those times.

On this day, Juliada said Patriyotiko Northern Mindanao, a group led by IFI, would launch the first of a series of mass actions against Edca, which would give American soldiers at least five sites, including the former Lumbia Airport in the city, that they could use as bases in the Philippines.

Many senators had insisted that Edca should be treated as a treaty that needed Philippine Senate concurrence but a ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the pact’s constitutionality rendered these opinions moot.

Bishop Juliada said Edca should be scrapped.

The US Embassy in Manila, on its web site, said Edca will “further strengthen US-Philippine bilateral relations.”

The pact, said the embassy, is a “mutually beneficial agreement that will enhance our ability to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and help build capacity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

“We look forward to working closely with our Philippine partners on the implementation of this agreement,” the embassy said.

But Bishop Juliada said Edca would just continue to reinforce the Philippines’ colonial experience under the United States.

“Education on history and nationalism is vital to this campaign (against Edca),” said Juliada.

“Many of us do not even know our past,” he said. “That is why we are not critical of issues that entail our nation’s future,” he added.

The start of a “citizen-initiated campaign” against Edca, he added, would be in commemoration of the Battle of Cagayan de Misamis and in honor of Filipino revolutionaries who went to battle against the US colonial government.

Legal, moral question

Bishop Melza Labuntog, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), said while Edca may have been given a stamp of legality by the Supreme Court, the pact’s morality is in question.

“Not all laws and treaties of the land legally passed in [Congress] and approved by the highest [court of the land] represent the voice and sentiments of the people,” said Labuntog.

“They may be legal but not necessarily moral,” said Labuntog in a statement.
Edca, said the UCCP bishop, is an example of “a one-sided pact that does not benefit God’s people.”

“On the contrary, it poses imminent threat to our national sovereignty,” said Labuntog.

On Spratly islet, Taiwan argues Philippines case not watertight

From Asahi Shinbun (Mar 24): On Spratly islet, Taiwan argues Philippines case not watertight

ITU ABA, South China Sea--On Itu Aba, in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, Taiwanese coast guard officials proudly haul a small wooden bucket of water from one of several simple concrete wells on the coral outcrop.

The water, clear and sweet tasting, is key to Taiwan's argument that Itu Aba is legally the only island among the hundreds of reefs, shoals and atolls scattered across the hotly disputed region.

Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, is coming into focus as the Philippines challenges the legality of China's claims to most of the South China Sea.

"Usually from Taiping island we can see Chinese and Vietnamese fishing vessels," said Wang Mao-lin, a senior coast guard official, who has been stationed there for a year. He said the coast guard would shoo the vessels away.

As part of a case now being considered by an international court in The Hague, the Philippines has argued that no feature in the Spratlys could be legally considered islands because they lack the ability to sustain human habitation or economic life.

But if Itu Aba is determined to be an island, it is entitled to a 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Such a ruling would complicate territorial disputes across the vital trade route and resource-rich region, where Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims.

The Philippines presented its case to the judges' panel of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in November and a ruling is expected in the next few months.
China has refused to participate in the case, saying it is invalid and the panel has no jurisdiction. Taiwan, which China deems is a breakaway province, is not a member of the U.N. and not a signatory to UNCLOS.

Taipei is instead waging a propaganda campaign on Itu Aba, including a high-profile visit by President Ma Ying-jeou in January and Wednesday's first ever visit by international journalists.

The group, which included Taiwanese journalists and local scholars, was shown vegetable gardens and plantations of coconuts, sweet potatoes and papayas.

Along with scores of chickens, the gardens provide food for the almost 200 people who live there, mainly coast guard personnel, Taiwan officials said.

Serviced by a 1,200-meter airstrip, other features on Itu Aba include a hospital, solar generators, a temple, wharf and a lighthouse.

Ma, in a briefing held in Taipei with returning media, extended an invitation to the Philippines government and tribunal members to visit to Itu Aba.

"I, as Republic of China president ... formally invite the Philippines government to send a representative or lawyer to visit Taiping island," Ma said, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

While Taiwan has occupied the 46-hectare outcrop almost 2,000 km south of Taipei for decades, China, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim it.
Tensions in the region have been on the rise, with Beijing and Washington trading accusations that the other is militarizing the region as China expands its reclamation and construction activities on several reefs while the United States undertakes more freedom of navigation patrols and overflights.

Asked about the visit to Itu Aba, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Spratlys had been Chinese territory since ancient times.

"Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan strait have a responsibility to protect the Chinese people's property handed down from one's ancestors," she told a daily news briefing.

There is construction work on the Spratly islands China occupies at present, but when conditions are right China will consider taking reporters there, she added.

Ma on Wednesday said that recent land reclamation and military-type activities by China "have nothing to do with us."

Under the relevant international law, islands must be able to "sustain human habitation or economic life of their own."

Other features are classed as "rocks," which can claim 12 nautical miles of territorial waters, and "low tide elevations," which can claim neither.

Arguing its case, the Philippines questioned the quality and quantity of water on Itu Aba and said no Spratlys holding had ever been home to an indigenous population. Military garrisons, supplied from the outside, did not count, they said.

Independent legal scholars and experts said that Itu Aba could prove a potential sticking point in the broader case.

"For decades, the combined wisdom among scholars studying the South China Sea is that Itu Aba is the only island in the Spratlys," said Ian Storey, a regional security expert at Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

The limits of UNCLOS mean the judges cannot rule on sovereignty, but instead on the entitlements from certain features and the rights of the Philippines within its own economic zone. A ruling would be binding, but difficult to enforce.

A source close to the Philippines' side said Manila's legal team was aware that the status of Itu Aba was one of the thornier parts of the case.

"We've asked the tribunal to determine the nature and character of the different features in the South China Sea so it's up to the tribunal to decide on this issue," Charles Jose, a Philippines foreign ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

2 BIFF men reportedly killed, 5 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao clash

From InterAksyon (Mar 23): 2 BIFF men reportedly killed, 5 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao clash

File photo of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. (Romy Elusfa,

 At least two bandits were reportedly killed and five Marines were hurt in clashes between outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Philippine Marines in a remote village here, military and civilian officials said.

Captain Joann Petinglay, speaking for the regional Army unit based in Maguindanao, said two soldiers were injured on Tuesday night and three more were hurt during the 1 a.m. skirmishes Wednesday.

"The overnight firefight was sporadic, on and off," Petinglay told reporters, referring to BIFF attacks that started at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Sitio Badak, Barangay Giwang, Datu Salibo.

Sporadic exchanges of gunfire lasted until about 2 a.m. when the BIFF ceased firing, Petinglay added.

Kagi Solayman, a resident of Datu Salibo, said words have spread among residents of two BIFF fatalities hurriedly buried in the dried up marshland.

"That's what I heard from the people inside," he said.

Petinglay could not say if the BIFF suffered fatalities and could not confirm information shared by residents as the Army has not recovered dead bodies.

The five injured Marines are now being treated at Camp Siongco Hospital in Camp Gonzalo Siongco, the home base of the 6th Infantry Division.

Army reports said about 30 BIFF fighters, led by Commander Bongos, the current leader of the bandit group operating in Maguinanao, simultaneously fired at a group of Marine troopers who had just finished clearing operations to rid the village of improvised bombs planted by the BIFF.

Petinglay said the Army is rushing to complete the clearing operations per directive from 6th ID chief Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan to terminate the operation before election.

The Datu Salibo conflict started when the BIFF torched two dredging equipment of a private firm working on a flood control project.

At least five soldiers were killed and 36 others, including the five Marines, were hurt in sporadic skirmishes. Most of them were victims of improvised bombs left by fleeing BIFF.

An IED manufacturing area was captured by soldiers in the village of Tee, Datu Salibo early this March.

Meanwhile, civilians are waiting for the green light from the military when to return home. They have been displaced since February 5 and temporarily housed in public schools and nearby villages in Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns.

Petinglay said soldiers in the front line will not take a Holy Week break.

6 soldiers in killings freed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 23): 6 soldiers in killings freed

The six Army soldiers tagged as suspects in the shooting of two civilians, and causing injuries to three others in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, were freed from police custody 9:20 last night, after the prescribed 36-hour period of detention lapsed.

Army Sgt. Zosimo Mariquit, PFCs Pat Lopez, Jhonryl Postrado, Franklin Delamor, Gerald Dator and Darrel June De Leon, all members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, had been placed under police custody since Monday morning, following their involvement in a shooting incident in Purok Azucena, Brgy Banquerohan, Cadiz City. Their firearms were endorsed to the PNP crime laboratory for ballistic tests.

Supt. Edel Jose Manzano, Cadiz City police chief, said they were forced to release the six Army soldiers, as they were not able to file charges against them due to lack of needed documents, including medical and death certificates of the victims, as well as results of the paraffin and ballistic tests and their firearms, respectively.

