Sunday, June 12, 2016

Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill one of two hostages

From the Business Standard (Jun 14): Abu Sayyaf threatens to kill one of two hostages

Philippines-based extremist group Abu Sayyaf on Monday threatened to kill their Canadian or Norwegian hostage by the end of the deadline for the $6 million ransom payment demanded for each of them.

The rebels have said in several videos released in recent weeks that they will execute Canadian Robert Hall or Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad if they do not receive the ransom before 3.00 p.m., EFE news reported.

The two hostages were kidnapped from a hotel complex in the southern along with another Canadian, John Ridsdel, and Filipina Marites Flor.

Ridsdel was beheaded by Abu Sayyaf on April 25 after the first deadline for the ransom payment lapsed.

The insurgents have not demanded any ransom for Flor so far.

Both Hall and Sekkingstad have made appeals to the Philippine and Canadian governments for help in videos released in the last few months, in which they are seen with knives positioned on their necks.

"I appeal to my government and the Philippine government, as I have appealed before, for help," said Hall in one of the videos.

However, both the Philippine and Canadian government have maintained they are not going to negotiate with the terrorists and strongly condemned the beheading of Ridsdel.

In addition to Hall and Sekkingstad, one Japanese national and one Dutch citizen are also currently being held hostage.

The terror group has released 14 Indonesian fishermen over the last few weeks after receiving a sum of $2 million.

Last week, the rebels also freed four Malaysian crew members of a tugboat, seized as they were returning to Malaysia after leaving Philippine waters, and for whom they had demanded a ransom of $4 million.

US to keep up sea patrols east of PH, says naval exec

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 13): US to keep up sea patrols east of PH, says naval exec
The United States will maintain its maritime presence in the Western Pacific, as the Philippines awaits the ruling of a UN tribunal on its maritime row with China, a senior US Navy official said here.

Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 73 of the US Navy, said nothing would change in the longstanding ties between the United States and the Philippines as both countries continued to engage in multilateral maritime exercises.

“[The United States] has a persistent and continuous presence in the Western Pacific… and that presence never wavered and it has only been persistent and sustained, and I expect it to be just that in the future,” Williams told reporters here after the closing ceremony of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) Philippines 2016 on Friday.

Regional challenges

Carat Philippines is part of a broader series of exercises the US Navy conducts with nine partner nations in South and Southeast Asia.

“All of these engagements reflect our belief that regional challenges increased and require cooperative solutions and cooperative Navies to have similar goals,” Williams said.

The Philippines believes its arbitration case in The Hague will go its way.

The country contested China’s claim over portions of the South China Sea that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. China steadfastly refused to take part in the proceedings.

Maritime security

The South China Sea is located west of the Philippines, which calls its portion of the waters the West Philippine Sea.

Williams said the annual naval drills address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among participating forces.

On June 4, the two Navies were joined by the Malaysian Navy in a multilateral training in the Sulu Sea where commercial ships had been hijacked recently by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

Williams said the exercise tested the three Navies’ abilities to coordinate maritime security operations in a geographically separated environment at sea.

“We’ve been doing this Carat exercise with the Philippines for 22 years now. The purpose of this training is to make us better sailors and better mariners,” he said.

In a statement, Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, Philippine Fleet commander, said: “Carat strengthens the strong and enduring relationship between the US and Philippine Navies.”

The exercise was undertaken off Subic Bay and Palawan on June 6-10 and involved US military personnel in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Philippines’ assets

This year’s exercise featured the guided missile destroyer USS Stethem, the landing dock ship USS Ashland, and the diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor.

Taking part in the training were the Philippines’ assets that included the minesweeper frigate BRP Rizal, the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a landing craft heavy vessel and an AW109 helicopter.

Islamic State details activity in the Philippines

From the Threat Matrix blog of the Long War Journal (Jun 12): Islamic State details activity in the Philippines (By Caleb Weiss)


Infographic released by the Islamic State’s ‘Amaq News Agency

‘Amaq News Agency, one of the Islamic State’s news outlets, has released a short infographic detailing the jihadist group’s operations and activities in the Philippines. The infographic is set up similar to those released for official Islamic State wilayats (provinces), which indicates the rising importance of the Philippines for the jihadist group.

The infographic (above) includes several important claims of the Islamic State in the Philippines, including how many groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and where these groups operate. Additionally, it claims 289 Filipino troops have been killed by Islamic State forces since April 2015, including 100 alone in April 2016. The Filipino government has heavily disputed these numbers.