But Manzano said the families of the victims have agreed to press charges against the suspects through regular filing.

The fatalities in the shooting incident were identified as Mark Zarraga, 21, and Charice Solitario,15. Injured were tricycle driver J erry Mesa,  31, fishpond laborer Wilson Baliquidang, alias Nick Nick Baliquidang, and Michael Carampatana, 17.

Investigations of the Cadiz police showed that the six Army soldiers led by Mariquit, who were conducting Bayanihan Team Activities in the barangay, were about to leave the area, when their help was requested to check on the reported gun firing, with the suspects fleeing on board a tricycle.

The Army soldiers also on a tricycle, accompanied by barangay tanods, chased the fleeing suspects. However, they were allegedly fired at, and this prompted the soldiers to fire a warning shot.

When their warning shot was answered by another shot, Army soldiers were forced to return fire, which, unfortunately, claimed the lives of Zarraga and Solitario, and caused injuries to Mesa, Baliquidang and Carampatana.

An improvised hand gun with a live ammunition of an M-16 rifle in its chamber, four spent shells of an M-14 rifle, three empty shells of M-16 rifle and a pellet, were recovered from the scene of incident.

The Police Regional Office 18, through Senior Supt. William Señoron, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, yesterday extended financial help to Carampatana and Baliquidang, who are now being treated for gunshot wounds at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.

Señoron gave financial assistance of P10,000 each to Carampatana and Baliquidang, that were received by their mothers Pema Carampatana and Rita Baliquidang.
He added that the PRO 18 under Chief Supt. Conrado Capa will also extend similar financial assistance to the families of Zarraga and Solitario
Lt. Col. Arnel Cabugon, 62IB commander, said they will also conduct a separate probe to get a clear picture of the incident.

But Cabugon said he will not tolerate any wrongdoings of his personnel, should it be proven that they have committed violations.

He added that they are now coordinating with the families of the victims and the concerned local government unit, on what assistance they can extend to them.
“Nobody wants this to happen. We also have families”, Cabugon said.

The Commission on Human Rights in Negros Occidental is slated to conduct its own probe.

As of now they cannot give any categorical statement yet as to the fault, or liability on the part of the Philippine Army, CHR provincial chief Romeo Baldevarona said.

PNoy gives Army awards to guv, others

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 23): PNoy gives Army awards to guv, others

The provincial government of Negros Occidental and a Negrense Army colonel were among the 24 military personnel and civilians honored during the 119th Philippine Army founding anniversary rites held at Fort Bonifacio in Metro Manila yesterday.

President Benigno Aquino III led the presentation of awards and plaques of recognition to those who have contributed to the accomplishment of the Philippine Army's vision.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. received an Outstanding Stakeholder Award from President Aquino, who was assisted by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hernando Irriberi and Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, in recognition of the provincial government's valuable and unending support under his leadership, that contributed significantly to the attainment of 3rd Infantry Division's mission to have a secured environment conducive to sustainable development and just lasting peace in Regions 6,7 and 18.

Through the efforts also of Marañon and its Provincial Peace Integration Development Unit, former rebels in Negros Occidental have been extended financial and livelihood assistance to help rebuild their lives, while returning to the mainstream society, since 2010.

Negrense Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of Task Force Zamboanga, was also conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Legionnaire) by President Aquino for his “exceptionally meritorious and valuable service rendered” as chief of the Army's Intelligence Security Group.

The other awardees were Col. Cirilito Sobejana (Gawad sa Kaunlaran) and Col. Francisco Millare (Oustanding Achievement Medal)

Sobejana, who is the commander of the Army's 601st Infantry Brigade in Mindanao, used to be assigned at the 11th Infantry Battalion in northern Negros.

Millare, meanwhile, was also formerly assigned also in northern Negros as company commander of the 78th Infantry Battalion.

Army receiving 155mm Towed Howitzers within this year

From Update.Ph (Mar 25): Army receiving 155mm Towed Howitzers within this year

The Philippine Army is set to receive 155-millimeter Towed Howitzers this year. This was revealed by Army Commanding General Lieutenant General Eduardo Año during the 119th founding anniversary of the military service March 22.

We are also expecting the arrival this year of additional infantry fighting and fire-support vehicles, 155-millimeter howitzers, light- utility vehicles, 60-mm mortars, 40-mm grenade launchers, rocket launcher light units and 50-watt armored vehicle-configuration radios,” General Año said as quoted by Business Mirror.