While the infographic contains numbers from April 2015, it confirms the first official announcement of Filipino jihadist groups pledging allegiance to the Islamic State occurred in January 2016. Videos and reports of groups pledging bayah (allegiance) have emerged since 2014, shortly after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, claimed the creation of a caliphate. The video in January, however, was the first time the Islamic State publicly accepted these pledges.

A month later, the Islamic State’s Furat media released another video showing more groups pledging allegiance.  This includes Isnilon Hapilon, a US-designated terrorist, who heads the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). In an April issue of the Islamic State’s weekly newsletter Al Naba, the jihadist group said that Hapilon (called Abu Abdullah al Filipini, one of his noms de guerre, in the newsletter) has been appointed as emir of all Islamic State forces in the Philippines according to a translation from the SITE Intelligence Group.

His appointment seems likely as Hapilon is the senior most figure to have defected to the Islamic State in the Philippines. This also means that a formal leadership structure for the Islamic State is in place, exemplifying its expansion in the country. The latest infographic also shows more examples of expansion and gives credence to a formal leadership structure, as ‘Amaq claims that the Islamic State has 10 “fighting battalions” in the Philippines.

This number includes at least a portion or all of ASG, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Ansar Khilafah in the Philippines, Katibat Ansar al Sharia, Katibat Marakah al Ansar, the Islamic State in Lanao, Jund al Tawhid (a former ASG battalion), Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad (a group formerly loyal to al Qaeda), and parts of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The claimed areas of operation largely corresponds with the reported areas of the aforementioned groups. This includes the southern areas of Basilan, South Cotabato, Sulu, Sarangani, Lanao del Sur, and the northern province of Isabela. Several of the groups recently claimed attacks in most of these provinces, including Sulu, Sarangani, and Lanao del Sur. BIFF also claimed recent attacks in Maguindanao, as well.
[Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.]

Sayyaf threatens to torture Canadian, Norwegian hostages if ransom arrangement fails today

From InterAksyon (Jun 13): Sayyaf threatens to torture Canadian, Norwegian hostages if ransom arrangement fails today

Canadian Robert Hall (right) and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad. Photo from SITE website

The Abu Sayyaf Group holding Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad threatened to torture the two if the ransom arrangement for P300 million each fails today.

“The Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group threatened to torture its two remaining foreign hostages - Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad - if it does not receive a communication to arrange for the ransom, or the Philippine military carries out an operation on the group,” according to the Abu Sayyaf statement dated June 12 and posted by the Site Intelligence Group.

Just recently, the Abu Sayyaf set a June 13 deadline for relatives of Hall and Sekkingstad to deliver the P300 million each for their safe release. It threatened to harm the two, and mentioned the possibility of beheading.

Last April, John Ridsdel, a Canadian, was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf after the victim’s relatives failed to deliver a P300 million ransom for his safe release.

Hall, Sekkingstad, and Ridsdel together with Hall’s Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor were abducted by armed men in August 2015 at the Ocean View Samal Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal. The resort was being managed by Hall. The abductors brought the victims to Sulu.

The Philippine military has yet to produce results from its promise to rescue Hall, Sekkingstad, Flor and all other kidnap victims of Abu Sayyaf.

Based on current military estimates, up to eight battalions or roughly 5,400 soldiers have been deployed in Sulu alone to go after a handful of 200 Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Tackling terror in Asean

From the Bangkok Post (Jun 13): Tackling terror in Asean

Region's top military strategists call for more coordinated effort to track jihadists, and to address the root causes of radicalism
Southeast Asian states are facing a deadly and growing threat from the Islamic State (ISIS), say Asean military leaders, who have called for a more united front to fight terrorism.

The defence ministers of Singapore and Malaysia were particularly outspoken about the threat posed by Islamist radicals when they addressed the 15th IISS Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, earlier this month in Singapore.

Other concerns raised at the annual gathering sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies included the risk of conflict in the South China Sea. Despite some recent sabre-rattling by both China and the United States, the latter insisted its interest was in preventing any one of the various maritime disputes in the region from escalating militarily.

Freedom of navigation in the region has become an increasingly contentious issue, especially between the United States and China over the right of US military vessels to operate in China's 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

But discussions of the South China Sea took a back seat to concerns that more nationals of Southeast Asian countries -- Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in particular -- are travelling abroad to train with terror groups and pursue jihad, and that they could pose a serious threat when they return home.