The Department of National Defense (DND)-Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initiated the project to acquire twelve 155mm Towed Howitzer with 240 rounds of high explosive ammunition including an integrated logistics support package early 2015 with approved budget of PhP438.6 million.

A howitzer can fire different types of projectiles like high explosives, smokes (white phosphorus or sulfur trioxide), chemicals or illuminations.

Maj. Gen. Madrigal is new 4ID Commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): Maj. Gen. Madrigal is new 4ID Commander 

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City- The 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division (4ID) changed command Wednesday with Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal. Jr. as the new division commander.

The 4ID is one of the largest military commands in Mindanao with an area of responsibility that covers nine provinces and 16 cities in North and Northeastern Mindanao regions.

Former 4ID division commander Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao has been assigned as the new Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, the 4ID spokesperson, said that Commanding General Lt. Gen. Eduardo M Año, of the Philippine Army, flew to Cagayan De Oro City together with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to witness the turnover ceremony.

Martinez said that Madrigal, of PMA “Sandiwa,” Class 1984, is a be-medaled military officer who served in the 4ID and other army divisions in various capacities prior to his assignment as the commanding general of the 4ID.

During his stint as Battalion Commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion in Northeast and Central Mindanao, the unit was adjudged as the 4ID’s Best Battalion on 2006-2007 and eventually over-all best battalions of Philippine Army the following year in 2007-2008.

5 killed in MILF-Abu Sayyaf clash in Basilan

From the Philippine Star (Mar 24): 5 killed in MILF-Abu Sayyaf clash in Basilan

Five people, including two civilians, were killed in a clash between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf group clashed in a remote village in Basilan province on Wednesday, a security official said Thursday.
Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said a group of MILF fighters led by Aslumin Masud initially encountered the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon Hapilon in the village of Guinanta in Al-Barka town around 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
Tan said reports on the ground indicated three of Hapilon's followers were killed in the firefight, forcing the Abu Sayyaf to retreat. 
The Abu Sayyaf group reportedly chanced upon two civilians and executed them while retreating from the clash.
The MILF pursued and encountered the same Abu Sayyaf group around 4 p.m. on the same day, triggering another firefight.
The MILF has signed a peace agreement with the government and has coordinated with security forces in operations against outlaw groups in the past.

China Coast Guard building up fleet

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 24): China Coast Guard building up fleet

 A Chinese Coast Guard boat near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. PHOTO: AFP

At the weekend, a China Coast Guard (CCG) ship allegedly rammed a Chinese fishing boat to pry it loose from an Indonesian patrol boat that had seized it for illegal fishing near the Natunas in what Jakarta said was its waters.
The incident has shone a spotlight on the CCG, which has been expanding its fleet and building larger vessels in recent years to help enforce China’s territorial claims.

It is estimated that the CCG has more than 200 maritime enforcement vessels, including a pair of recently built 10,000-tonne “monster” ships that are the biggest coast guard vessels in the world.

The first one was completed in 2014 and deployed last year to the East China Sea, while the second, which reportedly boasts a 76mm quick-firing main gun and has a top speed of 25 knots, was completed in January and is set to be deployed to the South China Sea.

The formation of the CCG came soon after China’s new leadership pledged in 2012 to build the country into a maritime power.

In March 2013, China announced that four of its five maritime law enforcement agencies – those overseeing maritime surveillance, fisheries administration, customs enforcement and border control – would be restructured into the CCG.

The different forces – nicknamed the “nine dragons” in China – were criticized for duplicating duties and sometimes competing for public attention and funds by challenging ships from neighboring countries.

Praising the decision “to let nine dragons come as one,” military researcher Zhang Junshe wrote in the People’s Liberation Army Daily: “This strengthens maritime administration, improving the efficiency and integration of maritime law enforcement.”

In 2012, China also began a construction programme to add more than 30 large patrol ships and 20 patrol combatants within three years – a move that was aimed at increasing the CCG force level by 25 per cent.

“White-hulled” coast guard ships are China’s preferred means of enforcing claims, analysts say.

They protect Chinese fishing and survey vessels and prevent other countries from encroaching into contested areas, without having to wield military force – and risk international condemnation – with “grey-hulled” navy ships.

Most CCG ships are unarmed or have relatively light weapons.

But as the latest incident with the Indonesian authorities over the weekend shows, this does not prevent skirmishes at sea.