According to the Asia-Pacific regional security assessment this year by the IISS, the number of Malaysians travelling to Syria has increased steadily since 2014. The Malaysian Special Branch in early 2016 reported that there were 74 Malaysians in Syria, of whom 52 were fighters and the remainder were men in non-combat roles, women or children.

The IISS reported that ISIS has attracted far more Indonesian recruits and supporters than any other Middle Eastern jihadist group; an estimated 20 to 40 Indonesians have travelled to Syria under the auspices of Jemaah Islamiyah and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia. In March 2015, the Indonesian police confirmed that 156 Indonesians had travelled to Syria. Overall, it is likely that in late 2015 there were slightly more than 400 Indonesians in Syria, and that around 45% of them were women and children.

The number of fighters from the southern Philippines who have travelled to Syria vary widely. While the government maintains that there are no Philippine jihadists in Syria or Iraq, the Manila Times claimed in October 2014 that as many as 200 were in the two countries. But some analysts estimate that there may be no more than 20 Filipinos among ISIS fighters in Syria, according to the IISS database.

"In the past three years alone, ISIS has recruited more sympathisers and operatives in Asean than Al-Qaeda did in the last decade, with more than a thousand fighters in Iraq and Syria," Singaporean Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told a forum on pursuing common security objectives.

Dr Ng said some of these radicals transited through Singapore in the hope of eluding authorities by taking multiple hops to their final destinations.

"Just three months ago, we caught four Indonesian travellers linked to ISIS while they were here in Singapore, and handed them back to Indonesia's counter-terrorism police," he said. "We did the same in November last year to two other Indonesian men who planned to travel to Syria. Even construction workers from Bangladesh here have been radicalised while in Singapore by their fellow workers, to plot attacks in their home countries."

About 30 terrorist groups in Southeast Asia have publicly pledged their allegiance to ISIS, including Abu Sayyaf and Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which received ISIS funding to carry out the Jakarta bombing that killed eight people in January.

In Malaysia, 14 suspected ISIS militants were recently arrested during a four-day operation across five states. Several personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces, including two commandos, have also been found to have links to ISIS, he said.

Returned fighters have linked up among themselves through their networks and declared their collective goal to establish a caliphate. Just two weeks ago, ISIS released its first propaganda video targeting Southeast Asia, in the native languages of Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Dr Ng said that training camps had been reported in Poso in Central Sulawesi and in the southern Philippines. Terrorists have capitalised on existing smuggling routes to move people and arms in the region that includes the southern Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

"This gathering storm has the real potential to destabilise this region, if not tackled decisively and together," he said, adding that security forces, including militaries of individual countries, would have to combat terrorism rigorously. The threat will grow if terrorist groups become more organised to the point that they could mount sophisticated, large-scale attacks with deadlier weapons.

"Collectively, we must work closely together to build up joint responses, and strengthen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts," he said.

Where appropriate, he said, Asean states could combine resources for operations. The proposed Sulu Sea patrols between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are a welcome initiative to deal with maritime terrorism and smuggling and also curtail the movement of extremists, he said.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's minister of defence, agreed that Asean needed a more coordinated approach.

"We must realise that Daesh is not the usual terrorist group we are used to dealing with. Daesh is not Al-Qaeda. They differ in their goals but are partly rooted in their histories," said the minister, using another name for ISIS.

He said that terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda had only a few hundred active cells and did not directly confront military forces. They prey on civilians and most importantly, they do not pursue control of physical territory.

On the other hand, he said, Daesh asserted control over vast amounts of oil-rich land which has allowed the group to build a self-sustaining financial and administrative model, unthinkable for most terrorist groups, he said.

Mr Hishammuddin said that ISIS now had more than 31,000 fighters with extensive military capabilities engaging in sophisticated operations, while controlling lines of vital communication and commanding infrastructure. This is why conventional counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency strategies have not and will never work against it.

He said ISIS was a clear and present danger to the Asia-Pacific region, both in the form of potential returned fighters and self-radicalised lone wolves. It also has the potential to exacerbate instability in the region's hotspots, such as the southern regions of the Philippines and Thailand, as well as exploiting other fault lines in the region.

He characterised ISIS as "pure, unrefined evil that, if left unchecked, could poison our futures.

"We have scored some successes against it on several fronts but we are by no means safe. The Daesh threat cannot be resolved by simply bombing certain countries into submission, nor can it be resolved by knee-jerk reactions," he said.

"We need to agree on a comprehensive plan to defeat Daesh -- and the plan needs to involve greater cooperation of all parties including, but not limited to the military. Destroying it could very well be the greatest challenge of our generation.

"Military competition is an increasingly sensitive matter. We cannot allow it to become a distraction from external threats such as Daesh, nor an unnecessary, additional source of tensions."

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the forum that terrorism and extremism must be swiftly dealt with through cooperation in order to prevent their spread.

"This involves both development measures and military measures ... and addressing the root causes of the problem, such as loss of economic and societal opportunities, poverty, famine, violation of human rights and injustice," he said. "If these issues are not addressed, it could tie in to situations of unrest in many countries."

Palace still hoping to rescue ASG hostages as deadline looms

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 13): Palace still hoping to rescue ASG hostages as deadline looms
Abu Sayyaf Hostages Plead for Help

The photo taken from a video released by the Abu Sayyaf shows Abu Sayyaf bandits behind the three remaining kidnap victims (from left) Marites Flor, Robert Hall and Kjartan Sekkingstad.
With the execution of three Abu Sayyaf hostages set at 3 p.m. today (June 13, 2016), MalacaƱang stressed that it would not pay ransom but focus on rescuing the victims.

“Government has not wavered in its determination to deal with the kidnap-for-ransom problem,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message.

“Our focused military and law enforcement operations continue without let up with the objective of rescuing the hostages and holding their captors accountable for all their crimes,” he said.

The Mindanao-based bandit group Abu Sayyaf has set the deadline for the ransom of two foreign nationals and a Filipino woman who were abducted from Samal Island last year. One of their companions, Canadian John Ridsdel, was beheaded last April 25.

READ: Ranson deadline today

Coloma’s statement echoed that of the Armed Forces of the Philippines which said the military would not stop until the victims were rescued.

The Abu Sayyaf wants P300 million for each of Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina, Marites Flor, who is Hall’s girlfriend.

The hostages were seen in an earlier video asking president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to help them.

READ: Abu Sayyaf hostages seek Duterte’s help in new video

The Philippine government and that of Canada observe a no-ransom policy.

Duterte, last hope for family of Filipina Abu Sayyaf hostage

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 14): Duterte, last hope for family of Filipina Abu Sayyaf hostage

With only hours before the deadline for payment of ransom expires on Monday afternoon, the only hope now for the family of a kidnapped Filipina is incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.

Flordelisa Flor, mother of 38-year-old Tess Flor, told the Inquirer on Monday morning that they were losing hope as the clock slowly moved to 3 p.m.

“We are now totally leaving our daughter’s life in the hands of Duterte. I hope he can save her,” Flor told the Inquirer by phone.

Flor said they were told by government agents who visited their home in Bukidnon that apart from the efforts of the present administration, Duterte was also trying to help the kidnap victims.

“There is still hope for my daughter and the other victims. I am pleading Duterte to please do everything to save them,” Flor said.

Flor’s daughter was one of the four victims taken from a marina on the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte on September 21 last year.

Aside from Tess, also kidnapped were her Canadian boyfriend Robert Hall, another Canadian John Ridsdel and Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkinstad.

Ridsdel was beheaded in April this year after the deadline for his ransom expired.

The Abu Sayyaf released a very graphic video of his beheading threatening that the same would happen to the others if their deadline was not met.

The Abu Sayyaf is demanding a P600-million ransom in exchange for the release of the three captives.

Abu: Ransom deadline for Samal captives stays at 3 p.m., June 13

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 13): Abu: Ransom deadline for Samal captives stays at 3 p.m., June 13


ABDUCTION ON SAMAL ISLAND. Armed men abducted Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, with Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor (inset photos), and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad on the Island Garden City of Samal, just off Davao City, in October 2015.  Ridsdel was beheaded weeks ago.  INSET PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFP EASTERN MINDANAO COMMAND/FACEBOOK
The Abu Sayyaf holding a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman in Sulu has reiterated that 3 p.m. Monday (June 13) is the deadline for the payment of ransom.

“Our lines are open, whoever calls to negotiate, we will entertain,” Abu Raami, the designated spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

The Abu Sayyaf is demanding P600 million for the release of Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor.

“There is no extension. We have talked this over and over among our leadership and all decided no extension, ransom is P600M,” Raami said by phone.