China sent the CCG to protect an oil exploration rig that it parked in waters contested with Vietnam in 2014, using the boats to ram and fire water cannon at Vietnamese law enforcement boats.

And in 2011, China’s maritime law enforcement ships severed towing sensors of a survey ship contracted by PetroVietnam.

Given the danger of clashes, China and Asean have agreed to explore Singapore’s proposal of an expanded Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (Cues) that includes coast guard ships, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said earlier this month.

The Cues proposal builds on a code signed in 2014 by 21 members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that covers naval vessels and aircraft.

The members include China and all 10 Asean members, except Myanmar and Laos.

US submarine arrives in Subic amid fresh PH-China tension

From Rappler (Mar 23): US submarine arrives in Subic amid fresh PH-China tension

'Through engagements with our partners, such as this port visit to Subic Bay, we aid in maintaining...stability,' says the commanding officer of the USS Ohio

US SUBMARINE AT SUBIC. The USS Ohio at Subic Freeport, a former US naval base, on March 22, 2016. Photo by Randy Datu/Rappler

US SUBMARINE AT SUBIC. The USS Ohio at Subic Freeport, a former US naval base, on March 22, 2016. Photo by Randy Datu/Rappler

As fresh tensions erupted between the Philippines and China over an incident in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales, a US submarine arrived in Subic Bay on Tuesday, March 22, as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific.

Captain Michael Lewis, commanding officer of the USS Ohio, described the US presence in the region as a "stabilizing force."

“Our presence in the region provides a stabilizing force and through engagements with our partners, such as this port visit to Subic Bay, we aid in maintaining that stability,” Lewis said.

The US submarine arrived at the former US naval base a week after a Chinese coast guard vessel rammed the boat of Filipinos fishing in Bajo de Masinloc, their traditional fishing ground which is 124 nautical miles from Zambales. Beijing claimed that the fishermen retaliated with fire bombs.

Lewis said the mission of the USS Ohio is to "support the 7th Fleet commander in a multitude of operations and the crew of 165 came to the region fully ready to accomplish any and all missions."

With its 150 crew members and officers, the USS Ohio will conduct missions and showcase the latest capabilities of the US Navy’s submarine fleet.

It is the latest US submarine to make a port call at Subic Bay this year, after the USS Texas, a fast-attack submarine, in January.

Measuring 560 feet long and displacing more than 18,000 tons of water when submerged, the USS Ohio is one of the largest and most versatile submarines in the world.

It is capable of supporting a vast multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, tomahawk strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The submarine is equipped with advanced sonar, fire control, and weapons systems and state-of-the-art sound silencing equipment allowing it to conduct its missions while remaining completely undetected.

Commissioned in 1981 as SSBN-726, the USS Ohio was once the lead boat of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

From 2002 to 2005, the USS Ohio underwent an extensive refuel and overhaul and was converted from a ballistic missile submarine into a guided missile submarine. It was re-commissioned in 2005 as SSGN-726.

Equipped with dual drydock shelters, the vessel is uniquely capable of supporting extensive naval special warfare operations.

It is armed with up to 154 tomahawk cruise missiles, far more than any other submarine or surface warship, and can launch its entire payload in a matter of hours while remaining submerged.

The USS Ohio is homeported at Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, Washington but remains forward deployed out of Apra Harbor, Guam, for most of its 16-month operational cycle.

Photo: Goodbye General

From MindaNews (Mar 23): Photo: Goodbye General


Army Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano (left) honors Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, outgoing commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday (23 March 2016). Lactao was promoted to head the AFP Inspectorate General Office. Lactao is replaced by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal.  MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Gunmen abduct trader, grandson in Zamboanga town

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 24): Gunmen abduct trader, grandson in Zamboanga town

Gunmen seized an elderly Filipino trader and his grandson in the southern province of Zamboanga del Sur where rebels and criminal gangs are actively operating.

Police have confirmed the twin abductions and identified the victims as Antonio Tan, 70; and Ryan Tan, 21; who were both taken from their home in Maruing village in Lapuyan town late Wednesday.

It said police forces from the town and neighboring Margosatubig were tracking down the victim and his captors who escaped in three motorized pump boats heading to the town of Malangas

No other details were made available by the police about the victims or who were behind their abductions, but previous kidnappings in the province had been largely blamed to former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other gangs allied with the notorious Abu Sayyaf group.

It was not immediately known whether Tan’s family has received any demand for ransom or phone calls from the victims. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abductions.