NDF’s idea of federalism

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 12): NDF’s idea of federalism

Is it the same as Duterte’s?

A ranking National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) official said the incoming Duterte administration needs to define the kind of federalism they espouse before the communist group decides to throw its support behind it.
“Kailangan i-define kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng federalism. Madaming forms ang federalism. Kailangan for the team of [incoming] President Duterte to define it (Federalism needs to be defined first. There are many forms of federalism. The team of [incoming President Rodrigo] Duterte has to define it,” Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP spokesman, said during a visit here this week.
He hinted that the NDFP leadership may consider Duterte’s call to adopt the federal form of government if it means “giving the national minority the right [to] self-determination, to rule their own land, have control of taxes and natural resources within their territory.”
The proposed federal government, Agcaoili explained, must also have clearly defined geographic areas, citing as examples the Bangsamoro and Cordillera regions.
“Basta may specific area okay ‘yun. Pero kung darating sa Federal Republic of Ilocos, of Bicol, parang we will just be strengthening political dynasties ‘pag nangyari yun. So they have to define it (If there are specific areas, that’s okay. But if it comes to a point [of creating] a Federal Republic of Ilocos, of Bicol], we will just be strengthening political dynasties if this happens. So we have to define it (federalism),” he explained.
In the meantime, the NDFP spokesman stressed that there should first be a peace agreement forged between the communist organization and the incoming administration before the former decides to go mainstream and finally join government.
“Only after all the agreements have been signed will there be a government of national unity peace and development. Use that as a guide when we talk about coalition government,” he said.
When asked which of the Duterte administration’s 8-point economic agenda are in line with the NDFP’s socio-economic proposals, Agcaoili said only two items need to be added to the agenda.
“Actually, eight dagdagan mo lang ng dalawa (you only need to add two more [items to the economic agenda] -carry out agrarian reform and carry out national industrialization,” the NDFP spokesman cited.
“Perhaps we can work through it. Meron din kaming gustong i-push like social policies, like higher wages, free healthcare, free education, free housing for the benefit of the people,” he added.
Agcaoili, who arrived in Davao last Tuesday, met with Duterte to discuss the possibility of resuming the long-stalled negotiations between the government and the NDFP.
Their meetings have been very fruitful, as they were able to identify issues to be tackled by the GPH-NDFP negotiating teams during their exploratory talks in Oslo, Norway next week.
The key issues include the granting of general amnesty to political prisoners, the possibility of having an interim GPH-NDFP mutual ceasefire, and the proposal of accelerating the pace of the peace negotiations between the national government and the rebel group.

Additional troops deployed for operations vs Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): Additional troops deployed for operations vs Abu Sayyaf                           

The 45th Infantry Battalion based in Central Mindanao had been sent to Sulu to help in the operations to rescue the hostages.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed another Army battalion to Sulu as the deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf for the families of the foreigners they seized on Samal Island to pay ransom nears.

The 45th Infantry Battalion based in Central Mindanao had been sent to Sulu to help in the operations to rescue the  hostages.

Eight Army battalions as well as Scout Rangers, Special Forces and the United States-trained Light Reaction Co. are presently operating against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan.

Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, AFP acting chief, has been going to the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City in the past weeks to oversee the ground operations.

The kidnappers had demanded P300 million each for Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.

They threatened to execute another captive if their demand is not met by tomorrow.
On April 25, Canadian John Ridsdel was executed after the deadline set by the kidnappers lapsed.

Filipina Maritess Flor, who was also taken on Samal Island, Dutch birdwatcher Elwold Horn and five other Filipinos remain in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Mindanao Army general: "Remember our fallen comrades as we celebrate Independence"

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Mindanao Army general: "Remember our fallen comrades as we celebrate Independence"

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Major General Eduardo Pangilinan on Sunday urged soldiers of the 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division to remember fallen comrades who offered their lives for the pursuit of peace in Mindanao as the Army division honors Philippine heroes for shedding blood in the name of Philippine Independence.

Speaking during the 6th ID Independence Day celebration here, Pangilinan said the Filipino should not forget the blood offered by Filipino great leaders.

"Sa ating pagdiriwang na ito, naway gamitin nating inspirasyon ang mga sakripisyo ng ating mga ninuno na nagdulot at nagbigay sa atin ng tinatamasang kapayapaan at katiwasayan sa ngayon (As we celebrate independence, we Filipinos should not forget the sacrifices offered by out ancestors, and be inspired by them because that sacrifices led to the freedom that we enjoy now)," the 6ID commander said.

At 7:30 a.m., Pangilinan led the flag raising ceremony attended by the officers and men of the 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division, Philippine Army.

During the ceremony, Pangilinan read the message of the acting Chief of Staff Gen. Glorioso Miranda. He then delivered his own message to 6th ID troopers.

Pangilinan also urged the troops to stay focus in their individual mandate and to remain steadfast in their given work and responsibilities.

Pangilinan also recognized the "Kampilan" soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past and current campaigns that the command have undertaken in order to ensure that peace, progress and freedom thrives in Central Mindanao.

"Remember our fallen comrades, they offered lives in the name of peace and freedom," he said.

The activity is annually conducted in order to give recognition to the efforts of the Filipino heroes who were responsible for the country's freedom today.

2 Army sergeants killed in NPA attack in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): 2 Army sergeants killed in NPA attack in Sorsogon

Suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels killed two Philippine Army soldiers in an encounter at a remote village in Pilar, Sorsogon on Saturday afternoon, a report reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said.

Killed were Army Staff Sgt. Epifanio Millaes and Sgt. Zaldy Cristobal, both members of the Philippine Army operating in Sorsogon, the report said.

Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, quoting a report from the Pilar Municipal Police Station, said the attack took place at about 2 p.m. Saturday at Barangay Cabiguan, Pilar, Sorsogon.

Calubaquib said investigators are still determining how the incident happened and whether it was an ambush or an encounter staged by suspected communist rebels.

Army Lt. Col. Angelo Guzman said they could not yet release the full incident report as they were still waiting for an official report from the Army brigade command in Sorsogon.

ASG's 'Kumander Red Eye' nabbed in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): ASG's 'Kumander Red Eye' nabbed in Zamboanga Sibugay

Units from the Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) and its police counterparts have arrested the Abu Sayyaf Group's "Kumander Red Eye" during law enforcement operations in Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay Sunday early morning.

Major Filemon Tan, WESMINCOM spokesperson, said the arrest of Sehar Muloc, also known as Abner Muloc, took place 1:00 a.m. at Barangay Kaliantana, of the above-mentioned locality.

Arresting units are troops from Joint Task Force ZAMPELAN and its police counterparts.

Muloc has direct links to ASG sub-leader Idang Susukan and is allegedly being utilized by the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf in many kidnapping operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The subject was arrested by the military and police by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the kidnapping of former Italian priest, 57-year-old Rolando Del Torchio.

The latter was abducted by Muloc's group at his Pizza Resto Bar last Oct. 7 in Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte and handed him over to Sulu-based ASG.

De Torchio was released last April 8 in Jolo, Sulu and was found aboard M/V Beatrice.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to support the PNP in the intensified conduct of law enforcement operations to expedite the arrest of lawless elements in the province," Tan said.

Former R/V Melville holds distinction of cruising in all of world's oceans

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Former R/V Melville holds distinction of cruising in all of world's oceans

Prior to her turnover to the Philippine Navy (PN), the BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) holds the distinction of having cruised in all of the world's oceans in search of scientific knowledge.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in his speech read by Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta during the arrival and welcoming ceremonies for the ship at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor, last June 10.

"The vessel can accommodate 38 scientists for purposes of scientific expeditions and holds the distinction of having cruised over almost all of the world's oceans in the pursuit of scientific knowledge," Gazmin said.p>"The Philippine Navy's acquisition of the BRP Gregorio Velasquez, the former USNS Melville, is a statement to the firm resolve and determination of our national leadership to modernize and upgrade the capabilities of our Armed Forces," he added.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez was one of the two US ships pledged by United States President Barack Obama to the PN during the APEC Leaders' Summit in Manila last November.

The other vessel is the ex-USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) which is scheduled to be delivered later this year.

"We should thank the strong support of President Aquino to pursue the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program that since July 2010 to date has caused the release of Php60.14 billion from the meager resources of our government to support the said program," Gazmin stressed.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez will give the PN the capability for hydrographic and oceanographic survey.

"The ship will provide the PN the capability for hydrographic and oceanographic survey and will also become a platform for inter-agency collaboration partners from the academe and thus improve awareness of our sub-surface environment," PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna earlier said.

The ship can also perform search-and-retrieval operations and support to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez left Guam on June 2 and arrived in Manila Bay by 11 a.m. last June 8.