The latest abductions occurred despite a tight security being imposed by the military and police authorities due to the Lenten season.

15 rebel returnees in Compostela Valley receive gov't assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): 15 rebel returnees in Compostela Valley receive gov't assistance

Fifteen New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who returned to the folds of the law have received cash and livelihood assistance from the national and provincial government of Compostela Valley.

This was bared by the provincial government on Wednesday following the presentation of the 15 rebel returnees by Colonel Macairog Alberto, commander of the 1001st Infantry Pag-asa Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to Vice Governor Manuel E. Zamora.

Zamora, who represented Governor Arturo Uy during the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) at the Capitol building, gave each rebel returnee PHP5,000 as immediate cash assistance, food packs and other materials such as mosquito nets, blankets for their respective families. They were also given temporary shelter plus meals and other livelihood assistance in a “half way village” in Nabunturan.

Zamora urged the rebel returnees to completely abandon armed struggle and to become productive members of their respective communities and hoping that this will encourage others.

The rebel returnees will also undergo seminars and trainings as part of the evaluation of the Comval Support Units for their educational background such as agricultural production, electrical and other skills and technical education under the CLIP program of the government.

The technical education will help the returnees become productive when they are reintegrated to their respective communities.

2 NPA rebels killed in CamSur clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): 2 NPA rebels killed in CamSur clash

Philippine Army troopers killed two unidentified New People’s Army (NPA) members and recovered three firearms, 618 ammunition and 42 improvised explosive devices in an encounter at 5:55 a.m. Monday at Barangay San Rafael, Lupi, Camarines Sur, a belated report released Thursday said.

The report said members of the 92nd Division Reconnaissance Company of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army led by 2Lt. George A. Atolba engaged at least 30 NPA men in about 45-minute firefight.

After the last burst of gunfire, government soldiers recovered two unidentified dead male persons and recovered, one M60 LMG rifle (SN 17459) with 347 ammunition; one M16 rifle TM: RP Elisco SN024123 with inserted magazine loaded with 42 live ammunition; one MK 9mm pistol Colt without SN with inserted magazine loaded with 16 ammunition; 213 live ammunition DOE CALIBWE 30; one solar panel, one converter, one 12-volt Motolite battery, one transistor radio, ten backpacks with personal belongings and anti-government documents.

Soldiers also recovered 20 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed in a small can, 19 IEDs placed inside a big can; three IEDs placed inside a big plastic pipe, six plastic pipes measuring about four inches long with blasting caps, and two molotov bombs with plastic containers.

All the recovered items are now under the custody of the Army while the two unidentified cadavers were brought to the Sta. Rita Funeral Parlor in Sipocot, Camarines Sur for autopsy.

Lt. Col. Arnel B. Bautista, commanding officer of the Army unit involved in the operation on Monday, said he believes the heightened armed activities of the NPA were related to the celebration of the 47th founding anniversary of the NPA on March 29.

Bautista said they are trying to analyze where the big number of about 30 NPA rebels came from and they suspected that they might have come from different provinces in Bicol.

3 ASG bandits killed in clash with MILF in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): 3 ASG bandits killed in clash with MILF in Basilan

Three Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were believed killed during an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces in Albarka, Basilan Wednesday morning.

Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said the clash took place 10:30 a.m. when patrolling MILF units headed Aslumin Masud spotted ASG bandits commanded by Isnilon Hapilon at Sitio Tampat near the crossing of Linuan and Guinanta.

In the ensuing firefight, three bandits were reported killed and a high-powered firearm seized.

"Subject to confirmation by our troops, the son of Isnilon Hapilon was also killed during the encounter," Tan said.

Armed men snatch Fil-Chinese trader, grandson in Zamboanga Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 24): Armed men snatch Fil-Chinese trader, grandson in Zamboanga Del Sur

Western Mindanao Command units are now conducting pursuit operations against the bandits who kidnapped a 70-year-old Filipino-Chinese businessman and his 20-year-old-grandson in Lapuyan, Zamboanga Del Sur Wednesday afternoon.

The incident took place at 5:30 p.m. at Barangay Maruing, said Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Filemon Tan.

He identified the victims as Antonio Tan and his grandson Rayray Tan.

The two were snatched by at least eight unidentified suspects and dragged into two blue motorized pump boats which sped towards the direction of Malangas.

Troops from the 53rd Infantry Battalion and the 6th Special Forces Battalion are now conducting pursuing the suspects.