The ship left San Diego, California last April 27 after being formally transferred to the PN. It arrived in Guam last May 28.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez is commanded by Cmdr. Edwin Nera. The ship is presently manned by 30 officers and enlisted personnel.

Aside from helping map the country's vast maritime domains, the BRP Gregorio Velasquez will also help develop the PN's anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

"Aside from its primary mission, AGR-702 would also be a valuable platform in reviewing our anti-submarine warfare capability," he said.

Lincuna did not give specifics on this but the PN is in the process of developing its ASW capability after signing a contract to acquire two AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters with AgustaWestland last March.

The contract is worth Php5.360 billion, lower than the stated Php5.4 billion.

These helicopters are expected to be deployed among the PN's large ships which include the two Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates and incoming two strategic sealift vessels, of which one is expected to be delivered this month, and the BRP Gregorio Velasquez.

The R/V Melville was used in the 1976 movie King Kong starring Jessica Lange.

It was used specifically because of its Hypoid propulsion drive (at that time), which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used, on research vessels, for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.

US looking to new era of 'strong' ties with PH

From Rappler (Jun 12): US looking to new era of 'strong' ties with PH

US Secretary of State Kerry on Philippine Independence Day: 'We look forward to the leadership of president-elect [Rodrigo] Duterte and another era of strong cooperation'

 In this file photo, Philippine honor guards hoist a giant Philippine flag during the 119th death anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park in Manila on December 30, 2015. Noel Celis/AFP

In this file photo, Philippine honor guards hoist a giant Philippine flag during the 119th death anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park in Manila on December 30, 2015. Noel Celis/AFP

The United States looks forward to "another era of strong cooperation" as the Philippines transitions to a new leadership, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

"As our two nations continue our work to strengthen regional peace and security, combat climate change, stamp out terrorism, and fight transnational crime, we look forward to the leadership of president-elect [Rodrigo] Duterte and another era of strong cooperation," a brief statement from the US Department of State, on the occasion of the Philippines' 118th Independence Day, read.

Kerry also thanked outgoing President Benigno Aquino III "for being a strong ally and a faithful friend for the United States over the last six years."

"The United States and the Philippines share a deep commitment to democratic values, and the national elections you held last month are testament to the strength of your enduring institutions and traditions," the statement added.

The Philippines is one of the United States' closest allies in Asia. The ties between the two allies has been highlighted in recent years as China jostles for more influence and power in the region.

US President Barack Obama was the first world leader to directly talk to President-elect Duterte after his decisive win in the May 9 elections.

During their conversation May 17, the two talked about the longstanding ties between the two nations, "including our shared commitments to democracy, human rights, rule of law, and inclusive economic growth," according to the White House.

Dureza: Abu Sayyaf and BIFF “will have to face the full force of the law”

From MindaNews (Jun 12): Dureza: Abu Sayyaf and BIFF “will have to face the full force of the law”

The Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will have to “face the full force of the law for their terrorism and criminal acts,” returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.

In a statement posted on his Facebook wall on Friday evening, Dureza, who was on his way to Oslo, Norway for an informal meeting with National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Jose Ma. Sison, corrected reports by some media outlets that he was open to negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the BIFF.

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte chats with returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a press conference at Hotel Elena in Davao City Saturday night, May 28, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte chats with returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a press conference at Hotel Elena in Davao City on May 28, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

“True, I have even directly negotiated with the ASG just recently to seek the release of my friend John Ridsdel whom they nevertheless beheaded as the families could not raise the demanded ransom amount. But negotiating with them in the context of what we are doing with the Bangsamoro and the CPP/NPA/NDF is definitely not the way forward. They have to face the full force of the law for their terrorism and criminal acts,” Dureza wrote.

Dureza’s friend, Ridsdel, a Canadian national who was one of four persons abducted from a resort in Samal Island near this city on September 21, 2015 was executed in Sulu on April 25, his severed head dumped by two unidentified persons riding in tandem towards a group of young men about to play basketball near the municipal hall of Jolo, Sulu at around 7:30 that evening.

Ridsdel served as President of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc., with main office in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao. He was abducted from the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak district in the Island Garden City of Samal at around 11:30 p.m. on September 21, with KjartanSekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian; and another Canadian named Robert Hall, 50 and his Filipina partner Teresita Flor.

Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan of the Abu Sayyaf had warned in a video posted on youtube on April 15 that they would kill one of the hostages at 3 p.m. on April 25, if the ransom demand of 300 million pesos is not paid by April 25. An earlier deadline was set for April 8.

The Abu Sayyaf again threatened to execute another foreign captive from the remaining victims from Samal if ransom is not paid by Monday, June 13.

In a statement hours after Ridsdel’s execution was confirmed, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government “condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers, and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”

The Canadian government, he added, “is committed to working with the Government of Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice.”

Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters on May 26 that when Trudeau phoned to congratulate him, he apologized to Trudeau for the death of Ridsdel in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Duterte said he assured Trudeau that his administration will ensure that the perpetrators answer for their crims.

The first Mindanawon to lead the country will take his oath as the country’s 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016.

Informal meeting
Dureza left Friday evening for Oslo, via Paris where he is set to attend a thanksgiving party prepared by overseas Filipinos who supported Duterte in the May 9 polls.

“I am flying tonight to Paris enroute to Oslo, Norway for an informal meeting with the CPP/NPA/NDF headed by Mr. Jose Ma. Sison upon instructions from President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to work for the early resumption of the stalled peace negotiations,” Dureza wrote Friday evening.

Dureza, also Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process from July 2005 to June 2008 under the Arroyo administration, said he will be accompanied in Oslo by incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III who is also the returning chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with NDF, and former Rep. Hernani Braganza, also a former peace panel member.

“We look forward to a fruitful meeting under the auspices of the Norwegian government on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum,” he said.

The Oslo forum is an annual event held in mid-June, that convenes senior conflict mediators, high level decision makers and key peace process actors in a series of informal and discreet retreats to share their experiences, identify challenges and reflect on mediation practice.

The Oslo Forum is widely regarded as “the leading international network of armed conflict mediation practitioners.” All discussions take place under the Chatham House Rules.

Merged and consolidated

Dureza was also peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from January 2001 to May 2003, under the Arroyo administration.

The Philippine government signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and Final Peace Agreement in 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsmaoro (FAB)  in 2012 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsmaoro (CAB) in 2014 with the MILF.

These agreements with the MNLF and MILF are on their implementation phases, the FPA on the last three remaining consensus points that need to be resolved and the CAB on its early stages.

Dureza told MindaNews on May 30 that he will conduct consultations with various sectors on the Bangsamoro peace roadmap. “It will have to be inclusive of all Moro fronts,” Dureza said, referring to the MILF and the MNLF.

He said the unresolved issues of the FPA and the provisions of the CAB may be merged and consolidated so they can be “harmonized and only one law will come out of it.”

The 16th Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would have paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would have replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BBL’s passage is crucial in the peace process as it is tied up with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants, as well as the gradual redeployment of the military from the “former conflict areas” during the normalization phase.

The BIFF broke away from the MILF in March 2010 after Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato resigned as commander of the 105th Base Command on December 19, 2009. Kato suffered a stroke in November 2011 and had not been seen in public. He died on April 14 last year.

He left behind an organization that had split into at least three factions.

Sayyaf rebel in kidnap of ex-Italian priest captured in Philippines (Photo)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 12): Sayyaf rebel in kidnap of ex-Italian priest captured in Philippines


Police and military have arrested one of the alleged Abu Sayyaf rebels who kidnapped former Italian missionary in a joint operation Sunday in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said security forces tracked down Abner Mulok alias Kumander Red Eye in his hideout Kaliantana village in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Naga town.

Mulok is said to be a follower of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan in Sulu province, who serves as “spotter” for probable kidnap victims in Zamboanga region.

“Mulok has a direct link to Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan and is allegedly being utilized by the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf in many kidnapping operations in Zamboanga Peninsula.

The subject was arrested by the military and police by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the kidnapping of Italian former priest, Rolando del Torchio,” said army Major Filemon Tan, a spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

The 57-year old Del Torchio, who runs a pizzeria in Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte province, was kidnapped by Mulok’s group on October 07, 2015 and brought to Sulu until his release six months later.

Del Torchio was already in a ferry bound for Zamboanga City when security forces learned about his release and immediately picked him up and then brought to an army base in Sulu. He worked as a missionary in 1984 with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions until 2001.

Tan said military and police operations against the Abu Sayyaf is continuing in an effort to free several foreigners still being held by the ISIS-linked rebel group in southern Philippines.